Only months after the spectacular visit of King Salman al Saud of Saudi Arabia and his hundred-plus royal entourage to Bali, the Island of the Gods is once again the centre of attention as a favourite destination for world figures to relax, unwind and relax in idyllic surroundings.
Barack Obama and his family’s holiday in June on the most popular island in the world was full of dynamic outdoor activities and eco-culture-packed excursions. Here are five of the unforgettable experiences that are sure to be recorded in the family’s holiday album.
The Ayung River
The Obamas really had a ball in Bali. Barack and Michelle, along with daughters Sasha and Malia, were spotted enjoying family time while white-water rafting. Paddling down the Ayung River, a popular spot for nature-loving tourists, the former president looked typically relaxed and stylish even with his bulky helmet and life jacket.
Malia and Sasha, who recently celebrated her 16th birthday, seemed to enjoy their Indonesian adventure, too.
Ayung River Rafting offers the most challenging sensation as thrill-seekers discover hidden waterfalls, swim in the pristine water and enjoy the spectacular scenery that meanders through 10 kilometres of stream tinted with exciting class II & III rapids that traverse through Ubud.
The Obamas spent their fourth day on Bali with a 12.5km trip from Ubud to Tirta Empul, the Hindu-Balinese water temple in Tampaksiring, Gianyar. Arriving at around 4pm, the tight security measures did not deter Obama from waving and smile to the tourists and residents who had lined up along his walk through Candi Bentar, the gate to the 10th-century temple.
The hallowed compound consists of a petirtaan, or bathing structure, famous for holy spring water that is revered by the Balinese for ritual purification rites. The temple pond has a spring that gushes fresh water regularly, which Balinese consider to be holy or amritha.
On a hill overlooking the temple is Sukarno’s former favourite residence on Bali: Istana Tampaksiring, now one of the five Presidential Palaces.
UNESCO rice terraces
A vacation on Bali is never complete without a stroll through lush green paddy fields and beautifully landscaped rice terraces. On the Sunday of their visit, the Obamas took a 500m trek through the lush, green Jatiluwih rice terrace, and visited Pura Subak.
The family looked relaxed with Barack in a blue polo shirt and Michelle, who kept it casual in a baseball cap and vest with her jacket tied round her waist. In June 2012, considering the profound beauty of the area and its importance in the daily life of indigenous people, it was declared a World Heritage Site. (Photo: netz.id)
Agung Rai Art Museum
In his 1937 book The Island of Bali, art historian, painter and ethnologist Miguel Covarrubias declared that Bali flourishes due to its unique position at the crossroads of Asia and the Pacific, and is home to both traditions and artworks. To delve more deeply into the fascinating world of fine arts, the Obamas visited Agung Rai Art Museum (ARMA) in Ubud.
Popular with its collections of artworks by global maestros, the museum is packed with paintings by local masters like Ida Bagus Made and Anak Agung Gede Sobrat. On his rounds of the museum, Barack Obama expressed an interest in a 1930s painting by the late I Gusti Nyoman Lempad.
Ubud: heartbeat of Bali
A stay in Ubud is the best way to get the most out of Bali. Surrounded by emerald rice fields and steep ravines in the foothills of Gianyar, Ubud, the cultural and spiritual capital of Bali burgeoned into an art district with the arrival of European painters like Walter Spies, William Hofker and Rudolf Bonnet in the 1930s, and lured celebrities of the day like Charlie Chaplin, Noël Coward, and Barbara Hutton.
On their five-day break in Ubud, the Obamas stayed at the Royal Villa, an epic three-storey residence set in the grounds of the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan in Ubud—the same stately residence in which Julia Roberts stayed with her two children for three months while shooting the blockbuster Eat, Pray, Love.