Destination: Indonesia: Bali
Renowned psycho-anthropologist and explorer Dr. Lawrence Blair came to Indonesia to “try and capture a way of life that was to forever vanish.” Blair, a handsome and refined Englishman, traveled to the region in the 1970s and devoted decades to documenting its tribal peoples and remote communities. This May, I was lucky enough to sail through the Nusa Tengaara isles with Dr. Blair and experience the most authentic version of Indonesia through his eyes. With nothing but miles of blue sea and sky ahead, Blair – who wears an eye patch and often totes a pet lorikeet – recounted tales of uncharted islands, cannibals and discovering species. This was the Indonesia I had always dreamed about: a wild, far-flung paradise, seemingly light years away from civilization.
My expectations of Bali were idealistic, including images of rolling hills, ramshackle huts and pristine beaches. But after twenty-four hours of travel, I hazily exited the Ngurah Rai International Airport to the startling aroma of fast food. I was surrounded on all sides by the holy trinity of American consumerism: KFC, McDonalds and Starbucks. My (admittedly cliché) Eat, Pray, Love-induced fantasy was replaced with cement strip malls containing stores filled with Apple and Blackberry gadgets. Disoriented, disappointed and with 100 new emails thanks to the island’s perfect cell reception, I began to question Bali’s idyllic reputation. Three hours later, I arrived in Ubud and it all became clear: Bali is paradise, but you have to know where to look.
One of the most important takeaways from my recent trip was learning that the Indonesia of yesteryear still exists to some degree. Despite recent globalization, there are ways to experience the spiritual and ethereal essence of Bali and its stunning physical landscape. It all boils down to where and how, and both typically generate the same answer: Aman Resorts. Deeply rooted in the region for almost twenty years, Aman has become synonymous with Indonesia, particularly amongst sophisticated travelers. More than just impeccable accommodations and flawless service, each of Aman’s five Indonesian properties has preserved the authenticity and soul of its immediate environment. Whether snorkeling the coral reef off Amanwana, biking through the rice terraces surrounding Amankila, or watching the sun set on Borobodur at Amanjiwo, guests are literally transported to an unspoiled and romanticized place.
Somewhere between jumping off a waterfall in the jungle and dining on a deserted beach under the stars, I fell in love with Indonesia. The adventure began aboard a float plane headed towards the turquoise waters of Amanwana Bay. I spent the next two days living out a luxe-version of Castaway: “glamping” on the edge of a nature reserve, diving amidst exotic sea creatures, hiking through the rainforest and enjoying meals by bonfire-light. The epic journey back to Bali, aboard a stunning seven-cabin luxury sailboat, took me across the crystal-clear water of the Flores Sea, the expanse occasionally interrupted by unfamiliar island masses. Listening to Dr. Blair, a modern-day Crusoe, lecture about these remote landscapes as we drifted past them, I felt the calming sense of escape and a renewed thirst for discovery.
My dream of Bali exists – and it’s even better than I imagined.
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