Wanderlust Destinations: BALI

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Located in Southern Indonesia, to the east of Java lies the “Island of Gods” and tourist hotspot, Bali. Both rich in culture and stunning geographical wonders, there’s no surprise that this tropical island paradise demands the attention of travellers around the globe. However, this location is more than just a collection of pristine beaches, world-class dining, celebrated shopping and lush terraced fields, which can only be described as an atmospheric essence. This authentic character, which I’m trying to convey, can only be attributed to the warm and welcoming character of the Balinese locals who represent the Bali vibe.

This recent trip was the sixth time I have been to Bali and although I love everything Bali has to offer, it’s the humility and kindness of the locals that keep me coming back. No matter what your taste or budget, I promise that Bali has something for you, with each diverse area offering its own unique qualities. Catering to a different type of traveller, there are varying languages, traditions, cuisines and atmospheres between locations to suit the solo explorer to the most luxurious holidaymaker.

I’ve compiled a list of highlights, tips and recommendations from my Bali trip to help you narrow down the endless options to stay, eat and play (I’ve only included my favourites). It was such a joy to write this and indulge my love of travel, whilst re-living some serious travel porn.

Ummmm so when is the next flight leaving?

Locations:

Seminyak; Upmarket Bali, Seminyak is renowned for it’s boutique ambiance, sophisticated eateries, designer shops, luxurious resorts and beachside bars and day clubs. (Sounds pretty great, I know!)

Ubud; The Artistic Centre of relaxation and nature at its finest, with a much slower pace than Kuta and Seminyak. Think… a carefree vibe, holistic spa treatments, yoga retreats, organic cafes and local markets. Perfect location for escaping technology and your fast paced lifestyle and reconnecting with you! (Or your significant other)

Canggu; Located 20 mins from Seminyak and known for expansive rice paddies, traditional villages and an 8km strip of black sand beach and reef breaks, including Echo Beach. Canggu is a great location for confident surfers and watching the sunset over a Balinese BBQ, cabs can be a little rare but they are around.

Jimbaran; Calm waters and uncrowded glorious white sand beaches make this an ideal location for swimmers and beginner surfers alike. However, it is the beachside grilled seafood restaurants that make Jimbaran Bay a real tourist attraction in the evenings, particularly for the marvellous sunsets. Accommodation in this area is mostly upmarket resorts and private seaside villas with unique designs, dedicated staff and private swimming pools.

Uluwatu; Always leave the best till last I say! With dramatic cliffside rooms and panoramic Indian Ocean views, accommodation in Uluwatu ranges from modern minimalist architecture to traditional Balinese warungs and beach shacks. Secluded from busy tourist areas, this tranquil location certainly still maintains the spiritual charm of the rest of the Island with an added luxury and style that makes it ever so desirable.

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Currency

The Indonesian “Rupiah” is the local currency, usually abbreviated to Rp.

We used Debit and Credit cares almost everywhere we went, with only needing cash to pay for taxis, some activities and market items. I found that the easiest way of getting cash was at ATM rather than the currency exchanges on the street (they often use trickery to confuse even the most experienced travellers). Prices are often listed in US dollars for activities and at some hotels so be careful of exchange rates they use; the price is never usually in your favour.

Basically – Approx. $100,000 Rp. is equal to:

$9.50 AUS

$8.35 US

$6.60 Euro

(Yes, It’s very easy to become a millionaire in Bali!)

Activities

Whether you’re after extreme adventure, indulgence and pampering or to tip your toes in a sea of culture, there are activities available to suit every type of traveler.

A few that I loved are:

  • Surfing- some of the best waves in the world, with different breaks to suit varying skill levels
  • Scuba Diving
  • Trekking volcanoes
  • Ubud tours- bus it through the famous archipelago by visiting rice paddies, local remote villages, tea plantations and painting studios
  • Witness the rich cultural heritage through traditional dance performances and visit ornate temples (Uluwatu temple is my favourite)
  • Ubud Monkey Forest
  • Horseback riding at sunset
  • Visit a local orphanage
  • Balinese cooking class (YUM!)
  • White water rafting
  • Waterbom Park
  • High ropes course
  • Run the stairs at Kubu Beach
  • Yoga (there are so many amazing retreats in Ubud)

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STAY:

One Eleven, Seminyak

Type:              One Bedroom Villa, $$$$

Specs:             – Private and incredibly spacious open-plan villa, complete with 14m swimming pool, spa gazebo, modern stone and wood interiors, living area and bedroom opening to the pool

Attentive butler service and chef for in-villa breakfast dining, full contemporary kitchen services, including a Nespresso coffee machine, indoor and outdoor showers and a relaxing stone bath.

Best Strawberry Caprioskas!!

Great for:      Adult-only sanctuary, privacy, prime location, luxury, unrivalled first-class service and friendly hospitality

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Karma Kandara, Uluwatu

Type:              One Bedroom Villa, $$$$

Specs:             Located in the remote areas of Bali in the most stunning setting, private villa amongst the jungle on the bank of a creek, complete with a plunge pool and gazebo. Dine and sleep in the lap of luxury, with several dining options including a health conscious in-room menu. Catch the inclinator down the cliff face enjoying the most spectacular panoramic views of the ocean, when your toes reach the sand you are then welcomed by infinite crystal clear water and miles of undisturbed beach. Karma Beach Club is situated on the beach where you can sit back and relax with a cocktail or two and grab a bite to eat (the grilled fish is to die for, I had it 3 times during my stay!!)

Great for:      Romance, couples, health conscious, world-class spa treatments and hot tub overlooking the ocean, foodies, luxury, relaxation, private beach, seclusion, weddings

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Ayana Resort, Jimbaran

Type:              Resort room, $$$

Specs:             290- room and 78 private Villa resort; located on 90 hectares of pristine oceanfront and cliff-side land, this iconic resort is truly mesmerising. The site includes 15 restaurants and bars, including the famous, Rock Bar. With no hope of ever getting bored, there are 11 swimming pools and an extensive list of recreation activities available, including picnic lunch at the exclusive white sanded, Kubu Beach. As an integrated resort there is a shuttle service available between Ayana Resort and Rimba and the luxurious spa.

Great for:      Aquatonic Seawater Therapy Pool, variety of lavish dining options, sunset cocktails at Rock Bar, families, weddings, romantic vacation, relaxation, fitness (I dare you to try running the stairs at Kubu Beach)

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Rimba, Jimbaran

Type:              Pool View Suite, $$$

Specs:             Recently opened resort featuring pool and garden view guestrooms and suites with spacious closet space, marble bathtub, luxurious natural finishings and elevated views with balcony to enjoy the spectacular sunset and multi-level pool. Beautifully manicured gardens, 6 swimming pools and the award winning Thermes Marins Spa certainly make it easy to relax and unwind.

Great For:     Families, cocktails at the Unique Rooftop Pool Bar, private poolside cabanas, signature spa treatments, access to the facilities of Ayana Resort

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Ziva E Boutique Villas, Seminyak

Type:              One Bedroom Villa, $$$

Specs:             Six private Balinese style one-bedroom villas and a three-bedroom villa in the heart of Seminyak. Each villa includes it’s own tropical garden sanctuary, open plan living and a secluded pool only footsteps from your bedroom. Modern outdoor stone bathroom and shower finish off the tranquil atmosphere well. Such a hidden gem!

Great for:      Large feature pool, couples, honeymoon, within walking distance to shops and restaurants, privacy, value for money, breakfast cooked in-house by villa chef (omelettes, yum!), welcoming and attentive staff!

 

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The Haven, Seminyak

Type:              Resort room, $$

Specs:             Clean and comfortable resort style rooms with simple interiors and Japanese sliding doors onto the balcony. My room was facing one of the resort style pool and daybeds, half shaded and half in the sun. The Sabeen restaurant forms the front of the resort and features an extensive buffet breakfast and live music in the evenings.

Great For:       Gym, Prime location, affordability, families, couples, convenience, in-house bar, live entertainment and happy hour, plus it’s a $2 taxi ride to most of the best restaurants in Seminyak! Also close to Bintang Supermarket.

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FOOD:

Motel Mexicola

Location: Seminyak

$2-$22

Very cool, great food, great atmosphere… Amazing authentic Mexican food and did I need to say more than Tacos and Tequila…?

The Earth Café

Location: Seminyak

$5-$14

Vegan, gluten free, store with organic supplements, herbs, produce and cosmetics. They preach a balanced wholefood diet and a healthy and happy lifestyle… and they prepare to DIE for fresh juices, what’s not to love!

Sea Circus

Location: Seminyak

$3.5-$15

Quirky restaurant, cocktail bar, and coffee den which is perfect for brunch and good coffee. The Quinoa & chia seed coconut milk porridge with grilled banana, pistachios & goji Berries is a MUST TRY!

Beachside Seafood Dinner

Location: Jimbaran Bay

$50-100 pp.

Uniformed outdoor tables line the beach, filled with travellers feasting on bbq seafood feasts. Ensure your get there early to choose the freshest seafood and enjoy the live music, dancers and the romantic sunset.

Rock Bar

Location: Ayana Resort, Jimbaran Bay

$18-$22 Cocktail

Nothing can describe the setting and ambience of this world-class bar, it is unrivalled in Bali. That being said, line up a few hours before sunset as this is their busiest period and the cliff-side inclinator is the only way in and out. Rock bar is perfect for high quality snack food and well-made beverages, well worth the price and the wait.

Tip: hotel guest get priority entry so could be an excuse for a one-night stay.

Potato Head Beach Club

Location: Seminyak

$11-$14 cocktails, $12-$19 meals in the beachside bistro

Lay back on the beachside daybeds with an exotic cocktail in hand and watch the sunset over the infinity pool. Think art, fashion, culture and international DJS and Bands, mixed with both upscale and home-style dining options.

Barbacoa

Location: Kerobokan

Rustic loft-style dining, with private bar. Barbacoa features a Latin American style menu of “small sharing dishes” filled with authentic BBQ grill and wood fire flavours. My favourite dish was the charcoal octopus and the lamb empanadita. A definite culinary treat whilst in Bali!

Alchemy

Location: Ubud

Raw Vegan Café and salad bar, juice and smoothies. Home-made clean snacks, raw desserts and chocolates. All ingredients locally sourced and organic and did I mention delicious! If you’re like me and you crave health and wholefood normality then this will be your favourite destination.

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TRANSPORT

In order to get to Bali you need to book your flight to Denpasar Airport, which is conveniently located within close proximity to most of the popular destinations in Bali. Approximately 15 minutes to Kuta, 20 minutes to Seminyak, 30 mins to Nusa Dua, Uluwatu and Canggu and 1.5 hours to Ubud. Catching a taxi from the airport is easy, with most cabs having a fixed rate depending on your desired location. However, most hotels will provide an airport transfer in the price of your accommodation and will have their friendly staff waiting for you at the airport with your name on a sign and cold refreshments (our poor driver had to wait 3 hours with our flight delay and still greeted us with a warm, welcoming smile).

To get around, you can:

Hire a motorbike

Taxi

Hire a driver

Motorbike Taxis (Ensure they are wearing a vest displaying their registration number and are part of a legitimate company)

Some accommodation comes with a shuttle service

If you book a tour/ activity they will come and pick you up from your hotel

BEACHES:

Echo Beach ,Canggu

Padang Padang, Uluwatu

Karma Beach, Karma Resort

Kubu Beach, Ayana Resort

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TOP TIPS:

  • Forget your massive handbag, a small cross body bag is perfect for keeping your valuables close
  • You will need $25 US on arrival to Denpasar for your 30 day visa and $200,000 Rp. in departure tax to leave the country
  • If travelling in a taxi, ensure it has a meter and that the driver is willing to turn it on. This will avoid getting ripped off at the end of your trip. Remember: You can always get back out if they don’t agree!
  • Call your bank before you leave to let them know where you are travelling and for how long, you don’t want your cards to be cancelled by not informing them.
  • The exchange rates in the airport are not as good as outside so don’t get excited and change too much before you leave/when you arrive.
  • Drink and brush your teeth with bottled water, do not open your mouth in the shower.
  • Never take the first price for any souvenirs, test your bargaining skills and barter, barter, barter!
  • There is certainly a lot to offer in the main tourist areas but make sure you venture away from the bustling hotspots and take the road less travelled. Visit some untouched local beaches, restaurants and areas that aren’t affected by commercialisation. I found the unplanned trips to be the highlight of my holiday!
  • Things to pick up: Balinese tea and coffee, facial masks, herbs (I found the best spice mix ever!!) and anything crochet.
  • Keep small denominations on you to pay for taxis, tips and cheap daily expenses (some may say they don’t have change or will be unwilling to change big notes)
  • Make sure you get comprehensive travel insurance- be sure to check if you are covered when driving a moped
  • Check out @thebalibible on Instagram for amazing locations to visit

WHAT TO PACK:

  • Lightweight breathable clothing
  • Beach cover-up/ kaftan
  • 2 pairs of swimmers
  • Runners + shorts/ shirt
  • One pair of heels (I only wore mine at some of the luxury hotel restaurants)
  • Sandals/ thongs
  • Sunscreen SPF30+ (it’s a lot more expensive in Bali than in most Western countries so it’s worth packing)
  • Hat
  • Camera!!
  • Medications- Bali belly is real (I’ve been to Bali 6 times and have never needed anything but you never know!)

Pack your suitcase and then halve it before you go…

Remember, the shopping is amazing!

 

Bon Voyage xx

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