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The Azores Islands, Portugal
“The Islet of Vila Franca do Campo, off São Miguel Island, is the crater of an ancient submerged volcano. The lagoon inside is a perfect circle with a small opening big enough for boats.
“PS: That’s the online version of Alive! I left my print copy in the rental car down below this hilltop viewpoint.”
– Norman Faner, Retired, LADWP
Hi Norman, we love that you used the online version! Well played. – Ed.
Letter From Indonesia, Bali –
Honeymooners and Monkey Business
With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, why not surprise that special someone in your life with something far more romantic than the standard bunch of red roses or a box of chocolates? Think warm tropical breezes and miles of beautiful golden sandy beaches. No, not Cancun; think a little farther afield, like stunning cascading waterfalls, jungles to hike in, cliffs, volcanoes, and hundreds of ancient Hindu temples to explore, river rafting, ATVs, jet skiing, hot air balloons, and romantic helicopter flights.
The Island of Bali is not a country but part of the Indonesian archipelago of 17,000 islands between the Indian Ocean and the China Sea; it is the world’s fourth most populous nation and third largest democracy. In contrast to most of Indonesia, which is generally Muslim, Bali is a Hindu-majority island. The Balinese local people are known for their warmth and are very friendly and welcoming to foreigners. Fantastic beaches surround this tropical island, like the 7.5-mile-long surf beaches of Kuta or the lovely white sand coves at Nusa Penida, where you can rent a sunbed and relax in the sun with your partner, drinking endless icy cold adult beverages and be lulled by the sound of the waves as they hit the shore. The rugged coastline along the Bukit Peninsula is perfect for snorkeling, scuba diving, and seeing all kinds of colorful fish and coral. The beach at Jimbaran seems to have endless “warungs” — family-run restaurants and bars serving a great variety of fresh seafood; here, during sunset, you can watch colorful Balinese ceremonies under umbrellas in the sand.
The Island of Bali has become the Australian version of Hawaii and is a popular honeymoon and wedding destination. Generally, the days are stunning in May-September, but the nights can get a little cool, especially if staying inland away from the coast. October to April is the monsoon season when there is frequent and heavy rainfall. However, it passes quickly, and then the sun returns; it’s a good time to find a little bar and wait for the rain to stop. The average temperature is 90 degrees throughout the year.
Whether it’s romantic walks along the shoreline or trekking through the jungle, pack beachwear and hiking boots; pick one location as a base and make day trips from there. I stayed in a beach location and chose not to rent a car or motorbike, finding it more practical and less stressful to hire a local driver for around $60 a day to do sightseeing; driving in local traffic is a nightmare, and just like Amsterdam, everybody young or old has a bike, only here they are motorized. Hotels or AirBnBs will recommend a safe driver, and although taxis are cheap, not all are equal; use only the pale blue ones as the dark blue taxis can cause problems. For younger, bolder travelers, there are small motorcycle taxis that twist and weave through the packed traffic and will carry two if you are slim! However, do bear in mind that you may not be covered by your travel insurance if you are on a bike and involved in an accident, which are very frequent in this island paradise.
Making a special trip to see a rice field is unnecessary as you will pass through many on the way to visit other sites. Do visit as many of the island’s old temples as possible; most are in beautiful locations, like the 1,175-foot-tall Lempuyang Temple, Bali’s highest, or the spectacular sunset photo location at the Tanah Lot temple, perched on a little rocky islet by the village of Braban near the city Denpasar. When visiting a Balinese temple, both men and women are expected to wear shirts that cover the shoulders and part of the upper arms. Fortunately, most temples include a sarong rental to cover the legs for a small fee.
To see wildlife, visit the Mason Elephant Park, West Bali National Park, or the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud. This Monkey Sanctuary is in a small rainforest with monkeys and other tropical animals. If you visit the monkey forest, please read all the signs, and pay attention. The monkeys are very fast and sneaky; more than one tourist has lost their iPhone trying to take a closeup photo. Do not let them sit on you; they have big, sharp teeth, and carry parasites.
Don’t stress too much if you can’t travel precisely when you want to. As I said at the beginning of the article, the Bali monsoon is very mild, and you can do practically the same activities whether you travel in the dry season or not. Whenever you travel to Bali, rest assured you will easily adapt to the relaxing laidback vibe, the wonderful restaurants with many styles of food on offer, and I can recommend the local fare – it’s fabulous and extremely reasonably priced.
PS: As always, pay attention when traveling in a foreign country, and use your common sense.