In the past few years, Bali grew to one of the most hyped places in South East Asia and placed itself on a lot of bucket lists. This popularity was for us rather a reason why not to visit. But, we found three good reasons why we still wanted to go. First of all, we wanted to take the chance and visit my cousin, who lives there for about five years now. Also, Denpasar was one of the two airports where we found rather cheap flights to Australia, our next destination. And last but not least, we wanted to see the popular island for ourselves. After all, you do get to see exotic nature, experience the Hindu culture, get glamorous accommodation to a decent price, can try loads of totally “instagramable” foods and on top of that you get to surf or to do a Yoga retreat. On our short trip to this island, we visited Sanur, the Bukit Peninsula, Ubud and Canggu and stayed at each place for two or three nights. As there are already plenty of articles and top ten lists in every way about Bali, I don’t want to bore you with that info. Instead, I’ll tell you how we experienced the island and only note some impressions about the different places we visited in short below.
After almost one month in West Papua and another three weeks in South Maluku, we arrived in Denpasar with a bit of a cultural shock. Suddenly, there were heaps of people and taxi drivers who wanted us to ride with them. Much cheaper than getting around by Taxi is by a Grab or Uber lift (Just head out of the airport parking for that. They are not allowed inside the airport properties.). We weren’t only overwhelmed by all the traffic though, even more, we were startled by the endless consumption opportunities you are offered everywhere. Of course, this is no different in Bali than in any other international city or tourism area, with the small benefit that here, even we could afford almost everything. Different to other places we visited is, that there is very little visible of the authentic Bali life. As in probably all Indonesian areas you are clearly noticed and treated as “Bule” (white person). But other than some places we visited, this seems to be a rather negative thing here in Bali. But who can blame them! There are so many tourists the locals get to see every day. I guess it is just normal that you start not to like them anymore… And on top of that, the people walking around in their swimmers only doesn’t really help. Anyway, after we overcame the first “shock” of being part of the consumption community again, we enjoyed our days on Bali a lot. We spent our time with exploring the island by scooter or Grab/Uber, eating amazing food, swimming in the pool, sunbathing and eating amazing food – oh, did I mention that already? Well, what can I say? It was an important part of our stay. As good as limited consumption options are, we missed the western food and the yummy tropical fruit too! Not only was the food delicious and affordable, there were also tones of well designed (mostly hipster-friendly) restaurants with really nice atmospheres. So, in our opinion, Bali is a great destination for the relaxing holiday with a nice accommodation, a cool pool, amazing foods and some culture and nature to explore and that all to a very affordable price. Perfect for treating yourself for one to two weeks. As a result, Bali is not so much a destination for traveling (Yes, we are making a difference between spending holidays and traveling). Even though we visited only about half of Bali, and the northern part is supposedly less touristic and less crowded, we wouldn’t recommend visiting Bali if you have the time and want to explore an Indonesian Island. There are so many other great islands to see, where you can certainly experience more of the real life happening there.
Sanur is the calmer part of Denpasar at the east coast and also where the boats to the islands east of Bali leave. Along the beach and just one street behind, there are many resorts and some nice restaurants and cafes. To us, it felt a little like being in a small town, which we enjoyed a lot. It is definitely a nice place to stay on your way somewhere else but otherwise only the place to be if you want to spend your time more or less in your resort.
Bali’s southern peninsula offers some nice cliff sides and an excellent Italian restaurant (la Barracca Uluwatu) to visit. Good to know is that all the beaches and therefore also some of the accommodations are only reachable with a lot of steep steps. So, don’t do what we did and go looking for an accommodation with your backpacks on. Also, rent a scooter for the time you’re there. It is the best way to get around, as very little restaurants are within walking distance to each other. The most famous sight in this area is Uluwatu temple. Don’t bother to go an see it, but instead find your way to the lighthouse just next to it. You get an amazing view of the cliffs and the temple and on top of that, you are most probably the only ones at this spot.
Ubud is the town of arts, crafts, and culture. It is now quite touristic and great for shopping too. To our surprise, there is not much nature between Sanur and Ubud. It seems like the two cities are growing together more and more. We did a trip to the close by Tegalang rice terraces while there and thought it was a great thing to do for a short trip. If you have plenty of time, go further north where you will definitely find fewer people and similar landscape.
In Canggu we stayed in a nice villa that had three other rooms and a beautiful pool. This part of the island is great for a relaxing stay and still close to the airport. You will need a scooter too, as you won’t get to all the amazing restaurants (what really would be a shame!) but in this part of the city, everything is really close. Also, there is a quite nice beach to spend some time at and to even do some surfing (for beginners, I believe). For us, the best part about this beach was the absolutely stunning sunset. Don’t miss out on that!