Sunday, September 27, 2015

Courtesy of NOW! Bali Magazine Featuring POD Chocolate Factory

Yummy, Adoring Experience
A beautiful and scenic place like Bali offers all kinds of spontaneous and adventurous things to do. So being open minded, flexible and deliberately seeking out new experiences here is a must, even if it means you have to go out of your comfort zone.
After the roster of adrenalin-fuelled activities I’ve done recently, I felt the need to relax and catch my breath for a while so when my chocolate-obsessed bruv suggested a visit to Pod Chocolate Factory and Café, I thought, “Why not?” While Bali doesn’t immediately spring to mind when one thinks of world-class chocolate, I was curious to find out more about Pod Chocolate, their products and how they are made at their factory and café, which is located in the same grounds as an elephant park, near Sangeh Monkey Forest.
So, there I was, with chocolate all over me! I had learned all about the chocolate making process and how the cocoa beans are harvested and processed to produce delicious organic chocolate. It all starts with a flower that usually takes up to six months to “pod” or become ripe. While I enjoyed learning about the entire process, I truly loved creating my own chocolates and adding flavours to them. It really is lovely to indulge in luxurious cocoa creations in the middle of the rainforest!
Now, the highlight of my visit? Well, I had the chance to hug a honey bear! For many people, bears seem huge and scary, but trust me, to experience such a marvellous encounter as “hugging a honey” is something that you will cherish forever. I’ve never even imagined standing so close to this big, furry mammal, let alone giving one a hug! Honey bears are predators with long arms that can hold someone close. I must admit, as a huge fan of wilderness and animal shelters, this experience was truly unforgettable. The honey bear was extremely cute and adorable and I feel very fortunate to have been able to capture this moment.
It really is a comforting experience to hug a bear and no wonder, since I believe that there is an “animal instinct” that we share with other mammals. Hugging a honey evokes a sense of serenity, calmness and confidence and – at least for a minute or two – existential angst melts away! Humans, like other mammals, sometimes have negative feelings and to be embraced and feel cherished triggers our brains to release neurotransmitters associated with well-being and pleasure, we make ourselves feel better and eliminate negative emotions.
So… let’s see. Bungee jumping, Sky diving, completing a seven-day hike? Nah... I would much rather hug a honey bear. Pod Chocolate Factory is the only place in Bali that gives you the opportunity to try this wonderful activity. 

Are you still looking for bucket list activities? Check out this fantastic chocolate factory for something different. From exotic and magical views, incredible wildlife, delicious dishes, to historic sites, Bali appeals to tourists at every level. What is stopping you?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Courtesy of La Laguna beach Club

A Little Beautiful Place

I like to think that I am well acquainted with the popular places in Bali. Therefore, you can imagine my rude shock when my friend asked me if I had ever visited La Laguna Beach Club.

Therefore, I made the club my priority the next time I went to Bali. The path is a bit tricky but not impossible. There is a little dirt track that leads to the Berawa Beach and on that path I came across what seemed like a colorful village from a distance.

La Laguna Beach Club seems like a tiny nomadic village filled with quirky wood caravans and wagons. Each of them has been painted in bright colors. Together, they feel like a jumbled up colorful scene out of a gaudy painting but they seem to go well with the picture of the beach in the background. Trees and plants grow all over the place adding a deep hue of green to the already colorful place. It was a dizzying sight!

I was surprised to see that the actual restaurant and bar was much bigger than what I first thought. Of course, calling it a restaurant in the traditional sense is a bit of a stretch. The place is large and airy with windows painted with superb views of the beach. All around, there are small tables and cushions thrown over the ground. They are quite cozy places which makes the place all the more better. The scene was more than enough to make me feel comfortable all of a sudden

Then, I discovered the bridge. Yes, there is a wooden bridge that leads to the beach. It is a singularly photogenic place. I have yet to come across a bridge built near a beach.

I headed over the bar for a drink. The food menu is by no means extensive but the food was delicious. I grabbed a bottle of beer and began to chat with one of the servers. I came to know that La Laguna was created by the same people responsible for La Favela and La Plancha, two other popular hangouts in Bali. The bar was just as kitschy and lovely as the rest of the place. Colorful bottles and glasses decorated the bar. A random assortment of chairs in different colors and styles made up the seating arrangements.

Altogether, it seemed that the designs and arrangements were random. At first, it seems as if everything was simply out together without any sense of order. However, there was beauty in this chaos and disarray. I found that in avoiding fixed patterns and design rules, the whole place became more fun.

As I walked out of the bar, I was greeted by a pair of geese. It was an adorable sight but then I saw something more beautiful. A few peacocks were lazing about on a tree. One word crossed my mind, ‘Beautiful!’ I cursed myself for not visiting this remarkable place before.

As the sun set, lights came on. Suddenly, the whole place became cozier and lovelier. Someone once said ‘There is beauty in chaos.’ Standing there, watching the La Laugna Beach Club in the rapidly darkening sky, I realized how true it was.

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Joannes Rhino
Freelance Writer - Copywriter - Editor - Traveler 

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Surreal Dream of Dream Beach Nusa Lembongan

There is no shortage of beaches in Bali. Yet, there must be some magic at work here as every beach feels unique, a moment far better than the previous one. The Dream Beach in the Nusa Lembongan Island is no different.

I landed on the beach after a thoroughly enjoyable ride by speedboat from Sanur Beach located on the eastern coast of Bali. There is something rather thrilling about riding a speedboat over calm blue waters. On landing, I met a bunch of friendly locals, one of which graciously offered to take me to the beach on his moped taxi, a novel experience if you haven’t tried it before.

On reaching the beach, is realised how accurate the name is! In fact, dream does not even begin to cover the allure of this place! I walked down the soft sands warmed by the sun and whose colour reminded me of butter. As for the waters, I felt as if someone had painstakingly melted blue crystals and let it flow. The Dream Beach is everything I had dreamed of in a picture perfect beach.

It’s easy to have high expectations when a beach is named ‘Dream’ but the beauty of the place was far better than I could’ve ever imagined!

I walked around the beach lost in its tranquil beauty. Thankfully, there were fewer crowds here to disrupt my reverie. The seclusion of the beach casts a peaceful atmosphere over the place. As afternoon slowly approached, I made my way to the quaint Lumbung style huts that are often found in the Lombok island of Bali.

As soon as I rented a room, I returned to the beach. I felt magnetically drawn to the waters painted in blue and coral undertones and I surrendered any notion of escaping the pull exerted by this fantastic place.

On my way to the waters, I met a few locals who told me not to venture out too far due to the strong undercurrents. Taking heed of the advice, I kept close to the shore. A dive into the waters revealed a surprise waiting for me! I didn’t expect to come across such beautiful specimens of aquatic life so close to the shore. Thanks to the clarity of the waters, I did not even require any snorkelling gear whatsoever to enjoy this underwater sight.

The swim had left me a bit tired so I decided the best thing to do would be to simply lie down on the beach. I found myself a cosy spot a bit far from the crowds and sat down to watch the waves and feel the breeze. This, I felt, was a good way as any to enjoy a beach this marvellous.

Afterwards, I walked down to the small café on the beach for a few bites. I stopped by the beach to watch the magnificent sunset whose beauty left me in a daze. How many more surprises this beach can hold, I wondered. I didn’t have to wait for long. The only restaurant in the beach surprised me with a calamari dish that left me speechless!

As I dozed off in one of the traditional lumbung huts, I did not have to dream about beaches. After all, I had experienced the aptly named Dream Beach.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Nyang Nyang Beach - The Secretive Beauty

There are innumerable beaches that have been called secret or hidden. Many of them are present in Bali itself. Unfortunately, these beaches rarely deserve that epithet, as I have discovered many times over the course of my travels. That is why it was a pleasant surprise to find that Nyang Nyang Beach in Bali is well deserving of the magical epithet of ‘hidden beach’.

Of course, there is a reason why the beach remains secluded and secretive even in an age where people carry the world’s maps on their smartphones. I discovered the reason myself as I reached Uluwatu. From the Uluwatu Temple, I had to walk a hundred meters and then hunt for the sign that said ‘Nyang Nyang Beach’. Beside the sign is a dirt track which I followed till I reached the edge of a cliff after waddling through fields. ‘Now’, I thought to myself, ‘comes the difficult part’. The difficult part, in this case, involved walking down a narrow and sometimes steep flight of stairs that leads to the beach.

If I needed any motivation to descend the 500 or so steps down to the beach, the sight of the beautiful waters and the lonely stretch of sand was enough for it.

In most days, you can count the number of people on the beach on one hand. I was lucky enough to be the only one on the beach, at least for the moment.

Nyang Nyang Beach is certainly a place of solitude. Aristotle once said that ‘Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god’. I wonder which one of them I was as I walked down the sandy sliver of the beach.

The feeling of being alone in such a picturesque spot is not depressing. Rather, I felt a lovely sense of peace washing over me. Of course, the beauty of the place helped. The blue of the water and the verdant green of the trees on the cliffs separated by the warm yellow hue of the sands is a sight to behold. The winds mixed the smell of the ocean with the scent of the trees creating an intoxicating perfume that made my day.

The absence of people made the beach seem all the more pristine and simple. In fact, that is what I came to love about the beach. The simplicity shines through the beach, the ocean and the reef. This is nature at its simplest and most beautiful like it was always meant to be.

I decided to indulge myself in a bit of surfing. The waves were strong and are definitely not meant for a novice. Nonetheless, surfing near an empty beach is a unique experience altogether.

I hoped to stay for the sunset but I realized that the journey back over the steps and the field would become difficult in the dark. Still, I stayed as long as I could. By the time I reached the top of the cliff, the sun was well on its way towards setting. The sight of that empty beach in the glorious sunset was beauty personified. No words exist to evoke the beauty of that moment!

It was the perfect end to the perfect day.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Green Bowl Beach - The Lonely Delight

Generally I tend not to give too much of importance to the so-called secret beaches. However, this is not to say that there are no secret beaches in the world anymore. Even in an overcrowded tourist destination such as Bali, I have found a few gems hidden away from the gaze of the mobs.

One of them is the Green Bowl Beach. It is downright spectacular! On the other hand, the beach never manages to attract a large crowd thanks to its remote location and the difficulty in reaching the spot. Earlier, the Bali Cliff Resort was located near this place but was demolished. This has kept the Green Bowl Beach off the tourists’ radar. For secluded beach lovers such as me, these conditions are a saving grace.

Unfortunately, it also meant finding the place was a rather difficult task even for experienced backpackers. From Jimbaran, I had to visit the Uluwatu Temple. I followed a convoluted path towards the entrance of the beach. Even though I had asked the locals for directions, I found myself consulting the map on more than one occasion.

The path led me to a derelict staircase surrounded by trees filled with monkeys. They seemed rather scary but did not hinder my descent towards the beach. After walking down what seemed like hundreds of stairs, I finally reached Green Bowl Beach.

Once glance at the beautiful panorama is all it took for me to forget all the troubles I had been through. All your pains will be worth that one look at this place. They say, ‘find a beautiful place to get lost’. For me, it was Green Bowl Beach.

It’s dangerous visiting the place during high tide when the waters reach the staircase. However, I reached the beach during the dying moments of the tide. As the low tide moved in, the waves began to recede like a curtain uncovering the magical sands of the beach.

During my stay at Green Bowl, I met only a handful of people, most of whom were surfers. Even at low tide, the waves were rather strong making them perfect for surfing. I thought to myself, ‘Why miss out on all the fun?’ While surfing, I realized two things. First, Green Bowl is one of the best surf spots in the region. Secondly, novices to the sport should never try surfing here. It’s quite risky so remain alert.
Of course, there were other things on the beach clamouring for my attention. After a mental coin toss, I opted to explore the mysterious caves that dotted the beach first. The smell near the caves confirmed my assumption that they are filled with bats. Brave the dark to watch the beach from inside the caves. You will not be disappointed.
The gigantic bulky cliffs stand like guardians over the butter coloured sands. At low tide, I discovered the reason behind the name for this beach. When the water level goes down, I noticed the rocks covered in green algae that shared their colour with the water. The sight of blue green waters is quite remarkable especially when you consider that the background was filled with forests and cliff sides.
It was with a heavy heart I left Green Bowl Beach. I felt that I needed more time to truly appreciate the beauty of the place. Unfortunately, the beach is only useable during low tides which last for a few hours at the most.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Courtesy of NOW! Bali Magazine Featuring Balian Beach

Sometimes, a break is what you need from the crowds in Bali. That is what I realized when I visited Kuta. I felt disheartened with the constant background din that comes with being in a crowded beach. There was this burning desire to get away from the madding crowd. That is why I jumped at the opportunity of visiting a secluded beach as soon as I heard about it from a local. Although, secluded may seem to bit of a stretch.

The beach in question was Balian Beach and it is on the same island as Kuta. Hiring a taxi, I prepared myself for a journey over 1.5 kilometres. Although the distance may not seem to be much, it felt to me as if hours had passed. I have the difficult and winding road conditions to thank for that.

So there I was looking at the lovely and quaint sight that Balian, a small village, greeted me. I decided right then to spend a night. After all, the place was peaceful. It wouldn’t be fair to say that the beach was empty. No, the place had people but not enough to make it seem crowded.

However, the crowds didn’t interest me. What I was interested in were the gorgeous waves that made me want to take out my surfboard. I decided to postpone surfing for a later time and instead take a walk. Being low tide, the local fishermen were busy casting their nets near the mouth of the river. There was something to be said about the grace that accompanied their movements, being perfected by daily practice. Moving on, I came across a stunning sight! Imagine palm trees and rice paddy fields swaying under the salty breeze.

I decided to call it a day and retire to one of the many accommodations available here. I opted for a room on the second floor in a beach house. The view of beach and the sea was fantastic!

The next day, I continued my explorations. I focused my efforts near the river having heard from a local that the place was good for swimming. The information was completely accurate and I had a good time swimming. It also seemed like the perfect place to wander about aimlessly which is exactly what I proceeded to do.

The Balian Beach is one of the best surfing spots I have come across in Bali. The waves are powerful and possess a long swell. It was a challenge but I was up for it. Thanks to the presence of the river mouth, the waves tend to have an A-frame. It made surfing all the more enjoyable. However, I was warned by locals never to surf or swim in the seas after spells of heavy rain or if the water seems murky. Bull sharks are common and are often found near the river mouth. Beware of these dangerous beasts.

As I watched the dusk settle over the beach, I felt reinvigorated and ready to brave the huge crowds and the party scenes in the rest of Bali. However, I think, that the true beauty of Bali lies in these spots. Of course, that just may be me. After all, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’.

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