As I’ve said before, I rarely visit a place more than once within a ten-year time period. But as fate would have it, I was sent to Bali for business two years after my first encounter. (There were some benefits to being me in the corporate world, I have to admit.) Even then, there is still a lot of Bali that I have to see and experience – from the western shore to the central plains.
For those who want to get the most out of their trip – my Indonesian friends recommend renting out a car and driving around the island. I wish I had followed their advice, but I was travelling with – erhm – more conventional tourists, hence that dream was left for another day.
For those who wish to find the meaning of life or their true selves whilst meditating in the middle of paddy fields – please move on. I am not here to endorse the Elizabeth Gilbert formula of Eat, Pray, Love.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here are some of the basics I’ve picked up on my two trips. Feel free to take or leave whatever pieces of information you would like. Bali has something for almost everyone, and I’ll try to cover all the bases as much as I can.
The most accesssible areas (read : most number of tourists per square meter) are between the beaces of Kuta and Seminyak. Many hotels are found in this area, and most are good value for money. Resturants and money changers abound, as well as outlet stores of brands like Quiksilver and Roxy. There are also a number of spas for those who wish to get some pampering. Water sports are also available for adrenaline junkies – surfing lessons are held practically all year round. This area is also most popularly known for its vibrant nightlife – so if you’re a party animal, welcome. In general, Kuta makes for a convenient jump-off point for whatever you want to do in the island.
For those looking for hotel recommendations – we stayed at the Bamboo Legian, which is conveniently located and has clean, well furnished rooms. Nothing fancy, best for budget travellers who don’t need all the bells and whistles.
If you are more of a culture vulture rather than a clubber, you can opt to stay in Ubud. This area is known for its marketplace for cheap local crafts, like batik prints and handwoven bags. Art galleries also line the streets, and there is a quirky museum near the market. The other thing Ubud is known for are the terraced paddy fields. A stroll down Monkey Forest Road is recommended. My haunt in Ubud is called Sayan Terrace. This locally owned complex of huts has a view of the rice fields, which it shares with the Four Seasons and Amandari. Needless to say, breakfast outdoors is always refreshing.
Beach lovers who refuse to share real estate will fare better in the eastern shores of Sanur. The sand is also whiter than that of Kuta. Sanur is a common kick-off point for Nusa Lembongan – which is well worth the trip, I’ve been told. Flashbacks in Sanur is run by a friendly foreign couple who are always ready to help you out. They forgot to pick me up from the airport, but I forgave them because they were just so nice.
Now – food. Everyone who has been to Bali tells me I should have seafood at Jimbaran Bay. Best while waiting for the sunset. There are a number of resturants along the popular strip, so just pick one and order to your heart’s delight. People have pointed me towards Menega Cafe, and it did not disappoint. Seafood is caught fresh from the Indian Ocean. In Ubud, the required stop is dinner in Mozaic, which offers six-course tasting menus. Prepare your wallets (or credit cards), and make sure to call at least one day ahead. Finally, a stop in Bali would not be complete without checking out Ku De Ta – which has become so wildly popular, a club in Singapore borrowed their name. Book ahead for dinner.
I’ll cover sights and activities in a later post – it runs the gamut from temple hopping to white water rafting. Needless to say, you’ll never run out of things to do in Bali.