…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. To our surprise, our six days in Bali exceeded our expectations. We could not visit Indonesia and ignore Bali, so we thought that we would check it out for ourselves. We did not quite know what to expect, as we have heard such mixed reports, but we were assured that the beaches were beautiful and it would hopefully be a really good place to “chill out”!
Bali is one of the world’s top tourist destinations and has been for many decades. When we were in Jakarta, our guide asked about our itinerary in Indonesia. When we responded that we were planning to visit Bali, she smiled and replied that parts of Bali were more like Australia than Indonesia. Anyway, we flew Air Asia, our favorite budget airline, from Yogyakarta in Java to Bali. The flight was just over an hour and as we landed, Bali certainly looked very beautiful. On the flight, we noticed that Air Asia fly to both Darwin in Northern Australia and Perth in Western Australia. Later, we checked that Darwin is just one and a half hours’ flying time from Bali and Perth is only three hours.
We had booked six nights at a comfortable beach-side resort hotel in Sanur, in Southern Bali. We were originally hoping to find some accommodation in fashionable Seminyak but there was nothing on the beach at a realistic price. We picked up a fixed price taxi at the airport – fixed price taxis are common at airports in Asia, so it’s a shame that other countries, like the UK, do not adopt the practice. As we left the airport, we saw lots of very modern, shiny vehicles. A few minutes later, we were amazed at the heavy traffic. Whilst, we had experienced enormous traffic jams and related air pollution in other cities in Indonesia, we were taken aback that Bali was so congested – it somehow did not fit the image.
In short, we had a wonderful stay at our hotel in Sanur, and would love to have the opportunity to return to Bali some day. The hotel was relaxed, well-run, with smiling, attentive staff that really wanted to delight their guests. Balinese people, like other Indonesians that we met in Java, are truly delightful, with enormous warmth. The guests were, of course, international. Obviously, there was a large percentage from Australia – all ages and backgrounds. We were surprised at the large number of Dutch tourists, presumably it is related to Indonesia being a former Dutch colony? There were some Germans, Chinese, a few Brits and Americans too. Bali has some fantastic and inexpensive restaurants, with worldwide cuisine available, and some of the best produce – we really enjoyed the Australian steaks and wine! Our favorite was probably simple barbecued fish and seafood on the beach, with a beer or a glass of local wine! We probably spent more than half our evenings in restaurants on the beach.
One evening, we visited Seminyak to see the shops and looking for a meal afterwards. We spent a couple of hours on the two mile, main drag of shops, in Seminyak. It was heavy going with the heat, humidity and traffic pollution. The hundreds of shops has an amazingly stylish range of fashions and art but they were very expensive for South East Asia, and we were not surprised that there were few customers in the shops. Of course, we were visiting Bali out of season. We gave up on a restaurant in Seminyak and our driver (for the evening) took us to Jimbaran, south of the Bali hot-spot of Kuta. Jimbaran is famous for its beach-side, seafood restaurants, with what seemed like thousands and thousands of people seated on the beach, looking out to sea, and occasionally distracted by planes taking off or landing. We had some incredibly fresh prawns and snapper, with a spicy sauce, washed down with local wine.
On Sunday, we took the same driver for the day and visited some of the local sites. This included Batu Bulan, where we saw the traditional Barong and Kris Balinese Dance (open previous link for photos). Our driver took us to see the local shops and crafts. In Celuk (see photos), we saw the gold and silver smiths, but the quality was quite poor. In Mas (see photos), we saw some amazing wood carvings – Marilyn was tempted, but thought better of it due to weight limits. We actually bought nothing but it was nice window shopping. In Tegallalang (see photos), we saw some traditional Balinese rice terraces but to be candid, we had seen more beautiful terraces in Vietnam and Nepal. We headed North into the mountains and stopped for lunch at Kitamini, with some stunning views of volcanoes and the lush landscape in all directions. We were disappointed at the heavy traffic but it was Sunday, to be fair.
Yes, Bali is a bit touristy but the people are very special indeed. We would certainly like to return to Bali, given the opportunity, as there is so much to see but that was not the object of this exercise, it was supposed to be a chill-out. Next, we move to Bali’s neighboring island, Lombok, which promises to be a complete contrast, so watch out for our next blog…