Apparently, “Bali” is synonymous for “Indonesia,” as the majority of the people we spoke to before (and after) our trip repeatedly used the former to indicate the latter.  “We missed you while you were in Bali,” they might say, as if they hadn’t heard us mention Sulawesi and Java being in our itinerary multiple times.

After visiting the islands, it’s somewhat easier to digest the identity problem - though we suppose it’s no problem at all for a majority of Bali’s cash registers.  Immediately upon segueing over from Java on the ferry, we found ourselves surrounded by travelers from around the world.  Where had all these people been in the first two legs of our trip?  Looking back on it now, it’s no wonder we kept being singled out as rare “bule” foreigners throughout Sulawesi and Java.  All the tourists were in Bali!

That first night, as we traveled at almost bumper-to-bumper speed from Gilimanuk to Seminyak, we couldn’t help but feel as though, in that one boat ride, we’d traded seclusion, adventure and poignancy for overcrowding, annoying traffic, and resorts that could have been duplicated on any beach in the world.  And things did not improve much our first day in Kerobokan when we were kept from our own hotel’s pool thanks to a shortage in loungers!  Nevertheless, with all of the vivid hues and exquisite Hindu temple carvings peeking out from virtually every corner, we knew there had to be more to this picture than first met the eye...

Happily there was.  In fact, in the eight days that followed, Bali was able to turn around every negative first impression in one way or another.  From the chic modernity and comfort of Seminyak to the mystical highlands of Munduk, the unique cultural heritage of Ubud to the heavenly surf coves of Ulu Watu, Bali pulled out all the stops.  Perhaps it really is all things to all people.  Looking for Scuba diving?  It can be found on the Bali Sea.  Cultural dance performances?  Ubud’s got you covered.  Monkeys running loose on the streets?  Check.  Great beaches?  A-plenty.  Impressive temples and majestic waterfalls?  No doubt.  Fabulous food and shopping?  That’s an understatement.

At times sensual - and always colorful - Bali is certainly the most energetic place we visited during our trip, and as long as you make a concerted effort to escape the hysteria of South Bali’s tourist mecca, you will discover the source of that energy is deeply connected to the haunting spirits and generous people of this extraordinarily beautiful land.  Dare we say it?  Bali really is like a little microcosm of everything Indonesia has to offer, and perhaps that’s why it’s the country’s #1 destination.