They say that home is where the heart is and it is true. I grew up fifteen years in Hong Kong and all of my childhood took place in that concrete jungle. However, the moment I landed in Bali, I felt a connection that I had never experienced before. It has been the source of most of my pain and joy. Don’t let mainstream movies such as “Eat, Pray, Love” feed you a stereotypical image of this island. Not all of it is good, but not all of it is bad either.
The strange thing about Bali is that although it is not the most beautiful island in the world, there is a magical aura to it. It is impossible to forget it when you leave and it is easy for one to either hate it or love it.
There are two very different sides to the Island of the Gods. On one hand, it is incredibly spiritual and infused with worship and good principles. The stunning natural landscapes reinforce this feeling of serenity. How can one forget the dramatic volcanoes? The scenic beaches? The soaring seaside cliffs? The green rice-terraced valleys? The intricate temples? The hidden humble traditional villages harbouring people living a life of the past? Indeed, this is where you fall in love. This is where I fell in love. Not only that, the friendships I have formed there are the strongest bonds I have felt to this day. I can’t seem to find the same type of deep connection with people from other places.
This incredible island has also taught me the most intense spiritual lessons and has given me the experiences I needed to grow and become stronger. This has of course meant that it has not always been smooth sailing. As a matter of fact, there have been massive storms to the point where I wanted to give up.
However, when I tell people this, they mockingly ask the question: “But how can you be sad in Bali? How can life be so hard in a place that makes it so easy? How can you not smile when the sun is shining every day?”
There are always cracks in the foundations of a place no matter how picturesque it is. They say that karma finds one in Bali, and it can be good or bad.
One may not expect it but there is a dark side to the huge paradox that is Bali. It comes when the sun sets; when nighttime revelries fill the air with the sound of raucous laughter, pungent Arak and the whispers of drug sellers on the streets. The bouncers smile nicely at you as you enter the nightclubs, but looks can be deceiving. There are a myriad of booming dark trades that take place in the shadows of the night. The Kerobokan Prison (or Hotel Kerobokan, as it is often called) looms ahead and reminds us ever so gently how something so enchanting can turn into a nightmare when a judge brings down the gavel with a sickening thud.
Bali, you either love it or hate it. But you will always remember it.