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Once there was a time when I wondered what all the fuss was about Bali. It always appeared to be a holiday destination for Aussie bogans and youngsters running amok. It was associated with drugs, knock-off designer goods, poor quality clothing, cheap beer, dirty beaches, traffic chaos and corruption. I’d heard some bad stories coming out of Bali and then something truly terrible happened – the devastation of the 2002 Bali Bombings absolutely shook us to the core. I actually vowed I would never travel here!
So fast forward to 11 years later and my first time in Bali in 2013 with my daughter for a short one week girl’s getaway. We spent 7 days staying at a resort in the middle of Seminyak, right amongst “eat street” and trendy boutique shops. I was amazed how appealing this little place was and changed my opinion immediately. I then returned with my husband in 2016 and was again besotted with Bali and the beautiful Balinese people.
Here’s my favourite things about Bali:
On my first visit to Bali, I was extremely cautious about the food I ate. So much so, that I would basically only eat at places that had been recommended by friends. We even met a lovely Australian couple who gave us a “safe list” of restaurants and cafes to eat at. So we stuck to these and never got sick with the dreaded “Bali Belly”.
If you stick to bottled water and be careful with ice in drinks then you should be ok. I personally won’t eat street food, but plenty of my friends do and they don’t get sick. There are heaps of incredible restaurants and cafes throughout Bali that offer some of the tastiest food out. Try some of their fresh seafood, spicy curries, rice dishes and suckling pig.
Bali is famous for great homewares, custom made furniture, baskets, woodcraft, handcrafted fabrics and earthenware. There are more and more designer clothing and shoe shops cropping up in the popular shopping places such as Seminyak, Canggu and Ubud.
Otherwise there are great markets in Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Sanur and Ubud. There are also small handicraft villages scattered throughout the island, including Tegallalang and Celuk villages.
It seems as if there are day spas or massage salons everywhere along the streets in Bali. During a stroll down one of the pavements you will hear the shrill cry of “Massaaage”? by the hawkers standing outside the salons. A full body massage can cost you as little as $10 and you can get at set of acrylic nails for as little as $20. You can also have a massage on the beach if you so wish.
However there are some more upmarket day spas where you go to indulge in half a day of pure relaxation and decadence for as little as $50-$60. My daughter and I treated ourselves to a full body treatment at Bodyworks in Seminyak and it was divine!
Although the beaches at Kuta and Legian are very popular for all manner of surf sports or just swimming and sunbathing on a sunlounge, I would recommend jumping in a taxi and venturing out to some of the more stunning beaches around the island of Bali. Try the beaches at Bingin, Sanur, Nusa Dua, Padang Padang, Pasir Putih, Jimbaran, Tanjung Benoa or jump aboard a boat to Nusa Lembongan island to Mushroom Bay.
Bali has a preoccupation with great scenic sunset bars that take full advantage of the exquisite sunsets over the Java Sea. We stayed adjacent to a string of sunset bars at Tanah Lot – a Hindu temple built on a rocky outcrop surrounded by sea. On our next trip we’re spending a few nights at Uluwatu and hope to enjoy a sunset from the famous Single Fin Bar. But some of the other ones include The Rock Bar at Jimbaran, Ku De Ta, Woo Bar and Potato Head in Seminyak, La Laguna Beach Bar, La Brisa and The Lawn in Canggu.
I mentioned Tanah Lot in Tabanan already and I believe it’s truly a must see in Bali, as is the the Uluwatu Temple at Jimbaran – but a word of caution, the monkeys (grey long-tailed macaques) here are out of control! Other temples worth visiting are Besakih, Ulun Danu Beratan, Tirta Empul, and Lempuyang Temple. Plus Taman Ayan, Gunung Kawi, Pura Taman Saraswati and Goa Gajah in Ubud.
One of the highlights of Bali was a bike ride through some of the small rural villages and rice fields in the centre of Bali island. Tegallalang Rice Terraces in Ubud is famous for its beautiful scenes of rice paddies involving the subak (traditional Balinese cooperative irrigation system). One of Bali’s top examples is Jatiluwih, recognised by UNESCO in its world cultural landscapes list. But there are some other rice terrace fields located in Tabanan that are just as lush and verdant.
On both of my visits to Bali I’ve managed a day trip out to Ubud located in the uplands and known as Bali’s cultural heart. It is a treasure trove of cultural landmarks, ranging from ancient temples and majestic age-old royal palaces, to wonderful panoramas of green hillsides and rice terraces.
Ubud offers a great array of shopping for even most seasoned shopper with beautiful boutiques selling clothing, leather handbags and silver jewellery. The markets offer a large variety of merchandise from clothes, paintings, perfumes, incense, leatherwork, to interesting souvenirs like bottle openers shaped like penises.
Plus it’s also renowned as a great location for Yoga Retreats – something that I’m trying out for the first time next week. I can’t wait!
If you’re looking for resort-style accommodation then you’re definitely going to love Bali. There are literally thousands of resorts to choose from, whether it’s along the beachfront in Kuta, Legian or Seminyak, or in the green centre of Ubud, on a clifftop at Uluwatu, or along the long stretches of beach at Nusa Dua. The resorts offer everything your heart would desire to make your holiday as relaxed and enjoyable as possible.
To say that the Balinese people are friendly and happy to please is an understatement. They are peace-loving, kind and gentle. Their smiles are genuine and they generally will go out of their way to make your stay in Bali as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. They do all the little touches that make your stay pleasant, like folding cute animal towels on your bed, spreading pretty flowers on your bed and leaving little treats such as fruit in your room.
For Australians Bali is an affordable holiday destination that is only a 6 hour flight away, so I can understand why people flock here. But much more than that it has transformed into a beautiful holiday destination that no longer has a seedy tag. The more I see of this island paradise, the more I want to return to unravel more of its hidden treasures.
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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DebbieFebruary 27, 2019
I enjoyed reading this Kathy and must say I haven’t been to Bali and have no real plans to do so either, but your post changed some of my misconceptions . Thanks for doing that! I have shared it.
KathyFebruary 28, 2019
Thanks Debbie. Bali really was an eye opener for me and I’m looking forward to my next visit. It boils down to what you want from a holiday and Bali probably isn’t for everyone.
Kathy@DavesTravelCornerMarch 21, 2019
I went to Bali last summer – food, massage, spas, and sunset bars. What’s not to like?!!
KathyMarch 23, 2019
Absolutely! It’s a beautiful place.