Monday, December 3, 2007

The Magic Island

If you are seeking true magic, you need not look further than the once and future popular Bali. Lying just below the equator, the Indonesian island of Bali assaults the senses with dazzling arrays of color, smells, foods, and spirits. Look once and it's a tourist hot spot, replete with sunburns, Bintangs, beach-front villas, and perfect waves. Look again, and you aredeep in the animist jungle, face to face with monster-like deities and mystical temples. Or were you looking at a colorful Hindu funeral procession, or waking to prayer call from the neighborhood mosque? That is the magic of Bali. The moon looks different here, there are ylang-ylang trees aromating the air, and fried shallots stimulate the appetite on every
corner. You can drive from the heavily touristed and populated Kuta beach, through the more upscale beaches and shopping at Seminyak, then suddenly you are in the hectic bustle of Denpasar, then suddenly surrounded by quiet and
vibrantly green rice paddies, then warming yourself by an outdoor wood fire on the rim of a volcano, then lost on the back jungle roads, among wooden homesteads with outdoor kitchens, coconut palms, and you realize that time
has suddenly stopped. In Bali, if you are not paying attention, you can find yourself in ten places at once, or lose yourself in one place ten times over.

Bali has so many layers that the deeper you look, the more mystery you uncover. Magic here is staring you in the face and is hiding behind every corner. You find it in the exotic, and in the ordinary. Riding in a Denpasar bemo, sarong clad passengers grin with betel stained teeth, as the wafts of durian entice you. Or you may find yourself at midnight, entranced by the sounds of gamelan, surrounded by the surreal community temple, and thousands of fruit offerings. The volatile mix of animism, hinduism, and islam, on a volcanic tropical island, flanked by crystal turquoise waves, the shoreline dotted with temples, the air fragrant with incense and flowers - this is the recipe for magic. Head out to a secluded beach, a mountain jungle, or community temple, and immerse yourself - it is very intoxicating.

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