Travel Guide: Bali

Having reached the end of my year in Australia, my friend and I had arranged to soften the blow of leaving by organising a trip to Singapore and Bali.

I visited Bali a few years ago, but only for about 5 days and so I wasn’t able to fit too much in. The main thing I remember was just how lovely and kind the Balinese people were so needless to say I was excited to return for a longer trip (18 days in the end) and explore the island a bit more.

Price: 2.5/5

Best places to watch sunrise/sunset:

Mount Batur for sunrise, the beach at Canggu/Seminyak/Gili T (at the Exile or Cafe Vintage) for sunset.

Where to stay:

There are lots of good hostels and hotels in Bali, previously I stayed at the Rimba/Ayana in Jimbaran (quite far South and a higher price point), this time we stayed at a combination of hostels and hotels, my favourites are The Farm (especially the outdoor bathrooms),  The Nest Canggu, M Box Seminyak (still at the pre opening stage when we were there but it will be a pretty cool hostel for a stay in Seminyak, the staff were amazing), the M Box in Gili T and finally in Ubud we stayed at a lovely hotel (I think it was max £10 a night) called the Surawan Bisma. Included in the price of almost all hostels/hotels was a breakfast (The Nest at Canggu probably had the edge on the best because there were so many options). It is very easy to spend a little on good accommodation.

Where to eat:

There are literally SO MANY good spots to eat – it would be hard to go wrong, but here are some of my favourites (can’t wait to be back and try more!)..

Canggu/Seminyak:

  • Crate Cafe
  • Cafe Organic – get the garlic mushrooms
  • Kynd Community
  • Coffee Cartel
  • The Loft
  • Bo & Bun
  • Peloton Supers
  • Green Guru
  • Balibola – maybe the best potato rostis I’ve ever had?
  • Mad Pops for the best ice cream

Ubud:

  • Milk and Madu – peanut butter smoothie bowl of dreams
  • Seniman Coffee
  • Earth Cafe
  • Alchemy
  • Clear Cafe
  • Zest – their plant powered Nasi Campur was literally amazing
  • Layana Warung – super cheap food, overlooking a beautiful waterfall

Gili T:

  • The Banyan Tree
  • Casa Vintage – get the raw snickers cake, not joking
  • Pearl Beach Lounge – the restaurant is made from bamboo, incredible.
  • Kayu cafe

How to get around:

There are lots of options for transport – on arrival I was told to find a Blue Bird taxi outside the airport (I think because their fees are more consistent and fair), we didn’t make it to wherever the rank was because one pulled over before we could and we jumped in. One thing to watch out for is many taxis look similar to the Blue Birds, presumably intentionally – we even saw one called Blue Biro. Another option we used was GoJek, an app similar to Uber where you can order a taxi or scooter for a set price (also deliver food, if you need). You can hire a scooter too for around IR50,000-60,000/day. Also an option for further afield trips is hiring a driver for the day – we had an excellent driver who we used at least 3 times and the cost was IR800,000 per day (we tipped another IR100,000). Otherwise most hostels and hotels are able to help make travel arrangements. On Gili T, it’s all about pedal bikes.

How to enjoy actively:

  • Surfing – seems like big waves, but as always lots of fun.

  • Hiking – my favourite was the sunrise hike up Mt Batur, I think it was around £20 booked via our hotel, including the 1.5 hour journey there and back (from Ubud), a small breakfast of a battered banana and coffee, our guides up the volcano, some water and a snack at the top (boiled egg, banana sandwich). The pick up time was between 2.00 and 2.30am, I would recommend getting a contact number for the driver to avoid any confusion at that time of the morning. Also, make sure you fuel up, it is a steep climb and it was around 26 degrees before 6.00am on the climb. nother favourite was the Campuhan Ridge Walk in Ubud which is short and sweet and great around sunset – take insect repellant.

  • Yoga – a fabulous place to yoga, we loved the Yoga Barn – be sure to put on insect repellent though, I was terrorised by mosquitos the entire class, not so yoga.
  • Paddle boarding – I hired a paddle board on Gili T, the cost was 50,000 per half hour. As it was the sea it was a little difficult and I quickly found myself pulled out to sea but managed to get back in relatively easily.

What to do:

There is so much to do and see in Bali, here are some of my favourites.

  • Temples: Tanah Lot, Uluwatu (visit near sunset and watch the Kecak Dance – IR100,000 plus entry fee), Ulun Danu, Tirta Empul (where you can have a blessing in the water, it was an important ceremony when we were there so extremely busy) Tirta Gangga (my favourite) and Pure Lempuyang (despite the photos, there really is no water at the top, just two Balinese people who sit with a mirror under your phone camera creating a “reflection” – life is crazy) were the ones on our itinerary – each have an entry fee usually between IR20,000 & 50,000.

  • Waterfalls – we just went to Sekumpul waterfall but there are lots in Bali. It was a little tricky to find but we managed eventually – there are many, many “registration” points you can stop at but we kept going until the end, luckily because the others were so far I’m sure they would only have led to the top of the waterfall, or required a VERY long hike. The one we settled for was a carpark for around 10-15 cards and had shelters on either side. From there we set off (without a guide, I think they were asking IR250,000 per person to take us down) with another group from Germany to find our own way. The path starts down by the village to the right of the parking area as you’re looking at it and there are a few junctions but we either followed the scooters or asked any of the locals who were happy to help guide us down. The path is quite steep and there are lots of steps, but it was worth it, and it took about 40 minutes at a fairly leisurely pace, in flip flops (maybe better footwear would be an idea). There is a trail of 3 waterfalls but we couldn’t fit them all in so retraced our steps part way until we reached the”ticket office”, not sure how official it is but we paid IR20,000 to enter the waterfall area and we decided rather than the steep walk back up we would save time, and our legs (the day after our Mt Batur hike) and hop on a scooter back to the car for IR25,000.
  • The Gili islands – not part of Bali, but neighbouring Lombok, the beautiful Gili islands are a group of 3 small islands with no cars. We were intending to stay one night on Gili T, one on Gili Air but decided to just stick with Gili T. They are little slices of island heaven, I think Gili T is the busiest but we went in a quiet part of the season and also soon after the earthquake so it wasn’t so busy.  We booked a snorkel trip for IR150,000 which stopped at three places to snorkel as well as lunch on Gili Air (so make sure to take cash), the snorkel was brilliant – we saw the enchanting Nest sculpture as well as lots of different fish and of course some turtles. Other musts include hiring a bike (50,000 per 24 hours) to ride around the island – look out for horse and carts, my friend got caught in a horse and cart accident in a the narrow streets. The other word of warning is about the transport to the island – I managed to sleep almost the entire way there but on the way back it was probably the worst experience I’d had for a while, the boat was small and the waves were big, only after did I google reviews about how many accidents there had been on the journey (luckily), so I would recommend the slow boat ferry (takes 8 hours I think) or fly to Lombok and get the boat from there – a much shorter distance. The highlight of the journey was when a member of the crew walked in to the cabin with a lifejacket, my friend and I stared in horror but it turns out he was just using it as a pillow for his nap!!
  • There are lots of beach clubs near Canggu, most of them ask for a fee to hire a bed that can be used against food and drink – our favourites were La Brisa and The Lawn, good way to relax and unwind whilst having easy access to food, drink and nice toilets!!

  • A trip to GWK cultural park was well worth it, for an hour or two mainly to see the enormous statue thats recently been finished (which you can see from the beach in Canggu even).

  • There are lots of places to see monkeys across Bali too, including the Monkey Forest in Ubud – just make sure not to have many loose items around, including water bottles, hats or glasses.

  • The Rice Paddies are also worth a visit, Tegalalang is the most popular I think and so beautiful, if a little chaotic on the street – probably best to go early morning if you’re in peak season to avoid crowds.

Other helpful bits:

  • Bear in mind the beaches in Bali aren’t often white sand – might come as a shock to some people, Suluban beach (there are quite a few steps to get down to it, and back up – stop at Single Fin for some food with a view on the way back up) and the Gili islands were my favourites places to beach
  • There was an earthquake whilst we were there, 6.8 and we felt the building shake – it’s on a tectonic hot zone so prone to earthquakes and there is mt Agung which is an active volcano and there was some eruption (cold lava only I understand) last year.
  • Try to keep small notes for toilets – they are often IR2,000 (and no, just because you pay doesn’t mean they will be nice toilets).
  • We got asked for our photos taken A LOT – we couldn’t even establish why but it got a little bit crazy sometimes, waiting in a queue with 5 strangers taking it in turn to have their photos with us!!
  • Travelling across the island is a great way to see the beautiful, lush green landscapes – make the most of it whilst you move around.
  • We went in October, “rainy season” and I think it rained for approximately 2 hours, whilst I was up and about, for the whole trip. It was usually 25/26 degrees first thing and up to about 31 I guess during the day, quite humid too.

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