Updated: Apr 26, 2022
Last week I wrote the following tips for a Bali trip to a colleague of mine. I am posting them (adding some pictures, some from my husband’s camera, some from mine, just to feel myself again on holiday), maybe they could be useful for someone who is planning to go or for someone who is just dreaming about it! :)
We first spent 5 nights in Sanur (Sudamala Hotel) and we loved the resort and the hospitality. Sudamala is a peculiar resort with a pool, suites and SPA (massages are really cheap and Balinese massage is famous for giving a deep relaxation… I got a looot of massages). Sanur is a little town with nothing to see and to do. And unfortunately, the sea was not that nice. We decided to stay there because we wanted to avoid Kuta, which is the most touristic area, full of Australian people and surfers (nothing against them, we just wanted to avoid the crowd). But this was a mistake because nice things in the south are generally around Kuta/Seminyak. When we discovered that, we regretted our decision and we spent 3 evenings in Seminyak.
In Seminyak I absolutely recommend you to go for dinner or drinks at the Ku De Ta. Not really really cheap (but not even excessive): the food is really good (some typical Balinese, some not), the restaurant is on the beach, the atmosphere is chill and romantic. You can drink something by the pool and watch the stars relaxing on the beach-seats in front of the sea! All candle lighted. A dream!
(Sudamala Hotel and pool)
The most in-cre-di-ble beach we visited was Pandawa Beach. Turquoise everywhere :) We really liked Geger Beach. It is not really wild but the water was amazing and the people really good. When the sun comes down and you see people leaving the beach, you’d better to go too. Because when the evening comes, it will be impossible to find a taxi driving you home. Unfortunately, we found ourselves in this situation… It’s not really simple to call a taxi by phone because Balinese people don’t speak English really well, especially on the phone. The area around is just a desert road… so we found a Spanish restaurant (the name was Tapa). We liked the food and the atmosphere very much (even if the restaurant was pretty empty too) and then we asked the waiters to call a taxi for us to go home. Other famous beaches are Nusa Dua (south, near the airport) and Padang Padang Beach, but we had no time to go.
(Pandawa… no filter!)
We made a road trip to the North and visited the Banjar Hot Springs which are really popular for locals and really typical. On that trip we visited the North in just one day, reaching Singaraja and passing through incredible hills and mountain views. We saw the villages and the local people. It was really interesting and made us think a lot and talk about it. We passed through an area with three lakes. Near one of these lakes, there was the famous Pura Ulun Danu Bratan (Pura means just Temple). It was a bit touristic and wasn’t possible to visit, but it is nice just to admire it from outside and have a walk by the park. It is known as an example of tolerance between Hindu and Buddhists because there are different temples in the area.
Bali is the Indu part of Indonesia, which is mostly Muslim. Because of their religion, Balinese people are really peaceful and friendly. This is so nice and it gave me good feelings. On the other hand, I was impressed by their being so poor and doing nothing to develop their society and living. This has been a really big thing. My husband and I have spent a lot of time talking about this and analysing it (without reaching any conclusion in the end). It was the first time we were both going to Asia and to such a poor country, so we were really impressed. Children play barefoot in the rubbish but parents have the very last technological TVs and mobile phones. In most tourist places, local people constantly talk to you trying to sell you any kind of things and this is really annoying after some days. If you are not interested, just ignore them and go ahead. They all live in compounds. If you can, look for a trip with a person guiding you inside a compound: usually, hotels and resorts give this kind of opportunity. Three or four families live in each compound and each one is provided with a little temple. I was really impressed by the number of temples… and that’s why! For each house, there is a temple! So every family has its own holy place (they all pray something like 5 times a day).
Plus there are bigger temples for the whole community. Some of them are worth to be visited: the Pura Kehen for example (in the Ubud area, it is 1000 years old). Or the Tanah Lot, which is amazing… a temple on a tiny island. Or the Ulu Watu temple, which is dedicated to monkeys… monkeys are a big thing here! Be careful because they could steal your sunglasses or even your flip flops! From the area, you can see the cliffs on the Indian Ocean… breathtaking! Check with the timings, because in Ulu Watu you can watch the Kecak Dance, a really ancient typical Indonesian show, taking place in an outside theatre with the sea view (lovely). It is a bit expensive but it worth do be seeing once.
Then we moved to Ubud, in the Alila Ubud Resort. The resort was really incredible. Imagine an infinity pool on top of a hill in the middle of the jungle. It was full of facilities and we felt like a prince and a princess! We were on our honeymoon so we decided to treat ourselves really well! They served typical food, it was really well cooked and really tasty. I can’t forget all breakfasts I had there.
(Alila Ubud’s infinity pool)
From Ubud you can see the most peculiar things from Bali: we reached the famous Ceking rice Terraces, we went for a trip riding elephants in Taro, we went with mountain bikes around the volcano and went hiking over the rice fields (only bright green in my eyes… it was amazing). Ubud is full of nice shops and many museums of arts (if you like that kind of art… I don’t really) and restaurants. I recommend the crispy duck (typical food there) at Bebek Bengil. There you can visit also the famous Monkey Forest. We didn’t, because in our resort every single afternoon at 4 PM a group of 20 monkeys used to come looking for something to eat during Afternoon Tea… in the beginning that was annoying, but then I got used to it and I enjoyed it! They were crazy. In general, we relaxed a lot in Ubud surrounded by the jungle.
Then we spent a couple of days in Gili Trawangan. As I told you I don’t recommend it because of the rubbish on the shore, everywhere, but it could depend on the season. People weren’t nice as in Bali and the atmosphere was too hippy for us. Some like it… Well, we found two nice places for dinner there: Ko Ko Mo (try the Tahitian style tuna!) and Casa Vintage (Caribbean food on the beach candle lighted… soooo romantic). The famous swing in the sunset was right in front of our hotel but the beach was full of rubbish so we didn’t enjoy it at all. Luckily we spent just 2 nights there.
Beaches and pools
Bali is not the kind of place where you go just to relax on the beach and do nothing at all like “bed-sofa-beach-and-repeat”. There too many things around to just stay on the seaside and in the end we decided to give up some relaxation and to go around visiting amenities instead. Beaches are nice and the water is amazing, but reaching the shores could be sometimes a bit tricky and stressful (taxi, walking a lot…). Sometimes we didn’t want to spend time in transfers (in Sanur we were 20 mins car far from any beach and in Ubud more than 1 hour) and some days we just stayed in the pools, especially in Ubud. So my suggestion is: make sure there are nice pools in your hotels, for very lazy days :)
(Are the monkeys coming? I don’t care.)
You have basically to move by taxi. Important: never trust any kind of taxi but only Bluebird taxis, which are the official ones. It is safer. And always talk about the price with the taxi driver before going anywhere (even for a 5 mins journey) or they could ask you for a non-sense amount of money. In Bali, you have always to negotiate for everything. We found it stressful in the beginning, but then we found it natural. They know you are tourists and they know you are richer than them so they try to take advantage of it. Don’t let them do this. Always behave yourself in a confident way and show them you are aware of the right price of things. Even if you are not!
You will be impressed by the number of motorcycles you will see. In Bali, there are 4 million people and 4 million motorcycles! Many tourists rent a motorcycle to be independent in moving. We were scared of doing it because the traffic is really wild and observing it from the taxi we noticed that they have their own unwritten rules! I really don’t know how they can drive over there without badly hurting themselves every single ride! Plus from our travel agency (which was Kuoni) suggested we not rent any motorcycle because the police would probably notice we were not local and would take advantage of this billing us without any purpose. So we decided to move by taxi every time. It is not expensive and it is air-conditioned. The only annoying side of it is that you have always to make sure you have a way to come back to the hotel at the end of the day. For long internal transfers, we had the Kuoni service, called Asian Travel… but maybe resorts give this kind of service too.
Food and drink
Always pay attention to the reliability of the place you are going to dine in. Follow your senses and instinct: if something tells you not to trust a street food stand or a restaurant, don’t go for it, because otherwise, you could spend the rest of the journey in the toilet! Fortunately, this didn’t happen to us, we’ve been very careful. We used to look for good places and we found many of them. We generally ate super tasty food! Never drink water if it is not mineral if it doesn’t come from a closed bottle. Even the tap water in the hotels is not for drinking (but it is ok for brushing your teeth). For this reason, when you get any iced drink, always ask if the ice is made with mineral water.
I hope you’ll enjoy it!!!! And come back full of colours in your eyes :) I definitely did.