Last week we had been to Bali for a mini vacation. For 2 reasons – firstly, to get a good break before I join my new organization and secondly, to go on a honeymoon – (thanks to our schedule) within first year of our marriage which I had promised my wife. Though you may call it clichéd to say this that it was a truly memorable experience. And Bali just added to it. Bali is indeed a very beautiful place – beautiful beaches, an active volcano; spectacular temples and lush green rice fields – all packed in just one island. Initially, I thought that the island is of same size as Singapore and thought a four day trip should be enough to cover all the places; but to my surprise it turned out to be almost seven times bigger than Singapore. The total square area of Bali is little over 5000 square kilometers, where as Singapore is just 710 square kilometers. I think you need at least seven days to cover all the places and have a relaxing vacation in Bali. I am glad we did some good planning and research, as we were able to cover most of the places and had ample time to enjoy as well. The purpose of this post is to share my experiences and the information which I had gathered during my research, so that it can be useful to others who are planning their trip to Bali.
Blog posts from Kweeling regarding Bali are very informative and you can get some very good information regarding Bali maps and list of guide/tour drivers to hire in Bali. I will not repeat the same information on my blog; so you can refer to this link http://kweeling.com/blog/tag/bali/ for more detailed information. You must also read Bali travel guide from Lonely Planet and follow these links https://www.google.com/bookmarks/l#!threadID=GKKu6ah1ACnE%2FBDSNTgwoQgobMnJcl which I have bookmarked on Google and helped me in planning my trip. Below is the list of resources which must go through for your research before planning the trip:
- Bali posts from Kweeling
- Important links to read/follow on Bali shared on my Google Bookmarks
- Lonely Planet Bali Travel Guide
Travelling to Bali
You should book your tickets and hotels well in advance when you are planning your trip and make sure that you check the hotel reviews on TripAdvisor before booking. Because Bali is such a popular destination, you must do your planning at least two months in advance before the trip. For airline bookings, I would suggest you check all the airlines flying from your country to see who can offer you a better deal. If you are planning trip from Singapore you can check these airlines – AirAsia, Jetstar, Lion Air, Garuda Indoensia and Silk Air.
Bali has a myriad of hotels and you can find all type of hotels – ranging from a mere US $10 per day to exquisite seven star hotels – that suits your budget needs. Most of the hotels in Bali provide Internet bookings. If you are planning a honeymoon or a vacation along with your kids, it is important to have a booking in advance, so that you get better package deals. But if you are going in group and with friends, then I think it would be good idea to book a hotel for the first day (i.e. day you reach Bali) and then find a better accommodation for the other days. South Bali (Kuta, Legian) and East Bali (Nusa Dua, Tanjung Benoa) have lot of better hotels. Personally I prefer Kuta as it is centrally located, very lively, has lot of good hotels, pubs and bars. But bear in mind that it is very crowed; so if you are planning to have a peaceful vacation and stay away from the crowd then you must consider either East Bali (Nusa Dua), Ubud or North Bali. East Bali has lot of good hotels of generally 4 star and 5 start categories with private beaches. You will already know what place you would like to stay if you had read through all the links/sites which I had listed above.
The map below show the list of hotels along Kuta beach:
I went through the websites of all the hotels in the map above to see which will best suit my needs and budget. Also, we had been pretty late in starting to look for an hotel. So our main criteria had changed to “Availability”. Finally we booked an Alam Villa at AlamKulKul Boutique and Beach Resort, located in Legian. It was a nice hotel with Balinese style rooms. The hotel staff was very hospitable and helpful. But personally I feel it was overpriced for the kind of the rooms provided ($190 for an Alam Villa). One can opt for a room here if the hotels in Kuta are fully booked as you can easily walk to Kuta.
Restaurants in Bali
Bali, as an island that it is, it is known for its seafood. Jimbaran, we were told is the most famous. Kuta, being a major tourist hub, you will find a huge variety for restaurants and joints. McD is a common sight in Bali. Being a vegetarian, my biggest apprehensions was to not find my kind of food. But it didn’t last long. In the airport itself, an ad of an Indian restaurant caught our sight. Queens Tandoor is the one. It’s an award winning hotel in Indonesia and Philippines. Apart from having a big place for themselves in Seminyak, they also have a small stall in the Kuta food court. This was the most convenient for us. After binging upon the some of the most delicious food, we would just walk to our Villa.
When in Bali
Unless, you are looking for a different kind of adventure, I think it is better to hire a tour driver/guide in Bali rather than to rent a car and going around the places on your own if you are in Bali for less than a week. Though I admit that would be fun, but most of the roads in Bali do not have any signs or directions and it would be difficult without any help from locals to reach the destination. I came across this post from Kweeling which provided a list of good drivers/guides in Bali who are recommended by tourists. I managed to contact Mr. Tattoo from that list and he helped us arrange one of his sub-ordinate Mr. Putu whom I booked as my tour driver for my three day stay. He came to airport to receive us and was there with us from then on. I was happy with his service and highly recommend him if you are planning to hire a tour driver in Bali. He is a very good driver and gave us good suggestions so that we can cover most of the places during our limited stay in Bali. In case you want to book him, you can contact him @ firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also call him @ +62 85 857238859, but make sure that you call him at least a week before you are reach Bali. I have requested Kweeling to update her blog post to his details as well, so you can get the other details when she updates her post.
According to me; these are the places you must see/visit in Bali:
- Cliff hanging temple at Pura Uluwatu and Kecak Dance
- Pura Tanah Lot
- Kuta Beach
- Royal Palace and Monkey Forest in Ubud
- Mount Kintamani and Lake Batur
- Gitgit waterfall and Banjar hot springs
- Ulu Danu in Bedugul
- Besakih temple
- Pura Trita Empul Temple
- Barong and Kris dance
- Tegallalang rice terrace
- Famous sunrise points – Sanur beach and Mount Kintamani and Batur. There are special treks arranged to Mount Kintamani starting 1am for catching a beautiful sunrise view.
- Famous sunset points – Pura Tanah Lot, Kuta beach and Uluwatu
- GWK – GWK has the statue of Vishnu and Garuda which is not yet fully built. So it would be OK, if you skip this location if you don’t have time.
What to do in Bali
Water activities at Tanjung Benoa beach – I don’t think there is any water sport not available in Bali. From parasailing to flying fish, snorkelling to ocean-walking and jet ski. It’s a complete package. The prices for all the activities are over-quoted for tourists and you must bargain for a better deal. Since I didn’t bargain the prices, I ended paying almost double for most of the activities. So “Bargain” is the keyword. It is advisable to do good research beforehand to avoid getting your wallet empty. You can get a fair idea by just running through the pamphlets that are freely available at the airport.
Balinese Spa and Massage – Bali is famous for its traditional massage and spa, so try not to miss it when you are in Bali. We had a two hour spa treatment and massage at Galuh Spa. I felt that the spa treatment had a feminine touch to it which I didn’t really appreciate, but my wife enjoyed. I would rather go for massage alone than the whole package. My wife also tried Jamu Traditional Spa in the name of pampering herself. She found the service and amenities were better at Jamu. But with service comes the price; Jamu Traditional Spa was costlier than Galuh Spa. In fact we managed to get a good deal at Galuh Spa with the help of Mr. Putu (our driver); the price on their website is – as everywhere in Bali – over-quoted.
Shopping – Bali is famous for its fine arts and handicrafts, antique and semi-antique furniture, paintings, delicately carved jewellery, wood and stone carvings, masks, woven and dyed fabrics. If you are interested in buying those then there are many shops in Kuta/Legian area. Sukawati art market is also famous among tourists and is on the way to Ubud. You can refer to this link for more information.
Though this post won’t be a comprehensive guide to travel in Bali, because all the information is already out there on the Internet, I am just collating all these information here and I hope it would be easy for someone who is travelling to Bali.