Going to Bali is essentially an Australian rite of passage and if you live on the West Coast of Australia you can even pop over for a long weekend. With airlines, especially Jetstar regularly releasing super cheap fares from most major cities to Bali, more and more Aussies are heading there. In November last year, I went back for my second time, taking my partner and my sister to pop their Bali cherries.
The heat hits you as soon as you walk out of the airport even though we arrived late at night. We were picked up by our pre-organised transfer, do not try to negotiate a taxi upon arrival, you will most certainly get ripped off as they will pick you out as a newbie straight away. The other tip I have for negotiating the airport is to not be fooled by the men in white uniforms offering to take your luggage for you. They may look official but they are not employed by either the airport or the transfer company and it will end up costing you much more than necessary. Now, it may sound like I am being negative which I am not meaning to be; you just need to remember that Bali is a developing area and much of the country lives in poverty. Therefore, the Balinese have come up with some crafty ways to make a Rupiah.
Bali is a great destination in that you can make it what you want. You can party, you can relax, you can shop till you drop or you can be adventurous and with that in mind there are number of areas you can stay in. Kuta is the heart of the nightlife and therefore filled with young, drunk partiers and loud nightclubs and bars. While we wanted to party, we also wanted to relax and get away from the craziness and so we chose to stay in Legian. Legian is still very young and fun and close enough to Kuta for us to walk in each night after pre drinking at our hotel but far enough that we could sleep well and relax by our pool throughout the day.
Many people choose to stay in Seminyak which is a little more upmarket and there are incredible villas you can stay in that have private plunge pools. This is perfect for couples or groups that are looking for a more exclusive feel. Bear in mind that as it is more upmarket, you will pay slightly more for food, drinks, shopping and everything else in-between. My suggestion is to head into Kuta and Legian for shopping for lower prices on the same items but be prepared for the stall owners to be more aggressive. The lower the price, the more intense the bartering and pushier the stall owners will be to get you into their store.
As mentioned, shopping is a one of the main activities that you can do while in Bali and there are many bargains to be had, especially if you’re up for a bit of friendly (and sometimes intense) bartering. You can either wander the streets and peruse the markets or to escape the heat, head into the air conned and much more relaxed discovery centre. Getting around is really easy and cheap, just be aware that this is where you can get swindled. Stick to the Bluebird taxi company and make they start the meter as soon as you get in. The other cabs will also be blue in colour but they will not specifically say ‘Bluebird Taxi’ try to avoid these as they will most likely charge more and the cost of the trip is negotiated rather than metered.
There are plenty of other things you can do once you are all shopped out. Adventure seekers can go to Waterbomb park which boasts itself as the top attraction in Asia and is a large water park with exhilarating waterslides. There are also water sports and zip-lining to get the adrenaline flowing.
The Balinese are very spiritual and religious as you will see pretty much everywhere. While walking through the markets, you need to be careful to not step on the offerings that are left for the gods to have a profitable day. To see more of cultural Bali, get out into the countryside on a day trip to see Tenah Lot temple. Most tours to Tenah Lot will involve driving through the rainforest town of Ubud and seeing the rice paddy fields that everyone will recognise.
Also be sure to stop into a Luwak coffee place and taste some coffee made from Luwak (which is a cat like animal) droppings. The temple itself is situated in the ocean and the cliffs surrounding make the setting quite impressive. I am told that watching the sunset behind the temple is a sight to behold, however both times I have been, it has been raining so I am yet to see the sunset. Maybe next time. One of the best parts of getting out of town is the sights that you see on the way. It is incredible to see how everybody lives out of the city and see more authentic Balinese life. All activities and tours are very easy to organise once you are in Bali, your transfer company will most likely run tours and ask if you need anything booked. Failing that, you can ask at the reception of your hotel and they can get you in contact with a tour company easily.
Another special highlight I had on my recent trip was completely random but I would highly recommend it. The Balinese are predominately Hindu, however we found an incredible Turkish Shisha café down Jalan Sunset (Sunset Street) in Legian. Be warned, the street seems a bit shifty and you have to walk quite a way down and I was trying to convince my partner to turn around. Then, on a corner came brightly decorated lamps and we stepped inside to the most beautifully decorated building I have been in. Instantly you are transported to a bizarre in Istanbul with shishas and even a belly dancer.
There are many islands around the mainland of Bali and many people will spend a few days on the mainland and then catch a boat over for a relaxing Island getaway. The most popular islands are the Gili Islands and of those is Gili Trawangan or Gili T for short. It takes about three hours to get from Sanur where the boats launch to Gili T and as we only had a short amount of time, my partner and I decided to go to Nusa Lembogan which is closer. We stayed on Mushroom Beach in a gorgeous bungalow and could walk along the beach to restaurants selling freshly caught lobster for the equivalent of $30 Australian dollars. During the day you can hire a scooter and scoot around the island, stopping into the numerous bars and restaurants along the way. I actually went to Nusa Lembongan eight years ago on my first trip to Bali just for the day and since I went it has definitely become more popular, however, if its relaxed Island vibes you are after, you will definitely still get this here. You can snorkel, paddleboard or just swim in the ocean if you choose or you can simply lie on the sand with a book in hand.
As I mentioned earlier, Bali is almost a rite of passage tour for young Australians and will often be a first overseas holiday destination for people young and old alike. Bali was my first overseas destination and it will forever be dear in my heart. I wondered if I would still enjoy it as much seeing as in the eight years since I last went, I have been lucky enough to travel to some amazing places and I can definitely say I did. It felt like coming home to an old friend that I was comfortable with while still having changed enough to be different and exciting. For people heading over for the first time, initially it may seem a little confronting as life over there is very different from what we are used to but thanks to the friendly and accepting nature of the Balinese, you will be feeling welcome and comfortable in no time. I know I will make my way back to Bali many times over in my life, hopefully it won’t be eight years in between visits next time.
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