At the risk of sounding a lot like a tourist cliché, this blog post is a rave about Bali, Indonesia.
I’ve been living in Indonesia for more than four years now, but Bali never ceases to fascinate me. Although I’ve been to this paradise island several times already, I still can’t have enough of it.
Also known as “The Island of the Gods,” worship and religion reflect on every facet of life among the Hindu Balinese. This is also why Bali’s art and culture remain vibrant, attracting more tourists – local and foreign alike. Bali is the most popular island in Indonesia, although the country has a lot of idyllic and pristine beaches. So popular, in fact, that Bali always overshadows Jakarta, the country’s capital. Just ask my friends about it. When I invite them to Jakarta and even offer to host them end-to-end (with accommodations, car, driver and all), they will always tell me to just meet up with them in Bali!
This doesn’t surprise me, though. Can I blame them if I, myself, is still enthralled by Bali’s beauty?
Bali offers a plethora of activities for everyone. In Bali, visitors can experience a combination of clean, sandy beaches for lazing around and rolling waves for surfing. Set in a backdrop of an ancient culture famous for its warmth, hospitality and friendliness, Bali boasts of exotic temples and stunning palaces in the midst of picturesque mountains, volcanoes, rice terraces and green lush.
Geographically, Bali occupies roughly around 6,000 kilometers in terms of area. Located at the eastern tip of Java, it sits on the west of the island of Lombok, across the Lombok straits. It is flanked by the Indian Ocean on the south side and the Java Sea on the north. The island is eight degrees south of the equator, which explains its warm temperature (get your sunblock and shades ready!).
In October, I celebrated my birthday in Bali with Manila friends. Although Arshad and I acted like tour guides to our friends, my love for Bali was also rekindled during the trip. It reminded me of why I always come back to this place…especially for my birthday celebrations!
So here are my top 10 reasons why I continue to love Bali and why I keep on coming back:
1. Daily and hourly flights from Jakarta to Bali. For Jakartans like me, Bali is very accessible. There are 8 local airlines flying to Bali on an hourly basis, which means if I want a quick weekend getaway, I can fly out at 8 or 9pm on a Friday night and come back to Jakarta on a 9pm Sunday flight and I still got 2 full days of beach glory!
2. Ease to find accommodation. Bali offers a wide range of accommodation: basic homestays, no frills surf camps, traditional Bali houses, villas with their own pools and international five star hotels generously dot the island. You can choose from these variety of accommodation in the areas of Jimbaran, Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Nusa Dua, Sanur, Candidasa and Lovina.
There are also mountain resorts in Bedugul and Kintamani, while the art village of Ubud can offer accommodation in traditional Balinese houses or resorts located at the heart of rice fields.
Normally, I prefer to stay in the villas within the Seminyak area, as it is very close to restaurants, clubs and shopping jaunts that I frequent. For my birthday celebration, my friends and I stayed in a 5-bedroom combined villa in Seminyak, which I found in AirBnB.
Lately, though, my interest in surfing has been resurrected and I’ve been enamored by the Uluwatu area because its beaches are more conducive to surfing (feeling surfer dudette, but I’m honestly a greenie!). Arshad found several villas and surf camps that were both quite comfortable and reasonably-priced.
Just last weekend, we stayed at the Blue Point Bay Villas and Spa, primarily because it was near Single Fin, my favorite surf bar in Uluwatu and the Uluwatu beachfront itself. Just check out their infinity pool with an amazing view of the Uluwatu beach!
3. Ease in getting around Bali. Going around Bali is easy. As soon as you land, there are airport taxis with standard rates waiting outside the airport. You can also ask your resort to pick you up.
There are also drivers who own their cars – usually a Toyota Avanza that can sit 6-8 people – who can be rented on a daily basis. They usually speak English so it’s common to get a driver-tour guide in one, for the price of Rp 600 thousand for 8 hours (USD$45, Php2,300). For a driver and tour guide combination, I’d say that’s a steal!
For driver recommendations, leave me a message and I can send you the contact details. I personally like Pak Robot (yes, his name is Robot), because he has spunk, he can communicate and drive well.
4. Ease in communicating. English is widely-used in Bali. You can talk to pretty much anyone in English: front desk, waiters and waitresses, drivers, surfing coaches, etc. Although Bali has its own native language (Balinese, which is Malayo-Polenesian), most of them can also speak and understand Bahasa Indonesia. Given the pervasiveness of both languages in the island, getting around, asking questions and getting help won’t be difficult. This is perhaps one of the distinct advantages of Bali compared to the other Indonesian islands.
5. Vegetarian food and seafood are everywhere! Since there are a lot of resorts and yoga retreat houses in Bali, it also became host to a lot of vegetarian, vegan and organic restaurants. You can also “vegetarianize” a lot of the dishes in mainstream restaurants. You just need to request for it.
This is a definite plus for me, as I don’t need to go out of my way to get my vegetarian fix.
Indonesian food and dishes use a lot of vegetables, which makes the cuisine very vegetarian-friendly. My personal favorites include gado-gado, ketoprak, tahu gejrot and sambal matah salad.
For pescatarians and seafood fanatics, Jimbaran beach has an entire stretch of restaurants offering fresh seafood that are very reasonably priced. We went to Teba Cafe in Jimbaran for an early dinner to watch the sunset and we were not disappointed with the food and drinks. If you want the best spots, which are the ones on the beachfront, either reserve or come early.
6. Sprawl of beaches. Bali has a wide array of beaches, which are destinations on their own. If you prefer white sand coasts with palm and coconut trees, head out to the south coast: Kuta, Nusa Dua and Sanur. If you love surfing and hidden shores, check out Uluwatu, Padang Padang, Dreamland and Bingin.
I used to favor the white sand coastline until my interested in surfing got piqued once again, thus the exploration of the Uluwatu and Padang Padang beaches.
7. Variety of things to do. If you want to just laze around with a margarita in tow on the beach front or you want to explore marine sports such as surfing or diving, Bali is the place to be. Travel packages can also include adventure tours, such as trekking, cycling and white water rafting.
There are day tours that will offer exotic temple tours, including Tanah Lot, Uluwatu Temple and Besakih Temple being the most popular. Inland, you can also find volcanoes, jungles and monkey forests.
Seminyak also offers a good venue for shoppers who would like to hunt for batik and other traditional fabrics, leather goods, wood carvings and antiques. If you are an art collector, Ubud is the perfect place to score reasonably priced but amazing paintings of local scenery, cultural dances, etc.
The sun sets on the Uluwatu and Padang-Padang side of the island. Around late in the afternoon, restaurant and bars sprawled in these areas get packed with people who want to watch the sunset with beer, wine or cocktails.
Late in the night, Bali also boasts of good clubs with packed dance floors, most of which are in the Seminyak and Kuta areas.
My preferred activities in Bali include just getting my tan while reading a book and sipping margaritas around lunch time, taking surfing lessons, shopping, trying new restaurants and visiting good bars and clubs.
8. Culture and art trip. What I love about Bali is the culture vibe that I always get whenever I set foot on the island.
On the road side and even on the beach, it’s always lovely to see canang sari – the daily offerings made by Balinese Hindus to praise and thank Sang Hyang Widhi.
Canang sari can be seen in the Balinese temples (pura), on small shrines in houses, and on the ground or as a part of a larger offering.
For those who want to explore Balinese culture, you can check out traditional dances, watch a fire dance in Uluwatu, see how batik is painted or go to museums and art exhibits in and around Bali.
9. Commercialized but clean and well-maintained. Despite the swarm of tourists year in and year out, Bali maintains its cleanliness. I can’t help but compare it to the Philippines’ Boracay island, which seems to be degenerating yearly because it’s too small an island yet the influx of tourists are not regulated in any way.
All over Bali, you can see the signs about keeping order and cleanliness. There is a Bali Parliament Special Committee in charge of maintaining Bali’s cleanliness and hygiene in the island’s popular tourist destinations.
Balinese people are aware that one of the reasons why tourists keep on coming back is because of the island’s lush greens and ambience. For this reason, the local government is quite strong in terms of enforcing Clean and Green programs for Bali.
10. Reasonably priced. Majority of the tourists in Bali come from Southeast Asia and Australia. That being said, a lot of my Indonesian and Filipino friends are actually complaining that the influx of Australian tourists are hiking the prices up in Bali. It may be partially true, but comparing to other beach destinations, I can say that the budget for a Bali vacation is more flexible, considering the plenitude of options.
Accommodations vary from low-end to high-end (see point number 2). Both food and transportation are relatively cheap, too. The only caveat is that Indonesia has a more expensive price tier for alcohol. Bali is no exception. However, a good workaround is to sample Indonesia’s local beer: Bintang, Bali Hai and Anker. Bali also has several vineyards, which came as a surprise to me when I found out several years back. Given this, there are cheaper alternatives if you are a wine drinker. Bali’s rose’, chardonnay and moscato wines are quite notable.
Overall, Bali to me is a holistic experience. It appeals to my being a culture vulture, my love for the beach and blue skies and the serenity of a lush, green environment. It also taps into my adventurous side when I want to go surfing and my desire for tranquility when I feel like I’m about to burn out.
Will I go back to Bali again? I’ve been to the Island of the Gods twice in a month recently. I guess that says it all.
For more information on Bali, I like visiting these sites: