Bali is one of the 17,000 islands in the Indonesia archipelago, and is about half the size of the Big Island in Hawaii. While Indonesia is 90% Muslim, Bali is 90% Hindu. There are four million people living in Bali, and it has over 10,000 temples and over 4,000 hotels. It’s a very popular vacation spot for Australians- they’re everywhere.
My suggestions for things to do in Bali
1. Stay a few days in Kuta/Legian/Seminyak area. There’s tons of bars, restaurants, hotels, tour operators, taxis, scooters, and beaches crammed into this small area off Denpasar. There’s plenty to see and do to keep you busy anywhere from two days to two weeks.
2. Take a surf lesson on the beaches of Kuta/Legian/Seminyak. We used Odyssey surf school, located next to the Hard Rock Cafe. Or, you can just rent a board from one of the local guys set up on the beach. Our lesson was two and a half hours and cost us about $35 each.
3. Take a tour to some temples around the island. You can do a big bus tour, or a private car tour. For the private car, you can get 2-6 people together and pay one price (about $60), so if you can organize together you can save some money. We did the Bedugul tour, which took us to a lakeside temple, a royal family temple, a monkey forest, lunch, coffee farm (which serves luwak, or civet coffee), and finally, the Tanah Lot temple, also called Temple by the Sea.
4. Visit Ubud. This “cultural capital” (featured in Eat, Pray, Love) is filled with shops, restaurants, temples, garden bungalows, and frangipani-covered alleys. Just enjoy taking slow walks through the little town, saying hi to the locals. Consider a cooking class, or walk over to the monkey forest at the edge of town. Sit in the garden of your bungalow and read, or take a dip in the pool.
5. Get a massage. They range from 60,000 rupiah to 120,000 ($4-12 USD), so feel free to get more than one. Add in a facial or a pedicure. Get another one tomorrow.
6. Watch the cremation ceremony (called a ngaben) in Ubud. We inadvertently showed up in town right smack in the middle of the procession, featuring towering floats carried on the shoulders of 20-30 men. The body of the deceased is actually inside the float and after winding through the town they are taken to the cremation cemetery and burned. (The floats vary and may be in the shape of a giant ox and/ or a golden tower). There is an annual mass cremation ceremony for poorer people (the bodies are interred in the ground while waiting for the mass cremation), or a private ceremony for richer or royal families (still with a public procession). You can find out when the ceremonies are happening in advance because they are planned for auspicious days according to the lunar calendar.
7. Visit a Balinese art museum. Two really nice ones are in Ubud, the Pura Lukisan museum and the ARMA (Agung Rai Museum of Art).
8. Take a bike tour from the volcano in the lake (Batur) to Ubud. They can pick you up from Kuta or from Ubud. You start with breakfast at the family compound of the owner, go to a coffee farm, and then see the volcano. Then you get on the bikes, and it’s 25 km downhill, stopping at various villages, temples, and rice paddies along the way to take in the view and listen to the guide explain his culture. A delicious lunch afterward and then you’re dropped off at your hotel or guesthouse or home stay. We used Bali Bike Baik and found them to be really excellent, informative and well organized.
9. See a traditional Balinese dance. We attended a women’s kecak in Ubud, which included a chorus of singers and chanters, while costumed dancers acted out a historic Balinese folk tale, the Ramayana Epic.
10. Visit the next island over. You can go east and visit Gili or Lombok by boat, or go west, and take an overnight bus (and ferry) to visit Java. We headed west to visit Java, then Sumatra. The buses are air conditioned and quite comfortable. Flights are also cheap. We are taking a flight to Yogyakarta for under $50 each on Lion Air.
Stay tuned for our next post about our adventures in Yogyakarta, and then we’ll head to the Asian mainland!