What to do in Bali: Insider tips

Tripoto
8th May 2014
Photo of What to do in Bali: Insider tips 1/8 by Rachel
Besakih Temple
Photo of What to do in Bali: Insider tips 2/8 by Rachel
Bedugul
Photo of What to do in Bali: Insider tips 3/8 by Rachel
Amed Beach
Photo of What to do in Bali: Insider tips 4/8 by Rachel
Campuhan Ridge
Photo of What to do in Bali: Insider tips 5/8 by Rachel
Kintamani
Photo of What to do in Bali: Insider tips 6/8 by Rachel
Nungnung Falls
Photo of What to do in Bali: Insider tips 7/8 by Rachel
Padang Bai
Photo of What to do in Bali: Insider tips 8/8 by Rachel
Nusa Lembongnan

Bali is a tiny island but there is plenty to do - holidays to Bali don’t have to just be sea and sand unless you want them to be. In fact you don’t need to go anywhere near the beach if sunbathing is not your idea of fun. We have rice fields! Volcanoes! Elephant parks! Yoga retreats! If you’re visiting Bali for the first time, here is my list of must-see destinations.

There’s still a lot I haven’t seen of the island and hopefully I can add to this list soon as I explore further I really want to explore more – I’ve never been to the west or the north of the island (well no further west than Amed anyway) and I’m hoping to persuade Made to take a couple of trips this year now that the kids are getting better at travelling in the car.

Bali doesn’t seem to be on the main backpacker circuit but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to travel here cheaply. Yes, there are plenty of luxury villas and 5-star hotels if you have a few thousand dollars you want to blow through in a few days but it’s also possible to live and travel in a simpler (maybe nicer?) way. After all you can stay in a posh hotel anywhere in the world, but there is only one Bali…

Budget accommodation in Bali = homestays. This sounds more exotic than it actually is – you’re not plonked in a room in a family home like you’re on exchange (although if you are interested in Balinese customs and culture and are friendly, you’ll certainly be invited to temporarily be part of the family) Balinese houses consist of several bungalows in a walled compound. As it’s normal for extended family to live together (sons never leave, wives join their sons family), normally each of these bungalows would be used for a different family. However in tourist areas they build a few extra bungalows for guests.

As with most of Asia, it’s pretty easy to eat well here on the cheap. Bali lacks the variety of some other Asian cuisines (like Thai, sigh!) but it does at least have flavour (unlike the food in Vietnam, ahem). The trick to eating cheap is to stay out of the tourist restaurants where prices quickly add up. I once ordered a small mineral water from a slightly pricey restaurant in Ubud and it cost me 30,000rp for a posh branded bottle instead of the 1,500rp it would have cost me in the convenience store for the most popular brand of mineral water here – Aqua. Luckily, it’s easy to find plenty of local warungs (restaurants) even in the most touristy areas. Just follow the locals and you’ll be fine. the most usual options are nasi goreng (fried rice) mie goreng (fried noodles) cap cay (stir fried veg /soup), ayam goreng (fried chicken), padang (choose your own dishes from a selection displayed in the window on an impressively-balanced tower of plates) , bakso (meatball soup), and nasi campur (rice with a nice selection of meat, veg and tofu/Tempe dishes)

You could spend a fortune in Bali doing tours but there really is no need. If you’re staying by the beach then you’ve got plenty of entertainment right there. Inland you have rice fields and jungles, great for exploring. There are free and cheap art galleries and museums everywhere. You must visit a few temples when you come here and they are all very cheap to visit as a tourist.

Lots of people include Kintamani in a day trip where they have a quick look at the volcano, get hassled by touts selling souvenirs and eat an overpriced lunch. It’s worth it for the view but I would also totally recommend heading downhill to the foot of the volcano and exploring around (preferably on motorbike). there’s some gorgeous scenery and crazy volcanic landscapes.

Photo of Kintamani, Bali, Indonesia by Rachel

I love Bedugul. It has a pretty temple and a gorgeous huge botanical gardens that costs next to nothing to enter. You can bring a picnic or buy strawberries from the market and have a feast. i wish it was just a little closer so we could take the kids for a run around on the grass without the 90 minute car journey. Also Bedugul is at a high altitude and so a lot cooler than the main tourist areas. If you can catch it on a day when it’s not raining, it’s really quite lovely. Oh and you can hire a boat to go around the lake!

Photo of Bedugul, Tabanan, Bali, Indonesia by Rachel

It hasn’t got the best beach but I still love Padang Bai. There’s a really chilled out vibe here but plenty of cafes and entertainment to keep you busy for a couple of days if you want to stay.

Photo of Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia by Rachel

We went to Amed on a weekend trip when i was a few months pregnant with Maya. Made was bored stiff but I loved it here and I’m itching to go back. There’s not much to do, true, but what else do you need when you have that gorgeous black sand, rolling seas and dramatic sky? Also there are dolphins! It’s the perfect place to relax, in my opinion.

Photo of Amed Beach Resort, Bunutan, Bali, Indonesia by Rachel

Catch a boat from Sanur and you can reach this chilled out little island in 90 minutes. Again there’s not much to do but enjoy the white sand beaches, dinner on the beach and tootle around on your scooter. There are no cars here and just one little road that goes all the way around the island so it’s the perfect place to learn to drive a motorbike. I did (on a manual no less!) and then never did it again (4 years and counting). Bali traffic is scary!

Photo of Nusa Lembongan, Jungutbatu, Bali, Indonesia by Rachel

If you’re just going to see one temple then you may as well make it the biggest and best. Besakih or ‘Mother Temple’ is impressive any time but even more so if you can visit during one of the big ceremonies that happen only very rarely. I’ve heard tourists having a lot of problems visiting here because they’re forced to hire a guide so I say wear balinese dress and find a balinese family to bring you :)

Photo of Besakih Temple, Karangasem Sub-District, Karangasem, Bali, Indonesia by Rachel

I really think it’s one of the most impressive waterfalls in Bali and one that few tourists visit - definitely worth a visit!

Photo of Nungnung Waterfalls, Bali by Rachel

Yes it really is really pretty! Another sling diaries photo shoot location. If you find yourself in Ubud, it’s definitely worth doing this walk, preferably around sunset. See it before the developers ruin it!

Photo of Campuhan Ridge, Bali by Rachel
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