Take 5 cups of white sandy beaches, a pinch of coral reefs and 3 litres of rice terraces. Add some yoga, nightlife and shopping. Mix it with 7 grams of diving, 3 cups of water rafting, 2 tablespoons of volcano trekking and 50 mL of surfing. Top it with watching sunsets, drinking cold beer, relaxing in the pools, jumping in the waves and eating delicious food. Put it in the oven for 14 days on 37°C! Sounds like a great recipe for a perfect holiday, right?
When: March/April 2015
Visited: Denpasar, Ubud, Jatiluwih, Danau Bratan, Lovina, Amed, Tirta Gangga, Jimbaran, Uluwatu, Tanah Lot
Stayed in: small hotels with pools
After spending a few great days in SINGAPORE, we boarded the Air Asia flight to DENPASAR on a Sunday morning and just three hours later we were sitting in a taxi on our way to UBUD, one of Bali´s major arts and culture centres. From there we continued to the north to LOVINA, stopping at Jatiluwih rice terraces and LAKE BRATAN on the way, explored the beaches and the underwater life in AMED for a few days and ended our trip in the south – relaxing on the white sands of Jimbaran on the BUKIT PENINSULA.
The RAINY SEASON goes from October to April, so the high season for tourism is from June to September and also for the Christmas holidays. We found APRIL to be a good time to go, because there were not so many tourists around and we had rain only two times in the afternoon. Besides, it usually rains only for a short time, then it is all back to normal. It can get very hot and HUMID, so it is best to plan your activities early in the morning and in the afternoon. It cools down in the evening a bit, but you probably won´t be needing a sweater for the dinner.
Many hotels have POOLS, even if they only have a few rooms, so do take advantage of that. You can get really nice rooms for a FAIR PRICE, usually including breakfast. And they are everywhere, so it is not a problem to find a place to sleep (especially in the low season). Book in advance if you are travelling at Christmas or at the time of a festival. It is possible to sleep without the AC on, but most rooms will have it inside anyway. Usually, a small fridge or a mini bar is also there. A nice feature that some small hotels offer are the half open bathrooms with an outside shower. Many visitors come only to stay at one hotel at the beach and take day trips from there.
Cars drive ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE ROAD, so that might take some getting used to if you are about to rent a car or a motorbike. PUBLIC TRANSPORT is close to none existing, so the best way to do it is to just get a TAXI or find a DRIVER WITH A CAR to take you around. Do not worry, if you don´t find them, they will find you. You can always ask at the hotel if they have some recommendation and I´m sure everybody knows somebody who is a driver, so it will not be a problem for them to hook you up with someone. They will take you pretty much anywhere you want to go, just have in mind that they will probably want to come back home on the same day. If you book through your hotel, the PRICE will be fixed, if not you have to bargain for it.
The DISTANCES in Bali are not big if you look at the map and count the kilometres, but it will take you much time to get around, since the roads are often going up and down, there are occasional road works, CEREMONIES like weddings can cause a serious TRAFFIC JAM and so on. The drivers usually speak ENGLISH good enough, so that you can easily talk to them. It is a great way to find out some things about the daily life of the Balinese people, sometimes they have great stories to share ;). They seemed to have no problems with stopping the car a few times if you wanted to stop for a toilet, get some food or take a photo. If you need a taxi for a shorter distance, ask if they have the meter. If not, continue walking and stop the next one. This might just save you money for a nice dinner.
Overall it is not the cheapest place Asia has to offer, but you can still enjoy the days without spending too much. Changing money will make you a millionaire, travelling around with a fat roll of INDONESIAN RUPIAH. HOTELS WITH POOLS were 40 -50€ per night with breakfast, fish lunch/ dinner was around 5€, a large Bintang BEER 2€, a glass of Balinese WINE 5€. STREET FOOD meals are 1 – 2€. We spent quite a lot for food and drinks, since it was so delicious that we often ate two warm meals a day – after a huge breakfast, that is. Buying snacks in a mini market is cheap. Official TAXI ride from the airport to Ubud was 20€ (1hr drive). Ubud – Lovina 40€ (7hrs drive including stops at Jatiluwih and Lake Bratan), Lovina – Amed 30€ (3hrs drive) and Amed – Jimbaran 40€ (4hrs drive including 1 stop at Tirta Gangga). Shopping at Erlangga 2, Denpasar has great deals – for just 13€ I got a dress, shorts, sarong, a small bag and 2x 2 metres fabric. There are ATM´s everywhere, changing money at the airport does not pay off. Depends which country you are from, but most probably you will have to pay 35 US$ for the VOA (Visa on arrival). When leaving the country, you need to pay the AIRPORT DEPARTURE TAX which was/is 200.000 Rp.
Best advice: leave lots of extra space in your bag when leaving home, or even better – buy an extra bag once you are there! You can buy some really nice stuff, it is all depending on your budget. I´m not just talking about the usual souvenir stuff, but also about really cool DESIGN PIECES – either CLOTHES, FURNITURE or just decoration, the choice is enormous. In Ubud you can find amazing art and HANDY CRAFTS (wooden carvings, silver items, paintings,…).
For clothes and FABRIC shopping head to one of the big stores in Denpasar – the prices will be ridiculously low (try the ERLANGGA 2, it´s where mostly the locals shop and you can find great deals).
Massaaage, massaaage, massaaage! Prepare to hear this often. There are several SPA or BEAUTY SALONS trying to get you in and it isn´t even a bad idea to try it out. You could do it for less money straight at the beach, but out of hygienic reasons I prefer the other option. Besides massages you can get a manicure, pedicure and body scrubs, but if you want to try something new, take the Indonesian hair cream bath.
Tasty, tasty, tasty! There is something for everyone – noodles, rice, chicken, pork, beef, fish, vegetables, omelettes, fruits, pancakes, pizza, burgers, French fries, ice cream, Indian, Italian, Chinese, Thai – you name it, they have it! Well, almost 😉
It is a VERY SAFE PLACE to travel to, but as in every country in the world you need to take care of a few things. First off, the HEAT. Personally, I do not mind the heat and can stand it quite good. If you are just the opposite of that, then you should use lots of SUNSCREEN, wear a hat & sunglasses, carry a bottle of WATER at all times and stay out of the sun around noon. There were some MOSQUITO but the bites were rather harmful, so we never even used the repellent. Take care at CROSSING ROADS and do not drink the tap water. If you cannot stand SPICY FOOD, let them know about that when ordering food in a restaurant. Beware of the MONKEYS, as they might steal your sunglasses, hats or even flip-flops – hide the food in a closed bag and do not make longer eye contact.
WHAT WE SAW AND DID
OUR FIRST NIGHT ON BALI! It was quite a contrast to SINGAPORE, everything was much CHEAPER AND DIRTIER, we were offered massages, taxi rides or day trips on every corner, on the sidewalks we were bumping into other tourists, we heard almost more English than Indonesian. Ubud has a lot to offer, you can spend days just rambling around, visiting little villages where some amazing handy crafts are made, doing YOGA, exploring the RICE FIELDS, watching DANCE SHOWS or just SHOP until you drop. I was a little disappointed, because I thought the town will still look a bit like it used to, before it got so developed, but I was wrong. This is one of those places, where you come in too late. I guess if you visited Ubud years ago and you come to see it now, much has changed. Don´t get me wrong, it is still a charming place, but I´m sure it used to be even better. If you have the time just walk outside the centre in any direction you like – you will appreciate the peace. Head north for the RICE FIELDS, it´s pretty nice with some SMALL RESTAURANTS on the way where you can have lunch.
You can also take the street down to the MONKEY FOREST where you can walk under the shade of the trees and observe playful long-tail macaques. This is a SACRED FOREST AREA, which represents the coexistence of humans and nature. Inside the forest, there are temples which are essential for renewing the contact with the spiritual world.
In the evenings you can go and see one of the DANCE SHOWS, which are held in different places depending on which weekday it is. We went to see the LEGONG DANCE, the show took about an HOUR AND A HALF, which was quite a bit of a challenge for a 3 year old, but we made it to the end. If you get seats in the front rows you can see all the FACE EXPRESSIONS from upfront but the music will be a bit louder there. I found it very interesting and worth the money (6€ for adults, children free).
JATILUWIH RICE TERRACES
The road was getting smaller and more bumpy, dogs were sleeping on the side, children in blue uniforms were walking in groups to their schools, the morning light was shining through the lush green vegetation that surrounded us. Suddenly, behind one curve, we saw them – the RICE TERRACES. Although we did some WALKING between the rice fields around Ubud and this was not my first time ever seeing rice terraces, I must say I was amazed by the views. You will have to pay a SMALL ENTRY FEE to even drive to the terraces.
WE TOOK A SHORTER WALK down the small paths between the paddy fields – basically you can walk around without a plan or you choose to do the big circle walk – not so easy with kids, as it was also getting quite hot and the path is really small so you have to watch your step. The views were totally worth the extra drive up there.
The lake with its famous TEMPLE is an usual stop for many on the way between the north coast to Ubud or the rest of the south. The climate was REFRESHING for a change and the whole park is really nicely maintained, making it a nice way to spend an hour or so. There is also a nice PLAYGROUND for the kids and of course lots of small shops.
If we did not see the impact of low tourist season in Ubud, we surely did notice it in Lovina. Some shops and dive centres were even CLOSED, the BEACH WAS EMPTY, besides the local FISHERMEN and their boats and some street DOGS running around in the shallow waters there was nobody to see. Two times we were the only guests in a restaurant. On one side,we were enjoying the peace but on the other side we felt more attacked from the SHOP owners trying to sell us things. Though I must say, they were most friendly and not aggressive. As for the beach itself – it´s nothing special, rather dirty in some areas, but at least in front of the beach hotels they do clean the trash, so it looks much better there.
The SEA WAS WARM and calm and the sand is black because its VOLCANIC (just a quick tip for all the girls: a white bikini is a bad idea here). The BLACK BEACH makes the place interesting and perfect for long walks.
Why most people visit Lovina in the first place are probably the “DOLPHIN TOURS”. Some even drive up here from Kuta in the south, just to see the dolphins. You leave around 6AM on a small motorboat to watch the sunrise and the dolphins jumping out of the water. Sounds all fine and dandy – IF there were not so many boats doing it. After I read many bad reviews we decided not to be a part of it, so we did not go. As always there are POSITIVE OPPINIONS (“We took the sunrise and dolphin trip. It was one of the best experience. The view of sunrise was magnificent from the boat. We also saw hundreds of dolphins jump. Many of them even swim under our boat and jump very close to our boat. It was very memorable and we will definitely take the trip again in the future.”) and NEGATIVE OPINIONS (“Went to the dolphin tour this morning and as it is very low season we didnt expect many tourists but there were at least 30 boats. As soon as some dolphins came up all boats drove towards the dolphins and even on top so after 5 seconds they were gone again as they couldnt move around the boats but had to dive. This happened every time which annoyed us a lot. I cant imagine doing this trip in high season it must be horrible”) about the whole thing. So it´s up to you to decide, weather you should do it or not.
We liked Amed because of its relaxed atmosphere. There are some amazing views of the ACTIVE VOLCANO GUNUNG AGUNG from the black beaches, which are again perfect for longer walks. There is also a CORAL REEF reef which is easily seen by SNORKELLING just a few metres off the beach. If you are more for diving there are many shops and DIVE CENTRES in Amed who can organise it for you.
The coral reef itself is okay, especially for those who have never seen one before. If you have done much snorkelling or diving in some other coral reefs, you probably will not be so amazed by this one. Still, its a nice way to spend some hours. It´s also nice to just WALK ALONG THE ROAD for a while, or EXPLORE THE SURROUNDINGS on a motorbike.
We were also lucky to see the TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE on April 4, 2015, which occurs only when the moon passes behind the Earth and the Sun, Earth and Moon are aligned plus the moon has to be full. We watched the whole thing from the beach and it was really spectacular as the moon was slowly getting completely dark and then even turned red!
Tirta Gangga (water from the Ganges) refers to the WATER PALACE built in 1948. There are several WATER POOLS surrounded with LUSH GARDENS and STONE STATUES. You have to pay a small entrance fee if you want to just walk around, but it is also possible to SWIM in one pool – for that you need to pay extra. It´s a nice stop if you are passing by.
The SOUTH OF BALI is the place to be for many visitors. There are many areas to choose from, depending of what you want. Seems like KUTA is the perfect place for SURFERS and PARTY seekers, so it might not be the best place for families, except if you take them to the WATERBOM PARK. Young children will most likely enjoy the time in SANUR, because the beach is protected by the reef mening the sea is pretty calm and the water is shallow. We found JIMBARAN a great option, it is close to the airport and has a nice beach, just the right ammount of tourists, enough shops and some great restaurants. SEMINYAK and NUSA DUA seem to be a bit more upscale with expensive hotels just by the beach. If you explore the peninsula on a MOTORBIKE you can stop at some great small bays like PADANG PADANG, BALANGAN, NYANG NYANG or BINGIN BEACH.
Aaah the beach. The WHITE SANDY BEACH. A dream for most Europeans. You know that feeling when you sit at home and you see a photo of a white sandy beach with palm trees, clear blue skies, a happy couple is walking around in white clothes, a light breeze is lifting their hair and you wish you could be in this picture right now? Well, once you are actually there, the story is sometimes different. The beach will still look spectacular, but the SAND IS SO HOT, that you can´t really walk barefoot, there is a great chance that it will RAIN EVERY AFTERNOON, you have NO SHADE except if you pay money for it, the sand will go everywhere including your camera, when you want to go for a swim you need to leave all your belongings tens of metres away where theoretically anyone can take it and every 15 minutes someone will try to convince you you need a massage or a taxi or a new sarong. But don´t get me wrong, the beach is nice.
Perfect for long walks in the morning or evening – you can end your day in one of the many RESTAURANTS who put out the TABLES STRAIGHT ON THE BEACH. Watching the sun go down while eating delicious fish and drinking a cold beer, a glass of wine or a cocktail.
South-west on the Bukit Peninsula, high up on a cliff you can see the ULUWATU TEMPLE. The temple itself is not so spectacular, but the views on the CLIFFS and the ocean will make up for it. By buying a TICKET you will also be given a SARONG TO COVER YOUR LEGS. Beware of the MONKEYS as they are extremely aggressive here. One of them even jumped on Lu´s small backpack and bit off a hanging stuffed animal key chain. If you go there for the sunset, you can stay and watch the KECAK FIRE DANCE, but you have to pay extra for that.
A big parking lot and many shops at the entrance indicate that this is a very well visited place. It is one of the most famous locations on Bali. The TEMPLE IS BUILT UP ON A ROCK, sticking out of the water and can be accessed only when the tide is low. There is a NICE PARK to it, so you can use it to walk around enjoying the views. Many come in the evening to watch the sunset, so expect it to be crowdy then. We chose to visit it after breakfast when it was still not so hot.
One can easily spend the whole month just on Bali and still not see it all. Allthough the ISLAND IS NOT HUGE, there is MUCH TO SEE AND DO. Travelling around is easy and the locals will make you feel welcome. It is very well developed and tourists are everywhere so finding a place just to yourself is sometimes hard. If we had more time we might have made a bigger circle, including the north-west parts which seem to be less populated, we could have climbed up the VOLCANO and spending some days lazing around the beaches of NUSA LEMBONGAN and NUSA PENIDA. Many combine their visit with a quick jump to the neighbouring GILI ISLANDS just north of LOMBOK – but we saved that for some other time ;).
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