When my partner and I decided on a mini vacay after a long arduous winter, there was no question when Bali weaved its way to the top of the list. Initially because we were sold on the three things that make Indonesia the destination for all kiwis and kangaroos: heat, cocktails and value for money.
As it turns out, Bali delivered on all three of these things and some. In fact it was entirely doable as soon as you stepped off the plane into the humid bustling metropolis of Denpasar (the upper lip was not coping at this stage).
Forget those winter woolies – Bali is hot year-round – even when exploring this place in the offseason the temperature is a mild 32 degrees. So pack those cotton fabrics and a can do attitude even when the humidity sucks your energy levels dry and all you can do is flop into the pool and order a bintang. Not that I was complaining!
We began our trip inland with an excursion into the cool, leafy hills of Ubud. This is the cultural heart of Bali where one can relax into a state of zen-like bliss. The area is mind-numbingly beautiful, especially those touristy hot spots we’ve all come to know and love through Instagram – the Tegallalang rice terraces and the many temples that adorn the tropical rainforest slopes.
Ubud is a sleepy artisan town with magical hidden places where you can find friendly locals, artists, monkeys, cafes and the caged civet cats that eat only the best coffee beans.
We loved Ubud for its sense of peace and tranquility that is hard to find in the rest of bustling Bali.
Ubud is surrounded by active volcanoes and rolling rice paddies – some handcrafted into the hillside more than 2000 years ago. Rice is taken very seriously here. It’s considered a gift from the gods and you’ll often find temples surrounding the fields that are devoted to their crops and is one of their main exporters.
For the finale we worked our way down on the coast to Seminyak – one of the most popular tourist destinations in Bali. People gravitate here for that little bit of luxury and relaxation particularly at the popular tourist beach clubs.
Seminyak remains to keep it’s cool and hip vibe despite the number of tourists it satisfies and is the most popular option for first timers.
For a bit of an adventure though if that’s not your cup of Bintang, you can hire a driver for the day to take you out to Nusa Dua where they have water parks lining the coast as well as Uluwatu to get your temple fix. The drivers are friendly and they’re everywhere and it was so worth going beyond the hotels and resorts to see the real Bali through our eyes.
Balinese cuisine is not world-renowned, but it’s tasty and inexpensive. If you leave Bali without inhaling multiple gorengs (Balinese fried rice and noodles) or campur or spring rolls – did you even Bali?
To avoid Bali belly at all costs though, drink bottled water only, and brush your teeth in it too. Bottled water is cheap and many hotels and resorts provide complimentary water. Better be safe than suffer Bali belly, which unfortunately does happen – particularly to first timers.
You will feel like a millionaire from the get go in Bali – the exchange rate means NZ$100 is equivalent to just under 1 million Rupiah (923,798.4 currently), so your wallet will be as fat as the local bookmakers.
The true Bali, with its rituals and ancient culture, is everywhere you look from small offerings sitting outside shops to thousands of temples that reside everywhere from hotels and resorts to by the roadside. Everywhere you look, you will see ceremony, ritual and sacred offerings. The Balinese carry out their religious obligations with pride and everyone takes part from the youngest child, through to grandparents, all dressed immaculately for the temple.
And it’s absorbing this culture that makes me feel fulfilled on a holiday.
A holiday in Bali has taught me that too much of a good thing can easily turn one’s mind. A surfeit of sunshine, soporific cocktails, spicy cuisine, strident music, welcoming smiles, and hedonism in Balinese tourist hotspots leaves me in a hyperactive frame of mind. It was a great, beautiful, blur of a trip. We were in a constant loop of massage, nap and Bintang in Bali; it’s a place that gives as much as it takes, and we are more than happy with that transaction. (We are also more than happy with the amount of dogs although we resisted the urge to pat every single one of them).