How to Spend a Week in Bali: Volcanoes, Diving, Temples, Cooking

Tanah Lot - Bali, Indonesia

For a relatively small island, Bali can pack in a lot of activities in just a week: volcano-climbing at dawn, scuba diving in coral reefs, cooking traditional Balinese cuisine, visiting Balinese Hindu temples, taking in a traditional Kecak performance, hanging with monkeys, enjoying a few Balinese massages, relaxing at the beach, and much more. If you only have one week to travel in Bali, here are our suggestions for putting together an itinerary filled with a bit of adventure, outdoor activities, culture, food, and relaxation.

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Travel Snobbery and a Tour to Bali

Apparently, it’s easy to be a travel snob.

Independent travelers can look down on tour groups as not being “hard core” or “authentic” enough. Luxury travelers can look down on backpackers as cheapskates one notch above street riffraff. Holiday-makers looking to relax with a cocktail on the beach are not “real” travelers while those who are trying to live on $5 a day are “escapists.”

I could go on and on with the stereotypes and slurs that I’ve heard fly in all directions, but that’s not the point. One thing travel can teach you – if you allow it to – is that the world is made up of people whose goals and preferences differ. And those differences — they also apply to travel.

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The Bad News Barber of Kuala Lumpur

This is a story about a haircut, some bad news, life in Kuala Lumpur, and crocodile poop.

Before I set off for my first trip abroad to India many years ago, I harbored visions — visions of mystical women in colorful saris who would place their hands upon the crown of my youthful head and say, “I see great things in your future.” Through osmosis, I would absorb their wisdom and they would enlighten me with the path I might take to achieve such great things.

Instead, 14 years later, as I sat in a barber’s chair in Kuala Lumpur, a man named Deepak, a Gujarati Indian barber from Mumbai decked out in too-tight jeans and a checkered shirt, placed his hand upon the front of my head and told me I was going bald.

Where did I go wrong?

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Panorama of the Week: The Rhythm and Ritual of a Hindu Temple

Evening puja (prayers)at Sri Ganesar Court Hill Hindu Temple near Puduraja in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Every morning and every evening, just down the block from our guest house in Kuala Lumpur, the local Hindu temple comes alive with the daily puja (prayer).  Worshippers line up to break coconuts, families gather to share blessed meals, Hindu priests prepare to dress Ganesh, and the sadhu attempts to sell 3-D calendars sporting likenesses of Hindu gods.

Each time we pass, we are drawn in by it all.

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Facing Fears, Wiping Out, and Getting Up Again

Early last week, I was about to write about fears and the process of facing up to them. I would talk about traveling to places that once frightened me, meeting and interacting with large groups of new people, and jumping out of airplanes. Then, I would channel all those fears known and met through a more recent apprehension I'd tackled: riding a motorbike.

I would ride off into the sunset and deliver a life lesson about what a great feeling it is to overcome fears, to do something that scares you.

And then I crashed.

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The Yin and Yang of Koh Pha Ngan (Or, Yes Virginia, There Really Are People Who Suck)

For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

We often share stories of ordinary people who humble us by showing resilience and kindness in the face of challenges. In doing so, we highlight the positive — so much so that you might be thinking: “Do these guys only run into good people on their travels? Is the world really like that? Are all people around the world really that good?

Not always. Sometimes you meet people who grind you to the edge.

And then, you must find your way back.

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Loi Krathong Festival: Troubles Down the River, Lanterns in the Sky

Sunday was one of those days when misfortunes were set aloft and misdeeds adrift.

That is, in Bangkok at least.

It was Loi Krathong, a Thai holiday where young and old come out in force. They send their wrongdoings afloat on colorfully adorned lotus leaf rafts down the Chao Praya River and they fire up paper lanterns to carry their misfortunes into the sky.

Then they party like it's 1999.

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