I’m so excited to share my very first article of my new travel blog with you, and I couldn't be happier to start this journey in Bali, Indonesia.
Bali is the first stop of a five month adventure which will see me and my partner Sean travel to Vietnam, Greece, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal and Qatar, returning back home to the beautiful Sunshine Coast, Australia, around mid 2018.
Bali has long been a favourite travel destination for many people and its beauty is certainly no secret anymore. Hordes of hippies traveled here as early as the 1970s and more recently, the island has become a second home for surfers, yogis and digital nomads seeking a more peaceful life.
Coming back to Bali after my first trip here in 2012, a few things have certainly changed, but other things have remained exactly the same, making the island feel like home just the way it did back in 2012. Even though the popularity of Bali has dramatically increased over the last few years, the Balinese people seem to be as welcoming as ever.
The best way to explore Bali and venture beyond the tourist hot spots is definitely on a scooter. Leave your heavy backpack at the guest house, pack a small bag and take a road trip to the more remote areas of Bali, taking in the scenery at your own pace and stopping for food and refreshments at one of the many "warungs". Renting a scooter is cheap and it's fun whizzing past small villages, the wind blowing in your hair and children waving "helloooo".
Bali has a lot to offer and depending on what kind of traveler you are, different parts of the island will have different things to offer: If you're into surfing, then you should check out the south western beaches such as Uluwatu (southern peninsular), or Canggu along the western coast. If you're seeking a peaceful holiday and would like to do yoga, Ubud is for you. If you prefer to simply lay on a white sandy beach and drink cocktails, then the south eastern beaches of Nusa Dua are for you. Snorkeling and diving enthusiasts would get the most out of their holiday on the Eastern coast including Amed.
In general, I recommend basing yourself around the town of Ubud due to its central location on the island, its huge choice of good restaurants & cafes, and of course because its surrounding scenery is simply beautiful! Narrow roads snake their way through coconut palm fringed rice paddies, giving the colour green a new definition. The locals still follow their ancient traditions here, laying out small offerings several times a day and attending family ceremonies at the local temple.
If you're into yoga or have been wanting to try it, Ubud is the place to do it. The most popular and well known yoga and retreat centre here is The Yoga Barn, which was established in 2007 and which provides a lush and inspiring environment for the nourishment of body, mind and soul right in the center of town. We attended several classes here and it truly is a very special place! After class, make sure to chill out at their "Garden Kafe" for Ubud's best coffee and tasty food.
If you feel like venturing out a little further and want to spend a couple of quiet days among pristine rice terraces and do absolutely nothing, I recommend staying at Sidemen. A small village in Karangasem Regency approx. 35 kilometers east of Ubud, Sidemen is surrounded by unspoiled rice fields, coffee plantations and lush river valleys. The area has not been discovered my mainstream tourism yet, and there is a general feel of time standing still. Chickens still freely roam the pot holed roads, farmers tend to their fields, and tourists are being eyed off with curiosity. So why has Sidemen escaped mass tourism? Probably because it is a little farther from the airport than Ubud and because there is simply not a lot here. This doesn't mean that there isn't much to do here, it just means that the area hasn't seen as much development (yet) and people still live in a more or less traditional way. For me, it's the perfect place to chill out for 2 or 3 days, read a book, do some yoga or simply wander around the beautiful pristine rice fields...
If you're into surfing and cool bars, then you may want to spend a couple of days in Canggu. A small coastal area located on the western side of Bali, Canggu is only about an hour's drive north of the airport and 20 minutes north of popular Seminyak. It's a relaxed blend of surf, yoga, good bars and restaurants and less hectic than Kuta or neighbouring Seminyak. Canggu seems to attract a more chilled out crowd seeking a laid back coastal lifestyle. There is definitely a feeling of change in the air though, with lots of construction happening along the main thoroughfares.
For the ultimate motorbike enthusiasts or simply to enjoy a drink in a relaxed atmosphere, a visit to Deus Ex Machina's "The Temple of Enthusiasm" is an absolute must. If you happen to be around on a Sunday, make sure to check out their Sunday sessions and enjoy live music from Indonesian and international bands.
Have you ever wanted to see an active volcano? Then you should hop onto your scooter and head to Mount Batur (Kintamani) which is located at the center of two concentric calderas in the north of Bali.
The south east side of the larger caldera contains a beautiful, crystal clear lake which was formed by an ancient volcanic eruption. To get here, take any of the main roads leading North from Ubud (e.g. Jalan Raya Tegallalang) and after a good hour you will get to a T-intersection from which you can either go left or right. The view will be amazing (on a clear day) from either side!
For a scenic coffee break, turn left at the above mentioned T-intersection and stop at Kintamani Coffee House (@kintamaniecobikecoffee) which is a boutique coffee roastery and cafe overlooking Mount Batur and the adjoining lake. The coffee is probably the best in the Northern part of Bali and the quirky design and friendly staff are a standout.
If you know me personally, you'd be well aware of my obsession with food. Generally speaking, you could say that my day revolves around either thinking about, or at least planning my next meal, whether it be home cooked or enjoyed from some random road side stall. Bali, like many other places in Asia, is an absolute haven for (street) food, and I've been trying my hardest to get through all the amazing delicacies that this place has to offer. The best places to eat are usually the smaller, family owned "warungs". Eating at a warung means you will get the tastiest and most authentic Balinese food possible. Most places will have a menu in English language, but even if they don't, just order Mie Goreng (fried noodles) or Nasi Goreng (fried rice) and you will be understood!
If you would like to venture out a little more on the food side, I recommend trying Babi Guling (spit roasted suckling pig) or Bebek Bengal (crispy duck), both of which meals are typical for Bali. The best places to sample these dishes are dedicated Babi Guling or Bebek Bengal warungs, which are easily recognizable due to their name or advertisements on the street. If you're interested in some delicious street food, make sure to try chicken or pork sate from the many vendors who pop up on the side of the road at various times of the day. These meat skewers are absolutely mouth watering as they are grilled over a char coal barbeque and drowned in a decadent, sweet peanut sauce. Yum! Another tasty dish is called Bakso, which is basically a clear beef broth soup with meatballs, rice noodles, green vegetables and fried shallots. For vegetarian options, I can heartily recommend Bubuh Bali, a cheap and delicious comfort meal of warm rice porridge, spiced wilted spinach and a hard boiled egg.
Although we initially intended to do some island hopping to see more of Indonesia, we ended up spending all our time in Bali, allowing ourselves to truly enjoy the island, its culture, people and of course the food. It's easy to cram a million things into a travel itinerary, wanting to tick off everything the guide books suggest, but sometimes it's just nice to stay in the same place for a little while and watch the world go by over a cup of tea... If you have not been to Bali yet, I highly recommend making the island of Gods your next travel destination!