Meet the latest traveller in our series Interviews on Off the Radar Travel Destinations! Whilst we have mostly done interviews on places less travelled, we are also happy to hear about interesting trips, such as road journeys or fun adventures in destinations that are more well travelled. We just love travel stories 🙂
This week, we have with us Shilpa Balakrishnan from The Satori Saga – a former investment banker passionate about the art of travelling. Originally from India, Shilpa has lived in Abu Dhabi-UAE, for most part of her life and is currently exploring Asia while residing in the beautiful city of Bangalore. She will be talking to us about her travels to Bali.
Tell us a bit about yourselves and your travels
I grew up in Abu Dhabi, and left home when I was 17, with education as an excuse, to explore a world out of the cocoon. I moved to India for a three-year bachelor course. At that point little did I expect it to be major challenge to live alone in a city that I have never been to or with people who belonged to a completely different lifestyle and mindset.
Nevertheless, it taught me the ups and downs of the real life without the presence of my parents and their protection. That said, I enjoyed the freedom while I woke up to a different plan everyday with the excitement of making new friends. Slowly, the trend moved to seeing nearby places in Karnataka and south India every weekend on my own. After studies, I moved back to Dubai for a master’s program. During this time, I made a lot of international trips with family. The urge to travel kept pounding over the years. As a full-time job and studies were taking its shape, I met a man who shared a similar passion for travel. Even better, he was a biker.
Now that we are married, we try our best to travel together as much as possible. But since he has a full-time job and I am a full –time travel writer, we try to balance our schedules.
Why did you choose to travel to Bali?
What pulled me the most towards Bali is its culture followed by the paddy fields, the mountains and of course the movie ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ filmed in Ubud.
Where did you stay?
We set ourselves on a 7-day journey through Bali – from Kuta (South) to Kintamani (North) and back to Denpasar via Munduk. Since we rode across Bali on a motorbike, we stayed each night at different places to explore more of a region. All of the seven nights, we stayed in beautiful homestays – each had unique elements that are incomparable. Duana’s homestay in Ubud is adorned with a traditional Balinese architecture featuring independent houses; One homestay is a backpacker’s lodge with magnificent views of Munduk valley, Batur Mountain View in Kintamani has a private balcony facing the Batur Volcano.
What were your favorite and most difficult parts on this journey?
My favorite part of the journey was the adventure. I’m not a person who likes to sign up for tours or hire a cab to save time. I would rather use the public transportation or go on a bike. The quote “Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you more about the destination “is true in my case, I enjoy the fullest while I am on a bike because I get to sense the air in an unknown land, listen to the locals mutter their prayers, while I can even smell the fragrance of the incense sticks.
I also loved the variation in weather as you enter different towns. In south it’s hot and known for the beaches, as you go north you’ll see hills and mountains so the weather gets cooler with temperatures hovering around 20 C in Kintamani and lesser in Munduk.
I’m also a travel illustrator so I like the freedom of relaxing at a café or a market for a couple of hours and sketch the chaos or even just a random building. Our seven-day trip went perfect as planned but the fear of lack of time to sightsee or get to a destination didn’t allow me to focus on my sketches. Thus, I missed out on drawing one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Highlights of your stay
What were some of your favorite dishes/food there?
The Balinese food has a perfect blend of fragrant spices. I like the Balinese local favorite – Nasi Goreng. Although the dish is available even outside Indonesia, trying it from the country it was born is a taste none like. Most warungs (family owned restaurants) prepare the staple Nasi Campur, a rice dish accompanied by satay with peanut sauce.
Another famous Indonesian food is the Bakso, which is meatballs spilled in a soup mixture of noodles and tofu, but I was not a big fan of it.
Would you recommend Bali to other people?
Of course! Bali has much to offer visitors – from families to solo travellers to backpackers. There is something to suit the genre of every traveler. There is plethora of Puras (temples) in which the architecture is the highlight and is ideal for those with an eye for art, the fashionistas will love the traditional dress worn by Balinese men and women, foodies will enjoy the diverse food scene in Bali, beachcombers and surfers will be confused on choosing the best beaches, Ubud monkey forest is great for an animal or a monkey lover (like me); watching the culture and rituals followed by the Balinese is an experience by itself.
What’s next on the horizon for your travels?
We will be heading to North-east India and Bhutan in March. This is exciting because we will be riding from West Bengal and entering Bhutan through its border Phuentsholing on a motorbike.
There is also Maldives and Vietnam on the radar this year.
Shilpa talks more about the little things she noticed in Bali, for her readers who may not be aware of the place or its culture on her blog The Satori Saga. You can also find her travel stories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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