We were on a plane from KL to Denpasar. It was the first time ever that I would be setting foot in a destination that has always been on my bucket list. Having read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love book and seen the adapted film starring Julia Roberts, Bali attracted me with its promises of beautiful scenery and nice beaches. Will Bali be able to stand up to so many years of excitement that I had built? Will I be able to enjoy its numerous beaches, temples, food, and shopping? Well, here is an honest account of my impressions of Bali!
After landing in Denpasar, we hired a taxi to take us to our very first destination in Bali, Ubud. Our driver ensured that we had a good ride. He cheerfully pointed out any local attraction that we would pass by and even helped us with a bit of history of the land. In the midst of our conversation with him, we found out that that day we were to fly out from Bali, was one of the biggest days for the locals! Nyepi Day, a day where they closed down everything in order to go and pray. Even the Denpasar Airport would be shut down! Oh no, not the best way to start our journey.
After good 1 and a half hrs, we finally arrived at our quaint little stay in Ubud named Omah Apik. We received a warm welcome from the hotel staff; a charming young Balinese lady. We were so delighted to experience the warm hospitality and affection of the Balinese that it made us forget all our tiredness and just feel relaxed. She even helped us get in touch with the Lombok International Airport (the airport we were to fly out from) so we could inquire if it is working on Nyepi Day. Alas! to our happiness, we were told that Nyepi Day is only celebrated in the island of Bali and not in Lombok or any other islands near Lombok. Phew!
So after a somewhat stressful start to Bali, we were finally relieved and relaxed (oh wait, and STARVING). If there was even an iota of stress, it was released straight away when we experienced the view facing our rooms, there were acres and acres of rice paddy fields and lush green countryside! Now, I finally started to get a feel of my Balinese holiday. Here are my impressions of Bali in my short visit there:
Bali has an amazing mix of things to do and see
If you love going to a place where you will not be stuck with the same kind of landscape every day of your holiday, you have come to the right place! Bali is where you will find mighty waterfalls, rice paddies cascading down rolling hills, white black, and pink sand beaches, volcanoes piercing the clouds, landscapes dotted with temple ruins every corner and turning, tropical forests buzzing with wildlife, organic multicultural food and exotic fruits of Bali.
2. It is a beautiful melting pot of different cultures and religions
Bali is one place that is filled with spirituality! You will find Chinese, Buddhist, Indian, Javanese as well as Western influences in their temples, architecture, art, and handicrafts. If you are creatively inclined just like me, you will love the subtle confluence of different spiritual practices and cultures creating a unique style! Imagine yourself being put into one big walk-through art gallery, where you can discover a treasure trove of artworks and handicrafts by talented local craftsmen, all at bargain prices! While you are there, don’t forget to visit these markets to get a glimpse into the wonderful artistry and creativity of the island’s craftsmen – Ubud Art Market, Sukawati Art Market, Guwang Art Market, Kumbasari Art Market and Kuta Art Market.
3. The Architecture and wood carvings in Bali are mind boggling
I was in awe of the amount of detailing that the artisans and wood carvers put into every single object they touched. In today’s day and age, very few people are so dedicated towards their work to put in this much amount of work into it. Hand-carved wooden figures, architectural details, and instruments are found everywhere in Bali. Local carvers meet the demand and also produce masks, furniture, and sculpture for export. Production ranges from touristy multiples to exquisite, one-of-a-kind masterpieces. If you are an art collector or just curious to visit the local craftsmen, there are dedicated Handicraft Villages where Bali’s talented artisans live. Some of the artistic villages worth exploring are Batubulan for stone carving, Mas for wood carving, and Pengosekan for painting.
4. The perfect place to shop if you are into Boho style or home decor
Bali is surely a shopper’s paradise. You’ll find anything from boho style dresses and jewelry to trendy footwear and bags. The bargains and deals you get in Bali are A hard to resist for the rustic charm they exude. I would love to give you a heads up that you need to bargain hard, though. The best locations for shopping are Jl. Legian and Kuta Square in Kuta, Bali Collection in Nusa Dua and the Monkey Forest Road in Ubud. Happy shopping!
5. Bali itself doesn’t have the best beaches, but Gili islands nearby are where you should head if you are looking for a romantic beach getaway
I have to be completely honest with you, Bali does not have the greatest beaches, compared to the other Asian countries. However, if you’re dreaming of romantic picture-perfect white sandy beaches and azure waters, I recommend you better leave the main island of Bali and hop on a boat to nearby islands. Popular ones are Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida, and the Gili Islands. Geographically, the Gilis are not part of Bali, but still close enough to get there quickly by speedboat (2 hours). I definitely recommend to go there for a couple of days, but check weather conditions before you go, you don’t want to be on the water when it’s pouring.
6. You will get excellent deals if you travel between January to March, just like what we did
January to March is off-season in Bali, owing to the occasional rainy weather. It is not only the best time to avail cheap deals on flights/ stays and shopping but also the best time to go if you want to avoid the crowd. Having said that, let me remind you that Bali cannot ever be sans-people 🙂 or sans-heat, for that matter! But as they say, something is always better than nothing.
7. Balinese locals are the most loving and warm-hearted people you will have met
8. Try to avoid staying in the middle of the crowded touristy markets
If you love some peace and quiet or just want to enjoy the beautiful landscapes that Bali has, then avoid staying close to the market and town center. Instead, choose stays where you get to wake up to calm countryside and lush green rice paddies. You will not regret, I promise!
9. The best way to explore Bali is by hiring a bike or scooter
I would love to know what were your first impressions of Bali? Please comment below 🙂