Our time in Bali is coming to a close. Soon we’ll be on a plane heading to Australia, by way of Malaysia. We’ve spent 3 weeks on the Island of Gods. Someone shared the following quote on Twitter, and I felt like it really summed our stay well.
“Travel is very subjective. What one person loves, another loathes.” – Robin Leach
Before we headed to Bali most of the information I had read and heard from others was quite glowing. I kept thinking Really? because it sounded so incredibly touristy to me. But a couple of travelers I know and respect really liked it, and I decided to go and find out for myself.
We decided to begin our journey here because it is appropriately referred to as the art and culture capital of Bali. One of my main goals was to take a painting class while there.
I really enjoyed all the sculptures and carvings that are virtually everywhere around Ubud. We also enjoyed the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. It was really fun to see monkeys close up and not have to be looking through a cage.
We had a little bit of excitement during our second visit when one of the monkeys decided to climb up my leg and back. He thoroughly searched my camera for any signs of food before settling down on my shoulder. It was a bit nerve wracking as they tell you not to make any sudden movements or get excited if a monkey climbs on you. “Their behavior can be unpredictable.” Not encouraging!
Things got even more interesting when a second monkey decided to join his friend where they promptly had a bit of a disagreement. When they finally decided to move on, I was no worse for the wear. Although I wasn’t too fond of the parting fecal gift they left on my shirt.
After 3-4 days, though, I was completely over Ubud.
I kept trying to find the hidden charm, but, well. . . I couldn’t find it. Sure, the countryside is quite beautiful with the rice paddies and small villages, but that’s nothing special to southeast Asia. Ubud seems mostly for people who are yoga nuts, on an alternative spiritual path, or people who want to live like royalty while paying very little.
Besides that not being a way of life I enjoy, I have all kinds of ethical issues with that kind of lifestyle in less-developed areas. Don’t get me started.
Overall, the Ubud area felt . . . “put on” to me. I will say, though, their touts are some of the least annoying. Generally, a shake of the head or a no thank you is all it takes.
If you do go to Ubud, I’d recommend Gunung Merta Bungalows. It’s one of the best places we’ve ever stayed. Ask for an upstairs room. They’re absolutely wonderful.
Padang Padang Beach/Uluwatu
Tigger wanted to surf, and we were both ready for some beach time. We headed here on a friend’s recommendation. The beach was lovely, and the waves were perfect for a beginning surfer like my son. Unfortunately, it’s an area that really requires motorized transportation for any stay more than a few days.
We headed to the tourist-packed beaches of the Kuta area next. Mostly we came here so Tigger could spend more time on the waves while being within walking distance of more food options and areas to explore.
Since we had arrived prior to high season, it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, but OH MY! The beach and waves are pretty decent, but the touts are incredibly annoying. Laying on the sand with your eyes closed will not stop them. They don’t accept the word “no,” and the same people will come back 5000 times to try to sell you the same thing.
Walking around town is even worse.
This area has the most aggressive touts I’ve come across yet. They will grab onto you and/or your kid, follow you, and will even try to block the narrow sidewalk so that you can’t get past them. Thankfully, I’m a big guy. When my pace didn’t alter, they thought it wise to move out of my way.
I understand they’re trying to make a living, but at least be respectful. Had this just been a peculiar part of Balinese culture, I could’ve handled it more, but we hadn’t experienced this type of behavior anywhere else in Bali. It got to the point where I had to clench my jaws when walking through the unavoidable tout gauntlet to keep from yelling I SAID NO! or body slamming the next person who tried to block the way.
Having heard that the tourists were easier to escape here, and that the general vibe was better, we headed to Sanur with high hopes. We found a place that was outside of the tourist zone but still within walking distance of the beaches. This area has a lovely boardwalk along the beach, and it was really fun to walk along it.
Until the time we decided to head in the other direction on the boardwalk and ended up in the resort area. While the touts weren’t as aggressive as those in Legian, they were only a step below.
The night market is wonderful! This was probably the best food we’ve had during our whole time in Bali. We also found a nice Japanese restaurant with a great ambiance. The food was really good, even for my finicky child. He even asked to go back!
We stayed at Dewi Dewi Villas and really liked it. It’s very quiet, and there is a cultural center just down the street where they have frequent performances and is all locals. The room is large, has a refrigerator, hot water with good pressure, and the pool is literally 2 steps from your door. They serve a nice breakfast in the morning, and their WiFi was the best we’ve experienced in Bali.
Generally speaking, the food in Bali is nothing special. Especially after spending time in Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. I found it to be pretty boring.
I basically can’t encourage people to come to the island. Indonesia has some truly amazing areas, and I think a person’s time and money are better spent exploring other parts of the country.
If you do plan on spending time in Bali, I would recommend only planning on 3-5 days. Alternatively, head away from the southern part of the island. All the locals I spoke to recommended going up north to Amed and Munduk where you’ll more likely get a better experience of all that is the Island of Gods.
Have you spent time in Bali? What are your recommendations?