The magic island – that’s how I call Bali, Indonesia. Bali is an incredible mix of Balinese culture and history, unique tradition, stunning sceneries, delicious cuisine, thrilling activities, and tranquil nature. The island has so much to offer and anyone from anywhere in the world could find something so special that they can’t wait to return before their departure.
I have shared a few amazing places of Bali in my previous posts. As I was flipping through my album, the island actually has quite a lot of more things that I don’t think you should miss as a first-time visitor!
De-stress in a beachfront resort or wellness retreat
Bali has been one of the best destinations in the world of resort and spa before many other Southeast Asian cities came to play. Many of my friends went to Bali and stayed in different kinds of resorts with great reviews. There are countless resorts all over the island (many of them are international hotel chains), and it’s impossible to try them all, yet I am sure they all have their own unique selling point to all sorts of customers. Well, I already feel so de-stressed when I saw a picture with private outdoor hot tub in the hotel suite overlooking beautiful paddy fields in the Ubud forest!
I stayed in a few resorts in Bali before including the InterContinental Hotel Bali, which is my favorite. My experience staying at the resort was superb because it was my birthday celebration – sipping cocktails by the private beach in the club, watching a traditional dance performance during dinner in the restaurant, walking by the pool and courtyard at night, searching for local souvenirs in the mini night market in the resort, enjoying spa treatments in the spa centre… it was amazing.
If you are staying in Bali for a week (which I think you should), my suggestion would be staying a few days in the south of the island and then migrating to the north, like Denpasar or Ubud. It would take much time to deal with traffic and long-distance travel if you only stay in one location, and then decide to explore different parts of the island. Even if you are not a spa lover, the spas usually offer a wide range of treatments that you might try, and you might be pleasantly surprised that how these treatments could leave the stress of your hectic daily life behind.
Go on a shopping spree in Ubud and take a cooking class
Many tourists, still, come to Bali for a Julia Robert’s “Eat. Pray. Love.” Experience. It has probably become a wanderlust’s quest for fulfillment. So, rent a bike, travel around Ubud – just like what Julia Roberts did. There are shops and markets alongside the main street in Ubud, leading up to the Ubud Palace, many of them are local handicrafts: home décor, soaps, homemade jam, fragrance (aromatherapy stuff), fashion, and books. If time is allowed, take a cooking class in the culinary academy where you could learn and actually make an Indonesian lunch-for-two in two hours.
Many of the cooking classes include a guided tour in a local food market, and it’s a good way to get in touch with the locals and learn a bit about their eating culture. I also took a class in Yogyakarta and wrote about it in (Cooking in Jogja), I had a pleasant one-on-one time with our cooking teacher and a nice meal at the terrace afterward!
For those who aren’t planning on getting their hands “dirty”, enjoy a dinner at the Lotus Café by the Ubud Water Palace is what I would recommend before catching the Barong Dance Performance. Try to make a reservation though as sometimes the restaurant could be full.
Feast your eyes on Barong Dance
Religion is part of the Balinese culture and they express these cultures through different forms of performance. The Barong dance is a performance based on a classic Balinese mythology. It is a story about Barong, the king of spirits and a lion-like creature (represents the good), triumphs over the demon queen Rangda (represents the bad). The Barong Dance is so endearing to the local culture because it ties to their ancient beliefs that once held sway over the island before Hinduism spread; For me, I also love the traditional Balinese music that featured legong orchestra amplified with large bamboo flutes, the sound of that was quite mesmerizing (My Eyes Are Dancing). There are several places for Barong Dance performance but I really love the one at the Ubud Palace, the dance performance in form of a historic setting is just incredible.
Visit the sacred places around the island
As I mentioned before, Balinese are religious. Temple is a great part of their lives and I learned a lot of the Balinese Hindu culture as I explored these sacred sites one by one. If you really only have time for one of these places I would probably recommend the Tanah Lot Temple. ‘Tanah Lot’ (in Balinese means ‘land in the sea’) is a unique rock formation on the shore of the island; and Tanah Lot Temple, along with the Uluwatu Temple, is one of the seven magnificent sea temples in Bali and probably the tourist’s favorite. Featured heavily in Bali mythologies, the photogenic temple looks mesmerizing at every angle. As I was sitting on a cliff overlooking the temple from afar, listening to the soothing waves crashing on the rocks every few seconds, I was as if got taken to another spiritual place (Temples in Bali: The Spiritual Moments). More, visit the “water temple” and the “Elephant Cave”…
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Sip civet coffee in front of paddy fields
It was a tasty experience to dive into all sorts of Indonesian cuisine during my travel in the country: Nasi Goreng, Mie Goreng, Gado-Gado, Otak-Otak, Bakso, Pisang Bakar Coksuke, Rujak, and more local dishes! I didn’t compile a “Yummylicious” post for Bali (at least not yet), but I did one for Yogyakarta in Java (Yummylicious! Yogyakarta!), while most of the delicious dishes mentioned above could also be found in many local restaurants and delis in Bali. Walk along the busy streets in Kuta Beach and you may find numerous restaurants from “upscale classy” to “street style”. You may know my motto by now: looking for food, always follow your nose… and the crowd.
To my surprise (mostly because of my ignorant), the coffee plantation in Bali is prominent. Do you know that kopi luwak (or civet coffee) is the most expensive coffee in the world? This ”poop” coffee is so special mainly because of its production process.
Here is the story: The fruit of a tropical flowery evergreen plan, Coffea, contains caffeine that defense against animals except for the palm civet cat. The Palm civets (a.k.a. luwaks), eat the ripest coffee cherries and digest the pulp of the cherries. During this process, a unique fermentation occurs, which is responsible for the coffee’s special flavor. After the seeds are defecated by the civet cats, the feces are collected from farmers and hence washed, dried, sorted and roasted to turn them into luxurious coffee.
If you are a coffee lover, don’t miss the ultimate coffee experience and have a sip of the most expensive coffee in the world!
We visited Bali Pulina Agro Tourism, a nice place in the central part of the island where we learned a lot about the production and sampled different kinds of this expensive coffee outdoor looking over the paddy fields! It’s important to mention that natural kopi luwak coffee is produced without harm to the animals. Civet cats roam freely in the coffee plantation and coffee are collected on the ground, delivering unique and authentic flavored coffee beans to customers. Visitors may even meet the civet cats and learn about how the coffee is made. There are illegal farms, sadly, keep civet cats in cages or sell fake kopi luwak; be mindful and check the creditability of the coffee plantation during your visit.
Admire sunrise from the summit of Mount Batur; sunset by the cliff of Uluwatu
The landscape in Bali is diversified – rugged cliffs in the south, sandy beaches and coral reefs in the middle part, and tropical forests and volcanic mountains up in the highlands in the north of Bali.
These are my two favorite spots on the island and please let me know if you differ. The Mount Batur is a caldera in Kintamani located in a highland in the north-eastern part of Bali. It is an active Volcano, yet many active travelers may find climbing the mountain an amazing experience. The Mount Batur Sunrise Trekking tour kicks off as early as 3:30AM to 4AM and reaches the summit (1,700m) in time at 6AM for the glorious sunrise. The hike is relatively easy and it takes only about 2 hours each way. For those who don’t climb and want to stay in bed, join the Volcano Jeep tours and explore the lunar-like landscape of black lava fields in a 4×4 adventure jeep.
To have a good panoramic view of the caldera, there are many restaurants lining up along roads like the Jl. Raya Penelokan in the South side of Lake Batur. Both Lookout Resto & Bar and Lakeview Restaurant are great – they have an outdoor terrace with an unobstructed view of the entire area.
Lakeview & Restaurant
Address: JL. Raya Penelokan, Kintamani, Sukawana, Kintamani, Denpasar, Bali 80652, Indonesia
Phone: +62 366 52525
The Lookout Resto & Bar
Address: Kedisan, Kintamani, Bangli Regency, Bali 80652, Indonesia
The romantic sunset at Uluwatu was one of the most memorable sunsets that I saw and would always be the first come to mind when we were talking about sunsets. It was located at a southern tip of the island and the silhouette of the temples on the cliff did accentuate the beauty of my photos. Leave ample time in the afternoon because it might take more time to get there than you think, and you want to get there earlier to secure a good seat for the Kecak and Fire Dance performance. The show starts at 6:30PM and it usually goes from twilight to darkness. Many of my friends saw it and they all say they would recommend it.
Cuddle an elephant, befriend a monkey, observe the dolphins
Bali is filled with Monkeys. Yet, not monkeys in every part of the island behave the same way. While the monkey babies in the sacred Monkey Forest would “politely” pry a banana out of your hands, monkeys in Uluwatu commit robberies.
Apart from the primate encounter, I visited the Elephant Safari Park and it’s a sanctuary of such wonderful creatures. There I met, greeted and treated the elephants up close and personal. I really appreciated my quality time with the elephants – each of them have their own quirks and personality treats and it was almost therapeutic to leave my stress and trouble behind.
Have you heard of Lovina Beach? It’s the best place to catch sightings of dolphins in Bali. The boat trip usually starts pretty early in the morning so bring a jacket. It was rewarding to find a school of dolphins happily jump by! Hang around by the beach as there are many local operators would approach you for an outing.
Surf, scuba dive, snorkel and sunbathe at the beach(es)
Being one of the most popular tropical travel destinations, there’s no way not have a dip in the ocean. To make it more fun, try any of the exciting activity that Bali has to offer in-between your chilling sunbathing.
If you are looking for some peace and quiet, go to Nusa Dua Beach. You may consider staying in a resort in that area because several parts of the Nusa Dua Beach were private to those premises. There are many beachfront seafood restaurants at the Jimbaran and Kedonganan Beach like the Blue Marlin Café, Melasti Kedonganan Café, New Moon Café, Jimbaran Bay Seafood Club, and much more. Enjoy some prawns and grilled fish at a table by the ocean, and after that, you could go straight to the night stroll by the moonlit water.
The surrounding of the “famous” Hard Rock Hotel by the Kuta Beach is a busy area. This is also where beginners of surfing would go.