Bali has been a relief from the chaos of the overcrowded and the ever-rushing world. Though I had heard really touristy things about Bali, I love the place.
I have spent most of my twenty days in Ubud, old Bali with a modern twist, a village called Laplapan, which is close to Ubud, and also biking my way to far away floating temples, hidden beaches, and rice fields whose pictures were able to enchant me enough.
Before I came here, I thought Bali would be a tourist jungle packed with hotels, restaurants, tour shops, yoga centers, and bike rental shops, along with some greenery. But Ubud and Bali are places that have all these things and also have artistic temples that the Balinese people visit every day, lush paddy fields in the heart of the city, cute ducks wobbling around in open pastures, deserted turquoise beaches, hidden jungles, a cool river cutting through the middle of Ubud, splashing waterfalls, a colorful underwater world, and all with the backdrop of a gaping volcano.
Usually, I don’t like suggesting ten things to do in any place for I think that when you go somewhere, you should find things that you like on your own. But because Bali has been such a sweetheart to me, I decided to write about all the places that soothed my eyes and filled me with positive energy.
So off you go.
1. Walk around the city to get a feel of the place — Doesn’t matter if I am in Bali or New York, I first walk around the city for a couple of days to understand the place and the people. Here in Bali, especially in Ubud, you would be struck by an overwhelming amount of things to do, places to see, restaurants to eat, and a plethora of cultural activities to experience. Don’t be overwhelmed, take your time, walk, cycle, eat at different places, talk to the people around, and settle in the relaxed feeling of Bali.
2. Watch monkeys taking care of each other in the Monkey Forest — I suggest this first as this is one of the first places I went to, and also, this forest is in central Ubud so you can explore it on your initial days (if you are in Ubud). The forest was not only a pleasant escape from the scorching streets but was also thick green and, of course, the monkeys were wonderful. They were busy playing with each other, picking each other’s ticks, climbing the heads of the inclined tourists, and scratching at the nets of the food baskets to sneak out some sweet potatoes and bananas.
You can find some pretty secluded areas in the jungle, and sit and look at them while they are busy living their lives, when the whole world buys tickets to watch them.
I read all over the internet that the monkey forest could be scary, but you don’t have to worry unless you plan to cuddle or touch the monkeys too much or try to make them sit on you, which you can but you have to choose the right monkey. Now take some advice from this Indian who has lived her life around monkeys — play with the medium-sized monkeys, the big ones are rowdy bosses and the little ones are the possessions of watchful mothers.
Maintain your distance, approach a not-so-pompous monkey, and let him/her sit on your head or search your pockets for food. Which reminds me to warn you that do not take any food inside — they will find it.
3. Tegallalang rice terraces in Ubud — A boy and a girl sitting over a bamboo bench, under a thatched roof, and overlooking fluorescent rice terraces, fringed with tall coconut trees, some bent, some straight, and some still struggling to decide how they want to be. Floating, grey, light blue, cotton-like clouds watch them from above, and the world of cafes, tourists, chandeliers, painting, art, and jewelry shops, thriving beneath the canopy of the stout palms, seem far away from where they are.
In this isolated corner of these rice terraces, life seems to have stopped for a while. There is a curtain of rain between them and the world, and beneath the curtain, sleep the rice terraces.
The sound of the rain thudding over the thatched roof and banana plantations make the girl drowsy. And the rolling clouds is all she can see. The rustling leaves of the foliage are all she can hear. And the scent of the rain soaking the earth is all that she can smell.
I wrote this when I was in the rice fields. So you can imagine how peaceful and natural the place is.
These rice terraces are just 9 km away from Ubud and make a good day’s trip. And on the drive to the fields, green hills rolled on our either sides, small shrines under old Banyan trees called out to us, and seashell windchimes made music while we cut through the traffic on our way to the terraces.
4. Swim in the sea-green corals at the deserted Nyang Nyang beach — We thought that this beach would be deserted, but we were both wrong and right. The route to the beach is pretty well-marked, unlike what internet says, and this beach is though not so unknown amongst the tourists and locals anymore, it was still pretty deserted.
When I looked above from my personal blue-green pool of coral reef, I saw a lot of people, leaning over the main road railing, who never came down to the beach and only watched from up above. So for most of the times, we were the only ones on the beach, along with the men who scouted the shallow waters for seashells and fishes, and some fishing women. Until the sunset when some people descended to see the golden sun descent, which was another magical sight.
And when we walked out of the beach under the star-studded sky, we saw some people camping there at night and barbequing fish on their campfire. Maybe something that suits you?
The drive to this beach was long, but fun as we drove over the ocean for a stretch. Remember that the drive goes via a toll road and the toll collector would tell you that you aren’t allowed to pay by cash and must swipe card. If you act like an idiot, you can pay with cash, and he would warn you to pay with a card the next time. If you are driving to the beach from Ubud, you will cross a beautiful art market on your way. Mark it on your map and maybe you can go there later as it looked fabulous.
And if you go, would you say hi to the lonely cafe at the beach, on which a string of seashells hung along with the skull of a cow, and where we had lunch. For it hosted us well for the day.
Also, my heart goes out while writing this as it might not stay as deserted if we all share it. But the least we can do is be eco-friendly and keep it clean. So take a picnic along, and I promise you a memorable day.
5. Stroll on the Campuhan ridge or Tjampuhan’s Sacred Hills — This hill used to be the Marine drive of Mumbai, the Central Park of New York, and the Hyde’s park of London for Balinese people, until it became popular among the tourists as an activity to do, which is what happened with those three as well. But local people still go there to run, chill, and walk their dogs.
This beautiful hiking route is in the middle of Ubud, and you would walk on a long ridge, fringed with lush rice terraces and deep valleys on both sides. And when you keep going, you cross the ridge, but then other hills start
Go at sunset or sunrise. Towards sunset, the place starts getting empty (which is true for most of the places in Bali, and you get the whole place to yourself ).
6. When in Bali, dive — I dived at the famous USAT Liberty Shipwreck in Tulamben. But there are many more places in Bali to dive like Padang Bai, Amed, and you can also go to other islands like Nusa Penida, Gillis, Komodo, and dive there, too. But we dived at the shipwreck for it was our first time diving, and this Liberty shipwreck is good for beginners for its depth and positioning; Otherwise, shipwrecks are not so easy for beginner divers.
I am going to write a full post on diving in Bali, but I can tell you that Tulamben was a beautiful place to dive, the corals were beautiful, and fish were in plenty and friendly. Our diving company was DiveDiveDive, and we paid around 110 dollars each for a pick up from the hotel in Ubud, drive to Tulamben, equipment, two dives, lunch, and the diving instructor.
At all these places you can snorkel as well, with your equipment or by renting it.
7. Drive up to the majestic Pura Ulun Danu Beratan — This is a gorgeous, floating Hindu temple set atop hills, on the shores of a lake, backdropped by the volcanoes, surrounded by rolling hills, and with a lush and colorful blooming courtyard; I don’t know what else could we add to this place. This temple is printed on the Indonesian currency notes and for the right reasons.
But more than that, the drive to this temple is serene and beautiful as you go up and down the hills while clouds float on your side. If I can make a request, I would say please don’t miss this one.
Two other temples Uluwatu and Tanah Lot are on my list. I would visit them soon, but including them here as my Balinese friend told me that my trip to Bali is incomplete without visiting these temples.
8. Take a ferry to the Nusa Penida island — This island was all about deep blue waters, uninhabited lush jungles, some natural pools made by the ocean water that cut through the cliffs, dinosaur shaped beaches, stray dogs strolling around, fishing woman grilling fish on the side of the road, and gorgeous sunsets.
Nusa Penida is also known for diving and snorkeling, especially to spot the giant manta rays, and some people go there just to swim with these huge fishes.
You can take a fast boat from Bali to this island, as the public ferries haven’t run for years. Stay for at least two nights, take a car, and go around. But don’t rent a scooter there, please, for the broken roads are uneven, full of potholes and nasty stones, and cruel. And if I may suggest, stay at the Mel homestay for the owner is one of the most helpful people I have ever met.
Another complete post on this island and why you shouldn’t hire a scooter there is coming up.
9. Hike Mount Batur — I haven’t done this, yet, for I fell from a scooter and can’t walk properly for now, but I would still advise you to hike this beauty. You would get a good sunrise view of the whole of Bali, and people have told me that it is worth it. And if you were thinking of climbing the tallest peak in Bali, which is Mount Agung, sorry to disappoint you but you can’t, for it erupted last year and is closed for climbing. Though throughout Bali you can see it at a distance, just smoking and chilling.
All hotels and tour companies have tours to Mount Batur which leave at 2 Am. Good luck.
Remember you are in Bali, so be free. Sit and observe the culture. Watch people busy in prayers or rushing around. Shop in the local market, cook, or take a cooking class. Watch the sunset. Drink a lemon Bintang or a rice urak with soda or aloe vera with ice. Walk around without any deadline or timeline to meet, only then you can really experience Bali and Ubud for what they are.
You can find ducks and chickens in the middle of lush paddy fields swaying with the coconutty breeze. Dragon-like clouds chasing dumplings in the sky. And yesterday I followed the Petanu river that flows through the middle of Ubud and found a beautiful, hidden waterfall just falling in its tranquility.
What else do you want from life?
Do whatever you want for Bali lets you wing her the way you want to. These things would help you spend two weeks easily. And then go back home or decide to extend your visa, about which I will have all the tips when I have done it in the coming week. Until then enjoy.
The Logistics –
There are plenty of flights to Bali from around the world.
Where to stay- I stayed at Nuriani, an old Balinese style guest house, in the center of Ubud. And now I am staying at Wijaya guest house, a homestay in a village which is a ten minute drive away from Ubud, and it is pretty cheap. Some people stay in South Bali near Kuta, much of a party place, and in Sanur, too, which feels like any other city.
Eat — My first glimpses of Bali article would give you a good idea on food. But to start with, go around, and you would find plenty of chicken, rice, noodles, ducks, suckling pigs, eggs, fish, and shrimps ready to find their way in your plate, for cheap.
Move Around — Gojek taxis, similar to Uber, are popular here but they don’t work in Ubud. You can hire a scooter taxi, or rent a scooter (for around INR 300/$4 per day) and drive it yourself. Or walk. Or rent a cycle.
Travel when you can, for the world is big and there is much to see.
Also Read: I Am Going Nomadic.
Are you thinking of going to Bali now?