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72-hour Guide to Bali: Eat, Laugh, Swim

There places you like and there are places you love. The latter are places that you develop an immediate connection with and can see yourself coming back over and over again. Bali is one of them…

Since Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love book came out, thousands if not millions of people have been setting on their own journeys of self-discovery following her steps in Italy, India and IBalindonesia. I am one of them having just completed the last leg of my journey. Rather than meeting my love in Bali, I actually visited it with my husband while I was on a business trip, aka ‘impromptu honeymoon’. Afterall if you come that far, why not try to enjoy it?!
I am yet to hear anyone who has visited Bali complain about it. May be because it’s a perfect combination of sun, ocean, great food and amazingly friendly people. There is so much to do and see, especially for nature, arts and culture lovers. This beautiful island is home to active volcanoes and mountains, lakes and rivers, luscious jungles with rich flora and fauna, and inviting beaches. However, with three days left to explore the island I had to be strategic! 

Tip: if you are pressed for time, head to Ubud. Not only it is Bali’s a vibrant cultural center with museums, traditional palaces, funky shops and cafes, but is also where some of Bali’s top natural wonders – waterfall, rice field and Monkey Forest – are.

Bali

Bali

Bali-Ubud
Bali-Ubud
 

Waterfalls

The first stop on our itinerary was a Tegenungan Waterfall located at the Petanu River, Tegenungan Village. Hidden in the lush greenery of the rainforest, the waterfall was a welcoming discovery after many steps walking down and a refreshing stop on a hot and humid day.
Bali
Tip: Don’t forget to bring a swimsuit to take a dip in its waters and enjoy this beautiful and peaceful spot.
Bali
Bali
And if you have more time, you can try one of other stunning waterfalls, such as Sekumpul, Jembong, Aling-Aling, Nungnung, Banyulama Twin and Peguyanga.

Rice terraces

If you come to Bali, everyone will tell you – you HAVE to see traditional rice terraces. If you are near Ubud, head to famous Tegallalang rice terraces located on the slopes of the hill. Here you will see the rice planting process and a unique and ancient irrigation system. As you climb over the terraces, you may meet some of the local villagers who maintain these rice fields with much love and dedication.
Bali
Bali
Bali
This is also a great spot to have lunch at a local cafe or restaurant with amazing views from the top, while free wifi means you can post those great photos and make your friends jealous at no time! For $10 for two, try a local lunch of fresh curry and refreshing watermelon juice!
Bali
 

Beaches

With so many beaches on each side of the island, there is plenty of places to soak in the sun, swim and surf. Some beaches belong to hotels and may require an entrance fee, while others are free to public. Islanders usually recommend several beautiful beaches, including Dreamland, Padang-Padang, Nusa Dua, Balanga, Jimbaran and Blue Point. 
Since we stayed in Nusa Dua, we chose Padang-Padang beach that was about 40 mins drive and close to Kuta. It’s a hidden spot surrounded by the white stone cliffs with a narrow pathway through. The beach is not that long (about 100 meters) but offers stunning views of the Indian Ocean and surrounding cliffs, soft white sand, and warm ocean waters.
 
Tip: you may want to pay 100,000 rupiah (about $9) for sun umbrella to get some shade. 
Bali
Even dogs in Bali are super friendly and relaxed. This cutie kept us company on the Parang Parang beach!
Bali
Bali
We were lucky, our hotel Sol Beach House Benoa (see more on the hotel below) also had a long beautiful private beach we could enjoy every day.
Bali
Bali

Monkey Forest

Monkey Forest in Ubud is one of the top destinations attracting thousands of tourists each month. When you visit this nature reserve you immediately realize that humans are mere guests here and should abide to the certain rules of behavior. According to the Monkey Forest’s website, there are over 600 macaques of different ages living here. During the day it’s fun to sit and watch them in their natural environment doing things they do – be it sleeping, grooming each other, fighting or playing.
Bali
Bali
Bali
Bali
However, this sense of peace and friendliness can be somewhat false. Although cute and playful, they can be somewhat aggressive, especially if they are teased with food. So, park’s staff advise not to touch or tease monkeys to avoid being bitten. But if something does happen, park keepers, who are seen every few meters, have slingshots to pacify the aggressive ones.
Bali
Although they are well-fed by the keepers (you will see cages full of sweet potatoes everywhere), monkeys are still easily tempted by the bananas that tourists can buy on the spot and feed to them.
Bali
Bali
Monkey Forest in Ubud is also called a Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary since it is based on the Tri Hita Karana principles of reaching spiritual and physical well-being between humans and their environment and God. So this is not just a nature reserve where monkeys rule but is also an area of worship for the local community. Some parts of the Hindu complex inside the park are closed to the public and open for praying only.  Three Hindu temples in the Forest date as far as 13th century.
Bali
Monkey Forest is like a magical rainforest kingdom with various sculptures, ravines, lush forestry, calming streams and hanging lianas.
Bali
Bali
Bali
Tip: the ticket to Monkey Forest costs 40,000 IDR per adult, which is about $3.

Temples 

Even though Indonesia is considered a Muslim country, most of it’s Hindu minority lives in Bali which explains a high number (according to some sources, over 20,000!) of Hindu temples on the island. So not to visit a temple in Bali is the same as not to see Vatican in Rome!
Some of the most famous temples in Bali include Tanah Lot, Uluwatu, Goa Gajah, Ulun Danu Beratan, Besakih, Goa Lawah and Tirta Empul. On our way to Ubud, the driver has suggested that we see Puseh Batuan Temple. Tucked away on the side of the road, this  beautiful temple features great traditional Balinese architecture.
Bali
Bali
It is less crowded than some of the other more popular temples and you actually get to go inside the temple complex. Before you enter, you have to wrap a sarong around your waist which is provided for free.BaliAlso don’t be surprised if one of the temple guides approaches you and offers his services. As I was exploring its grounds I overheard the story of the temple in Russian! Little did I know there is a young guide who speaks better Russian then me and he learned this not-so-easy language in Bali. I was really impressed with his language skills while he was amused by the fact that he knew all Central Asian states and their capitals and could easily guess that I was from one of them!
The same day we headed to another temple in Bali – this time it was infamous Tanah Lot that is usually cut off from the island during high tide.
Bali

Since we were visiting during the low tide, we could easily walk up to it like hundreds of other tourists. The temple itself sits on the top of the cliff and is only open for religious ceremonies. However, for a small donation local monks can bless you by sprinkling holy water over your head and sticking some rice on the forehead. Women also get a hibiscus flower  placed behind their ears as a bonus!

Bali While it was really neat to be able to walk up to the island, I would suggest you hang around a little longer for stunning views during the sunset. Apparently, by then the tide comes back and the cliff once again becomes surrounded by the ocean waters.
Bali

Spa

Lastly, few words about well-being and relaxation. If you are in Asia, a massage is a must and Bali is the right place to get one. There are plenty of choices with an average 1-hour massage in small beauty shops and massage parlors costing around $10. However, if you want high quality treatment, I suggest Rumah Spa in Nusa Dua. The treatments aren’t cheap and costs similar to what you would pay in London; however, it is totally worth it. 
Bali
Bali
Decorated tastefully, the spa has a nice seating area where you can find range of wellness products while numerous treatment rooms spread over several floors. We chose a 3-hour massage package, which included foot bath, aromatherapy massage and hair treatment (or foot massage). The cost is about $60 per person.
Bali
Welcomed with refreshing ginger tea, me and my husband enjoyed our massages in the same treatment room, which also had a nice jacuzzi and shower to wash off the oils afterwards. After the foot bath and a very relaxing massage, we both went for hair spa, which included a head massage, hot oil treatment and hair styling. I left the spa not only feeling super relaxed and rejuvenated but also with beautiful shiny hair.
Bali

A word about hotel…

This blog would be incomplete if I didn’t mention our hotel stay experience. As to be expected, there are hundreds of hotels and hostels in Bali for every budget and taste. Nusa Dua is a quieter part of the island and is perfect for business travelers and family or romantic vacations. Here you will find 4 and 5-star western-style hotels like Westin, St. Regis and Sofitel. Given that the conference I was attending was in Nusa Dua, I chose a reasonably priced  hotel nearby – Sol Beach House Benoa.
Bali
Sol Beach House Benoa has everything for a great vacation – delicious food and lovely restaurants, swimming pool, games room, daily activities and entertainment, and a peaceful, beautiful beach. Our hotel suit was lovely and spacious. Although the furniture and finishing could use some touching up, this was minor and didn’t diminish our overall experience and impression of the hotel.
Bali
The grounds are beautifully landscaped and taken care of by loving staff. An amazing fish pond and two resident tortoises (which decided to mate during our visit!) are definitely a highlight.
Bali
What really mattered were hotel staff, who made us feel like a family and showed highest level of professionalism. We had a bit of a drama before we finally came to Bali. The conference was originally scheduled for November but due to the volcanic ash cloud it was postponed, which meant we would lose our non-refundable reservation. However, the reservation team (special thanks to Gregorius and Reuni) have honored our original reservation and moved it to the new dates. Not only that, they set up a honeymoon suit for us with wedding cake, fruit basket and flowers, which was very special. It was a truly memorable stay and we are already missing the hotel and its super friendly and courteous staff team that catered to our every need.
Doesn’t this look like a paradise?
Bali
Bali
Bali
I hope you found this post interesting, useful and inspiring. Bali has stolen my heart and I know I will be back!
Bali

Other useful tips:

  • To get around the island hire a driver for the day, which should cost around $60-70 per car, and create your own itinerary rather then joining an organized tour.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes for day of exploring since some of the attractions may require hiking.
  • Bring a hat and sunglasses and carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated as it gets really hot and humid during the day.
  • To go into temples, be prepared to cover your legs up with sarong, but don’t buy one from pushy vendors as every temple offers free sarongs you can borrow.

4 thoughts on “72-hour Guide to Bali: Eat, Laugh, Swim

  1. Really cool post Svet! And I fully agree with you, it is a place that I will be going back to. We spent there over two weeks and still it was not enough.

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience!!! Will definitely use all the information and tips for our upcoming trip to this amaizing place!

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