Drop out of the world and live in a sarong? Bali seems to be one of the most popular places on earth to do that. It’s painted as the one destination to if you are looking to find yourself or connect with your spirituality. Others come here for some relaxation, sun soaking and sometimes even surfing.
On the other side of the coin, it is also a favourite for expats in the Asia. It’s a short flight to somewhere close to Paradise. When I first visited, I was working in Hong Kong and flew business class flight direct to Bali. We stayed at the sprawling five -star Grand Hyatt resort in Nusa Dua. There were lots of pools, a great beach, fab service and amazing landscaping.
The beach resorts in Bali are unrivalled in architecture, service and location. Long deserted sandy beaches, rooms with fabulous unrestricted sea views, staff lurking around every corner and catering to your every whim. Multiple pools surrounded by beautiful Balinese landscaping and dotted with deck chairs in discreet corners.
The mystical atmosphere in Bali is quite tangible when you step away from the busy touristy areas. The Balinese have been Hindu for many years. Underlying this is the animalistic religion that is indigenous to the region but mostly invisible to Western tourists. Every hotel and buildings have little statues wrapped with the black and white cloths. Flower offerings are everywhere. If you are there on a festival day or a wedding, you will see folk dressed in all their colourful finery carrying trays of flowers and food for the gods. Every home has an altar in their garden for the gods and for the dead. Ask a local to explain their daily lives and you will notice how they live.
Around Nusa Dua
The luxurious hotels resorts in Nusa Dua are all designed to offer all you would need for a beach holiday in the sun. You don’t even need to leave this area as it caters for all you needs in food and facilities. There is even a mini golf course in the middle of all the hotels. Some of the hotel guests spend their 2 weeks a year in the hotel and don’t leave the resort until they have to fly home. That is not the way I like to travel. I like to explore. In Bali, there is so much to see and discover.
We rented a jeep and mapped out a route to see the volcano at Mount Batur on the other side of the Island. We plotted a route that took us through Ubud. The roads are a bit sketchy in parts but are not too scary to drive on. Road signs and directions are not to be relied on though.
Travelling through Ubud
Ubud is a day trip all in itself. Most people will head straight to Ubud, which used to be a small village on this main road. Of late, since that Eat Pray Love film, there has been a massive influx of visitors turning this once sleepy place into a touristy pastiche of the charming Balinese village it once was. If you are not in search of enlightenment but a bit of original culture, then get off the beaten path.
The road up to Ubud is lined with little craft villages, each with its own specialties. One village is just for gold jewelery, metalwork, one for wood carving, one for painting, etc. If you take a guided tour, you will miss out on these gems.
The locals in Bali are very talented and very friendly. There is much to discover. I discovered in this book that there is a man who makes the “Keris”, the traditional dagger. His home is also his shop and it is said that here you can buy “a special” keris, one imbued with mystical powers.
There are still amazing views to be had of their Unesco Heritage terraced paddy fields that Ubud is famous for. A good place to see these views and stop to take photos is at the Amandari resort. You can stop for a drink or lunch on the verandah which has a stunning view. In the village itself, old Balinese villas have been converted to coffee shops, retaining their architecture and charm.
Affordable Luxury in Bali
There are luxury alternatives to the five-star beach resorts. You can rent a villa with a pool, cook and driver for the price of a package holiday.
Seminyak and Kuta Beach
Kuta Beach is loud and brash and is one of the original destinations on the Hippie Trail. It’s now full of souvenir shops, bars, cheap hotels, hostels and backpackers. Nearby is a good beach and still draws a really young crowd. It is a good place to buy locally made batik bikinis.
Seminyak is the posh neighbour to Kuta. Its stretch of beach which houses upscale hotel, bars, shopping, spas and restaurants. It is quite modern and cosmopolitan and where a lot of expats choose to live. If you are visiting you can choose from a range of beach resorts like the new Alila Seminyak who have stunning beach villas too, more details on their site.
Sunset on Seminyak Beach
If you are looking for a retreat, a place to relax, enjoy the sunshine, have some good food.
Visitor Information for Bali
- It’s mainly a Hindu Island so the local culture is different from the rest of Indonesia
- Be aware of the religious offerings, little bowls of flowers, and don’t offend by stepping on them.
- Dress code: You can wear beach wear at the resorts or touristy areas but be mindful of local customs when you visit temples and sacred places
- Climate: it is hot, hot, hot. Dress appropriately and bring a bottle water with you.
- Carry small change for tips and don’t carry more money than you need to. Eating and drinking locally is very cheap.
- Taxis are cheap but make sure that they use their meters of your will be fleeced.
We flew to Bali on Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong.
We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Resort Nusa Dua which has won several awards for the best resort hotel in the world. It has multiple swimming pools, a well kept beach, many restaurants and very good service. The hotel organised our jeep rental which we drove ourself. You can book a hotel car with a driver if you prefer.
You can find more information and how to plan your trip to Bali here.