Last fall, I spent about two weeks in Bali, an incredibly beautiful and trendy Indonesian island. While this does seem like a long stretch to spend in one place — traffic during peak travel season is horrific — so this is a good amount of time to really appreciate the Balinese way of life without getting too frustrated!
One of the best things about the island is that you can choose to experience many different kinds of activities. You can spend your days on the beach in Seminyak, hang out with monkeys in a forest in Ubud, hike up an active volcano, visit local temples, or if you want a more low-key experience, just hide away in one of the exclusive resorts in Nusa Dua. Spending a couple of days in various parts of the island is quite common as well to avoid traffic.
Of course, the list of things to do in Bali is endless, and there are some others that could easily be added, but these were just a few of the activities that I thought were very much worth the nine-hour slightly bumpy direct flight from Doha on Qatar Airways.
Dine at Ku-De-Ta
This is a fabulous restaurant to eat at when it comes to good food and the views of the ocean, especially at sunset. The venue masters the art of indoor/outdoor dining with a simple interior that is surrounded by hanging vines, palm trees and the calm sound of the waves. It really allows you to fully appreciate Bali’s natural beauty. And if you enjoy a more party-like scene, the outdoor lounging sofas on the patio, the pool at the edge of the restaurant, the second floor sunset balcony, and the live music will take the ambiance to a whole new level.
Hike up Mount Batur to see a gorgeous sunrise
I’ll be honest, this was not the easiest hike for me, but I would do it again in a second. You will definitely need a guide to do this since you start your hike at around 3:30 a.m. and have to navigate the mountain in the dark so that you can make it to the top just in time for sunrise. While I do work out a couple of times a week as well, this felt a little like being on an exercise machine for 2.5 hours. Looking back though, I think the experience would have been a lot easier with some good hiking shoes. And did I mention that this is an active volcano? Luckily, my husband forced me to keep climbing even when I felt like giving up, and I am glad that he did. The opportunity to see the start of a whole new day from the top of the mountain was the most surreal experience for me, and by far my favorite in Bali.
Bike down Mount Batur
A 25-kilometer bike ride sounds challenging, but a downhill 25-kilometer bike ride is very easy and a lot of fun. We did this tour with a larger group and with a guide, which was great as he was able to take us to some of the more inaccessible areas to show us the tiered magnificence of the paddy rice fields. I especially enjoyed the opportunity to ride through narrow local streets, passing the charming homes and temples, and high fiving little children coming home from school as we whizzed past them. It was a little nerve-wracking when we started weaving through local traffic on a busy road, but everyone made it seem so normal that I convinced myself that it was too.
Try a food safari in Seminyak
I highly recommend this to foodies, as it is a great way of discovering some of the trendiest restaurants in town. The other advantage of the food tour is that you get to try many different types of cuisines, all in one night. While there are food tours in other parts of the island, I thought Seminyak had amazing restaurants. Make sure to come with a big appetite — it is going to be a lot of food.
Spend the day in Ubud’s local market for cheap finds
I could have spent a lot of time here, but when my husband realized how heavily discounted all the items were, he quickly encouraged us to finish up quickly. In general, though, shopping in Bali is amazing with wonderful unique finds. Some of my favorite things in the market were the straw woven totes, bamboo purses, clothing and linens made out of colorful Batik fabric, and the mother-of-pearl and shell boxes and trays. This market also has other decorative items made out of real wood and ceramics. If you’re not a fan of the prices they’re offering, this is definitely the place to haggle too! Start off at half of the price that they tell you, and then work your way to a price you’re willing to pay.
Eat seafood at Jimbaran Bay
I absolutely loved Balinese and Indonesian food, and on top of that, their seafood is phenomenal. While I think that there are a lot of wonderful restaurants that are known for their sunset views, this is a very special kind of experience as you’re watching the sunset while eating seafood right on the beach! You may not need to book early at a restaurant, but make sure you show up early enough to get a good table on the beach.
Visit a traditional Balinese home
Balinese people are Hindu, and have a very different and interesting structure to their homes. The architecture is built around their religious and strong cultural beliefs, and is quite unlike any of the Western-style homes that most of us are used to seeing.
Each family residence is essentially a compound with families who cohabit the space, but in completely different quarters surrounding a larger courtyard. The various structures also include a family temple that sits within its own enclosure. I loved seeing the architecture of these homes, especially the beautiful, lush greenery all throughout the home as well as at the entrance. And to top it all off, our host cooked us my favorite Balinese dish, nasi goreng.
In general, the Balinese way of life seems to promote a sense of calm and serenity throughout the home and in life. Most people are incredibly relaxed about their day-to-day activities and run on their own kind of time — “Bali” time or “whenever I feel like it” time.
It’s an addictive type of lifestyle, and one that left a lasting impression on me.