In the week that me, Carrie, Paul and Jon all spent in Bali, we did and saw much more than I could write about in a narrative. However they are still worth noting, so as with Hawaii, Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok, I’m compiling a top 5 list of things to do if you every find yourself in Bali (and you really should!). Enjoy!
Hunt Down Balinese Temples
If one were to do a grand tour of Bali, one of the things they might consider is visiting the beautiful, and unique Balinese temples scattered throughout the island. There are 7 Sea Temples (meant to be placed close enough so that one could be seen from the adjacent temple) and 9 directional temples. Uluwatu temple is a double hitter as it is both a sea temple and directional temple.
Getting to see them all will take some planning. Some like the Tanah Lot temple are quite accessible (if you can manage the traffic). You can hire a driver to take you there as part of a whole day tour for not too much (the whole day was around $180 total split amongst 4 people). Tanah Lot is a sea temple that is separated from the island by a land bridge. During low tide it is possible to visit the temple grounds. Going during sunset is very popular but absolutely spectacular. Once you’re there, Uluwatu isn’t far away so you can either visit or just have a look off in the distance.
We were able to visit Ulun Danu Bratan during our stay in Bedugul, a town in the central highlands. This is an iconic image of Bali not to be missed. Not all the temples are as accessible so some planning is due. Puru Luhur Batukaru is one on my list. It is located up the side of a mountain and it requires you to start hiking in the early am’s to catch sunrise just after you arrive at the temple. Cool eh?!
Veg Out at the Beach
Being an island, there are obviously no shortages of beaches you can go to. As always the most accessible ones are the most developed, including Kuta beach close to all the hotels and bars. These are great because they are close to your hotels and an ice cold beer is never far away. However, if you want to get away from the crowds (and there will be crowds), you’re going to have to do some traveling. Here is a nice convenient list of top 10 Balinese beaches. I understand that around Uluwatu, there are lots of surf oriented beaches and guesthouses that are worth looking into.
Visit the Nightlife in South Bali
Now when you think nightlife, there is certainly your choice of nightclubs and bars you can go to. However, when we were there we really appreciated the restaurants and bars with local, live music. I found this to be true for young artists across SEA, but they are all amazing musicians and singers! We managed to find a nice restaurant along the main strip one night and have a nice casual dinner and a few drinks, all while being serenaded by an acoustic band singing covers of top 40 hits and old favourites. Food, beer, great live music and a warm open patio overlooking the crowds below. Not too bad for a weeknight eh?
Feel the Wind in your Face While you Scooter in the Central Highlands
I’ve already talked about our scooter (mis)adventures up in the tri-lakes area around Bedugul. Despite our troubles, this was a true highlight of our trip because of the sheer isolation and break from the beach-y atmosphere. Rent yourself a scooter and visit some temples, go up the mountain and stop at a random street-side restaurant to take in the dense forests of central Bali. If you’re a good hiker (or not), try taking on Mount Batukaru, a dormant volcano, where you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful sunrise view of the directional temple on its mountainside, and the forests in the back.
Check out this cool video documenting our ride up to a viewpoint by one of the major lakes. It was the most amazing feeling getting up there!
Sign Up for a Tour – What?!
Now, I don’t usually endorse going on a tour as it can be quite a bit more expensive than a DIY version. But because Bali has become such a popular destination amongst luxury travelers as well as backpackers, it is possible to find reasonably priced tours in the multitude of pamphlets around town that cater to your tastes. In fact, before you even get your visa, there are stands with hundreds of tourist maps and pamphlets that offer a variety of tours.
We signed up for a whole day tour which started off with white water rafting through the vegetation covered cliffs in an area north of Denpasar. After a hearty lunch, we headed to the spa, where we partnered up (Jon and Paul made willful partners), where we got a massage and full body scrub with some refreshing tea to finish off. Finally, we ended off with a light, delicious seafood meal right on the beach. All the food and transportation was included and this all cost us $80 CAD each. Not too shabby! Considering how hiring a car would have been about $50 each for a group of 4, an extra $30 to do all these activities seemed quite worth it.
Bali is a super popular vacation destination and as such, you will see tons of people there no matter when in the year you go. It’s not a matter of if there will be crowds, but how big. Keep this in mind and keep expectations realistic when you go. Do your research and seek the quiet sanctuaries if that is what you’re into. If I go back, I will look into some diving with the pacific sunfish (or Mola Mola). Thanks for reading!