Last month I visited Bali. From the moment I told my friends and colleagues that its going to be a 15 day vacation, I was asked few questions –
“15 days in Bali? What are you going to do?”
“Isn’t that one island? Settle hone ka irada hai kya (Do you wish to move to Bali permanently?)”
“What’s there in Bali? 2 days Kuta, 2 days Seminyak, max you can spend a day or 2 in Ubud, what after that?”
My common response was, wait till you see it all in my blog! If you have done only the above things in Bali, I will tell you what you have missed and give you a reason to visit again. If you haven’t been to Bali, sit tight, for I am listing it all up in a series of posts.
Having spent 15 days (only!), I am by no means an expert in Bali. Let me first clarify that. Bali and by large Indonesia is so huge & diverse that it will be an injustice to say that you are an expert unless you have stayed in this beautiful country for a few years. But here is me, doing my best to give you guys a glimpse of my short yet memorable trip. If you are still struggling to finalize a destination for your next vacation, read my Top 10 reasons why you should choose Bali
Temples & palaces
Hinduism is the predominant religion in Bali and it is embedded in every aspect of day –to-day lives of Balinese people. Temples are called ‘Pura’ in Balinese. No matter where you go in Bali, you will see temples in each corner of an alley, in a house or in a village. There are directional temples, there are temples for each god – Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu, water temples, the list goes on. Each Pura is different with a story of its own and some of them beautiful enough for you to spend 5-6 hours.
I absolutely fell in love with the Black volcanic sand beaches at Amed and Lovina! While beaches down south are more commercial or crowded, as you go towards eastern or northern side the beaches get quieter, more picturesque. But that doesn’t mean that beaches in southern Bali are any less pretty. If you want to learn surfing, head to Kuta, if you want to experience luxury & stay at an upscale resort visit Seminyak or Nusa Dua. The southeastern islands of Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida with their crystal clear waters are perfect for all ages and budgets. The sunsets and the sunrises from any corner of Bali are postcard perfect!
Warungs, restaurants & Balinese cuisine
Well, I don’t know where to start! From a small Warung (small family run restaurant) to all you can eat buffets to fine dining restaurants at Bvlgari resort and Spa, Bali has it all. Balinese dishes have their own twist on the Indonesian staples and every family will have their own recipe. One of the Asia’s top 50 restaurant ‘Locavore’ is right here in Ubud, Bali.
Non-vegetarians must try Babi guling – Roast suckling pig. Ask any Balinese person what their favorite dish is and they will say Bali guling. This is mostly eaten in the morning for breakfast or by lunch.
Nasi Goreng and Mi Goreng – Fried rice and fried Noodles topped with fried egg. No two restaurants will have similar taste.
Satay Lilik – Balinese touch on the well-known satay. Have it in beef, fish or good ‘ol chicken.
Vegetarians don’t get disappointed! Almost all dishes are offered with vegetarian options such as tofu, fresh vegetables, tempeh and some of them taste even better than their non-veg variety.
Art & Culture
Bali’s history and culture is unique and interesting. Most of the tourists get so busy with partying, shopping and the beach scene that they forget to explore this rich aspect of Bali. Ubud can be best described as cultural hub of Bali. It has numerous museums, art galleries and artists colonies that you can visit. Traditional dance performances can be seen throughout Bali. One should not miss the Kecak dance held at Uluwatu temple in southern Bali. It is mesmerizing, spiritual and enchanting.
Kecak dance at Uluwatu temple
Relaxing & beautiful accommodation
Bali is for everyone – Backpackers, flash-packers, ultra-riches, young and old. For my entire Bali trip I booked my stay via AirBnB. (New to AirBnB? Click here to sign up) The beautiful pictures that you see when you search for accommodation in Bali? Well that’s exactly what I got from each place that I selected on AirBnB. Clean, centrally located, beautiful and showcasing the best of Bali.
There are numerous high-end luxury resorts and private villas with top-class service across Bali. Some places seem straight out of story books with traditional decor and picturesque setting such as overlooking a rice terrace or on a cliff or with your private strip of beach. You are indeed spoilt for choices in Bali!
Balinese spa experience
Bali is a paradise for spa-lovers and no trip to Bali is complete without a traditional Balinese massage. From a quick 30 min foot massage to a 3 hour elaborate affair complete with aromatherapy, body scrub and flower bath. A Creambath is a soothing scalp and shoulder massage in which a thick conditioning cream is massaged throughout scalp and head.
In Bali it’s not just the massage but the people who make it special. I will come back to that later since it’s a topic in itself.
Man-made structures and natural attractions
Balinese landscape ranges from mountains to beautiful beaches to waterfalls to rivers and plains. The huge Batur caldera offers a view of volcanic mount Batur and lake Batur. The cliffs in Uluwatu and Devil’s tear in Nusa Lembongan are natural miracles best for watching crashing waves.
Temples like Gunung Kawi and Goa Gajah are cave temples dating back to 13th and 9th century. If you have a good guide you can understand from him the history of Bali and origins of these temples. These structures are massive and reaching these cave temples is a good workout!
Git-Git waterfalls are located in northern Bali. You have to descend by stepping down in order to reach the waterfalls. They are surrounded by tropical trees and the cold water from the waterfall makes a great natural swimming pool.
Bali is a great destination for cycling, surfing, diving, free diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and for off-road adventures like ATV. The list is never-ending. Bali is famous for it world-class surfing. Surfing classes in Kuta and other beaches are always full with people like me eager to learn this classic water sport.
If swimming to Manta rays, Mola-Mola and turtles excites you, Bali is the right place. The waters are crystal clear and houses a variety of aquatic life & corals.
Cycling through the rice fields and downhill from the mountains is another popular activity in Bali. It’s a great way to explore the countryside and try some local delicacies.
Right from the time I started booking activities or hotels, I was amazed at the hospitality and kind nature of Balinese people. This was the first trip where nobody tried to con us, overcharged us for anything but instead gave us over and above what we expected out of our money. Our guide Suki was only supposed to transfer us from the airport to Amed but we ended up arranging 2 full day trips with him. Not only did he got us acquainted with the local culture & traditions, he was kind enough to even invite us to his house. This was not the only good experience but across Bali right from the airport to any warung I was amazed at the hospitality.
There were 3 things I wanted to learn in Bali – Balinese cuisine, Snorkeling & Surfing and yayyy I did all 3 and can’t wait to try it all out! You can learn history & culture, try your hands at Balinese style painting or crafts or even different types of Yoga.
Bali has opened my eyes to a world not so far away that is fascinating and so culturally diverse! I write this as I plan my next trip to Indonesia and come back with more memories 🙂 Till then watch out for my next post on the island life.