As writer Lindsey Bro wrote in a recent Darling piece, “We aren’t here to be passive, we’re here to live the fullest expression of the life we get the opportunity to have,” and in my opinion, travel offers us those moments to be most expressive. Travel is about being inspired and experiencing the unknown. It’s about witnessing great wonders and seeking out great adventures. It’s about opening up your mind and becoming aware of a world outside your own. On a recent trip to the Indonesian island of Bali, I gladly experienced all of the above.
Ranked one of top ten islands in the world by several esteemed travel publications, Bali is a place that satisfies any travel appetite. It offers a little something for everyone – adventure, serene relaxation, culinary delights and cultural immersion. With the tourism industry making up a large chunk of the economy, you will find that the majority of the Balinese people are eager to make your visit a memorable one.
My journey was one of the most eye-opening and enjoyable vacations I’ve ever taken, so if you are planning a trip to the region, here is a brief list of things you might like to add to your itinerary.
The streets of Bali are treacherous in my opinion. Driving is a bit on the “chaotic” side (if I’m putting it mildly), so if you aren’t experienced at driving on the opposite side of the road or riding a motorbike, then I highly recommend hiring a driver/guide.
There are a lot of options when it comes to hiring a driver. So when a friend of mine recommended driver and guide Yanta Wayan with rave reviews, I jumped at the suggestion. Yanta did not disappoint. Not only was he incredibly knowledgeable about all things Bali, but he was always on time (if not early) for all departures, accommodated all of my travel plans and list of “must-dos”, and he also offered up some great recommendations of things to do on days I did not plan out completely. Overall, he was a fantastic travel guide.
The Bali Tourism Board also offers some additional transportation resources.
Eat + Drink
On my journey, I visited Seminyak, Lovina, and Ubud with a quick stop in Kuta on the way out. Each area offers a variety of cuisine to choose from, but it’s always recommended to seek out some of the more local options.
Warung Eny – The food is as authentic and fresh as it gets in Seminyak. The owners, Eny and her husband Wayan, truly cook from the heart, as the sign outside says “the love cooking.” Delicious all around.
On the Road North to Lovina
Satria Agrowisata – On our way north toward Lovina, you can stop at one of the coffee plantations on the island that produces the notorious kopi luwak coffee (the coffee beans harvested from the droppings of the wild Asian palm civets – ferret-like creatures). While the luwak coffee comes at a premium, the variation of teas that were offered are just as delicious – and highly sweetened too!
Ibu Oka – Even though it has become quite a popular dining destination in Ubud, Ibu Oka is a must…if you’re not vegetarian, that is. Their speciality: Babi Guling, a traditional Balinese suckling pig dish.
Kebun Bistro – There comes a time during extended travel that you may crave a bit of the familiar. So when this French-style bistro was recommended by my hotel proprietor one night, I decided to break from the traditional and see how Bali did bistro…and boy can they do bistro! Kebun delivered one of the most delicious wild mushroom pizzas I’ve ever had (coming from an Italian girl, that’s a pretty serious statement). It’s definitely worth a visit if you are looking for something outside of the Balinese cuisine.
Bali Garden Beach Resort – Before we headed to the airport, we made a quick stop in Kuta. I’d heard so much about the gorgeous beaches, primed for surfing, and wanted to check it out for myself. The sand and surf were wonderful, but the crispy duck I had at the Bali Garden Beach Resort was certainly the cherry on top. They also boast a pretty decent view of the entire Kuta shoreline.
See + Do
With thousands of temples, epic landscapes and endless stretches of beach, Bali – needless to say – has an abundance of activities and attractions. Some favorites from my visit included…
Tanah Lot Temple – This gorgeous “temple on the sea” looks like it grew out of the landscape. The day we visited, there was a ceremony underway in the main temple, thus giving us a first-hand look at the amazing colors and tradition that goes into worship. It was absolutely stunning.
Tirta Empul Natural Springs – The natural spring that feeds this pool of fountains dates back to the first century. While the ceremony of purifying and cleansing yourself in these waters is beautiful unto itself, I found the actual spring – located directly behind the fountains – to be the most captivating.
Banyan Tree Bike Tours – Since many parts of Bali tend to be tourist-centric, I was looking for a little bit of adventure off the beaten path. And boy did I experience that with a biking and trekking trip through the rice paddies of Ubud. Taking in the lush vegetation, cheerful people, and feisty wildlife (I mean the monkeys) as you cruise through the village streets is a new favorite way to learn about a location. I do warn you though – if intense physical activity is not your idea of “fun,” then I would pass on this. You will most definitely be sweating through your clothes!
Cooking Class – At our final hotel (Bambu Indah – see below) we decided to take a Balinese cooking class. We’d been enjoying all of the sweet, savory and spicy dishes, so we decided to try some traditional Balinese cooking of our own. The end result was a delicious spicy rice dish and oh-so-sweet palm sugar-filled crepe dessert.
Relax + Sleep
There is no end in sight when it comes to amazing places to stay in Bali. From luxurious resorts to jungle treehouses, you’ve got your pick of just about anything you like. Here are three of my favorite lodging picks…
Damai (Lovina) – If you’re looking to check out the northern side of Bali, the Damai in Lovina is a perfect spot. The location is tucked away in the mountainside, offering some epic sunset views of the beach below, and the food, rooms, and pools (both private and public) are simply wonderful.
Kajane Yangloni (Ubud) – After filtering through hundreds of lodging options in the Ubud area, I came upon an image of a quaint cabin-like building set upon rice paddies. I was sold and quickly booked two nights at the Kajane Yangloni. In addition to the great outdoor atmosphere, the decor is something special too. The fantastic wooden armoires that sit in the room and the lava rock carved tub in the completely outdoor bathroom are some things to admire.
Bambu Indah (Ubud) – I was anticipating a lush environment when I arrived in Bali, but the Bambu Indah truly confirmed that fact. This sustainably designed resort is made up of a variety of Javanese bridal houses and much of the meals made at the restaurant use produce grown on the grounds. One of the best features of the resort, however, is an egg-like treehouse that sits high above the property offering the most amazing views of the rice fields below. Truly epic and an adrenaline rush if you are afraid of heights like me.
Have you ventured off to Bali? What were your favorite parts?