Bali is a place of many wonders, ranging from ancient temples and nature reserves to world-renowned yoga centers and warm beaches. With so much diversity in this Indonesian province of nearly four million people, tourists may get overwhelmed when choosing which exotic spot to visit next.
Located in the eastern part of the Indian Ocean, Bali lies south of the Philippines and is about half the size of Hawaii’s largest island. A tourist can easily access everything from the coast to the mountains because of the island’s small size.
The best way to visit Bali depends on the preferences of each traveler. But most sites in Bali fall into one of three categories of vacationers: the peace seeker, the history buff, and the adventurer.
The Peace Seeker
On the southern coast of Bali lies Kuta Beach, which features resorts and pristine shores with boardwalks and spas right on the beach. Plan to stay and watch an incredible sunset.
Charlotte Chen, a public relations account coordinator from Singapore, has visited Bali several times. She says Kuta is one of her favorite beaches, and she recommends that you spend at least one day on the beach during your trip. “Bali has pretty beaches where the water is warm and the waves are big,” Chen says, adding that “the boardwalk has fun shopping where you can practice your bargaining.”
After a relaxing day at the beach, take a taxi (the best mode of transportation) an hour north to the town of Udub. The town is home to the highly rated Yoga Barn—a local studio surrounded by beautiful greenery. Here, yoga classes are geared toward a range of students, from the greenest of beginners to the ultimate yogi.
Charley Patton, cofounder of The Yoga Barn, says yoga is more than poses and mats. Practicing yoga can also help individuals look inward and work on themselves. After people become comfortable with themselves, he says, they can go on and contribute to making the world a better place.
The Yoga Barn offers classes seven days a week. Guests are encouraged to completely immerse themselves in these classes. If students need help getting into the element, they can find inspiration by simply looking out at the rice fields and mountains around them.
“Many people come to Bali to decompress,” Patton says. “The whole premise behind yoga is to get to know yourself better. For us, having a healthy and wealthy lifestyle is about giving back to the community and taking care of the temples that are your bodies.”
The History Buff
The number of temples on the island definitely cannot be counted on one hand—or even ten hands. History lovers will be astounded with the number of ancient and modern Hindu temples at the site known as Mother Temple. Located in the town of Besakih, on the east side of the island, this temple lies at the foot of the island’s tallest peak, Mount Agung, a dormant volcano. The Mother Temple is a large complex of more than 80 temples that date back to the ninth century. Local families still visit the site and bring offerings for their ancestors.
“Bali is the land of temples,” says Nancy Zorn of Captain Cook, Hawaii. “Every day you smell the incense from the offerings.” Having visited Bali for three weeks in 2012, Zorn says that the Balinese “have a very religious culture. It’s a huge part of their lives.”
Zorn spent time at the Puri Saren Palace, also known as the Ubud Palace. This palace-turned-hotel is an old royal home, dating back to 1768, that housed the kings of Ubud. Now tourists can relax and sleep in this magnificent setting. The city is also a major gathering place for local artisans. Sellers bring woodcarvings, weaved fabric, and silver statues to display in Ubud.
Across the street from the palace sits Ibu Oka, the famous Bali restaurant known for its babiguling—a traditional dish of suckling pig grilled with coconut shells. This restaurant serves cheap but delicious food for tourists desiring to connect with the culture through a Balinese meal.
For dinner and a show, the Devdan Show is the place to be. Located in Nusa Dua, on the southern tip of Bali, the Devdan Show is a live show that will entertain people at any age. The show covers the history of Bali, along with other Indonesian cultures such as Java, Sumatra, and Papua. Audience members can watch history come to life through elaborate costumes, acrobatic dancers, and displays of fire and rain on stage. Another major plus for the show is the air-conditioned theater.
“The audience will experience cross-cultural encounters in a highly entertaining way,” says Agnes Herdiasti of the Devdan Show. “Devdan Show opens the door for them to see into cultural diversity in the Indonesian archipelago.”
Kelley Beanmen says a highlight of her exotic honeymoon to Bali was a bike tour in Ubud, partly because she and her husband were able to enjoy cheap prices and good food along the way. “People go to Bali for the beaches,” she says, “but I don’t think as many people realize there’s this whole other side of the island.”
After an hour bus ride, the Bali Breeze Tours Company dropped off Beanmen and her new husband with their bikes. The group commenced a 20-mile ride through Balinese scenes that most tourists never see, such as small villages and rice fields. “It felt so uncommercialized,” Beanmen says. “It was like we were visiting friends who were taking us around their neighborhood.”
Tourists can hop off their bike and grab hold of a rope to experience the incredible canyoneering sites that dot the island. On the southern side, voyagers head to Kalimudah Canyon to discover new pools or to Anahata Canyon to rappel through waterfalls. And adventurers can also splash into the water for spectacular scuba diving on the east coast. The island is surrounded by a coral reef, and the crystal-clear water will only deepen the desire to dive in.
“They live their lives around ‘don’t worry, be happy’”, Beanmen says of her honeymoon on Bali. “The whole trip was so nice and so relaxing.”
Bali has it all, and tourists can experience all that this little island has to offer. From the mountain rice fields to the beachfronts, travelers can enjoy the streaming sun anywhere on the island as they pursue their quests as peace seekers, history buffs, or adventurers.
Six Steps to Veteran Bargaining
1. Never shop with a tour group. The tour guides usually get a cut, and you won’t find anything truly unique and original.
2. Find the small “mom and pop” shops. To do this, head to the villages and off the main streets.
3. Shop in the morning for the first sale of the day, when you’re more likely to get a bargain. If you use the phrase hargapagi (meaning “morning price”), the storekeepers might think you are a bargaining veteran.
4. Keep your first offer at about a third of the asking price. If they ask for thirty, say you’ll give ten.
5. Always be prepared to walk away. They want to please you, so be courageous!
6. The Balinese enjoy a good bargaining session, so keep it fun and non-confrontational; smile and laugh. If both you and the seller are happy with the price, take it.
1. “All of My Days”—Alexi Murdoch
2. “The Lucky Ones”—Brenden James
3. “Bali Ha’l”—South Pacific