What to do in Bali

April 12, 2019

kecak dance batubulan ubud bali indonesia

Planning a trip to Bali and don't know what to do while you're there. Bali has so much packed into its little island that there is never a day you'd find yourself wondering,"What do I do in Bali?"

The Bali I once knew, almost decades ago: the idyllic, quiet island with very little traffic is gone. In its place is the new Bali - a commercialized version of what it was before and it isn't half as good as what it was. But saying all that, it isn't a bad place to head over to. It's just changed. There are still quiet idyllic places in the North where you can get away and enjoy Bali in a quiet reflective way. Fortunately for the party people, you still have Kuta and Seminyak to pass your nights away in a alcohol infused haze.

Saying this, the question comes to mind, is Bali worth it? Yes and no. It all depends on what you want to do here.

If you're thinking of a four star holiday by the beach in Nusa Dua, then yes, you will enjoy Bali. What about a luxury get away in the hills and amazing views to relax? That is a great way to enjoy Bali. If you're thinking of going cheap, getting a scooter, exploring Bali while living in North Kuta and Canggu and going to the north to get away from the crowded streets of Kuta and Seminyak, then yes, Bali is worth it. Just don't expect to enjoy Bali while you're unsure of what to do or if you expect touristy museum crawling and doing a tour. You won't enjoy it. Keep your trip simple. Go to Bali to relax, unwind and you'll love it here.

My two cents worth, stick to two places per visit. Try Ubud and Sanur, Ubud and Nusa Dua, Ubud and Seminyak, Ubud and Kuta or Ubud and Canggu. You get the point right? Just keep it simple. Forget the massive tours available. Visit a temple or two, try to eat as local as possible, get in to see a few touristy sites and take a surfing lesson. Park yourself at the beach and enjoy a beer or two. And don't travel with people who are museum junkies (mostly talking about the hubs here).


The Positives

Tanah Lot

If you're travelling to Bali for the first time, you'll need to see this temple. Pretty both during low tide and high tide. The difference is you'll be able to walk up towards the temple complex at low tide. Access to the temple itself is not possible except for Balinese Hindus. 

Early morning, get in at 7am to beat the crowd. There's an almost peaceful like quality here early mornings. The shops aren't open yet. The sun is just coming up and there are very few tourist.

Evenings at sunset, you'll have an amazing view with the sun setting and the possibility of a couple of great shots. Expect most of the shots to be filled with loads of tourist though. Almost every tour ends the evening here or at Uluwatu.


Goa Gajah


Besides the cave, there is a short hike up to a pretty scenic vantage point. But other than that, there isn't much here. There aren't many boards with information of the area. If you wish to learn more, you'd have to get a guide to explain the significance of the place.

Goa Gajah with people and fountain spouts in ubud bali indonesia
Goa Gajah in Ubud

Beaches

people playing football at seminyak beach in bali indonesia
Seminyak Beach

Kuta Beach at sunset with clouds and blue sky reflections in bali indonesia
Kuta Beach

speedboat docked at beach in Sanur Bali Indonesia
Sanur Beach

people and speed boats at nusa dua beach in nusa dua bali indonesia
Nusa Dua Beach
Grab a scooter and visit as many as you can. While the waters at some beaches like Kuta and Seminyak are rough, others like Sanur and Nusa Dua are calm. Kuta is a great place to learn how to surf.

Water sports is a great idea while at Bali. Most of the water sports centers are located at Nusa Dua and Sanur. I believe Sanur will be cheaper.

Snorkeling and diving are a good option but stick to big companies which have specific snorkeling trips to places like Nusa Penida and Tambulen. If you're going to be doing snorkeling, stick to companies catering a day for the activity. Don't try to take a short 20 minute snorkeling trip in between other tours, you'll regret it.


Spa

Eco Bali Spa (https://www.ecobalispa.com) was simply fantastic. We loved our massage here. They used organic coconut oil so we didn't have to wash off a thick oil after our massage. The owner is just lovely and offered so much advice on what to do and see in Bali. Definitely worth a visit while you're in Seminyak. Their therapist were well trained and the rooms clean. Best massage I've had while in Bali.


Food

Most popular place to have your meals while in Seminyak is at Made's Warung. They have been serving great food since as long as I can remember.

evening dinner with people at warung made in seminyak bali indonesia
Warung Made in Seminyak
When in Ubud, head out to a place called Balinese Home Cooking. The family has opened their home compound to start up a home cooking restaurant. The food is amazing and the owner is friendly. You'll also get to meet people here as you dine. Worth a pop in while in Ubud.

Balinese Home Cooking eating places in Ubud bali indonesia
Balinese Home Cooking in Ubud
A whole host of other places to eat at are; Metis, Trattoria, Ultimo, Mosaic Beach Club, Wahaha Pork Ribs and Baku Dapa Warung just to name a few.


Ubud Art Market

people and shop vendors at ubud art market in bali indonesia
Ubud Art Market
Great place to pick up handicrafts and souvenirs. This market has food, coffee shops, paintings, home decor, shoes, bags and everything else. The prices here will be far cheaper than what you'll find in Kuta and Seminyak so shop here before you head off to other parts of Bali.


Stay in a Villa

villa with swimming pool and compound in Ubud Bali indonesia
Villa in Ubud
When in Bali, stay in a Villa. There are various Villas available for booking. Airbnb has a wide range of villas to choose from. You'll find some on Agoda too. We loved staying in one while in Ubud as the rice paddy fields were just a great view to have when you wake up every morning. 


Catch A Dance Performance

Kecak Dance in Batubulan ubud bali indonesia
Kecak Dance in Ubud
Catching a dance performance while in Bali, be it the Kecak Dance or the Barong Dance is a must. You'll be able to catch the Legong dance being performed at many places that have a dinner service too. Made's Warung in Seminyak has a performance on certain days of the week which was pretty good and we loved that the teacher would come on to explain the dance. 

We caught the Kecak dance performance at the Sahadewa theatre in Batubulan Gianyar. They also perform the Sanghyang Jaran Dance which was mesmerizing and a great photo opportunity for those who want some great photos.


The Negatives


While there are great places and things to do in Bali, there are also some things you might want to avoid. We decided to try out a tour at Bali because we had never done it before. And my advice, is to avoid the tours. Instead, plan a trip out to go see certain things and find a taxi to take you. 


Tours

Our tour included a trip to Turtle Island and snorkeling off Turtle Island. We have never done either and were more curious than anything else. Avoid these at all cost. It just wasn't worth it. The tour people here were pushy and there was a lot of misinformation. Not something you want when you're headed out on a boat to snorkel. 

Tour Operators basuka dive and water sports in Nusa Dua bali indonesia
Tour operators for water sports in Nusa Dua
Turtle Island was just sad. As an animal lover, I couldn't deal with it. The whole thing felt rushed. The animals looked sad. This was just something I think was not worth the trip. 


Warung Dewa Malen

Warung Dewa Malen restaurant among the paddy fields in Ubud bali indonesia
Warung Dewa Malen in Ubud
To be avoided unless you want to over pay on average food. We didn't realize that the taxi drivers are given a commission to bring customers here. He promised us a great meal and we were sorely disappointed. You'll get a great atmosphere but that is where it ends. The one single Balinese music played on a continuous loop will drive you crazy after a while. So, avoid if you can, you'll get great food cheaper elsewhere.


Babi Guling


We have always been interested in trying the national dish of every place we have visited. We were proudly told that Babi Guling was amazing and that it was the national dish. We tried it three times at three different restaurants and we just didn't like it. Which was kind of weird because the hubs is a pork lover. He just felt like there was something off in each dish; kind of like how things don't mesh together well. Needless to say, we will not be trying this again.


Brahma Temple in Ubud

Brahma Temple in Ubud bali indonesia
Brahma Temple in Ubud
While I do advise seeing a few temples when in Bali, we did a random stop at this Brahma Temple and weren't quite taken by it. I don't know if it was the lack of information, or maybe we were late and there were no guides. In any case, I'm not trying to give the temples a bad review. I just think, unlike temples in India, which we are used to, the ones in Bali are different. I would have liked to learn more. Instead, I'd advice that you take the temple visits at face value and just enjoy the beautiful architecture and the serene surroundings.


All in all....

Bali is a great place to visit if you don't expect too much or if you aren't into museums and tours all day. It is a phenomenal place to visit if you are looking at relaxing and enjoying the slower pace.

There are other places worth visiting that I did not cover in this blog; Besakih Temple, Tirta Empul, Monkey Forest, Uluwatu and Ulun Danu Beratan Temple.


Check out my other blog post on Bali.....


Want to know more about Ubud? Head over to my post here: Ubud Bali: Things to do

Want to know more about Seminyak? Head over to my post here: Seminyak Bali: Things to do

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