Balinese landscapes are as unique as its people. Nature, mountains, incredible beaches and temples even in the most remote place in the island. This beautiful Indonesian island was my first stop during my 2015 Asian trip.
I have always had the thought that Bali was magical, full of culture and breathtaking landscapes: Fortunately, I wasn´t disappointed at all.
Almost everyone needs a visa, but don´t worry at all… it´s super fast, no more than 5 minutes. The fee is 25USD and can be paid by credit card.
However, you first impression may s*ck… Tired from your flight, carrying your luggage a horde of taxi drivers will approach you at the Denpasar Airport gates. Touts will offer you a ride and every single one will promise the cheapest fare.
Unless you have a friend in the island or somehow you know the town very well, my suggestion is to take the official airport taxi… I know! Paying a bit extra but making sure you won´t have a bad time (unnecessary stress or suffer a scam).
Prices are fixed! My Toyota Corolla ride to my hotel in Ubud was 600.000 IDR (Indonesian rupia).
NOTE: Irony huh? It´s very common that the taxi drivers don´t know where the hotels are neither the streets… They get “areas”, for eg: Ubud downtown. It will be helpful if you bring a printed map with your hotel address or at least the hotel´s phone number. Just in case.
Transportation solved. You will have time to save some cash once you know the town a little bit more… It´s a fact.
Once you get over this transportation situation you will realize that people are hospitable, respectful and despite that many don´t speak English, somehow will try to help you with anything you need.
Bikes are everywhere! It´s CHAOS. From little children to elderly people! One, two, three, four! In the same scooter! Even carrying stuff so heavy and big that defies the laws of physics! BUT… Why not? Just be careful and respect the transit laws, it should be alright. Rent is between 50.000 – 70.000 IDR; there´s no gas/petrol… the magic word is “bensin” and you can get it from stations or from any precarious stand you see around.
With 5.000 to 10.000 IDR a bottle will be enough to enjoy all day long!
NOTE: Police is extremely corrupt, once the see a tourist they won´t stop until finding the perfect excuse to “fine” you and getting some cash out of your pockets; always carry an International Driving License, ID, bike papers, helmet and respect every single transit law.
What to do?
Pura Taman Saraswati
One of the most beautiful temples in Ubud, right in the heart of the town… Don´t miss it while walking along Jalan Raya Ubud, it may seem simple from the outside but once inside you will find its façade surrounded by artificial lakes full of lotus flowers.
To make its address easy for you… just rise your head and look for the Starbucks sign, well… then, on the shop´s right! The temple is between Starbucks and Café Lotus, the well-known/famous restaurant and coffee shop in downtown.
During the night there´s a Balinese dance show for… 80.000 IDR? If you are in the mood, Balinese dance shows are all around downtown! Walk around and watch the one that you feel nicer (Always bargain the price).
NOTE: While walking around Ubud´s downtown, you will hear two words: MASSAGE! TAXI! Girls offering massages are everywhere! As well as guys offering you a taxi ride! Everywhere, all day long! ALL. DAY. LONG. At first you will kind of unconfortable but after some days you will learn to ignore them so don´t worry about it.
Royal Palace Ubud (Puri Saren)
Must. Just a block away from Pura Taman Saraswati… it´s really interesting to see its architecture (To be honest, every single house is worth appreciating… My god! Balinese attention to detail in its architecture is from another world!) carvings off volcanic stone and statues.
Of course, dance show during the night! Personally, I preferred the one in Saraswati.
Sacred Monkey Forest
This oasis is a few blocks away from downtown, easy-going… follow Jalan Monkey Forest up to the end and Ta Da! The vast green forest, Hindu Temples and of course, the owners: Monkeys everywhere! EVERYWHERE.
They will welcome you, screaming and jumping all over the place.
TIP: DO NOT FEED the monkeys. They may start fighting over your food and will become aggressive.
TIP 2: DO NOT FEED them! Ok… you want to feed them anyway? Just give them the snack and walk a few steps back. DO NOT PLAY with them and the food, if you do… I have bad news.
You will be approached by locals selling bananas, simply avoid them.
Who knows what kind of disease they have? Rabity it is said… Better not to try any kind of close contact.
Oh! Entrance fee is 30.000 IDR.
Goa Gajah, Elephant Cave
This spot isn´t far away from downtown, if you got your bike it´s a 5 min ride. Entrance fee is 15.000 IDR.
The temple front mimicking an open mouth is amazing! But… the best part was the “secret” path in the back that leads to nowhere! You will find yourselves in the middle of the forest and get to a river. Exhausting but worth it!
Watch every step and follow the hand-made signs up to a Buddhist Temple and your way back.
Rice Terrace Tegallalang
The famous rice terraces in Bali is Tegallalang, but in my humble opinion not the best one!
Being famous means people, people and more people! Full of tourists! However, it´s free, so why not? Walk through the rice paddies and snap some pictures. Once you get tired get a drink in the restaurants with panoramic views. Lay down and enjoy.
This place is in the heart of the town, well… IT IS the heart of the town and trully a show! You will find everything! Souvenirs, novelties, crafting, clothing, food… I recommend walking around before buying, first taking your time to look at the prices, quality, and varieties.
Remember! Bargain! Everything! Everywhere! It´s all fun! Get mad, laugh, cry, go away and come back! Be an actor!
2 days Tour
To travel around Bali, we hired a tour guide… the experience was great! His name is Artana and you can easily find his website. Friendly, educated and speaks both Spanish and English.
Full day is 600.000 IDR (shared with 3 more friends, so 150.000 IDR each) and there´s room for 4 in his air-conditioned Toyota SUV: He will pick up you up in your hotel and drop you there in the afternoon.
There are some tours already set, but you can build your own in case you want to know specific places.
MUST: Located in south-east Bali, Tanah Lot is a beautiful example of Hindu architecture; carve in a rock over the sea shore it´s difficult to get there when there´s high tide. What a beautiful view!
Rice terrace Tabanan- Jatiluwih
MUST: In my humble opnion, the best rice fields in Bali, totally worth the 20.000 IDR entrance fee. It has tracks all over the place where you will find children playing, working women with these huge baskets over their heads, green, green, green in contrast with the mountains in the background… a remarkable landscape!
Photography lovers, this is it!
Ulun Danu Bedugul
Well, this is the famous balinese postcard with its floating temple in the Bratan lake (Catur volcano crater) surrounded by high foggy peaks, looks like a view which came from a tale.
A quick stop to refresh ourselves, it has a pretty balcony where you can get some water/soda and fruits. How many steps to get to the waterfall? OMG! It was exhausting… but after an old lady walked by my side carrying 5 bricks in her head, I told myself Come on! Come on!
Be careful, floor is rocky and may be slippery!
Have you ever heard about Luwak coffee? The one which comes from that little animal´s poo? (Yes, actual poo) Well, it´s the most expensive in the world and our little creator is the Lehmur.
During the visit they will explain the process to treat the coffee beans and meet the Lehmurs. In the end, there´s a free tea and coffee tasting, however, a Luwak coffee cup is 50.000 IDR.
Of course, the shop at last! Souvenirs and Luwak coffee for sale!
There´s a beautiful view from the Balcony!
Anyway, jump to your own conclutions, it may seem like a “tourist trap” (I mean those pointless tours made up only to get some $$ from tourists) to many or an interesting experience for others! You judge!
Pura Tirta Empul
With an entrance fee of 15.000 IDR, this temple was built on top of a spring, which flows all over the place up to “sacred pools”; if you are in the mood (and properly dressed) you can get a purifying bath.
About the dress code, just like almost everywhere else they will lend you a Sharon at the entrance so don´t worry.
MUST. Volcano trekking is the main option but for lazy people (like me!) there are plenty of viewpoints… we went just in front of it, with the greenish lake and some clouds. Great view to take some photos!
The viewpoint was surrounded by monkeys, all over the road were cars come and go! Read again my tips from the Monkey Forest paragraph! Sir, please behave.
Pura Goa Lawah
Small temple whose attraction is a cave full of bats flying and screaming. It´s nothing you haven´t seen already, so if you are short in time it´s OK to skip this one.
Ubud is over; my next stop in Bali was Nusa Dua: My base to visit the beautiful southern beaches.
Rent a scooter, get your GPS and you are good to go! I could easily find my way.
There are two contrasts; the public beach which is dirty but free and the private beach, better taken care of but with a cost from 20 USD per deck chair/day.
There´s a walkway which finishes in some kind of cliffs where the waves splashes really hard and the water goes up making a cool effect.
You can also visit Bali Collection shopping mall (just by the private beach section) where can have a drink, lunch/dinner and of course, shop!
NOTE: Bali Collection and Nusa Dua´s private beach is surrounded by 5* resorts.
Neither fancy hotels nor shopping malls, just above massive cliffs with giant god statues will you find Pandawa Beach.
Just avoid being staying entrance section as it´s usually crowded. Walk all along the beach, rent an umbrella for 30.000 IDR a day and enjoy the blue waters!
There are some small food and beverage stands by the way.
This isn´t just a pretty beach; at the edge of the Cliff there´s a beautiful Temple croweded by monkeys! Again, read my “monkey awareness tips” in the Monkey Forest section. What a place to enjoy the sunset!
Top Bali beach! Don´t miss a sunset here. This one is famous for giving the chance to have a romantic dinner by the sea.
For the single people, Kuta, Bali´s party-town is a few minutes away.