Last destination of my Southeast Asia trip: Bali. I loved the culture and the food but I had to admit that I was very disappointed by the beaches. Bali has a paradise type of image across the world and yet, Manly beach next to Sydney CBD is 10 times prettier. I understood beaches such as Kuta and Seminyak would not be as attractive but when you take a day trip to Nusa Lembongan and have a dozen of empty bottles floating in turquoise water, you know something is wrong. I am not saying do not go - but I am just warning those of you who may think Bali is a paradise type of escape. If you live in Australia and look for a holiday by the beach - do not bother, unless you want to immerse yourself in Balinese culture. Here are however, a few things you should do if you are planning to go to Bali...
Ubud - also known as Bali's cultural place is very vast. People think it only resumes to the rice fields but it is not true. I haven't done it myself but I have heard you can do intensive yoga course and see a healer. Practice can be strange but should I have more time on my next trip, I will probably do a 'haling' trip with intensive yoga, massages and healing therapies.
As famous as they are, the rice fields are, of course, a must do when in Bali. Ask your hotel for an external driver (if you book directly your hotel's driver prices will be double) to take you there as it took more than 2 hours from Nusa Dua. Once you get to the rice fields, they will appear smaller than expected or than whatever you have previously seen on photos, etc. Depending on the time I recommend you go for a lunch at the restaurant on the very left of the iconic rice field photo spot. They serve the best saté I've had! Get the mixed saté plate with a whole coconut and seat in front off the fields - the view is a real bliss. If you are courageous enough, take a walk into them and enjoy! Allow approximately 2 hours to take your time to tour around the rice fields.
Sacred Monkey Forest
If you're in Ubud then you cannot miss the Sacred Monkey Forest! The forest has hundreds of monkeys all around and it is part of Bali fun to go there. Entry fees are about 20,000Rupiah (A2$) and you can buy bananas for 200Rupiah. If you decide to feed the monkeys however, make sure to be careful with your belongings! Monkeys will enjoy stealing your phone and jewels. I have to admit that for the cost, it is worth going and the forest in itself is also very beautiful. You'll definitely take unforgettable photos.
Beaches & Temples
Obvious or not, you can't go to Bali without going to temples or walking on a few beaches. As I previously said, beaches have disappointed me so I'll name a few but none of them convinced my heart after having spent a year in Australia. Here's a few you could go but don't expect too much out of them:
- Seminyak - probably one of the cleanest. Go to the Potato Head Beach Club or La Plancha, for a colourful experience and cocktails by the beach
- Padang Padang - great for surfer, I had a very good banana pancake on the beach but that's about it
- Nusa Dua - they claim is at resort beach but I could not even swim..
- Kuta - the worst but I had to go, they have a nice shopping mall and a few markets around
Temples on the other side are fabulous. Always remember to cover your shoulders. For your legs, you will be given a sarong to wear and a donation is usually appreciated. I have visited a few temples on my way to Ubud. No entrance fees are required for most of them but they appreciate a donation as well. The one I strongly recommend is Uluwatu Temple. Go there, visit it and you HAVE TO sit and see the traditional dance, held everyday at 6pm. 100,000Rupiah (A$10) is required for the entry to the performance. Very unusual but interesting as it depicts traditional balinese men dance. I loved it!
Ayana Resort and Spa - Rock Bar
For a fancy escapade, head to Ayana Resort and Spa in Jimbaran. Unless your budget allows it don't stay there - although it's absolutely fabulous with incredible sculptures and countless infinity pools. Instead, head to the Rock Bar for an amazing drink with a view. Make sure to arrive early. The bar only opens from 5pm but the queue will start around 4pm and they will prioritise hotel guests. Arriving there at 4:30-5pm, I had to wait an hour and a half!!! I did stay because I wanted to see and have a drink there and I was already at the place but if I had to do it again I may not wait this long, as I sat when it was almost dark. The view is stunning. Compared to Le Bua in Bangkok, prices are not overrated and the food is nice, especially the tacos and fries basket. The overlooking beach was probably the prettiest I have seen in my whole Bali trip!
Last but not least, something you shouldn't miss about Bali is trekking Mount Batur. Finding a trekking tour when you are alone may be difficult and very expensive as they often charge US$30 more than the original price. My driver kindly proposed to drove me and find a guide all for A$90 on my own. He came to pick me up and dropped me off - and I also had to guide to myself. The reason is because although I had my driver's guide, an official guide from Batur trekking association is compulsory. Therefore, it is safer and you have less risks of scam. I was picked up at my hotel at around 2am, started the trek around 3:30-4am and waited for the sun to rise up until 7am. I was definitely tired but the view was so worth it! Although clouds were present, you could still see the sunrise with a cup of Bali animal coffee (traditional coffee), toasts and eggs. The guides are very helpful and friendly. The trek wasn't easy and you should prepare yourself physically and mentally. Make sure to bring good shoes and a jacket as it will get very cold once at the top.
Where to stay?
For about 500€ for 5 nights, I stayed at Courtyard by Mariott in Nusa Dua - a resort place. Compared to Europe I found prices affordable and safer to stay at a hotel when on your own. The hotel has a wonderful pool (very useful when you don't like the hotel's private beach) which I had a view of from my room, a spa and many other facilities. One of the nicest place I stayed whilst in Southeast Asia!