To travel is worth any cost or sacrifice – Elizabeth Gilbert.
Bali is fast becoming a memory, not distant just yet, but fading around the edges when the colourful blues, greens, oranges, pinks are still so bright in my mind. As I swing back into “normal” life (I hate that word, what’s normal?), the past year of travelling is stretching further and further away from me, almost as if it never happened at all. And that is scary. I don’t feel as though I spent eleven months travelling a world away from my usual routine. I did, however, and I need to keep hold tight of those incredible experiences.
Bali, as I have mentioned before, was a complete last minute affair. I mean, I was always going to go to Bali, but I wasn’t planning on going earlier than May, and so it became a different experience entirely. I got to travel Bali with two of my friends I met in Australia instead of attempting this whole new world solo. It is amazing to travel solo, don’t get me wrong but on this occasion, I’m glad I had friends I could turn to as well as have the time of my life with.
We spent a month in Bali. Believe me that month went whizzing by like a Ferrari on a race track. There was still so much we didn’t see or do, so much more of this stunning country to be discovered. There’s always reasons to return to Bali, and even more experiences to be had whether they are adventurous, relaxing, cultural or economical.
Here are just twenty experiences that I would personally recommend!
VISIT SURROUNDING ISLANDS
Of course, Bali itself is beautiful with its lush green forests, cafes and restaurants of all kinds and a scenery that is completely wanderlust worthy. Nevertheless, just beyond its borders are beautiful islands that breathe a calmer, lazier version of the bustling country. The Gili Islands, just like Nusa Lembongan, have no need for vehicles which restricts the amount of traffic noise in the streets. Instead of beeping horns, you will hear the jingles and hooves of a horse-drawn-cart; and all the beaches and the ocean are just walks away from your accommodations.
CLIMB MOUNT BATUR BEFORE SUNRISE
1.30am wake up call? Hiking up a mountain for three hours in pitch black? Sound like fun? Probably not. However, it is definitely something that you have to do in Bali. There’s no other experience like it. The sweat, blood and tears is worth it, I promise you, when you get to the top of that mountain. Watching the sky lighten at 6am in the morning after hiking (and sometimes slipping) up a mountain is incredible. Hopefully you’ll all have better sunrises than we did!
GO TO THE HOT SPRINGS
Just a five minute drive down the road from Mount Batur – the hot springs look out to it. Toya Devasya is the best place for natural hot springs in Bali. It is a jaw-dropping, serene place, even when grey clouds storm are above it and rain threatens to fall. Elephant statues surround the outdoor springs. The water is lovely and warm, as if you’re stepping into a nice, hot bath, but it’s huge, has an infinity edge, and is outdoors. The food is very reasonably priced too, although the drinks are not and there is a huge villa complex if you want to stay too!
CYCLE THROUGH A RICE PADI
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do this although we did plan on it. However, I thought I would include it in today’s post because it is one of those things that everyone does when they’re in Bali. We all regret not doing it, the others more so than me – I’m not exactly best mates with bikes, but think of the Instagram posts! I would have loved to have at least walked through them. We did enjoy them from afar, when we ate lunch in Ubud overlooking the rice paddies. They are beautiful to look at, and I bet incredible to pass through.
Uluwatu Temple is the king of the temples in Bali. Set upon a clifftop, overlooking the gorgeous blue seas, it’s no wonder it is such a huge tourist attraction. Walking up the stairs to the top isn’t the most fun aspect of the trip here, especially in scorching weathers, but it is worth the incredible view and sitting in an outdoor rest area that is sheltered from the sun. In the temple grounds, there is so much architecture, religious and traditional, to see as well as trees to pass by and monkeys to watch as they destroy the food left for them.
Okay, so I wouldn’t personally hire one again (and I didn’t even drive it!) because Alice and I had a little accident which could have been a much worse one if we weren’t wearing our helmets. I still have the scars to forever remind me of that lovely day in Nusa Lembongan. But, if you feel confident, and you’re not stupid, and you can drive a car at least, hire one. It’s a pretty fab experience to have your hair flowing in the wind and scooting through the roads, past hundreds of trees, and it is really cheap with most hiring at around £2.50/$5 per day.
BARTER AT A MARKET STALL
Everyone loves a bargain! In Bali, it’s no different. Here, it is so easy to be lured in by all of the pretty patterns and bright colours, and that’s just on the clothes! Jewellery, accessories, dreamcatchers, bags and more are lined up, hung up down full streets and along market stalls. Once you enter (if you aren’t put off by the constant “Buy this! Cheap price! What would you like?”), and you like something, chances are the seller will be on you like a hawk on a mouse. You will be able to get it down to a cheap price, at least a lot cheaper than what they were originally offering you it for. You save money and get a piece of Bali to take home!
DRINK AT A BEACH CLUB
As I drink my glass of wine whilst writing this, I half wish that it was a fruity cocktail and I was in a faraway beach club. One that is insanely popular, especially with tourists, is Potato Head Beach Club in Seminyak. It is huge, with plenty of huge outdoor beds to lounge on, a swimming pool, a drink selection for every kind of drinker, fabulous food and it leads right onto the beach. The best thing? You can watch the sun set beautifully from this spot. Get dressed up, or head their in your bikini and kaftan. Either way, you’ll have an absolute ball there.
WATCH THE SUN SET
This is a given at any new holiday destination, but believe me when I say that Bali sunsets are some of the most incredible I have seen! Watching the sun’s glow dip and disappear behind the ocean, and the sky turn from blue to various purples and pinks and oranges, it is mesmerising.
WATCH THE SUN RISE
The sun rises are just as spectacular, especially if you climb a huge mountain beforehand to see it.
GET A BALINESE MASSAGE
You know when you head to a spa in the UK, or in Australia, or even in Europe, the prices are quite ridiculously high in some places, right? In Bali, it’s the complete opposite. I was paying around £5/$10 at most for incredible hour long full body massages with oil. I haven’t had a full body massage before; as I pointed out, the prices are pretty steep for my liking and so I relished in the two massages I got. I know, I should have gotten more whilst I had the chance. Dan and Alice kindly paid for my second massage as an early birthday present at Serenity and it was so amazing. The ladies really know how to make you relax and get those knots out of your muscles.
EAT LOCAL FOOD
It is a given in any foreign country away from our own: we have to try the local delicacies and eat as a local would eat. Some of the food in Bali is amazing, obviously. Their nasi goreng and gado gado are immensely popular, even among western tourists. Also, the fruits they serve for breakfast each morning are so delicious (apart from some too ripe papaya). Plus, the fruits are extremely colourful, making them much more mouth-watering. Food from across the world is served, some with a Balinese twist.
GO TO THE BUTTERFLY PARK
The Butterfly Park is located in Tabanan, not too far from Denpasar by car. You are welcomed with open arms even before you step through the front doors to the park. Then, at reception you receive a hospitable glass of juice on arrival. Once inside the actual garden of butterflies, they flutter their wings beside you, land on various plants and flowers and even on people’s heads too. There is also an indoor facility within the park where you can see carcasses of caterpillars as well as new-born butterflies and moths not-yet-ready to take flight. It’s an understated tourist attraction but really worth taking a look around.
HEAD TO THE BEACH BARS IN CANGGU
Canggu have the best beach bars in Bali, hands down. One particular favourite of mine is The Lawn. It has live music, a DJ booth in an old food truck, amazing cocktails and an atmosphere that reminds you that you are in blissful Bali, soaking up the holiday vibes whilst sitting on cushions on the floor and having a laugh with your friends.
SWIM IN A WATERFALL
Another one that I didn’t get to do! I curse myself for not heading to a waterfall before I accidentally fell off a moped, as afterwards I couldn’t go in water properly. There is a popular waterfall in Bali that attracts people from all over the world for its amazing waters and quirky signs, it is located in Ubud! It has cute wooden signs and mini waterfalls to jump from into the pool below if you’re brave enough.
SHOP IN SEMINYAK, UBUD & CANGGU
You know when you really wish you had more money with you. Walking up and down the streets of Seminyak, Ubud and Canggu really made me feel like that. There are shops that have obviously been westernised but the clothes and accessories in each are still entirely different to any garment you would find in the UK. Even the market stalls – as I said before – are full of unique pieces that may not be of as good quality but are beautiful in their own traveller style way. I said over and over that I would love to go Christmas shopping in Bali, to get so many unique presents for loved ones. The best thing is that even though the shops have higher prices than the market stalls, they aren’t as expensive as some pieces in the UK or Australia. If some pieces are, they are completely unique so you won’t see anyone in those pieces once you return home!
WAKE UP TO FRESH FRUIT JUICES
Possibly one of the best things about mornings in Bali are the fresh fruit juices that you can get at pretty much any homestay, hostel, café or restaurant. My favourite by far is the watermelon juice. It’s so fresh and light, perfect for any time of day really.
FIND A LOCAL FOOD FESTIVAL
This may be harder to do than any of the others. We stumbled upon a food festival during our stay in Sanur. There were plenty of stalls – up to eight I think – all with different foods: western, Indonesian, cake stands, BBQ, Mexican and more. It was fairly cheap too and spread under a fairy-light ceiling which looked further beyond to the stars. Clothes and art stalls had also set up shop if anyone wanted to buy a souvenir too. We could also hear a live singer in the near distance, giving a lovely ambience.
SPEAK TO THE LOCALS
This is a given, and how you will get insider knowledge of Bali. The locals are lovely in Bali, most are only too happy to help with recommendations and some love to practice their English. There are some who literally only see dollar signs when they see you, but once you’re clear of them, you’re good to go.
GO TO A YOGA RETREAT
I half did this. I went and stayed at a yoga resort but did no yoga. I was, however, surrounded by a lot of peace and tranquillity during my final week in Bali. The ambience that yoga presents will do that to your surroundings. If you want to go all Julia Roberts/Elizabeth Gilbert for a couple of weeks or months, Bali is the place to be when it comes to all things zen.
Are you wanting to head to Bali as soon as possible? Have you been? What would you add to your Bali bucket list?
Love, Faye xo