As I sat down to write this blog post, I thought I would title the post ‘Why I hate Bali?’. Then I realized, I don’t hate Bali, I loathe it. It’s by far the most forgettable place I have been to and would not want to recall what I saw there, whatsoever. So before you point me to the page where I listed it number 1 on my destination list and sharpen your knives, let me explain.
First of all, you don’t see Bali, you experience it!
But the problem is what happens when you get back to your mundane home. You would kind of regret ever going to Bali because you now know there is a place like Bali, but God somehow seemed it fit to dump you in a place far far away from this magical land.
So would I go back again? In a jiffy. But would I regret going back there; yes once the high wears off. It’s something like asking a pot head if he would mind another puff knowing how the withdrawal blows.
So yeah I hate Bali with all my guts. But put me on a plane to Denpasar and I would be ever grateful to you, well until I get back at least. Then the whole cycle starts. You get the swing!
So now that I’m complaining, let me finish the whining spree and take you through just what makes me pissed about Bali.
We had a hard time deciding what to do first up. Thankfully we had our ever helpful but oddly named Mr. Bagus. So on his advice, we headed to check out the famed Kecak dance. This dance-depiction of Ramayana(more on that later) takes place at the amphitheater on the cliff side of Ulu Watu temple overlooking the turquoise ocean. You couldn’t come up with a better location if Elon Musk, Einstein, and Da Vinci helped you out with everything at their disposal, scientific or otherwise. It’s that awesome. Check out the pics and video (PC: Nikitha Raghunath) below.
The performers chant ‘Chak,Chak,Chak,Chak’ and sing it at various pitches and rhythms as they trance out into the story of Ram and Laxmana and their search for Sita with Hanuman’s help. They render the beautiful scenes of Ramayana and perform this breath taking fire dance. You will need to put this one on top of the list to-dos in Bali. The adjacent Ulu Watu temple on the cliffside makes the ambiance complete. But thats just the start.
Combine with your trip to Ulu Watu a visit to the Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK) Cultural Park at Ungasan. This sprawling park is highlighted by 20m high Vishnu torso Traditional Balinese dances are performed with the majestic statue of Wisnu as the background and also at the adjacent theater. They also invite the visitors onto the stage. It’s good fun. There are other spots of interest like the lotus pond, street theater, Tirtha Agung etc.
Another highlight of Bali is the Tanah Lot temple. This scenic temple is located at the Beraban village and is a worthwhile detour. The photo ops are many and you would gaze as long as in the viewfinder at the stunning vistas. It does get crowded for the hot spots during sunsets. Its still magical nonetheless.
Dang Hyang Nirartha, a high priest from the Majapahit Kingdom in East Java who traveled to Bali in 1489 to spread Hinduism, arrived at this beautiful area and established a temple honoring the sea god, Baruna (or Varuna). Here, he shared his teachings to Beraban villagers, only to face opposition from the village chief who soon gathered his loyal followers to dispel Nirartha. The priest resisted, incredibly shifting a large rock he meditated upon out to sea while transforming his sashes into sea snakes to guard at its base. The rock’s original name, Tengah Lod, means ‘in the sea’.
Acknowledging Nirartha’s powers, the humbled chief vowed allegiance. Before setting off, Nirartha gifted him a holy kris dagger, which is now among the sanctified heirlooms of the Kediri royal palace. Pilgrims bring these relics each Kuningan day by foot on an 11km pilgrimage to the Luhur Pakendungan temple, the priest’s former meditational site. (Ref)
There are equally amazing temples in Besakih temple and the picturesque Ulun Danu. You could stuff them all in a couple of days. But hey, someone told you Bali is a beach paradise? Ya, getting there.
Beaches range from crowded, dirty, urban beaches like the Kuta to the near-deserted stretches of Nusa Dua. And then you have great dives at the Tulamben and Nusa Lembongan to name a few.
Kuta is the party central of Bali. It’s filled to the brim with night clubs and restaurants. It’s where everyone comes at night when the relaxation gets a bit too much! the adjacent beaches of Legian, Seminyak, and others have less crowded and cleaner urban beaches. They also have good boutique hotels.
Tulamben has a ship wreck of USS Liberty. It will be one of the best experiences you’ll have while staying in Bali. Visibility is good year-round with over 82 feet (25 meters) at its best. Because this is shore diving, divers will only need to walk straight to the sea to dive. The ship is studded with all kinds of marine life and corals. Amazing dive! We dove with Bali Scuba (Link).
Other awesome spots for diving or snorkeling are Nusa Dua, Nusa Lembongan, Nisa Penida, Menjangan and Amed. Be sure to try at least an intro dive. It will be something that you will cherish.
Day trips on cruise boats and yachts are a big deal here. There are all kinds of trips that can be arranged. We went on a day trip to Nusa Lembongan with Bali Hai Cruises. The trip includes hotel pick up and drop and a serene Yacht cruise to the wonderful island. There you can participate in a galore of beach and water activities including a submersible tour etc. It will be a day well spent.
The destination to find unadulterated Serenity on this island is Ubud. It is considered in many ways Bali’s cultural heart and your day trip will tell you why. Located in the cool mountains, just one hour’s drive from Kuta, this traditional country area is home of one of Bali’s royal families. Ubud is also a flourishing crafts centre. Around Ubud the surrounding villages like Campuhan, Penestanan, Peliatan and Batuan specialise in crafts and woodcarving which are sold all over the island. There are hundreds of shops selling antiques, woodcarvings, crafts, textiles, paintings and jewellery as well as some of the best art museums in the country, dozens of art studios, an excellent local craft market and galleries. You will be however busy taking pictures of the gently swaying rice paddies on the stepped terrace fields.
There are enough amazing water falls in this area to fill your day as well. Like the amazing Tegenungan or check out Aling-Aling, Gitgit etc. Spend an hour under one before you head out to explore more on your bicycle. Wherever you go here, its pleasant greenness everywhere.
Seeing all these, you will still have many more things to explore if your holiday is long enough. Check out Batur mountain, Marine park or any of the amazing beaches. You can never go wrong in Bali with any of its choices. Now you probably realize why it’s on top of the countdown.
- Visa is free or available on arrival for USD 30 for most countries. Check the link here.
- Most prices are subject to tax (10%) and service charge (6-11%)
- You can still stay for 10-15US$ per night in homestays and 3-5$ meals.
- Car with driver for 8-10 hours costs 40-70US$ per day. Always check drivers and car’s condition.
- Bali has the highest spa density in the world. You will find them everywhere and most are pretty decent and cheap. Full body massages start 7US$ per hour.
- Kuta gets really rowdy at nights. Watch over your shoulder for scams during those late night parties.
- US$, AUS$, EUR will be accepted and changed almost anywhere. Rupiah comes in handy for small purchases.
- Nasi Goreng:
This ubiquitous dish is the USP of Bali food scene. It is basically fried rice that you can often find on the streets of Indonesia. It has flavored rice with sweet soy sauce and also the fun fixings that are placed around the rice—pickles, shrimp crackers, fried shallots, fried egg, fresh veggies…the options are endless! There are lots of variations on nasi goreng, Other must tries include Mee Goreng, Babi Guling (roasted suckling pig), Betutu etc.
Kopi Luwak: You might have seen its references in ‘The Bucket List’. It’s the coffee that Jack Nicholson’s character loves until Morgan Freeman tells him where it comes from. Yes, the famous ‘Poo Coffee’ is one of the USPs of Bali. It’s the world’s most expensive coffee, and it’s made from poop. Or rather, it’s made from coffee beans that are partially digested and then pooped out by the civet, a catlike creature. A cup of kopi Luwak, as it’s known, can sell for as much as $80 in the United States. This one is strictly for hardcore coffee lovers.
- What I Read: Love and Death in Bali, first published in German in 1937, is considered by many to be the finest novel ever written about this island paradise where everyone, regardless of caste of position, is woven into the fabric of an ancient culture, connected by customs and, above all, by strong religious beliefs. This book by Nigel Barley is set against the backdrop of the Dutch invasion of Bali just over a century ago, and the resulting “mass suicides” of the Balinese royalty, the moving story unfolds of the peasant Pak and his family and friends, and the tragedy that is their shared fate.
- What I Saw: This visually stunning documentary has a montage of Tabanan, Tampaksiring, Tegallalang, Uluwatu Temple, and a long dramatic Kecak dance sequence against the Gunung Kawi Temple. Check it out. It is available on youtube.
- Indian Embassy in Bali (CGI): Jl. Raya Puputan No.163, Renon, Denpasar Sel., Kota Denpasar, Bali 80235, Indonesia, Phone: +62 361 259502.
- Balinese have a very soothing spa style traditional music. The traditional ensemble ‘Gamelan’ is pretty famous. Check out the video below.