I spent several weeks in Bali late June to late July this year, and as I mentioned in my previous blog post on bali (click here), it was my second time there. It still is one of my favourite holiday destinations in the world, because it’s so relaxed, the people are warm and its just a really easy place to get around and explore. It’s also pretty reasonable for accommodation and food, and the pace is more ‘easy’ than if you were to go to Europe on holiday. Expect more lazy days by a pool or on the beach, or an afternoon snooze in a villa with the sounds of gecko’s clicking, or frogs croaking. When I feel like closing the door on stress and noise, Bali is the place that always comes to mind.
My favourites areas in Bali are Ubud and Seminyak, and then just off the mainland, the Gili islands, which actually falls under Lombok. I love Ubud for its lush rice paddies, markets and chilled cafe scene. Seminyak is more of a resort type area with upmarket shops and restaurants. Even the infrastructure is more modern than most other parts of Bali. I loved just wandering the streets in both places and then just popping into a cafe for some delicious rice or noodles. That’s pretty much what I ate every day, but if you did enough research, you’d find that there are a fair enough selection of cafes and restaurants to suit your dietary requirements. I got a free 30 day visa on entry, but check to see if your country covered by clicking here.
- Attitude is everything. Remember when you are in a foreign country, your attitude and how you respond to the locals and their ‘system’ can alter your experience there. Go in with a positive attitude, patience and an openness to take things as they come.
- Arrive in Bali with their currency in cash, or at least some to get you going. Every time you withdraw from the ATM, it’s for a small amount (ZAR1000 to ZAR2500 equivalent) and you will get charged about ZAR50- ZAR100/ $4-$8
- Approach bargaining as fun. When you’re in the markets or hailing a taxi, the locals expect foreigners to bargain. But don’t get aggressive. The Balinese are gentle people. Think of it as a ‘dance with a smile.’ For example, if you are bargaining for a wooden ornament, and they quote you Rp.180., you can usually get them down to just under a half for that. But it depends on what it is. Always ask ‘what is your best price.’. It’s more about the fun of bargaining than actually saving a few rupiahs.
- There are taxi’s everywhere in Ubud and they are always willing to negotiate. So for a solo traveller or a family of 5, booking a driver for 5-6 hours to take you around, would cost about 400.KRp ($30).
- There are a lot of holes on the sidewalks, especially in Ubud. So don’t be walking and talking on your phone or you’ll disappear down a whole. Alice in Wonderland style.
- There are plenty of laundromats, so I recommend taking your clothes there, and not getting them washed at the hotel or where you are staying. Expect to pay about ZAR15 a kg ($1 per kg). I photograph each item before I hand it in for washing because many Balinese don’t speak English, so if something is misplaced (which has never happened to me), then you can just show them the photo of the missing item.
- On that note of photos, it’s always a good idea to take a photo of all your travel documents too and email them to yourself in case you lose them along the way.
- Pack light for Bali. Whatever you pack, take out half. It’s a great place for shopping! If you’re travelling with one suitcase, pack in an extra bag. You will fill it up!
Ubud: My favourite restaurant and one I went back to numerous times is Sayuri Healing Food. Although I’m not vegetarian, the food was divine and they use crunchy fresh ingredients. It’s a great spot for sitting and reading or just chilling out. Warung Biah Biah (Jl. Goutama Sel. No.13) has a lovely, cozy ambiance and is always full. A testament to just how delicious the food is. The street itself (Jalan Goutama) is pedestrian friendly, and lined with quirky shop, spas and cafes. It’s a short street to walk along, but I loved the vibe so went back many times. Kafe Ubud, 100% natural, organic meals in a lively, super friendly, wholesome food cafe definitely one to try out. The food is so beautifully displayed and colourful, and it’s open until very late.
Seminyak: Take a wander along Jalan Raya Seminyak. It’s very easy to get around on foot if you enjoy walking. I used the big intersection “Seminyak Village” sign as my main landmark and then just went off in different directions from there. If you enjoy markets, head to Seminyak Flea Market, Jl. Kayu Aya. Great for clothes shopping and the prices are a bit more than Ubud because of the quality of the fabric. There’s also a cool market right next to Seminyak Village that does lovely women’s and children’s clothing. I spent such a short time there, I got something to eat on the go, so can’t recommend any restaurants. But the streets are lined with cafes and restaurants’, so you won’t go starving.
Gili Islands: Gili Meno, Gili Air and Gili Trawangan (known as Gili T) – in a nutshell, Gili Meno has the least people, and less things to do. Many couples go there, but a great place for swimming and taking it easy. Also good for families that want a beach holiday, or snorkelling. The restaurants are a few meters from the beaches. Gili Air – more vibey, greater selection of restaurants and a mix of young and old people, and my favourite of the islands. Gili T, also known as the party island, and the island that never sleeps isn’t my scene, but I stopped there for lunch at The Banyan Tree while waiting for a boat back to the mainland. It’s few meters from the harbour and has a fun menu with so much on it, it took ages to decide on a meal.
Foods to try – which will be at all Balinese restaurants: Nasi Goreng, Gado Gado (peanut sauce), Mie Goreng. If you enjoy beer, try the lemon Bintang – it tastes like a soft drink, but very refreshing.
Yoga – if you’re into yoga, pop to The Yoga Barn, a sanctuary with 6 yoga studios, a healing centre and accommodation, and set amidst rice paddies and in the heart of Ubub. But once you enter, you’ll forget you’re even in a bustling town, because it’s like world of it’s own. Even if you’re not very zen, you’ll leave feeling like you are! I bought a 10 session pass, and I could use it on any of their classes, which included Qi gong, meditation, vinyasa, power, beginner yoga, hatha and yin yoga.
I’ve used both airbnb and booking.com for accommodation. Airbnb has better options if you are going as a family or bigger group – then you have the option of hiring a villa. I have recently heard of Villa Bali, so will have a look through there when I go back again.
Above: Quiet beach on Gili Meno
Above: Sunrise on Gili Meno
Below: Gili Air
Below: peaceful rice paddies
Below: Yoga Barn in Ubud