Bali: More than just BintangsAfter previously travelling to some far-fetched and adventurous locations upon announcing to my family and friends that my next travel destination would be Bali I was met with more than a few sceptical raised eyebrows. Australians have been travelling to nearby Bali for years, but its stereotypical association with bear guts and Bintang drinking in Kuta had called my usual hippy style of travel in to question. Well I am pleased to tell all my like-minded travellers that I absolutely ADORED Bali, so much so that I returned twice within six months. Many Australians are heading back to Bali after a lull in tourism and for good reason, the Balinese are so good at responding to what tourists want. Within the same street, you can order a traditional Indonesian meal for $2, or you can order the poached eggs on toast with smashed avo and fetta that is so familiar to you.
Reasons why I love Bali:
It’s cheap! From Australia you can easily get cheap flights with JetStar or AirAsia, the first time I went I even paid $99 one way for my flight. Accomodation is super reasonable-I have stayed in 3 star-5 star accomodation here all very cheaply and had a great experience. The food is cheap and of good quality and variety and activities are also very reasonable-what more could you want?
The people! The people are very friendly and helpful in general. I made a friend who I have caught up with both times I have been.
There’s something for everyone! Bali can literally be whatever kind of holiday you want it to be. If you want to sit in a resort for two weeks you can do so, if you want to have an adventure-packed holiday where you scoot around on a motorbike and find secret beaches you can do so, A beach holiday, a yoga holiday, an active holiday, a luxurious holiday, all of these are possible within this beautiful island.
The food! You know that kind of food you have dreams about, I have so many examples of times I have eaten that food in Bali. Mexican, Asian, Vegan, Italian, all is possible and all is super delciious!
Water! I am such a water baby, I absolutely adore swimming anywhere that I can. There are incredible beaches, waterfalls and swimming pools in Bali.
It’s easy to get around: Bali has UBER, I repeat Bali has Uber. This has revolutionised my holiday both times as you don’t have to worry about haggling with dodgy cab drivers and the cost is so reasonable. I have taken them for over an hour at a time, felt very safe and spent very little money.
My Favourite places in Bali (So Far!)
The first time I visited Bali I went to Ubud for a day trip (easily done as it's only an hour each way from Seminyak) However once I got a taste, I instantly wanted to have a longer experience here, so for my second Bali visited I scheduled a few nights in this beautiful town. Ubud is set in lush green jungle, rice paddies scattered here and there and is the perfect place to zen out for a few days. A haven for lovers of Yoga, nature, organic foods or anyone who just wants to switch off for a few days.
Accomodation: I stayed a little out of Ubud and due to the location I wouldn’t highly recommend where I stayed as although it was cheap, the cost increased due to having to get taxis in and out of the town centre. What I can recommend however is picking accomodation which incorporates the lush surroundings in to it’s design, something our did well. Many have swimming pools that leave you feeling like you’re literally floating towards the jungle!
Food: If you are a fan of healthy eating, vegan or vegetarian food, and organic treats, Ubud is definitely the place for you!
Some favourites of mine:
Earth Cafe: (Also has a branch in Seminyak) Delicious vegetarian treats and an extensive menu with something for everyone. We visited several times. Also includes an organic grocery store.
Taco Casa: The best Mexican food, also has a location in Seminyak but the location in Ubud is more central, I visited 5 times in 2 visits, the 9 layer burrito is to die for, need I say more?!
Yoga Barn: Yummy and extremely cheap vegetarian food available at the cafe attached to their yoga studios where we also did a class
Things to do:
Tegallalang Rice Terraces: These are a must-do in Ubud, incredible views casting you back to a more traditional Bali, you can hike all through the terraces.
Tegenungan Waterfall: I chase waterfalls all throughout the world and this is hands down one of my favourites. The first time I visited it’s sheer power took my breath away, So refreshing to provide some relief from Ubud’s humidity.
Coffee plantations: I have visited two of these, my admission both times was free and you get a little tour of the premises as well as some free samples of different flavour teas and coffees. Well worth it!
Monkey Forest: Loads of Monkeys and a nice walk.
A cooking class: We did one in the middle of the rice paddies which was great fun.
Shopping: The markets in Ubud are the cheapest I have found in Bali, local store Yin Jewellery was also a favourite of mine.
If you are looking for an island paradise, this is it. The gilis are still very firmly on my to-do list but due to time restrictions Nusa Lembongan was a great compromise as it’s only half an hour by boat from the mainland. Say Hello to white sand, turquoise water, few tourists, exclusive beach clubs and restaurants.
Accomodation: I stayed in an AirBnB with two of my friends and it was incredible. A with a pool to ourselves for a very reasonable cost.
Food: Many of the beach clubs offer extremely high quality food for a cost that is higher than mainland Bali but cheap in comparison to home. This is the place to lash out on a steak or seafood as it is prepare meticulously and served to you on white sandy beaches. Buying your own groceries here are few and far between and expensive but there are plenty of low-cost restaurants to choose from. Most of the bigger restaurants will pick you up in a golf-buggy from your accomodation as there are no cars on the island.
Things to do:
Enjoy the incredible beaches! Stand up paddle-boarding, jet skiing, sunbathing, beach walks.
Hire Scooters: I have always been too scared to ride a motorcycle or moped, however there are no cars on this island so I felt relatively safe and extremely free scooting around the bumpy ‘roads’. A highlight was crossing the bridge to Nusa Ceningan and driving to Dreamland Beach and the Blue Lagoon.
Visit the Blue Lagoon: I scaled a cliff to jump in to the inviting waters of the Blue Lagoon as the jumping area seemed deserted (we later found out it was closed), it was one of the most invigorating experiences of my life, I only did it because I know I am a strong swimmer and for a moment I literally felt like the only person in the world. My photo capturing this moment was featured on popular blog ‘The Bali Bible’.
Seminyak was used as a base during both my trips to Bali, It has the nightlife that is lacking in the other destinations above, amazing restaurants and shopping. The vibes here are much more pleasant than neighbouring Kuta and you could easily spend your entire time in Bali just in Seminyak.
Accomodation: I have stayed at FaveHotel (A great budget option for families or backpackers, clean, comfy and only $30 AUD per night), The in Seminyak (a more luxurious option) and at an Air BnB which we also had our own private villa.
Sisterfields Cafe- amazing food- very similar menu to Melbourne but for half the price! Bossman Burger is next to Sisterfields and also delicious.
Zucchini Cafe-Incredible salads and sandwiches
Sea Circus-Killer breakfasts and tapas
Things to do:
Uluwatu: visit the monkey temple (around an hour drive from Seminyak) Padang-Padang beach is near here and meant to be one of the nicest ones on mainland Bali. Single fin is a cool place to eat/drink and watch the surfers.
Waterbom Park: Like Wet and Wild with no rules! So much fun! Would not recommend visiting Kuta other than to visit this park.
Learn to surf
Shop: There are many incredible boutique stores in Seminyak selling homewares, jewellery and clothing of high quality.
Stand Up Paddle Yoga: I took a taxi Sanur to take this class which was so much fun and a unique experience.
All in all, I highly recommend Bali, especially to someone new to travelling. It is the ideal location to dip your toes in and get as involved in the local culture as you choose. I’ll certainly be back!
Keep travelling, Sarah