Bali’s one of those places where you dream of the perfect fine-sand beaches, lying in a hammock sandwiched between palm trees overlooking the almost sickeningly shimmering clear sea. So perfect it’s heart-wrenching.
Thing is, you have to find this Bali. It’s out there, but when I went there with my boyfriend, we didn’t see as much of this idyllic scene as we wanted to. I’ve since done my research and these are my tips of Bali… but better.
1. More secluded
Your first idea of a destination is probably the tourist places, being the most talked about. For Bali, this is Kuta, and Kuta is where I went. Let me tell you now before you fall into the same trap of playing the sheep: forget Kuta. This is not where you’re going to find the real Bali. Now, I would go somewhere far more secluded, away from the hustle and bustle. Kuta relies on tourism to the extent that they change their lives to suit you. I don’t know about you, but I want to experience the Balinese peoples’ lives, I don’t want them to cater for me! Give me your culture and I’m a happy educated bunny.
2. Surf, surf, surf
I love surfing. I’m not good, but I enjoy it. And I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed it more than in Bali. On Kuta beach, there were the best waves I’ve ever experienced – rolling in to perfection, showing off exactly why Bali is one of the surfing Meccas of the world. I know it can be better though – wouldn’t you just love to tour those beautiful iridescent surfing beaches, isolated, in your own world? i.e. without someone coming up to you every 10 minutes offering some hats or sunglasses for you to buy. Or, no offence to the lovely girl, but no one asking for your picture just because you’re blonde (yeah, that happened. Still feel a bit weird about it – but oddly glamorous?).
I would go to Padang Padang (although that’s becoming more tourist-y too) or adventure around nearby Indonesian islands such as Sumbawa.
Our tour of some of the temples in Bali was where I really felt like I saw more into the soul of Bali – especially when we were made Balinese food in a local’s house beside those amazing terraced rice fields. It was one of the highlights of the trip and I can’t express my gratitude for this Balinese woman being so welcoming. I’d have liked to see more of Ubud, the cultural and artistic centre of Bali – experiencing the dance rituals and the way the locals live is still something I long to do. I think the whole point in travelling to such a contrasting culture to London, where I live, is to immerse yourself in it and in Bali’s case, I want to learn about their peaceful way of life (getting a little Eat Pray Love here, but I don’t mind, I loved that book).
Couldn’t resist mentioning this beautiful creature. I rode an elephant in Bali, and it was amazing and peaceful to just trudge rhythmically along. We fed the elephants afterwards, having our fun and realising what playful animals they are (and how mischievous that trunk can be) but I wish I had learnt more about them. I wanted to bathe with them and watch them have fun together in a more open environment. A major plan of mine is to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, where I’m sure there is more opportunity for this, but otherwise in Bali there is the Elephant Safari Park Lodge. There seems to be more learning and peaceful integration – although I’m sceptical what their advertised ‘Talent Show’ is!
A great blog about Bali from a local’s mouth is here.