Island of Gods, Island of Peace, Island of Love, you may call Bali anything, but for me, Bali brought back memories of my native place back in Kerala. From the time I experienced the most rejuvenating Balinese massage during our honeymoon in Maldives, i wanted to visit Bali. Just like how Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love took a one year sabbatical to find her inner self, i wanted to find my inner zen, only in a few days. Bali is synonymous with beaches, dramatic sunsets, cliffs, rice fields, peaceful retreats, and anything and everything C-H-I-L-L-ed out.
For God's sake
Bali is a land of temples but these three temples below are definitely worth a visit.
Pura Tanah Lot
Bali has plenty of sunset points, and this is one of the best. Sip on some coconut water and enjoy a magical sunset here at this sea temple. This place is extremely popular with tourists, so make sure you reach early to beat the crazy traffic. Entry fee is USD 4/person.
Walk along the cliffside and relish a stunning sunset. The temple is perched atop a high cliff overlooking the crashing ocean waves. This temple is very particular about its dress code and insists on both men and women covering their legs. Don't worry if you reach there in hot-pants, as you can hire a sarong or sash readily available at the entrance. With a nominal fee, you can attend the traditional Bali Kecak and fire dance during sunset. One word of caution though; beware of the crazy monkeys (and i mean it) who are notorious for snatching visitors' belongings. What I would suggest is to leave the monkeys on their own and maintain a respectable distance; the last thing you want to do is to provoke them. Enjoy the stellar views and the magnificent sunset. Entry fee is USD 2/person.
Pura Ulun Danu Beratan
The temple on the shores of Lake Bratan has an utter sense of calmness and peace to it. Although we were blessed with sunshine only for a very short time, the view of the temple against the mountain backdrop with an overcast sky had a very pleasant feel to it. Walk around the temple and its lush surroundings for an hour or two. Entry fee is approximately USD 4/person
Monkey forest, Ubud
Monkey forest, Ubud is inhabited by around 700 monkeys. Most of them were really harmless and in their own world, but still I had all my energy focused on an imminent monkey attack. Some people were comfortable feeding them bananas and nuts, and even playing with them, but just as at Uluwatu, i would recommend that you let them be and keep a safe distance. Ignore the monkeys and enjoy your walk through the forest. It is very calming, perfect enough to relax and unwind in peace and tranquility.
La La Land
Tegalalang rice terrace
If you cannot squeeze in time to visit the UNESCO listed Jatiluwih rice terraces, Tegalalang is your best substitute. It is just 20 minutes north of Ubud town. Although Tegalalang is a much smaller version of Jatiluwih, it is quite picturesque and can be easily explored within an hour or two. Have a coffee or a meal while you enjoy the panaromic views of the terraces and if you are like me, hike them.
Must Visit - Warang Dobiel
The restaurant Warang Dobiel is a hidden gem in Nusa Dua that serves authentic Balinese food. Sit wherever you find a place and start with their pork soup. Follow it up with the crispy, mouth watering, finger lickin' good Babi guling or roast suckling pork. Expect to get sweaty all over especially if you over-indulge in the condiments on offer.
Grab a Kopi
It was my birthday and i was told by Mr. Husband that he will take me to try something rare; something exotic. On our way back from Ulun Danu Temple, our driver stopped by a coffee place called Tegal Sari Bali Coffee and Spices. The path leading to the coffee place was picturesque with trees and different kinds of plants and herbs around. Yet again, the Kerala nostalgia struck me. We walked past cages of some mongoose like creature, to the seating area. I did not have the faintest inkling that i was about to have a coffee made out of that very creature's poop. You read it right! The coffee is called Kopi Luwak or Civet coffee, named so after the poop-provider, the Asian Palm Civet or Luwak, as it's known in the local tongue. As a part of the coffee making process, the Luwak is fed with coffee cherries and later its faecal matter is collected, cleaned, roasted and grounded. Kopi Luwak tastes like actual coffee and without any suspicious smell (trust me). I ended up trying one of the most expensive coffees in the world. You may sample wide varieties of organic teas also available here.
Enjoying your meal with the sound of ocean waves doesn't sound bad right? Visit the restaurant Bebek Bengil which apparently means dirty duck for their specialty dish, crispy duck. Opt for outdoor seating in one of their gazebos facing a beautiful garden. They serve some 'interesting' dishes like the snail stuffed shrooms. Be a sport and try it out.
Sip a cocktail and witness one of the most dramatic Bali sunsets at Rock bar, Ayana Resort. They do not take any reservations and is on a first come first serve basis, except for guests staying in the villas at the resort. Since sunset is the busiest time, make sure you reach much early, by 4pm if possible, to avoid the long queue. Even though it is quite pricey, the spectacular sunset colors will make up for it. Another option for sunset view could be Unique, a restaurant at the same resort which does take reservations.
When to go
This picture was snapped at lunch time from the restaurant Grand Puncak Sari during our visit to Bali in May. The food was just average but it is a great place to stop and have a view of the Kintamani volcano and the placid lake around it all.
Although the dry season starts from May, we experienced light showers and cloudy skies throughout our trip. Bali is busiest during July and August, so the best time to visit Bali is May, June and September. The weather is perfect for scuba diving, surfing and snorkeling. Bali is busy also during Easter, Christmas and New Year until the 1st week of January. October to March is technically rainy season, but you can grab some of the best deals during this time. Volcano treks are not recommended during this time as it gets very foggy and the view is not worth it at the summit.
Watch out for the crazy traffic. The roads can get really busy especially before sunset, so plan your trip accordingly.
We were stationed at Nusa Dua the whole trip. For short stays like ours and a lot many places to cover in your list, I would recommend hiring a taxi as you won't have enough time to explore the places by scooter. Tipping our driver really helped, as we saw a lot more places than we expected in a very short time. If you have some time on your hand, roam around the place at leisure on a scooter for an entire day for USD 5 or lesser. Make sure you carry your international license handy.