and I both have been to Bali several times. Lisa has been there twice
for conferences and once for a holiday with her siblings, I have been
there in January before flying to New Zealand and again a couple of
times in between flights. We both loathe the overcrowded beaches
around Kuta (aka Mallorca for Australians) and the overpriced resorts
around Benoa and Nusa Dua. The hidden gems Bali indisputably has are
tucked away from the crowds in small coves in the South and in the
North and East of the island.
|Hidden beach on the Bukit peninsula|
is very different from all other parts of
Indonesia we visited. It is
also by far the most touristy island. The price level in Bali is
significantly higher than in Java. Even for basic things like fried
rice or a bus ticket you often pay twice to three times the amount
you would in Central Java. To get around in Bali, you have four
options. Public buses and minibuses are rather slow and highly
unpredictable. Also, several drivers tried to rip us off. We usually
got around this by asking some locals about the fare and simply
paying the “usual” fare to the driver and walk away. The second
option is renting your own motorbike. It's cheap, about 50-60'000 IDR
(2-2.5 EUR) per day and very convenient, as you can easily reach
almost every spot on the island.
|Restaurant on the beach close to Bali airport|
Taxis are convenient too, but in
opposition to renting your own motorbike, taxis are quite expensive.
Even tough bargaining won't get you the short ride from Ngura Rai
airport to Nusa Dua for less than 100'000 IDR (7 EUR). While a taxi
to Ahmed in the East or Lovina in the North of Bali will set you back
at least 500'000 IDR (33 EUR). The last transport option is tourist
buses. They are very convenient if you already know where you go, as
they usually drop you right in front of your hotel or guesthouse. And
they are direct connections, unlike the public buses. But, this
convenience comes at a price. Most routes cost between 80'000 and
150'000 IDR (5-10 EUR).
|Fresh catch on the fish market|
explored Bukit peninsula thanks to our friend Lenka who was living on
Bali for half a year while working on her PhD thesis. I only had
three days between arriving from Java and my flight to Christchurch.
But Bukit peninsula is quite small, so I had ample time to check out
several of the beautiful beaches as well as to eat delicious seafood
both on the beach and on the fish market directly to the south of
Ngurah Rai International airport. The beaches on Bukit peninsula are
stunning. White sand, usually scenically tucked in between steep
cliffs. The best way to get around – from your guesthouse to the
beach and from beach to beach – is by motorbike. Taxis will add up
to a considerable sum. A highlight is watching the sunset from the
top of the cliffs around Uluwatu temple. The temple itself is
beautiful too, but quite pricey (150'000 IDR or 10 EUR).
dear siblings visited me (Lisa) in December, rainy season in most parts of
Indonesia. Their time was limited and their expectations high, so I
decided to take them to Bali because it is easy to reach and not too
expensive if you don't stay in the main tourist areas. We decided to
spend our time in Ahmed, as my sister got several recommendations
from friends for diving there. From the airport in the south of the
island we wanted to take a taxi but as soon as we saw the official
taxi price (750'000 IDR / 50 EUR) we looked for
an alternative. Unofficial drivers offered us only little lower
prices, so we called our hotel in Ahmed to check whether they have
cheaper offers. After half an hour a driver picked us up at the
airport for 500'000 IDR (33 EUR).
|Our house god|
a nice four hour drive through rice fields, over hills and with
stunning views we finally arrived in the hotel Anugerah Villas. The
driver was a friend of our hotel manager, both of them were lovely
and very helpful, but they also immediately tried to sell us tours
across Bali, massages and many other things. The entire family
offered their services, which sounds wonderful but also can cause a
lot of pressure for the tourists if they cannot friendly but clearly
say no. Once that was sorted out, everything went smooth and easy.
The hotel was clean, spacious and the view was stunning.
three of us love diving, so our first challenge was to find the best
dive shop in town. We usually prefer to support local business, but
every local shop we went to had no idea what nitrox is, the equipment
looked semi-professional and the crew seamed too eager to sell us
what ever we want (or didn't want), we did not dare to trust them
with our lives. Of all the international operators Bali Reef Divers
seemed to be the best for us, and we had eleven wonderful dives with
them. Most operators offer dives in Ahmed and Tulamben, there are two
ship wrecks and a lot of reefs, no boat necessary. The one boat dive
we tried started from a local fisher boat, no ladder to get out of
the water, so you climb into the boat after three dives. Quite an
unpleasant experience for me with lots of bruises all over my legs as
all Ahmed seems to be a wonderful place for divers and surfers, tours
across the island are also great and offered from around 550'000 IDR
per day. We hiked to a waterfall, saw lots of monkeys, temples and
beautiful beaches. For people who look for party or white beaches
Ahmed is the wrong place though.
far north of Bali is a completely different story compared to the
busy places like Kuta, Seminyak, Benoa and so on. It's still
touristy, but as I went there towards the end of the summer season
(late August), it was already relaxed and much cheaper than the busy
south of Bali. Arriving on Sunday afternoon with the ferry from Java
was not the best decision. There wasn't much transport along the
northern coast, so the bus and bemo drivers in Gilimanuk tried to rip
us off. In the end, the four of us just entered a bemo after having
asked locals for the “real” price of the ride to Lovina. In
Lovina, a good hour down the road, we got off the bemo and gave the
driver the fare. He tried to ask more from us, but as I spoke some
Bahasa Indonesia we made it very clear that we wouldn't pay more. In
the end, he left. We quickly found a very nice cottage for 200'000
IDR (13 EUR) in Barcelona guesthouse.
Lovina itself spreads out over
8km of beaches, but unless you want to drive everywhere with your
motorbike, I highly recommend you to stay in one of the streets in
the center. That's where most of the cheaper guesthouses are and
that's where the majority of restaurants are. We enjoyed some lazy
days on the beach, beautiful sunsets and delicious Balinese food.
There's plenty of restaurants with the usual western fare (pizza,
pasta, burgers) and all the seafood you could wish for. But we
particularly liked two little Warung/Restaurants that served some of
the best Indonesian and Balinese dishes I ate in my whole nine months
are two day-trips in the North of Bali we can particularly recommend.
The first one – snorkeling around Pulau Menjangan - you can book
with any dive operator in Lovina or in other towns along the coast.
The whole package (transport to the harbor close to Pemuteran, boat,
lunch, snorkeling equipment) costs about 25€, unless you're too
lazy to bargain. For the second one, you simply rent a motorbike for
50'000 IDR (3.5 EUR) follow the coast to Singharaja and then take the
main road up into the mountains. After about an hour on the
motorbike, you'll be in the area of Munduk. The climate up here is
completely different from the coast, it's much cooler and often
clouds and fog obscure your vista. But the temples and waterfalls
around the area are still stunning. But beware of the monkeys: they
steal everything they can get their hands on!
|Around Pulau Menjangan|
Bali is never completely untouristy and even low season brings in
large flocks of sun-seeking Australians and Europeans, Lisa and I
still managed to find many places we like. Once you get out of the
urban and overdeveloped nightmare around Kuta and Denpasar, Bali is
still very much worth a visit.
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