For my 2017 summer holiday, I headed for two weeks in sunny Bali with my boyfriend. Me being me; I spent most of my of time leading up to the trip researching and planning as much as I could. With my newfound wealth of information, personal experience of visiting and gathering tips from other travellers, I thought I’d put together a little post to help anyone else thinking of visiting this beautiful island. Here’s what I learnt;
Having been picked up from Denpasar airport by our recommended friend, Made (pronounced mad-ay) we headed to Seminyak; a beach resort on the south western side of the island, about 25 minutes from the airport. It’s the perfect place for beach clubs, sleek bars and even a touch of surfing too. Being too early to check into our hotel, Made took us to Finns Beach, a popular beach club, for some breakfast, beers and ocean views. It was a great way to start the holiday!
We then made our way to Bali Ayu Hotel and Villas, where we stayed for three nights. I’d highly recommend it for the fact it’s in a great central location. There’s also a pool, air conditioning and breakfast is included.
After a chilled afternoon by the pool recovering from our travels, we headed out for dinner. Just around the corner we discovered Waroeng Bonita, a cute little restaurant with colourful outside lights and yummy food.
Bali has some wonderful cuisine, but my personal favourite was the simplest of dishes, Nasi Goreng. It literally translates as “fried rice” in Indonesian and is a must try dish. It’s fragrant, spicy and is lovingly topped with a fried egg. If you fancy changing it up a bit, you can opt for Mie Goreng, which is the noodle counterpart and what I had during our first night in Indonesia.
We spent the entirety of the next day at Potato Head Beach Club which is a MUST when visiting Seminyak. For a minimum spend of 500k IDR (roughly £28), you can nab yourselves a day bed (literally a double bed) for a group of up to 4 people and spend all day lounging. It’s the perfect jet lag cure! Although the beach club doesn’t open until 10am, I’d advise getting there for 9am to secure yourselves a bed.
Once you’ve put your name down and chosen your bed, you can leave the club to grab a coffee while you wait for your day to begin (so long as you’re back by 10:15 at the very latest). With stunning views across the infinity pool, palm trees for shade and cocktails till you drop, you’ll never want to leave!
We had some friends staying in Kuta, which is south of Seminyak, so headed there that evening for drinks. If you do find yourselves in Kuta or fancy a night out there, you’ll want to go the Sky Garden. It’s about 115k IDR all you can eat and drink from 17:00-21:00, which will certainly set you up for the night. Then you could head to Vi Ai Pi next door as on Saturday nights it’s open mic night. Hilarious when you’ve been joined by over confident Australians who are up for anything.
We didn’t see much of the next day as it was a late evening, but ventured out for dinner. For those romantics out there, I would recommend a sunset stroll along the sand towards an idyllic dinner spot of beanbags on the beach and live music. I originally thought we were heading to a niche restaurant of this sort but as we wandered down we could see there was plenty to choose from. La Plancha and Capil Beach are to name some and well worth the experience.
Next on your must list is Motel Mexicola. With giant coconut cocktails and music to get your hips moving, this is certainly the fluorescent pink place to go! And if you find yourself wanting to dance until dawn, you should then move on to La Favela.
Whilst waiting for Made the next morning, before heading to Ubud, we sat in Revolver for a smooth ice coffee – definitely worth a little visit for any coffee lover. And if you ever fancy an ice cream, head to Gelato Shack for a multitude of creamy flavours.
On our journey to Ubud (about an hour and a half’s drive north), Made took us to a Luwak coffee plantation. We weren’t sure what to expect as it was just off the side of the road; but it was really fascinating learning about how this expensive coffee is made. It involves the civet cat which only eats the ripest beans and then excretes it. Now this sounds disgusting but this coffee bean in fact has three layers to it, with only the first shell coming apart from the bean. From this, it is then roasted and ground up, giving it’s distinctive taste and smooth texture. We were then given a selection of teas and coffees that had been grown right there.
After a recommendation from my sister who had been to Ubud the previous year, we stayed in an Air BnB hosted by an Indonesian man, Ketut, and his family. It was roughly a 40 minute walk into the centre of town but was an incredibly tranquil place to stay in comparison the craziness of the centre.
Our friends were also spending time in Ubud and invited us on an adventure the next day. We hired a driver for the day, through their hotel, and were picked up at 8am ready for the 2 hour drive north towards the Sekumpul waterfall.
The drive was a great way to see the vast greenery of the island and arriving mid morning meant that the waterfall was empty. The only issue with this exploring Sekumpal was getting down to it, in particular the 300 odd steps we had to descend. Which in turn meant 300 odd steps to climb up again in the midday heat. To say we were sweating was an understatement, but well worth it as it’s stunning and a less popular place than other waterfalls closer to Ubud.
On our way back to Ubud, our driver stopped off at some hot springs for us. For 40k IDR we spent a couple of hours bathing in the warm, holy, natural water and then proceeded to nap most of the way home.
Our last stop of the day was the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, just in time for sunset. We didn’t explore far but just tried to take in the beauty of the landscape. This was aided by going to the nearest bar,Gong Jatiluwih, for a Bintang and a slice of apple pie.
Unfortunately our trip was halted by an illness of heat stroke and dehydration, which left my boyfriend bed ridden for a couple of days. When he had recovered we ventured into town for our final afternoon in Ubud.
If you’re an animal lover, like me, then you need to get yourself to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary – but beware, although these creatures look adorable; they’re feisty, aggressive and cannot be trusted!
I would advise wearing a money belt to keep your valuables safe but take nothing else with you when you visit. They will grab anything they can get their hands on, including your water bottle. We had to throw ours away in the end unfortunately. You can buy food within the forest to feed the monkeys, but it’s best to enjoy wandering around without being harassed by them. This all being said, seeing the multitude of monkeys in a forest so close to the centre of Ubud felt like a huge juxtaposition. It’s also a wonderful, albeit nerve-racking experience when one decides to use your head as a table to eat from, which happened to me when I bent down to take a photo.
The Forest is open from 08:30 till 18:00, but I would advise going either early in the morning or later before close to avoid the rush of people. It is situated south of the town centre and will cost you 40k IDR.
Other recommendations for Ubud:
If you fancy a night out in Ubud, CP Lounge (live music from 22:00-00:00) and Café Pomegranate are good places to head to – so I’ve been told. Or if a daytime sesh is more your thing – make your way to Jungle Fish. Think of it as a jungle version of a beach club.
Next on our journey was the party island that is Gili Trawangan. Made drove us across the island to the port of Padang Bai where we got the hour long ferry ride. We sat on the rooftop enjoying the sun and sea views with our friends and a wealth of backpackers.
Arriving on the hot sand and scrambling for our luggage, we made the 10 minute walk to our hotel – Gili White Bamboo Resort. I would definitely recommend a stay here, but upon reflection I would opt for a hostel, for cheapness and meeting other travellers.
If you fancy a more plush experience of Gili T, our friends stayed at Les Villas Ottalia. With a private pool and divine double bed, it was like your own personal oasis. Some other friends of ours stayed at Gili Castle– the party hostel. We went there every evening for dinner, beer pong and joss shots. It’s the place to go to start your night! This tends to be followed by Lava, a local bar, and then the night specific bar/club, which the whole island heads to.
We also found the perfect pizza place to sort out our drunken munchies – because who doesn’t love pizza after a night out?
During the days we recovered, chilled on the beach and reenacted the volleyball scene from Top Gun.
We even did a spot of snorkelling. We arranged it through our hotel but there are plenty of hotspots with people selling snorkelling trips of the Gili Islands. If you do venture into the open water I would be wary of seasickness, as even on the calmest of days the rocking is enough to send you dizzy – and bring lots of suncream! I got so sunburnt that I couldn’t carry my backpack the next day. You may think this was clever ploy as my boyfriend had to carry both mine and his, but trust me it was not worth the pain! However, the underwater scenery was mind blowing with it’s vast array of colours and species to look at, including turtles!
In total we spent four days on Gili T, which I would say is plenty. It’s such a small island, taking you an hour to walk the whole way round – even less on a bike (there are no vehicles allowed). But you could always explore Gili Meno or Gili Air which offer a much quieter and more romantic vibe.
Unfortunately our trip was cut short and we had to head back to England after Gili T. But we had intended to spend our last two days in Uluwatu, back on the western side of the island, south of the airport.
If you do find yourselves in this part of the island there some great surfing available, but it’s more for intermediate levelled surfers. There’s a beach party on Saturdays and Single Fin is the best place to be on a Sunday, particularly with its clifftop sunset views. For a more cultural evening, the traditional Kecak dance is performed at 18:00 every evening, which is at the Uluwatu Temple. You’ll want to get there early though as it’s very popular.
Other tips to help your trip:
Peak season is July and August, along with main holidays such as Christmas/New Year and Easter – if possible, avoid these times as it’s crazy busy and prices soar! Best time to visit is April through till June and September.
Alcohol is relatively cheap in Bali, but your cheapest and best option is to get your hands on a Bintang – the perfect refreshing sunset drink (or beer pong filler).
Bali is a strong practising Hindu country, with daily sacrifices laid out on the pavement. Each element of the sacrifice is a different offering to their gods and you must not step on or over them whilst the incense is still burning.
And there you have it, A Beginner’s Guide to Bali. Hopefully this inspires you to explore this beautiful country.