Bali, the lush Indonesian island and province, is a Top 10 destination in 2014. In little over a month I will pack my suit case and travel to the place with the richest variety of flora in the world and the land with the most Muslims and over 90 % Hindus. I feel at peace already.
- ISLAND OF GODS: Bali is known for its beaches, beautiful architecture, religious festivals, volcanic lakes, and 20 000 ancient temples. It is known as the island of Gods, fitting for an island where Hinduism, Buddhism, Animism and others ism’s are a natural way of life co-existing side by side. For a while already Bali has been a playground for backpackers, but lately the island has been given a more luxurious feel. In 2012 Condé Nest readers named the island Asia’s best, thanks to the friendliness, landscape and atmosphere. Surprisingly not for its beaches! Some mean the beaches are great, while others think they are disgusting, but most can agree that the best beach is Nusa Dua.
- UNTOUCHED: With the area stretching 5,632 km² and being a long way from many parts of the world Bali is best suited for long-haul stays. This also makes is possible to explore the less known beaches of Bali, and the beach bars, not less than three should we believe CNN. I get the impression people who have traveled to Bali previously like to say that the island was better 100 years ago, but I hope there are still unspoiled areas and treasures to discover. Enough pictures witness of natural beauty. Mount Batur is that type of treasure – a small volcano set in a beautiful natural landscape setting. It’s popular to take the climb before sunrise.
- BOAT CONNECTIONS: I have read that unfortunately connections by sea are not completely safe. The Lombok Guide recommends Blue Water Express, Gili Getaway and Marina Srikandi. Although the website itself doesn’t look too safe… I like www.gilibookings.com – it looks like a day trip is out of the question due to the schedule so any trips out of Bali with boat will mean we have to book one night on another island. From Lovina the Kuda Hitam Express looks as the only option. The trip to Lombok takes little over one hour. Other trips are bookeable through lavinatours.com, and for longer excursions Lingtang Buana, but mainly I use these sites for finding inspiration to find out where I should go. Know that some areas require a guide!
- TEMPLE SAFARI: Many of the ancient temples are used daily by the Indonesian. Before dawn the gods and dead relatives are consulted respectfully. I will try to take the advice to not visit too many temples, but some are not to be missed:
– The water temple Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, built 1663, surrounded by water – a sure place to find your inner peace!
– Tanah Lot and Ulu Watu: pilgrim sites for both Hindus and vacationers who come to enjoy the view.
– Petitenget-temple: not as famous as the ones already mentioned. The Petitenget is withdrawn and is set on a beach (Reiser & ferie november 2010).
– Mother Temple of Besakih – the largest and holiest temple in Bali, situated on the volcanic mountain Agung.
- BALINESE CUISINE: Nasi Goreng is the Indonesian edition of fried rice and will be enjoyed with the local beer Bintang. With the lands many Muslims I am unsure how good the beer is, surely few locals consume alcohol in Bali. Several magazines and online sites refer to Ku De Ta as the hipster hangout restaurant, but reviews on TripAdvisor make me think the food is not what they come for. I doubt one has to look very hard to stumble upon great food experiences, the net is filled with recommendations. Food enthusiasts are encouraged to visit Bali Asli, in the Gelumpang village, for a real Balinese food experience, the food is prepared by a chef who trained side by side with celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. Reviews on Trip Advisor tell the same tale. If you live close by you should make the Sakti Dining Room your returning restaurant, especially if you enjoy vegetarian dishes. Only non-alcoholic beverages are enjoyed here. The organic Sari Organik offers organic and good home-cooked food. Bali also has several restaurants serving international food, but why opt for these when the Balinese kitchen is filled with local and fresh produced treats? If you need options Cosmopolitan claim Tj’s and Havana are worth a visit (February 2009) if you like Mexican. Poppies is a romantic restaurant offering both local and international dishes. I ate at their restaurant in Koh Samui so I think I will pop by in Bali as well.
- WHERE TO STAY: It is always important to live large and in Bali you can have your own servant if you rent a luxurious villa. It cots, but for longer stays you can have a huge villa with a private pool for less than £100 per night. Another option is Alila Uluwatu with a spectacular pool that looks as if it is floating in air. In Ubud one finds the island most remarkable village Green Village, built almost entirely of bamboo. For a nice view the Viceroy Hotel in Ubud is the best choice it was recently named one of the worlds best hotels by the Five Star Alliance. Samabe Bali Suites & Villas won the award for Best New Hotel, but if you like the feel of wilderness then the Ubud Hanging Gardens Hotel is the closest you can come by in Bali. Massage is an important part of the Balinese culture, not hard then to understand why Bali has several of the world’s best Spa hotels.
- CLIMATE: Bali enjoys a tropical climate with an average of 30 Celsius degrees all year round with a dry and comfortable climate April/May to October/November with most sun in this period. October to March is rain season in Bali and the air gets very moist. The rainy season is not necessarily too bad and the moist air probably makes you welcome the raindrops, but know that it can also rain for days, especially during the winter. If it rains I will attend an Indonesian dance show or«kecak». Maybe even do some shopping.
- AREAS TO EXPLORE: Bali is just one of the 17 508 Indonesian islands – this makes for several possible interesting excursions near and far. «Bemo»’s make it possible to travel around the island without renting a car. Just get out in the road and lift up your hand when you see one. Almost like in Barbados :) The prices are higher for foreigners so really more like Thailand :| Even if it is easy to get around the island prepare for a few hours drive in each direction, at least if you live the north. From Lovina (Singaraja) it takes about 2 hours to travel to the sophisticated beach town Seminyak. From Lovina to the artistic and cultural town Ubud it is the same distance. It is to the latter one goes to do art shopping, Ubud is known as the art town in Bali and offers visitors a piece of traditional Balinese culture. This is also where one finds the boutique coffee studio Seniman Coffee Studio; celebrating the art of coffee-making. The world’s most expensive coffee, Kopi Luwak, is produces in Indonesia, but both the production process and the worth of the coffee are much debated. In the marked one can find treasures made by textile, wood and leather, come carrying cash. Haggling is expected. The nature reservoir Monkey Forest is close by. Here you can see hundreds of apes and they even have a holy temple only for apes. I like apes, but they are not always friendly.
The most touristic area of Bali is Kuta; the city that never sleeps. Probably not without reason; here one can bathe, watch the palms, surf waves, eat good food, shop and go out at night. Kuta is also the island’s natural choice for shopping, shopping streets worth to mention are Legian Street, Poppies Gang 1 and 2. Discovery Shopping Mall has familiar western brands such as Dorothy Perkins and Topshop. About 30 min. away is the Dreamland beach, a surfer’s paradise with waves for advanced surfers.
The new backpacker-paradise is rumored to be the Gili islands outside of Bali, no cars or roads – only horse and cart – , but plenty of Australians and reggae music. Here you get the feeling you have the beach all to yourself, but be ready to share it with fish in all possible colors. You can also rent a bicycle; it takes about one hour to drive around the entire island. If this doesn’t convince you there is a mini-cinema right on the beach where a movie is shown each night. The island is also famous for Magic Mushrooms…
Nusa Dua is a 5 km long beach promenade known as the most luxurious beach of Bali, also shallow so many families choose to stay here. From here it takes about half an hour to the bird park, probably fun if you are not scared of the vicious creatures.
Lovina in the north is known for its black lava sand and dolphin spotting. Come here for peace and quiet.
The fishing village Jimbaran – on the west coast – awakens to life at sunset when visitors flock for delicious (?) treats from the sea. Restaurants are lined up here and all serve fresh food from the sea. There is also a fish marked. FISH FISH FISH.
A unique beautiful village is Tirta Ganga, known for its water palace, should be combined with dinner at Bali Asli.
Bali is situated between Java and Lombok, the latter only 20 minutes away by flight. A small paradise that feels like a world away. Lombok is one of the 27 provinces in the Indonesian island group and is still unspoiled today. Many claim this is Bali 20 years ago. The island is less commercialized than Bali, has cleaner beaches and exciting attractions .In 1966 50,000 people died of fatigue on this island. Lombok is now heavily invested in with several millions invested in accommodation and marketing, so changes will come in the coming years. Go here now if you are into the unspoiled. Lombok in the north has white beaches, huge waterfalls, Mount Rinjani and the mountain village Senaru. The higher the climb the bigger the temperature drops. To view the dramatic mountain views take a seat at the Pondok Senaru Cottages and Restaurant. A visit to Lombok can be combined with a trip to the Gili islands not that far away.
Further away is the island Sulaweski and the Komodo national park, the latter on UNESCO’s world heritage list. Maybe small dinosaurs are nicer than apes?
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