Travelogue: Bali, Indonesia. The Best Beach Holiday

I’ve been to Bali 4 times now, and it never gets old. Every time I go there’s a new restaurant, or a store that’s just opened, and is a killer must see. The whole place is so alive and always changing.

It’s one of those rare places that somehow manages to balance being a tourist magnet while retaining the charm of local culture. Lots of expats move here as well, bringing along their expertise in food/design and you’ll find so many treasures at unbelievable prices.

And from Bali, just an hour or two away, you’ll find a whole world of culture and natural beauty to explore.

This is a destination to chill out, stretch your dollars and have a good time. Expect to leave with a full luggage and tummy, and don’t forget to try a Bintang beer 🙂

NOTE:

I’m not going to pretend that I went on ‘Adventure Mode’ in Bali. Nope, not at all. I was always a lazy traveller just looking to chill in Bali.

So just a heads up that the things I mention here are going to be very much on the beaten track (the kind you can find brochures for at the airport arrivals haha), but they are as good a starting point as any other to start your own Bali adventure.

Nonetheless, I’ve included all sorts of advice and tips from my experience that will prove invaluable for those both on or off the beaten track.

http://www.baliairport.com

THE AIRPORT (Denpasar):

To the airport:

Remember that traffic can get crazy, especially en route to the airport. With smooth traffic, Seminyak to the airport is about 20-30minutes. If you’re not so lucky, it could take about an hour. Your hotel can often arrange an airport transfer for you.

Arriving at the airport:
Immigration is horrific. Expect to be in the queue for 30 minutes if you’re not quick to alight from the plane. Run if you can!

Singaporean and Malaysian passports get a separate queue (airport staff will alert you to this with loud voiced announcements), while foreign passports will need to apply for a visa on arrival (25USD, booths can be found just before the immigration queue) before being able to join the queue for an immigration stamp.

It’s also possible to pay for an ‘express’ queue. Airport staff will make this offer to you. Can’t recall for how much, but you’ll pass through immigration in about 2 minutes if you accept.

Departing from the airport:


Remember that you need to prepare 200,000rp per person in passenger taxes. This will be paid just before you get your departure stamp.

For more information: http://www.baliairport.com

MONEY CHANGING:

Never, ever change your money at roadside money changers. They tend to be very shady businesses that try all sorts of tricks, like fake notes, folded notes, etc. Always go to a legitimate bank to do so.

Note also that because of a huge money laundering scandal, Indonesia no longer accepts USD notes printed before 2006. You certainly don’t need to bring USD, Rupiah is fine and both are accepted, but if you insist on having your money in USD it may be an issue doing the exchange in your own country. In this case I recommend having about 100 USD on arrival, and then getting the rest of your money changed into USD within Indonesia.

Mother pleased with her haul

SHOPPING:

Hands down, Seminyak and Legian. Both are very long streets that connect at some point, and are a shopper’s paradise. Lots of designer’s from all over the world set up boutiques in Bali, so you’ll find extremely well-made items for relatively cheap. There are also wholesalers where items can be nearly dirt cheap.

Seminyak is a bit more upmarket than Legian, but there’s such a diversity of offerings you should check out both anyway.

Expect to spend many, many hours on these streets! So be efficient browsers! Also, don’t be afraid to bargain. Many shops will be willing to cut down on the price by 10% to 30%.

THINGS TO DO:

http://www.balivillavacances.com


Uluwatu Temple, Kecak Dance

The dance happens every day at 6pm, with a sunset backdrop. This was quite a spectacular show, communicating the story of Gods and Goddesses through traditional song, dance and fire.

Best to sit near the top due to the fire. 

Entry to the temple will cost 15,000rp and appropriate attire is required (below the knee, otherwise you will be given a sarong and sash to wear). Tickets to the dance costs 70,000rp, and you will also be given a story outline in English.

Note that the Temple has many, many monkeys who can get quite aggressive. Do NOT feed them or go too close. They won’t play nice. They will grab anything, even non-food items. I had my silver necklace grabbed off my neck by one. 😦

Also, as the temple is on a cliff, avoid going to close to the edges. Sounds obvious, but there really isn’t much safety precaution going on here.

All them monkeys.

Diving

The one I did was a shore dive to a shipwreck, and didn’t even require any dive certification. You are briefed on the use of dive equipment an hour before going in (which should be a bit worrying), and a dive master will accompany you.

The shore you will walk down with all your scuba equipment.

It will cost about $100 SGD including transport. Your hotel should be able to arrange a tour for you, or you could also opt for one of those roadside tour operators.

Surfing

Bali is famous for its surf, and you’ll find loads of tanned Australians piling out of the airport with their surfboards when you arrive. If you’d like to try it yourself, there are a gabizillion surf schools around, catering to different beaches and skill levels.

http://www.rumahspabali.com

You can even hire an instructor for a day (100,000rp if I recall correctly).

Check out more on surfing in Bali here:
http://www.indosurf.com.au/bali_surf_report.php

Of course, even if you don’t surf, just laying on the beautiful black volcanic sands of a Balinese beach makes for a pretty damn good holiday too.

Spas and Massages

Prices range from 20,000-150,000rp for a massage, and you can find spa centres nearly every 100m. Bodyworks (http://www.bodyworksbali.com) is a famous one, but wasn’t actually all that good skill-wise when I went. Still, the place smells and looks so good it’s worth checking out (rose petal bath, hullo!)

http://www.bodyworksbali.com

The best massage I had in Bali was a roadside one that was also part-manicure and had no air-conditioning haha. I suggest going to a few places that catch your fancy (and budget)!
ACCOMMODATION:

I’ve stayed namely at two places in Bali. Would recommend both!

Hotel (Kuta beach):

Kumala Pantai http://www.kumalapantai.com/ 

About 60USD a night, right next to the beach and within walking distance of several pubs. About 5 – 10 minutes from Seminyak/Legian by taxi.

For villas in Bali, try www.airbnb.com!

You can expect to pay ~80 USD/pax for a whole villa when staying in a central area. There are much cheaper options as well (e.g. private room instead of whole house), give that link a click and be tempted.

Our villa: a more than comfortable abode

The one I stayed at was called Chakras Villa, literally a two minutes stroll from Seminyak Square and 10 minutes walk from Kudeta, with airport transfers and breakfast included for 4 people, costing 250USD/night.

To book:
https://www.airbnb.com.sg/rooms/896976

The only issue was finding the place! It was pretty far in on small roads, so giving directions to a taxi driver was quite a headache. Make sure you ask your transfer driver how to explain the location to taxis. The road is “Jalan Kayu Cendana”, pictured below, and from there you will do a few lefts and rights.



WHERE TO EAT: 

Bali is a foodie’s paradise. There are soooo many good restaurants that come at unbelievably low prices for the quality you’re getting. Usually if you say the name and area to a taxi driver, he’ll know exactly where to take you.

Explore the place – you’ll surely find an amazing cafe or restaurant you’ll keep going back to. Here are some recommendations to get you started (price categories are rough minimums you can expect to pay, not including drinks).

$20~30/pax

Along the street Jalan Legian, you will find Trattoria (Italian: pizzas are superb) and Kaizan (Cheap Japanese food).

$30~$40/pax

Living Room (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g294226-d1103156-Reviews-Living_Room-Bali.html): for lounge-style dining.
Seminyak

Kudeta (http://www.kudeta.net): great for pizzas and signature cocktails. Has it’s own private beach, go there for a sunset!
Seminyak

The wonderful setting at Sardine: perfect for a sunset cocktail.

$50~/pax

Metis (http://metisbali.com): AMAZING FOOD and beautiful setting. Definitely try the scallops and tobiko starter, as well as the creme brûlée for dessert.
Jalan Petitinget

Sardine (http://www.sardinebali.com): Also pretty good food, with an even more beautiful setting – next to rice fields. Recommended for drinks.
Jalan Petitenget

For Balinese food

Try Made’s Warung (one in Kuta, one in Seminyak, http://www.madeswarung.com).

For more in-depth reviews on some of the places I’ve mentioned:
http://ibaliguide.wordpress.com/about/

For more recommendations:
http://www.bali.com/restaurants.html
PARTYING:

I was at Mint and Huu Bar.

Mint was pretty crap house (sort of) music where it’s mainly foreigners trying to pick up girls, while Huu Bar was club hits and a lot more fun with a great mix of foreigners and locals. Both are within walking distance of each other in Jalan Petitenget (5-10 minute cab ride from Seminyak Square, quite a clubbing/pubbing area).

You can expect drinks to be really pricey. To give you an idea, a vodka cranberry was 90,000rp (roughly 12 SGD). Better to pregame at home. Clubs were especially hopping from 12am till about 2am, and closed at 3am (for Huu Bar, anyway).

Entrance fees wise, some clubs do impose a price, some don’t. Mint didn’t, Huu Bar did. Can’t remember the exact price, but it wasn’t too much. Maybe about 100,000rp including a drink?

Check out this site for more recommendations:
http://partynightsbali.com/clubsseminyak.html 

TIPPING:
The norm is about 6000rp~10,000rp. Tips are quite expected from service staff, and anyone who helps you with your bags.

LANGUAGE
Bali is a really touristy place, so virtually everyone can speak English. No worries there, but the occasional terimacasih (thank you) is appreciated.

TRANSPORT
Cab rides will cost about 5000 – 15000rp (2-3 SGD), I suppose you could say it’s about 1000rp every minute. Because cabs are so cheap, I recommend you to just cab around.

You could also rent a motorbike for cheap but way-finding in Bali is quite a nightmare because there aren’t many road signs, traffic is nuts and small windy roads are almost certain to make you get lost.

Oh, and expect to get ripped off. Always insist on meter. Taxis are everywhere, so don’t hesitate to pass and look for another taxi if the driver refuses meter.

The only time you will have a lot of trouble demanding for meter would be in the am, when clubs close. All taxi drivers collude on this one, and will charge you between 50,000-100,000rp. Bargain anyway!

The soft sands of Nusa Lembongan

WANT TO GET OUT OF BALI?

Check out Nusa Lembongan in this travelogue, an island a 1 hour boat ride from Bali. It’s the most chilled out, isolated place ever with a beautiful beach and I would definitely recommend staying here for a night in a massive villa (comes cheap, too!).

You might also want to check out Ubud, a 4 hour drive from Bali, for dinner at Mozaic (a Michelin star restaurant, http://www.mozaic-bali.com) and a meander around rice fields.

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