Bali Indonesia… The pearl of Indonesia. Tourist trap or natural beauty ? Well for some it is both, for others it is not. Depends all where you go and where you stay. Places like Kuta, Sanur and Nusa Dua are full with tourists. Other places like Ungasan (near Jimbaran) are quite the opposite. One thing is clear: all over Bali traffic is a killer….. Moving from one place to another can take you hours.
If you prepare your trip right, you can have a really nice time in Bali. But it can also work out the other way. Below a list of pros and cons.
- Stunning landscapes
- Pretty clean island considering the amount of tourists
- Sunsets and sunrises are the best
- Cheap and very good street food all over the island
- At some places: incredible nature and scenery
- Some very good markets for food, food products and for non food products.
- Traffic is a killer
- Can be very hot in February
- Many beaches you have to pay to get in
- Internet is slow
- Nearly no public transport
- At certain beaches and places you need to pay to park your motorbike or car
Choose the right time of the year to come. High season runs from June/July till September. But May is also a very nice month to come. Not tooooo busy 🙂 Plan where you want to stay and make a list of the places you want to go and see. When you make a planning keep in mind that going from 1 place to another takes time…. a lot of time due to the insane traffic. Best way to move from one place to another is by motorbike. Go early morning, then you have not to much traffic.
How to get there.
By plane is the most easiest way. You can fly with low budget airlines like Lion Air to and from Bali to large hubs like Jakarta and Singapore. From there you can get your international flight to Europe or any other destination. Tickets with these airlines are dirt cheap. It’s like taking a bus. 🙂 Don’t expect much on the local flights: you get a seat, 20kg of free bagage allowance and that’s it. No food, drinks, etc. The planes fly on time, save and secure. With all these cheap airlines you can do nearly everything online: booking, check in, etc. Just drop your bags at the drop off points at the airport and off you go !
List of cheap asian airlines.
There are some buses, but i couldn’t figure out which one goes where and at what time. So rent a motorbike. They are not expensive, around 30 to 50,000 rph per day. Gasoline is dirt cheap, round 6,500 for premium. Driving in Bali traffic is as worse as driving in Jakarta. I lived a long time in Thailand and thought that traffic there was horrible, well compared to Bali, Thailand is a breeze. Wear a helmet, have your international driving license with you and drive just like they do. You will be ok !
In general, the roads are quite good. A bit small, no seperate way for the motorbike drivers. The infrastructure on the island has improved quite a bit over the years. You can plan your route by Google Maps but you can also drive following the road signs. The signage is quite good.
Like I said before, if you go early morning to another place you have less traffic and it becomes instantly nice to drive around. The drive up to Ubud is quite nice. Rice fields, small roads, tons of little shops selling whatever stuff, many restaurants (warungs). You can stop at certain places to make photos and have some food. Makes the ride easy and you see and experience alot. On my way to Ubud I planned a different route which was 23km longer and it was worth the ride. Like I said: nice landscapes and scenery.
Indonesian kitchen is very good, to me, one of the best in the world. Lots of fresh spices and ingredients. At the local warungs you can get the best food. Nasi Campur, Ayam Goreng, etc. Prices vary a lot, one warung offers the same as another but cheaper. My experience: In Ungasan the are a couple of warungs near the supermarkets. I tried 4 of them. Ordered Nasi Campur and the prices vary from 15,000 to 22,000. For the same dish…..
If you are up for an all-in-one experience go to a good Masakan Padang. At these restaurants you get plenty of small dishes representing the Indonesian Kitchen (Sumatra actually). You only pay for the rice and the dishes that you have eaten. It is a good experience to get into Indonesian food.
At night you can find sate ayam, mie ayam and more street food style. Fried stuff, steamed stuff, its all there. Go on a food adventure and try it all. Not expensive too.
Besides the street food there is a wide choice of restaurants. Serving local food, asian food and western food. Choice for everybody.
Bring cash. Lots of it. All over the island you can find ATM’s and money changers. But not all ATM’s take all cards. We had a Maestro cards with us, and we really had to look for an ATM that could take Maestro cards. If you have Cirrus or Aplus, no problems. Second, when you take out money from an ATM you can only take out a limited amount of money. All ATM’s are limited. The amounts are usually somewhere between 1,200,000 rph and 2,000,000 rph per withdraw. Depending on your own bank you have to pay a fee every time you take out money. So check with your bank before you go.
All cards are widely accepted. But many businesses prefer VISA and Mastercard. JCB and AMEX are less popular. When you use your credit card for the first time in Bali it is likely that your bank will block it right after you used it. Contact your bank and tell them what you have done or bought and they unblock it again. Apperently, Indonesia is on the financial watchlist so creditcard transactions are being monitored. Same for money transfers like Western Union and Moneygram.
Places to see.
There are tons of places to see. The internet is full with info of Bali so I will keep it short and only write about my personal favourites.
Note: the big places for example: Purah Uluwatu and the Kecak Dance are in my opinion tourist traps. You pay a lot to get in (100,000 for the temple + 30,000 for the kecak dance), and when you are in, it is so busy that you cannot make decent photos because of the shitload of people walking around.
Blue Point Beach Uluwatu
Personally I like to avoid tourist crowds. So if you looking for information about Kuta Beach, Sanur and Nusa Dua, look elsewhere. I stayed in the south east of Bali, in Ungasan. For tourists an unknown spot. The only known place in the area is Green Bowl Beach.
Ungasan is a small place.
But is a very nice place. Not so many tourists. Quite a bunch of surfer boys and girls cross around on their surfmotorbikes. The area is quite small. One road leading to the main road, from which you can go to Uluwatu or to Kuta/Denpasar. That main road have some supermarkets, tons of restaurants and local warungs and some other shopping venues. But that’s it.
From the road (Jalan Bali Cliff) you can access Melasti Beach or Green Bowl Beach. Both very nice.
Ubud and surroundings are very very nice.
The city center is like any other tourist city center. Busy, full with restaurants and tons of shops. The highlight in the center is the market. A huge market where you can find anything but to get there…. A nightmare. The surroundings of Ubud are a dream. Behind the main tourist road in town are rice fields. And very nice ones. You can walk there for hours. Plenty of small guesthouses, homestays, etc. From Ubud town it is a short, well short…, ride to the famous Tegalalang rice terraces. The place is hyped and it is not so nice as the hype says. Full with tourists, tourist shops, tourist rippers, etc. Been there, done it, got a photo and moved on. And that is exactly what you should do. If you drive further you have much more and much nicer rice terraces.
Tegalalang Rice Terraces, Ubud
When you start driving around in the Ubud surroundings you will see some really nice landscape. Also on the way plenty of woodcarving and painting shops. Did I mention the silver shops too ??? Plenty of those. If you are into temples: Goah Gajah is not to far from town and a nice place to go. There is an unkown waterfall in the area too, but ask the locals where it is.
Melasti Beach. One of the few beaches that are still free and quite unknown.
A free beach ! The sand is a bit grainy but ok. Quite clean and very nice surroundings in the form of massive cliffs. When the tide goes out or about to come in, the sea is good for swimming. At high tide, forget it. To much waves. The beach at low tide is quite long you can do a real beach hike below the cliffs and the scenery is amazing. Go around sunset time and you will shoot some of the best sunset photos ever 🙂
Sunset over Melasti Beach Ungasan Bali
Fresh Market Jimbaran. This is awesome.
A street long fresh market. Anything that belongs in your food or in the kitchen you can find here. Fresh fruits, veggies, etc. And sooooo colorful. Go with the motorbike because traffic there is a mess.
Warung Ubay. Great food and very nice people.
She cooked all my favourite dishes on request. This warung is nice. When we were there they were still building it up. But we could try some of the dishes that are not yet on the menu. They gonna do East meets West fusion food too. Like a Rendang Burger !! The traditional food is awesome. I ate nearly the complete menu and it’s just good. Everything. The Ice tea is amazing and when you add lemon to it it becomes even better. Warung Ubay is located opposite the market in Ungasan.
Warung Murni’s. This is, by far, the best restaurant in Ubud.
This is the oldest and also the first warung in Ubud. Now after more than 40 years, Warung Murni’s is still one of the best places to go for food. The warung is 4 stories deep. Deep ? yes deep. Because it is located at the Ubud Bridge and you can go down to nearly the level of the water that flows around the warung. The food is simply amazing and the price quality is more than perfect. The service is top notch. We have been 3 days in a row at Warung Murni’s and everything that we ordered was perfect. From the spaghetti bolognese to the sate lillit. The beef steak was so good, we thought it was import beef. But no ! Local beef !! My god…. that was good. Anyway if you are up for a nice treat in a really nice surrounding, go to Warung Murni’s at the Bridge.
I am not a temple person. So in my highlights you will find not one temple. That doesn’t mean that there are no nice temples. On the contrary. Bali have a lot of very nice temples and you can visit them all. My issue is more that when its 40 degrees i’m not gonna walk in a temple complex in the blistering sun 🙂
Other things of interest is the woodcarving. I’ve seen shops that do some wonderful wood carving for doors, windows, tables, statues, etc. Paintings. Especially round Ubud area there are a lot of painting shops. Some really nice stuff.
If you are into wholesale or you want to buy large quantities of goods, try the Sukawati Traditional Market. It’s located about 20 min. south east of Ubud and you can find everything there. I mean everything. Also if you are good in bargaining you can get some good deals up there. At least half the money that you pay in the major tourist centres. It’s worth the trip !
There is much more to see and to do in Bali. The Islands like Nusa Penida and Lembongan, the north Lovina Beach with the black sand, Blue Lagoon for nice snorkeling and the white beach, the National Park in the west and of course the mighty Vulcano. Also you can go diving at Tulamben and other sites around Bali. There is really plenty to do and to see. The question is can you deal with the cons as mentioned above ? If so, you will have a very very good time overthere, if not you might like Bali, but still have a feeling of dissapointment….
This post is not yet finished. I will update it soon, now I have to sort out some photos for the gallery. 🙂
Coming soon, still editing 🙂