Life's a beach for King Salman in Bali

Life's a beach for King Salman in Bali
Balinese Hindu local security called "Pecalang" stand guard during a security preparation for Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz visit in Nusa Dua on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on March 3, 2017.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia loves the sea.

The 81-year-old ruler, the first Saudi Arabian monarch to visit Indonesia in nearly 50 years, is enjoying the sea breeze, soft white sand and sparkling blue water of Geger Beach, Nusa Dua, just a few steps away from his hotel, the luxurious St. Regis Bali Resort.

The king and his large entourage, along with nearly 500 tons of luggage, arrived in Bali on Saturday afternoon after a three-day state visit to Jakarta and a brief trip to neighbouring country Brunei Darussalam.

During his first few days on the Hindu island of the gods, King Salman opted to stay in the hotel, which his staff had booked out entirely.

Amid tight security on Sunday afternoon, the Saudi ruler enjoyed a short time at the beach, according to reports. The hotel's management has built walkways to the beach and erected bamboo fencing covered in white fabric to provide privacy for the king, despite the beach not being closed.

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Local authorities have taken steps to increase security at Bali's most popular destinations, such as Uluwatu Temple, Garuda Wisnu Kencana Park and Ubud's famous rice terraces, but the king has yet to visit any tourist sites.

King Salman decided to spend his holiday in Bali because he likes the sea, Saudi Arabia Ambassador to Indonesia Osama bin Mohammed Abdullah Al Shuaibi said on Saturday.

"This island is beautiful. His Excellency King Salman likes the sea very much. He will enjoy the Bali sea during the holiday," Osama said.

A beach holiday is nothing new for the king, dubbed the guardian of Islam's holy shrines. He took a 1,000-person entourage to his exclusive holiday villa in the French Riviera in 2015, which was met with protests from local people following the closure of a public beach.

Bali Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Henky Widjaja said the king was also expected to stay at the hotel on Sunday as no information had been received about him going out.

The government has taken VVIP security measures to safeguard King Salman in Bali. As many as 2,500 police and Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel have been deployed, along with two warships and four smaller vessels in Bali waters. The measures are also supported by pecalang (traditional Balinese guards).

Arriving at I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport on Saturday afternoon, Bali gave the king a grand welcome. He was greeted by 50 Balinese girls in colorful traditional attire, performing a five-minute Pendet dance.

"He was waving his hands and smiling," said provincial administration spokesperson Dewa Mahendra. "We are very proud that we can show our Balinese traditional dance to the king and his entourage."

Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika, Bali Police chief Insp. General Petrus R. Golose and several prominent figures welcomed the king at the airport. The king also greeted local and religious figures, including conversing with Arabic-speaking Catholic priest Eventius Dewantoro.

Tourism players have welcomed the visit to help promote Bali among Middle Eastern visitors. Moreover, the visit could help promote religious harmony, Bali's Interfaith Communication Forum (FKUB) chairman Ida Pengelingsir Agung Putra Sukahet said.

"As a country with predominantly Muslim citizens, he decided to spend his holiday in Bali, which is predominantly Hindu. This shows that he respects other religions, given Bali is known for its Hindu culture," he said.

During a dialogue with several religious leaders in Jakarta on Friday, King Salman lauded Indonesia's tolerance and diversity.

Bali's people also showed excitement at the king's arrival with residents lining the roadside, waving and smiling as they hoped for a glimpse of the king as his motorcade passed by.

His arrival at the airport, however, disrupted 39 domestic and overseas flights, which were delayed as the runway was closed for 45 minutes for the landing.

on SPH Brightcove

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