B A L I
When people ask where my favorite place is, I answer without much hesitation – for me, Bali has it all.
The Location. Bali is one of over 18,000 islands that form incredible Indonesia. In fact, there are so many islands in this area that Indonesian authorities are still in the process of counting how many islands actually exist there. Situated close to the equator, Bali has a tropical, humid climate year-round that is favorable for lush vegetation and warm-weather-loving humans. It is home to active volcanos, powerful waterfalls, expansive beaches with divine sunsets and strong surf breaks, rice terraces and dense forests, rainstorms and sunshine. Bali’s natural beauty offers all of those moments in life that induce a feeling of awe.
The People. Over 4.2 million people call Bali home, which is a substantial increase from 3.8 million in 2010 (according to the 2014 census). The Balinese have a way of weaving humor into nearly every interaction. They are kind, hospitable and honest business people. They honor the interconnection of the human experience with the spiritual. Early in the morning, it is custom to place baskets of flowers, fruit and incense out at doorsteps in an offering.
The Culture. Balinese culture is incredibly rich and vibrant. Most people are practicing Balinese Hindu, which honors the human and spiritual worlds living among one another. The Balinese people are skilled in various art forms including: painting, sculpture, bhatik, dance and music. The Balinese music that wafts through the air is a fusion of bells, gongs, xylaphones, drums and flutes – it is a truly unique sound. To read about how to be a more conscious traveler in a new culture, read my post here.
With its abundance of natural beauty, nourishing food and healers, Bali can be so nurturing. With all of its wildness, it can be unpredictable and challenging. But all the best adventures are.
There is a world within Bali to discover, and it will no doubt lead you to discover more about the world within yourself. Here is an introductory travel guide to Bali to get you more acquainted.
Bali, by area:
U B U D: Bali’s Bustling Garden
Let’s begin with my favorite, Ubud. Ubud means ‘medicine’ and it has historically been a center for healing. Medicine men used to travel here to gather herbs and people would come from all over to be healed. Ubud is also the artistic center of Bali, with craftsmen and women showcasing their work in woodcarving, fashion, home decor and everything between. It has seen rapid transformation in the past twenty years, thanks in large part to the success of Eat Pray Love. With more exposure comes more traffic, more expat-owned restaurants and shops, but as Greek philosopher Heraclitus said: change is the only constant. Today, you can find an abundance of affordable body work, yoga studios, health food and so much more in Ubud.
U L U W A T U: Bali’s Surf Hotspot
Uluwatu has long been sought after for its legendary surf breaks. There are long stretches of white sand, busy beaches and plenty of social events happening, from sunset beach parties to poolside lounges and late night bonfire raves on the beach. Uluwatu is home to one of the biggest and most awe-inspiring cliffside temples, from which the town derives its name. It hosts a range of accommodations, from luxurious oceanfront hotels and restaurants to down-to-earth bed-and-breakfasts and warungs (local Indonesian restaurants). Uluwatu is more spread out than some of the other locations on this list, so getting around without transportation can be time-consuming.
S E M I N Y A K: Bali’s Bougee
Seminyak is a highly developed and commercial hotspot. Popular among jet-setters and the luxury-oriented travelers, Seminyak offers the highest caliber of boutique hotels, shops, lounges and spas. If you are looking for a spot to shop, sip at sunset and chill, this could be your place. Don’t expect much cultural authenticity – Seminyak is designed to cater to tourists, but it is beautiful, international and chic, if that’s your vibe.
C A N G G U: Bali’s Up-and-Coming Gem
Located in the South of Bali on the coast, Canggu offers plenty of places to lounge, dance, relax, workout, shop and eat. It is an up and coming destination popular among surfers, yogis, fitness lovers and beach goers. It is less busy than its neighbor Seminyak, but the word is getting out on this edgy little beach destination.
A M E D: Bali’s Hidden Gem
If you are looking for a peaceful reprieve from the tourism and hustle and bustle of Bali’s south, Amed may be the spot for you. Tucked away on the northern coast, it is surrounded by mountains and the sea and it has become popular for divers because of a famous shipwreck at Tulamben. It is a quiet, secluded village inhabited mostly by fishermen. There are a few wonderful places to stay and relax here.
Island hopping: Exploring Bali’s Neighbors
In my book, a trip to Bali would be incomplete without a boat ride to one of the neighboring treasured islands. Here are islands near Bali that are well worth it.
T H E G I L I I S L A N D S
These stunning, tiny islands are reachable by inexpensive boats. The islands have beachfront hotels, restaurants, bars and yoga studios. Each of the Gili Islands have their own standout characteristics. Gili Meno is small and super relaxed, Gili Air is also relaxed but a little more populated and Gili T is known as the party island. The Gilis are renowned for diving and there are diving schools with great reviews for those who want to get certified. There are no cars allowed on the islands, only decorated pony-drawn carridges. (I noticed the ponies seemed de-hydrated and over-worked. After some research, I found that the lack of drinking water and heavy weight of the carraiges has led to the sad state of many of the horses. If you are an animal lover like me, this may affect you as well. Horses of Gili is working on this issue. But more on that in a future post.)
L O M B O K
I’ve heard it said that Lombok is today what Bali was twenty years ago. A less developed, less touristic, more rugged and more authentic experience of local Indonesian culture await. Expect to find less crowded beaches, fewer big hotels and upscale restaurants, but still an abundance of quality options.
I hope you enjoyed this introduction to one of my favorite corners of the world, I’ll be posting more in-depth guides about Bali soon so if you are subscribed you’ll get notified.
Leave a comment and let me know where you’ve been or where you’d like to go in Bali!