Things to do in Bali (with the benefit of 4 months’ worth of hindsight)

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Early morning low tide at Kuta beach_02

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This list of things to do in Bali is several months overdue — I was there in early April — but I think the extra time between then and now has actually helped me refine this list. This isn’t the “Top 10 Things To Do in Bali as Decided by Everyone Ever” or the “Things You Must Do in Bali Otherwise You’ll Miss Half of Your Life” or the “You Know You’ve Been To Bali If You’ve…” list. For what it’s worth, I think you should do in Bali whatever you want to do, whether it’s something really touristy or something totally off the map. But if you’re looking for ideas, this is the list of things I’ve done while I was there that, when I look back, I look back on them with the greatest fondness.

  1. Stay in a local’s home. Living with a Balinese family gives you the unique chance to interact with locals of all ages and observe their day-to-day lives without being obtrusive. Homestays are particularly abundant in Ubud and they range from the humble to the hotel-like. We stayed at Narendra Guest House and absolutely loved it. (You can read the SGMT review here.)
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    Bali Ubud Narendra Guest House 11*
  2. Visit Uluwatu. It’s a temple perched on top of towering cliffs in the southern tip of Bali. The temple itself was interesting but what I loved most was the view: a parade of breaking waves at the foot of gorgeous cliffs. Uluwatu is also a great place to watch the sunset and the kecak fire dance.
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    Uluwatu_02*
  3. Eat babi guling and other Balinese food. Babi guling is roast pig — it’s the Indonesian version of the Filipino lechon, and I loved it nearly as much. Ketut Arta, our guide on the first day, recommended the babi guling at Ibu Oka (in Ubud) and we were not disappointed. I also loved the mie goreng at the restaurant beside the Royal Eighteen Resort & Spa in Kuta — it was really tasty and surprisingly cheap.
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  4. Try the ginseng and coconut coffee and the lemongrass and mangosteen tea. Those were my favorites from the coffee and tea tasting that we had at a coffee plantation but there were many other flavors (which you might like better) for sampling at the site. The visit to the plantation was a bit meh, to be honest — you don’t actually see farmers planting or harvesting or whatever else is done on plantations — but the tasting session makes the stop worth it.
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    Bali Golden Tour_Coffee_01*
  5. Witness a Hindu ceremony. There are some ceremonies that only happen every century, while some are annual celebrations. But you don’t have to take part in a lavish, elaborate ritual — even a simple prayer in a local family’s home temple, if you are lucky enough to be invited to witness one, will give you a memorable glimpse into how the Balinese’s faith forms a big part of their day-to-day life.
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  6. Talk to locals. Ask questions, even the ones you think are kinda stupid. In my case, while looking for accommodations, I often wondered, “Does this Gusti guy own every B&B in Ubud??” I actually thought the properties were, like, Ubud’s version of Hotel 81 or Travelodge. But then I noticed that a lot of people were named Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Ketut. So, aware that I might sound silly or seem insensitive, I nevertheless ventured to ask our tour guide what the deal was with the names. (If you don’t know yet, go to Bali and find out. It’s as good an excuse as any to go to Bali.) The unexpected answer confirmed for me the tenet that the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.
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  7. Finally: live the beach life. While the Balinese culture is the island’s most distinctive offering, it’s…well, it’s a vacation, for goodness’ sake. And there’s a beach. Enjoy it! Wake up whenever you like, put on your beach wear, saunter to the seaside, and chill. Surf to your heart’s content or establish residency in a hammock under a tree. You don’t get to do this everyday, so do it while you can.
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    Kuta Beach_01*
    If you’re looking for a hotel that’s just a short walk from the beach in Kuta (and has a rooftop pool and a buffet breakfast), stay where we stayed: at the Royal Eighteen Resort & Spa. (You can read the SGMT review here.)

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There’s a lot of stuff that probably would have made this list, if only I had actually done them, so maybe you can learn from my regrets too:

  1. Climb Mount Batur.
  2. Ride a horse on a beach.
  3. Take surfing lessons.
  4. Stock up on more Ginseng Creamer instant coffee. (Well, maybe this one is just my thing. It’s not the to-die-for local ginseng coffee, but I like it well enough and it makes a nice change from my usual 3-in-1.)

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Extra tip
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Bali is a big island and although you can try to get around on your own, it’s really worth it to engage a tour guide. There’s a wide range of tours to choose from and you can even ask your guide to tweak your itinerary. On our first day we asked Ketut Arta (artaketut[at]hotmail[dot]com | 08123616274) to pick us up from the airport, take us to Uluwatu, then drop us off in Ubud, and he was wonderful. On subsequent days, we went on tours with Bali Golden Tour and Amazing Bali Tour and would recommend them to anyone else going to Bali.

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Bali

Planning a trip to Bali? Start here.

Bali_Lovina_Buddhisttemple_03

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Budget

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If you catch a piso sale, share a room with a friend, eat at warungs, and generally live frugally, a budget of P20,000 should last you a good 4-7 days.

Read the details here: How much does a Bali trip cost?
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How to get to Bali

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From the Philippines, there are several options:

  • If you’re in or near Manila, you can take Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines, both of which operate direct flights to Bali.
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  • If you’re in or near Cebu, you can go to Manila and fly from there to Bali. Alternatively, you can fly AirAsia from Cebu to Kuala Lumpur, then from Kuala Lumpur to Bali. I like the second option better as it gives me the chance to visit two countries (and I personally find KL easier to navigate than Manila).
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Getting around Bali

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Airport transfer service by Bali Golden Tour

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Where to stay

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UBUD

Narendra Guest House
Jl. Sriwedari 42, Taman Ubud
Ubud, 80571, Indonesia
+628123943943

My friend Hershe posing in front of Narendra Guest House, our incredible homestay

My friend Hershe posing in front of Narendra Guest House, our incredible homestay

KUTA

The Royal Eighteen Resort and Spa
Jl. Singosari, Kuta, Bali
+62 361 763318
reservation@baliroyaleighteen.com

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Suggestions from other Bali visitors:

Any recommendations on where to stay in Bali?
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What to do

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Main article:

Things to Do in Bali (with the benefit of 4 months’ worth of hindsight)

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Take tours around Bali

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Sunset activities

(Other posts in the works)

Bali_Tanah Lot_Sunset_OnePlusOne_11

Tour contacts

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Bali Golden Tour
Contact: Mr. Wayan Adika
(0361) 7966391
+6281558449505
+6281936175556
info@baligoldentour.com
baligoldentour@gmail.com
baligoldentour@outlook.com
http://www.baligoldentour.com/

Amazing Bali Tour
Contact: Mr. Nyoman
+6285100781815
+6281338786415 (WhatsApp)
amazingbalitour@gmail.com
http://www.amazingbalitours.com/index.html

Independent Guide: Ketut Arta
artaketut@hotmail.com
08123616274

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This post will be updated regularly with more information and links to other posts about Bali.

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Airport transfer service by Bali Golden Tour

Our sunset visit to Tanah Lot was also facilitated by Mr. Wayan Adika of Bali Golden Tour

Our sunset visit to Tanah Lot was also facilitated by Mr. Wayan Adika of Bali Golden Tour

On the day before our departure from Bali, we remembered that we hadn’t arranged transportation to the airport from our hotel in Kuta. We’d had such a pleasant and professional experience dealing with Bali Golden Tour that we emailed them at around 8 PM to inquire about their airport transfer services. Mr. Wayan Adika responded to our query within the hour and very soon everything was arranged. (Their usual promptness is really very commendable!)

Rates for Bali Golden Tour's airport transfer services (as of 15 April 2015)

Rates for Bali Golden Tour’s airport transfer services (as of 15 April 2015)

Our driver Bagus arrived around 10 minutes before our arranged pick-up time. He was very courteous and friendly, with a very professional manner, and the ride to the airport went very smoothly. If you find yourself in Bali and need airport transfer or a tour to anywhere in the island, I highly recommend Bali Golden Tour.

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“Airport transfer service by Bali Golden Tour” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved. 

The Wonderland North Bali | Lovina Tour

Bali_Lovina_Buddhisttemple_04*
On our Wonderland North Bali Lovina Tour, we were picked up very promptly by Ngurah, our smiling guide who hails from the woodcarving village of Mas. We told him we needed to be in Kuta by 4 PM and he agreed to tweak our itinerary to make good time.

It was a nearly 2-hour drive to our first stop, on a road that steadily climbed upwards, taking us nearer and nearer to gigantic mountains whose peaks were perpetually covered in clouds. The twin lakes of Tamblingan and Buyan were well worth the journey though. We viewed both from a high vantage point in Bedugul, where the air was wonderfully cool despite it being near noon.

Bali_Lakes_01

Bali_Lakes_02

And then from there we flew to Yogyakarta and visited Borobodur.

Bali_Lovina_Buddhisttemple_01

Kidding! We drove about another hour to the Brahma Vihara Arama, the largest Buddhist temple and monastery in Bali. As reported in descriptions I’ve read of the place, the designs were indeed a comfortable mixture of Balinese/Indonesian design elements and typical Buddhist architecture. The latter includes the distinctive stupa seen in other Buddhist temples like Borobodur near Yogyakarta.

Bali_Lovina_Buddhisttemple_02

Our next stop: Lovina, the departure point of dolphin-watching tours, with its black sand that was, to be more accurate, actually a grayish brown (or a brownish gray). The tour included an enormous set lunch, that we couldn’t quite consume, of rice, noodles, spring rolls, chicken and a plate of sliced pineapples and watermelon. We ate this meal on a small elevated hut overlooking the sea, sitting crosslegged on cushions. The restaurant actually had a pool that looked inviting in the 1 PM heat but we chose not to stay long in Lovina, as we still had quite a ways to go.

Bali_Lovina_Beach_01

I didn’t realize it at the time I was booking this Bali tour, but it was actually a summit to sea affair, twice over. Cloud to coast, and cloud to coast again, as the drive from Lovina to Kuta actually took us through foggy Gitgit and back to the Bedugul area, backtracking our earlier route. That last stage of our journey took over 3 hours! Our guide Ngurah must have been more than a little fatigued by the long drive but he was never grumpy, smilingly answering our questions, or keeping his peace when we indulged — frequently — our drowsiness.

Thank you, Amazing Bali Tour!

Bali_Lovina_Buddhisttemple_03

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The Wonderland North Bali | Lovina Tour” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.

Amazing Bali Tours

Brahma Arama Vihara | Image by Jos Dielis | CC BY 2.0

Brahma Arama Vihara | Image by Jos Dielis | CC BY 2.0

Remember my post about going on a tour to the cooler areas (like, literally cooler areas) of Bali? We’re going to the Bedugul region today, and after that back to the heat: the Lovina area, the jump-off point for dolphin tours, and to a Buddhist monastery that looks beautiful from the photos I’ve seen of it. On that tour — the Wonderland North Bali Lovina Tour — we will be going with Amazing Bali Tour, and I thought I would write about the other tours that they offer as well.

Full Day Tours

Whole Day Tours

Half Day Tours

Combination Trips

These tours are designed to let you see the main attractions in Bali and try the various activities that are possible around the island.

Other Tours and Services

Amazing Bali Tour also offers overnight tours with various durations:

These tours include hotel accommodations in addition to the standard tour inclusions and usually require at least 2 people to book.

Finally, they also offer airport transfers and car rental services.

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Amazing Bali Tours” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved. 
 

 


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Bali Golden Tours

Ulun Danu Beratan | Image by Jimmy McIntyre | CC BY-SA 2.0

Ulun Danu Beratan | Image by Jimmy McIntyre | CC BY-SA 2.0

Tomorrow we are going on the Jatiluwih Tour with Bali Golden Tour, and I’ll make sure to write about our experiences on that tour as soon as I can. In the meantime, I thought I’d write a bit about the tours that are available here in Bali. There are many tours, most of which follow a standard itinerary, so I’ll base this post on the tours that are available from Bali Golden Tour.

It’s important to note that most tours are priced in two different ways. You can pay per car — this is cheaper as the cost of the car hire, petrol and guide fee can be shared by all the persons in the car, but you will have to pay for your own entrance fees, lunch, etc. You can also pay per person — this is already inclusive of the car, petrol, guide fee, lunch/dinner, and entrance fees. It is your choice which mode of payment to select, so with a bit of research and computation, you can figure out which way will work out best for you.

Full Day Tours

Including the Jatiluwih Tour — which I wrote about in my previous post Temples, Temples, Temples —  Bali Golden Tour offers 15 full-day tours. The tours usually start at 8:30 in the morning (unless they are sunset + dinner tours) and last for 10-14 hours. Prices range from 45 to 99 USD per person for the all-inclusive tours, depending on how many places you are squeezing into the itinerary.

The full-day tours offered by Bali Golden Tour include:

Half Day Tours

These tours last from 6-8 hours and cost USD 36-65 (all-inclusive). Most start in the morning and end mid-afternoon, but those that include stops at beautiful sunset-watching points may leave in the afternoon and extend to mid-evening. Bali Golden Tour offers the following half-day choices:

Activities Tours

These are pretty self-explanatory:

Spoilt for Choice

As you can see, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to the tours you can take in Bali, with different combinations of attractions and activities, depending on what appeals most to you. Bali Golden Tour also offers a combination of these tours in their Combination Tours Package (attraction + activity), Double Activities Tours Package, Triple Activities Tours Package, and Round Trip Tours Package. They also offer Private Car Charter.

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Bali Golden Tours” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved. 

 


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