Bali is home to many fascinating things – Kopi Luwak coffee, Silver crafts, Batik, volcanos, and rice patties. Oh, and if you want to see amazing greenery, architecture, and temples, then this is the place for you! There are temples everywhere! The beaches are not too shabby either. Kuta beach is definitely worth a visit, especially if you want to catch a wave and see a beautiful sunset.
I had the pleasure of experiencing some of the things Bali has to offer. And it was not very expensive at all! However, I fear I possibly picked the worst place to make my home base for the few days I stayed. I believe I may have stayed longer in Bali if I had chosen a place like Ubud to hunker down in. But, that wasn’t the case. I went with the safe route of staying near the airport in the chaotic city of Kuta.
When every person I have talked to and every blog that I have read have all said that a person would not be missing out on anything if they decided to not visit Kuta were not kidding; I can now agree that they were all absolutely right. It smells like sewage, is far too busy for a relaxing atmosphere, and the area is completely touristic. I am not a picky person when it comes to being outside of my comfort zone, but I think Kuta walked the line of my limit. If you are seeking a sense of what Bali has to offer then Kuta is not the place for you. However, if you are the type of person who enjoys shopping at the same malls you can find at home while drinking a Starbucks coffee then this is the place for you!
Don’t get me wrong, Kuta is not what the entire Island of Bali is like; granted there is a feel of Kuta found throughout. I probably got that feeling because every place I went, even when I got lost, I was always being pressured into buying things. Even when I was at the beautiful rice patties near Ubud I was tricked into paying for a picture I took with a woman (I was easy pickens that day, shame on me!). Nonetheless, there is a lot to Bali that does not involve the madness of Kuta. So if you are going to visit Bali then plan to just go through Kuta and not stay.
Here I thought northern Australia was hot! I wasn’t thinking when I decided to visit Indonesia in November. It was a miserable hot AND sticky adventure, weather-wise. Being from Minnesota I am somewhat accustomed to hot and humid summers, but Indonesia in the summer was a whole new ballgame. Uff-da! I spent most of my time in water or in air-conditioning. It left little desire to explore far from these relieving remedies. So if you are someone who is not a fan of intense heavy heat then I would consider not visiting in the summer months…if at all.
I landed in Despensar, Bali and began my journey by staying in Kuta. I had the luxury of having transport waiting for me to take me to my hostel. Luckily, my driver had lived in the US and was able to explain things to me while understanding the perspective I was coming from. It was a nice start for my visit. He was able to cover a lot of details with me because the traffic in the city is anything but fast. If you were to ask anybody who has visited the area what the driving is like, I can confidently say every single one of them will express, “insane”! However, although two marked lanes magically become four at red lights and scooter drivers confidently fit themselves into any open section available, there is complete order to the madness. I did not see one accident the whole time there. Although the driving is really aggressive, there appeared to be no rage from the drivers. They communicate with the honking of their horns, informing others that they are on their right and about to pass. So don’t expect a quiet, constant speed, trip because it seems like all drivers are in a race to get somewhere; yet the finish line is unclear to me.
Before arriving I had the intentions of renting a scooter, but that plan changed real quick when I arrived. I am a fairly confident driver and adventurer, but not this time…NOPE! Driving in Bali is not for the fainthearted.
So instead of renting a scooter of death I lucked out and joined a fellow backbacker in a guided day tour in a nice air-conditioned SUV the day after I arrived. She had arranged for the tour to be only 400,000Rp (~ 33USD). What was great about this was the price was per vehicle for up to four people. This made our trip only 200,000Rp (~17USD) per person. It was worth every penny!
We began our day with the traditional Balong and Keris dance. I must say I really enjoyed it! It was a bit hard to follow, but with the scene list that was given at the door entrance it allowed following the storyline possible. The music that was played during the dance included a sound that was mostly chimes and forms of the xylophone. It was beautiful.
An hour passed and the dance came to an end. We then continued to our next destination to see the famous technique of wax-resist dyeing known as batik.
The patience the artists demonstrate is impressive. Intiquently tracing patterns with wax one dot at a time must teach a person serious discipline. There is nothing swift about this process. I bet they could handle tangled Christmas lights with no problem!
Unfortunately, we were unable to take pictures inside the building, but if you are an art fan then I will tell you that you will not be disappointed if you visit one of the batik locations.
Now in all honesty I was not aware of the silversmith world that existed in Indonesia. Being a fan of silver (versus gold) I enjoyed our visit so much that I bought my own piece of silver. Our guide took us to a less touristy shop. The location I have been hearing about the most is Caluk, but that was not the one we had the pleasure of visiting. I wish I could remember the name/location. I will have to ask my friend and hope she can remember.
Arriving at the shop we were meet with our own personal guide. Granted she works on commission it was nice to get a little tutorial of how they make the jewelry before we went into the shop.
After my purchase we were walking to our vehicle and noticed our silver guide was kindly walking with us. She made sure we were on our way before she considered her work with us was complete. I noticed this type of professional and courteous behavior throughout my stay in the country.
It was a bit past noon and we were hungry at this point. Being the crafty guide that he was, our guide knew that we would be hungry by the time we arrived at the first main event (as I call it) of the tour which was Mt. Batur. We ate a wonderful buffet overlooking the beautiful view of the mountain.
After eating a few new items – such as a deep fried leaf (it was yummy!) – and taking a few selfies, we were full and ready to see what I had been waiting for all day – the rice patties of Ubud!
Although the patties are technically in the surrounding area of Ubud, I think for now it is safe to say Ubud is where they were. And holy moly, they were a site!! I was not disappointed. So much green and the landscape was impressive.
There were paths that a person could follow, allowing those with adventurous blood in them to explore more of the patties. We were so tired at this point that extra exploring was not going happen. So off to our last, and probably most stimulating, adventure for the day. We got to drink Kopi Luwak coffee and see the cats that make it all possible.
The only other time I had heard about Kopi Luwak coffee was from the movie The Bucket List. And to be honest, I never could have remembered the name if I had tried. So to actually stumble upon this treat was awesome!
I was not aware we were going to be getting a little mini tour at the plantation, but I am happy we did. Walking through the dirt paths among exotic trees and plant life was exciting enough for me, but the civet cats were also present and able to be seen. Once we made our way through the trees we were meet by a kind hostess that would be our guide for the short, yet concise, tour. I got to roast and crush the CLEANED beans (for those who don’t know, the beans are processed after the civet cat has digested the beans and PASSED them, num num!).
The most exciting part was we got to drink six different flavors offered from the company as well as a glass of Kopi Luwak. The verdict: it was delicious! Not intending to buy anything here, I ended up buying some Bali coffee that was held in an adorable little souvenir case.
Now that we were all amped up from all the coffee and cocoa we had just drunken it was time to head back to the city and end our awesome adventure. Commence insane rush hour traffic driving!! At this point we were professional riders and did not worry at all about the crazy driving. But all the continuous honking is enough to drive any person mad! Queue the headphones…
Leisure Day at Kuta Beach
The following day my friend and I decided to hit the streets on foot and see what Kuta was all about. Kuta is derived of miles and miles of shops! Every street is loaded full of them! So don’t worry about not finding the same thing twice, because you will. So do not hesitate to shop around for the best price.
We were advised to eat at an Australian pub called Alley Cats. I was not disappointed. If you like homemade ice cream then this is the place for you! A bottle of Bintang and a curry burger set us in the mood to bring in a beautiful sunset on Kuta Beach. Winding down the narrow streets of shops and dodging vehicles going down the one way the wrong way, we found the beach and, again, we were not disappointed.
The beach is beautiful and large! I enjoyed the scene; probably because I could buy cold beer right on it. It is a great place to try and catch some waves on a surf board. I tried to body surf but I just couldn’t soar without getting a load of water shoved up my nose. Accepting defeat I took to the beach to dry off and grab some pictures. While sitting there the strangest thing took place – several Indonesian students (from Java) wanted to take pictures with me. I still am unsure as to why, but I am hoping I don’t end up on the internet with my face on a naked body somewhere.
We stayed for the sunset and I must say it was beautiful. I particularly enjoyed the surfers on the water as the sun set. It added a little something special to the scene.
As much as I have enjoyed my stay in Bali, I do not think I will ever go back. It is definitely worth a visit, but if given choices on places to go I would not chose it.
So, after a few days in Bali I decided it was time to experience a part of Indonesia I have heard a lot about – the Gili Islands. And boy was visiting these islands a good life choice! Read about it here!
- Balong and Keris dance = 100,000Rp (~ $8.00USD)
- Kopi Luwak coffee experience = 50,000Rp (~ $4.00USD)
- The other 6 coffees tasted are free.
- Bintang – the beer of the Indonesia.
- You can haggle the cost to get to the Gili Islands. Don’t pay more than 500,000Rp roundtrip. This includes a shuttle to and from the ferry port.
- Only take BLUDBIRD taxis. Many of the locals will agree. They are the only company that runs their meter. They are bringing a standard to the industry and the locals are supporting it.
- Many (if not most) of the taxi cabs have some sort of blue-bird logo as their company logo, so make sure the taxi actually says Bluebird.
- I stayed at Bedbunkers Hostel #2 and was not disappointed. The location is perfect (also on a rooftop) and the Air-conditioning is amazing! They will also book you your trip to the Gili Islands.
- The day tour I did is a common one and not hard to find when visiting.