Bali 101

Bali has been a place I’ve wanted to tick off my bucket list for a while now.

When I was given the opportunity to spend a week exploring the island, I had no doubt whatsoever about taking up this offer.

Arriving into Bali, it was hot and humid. Coming from New Zealand, we had just left the freezing cold winter so we were a little overdressed. Luckily, holding a kiwi passport meant we no longer had to pay the visa on arrival into Bali. This made for a quick dash through customs and immigration after collecting our bags, which might I add, all arrived safely with no ‘illegal surprises’ inside them!

Walking into the arrivals terminal was interesting. I felt like I was walking the red carpet at the Oscars! Hundreds of Balinese men, all shuttle and taxi drivers, were bunched up behind a barrier, all holding signs with passengers names on them, or yelling at you asking if you needed a taxi. After walking alongside the barrier to find our driver, we finally spotted a sign with our groups name on it. Having to walk through Duty Free before we could actually meet up with our driver was a bit of a strange setup I thought.

It was a relief arriving into Bali after our 9 hour flight. It was late at night and as much as we were excited to be there, we were all knackered and ready for a good night’s sleep.

Leaving the airport, we were happy to be on our way to our hotel. This was our first experience on the Bali roads. If you’re a bit of a backseat driver, let’s just say it’s best to keep your eyes focused on something else other than the road!  Cars and scooters come from all directions, there are no stop signs or give ways. Drivers are tooting to make other drivers aware that they’re coming through. It’s pretty much a free for all and at this point, I was thankful I had travel insurance!

Two of our first nights were spent in Nusa Dua at the gorgeous 5 star property, Grand Nikko. The property was situated on the beach, where our rooms had a beautiful ocean view. The property had all the appropriate facilities a 5 star should have – various pools, gym, Jacuzzi, day spa, kids club, 5 restaurants, and the list goes on. Nusa Dua is a perfectly suited area for families. Most of the resorts are gated and all have security guards manning the entrance, so it’s very safe. The beaches are calm and ideal for snorkelling and swimming.

Our first day was spent on the Lembongan Island beach club cruise. We were picked up from our hotel and taken to the port, where we transferred via catamaran to Lembongan Island. This cruise can be as adventurous or as relaxing as possible. Once at the pristine bay of Lembongan Island, the day was at our leisure. Banana boating, parasailing, massages, snorkelling, scuba diving, or relaxing by the pool with a cold beverage were just some of the things on offer. We were well fed with a tropical BBQ lunch and time rolled around a bit too quickly before we had hop back on the catamaran back to the mainland. This tour was a great way to spend our day, and would be suited for either couples or families.

Ubud was our next destination, the richest region in Bali for art production and known for its terraced rice paddies and lush forest. We were taken to a clothing factory along the way, where we got the opportunity to see Balinese women at work. I admired these women and the work and concentration they put into making the clothes. They don’t have fancy electronic machines which whip out a piece of clothing in a few minutes. Making a sarong for instance, would take approximately 2 months, using a wooden machine piecing it all together thread by thread. I personally wouldn’t have the patience for this type of job!

We stayed in central Ubud, among the many eateries, chic galleries, markets and bars. It bustles in the Ubud centre, but you can go up into the resorts in the hills to get your peace and tranquillity. The Monkey Forest was the first thing on our list, and what an amazing experience it was! It was 30,000 Rupiah (about NZD3.00) to enter the forest. As soon as you enter, you see monkeys left, right and centre! Stalls throughout the forest sell bunches of bananas, which can be feed to the monkeys. Without hesitation, I purchased a bunch, stood still with my arm in the air whilst holding 1 banana. Once the monkey spotted the banana, it approached me, climbed up my body and perched itself on my shoulder while he ate his banana. Both Ubud and the Monkey Forest are definitely worth a visit, whether it be a day trip or you spend a couple of nights in one of the stunning resorts among the forest.

Sanur and Seminyak were next on the list to visit. Sanur was a nice area, quite relaxing, however there isn’t a lot to do in the township itself. We stayed at Segara Village Resort, which had plenty of things to keep us occupied. We hired a bike from the resort for a small fee and followed the sea along a boardwalk, past other resorts and past a few markets. The stretch of beach around the Segara Village area was stunning, with loungers available to relax on and plenty of water activities to partake in.

Whilst in Sanur, we took part in a tour called the Bali Food Safari.  We were picked up from our hotel and taken on a mystery tour to 4 different restaurants around the Seminyak area. Each different restaurant served about 4 courses of food, so by the end of the night we were filled up with a whole lot of Balinese goodness! The tour was a great way to experience restaurants we didn’t even know existed. 

Seminyak was our final base, and probably one of my favourite areas in Bali. The area is vibrant with an upmarket feel to it, with a great range of restaurants, trendy shops and galleries, along with a great stretch of beach and some very nice resorts. A couple of restaurants we visited whilst in Seminyak were Mexicola (Mexican food) and Ginger Moon (tasty Asian cuisine). Meals ranged from about NZD5.00 – NZD20.00 and drinks from about NZD5.00. These places are definitely worth a visit!

From Seminyak, it was just a 15 -20 minute taxi ride to Kuta (which costs about NZD5.00), or a 40 minute walk along the beach. Kuta was another vibrant bustling area, probably more suited to the younger market as there are many bars along the main streets and along the beach, which go off every night of the week. We occasionally took a taxi to Kuta to get our cheap shopping fix at the hundreds of markets which are lined up down the main street.

I was aware before I went to Bali that you had to barter at the markets to get the best price! So that’s what I did, and I must say, it does tire you out! I learnt when bartering, you can’t give in to the stall owner when bartering. About 90% of the time, they would agree to sell me the item for what I was willing to pay. Sometimes I would even walk away from their stall and they would yell at me to come back, as they were willing to accept my offer. The locals say you usually barter down about 50% of the price they’re wanting for the item, however in a lot of cases, I managed to barter down at least 75%.

The markets do tend to be repetitive, with replicate labelled items such as clothing, handbags, jewellery, electronics and more. There is also some great artwork to be purchased and very cheap day spas (about NZD6.00 for a 1 hour full body massage)!

The Balinese locals are extremely friendly, and went out of their way to do anything for us. Nothing is a problem for them.

Bali has so much to offer. Whether you’re on a honeymoon, a family vacation or celebrating a special occasion with a bunch of friends, there is plenty to see and do whilst on this beautiful Indonesian island.