9 days to be precise. Well, actually 7 days only if you factor in that we touched down close to midnight and are leaving again early in the AM on the last day. Is a week too long to be a tourist in Bali? I’m ready to find out.
So we are back to travelling again. This year we have revenged-travelled Malaysia, Philippines and now Bali. It was our first time here too so I really wanted to get the full Bali experience.
Here’s a rough itinerary for people like us, who prefer an easy, relaxing vacation.
Day 1: Praba Guest House near to airport. Just to sleep until morning as we touched down at around 12 midnight.
Day 2: South of Bali: Kuta – Shopping at Beachwalk and Uluwatu Temple visit. Accomodation: Atta Mesari Villas (Staying here for 2 nights.)
Day 3: Middle of Bali: Ubud – Waterfall
Day 4: North of Bali: Driving up towards Kintamani and visiting Tirta Pura along the way. Destination: Mount Batur / Volcano and Lake – Accomodation: Glamping at Dewi Kintamani
Day 5: South-east of Bali: Sanur Beach. Accomodation: Respati Beach Hotel – 2 nights
Day 6: Nusa Penida: Whole day snorkeling trip at Nusa Penida to see manta rays, sea turtles and coral
Day 7: Driving from Sanur to North-west: West Bali National Park. Accomodation: Nusabay Menjagan WHM – 2 nights
Day 8: Exploring West Bali National Park
Day 9: Back to Praba Guest House using the Northern route.
Day 10: Return flight at 7am.
First things first. Getting around – Rented a car
For getting around, we rented a car. A lot of people warned us about driving in Bali and, after 8 days, I have to echo their concerns. The roads are nearly all one lane and occasionally you get two lanes, but you can be sure they are mostly packed. And they have a lot of manic motorcyclists and even car drivers who drive as if they are in a motorcycle, namely cutting lanes, weaving in and out and lane-changing without signaling, and the roads on most days were absolute chaos in my husband’s opinion*.
*That’s saying a lot for my husband who has probably driven in every city we have been to.
So, unless you have utter confidence in your driving skills, a strong stomach constitution and God on your side, I highly recommend just grabbing an Uber or hiring a tour guide for the day.
The People of Bali
We received so much hospitality and service the whole of Bali, from checking-in to hotels to dining. The people are generally friendly and greet you with smiles and we feel quite safe everywhere. The only issue we had was the souvenir hawkers that usually haunt the tourist attractions are very aggressive and sometimes frightening.
At a scenic spot on Mount Batur overlooking the lake, they descend on tourists like hungry vultures, or perhaps more like the annoying flies, and kept stalking us around while we were just trying to take some photos. Most of the time they are like hormone-pumped teenage boys that can’t take no for an answer.
They really do spoil your mood. After the first few days, we just avoided all the touristy spots as much as possible.
Oh have I got lots to say about the weather. In a nutshell, it is HOT. For the whole of 9 days we were there, we only had a sprinkle of rain on the last day before we left, and I do mean a sprinkle. It is as if someone just sprayed a couple of mist and it was gone in a matter of minutes. But it was cooling for quite a while afterwards.
For the first couple of days I was actually quite happy that the weather didn’t scupper our plans for a nice snorkeling trip and colder waters reduced the possibility of seeing Manta Rays, but after five days of stifling humidity and heat in the day (and night!), I was wishing I was back in Singapore enjoying our year-end monsoon season and functioning air-conditioning*. Not to mention, I was suffering from constant headaches due to the heat and also a mild case of Bali belly.
*We booked mid-ranged resorts and hotels, and while they were comfortable and the service and food was good, their air-conditioning is pretty non-existent. Even when we walked into a shopping mall, hoping for some respite from the heat, it was also stuffy and warm inside.
First of all, I am usually a food lover but my diet is now severely restricted due to IBS and it is so depressing. So I’m the last person to try to review food properly unless you want to hear me whine about how I’m missing out on the most delicious spiced foods. However, here are some observations. The food that is most common is what we would refer to as “western-style” (aka fried chicken fries, and burgers) and traditional food is not really sought after or popular. Secondly, their sambal and chilli are not very spicy but still they have a habit of warning all tourists about it. I love their fresh fish and Ikan Bakar is what we have nearly every day actually and they are generally quite good and fresh.
Hygiene is questionable though. Even though we avoided raw and uncooked food most of the time, we both still had a mild case of the runs. The famous Bali Belly strikes again.
Places of Interest
Beachwalk Shopping Mall
Great place to get high end and branded stuffs from LV to H&M. It is the largest mall in Bali in the very busy Kuta area. Although it is an open-concept mall similar to Singapore’s Westgate and it is rather hot outside. Still, the stores kept their air-conditioning on at full blast and it was nice to just walk around and enjoy some rather good food.
I recommend also taking a walk outside. There are smaller shops outside selling counterfeit bags and also souvenirs. And Kuta Beach is also just a short walk away.
As it was just our first day, we weren’t feeling hot and bothered yet… and we were still hoping that this was not going to be the norm around here. Hope is such a funny thing.
Bali is famous for its Hindu temples and they are set in epic locations. Uluwatu Temple is perched on a cliff and you can walk around the cliffs and take in the breath-taking views. As with most of the temples, a sarong is required and they will loan you one right outside. There appears to be no right or wrong way to wear a sarong, just wrap it and tie a knot around your waist.
The entrance fee is IDR 50K for adults and there is an additional fee to watch the Kecak Fire Dance but you don’t have to see it if you don’t want to. By now we ARE feeling the effects of the Bali heat and decided to just go to a restaurant and have our dinner instead of spending an hour and a half watching the performance… a fire performance no less.
Next to Uluwatu temple is a fantastic spot to enjoy your dinner, with great views from a cliff and a marvellous sunset.
We stayed at Atta Mesari Villa and it was so lovely, set in a paddy field, but we didn’t know that yet. Thanks to the famous traffic in Bali, we arrived pretty late and were beat and hit the (luxurious canopy bed) sack after a quick shower.
Looking back, our time in Atta Mesari was one of the best. It was quite cool in the room and their food was so good it makes you want to finish every bite.
Because we spent so long relaxing in our resort, we decided to just skip the Ubud art market as we heard many unpleasant reviews on how the entire place has turned into a souvenir shopping nightmare.
The thing about the souvenirs is that every single d*mn shop sells the same stuff: Rattan Bali bag (check), sunglasses (check), macram and dreamcatchers (check), generic Bali magnets (check), generic (check) and some risqué wooden carvings of phalluses (check and also why?), beaded bracelets (check), sarong (check). There is absolutely no creativity and variation in the souvenirs, they look like they are massed produced from Bali Souvenir Inc. and distributed islandwide. If you were hoping that souvenirs from the Ubud art market would be different, you will be greatly disappointed like I was.
So we opt to just swim in the pool and relax as we have a full itinerary for the upcoming days.
Oh you can also walk the paddy fields or visit the waterfalls in the area.
Tirta Empul Temple
In every village, there are at least two Hindu temples performing different rites and the Pura temple is for purification. This is quite a famous temple and visitors are allowed to bathe in the holy water that comes from the holy spring but, cos we are Christians, we just opt to walk around. Besides, the locals only purify themselves if they want to wash away bad luck or if they have a death in the family. It is not a valid reason to go into their sacred pools just because you want to cool off.
The temple grounds are rather big and I love the design (and roof!) on the buildings and there are intricate and interesting carvings everywhere. It is very beautiful and worth a visit.
After a while, we went straight up to Mount Batur’s lake.
We booked a glamping tent up here on Mount Batur in the Kintimani region because we wanted to experience the sea and also mountains. It is much cooler here and it was good to have a break from the hot and humid weather and a very nice change of scenery. Batur lake is famously beautiful.
I have to note that they are also famous for another thing: flies. Probably due to cattle farms and other agriculture, but these are nasty, pesky insects.
Also, very much like the flies, we were pestered non-stop by the souvenir sellers. So whatever you do, don’t even give them eye contact or they will not stop bothering you.
It was much calmer at the resort, Dewi Kintamani.
This unique glamping resort has a hot spring pool which is nice in the cool weather.
If you are in the Kintamani area and are a fish lover, make sure you try their Mujair Nyat Nyat. It is grilled black tilapia that they farm in the lake, covered with a ginger spice. Super fresh and delicious.
The night at Kintamani was the coldest I’d been in Bali so far. I wished I could stay longer and actually explored the lava fields, but we have an exciting adventure planned the next day and had a long drive back south to Sanur Beach.
Here we stayed at Hotel Respati. The rooms were a little dated and the aircon was not cold and the shower tap broke off while we tried using it. However it was cheap and the everything was clean. I honestly have been in worse accommodations (much much worse) so I can’t complain.
Sanur beach is a hive of activity. As we reached around late afternoon, we took a stroll along the beach (the hotel has direct beach access) and found some great spots to have a massage and an early dinner before going to bed as we have a super early start the next day.
Snorkeling at Nusa Penida
My hopes of getting a full night’s rest was destroyed by a small but mightily loud animal called the Tokay Gecko. Apparently one had decided to take residence somewhere on my block so my night it was constantly woken up by its incessant and urgent mating calls. I’ve always been a light sleeper but even with ear plugs I still can hear the blasted animal, like an alarm clock. (Please go google “Tokay Gecko sound” if you want to know more.)
So anyway, I woke up a little groggy and extremely grumpy at 6:00am to get ready for our 8 hour tour planned for Nusa Penida. But that was quickly replaced by feelings of excitement for the tour we had prebooked ahead.
First of all, we saw manta, sea turtles and beautiful coral at some of the best snorkeling spots in Bali. The entire itinerary was well planned, lunch location was beautiful and the boat was comfortable and spacious. They also provided, drinks, fruits, two sets of clean towels and snorkeling equipment. And finally, our guides Nemo and Olog were super amazing. Even though I swam and snorkel quite a few times at different countries around the world, I was still not a strong swimmer and had lots of trepidation each time, and therefore relied on a life vest to help me stay afloat. The guide, especially Olog, prepared a buoy and towed us around! I felt very safe the entire time. We did feel seasick at Manta Point because the waters were extremely choppy and they had seasickness tablets which helped. The land tour and lunch helped us “recover” and we were ready and eager for the next snorkeling. (In one of the photos, you can see Olog climb a tree to help our group get the best photo on Klingking cliff!) We really enjoyed the trip and highly recommend going out of your comfort zone and experience the beautiful waters of Bali and Indonesia.
West Bali National Park
Out of everywhere we have been, West Bali National Park is the most natural and beautiful spot to view wildlife as well as snorkelling a stone’s throw from the beach.
There is only one resort you can stay at and it is a little steep but I highly recommend it. Save for the mischievous (and — I think — deranged) macaques, I truly enjoyed my 2 days at this beautiful sanctuary and spotted deer, boar, black monkeys and lots of fish and coral and sea creatures.
Although we had many ups and downs on this long holiday, it is great to end our trip in Bali on a high note.
First of all, the Balinese people are generally friendly and open-minded as their entire economy is very tourist-oriented. Most of them speak and will understand English. However personally I feel that that could be also a problem. The island has a rich cultural history and tradition but, because of the large influx tourists, it loses a lot of its original tranquil charm. It created a large group of people who depend and are desperate for the tourists in order to survive and not much of other trades.
Needless to say, the beautiful and magical Bali I expected is not what I truly experienced and I left with lots of mixed feelings about the place and I don’t think I will return in a hurry. That said, if you want to enjoy the Bali, do get a guide and that will help you enjoy the island just a little bit more.