When I say ‘take your shoes off’, I mean it. I’ve been exploring Bali for 3 years, and my shoe situation is vast and plentiful, however in situations where I’m required to wear shoes, for example, out to dinner at a nice restaurant or while on a long motorbike journey, I find myself in my one pair of jandals, every time. That’s thongs or flip flops for you non-kiwis.
The following guest article is by Bex West, a Social Media Strategist/Travel Writer currently residing in beautiful Bali. Bex has her own blog at writeatthefork.com. You can also follow her adventures on Instagram. Thanks so much Bex, I cannot wait to add Bali to the list of destinations visited.
I wore covered shoes, my trusty Converse low tops, for the first time in a long while, and still have the blisters to show for it. Shoes just aren’t a necessity in Bali, that is if you choose to stay in a beach town like Canggu, which I highly recommend. You may, however, count your shoes as a blessing if you’re planning on other more ‘foot intensive’ adventures, like a climb up Mt Batur, or a trek through the Indonesian rainforest.
Throughout my time in Bali, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing the many types of accommodation available. It really comes down to your preference, but I’m currently enjoying the ‘Private Villa’ lifestyle, perfect if you like your privacy. Basically, we’re renting a private house – pool included. We make our own food, wash our own clothes and live day-to-day as if we were at home (if ‘home’ was a tropical paradise). This might not be ideal for someone coming for their first trip to Bali – a complimentary breakfast and daily towel changes might be more your style.
If you’re looking for luxury, the Ayana Resort and Spa does not disappoint. I stayed here at the end of 2014 and let me tell you – it’s friggin’ extravagant. There are 15 restaurants and bars including the Rock Bar Bali (which is incredible at sunset, FYI) and it boasts it’s own private white sand beach, 11 pools that provide complimentary water and snacks, and the service and rooms are impeccable. Even if you don’t stay here, I recommend heading down to the Rock Bar for a sunset cocktail – you will need to arrive early, though, as guests get priority, and the lift down the side of the cliff (14 metres to be exact) only takes a few people at a time.
A cheap and cheerful accommodation option that I’m very fond of here in Bali is the homestay. If they have the money and space, an Indonesian family will build a few rooms with en suites around their current house to rent out to travellers. There’s usually a shared kitchen and a sort of common area to relax in, and it’s a great place to meet new people, without being in each other’s space all the time. The homestay I return to is around $350.00 NZD per month, including hot water, wifi and fresh water to drink. I loved this place because I had the chance to practice my Indonesian on the Ibu (mum) of the house, who very much enjoyed practicing her English on me.
If you enjoy a community feel, don’t mind sharing a bathroom, and possibly a bedroom, look no further than the money saving hostel. I personally haven’t stayed in one, however, a friend of mine did, and she thoroughly enjoyed it. Definitely not for the introverted, but a great way to meet fellow travellers, make new friends and learn a thing or two about being on a budget.
As soon as I arrived in Bali I was surprised by the sheer number of scooters on the roads. Swerving, beeping and piling into gaps between cars…it looked like a nightmare. Once I learnt to ride and found myself in the traffic, I realised it wasn’t all as bad as I’d imagined. Basic scooter rules in Bali are as follows: Use your mirrors, always. Don’t trust indicators. Use your horn for warnings, not out of anger. Don’t go too fast. Wear your helmet.
Riding a scooter is much easier than it looks, and is the fastest way to get around Bali, without going over 40km/h – cars get stuck in traffic, but scooters can dodge and slip through gaps. My scooter currently costs me Rp600,000 (about $65 NZD) per month, plus about $3 for a full tank of gas every 5-7 days.
Not keen on riding a scooter? Why not take it down a notch and go old school. I am a terrible bicycle rider, always have been. I attempted to ride a bike when I visited Gili T and face planted on my first go, but hey, I tried. There are roadside shops where you can rent a bicycle if you prefer this over a scooter, however, the roads in the busier parts of Bali can be a little difficult to ride on. I would suggest saving this for a place where there isn’t much traffic, and you won’t hold anyone up on their way to work.
Taxi’s in Bali are super cheap, a little more expensive if you’re coming from the airport, though. I always get a genuine Blue Bird Taxi (there are a few imitators..their cars look the same but they don’t have the car # on the window) and can usually catch one from the side of the road. A trip from Seminyak to Sanur beach is about 40 mins – an hour long, and will cost between Rp145,000 – Rp160,000 ($15.00 – $17.00 NZD), for reference.
The best way to get around if you’re planning a day trip to see the sights. Usually, a driver will have a book in the back with a map and certain destinations he will go to, but if you’ve found somewhere you want to go online and have a map, they’ll get you there. Book a driver for a whole day and they will hang out while you’re experiencing all that Bali has to offer, and deliver you back to your hotel, hostel, homestay or villa at the end of the day for around $100 NZD.
Bali’s main attractions
2 words…Yoga & Food!
When I first visited Ubud, I wasn’t all that fond of it… where was the beach? That was until I got to trying out a few of the cafe’s and restaurants – had a look through the shops and trialled a few yoga classes. I love coffee (in my mind, everyone does, because what’s not to love???) so a definite stop for me, every time, is Seniman – they specialise in cold brew, make all their own non-dairy milk, and create a killer flat white.
If it’s yoga you’re interested in, look no further than The Yoga Barn – it’s been open for 9 years this year, and probably has what you’re looking for. They boast classes for Classical Hatha, Vinyasa Flow, Power, Pranayama, Restorative, Iyengar, Yin, Anusara, Meditation, Sound Medicine, Kirtan, and Ecstatic Dance (phew!).
I know what you’re thinking, what about the food?
The food in Ubud is incredible. I’m not exaggerating. The last time I visited, I went to a little cafe called Kafe (hah) and the food was so good I wrote about it as soon as I got home (you can read it here). One thing to note is, it seems that Ubudians cater predominantly to Vegetarians / Vegans – but that’s no reason not to visit if you’re a meat eater – I promise you’ll find something you like. Other cafe’s I recommend are Clear Cafe and Melting Wok Warung – their Green curry = the best!
Many people like to visit the Monkey Forest while they’re in Ubud, I’m not a massive fan. If you do go, make sure your belongings are zipped up in a backpack and out of sight as the monkeys like to snatch (and love camera’s / phones / sunglasses etc). At the entrance of the Monkey Forest you can buy bananas, but I suggest you don’t, unless you like fully grown Macaques scrambling up your body to retrieve said bananas.
Shopping, shopping, cafe, fancy restaurant, beach, shopping.
Head to the nice part of town to take a look at a few higher end shops, down a coffee and enjoy a long lunch. I don’t really rate the breakfast / lunch in Seminyak – it’s pricey and the food in Canggu is better, it does, however, house a few beautiful restaurants for a posh night out, including Merah Putih, Sardine, Metis, Bambu and Mama San – a stop at La Favela for a boogie never goes amiss, either.
I’ve been to Kuta town probably 5 times, 3 of them to go to the cinema in Beachwalk Mall and have a look around the shops (Zara, TopShop, Pull & Bear etc) – the other 2 times were to ‘go out’, and both nights were odd…to say the least. Kuta at night is full to the brim with tourists looking to party – think Spring Break..but all the time. It’s messy, but can be a lot of fun, if you’re looking to get weird.
Kuta beach is alright, a good place to learn to surf as the waves are small and it’s mostly whitewater. One thing I will say is, don’t eat in Kuta! It’s overpriced and under delivers, every time.
Still one of my favourite places to stay. Kintamani gave me a whole new view of Bali, quite literally. I stayed here before being led up Mt Batur – a 2 hour (ish) trek at 4am – to see the sunrise, it was Indah Sekali (a beautiful view), and I would do it again in a heartbeat. On this particular trip, however, we decided that it would be a good idea to do the ‘long hike’ which turned out to be 6 hours of unharnessed mountain climbing – not for the faint of heart (aka me). Still a great experience, though. The place we stayed organised the hike for us, and provided us with a beautiful breakfast at the top of the mountain, hardboiled eggs and banana sandwiches, which the monkeys who lived there thoroughly enjoyed, ha! It’s cooler, so a jumper is definitely necessary, and as I mentioned briefly before, shoes are required if you have any feelings for your feet.
Canggu has become a go-to for surfers and yogi’s alike, and is gradually becoming a general tourist destination for those wanting to chill out near the beach. It’s home to great surf, clean beaches, incredible food and a whole bunch of welcoming people.
Visit Berawa Beach, or Old Mans (Batu Bolong) for a surf, and if you’re daring, Echo beach, but be wary, the waves here are for experienced surfers only.
My personal favourites include: Milk and Madu – they do everything well, but my go to’s are the Boss Omelette, Eggs Benedict, BLAT, and Chia Pudding.
Little Flinders has an epic DIY breakfast and a really good coffee, Asian Deli (AKA Campur Asia) wins at Poke and Katsu Curry, Peloton is 100% vegan and 100% delicious, new kid on the block, Shady Shack, makes insanely good healthy smoothies and delicious vegetarian and vegan food and Indotopia does a helluva Pho.