According to balinese legends to create Bali the gods put a turtle into the sea and let palm trees and flower grew on her shell
This story alone made this island incredible likeable to me and there are so many other legends, myths and fairy tales around it. Everywhere you go you can sense old traditions, the omnipresent faith of the Balinese and everyday rituals such as little offerings in front of all houses, sometimes just a few pieces of rice and flowers on banana leaves, sometimes huge towers of food and decorations.
Bali was absolutely magical to me, it is such a beautiful island and the people here are the absolute nicest I have ever met. I hope I can soon return with a little more time on my hands. This time I visited Kuta (the biggest tourist centre of the islands with a lot of clubs and drunk Australians), Ubud (a calmer town in the middle of Bali, more focused on meditation than partying) and the beautiful Gilis in front of Lombok.
Kuta and Legian
The first stop of my trip and to be honest the one I liked the least. Kuta actually shocked me and reminded me much more of the nightlife district of Sunny Beach in Bulgary, than the mystic island I created in my head after reading Eat, Pray, Love.
On arrival at the airport skip the big crowd of taxi drivers offering their "cheap service", they usually will rip you off. Here and actually everywhere on Bali you should choose the Bluebird taxis, who use taximeters and will give you a fair price.
Kuta is home to Bali´s biggest night clubs and filled to the brim with tourists, who look for cheap food, drinks and parties. It is an experience, but it was not really my dream destination.
What was dreamy about this part of Bali was the gorgeous hostel I stayed at in Legian The Island Hotel. It offers a beautiful infinity pool, a roof top terrace and dorm rooms, which are not that easy to find in Bali, so it´s ideal for people, who travel by them self but they also offer private rooms and a little restaurant with delicious western and local cuisine. It is located very central, but due to the high walls and being built at the end of remote street location it is very quiet.
When in Kuta you do have to go out! The classic route starts at a bar, mainly the Alleycats or Fishbowl and ends at the roof top terrace of the Sky Garden Lounge. I had two great nights of going out, including cheap cocktails and dancing on tables, but to be honest you do not need to fly over to Indonesia to have a party vacation like that. Party destinations are all very much the same in my opinion and I personally would choose to travel on from Kuta as soon as possible to explore the more unique parts of Bali or make sure to do a surf or diving course here.
To get to Ubud we once again used a Bluebird taxi. Something I really had to get used to in Asia is the huge amounts of bargaining you have to do everywhere, be it taxis, food, accomadation or when you buy souvenirs. All prices are usually set a little higher for tourist and if you do not want to have the constant feeling of being ripped off, you have to make a little effort and bargain. For our drive to Ubud we ended up paying 150 000 rupies (12 Euros).
Ubud is Bali´s cultural centre with an abundance of temples, the famous rice fields, countless spas and great restaurants.
Usually you stay in little Losmen, which are rooms in the houses of balinese families. The are amazing hosts and the rooms are beautiful. For around 100 000 rupies a night you usually also get a homemade breakfast and balinese tea or coffee during the day.
Most people rent little scooters to get around on Bali, but to be honest after seeing a canadian´s broken knee and the chaos on the streets I decided not to. In Ubud we used a private driver and as decadent as it sounds for a day tour to the most important sights we only payed 23 Euros. There are also touristic bus tours, but since I was not interested in every single temple, renting a private driver was actually better for me. We decided to stop at the volcano, the Pura Besakih and the Elephant cave temple. On our tour we also stopped at the rice fields at sunrise and at a traditional coffee plantation and tasted all kinds of coffee.
There are over a thousand temples on Bali and I only managed to visit two, but at least one of them was the biggest one. The Pura Besakih is made up of 23 small little temples spread over a mountain close to Ubud. The huge temple complex and especially the huge entrance gate are extremely impressive.
You should be a little careful when you talk to the very nice people, who work for the temple. They will very convincingly tell you that you can only enter the temple when you are going in with them (against a little fee of course). While the fee really is not high, the story is not true and you can enter by yourself anytime. Just kindly thank them and proceed up the stairs.
This little temple is only a short 30 minute drive away from Ubud. The crafted entrance to the cave and the park around it are both just gorgeous. The temple is nestled into the jungle, beautiful tropical flowers and small wells.
The cave is famous for the great visions the monks had inside and after only two minutes breathing in the thick air in the three square feet room I can believe that without a doubt.
Nature´s finest and other sights
On our tour we also drove up the huge volcano close to Ubud. Sadly it was a very cloudy day so the view was not to great, but I already loved the drive up and the different impressions we got of Bali´s forest on the way there.
The rice fields around Ubud are just gorgeous and I recommend you to not only stop during your sightseeing tour, but to also take an afternoon for a relaxed walk around them, when you are back in Ubud. It only takes about two minutes from the centre of the town to reach the beautiful fields. You can also rent a bike for this.
In Ubud you should also visit the Sacred Monkey Forest, a park with a huge variety of trees and plants and as the name tells you loads of monkey. Hold on tightly to all your belongings and do not take any fruits, these monkeys aren´t the least afraid of people.
Another magical experience in Ubud is to see a traditional dance in one of the temples. We watched a fire dance and I loved absolutely everything about it, from the gorgeous costumes to the impressive chants of the 60 dancers. The big dance groups play balinese myths and the whole performance is simply enchanting. This is a little pricier than most attractions in Bali, but definetely worth it.
Ubud also has some of the best spas and restaurants in Bali, so you really should enjoy a massage and some of the delicious Saté Ayam with peanutbutter sauce or Nasi Goreng. I also loved the breakfast with loads of fruits and fresh juices.