Beautiful Bali

Posted by on Jun 1, 2014 in Asia, Indonesia, Travel | 0 comments

Beautiful Bali

Everyone seems to have an opinion on Bali whether they’ve been there or not.  Coming from Australia there is definitely a preconception that it’s nothing more than a cheap place for bogan Aussies to get drunk and disorderly.

There is some truth to this, but if you haven’t stepped outside the Kuta / Legian / Seminyak bubble, you haven’t really seen Bali.  The Bali I know is full of lush rainforest, rice paddies, black sand beaches and friendly geckos.

Half the time I would be pinching myself looking around at a picture perfect postcard setting that was so surreal. Watching elderly ibu’s make their daily offerings with bright flowers and incense wafting into the sky would always bring a smile to my face.

 

Ubud

Made famous by Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat Pray Love’, Ubud is a cultural gem that has been somewhat taken over by yoga hipsters, although I don’t mind (some might say I am one..!)

Ubud has plenty of shops and great cafes on offer, and is surrounded by beautiful rice paddocks.

If you’re on a budget and looking for an authentic Ubud experience I highly recommend staying at Rumah Roda, a wonderful homestay.  The rooms are spacious and clean, there’s a great balcony for relaxing on and a small pool for cooling off in the afternoons.

Their food is authentic, cheap and delicious, the restaurant upstairs with a beautiful view (you don’t need to be staying here to come and get a meal).  Located on a quiet street in the heart of Ubud, you can walk up through the rice paddocks as well (follow the path and eat at Sari Organik – good food with a great view).

Before visiting Rumah Roda read the book A Little Bit One O’clock, written by William Ingram who stayed with the family for a long time.  Another good book is Bali Daze by Cat Wheeler, who experienced what Bali is really all about.

Rumah Roda is located above Threads of Life, a gallery with gorgeous handmade textiles.

If you’re looking for something a bit more fancy than a homestay, I recommend Tegal Sari which has large rooms and all the benefits of a hotel, at a reasonable price.

 

Wayne relaxing at Rumah Roda

Wayne relaxing at Rumah Roda

Hire a scooter while in Ubud, it’s really easy to zip around wherever you want to go.  We didn’t take the first one they showed us and said we’d go elsewhere to have a look (you can rent a bike on almost every street corer), a next thing we knew a much better scooter appeared that was suddenly available!

I got an unlimited pass to Yoga Barn and took classes twice daily, the instructors are all great and they have a range of classes to suit everyone.

There are massages on offer everywhere, but if you really want to spoil yourself book into Bali Botanica.  This is my favourite day spa ever, the treatments are fantastic, the atmosphere tranquil and the price reasonable.

Ubud Rice field

 

The food, oh the food!  If I could eat at Alchemy every day I would.  Even Wayne who is one of the most meat loving guys I know was happy to have lunch here most days.  They do delicious raw vegan food, smoothies, the salad bar is epic, and the deserts are out of this world (try the banoffee pie and you’ll be hooked).

I also love Kafe (and it’s sister The Garden Kafe inside Yoga Barn).  At Fair Warung Bale you can get a delicious meal and feel good, with all profits going towards helping give locals medical care they desperately need.

You can’t go wrong with the local cuisine, tuck into a nasi goreng or a nasi campur, or my favourite gado-gado.  Be sure to ask for fresh sambal (an intoxicating mix of chilli, garlic, ginger and lime) and avoid the stuff out of the bottle.

The Mexican joint Taco Casa is good for a quick, fresh and cheap meal.  Bridges is one of the fancier restaurants in town and quite pricey, I thought it was overrated and probably not worth it, although has a nice view.  Wayne also loved Ibu Oka for Babi Guling (suckling pig).

 

Taco Casa

Taco Casa

 

We did a cooking class with Lobong Cooking which was excellent, they start in the market and show you what kind of produce the buy and use for cooking, show you how they make coconut oil at home, and talk you through making a variety of delicious Balinese meals.

At the end there is a serious feast, with more food than you know what to do with so make sure you come hungry!  The class is run inside their family compound which makes it feel very personal.

 

Cooking class

Cooking class

 

Each night there are live dance performances in the palace, which is a wonderful cultural experience.  We saw a Legong dance, the costumes were enchanting and the movement of the dancers so precise, and sound of the gamelan players absolutely mesmerised me.

The sacred monkey forest is a must see, but don’t be fooled into buying bananas, you will be up close and personal with the monkeys without them and probably don’t want them climbing on you anyway, do you?  I was actually more impressed by some of the stone carvings, there is one of these two lizards that is amazing.

On your way to the monkey forest stop in at the Bali Animal Welfare Association, these guys do great work for the Bali dogs.

 

In the monkey forest

In the monkey forest

 

We went out for a day of canyoning with Adventure & Spirit, this was such a fun day, we abseiled down 20m waterfalls and even one where two waterfalls joined together.  Towards the bottom was a sneaky cave which we stopped in, then our guide said “now we jump!” and jumped out into the water crashing down.  We had no choice but to follow, it was an amazing feeling.

It poured rain which didn’t really matter as we were already wet, but made the waterfalls rush even faster, so you had to stay to the side of the waterfall when abseiling as if you got caught under the bulk of the water it was near impossible to keep your legs on the rocks.  The guides were very professional and safe, they really know what they’re doing and look after you.

On our way home we stopped at a place to try Luwak coffee, the famous coffee made from beans that have been digested and pooped out by the Kopi Luwak or civet, it was actually pretty good!

 

Canyoning!

Canyoning!

 

Other sites I would recommend visiting are Tirta Empul a Hindu temple famous for it’s healing water, and Gunung Kawi an impressive temple complex from the 11th-century with larger than life cliff carvings, both are located near Tampaksiring.  We also went to the very beautiful water palace Tirta Gangga.

 

Tirta Empul

Tirta Empul

 

Tirta

Tirta Gangga

 

Carvings at

Carvings at Gunung Kawi

 

Amed

Located on the east coast of Bali, Amed is a collection of small fishing villages along the coast.  The beaches all have black sand due to the erruption of volcano Mount Agung, which towers over the coastline.

We were attracted to Amed to go to Tulamben where you can dive the USS Liberty wreck, a 120m long ship that was hit by a Japanese torpedo during World War II and made useless, so was deliberately stranded on the rocky beach of Tulamben.  When Mount Agung erupted in 1963 the ship was pressed back into the ocean where it presently sits.

Diving the Liberty wreck is amazing, it’s so cool to see the ship just emerge from the darkness in front of you, and the ship is also now home to all kinds of fish and coral.  The local women carry the diving equipment to shore for you, often balancing two full oxygen tanks on their heads while walking barefoot on the rocky beach.  We dove with Eco Dive who we were really happy with and I would recommend.

We stayed at Bedulu Resort which is up on the hill and has a fantastic view from the rooms and the pool.  We asked about hiring scooters and one of the guys called his friend and they let us rent their bikes from them, for about $5 AUD per day.

One night we asked the same guy if he knew where we could get some arak (local moonshine), his eyes lit up and he literally ran off into the night (I guess we had his scooter..!)  In the meantime we’d been set up with small glasses, some lemon and honey.  He returned and sat a Mount Franklin water bottle on the table, our friend commented it was nice they had brought us some water as a chaser, not realising this was the arak! I actually hated it, it was really smokey which is not my thing.

 

The pool at Bedulu

The pool at Bedulu

 

The food was good everywhere, recommended would be Sails which is the “fancy” restaurant and has stunning views, and Meditasi at Aas Beach served up some of the best Balinese food I’ve ever had, eaten with the waves crashing in front of you.

During the day have a drink at one of the restaurants along the beach, afterwards you can rent snorkel gear from them and leave you stuff at the restaurant while you swim around.

We went to a great little joint called Warung Enak for dinner, after which on the way home our friend’s scooter stopped working in the middle of the road in the dark.  A local guy came out and didn’t speak much English, we thought he was going to try and sell us something or ask us for money, but of course all he wanted to do was help, and he did fix the bike!

 

Lunchtime view at Meditasi

Lunchtime view at Meditasi

 

If you are in the really touristy parts of Bali you will get hawkers trying to sell you stuff, but most of the Balinese I encountered were so kind and generous.  I asked our driver Wayan about it (the Balinese only have four names depending on what order you were born, Wayan is first born so they all loved that Wayne sounds like Wayan and he is a first born!) and he told me that the Balinese believe in karma in the sense that their actions will come back, so if they do good things then good things will happen.  It may not be in their lifetime, it might be in their children’s lifetime, or their grandchildren, but it is important to keep this good energy going.

 

The stunning backdrop of Mount Agung

 

Sidemen

Sidemen is a small village in the middle of rice paddocks.  There’s not much happening in Sidemen, it’s just a peaceful place where you can contemplate life, I think it would be a great place to write a book!  You can wander the rice paddocks, you’ll probably get lost but that’s half the fun!

We stayed at Sawah Indah, a beautiful place with gorgeous views over the rice paddocks.  Just up the road is a tiny shop with a woman doing the most colourful and beautiful weavings.  We went to a nearby “restaurant”, which as basically a family’s kitchen with some extra tables and chairs.

Wayne loved his meal so much that he ordered seconds, the woman shyly asking if he wanted it really spicy, which he of course answered yes, and she excitedly told us that she would make it “just like I do for my husband!

It was slightly rainy, so the husband and her son chauffeured us the 100m down the road to our accommodation on the back of their scooters – talk about hospitality!

 

The view from our room in Sidemen

The view from our room in Sidemen

 

Kuta, Legian & Seminyak and Sanur

Probably the most popular area on Bali, Kuta, Legian and Seminyak are all in row along the beach and you can walk between them easily.  We spent a couple of nights in Legian to see what all the fuss is about and I have to say it didn’t do it for me.  As a local said to us later “that is not the real Baleeee“, everything is for tourists and it’s lacking authenticity.

In saying that, we stayed in a great little hotel called Pearl, which has an excellent French restaurant highly recommended for dinner.  We sipped cocktails at Ku De Ta, a great place to kick back and chill out.

There are people trying to sell you stuff everywhere, especially fake Ray Bans and sarongs.

If you do want to buy something don’t be afraid to barter hard – it’s all part of the fun!  In Ubud Wayne spent half an hour bartering for a hand carved wooden buddha, which he ended up getting for a bargain and even had an old ibu who had come over to watch smack him on the bum!

We also spent a couple of nights at Sanur which is conveniently joined to the airport by the new Mandara toll road opened in 2014 (they road was ready for a while but couldn’t be opened until an auspicious day).  This place also didn’t take my fancy as again it is very touristy with lots of private villas and big resorts along the beach.

We stayed at Taksu Hotel which was good with nice clean rooms and a pool, and walking distance to restaurants and the beach.  We had a lovely dinner at Char Ming, with great service and live music.  Other than that you’d find me at Bali Buda, an awesome chain cafe also in Ubud, Bukit and Kerobokan.

Indonesia is an amazing and diverse country that I absolutely adore.  We have also travelled to Lombok and climbed Mt Rinjani, to Flores where we went diving with massive manta rays, and to Java where we wandered ancient temples, all of which were amazing and unique experiences.

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