In the fashion world, there is a model and a supermodel. Likewise in the tourism world, there is a destination and a super destination. Join Mohamed El Hebeishy as he sets sail to the supermodel …. sorry, the super destination called Bali.
Let us start with an ice breaker; what do you look for when deciding to go for a vacation?
A considerable amount of travelers, me included, often look for beaches when they travel. And Bali doesn’t come short of beaches. If you are looking for a family-friendly beach with easy access to a kids’ basic needs (toilet, convenient store, pharmacy..etc) then head to the beaches around Sanur (a small family oriented resort town on the south eastern side of the island. On the other hand, if you are single and in party mode, then it is either Kuta or Seminyak, depending entirely on your budget (both are located on the south western side of the island). If you are a newly wedded couple on your honeymoon, then opt for the quiet and secluded Pasir Putih, literally translates to white sand (east Bali). If none of the above is the right answer for you, and since you are a hardcore adrenaline junkie, then the whole island is your playground; the beaches in the south are particularly good for surfing but it depends on how professional you are.
Hmm … on a second thought, I would prefer some sightseeing.
No issues at all. Let us park the shorelines for now and head further inland. Different than most of Indonesia, Hinduism is predominant here, and it has been for centuries. Balinese Hinduism is different than its Indian counterpart, and it has left a heritage of historical sites often swarmed by tourists groups. Pura Ulun Danu Bratan should top your list of historical sightseeing in Bali. Visiting Pura Ulun Danu Bratan should be coupled with a leisurely walk in the nearby Bali Botanical Gardens. Even if you are not into botany, a simple 15-minute walk here will leave you with a clear mind and a refreshed soul. While heading from one of the two sites to the other break for five minutes by Lake Bratan for some memorabilia pictures and Instagram selfies. If you are really into history, then perhaps you would be interested in less crowded sights like Gunung Kawi or Yeh Pulu, where you can literally have the place all for yourself (I was the only one in Yeh Pulu when visiting it).
One site that mixes history with nature is the Sacred Monkey Forest. Located in Ubud, it has a reserve for, guess what, monkeys! When visiting make sure you have some banana on you, they will come in handy when it is time to take pictures.
The island’s sightseeing is not confined to historical sites, it includes natural ones as well. Tegalalang is Bali’s rice terraces at its finest. When scheduling your day, place your visit to Tegalalang around lunch time so you can enjoy the amazing vistas of the rice terraces from any of the restaurants dotting the cliff that overlooks the paddies.
Yes, all of these are amazing ideas, but I don’t want to rough it all the way. I would prefer to be close to restaurants, cafes and for sure shopping (eyes wide open)
Bali is pretty big for an island destination, and it comes with more than one resort town. All of which offer the level of comfort an average tourist would expect. Seminyak is the uncrowned queen of Bali’s culinary scene where you can find most of the world’s renowned cuisines from Japanese sushi to Greek souvlaki; you name it. A 2-am burger from Bossman is a sin, but I just love it (go for the original gangster).
Hitting the stores, Seminyak has a bit of commercial shopping to it as the main streets are peppered with brand shops. If you want a more touristic type of shopping: fridge magnets, colorful sarongs, artistic nicknacks, handmade toys, t-shirts, paintings …. (the list can go on forever), then it is Ubud; Bali’s artisan center.
But it is Bali and I want to relax and detox; haven’t you seen Eat Pray Love?
Obviously it is Julia Roberts whose footsteps you want to follow, and nothing else! Get ready for a whole lot of choices from a long list of spas and colon cleansing clinics to all sort of yoga retreats and meditation classes. This is Ubud’s backyard so go for an accommodation overlooking the evergreen rice paddies; it will help you meditate. Plus, some scenes of Julia’s movie were actually shot in Ubud!
Most tourist locations around the world come with one, two or may be a few things to offer its visitors, it is rarely that you come across one destination that has a wide, and diverse, array of attractions. Don’t miss out on Bali, because if you do, that would be like skipping on a date with a supermodel.
Box: Where to stay in Bali?
That is a pretty good question that only you can answer …. but:
If resort life is what you are looking for, then Google Jimbaran and Uluwatu, and be ready with a fat wallet.
If you are on a budget and cost is the critical factor, then it is Kuta; nonetheless, you are not the only one traveling Bali on a shoestring, a lot of young backpackers are.
Striking a fine balance and ticking most of the right boxes is certainly Seminyak, though it gets a bit noisy after midnight.
If it is noise you are running from and looking for a more family-oriented quieter version of Seminyak, then Sanur is where you should be booking. If it is all about rediscovering yourself, meditating or just following Julia’s footsteps, then it is Ubud, but be forewarned, you are far from the sea.