Setting: Exuberant tourist friendly island that fulfils a vacation thirst like no other.

Visited - JUL 2018
Bali is an amazing island and region in Indonesia that thrives on tourism. While China and Australia have been topping the charts on tourist arrival numbers, probably due to proximity, visitors from far and wide make Bali their dream vacation destination.

The amazing welcome one receives at airport exit is exciting and overwhelming. There is a sea of nameboard-holding cab operators waiting to receive their customers. The magnitude of this sight is something I have not seen anywhere and regret not capturing that moment on my camera. It takes a while to navigate the crowd and get to your cab. Don’t worry if you haven’t pre-booked a cab, you can hire one on exit as well. The language barrier is something to be aware of and the crazy number of zeroes in the currency can trip you as well.

As an island destination, you might expect beaches all around. In reality, it is as much a mountainous landscape as it is of sea. It is home to 2 active volcanoes, one of which has had multiple eruptions recently in 2018.

Most of western, northern and eastern Bali are ignored on a typical itinerary. The reason is South Bali is so alive and there is enough to cover in central Bali, that one cannot quite possibly try to fit more, unless they are there for a very long time.The road infrastructure is not that great. There are lot of narrow roads and traffic jams to be expected.

Aside from lazing on the beach and pumping up on water activities, there is excitement in the historic temples, green landscapes, volcanic mountains, wellness spa, shopping and more. It caters well to party crowds and food lovers too.

This has made my revisit list.
There are two popular transit hubs in Asia to get to Bali. Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, both less than 3 hours flying time.

Also, Darwin is under 3 hours flying time to Bali as well.

Alternately, arrivals via cruises available. Didn’t explore this much.

Moving around: Pre-book a cab for planned itineraries. Flag down options available, but may cost higher due to demand and negotiation factors. Bluebird taxi company is considered reliable. Similar sounding taxi operators seem to exist, check carefully and negotiate wisely.

If you are staying close to the popular beach areas, your hotel may have free shuttle facilities at select times to get to the nearby tourist spots.

Popular Beaches – Numerous (Kuta, Legian, Nusa Dua, Tanjung Benoa to name a few)

Waterblow – Nusa Dua A very unique spiky rock formation can be seen here. There is a hidden crevice onto which the waves hot and blow out making a very contrasting black and white sight. The place is not that popular, and can be very relaxing to be by the sea watching the waves blow up and out based on tides.

GWK Cultural Park – Work in progress theme park. Not a must see for my interest. The large statues that are central to this park are visible from all over the South Bali regions. Food and cultural programmes not that enticing and can be experienced elsewhere.

Temples The list of temples you can visit are endless. While these temples are of Hindu religion, they are very different from Hindu temples of India. The prayers and reverence procedures will never be experienced by a tourist fully. All the temples that open the door to tourists, do not allow them to the core worship areas. If you find a friendly tour guide and you have genuine interest in experiencing worship elements, you most certainly can in some less popular temples. But in general, as a tourist you are there to enjoy the architecture, scenery and the environment.
    • Uluwatu Temple – Most dramatic, known for awesome sunsets  
    • Lempuyang Temple – Oldest, offers great views of Mount Agung when sky is clear  
    • Besakih Temple – Largest, on slopes of Mount Agung.
      • Tirta Empul – With water fountains for purification. A bath here is typical.
      • Tanah Lot – Most pictured.
        Beware of your visit timings. If you go at high tide (typical in mornings), you can’t get close to the temple, but you get a more magnificent scene of the temple submerged in water. If you go at low tide (typical in evenings), you can get close to the temple and see the carvings made by the sea, in addition to experiencing the mesmerizing colours of the sunset.

      • Batu Bolong – Adjacent to Tanah Lot. A smaller but quite a picturesque temple on a narrow strip of rock.

      Volcanoes – Mount Batur and Mount Agung (both active!) As with any majestic mountain, a view is not guaranteed from anywhere. The weather and skies play a crucial role of what you will see.
      • Mount Batur can be seen from Kintamani Area. Can be trekked up. From atop Mt. Batur, a view of Mount Agung and Mount Rinjani on nearby Lombok island is possible on a clear day.
      • Mount Agung can be seen from various points on the route from south to east Bali. Mount Batur, Lempuyang and Besakih are tourist spots from where you can see Mount Agung. The popular view of Agung that internet and Instagram has triggered is from gates of Lempuyang temple, also known as ‘Gates of Heaven’. Having read up a lot about it and how to discover these amazing gates, I had my excitement bubble up as I got to Lempuyang. As I entered the temple, it burst quickly. Read my entire story of the Gates of Heaven fiasco here.

      Tirtaganga – Water palace with well kept gardens. Nothing too unique about this place. Just OK.

      Tukad Unda – A dam on river Tukad Unda. Internet images are amazing. It is equally known as a place where locals hang out for some fun in the water as well as where major Instagram worthy photo shoots happen. It depends on water levels, your interest and photography skills.

      Gunung Payung Beach – A less popular beach and a well-kept secret so far! From the parking lot, there is a beautiful walkway, to this secluded and scenic beach. The combination of rocks, the green mossy patches and the beach itself, makes this place that can be enjoyed as a full day outing. There is also a temple by the same name, easily accessible from the same parking lot. There is a paragliding facility nearby.

      Suluban Beach – Another less popular beach, but interesting access from via a cave. Requires moderate level trekking down. Beware of slippery rocks. In high tides there may be a need to wade through water to get to the beach. This is a popular spot for surfers.

      UBUD – This central Bali region is popular for its rice terraces, cultural experiences and more. While I did not spend much time here, it seems to attract a significant number of tourists, with its scenic and secluded getaways.

      Waterfalls – There are numerous waterfalls in Bali, especially in the north and north-central region. Most are not easy to get to and involves a trek. While I love waterfalls, I did not make it to any on this trip.

      Other – There are other unique things to see around, abandoned theme park, abandoned airplane, Bali Nest, Bali Swing etc. While I haven’t experienced these, most of these are Instagram favourites.
Watersports – Unbelievable options and pocket friendly prices. Depending on what you want to do, there are beaches specific to the activities. For general watersports, Tanjung Benoa beach area is best. Kuta, Legian and Suluban are some beach areas known for Surfing.

Volcano Trek Mount Batur sunrise trek is very popular with visitors. While many satisfy their volcano cravings with a distant view from Kintamani region, there are high numbers of enthusiasts willing to lose a night’s sleep to be on top of volcano by sunrise. Normally Mount Batur visit is offered as daytrips from south Bali locations, but to experience the sunrise trek you might be better off to stay overnight in the Kintamani area.

Day cruises – Nusa Lembongan or Nusa Penida

SPA – Numerous Spas around, do your homework and relax. I don’t have any particular tips or recommendations in this space.

Jimbaran Seafood Dinner - Even if you are not a sea food fan, this dinner environment must be experienced. Amazing setup and excitement mounts on the Jimbaran coast, just south of Kuta every evening. If you are a sea food enthusiast, you will figure your way out through the procedures of this place, from tank to table. If you aren’t eating sea food, other options exist. Fresh fire roasted corn is a definite treat to be enjoyed by the sea.

Shopping – Lots of unique knick knacks, clothes, wood carvings etc. can be found in shops lining most of the tourist destination entry/exit areas. Most hotels also have good souvenir shops. Near real duplicates of branded wear can also be found. While it feels wrong, bargaining is a must. Most of them quote a starting price that is twice or more than its value. Shop around and get familiar before making your purchase. Almost always, after we bought something for a price we thought was great, there was another shop selling the same for less!

Stay: Popular areas include Kuta, Legian, Nusa Dua, Tanjung Benoa.
  • If surfing is your sole interest, Kuta or Legian area works best. These regions work well for partying and shopping as well. Kuta has hotels close to beach, with views of beach, but not that many on the beach, with beaches to walk out to from your hotel.
  • Nusa Dua provides quieter more expensive beach front properties.
  • My favourite is Tanjung Benoa, a strip lined with numerous beach front properties, and exciting waterports in your backyard.
Also note, homestays are equally popular as hotels. These are either super expensive for the fancy ones or more of a hassle for the less expensive ones. Based on reviews of reasonably priced ones, my understanding is that there is more to it than what appears on the surface here. The property you book may not be the actual property, amenities could get disrupted with no immediate fix, food and mobility may be restricted etc. In my opinion, for up to 10 days, there is no need to explore a homestay, especially if the interest is cost savings. Hotels are competitively priced and hassle free. Remember language and currency constraints.

Eat: Plenty of options and varieties, including Indian restaurants. Just walk around your area and explore. Apart from experiencing the Jimbaran dinner, I do not have specific recommendations on food.

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