(This post is coming a bit late in my travels as I am now in Greece, but here it is just the same. Enjoy!)
Bali oh me oh my, dear Bali. Well, you’ve definitely got it all– drunk Aussies stumbling through Kuta, Rupia millionaire ex-pats living it up in Seminyak, vegan yoga junkies getting their fix in Ubud, master divers in search of shipwrecks, bright fish and hundred meter stretches of coral in the depths of Ahmed and Tulamben, new-age hipsters terrorizing Changgu, glistening tanned surf bodies with amicable smiles loving the shit out of life and the waves at Uluwatu, Bingin and Impossibles– people from every corner of the globe coming to Bali to find and fulfill their own personal idea of paradise, and believe me it’s here… And still, there are so many more pockets of culture and life that exist here that I’ve yet to see. It’s been a month but I’ve barely scraped the surface.
One thing about the Bali locals and the transplants, the quicky vacation-eers, trust-funders, career explorers and everyone in between, is that they are all incredibly friendly– I swear I have not met one grump, aside from myself on occasion. You needn’t do more than smile at someone, guy or girl, and they’ll happily pull up a chair for a chat. Everyone seems all smiles pretty much all of the time.
But what about the real Bali, the life of the Balinese? Well, there’s major diversity to this lot from town to town as well; but one thing that seems to hold true throughout is the Balinese love and adherence to ceremony. There’s something going on every day… Like a subtle dream pulling you in, the sounds of Gamelan rings out from beneath open pavilions, beautiful Balinese mamas and grandmas sit on the steps of their family compounds weaving palm frond leaves into 3’ x 3’ baskets to house the Frangipanis, incense and other odds and ends that make up the offering they’ve gathered to appease the spirits of the island. This seems to go on without end from sunrise to sunset– I often found myself wondering how these women actually make money– but here, money is far from the most important thing– what seems to be the most valuable is actually enjoying life, consecrating the day with gratitude and respect for all that has come before and all that is yet to be, to honour this ever changing gift called life and to see one another as brothers and sisters. Here it’s not about what you can do for someone that warrants their kindness, it’s about the fact that we are all part of the same human family, with each one of us on our own journey, these people realize the journey can be tough, and they meet you with open hearts to help you on your way.
Yes, the people of Bali were definitely the highlight of my experience; and of course, the brilliant mountains, stretches of rice fields aglow in the most vibrant green, magical sunsets and the warm water and unbeatable surf, made Bali even more difficult to leave.
For those planning to visit the island, here is a list of some of my favorite places and things to do:
UBUD: The hip jungle hub for great yoga and even better food. Careful though, a common theme for travellers that come here first is that they never leave!
Ecstatic Dance at Yoga Barn
Magical Pool Vibes in the Jungle:
Bali Buddha (they also have a Bali Buddha cafe!)
Clear Cafe (best smoothies and shakes I’ve ever had; and a great place to write)
Beloved Earth Cafe
Definitely check out the Ubud Monkey Forest, it’s only 40 baht for the day and so worth it.
The Tegalalang rice terraces a few kilometers from Ubud are also and amazing site:
SEMINYAK: Has great resorts and shopping– all of the luxuries I never expected to find in Bali. From Pinks nail salon, opened by a New Yorker who knows a thing or two about pampering her customers with champagne while they get their nails did, to the super posh Potato Head beach club, Seminyak is definitely the place for those looking for a luxuries beach vacation.
Beach Clubs and Nightlife:
Ku De Ta
707 Beach Bar (much cheaper than the top two, and they have bean bag chairs on the beach!)
Desa Seni Yoga:
They have a beautiful yoga shala, but I wouldn’t go during sunset as that’s when the mosquitos are in full force!
Baraonda (great pizza)
Cafe Bali (amazing selection of food, and shabby chic design)
Corner House (delicious)
Made’s Warung (traditional)
Batik (pricey, but really good)
ULUWATU: This was definitely one of my favorite parts of Bali, I wish I would have gone there earlier in the trip because I could have easily spent a couple of weeks hanging out in this relaxed beach town.
I didn’t get to go to many restaurants but I highly recommend checking out these beaches, as well as the kachak dance at the Uluwatu temple)
Padang padang (a little too packed for my taste)
Nyang nyang (super hard to find and about a thousand steps down to the beach from the top of a mountain, but it’s worth it!)
Uluwatu (one of the best waves in the world and even if you don’t surf, it’s worth it to watch the break from one of the little warungs overlooking the water)