After spending 6 days in Bali, I learned that the island is deceivingly larger than you might think. I stayed in Seminyak which is very central, but it is still about two hours away from many excursions. Bali has over 4 million people (that's 3x the amount of Hawaii's entire population) on an island half the size of Hawaii's Big Island. Translation - there is a lot of traffic. But don't let that stop you.
Here is how to make the most of your trip:
For reference, here is a map of Bali. You will land in Denpasar (in red below), and the closest places to stay near the airport are Kuta and Seminyak (in blue below).
Stay a few days in each of these spots:
1. Seminyak - Central, quieter than Kuta, nice blend of relaxation and activity.
2. Uluwatu - Beaches, spas, temples with beach views. As mentioned in my previous post, Seminyak and Kuta beaches have high surf and the beaches are gritty (stray dogs, litter, glass, etc). If you want a beautiful relaxing/swimming beach, check these out:
3. Ubud - Famous for Balinese cultural sights, rice terraces, relaxation, and yoga.
Where are your favorite places to stay in Bali? Comment Below!
I have been feeling Bali withdraws since coming back from this trip. Never before have I experienced such a unique culture. So what makes it so interesting and unique? Maybe it's the artisan crafts, the traditions, the temples, the mesmerizing dances, the tantalizing Luwak coffee, or the friendly people who make you feel like you belong. The vibes and the culture of this island hit you as soon as you land.
Here are the top places where you can experience the uniqueness of Bali.
1 . Kecak dance - Uluwatu
Balinese dance and musical drama developed in 1930s, where the men perform in a circle and permissively chant "cak" and move their arms and hands. It tells the Hindu story and Rama and Sita (who you will hear a lot about if you delve into Balinese/Hindu culture). This is a Romeo and Juliet-style story, only with a happy ending. It is an ancient Indian poem that narrated the struggle of Prince Rama to rescue his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana.
The performance was originally a trance ritual. In the 1930s, a German man became interested in it while living in Bali and adapted it as a drama based on the story of Rama and Sita. He intended the dance for Western tourist audiences. The dance ends with a raging fire. The costumes, the story, and the music make it a must see.
2. Legong Dance
The Legong dance originated in 19th century as royal entertainment where two maidens dance to gamelan music. The women wear majestic headdresses and move their eyes and hands in very precise contortions, all in sync with one another. This dance was mesmerizing and unique.
3. Ubud market
There are markets all around Bali, but the Ubud market is known for being a place of arts, crafts and food catering to both locals and tourists. Bali is known for it's stone crafts, wood carvings, intricate jewelry, and exquisite craftsmanship - all of which are made by hand. you can even watch the artisans make these pieces in the studios.
Disclaimer: Be sure to bargain your prices in Bali and research the average prices before purchasing.
4. Ubud Temple
Pura Taman Saraswati is located near rice paddies and water gardens. Many temples looks the same, but this one had beautiful grounds and statues as well as a large entrance gate.
5. Luwak Coffee Tasting - Most Expensive Coffee in the World
Luwak coffee is the most expensive and coveted coffee in the world. It's also delicious, if you can get past the thought of how it is produced.
The civet cats, a native weasel-like animal in Indonesia eat the coffee beans which do not get digested. The beans undergo a unique fermentation while in digestion, giving the coffee its flavor. The locals pick up the cat pellets and wash and dry the whole beans. Then it gets roasted and made into Kopi Luwak Coffee. There is a special coffee machine and grinder developed just for this kind of coffee. The finished product tastes like delicious espresso.
If you want to try it, check out these links on Amazon to purchase:
6. Bali Beaches
The best beaches in Bali are found in Uluwatu in Southern Bali, or the Gilli Islands - which are pristine islands off the coast and require additional travel.
Many resort beaches in Bali, like Kuta and Seminyak, are based around beach clubs. You enter the beach through a beach club which serves food in a lounge-like atmosphere. In fact, many restaurants double as lounges later in the day and serve delicious food at the same time. It's a great way to eat, socialize and enjoy the beautiful beach at the same time.
Beach Disclaimer: Bali beaches feature excellent surf. In fact the waves can be quite strong. If you are a surfer, you have come to the right place. If you are a casual swimmer, these beaches can be dangerous as many do not have lifeguards. Some beaches can be gritty - including glass bottles and stray dogs. In conclusion, if you are looking for serious beach activity - try Gilli Islands or Uluwatu.
We hope this helped you get a glimpse into Balinese culture. If you have any other tips, please comment below.
It is rare to travel to a place that doesn't remind you of anything you have ever seen. Bali is that place. Many people travel there for the beaches and the parties. I went there for the culture and the unmistakable photography opportunities. The island is lush, tropical, modern and developing at the same time, and uniquely Hindu which permeates through the region. I will let the photos do the talking.
Behind the scenes video:
Getting to Indonesia from LAX required two flights, with a layover in Taipei. When we landed in Denpasar, the airport was remarkably modern with a mix of Dutch and Indonesian architecture. Outside the airport were Hindu temples dotting the sidewalk in between commercial buildings. The roadways had Hindu gods in the median. We passed by Banyan trees, wrapped with black and white sarongs. The hot and humid air and smelled of smokey incense. It was clear that we had landed in one of the most culturally interesting locations.
We took a taxi to our hotel and along the route were Western billboards, surf shops, and craft stores selling every kind of raw material from wood to stone statues. The street life in Indonesia was fascinating and completely opposite to the Western roads of structure and insurance laws. The roadways in Bali were swarmed with motorscoters - whole families on motorscooters, kids without helmets, drivers carrying giant bushels of produce, Hello Kitty helmets. I could stay entertained just by watching them out of my car window.
1. Tirta Empul Temple
The first Hindu temple we went to is Tirta Empul Temple. This is a Hindu temple built in 962 AD famous for its holy spring water. The fountains are used by the Balinese Hindu population (and tourists) for ritual purification. Many people were giving offerings, or small palm leaf baskets filled with flowers, candies, coins, incense, crackers, and even cigarettes to the gods. As our tour guide explained, Balinese Hindus believe in one god, but many manifestations in god.
2. Mount Batur
This is an active volcano on Bali that last erupted in 2000. The mountain draws adventure tourists for trekking, especially at sunset and sunrise. Whether you are photographing it from atop the mountain on below, it is impressive.
3. Pura Ulun Danu Bratan
This is the iconic Hindu temple. In fact the image of the temple is on the Indonesian 50,000 Rupiah bill (equal to about a $5 US bill). It is located on Lake Bratan and surrounded by lush gardens where many locals go for picnics and family gatherings. The temple was built in the 17th century in worship of the main Hindu trinity, Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, as well as the lake goddess, Dewi Danu. The temple is used as an offerings ceremonial site for the lake goddess. The worshipers paddle out on colorful boats to deliver the offerings.
4. Rice Terraces (Tegalalang Rice Terrace and Jatiluwih Rice Terraces)
The town in the center of Bali is called Ubud, known for its plentiful rice terraces, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We hiked through the terraces, which are tiered platforms of rice covering the mountainsides. We even spotted the farmers plowing and seeding the rice.
There is so much to cover in Bali that I will have a Part 2 to cover more beautiful sights. What are your favorite places to photograph in Bali?
Welcome to the Squiggles Travels Photography Blog. Here, you will get ideas on places to photograph, travel guides, and tips.
Top Viewed Blog Posts: