Call it serendipity. I received a text message from a friend today whom I haven’t connected with in a while. She mentioned that she was dating this great new guy and going with him to Bali for Christmas this year instead of home for the holidays.
“I love love love Bali!” I texted back. “In fact, I just started writing a post about the island that I may publish tomorrow.”
A recent free-lance assignment jogged the ole noggin, and all the memories of my trip to Indonesia two years ago came flooding back.
I was hired to create a seven day itinerary for someone who wanted to focus on taking it easy beach-side, but she wanted to pepper her stay with a little scenery and culture.
Since I took the time developing this itinerary, I thought to myself, “Hey, self! Maybe your readers would be interested in your Bali itinerary, too?”
So here are a few nuggets for those who might be heading to Bali sometime soon. Or maybe you just want to add some things your bucket list!
Day 1: Beach and Pool
Ease in to that jet lag by spending the day lounging by the pool, drinking fruity drinks at the (or in the) pool bar, and noshing on delicious buffet goodies. I stayed at the Discovery Kartika Plaza Hotel, but there are a plethora of nice hotels in the Kuta area.
If you want to mix it up a bit, head to the beach in front of the hotel to enjoy that ocean breeze and shoot the breeze with some local vendors. Be forewarned, if you don’t feel like being “sold to” on your first day in Bali, avoid the hotel beaches. The vendors are super-friendly, though, and offer everything from hand woven bracelets to sarongs to foot massages! They are pretty persistent, so if you’re simply looking to nod off and relax, stick to the hotel pool.
To me, Kuta seems like the Cancun of Bali in terms of tourism and traffic. It’s not necessarily the type of place I would normally gravitate to on vacation, but it was a great place to get over initial jet lag before hopping over to Wakatobi for a week of diving. Check out my posts about some of the best SCUBA in the world here and here.
Day 2: Explore Kuta
Spend the day getting familiar with your surroundings, exploring Kuta town and beach.
Cruise the beach and check out all of the vendors, who offer beverages (local beer, water, and sodas), food, souvenirs, massages, manicures, and pedicures. You’ll see plenty of expats getting their feet and hands done!
Then take some time to relax and soak yourself in the Indian Ocean. If you care to surf, this is an ideal beach with perfect surfing waves. Check out Pro Surf School to get a leg up – and on- that surfboard!
Grab a bite for lunch at the beach or back at the hotel, and then make your way to the streets of Kuta to hit the shopping scene. Need a break from the heat? Step inside Kuta Shopping Mall for some retail therapy with air-con! Still need a shopping fix? Head over to the Beachwalk Mall. If you want more local flavor, barter your way around the shopping stalls on Jalan Legian.
For dinner, indulge in local Indonesian fare at Kafe Batan Waru Kuta. It’s so atmospheric at night with the colorful basket lanterns dangling from the trees. Try the Kare Ayum/Sayur – the Indonesian version of Penang curry!
Day 3: Get Cultured
Alright. It’s time to venture out a bit today! Not too far, but to the bustling Denpasar. You’re going to get a little cultured today!
First stop on your cultural immersion tour is an authentic Barong dance performance. Barong is a mythological lion-like creature and king of the good spirits in Indonesian culture. During the dance, he battles Rangda, the demon queen mother of all spirit guarders, which represents the eternal battle between good and evil. Bali Barong and Keris Dance Cultural Performance holds shows at their outdoor (covered) theater from 9:30 to 11:30.
After the show, learn about the unique Indonesian Batik method. It’s an ancient tradition of decorating textiles by applying wax to areas that will remain uncolored and dyeing the rest of the cloth. Check out Batik Popiler 2 for some unique and beautiful Indonesian Batik designs.
Continue on to Prapen Jewelry and Artifacts to watch the metallurgists at work creating beautiful pieces, and then cross an inner courtyard fish pond to browse the Zen-like store for fine jewelry.
Head back to your hotel for a late lunch and some well deserved R&R poolside or beachside! Check the hotel schedule for nightly performances, and you may be able to catch a Legong (Balinese trance) dance show!
Day 4: Tannah Lot
After spending a leisurely morning at your hotel poolside, take an afternoon half-day trip to Pura Tanah Lot, the temple on the sea. Only 12 miles from Denpasar, the temple is most impressive at sunset.
The sixteenth century temple is one of seven sea temples around Bali’s Southwestern coast. Built on a rock outcrop, this cultural icon remains one of the most photographed temples on the island. Although born of Balinese mythology, the temple has also been heavily influenced by Hinduism.
To get to the temple, you’ll have to traverse through a market of souvenir shops, so allow time to browse. Take advantage of the fresh coconuts for sale. If you’re dehydrated, the electrolytes will really help, and it’s SO refreshing!
Spend the afternoon perusing the temple, taking plenty of photos of the waves crashing against Pura Tanah Lot. Make sure to visit the “holy” spring under the rock formation and sip from the “fountain of youth.”
Day 5: Ubud
Today you’ll head to the laid-back and cool cultural hub Ubud. Surrounded by verdant rice paddies and steep ravines, this city almost seems like an oasis in the lush, green hills.
Did you read Eat, Pray, Love or see the movie? This is where she stayed in Bali.
Cruise down the three main roads, Ji Raya Ubud, Ji Monkey Forest and Ji Hanoman. Spend a leisurely few hours perusing art galleries, crafts stores, cafes, and other shops.
What’s crazy about Ubud is that there are these hip restaurants, coffee shops and modern amenities, but there is also a Sacred Monkey Forest right there in the town! You will literally feel like you’ve stepped on to the set of Tomb Raider when you enter the nature reserve and temple complex.
As you climb across arched stone bridges draped in vines, watch out for those sneaky monkeys! They will vie for your attention – and your food. Although vendors sell monkey food, be wary of feeding them. Once you get a few admirers, it might be hard to shake them! It’s also common to witness a monkey screaming match fight. Try not to be too startled!
Leisurely make your way back to your hotel at your own pace, or stay a night in Ubud, if you’re feeling the vibe.
Day 6: Volcanoes and Rice Terraces
Visit one of the most celebrated and beautiful rice terraces in Bali: the Tegalalang Rice Terrace. After climbing up, down and all around the terraces (be careful, some of the paths are extremely steep!), enjoy a little rest and relaxation at one of the “restaurants” that melt into the side of the valley. Sometimes a picnic table, sometimes a cabana, the seats are angled like theater seating to award you with the pristine and zen-like views of the terraces. If you haven’t purchased any post cards yet, now’s your chance. Lots of kids sell them here.
After you’ve had your rice paddy fill, head to the base of Mt. Batur, an active volcano. Pull over to one of the small restaurants with stunning views of Batur and the lake it floats in, like Warung Tepi Sawah. The food might be mediocre, but the views are incredible
Day 7: Royal Temple Time
On your last day in Bali, you’ll have one more temple complex on your agenda. Pura Taman Ayun, a Balinese Hindu temple, is located in the Mengwi Village. Built in 1634 by the King of Mwengi for his family, the complex is an island surrounded by a moat. The tiered pagodas represent quintessential Balinese architecture. This beautiful complex isn’t as popular with tourists, so you can enjoy a relaxing, meditative visit and a few good photo ops.