You know my friend Cisco that I met in Australia? She’s since moved to New York but like many Australians, she frequently takes trips to Bali and loves it, especially since she and George (her husband) have built a house there.
Here’s her super personal city guide to Bali – and all the best places that I’m going to try and visit during my trip!!!
I’m packing right now, what should I bring?
Bikinis, flip-flops, light silk tops and kaftans, good sunscreen, mosquito spray, surf wax, a few good books, some neoprene booties (I always like to surf with booties, as the coast in Bali has a lot of reef) and maybe some Imodium (you never know).
Where is your favorite Bali spot (city):
Bali is all about not being in the city. It’s about beaches, waves, massages and sunshine.
Where to eat…the best food in Bali:
Great food in Bali is everywhere, just depends which mood you are in. From the local rice dish “Nasi Goreng,” which you can find anywhere, to amazingly raw food menus designed by world famous chef Daniel Moran at the Como Shambhala Estate in Ubud. Other great places in Ubud are Alchemy, Mozaic and Clear Cafe (you must try the smoothies). The best Indonesian food is at Batan Warung.
In Canggu, I love the “gado-gado” salad at Betelnut Cafe, the amazing “vegetarian organic pizza” at Desa Seni (served on paper thin pita bread with pesto), the “larb” dish at Green Ginger (very healthy and only vegetarian food).
In Seminyak, one of my favorite restaurants for dinner is the Korean BBQ “kobe beef” at Kaizan. For relaxed food and drink and a good atmosphere I recommend Motel Mexicola. If we feel like we want to step out for a more fancy dinner, we pop in to Ku De Ta for some sunset cocktails and beautifully prepared dishes by our friend and chef Phil or an “Indian prawn curry” at Sarong.
Where to pray…the best yoga classes:
Desa Seni is by far my favorite spot to do a yoga class. It is a beautiful sustainable resort, that has amazing atmosphere. The gardens set the tone right from the start, it feels like an old world Balinese arts village. They offer outdoor yoga and all sorts of other amazing classes. The classes are very popular so make sure to be on time. I recommend the Hatha yoga class with Octavio or his girlfriend, Angela’s class. Angela teaches Ashtanga that can be quite challenging in the heat. No matter which level you are at, you will find a class that suits you.
After class I would recommend having a cooling smoothie or juice in the restaurant. It is tucked away amongst the enchanted garden and serves up to 80% of the produce that is grown on the property.
In Ubud, I recommend Como Shambhala, Radiantly Alive with teacher Daniel Aaron and of course The Yoga Barn.
Where to go to fall in love with Bali:
Pretty much anywhere off the beaten track. Get away from the crowds so you can dive into the real Bali. Ask the locals some questions and get to know them and feel their amazing energy.
Where are the unmissable spots that I have to see?
A few must see spots are the rice terraces in Ubud, the top of the Mount Agung, Balangen Beach, Gunung Kawi Temple in Ubud and the colorful fisherman boats of Jimbaran Bay.
Best place to surf (and meet cute surfers!) (Scott, Alex totally asked that one):
Where to surf really depends on your level of surfing. The Bukit, which is the headland, hosts some of the world’s best reef breaks. When it’s over 3 feet, I make sure I stay out of the water as it is more for experienced surfers. The Bukit definitely is the most magical part of the island, with crisp white sand beaches, crystal clear water and amazing tropical reefs. Other great spots for more advanced surfers are Nico Nico, Nusa Dua, Sanur and Keramas. These are located on the east coast.
If you are looking for some softer, friendlier waves or you ride a Malibu (longboard) like me, you can try Old Man’s, Balian or Tugu Beach. There are always boards to hire in most places, if you go to Tugu, my personal favorite, ask for Billy. He will rent you the right board for you to have fun on. He will also take you out for a lesson if you like. He is one of the many great characters of Bali.
To watch some local rippers and hang out with cute surfers, I would go to Echo Beach. It has four different great waves and there are plenty of places to eat or have a beer while you watch the action close up.
A very touristic place that’s totally worth it?
The Ubud Monkey Forest, the night climb to the top of the Mount Agung (make sure you bring some warm clothes, it gets cold up at the top), canyoning at the waterfalls at Git-Git, seafood dinner on the beach in Jimbaran Bay.
A place to avoid…
Kuta, it just doesn’t reflect a true Bali. It’s very touristic and definitely a place to avoid.
The best beaches:
For the best white sand beaches with beautiful reefs and atmosphere, I recommend Balangan Beach and Padang Padang.
Three things you should know about Balinese food:
Spicy, fresh & exotic.
The most important thing about culture in Bali…
The most important thing about Balinese culture is the Hindu religion and the traditions behind it. This gives Balinese people a very spiritual approach to life, a positive way of thinking and a very open mind to others. It’s the reason why foreign people are so welcome in Bali. Ceremonies are held to celebrate every single passage in their life. Every morning and throughout the day locals prepare little offerings for the gods. Balinese people are very superstitious and these offerings are prepared to please the gods in their favor and protect them from bad spirits.
Where to partay?
To start the evening, go have a sunset drink. I would go to Echo Beach or if you wanting something more fancy, Ku De Ta In Seminyak. From there you could head to La Plancha, which is a Spanish style beach bar. Or you can pop your head into Mantra, which is owned by my great friend Phoebe and her husband, Tipi. It is a cool New York meets Bali wine bar with great margaritas. After that you can go to Potato Head for some late night and noise. This is where the biggest touring acts generally play.
I must confess that I don’t really do late nights in Bali, as the days are more important to me. But I understand the need to shake it loose sometimes and the places you can do this at are La Favela, WooBar (W Hotel), Mint and Hu’u bar.
Always remember to…
Write down your address correctly in order to get a taxi home.
Never forget that you are a visitor on the island and to respect the beautiful Balinese people. They are amazingly accommodating, generous and extremely genuine. Their energy and smiles are what make the island so special.
The best season to visit:
The seasons are slightly shifting and moving around but generally the dry season is from April through October and considered the best time. Wet season is November through March and the best waves are from July through September.
Where should you stay?
The Amankila Hotel in Chandi Dasa is amazing. Alila Hotels in Uluwatu.
In Canggu, for a very original Bali experience I would stay at the Tugu Hotel or for a more yogic experience, at Desa Seni. My favourite luxury villa in Bali by far is Reddoor located in Canggu. It is the beautiful home my husband and I built together and it is available for rent all year around.
In Seminyak, I can recommend the villas at the W Hotel or The Elysian Hotel.
In Ubud, Como Shambhala Estate, Uma Ubud, Wapa di Ume and Ubud Hanging Gardens.
What is the best way to get around?
Definitely a motorbike or scooter. It just adds to the whole experience, there is a feeling of real freedom on the island and your hair blowing in the wind on a bike is perfect. Be careful on the bikes, a lot of people tend to think they are invisible and accidents are common if you are speeding or riding drunk. Try just to cruise and you will be fine. Respect the neighborhoods and how loud you are when you drive through them. Alternatively get a taxi, which is cheap and easy.
Where to rent a bike:
You can rent a bike on almost every corner for about $6 – $8 a day. Make sure to ask your villa manager or the staff at your hotel to have one ready for you for when you arrive.
Is that true about that Eat, Pray, Love doctor, that he’s still here and you can meet him? And do you have healer there?
Yes, indeed it is true. His name is Wayan. Wayan used to be the local healer and many Balinese people would go and visit him. After the success of Eat, Pray, Love he has now become more of a celebrity healer for long line of tourist fans.
I don’t have a particular healer in Bali, but I find practicing yoga, surfing and getting massages is enough healing spirit for me.
Where is the best shopping in Bali?
If you are up for the hustle and bustle head to the Oberoi Road in Seminyak. It has a lot of shops, my favorite one is called Kalyan. It is an Indian store that sells beautiful kaftans and silk scarfs (more on the pricey end), it is located on Jalan Legian. Most of the local handy crafts are a bit repetitive and very tourist orientated. If you’re looking for antiques, the good ones a very few and far between, but you can find some at places like Metis in Seminyak. Check out the jewelry there as well its amazing but be wary, prices are expensive. I always find good sarongs on the beach outside Ku De Ta.
What should you bring back from Bali?
I recommend picking up a a traditional Balinese Batik Sarong. Batik is an ancient art form of printing with wax and dying, this process is a labour of love and you can watch it being done in Tohpati Village. It’s great to support the locals.
Any Bali beauty secrets? Are there any must have beauty products you can find in Bali?
I personally love everything with frangipani. In Bali they grow everywhere in beautiful white and pink shades. The Balinese make a beautiful oil with it that can be used for skin, face and hair. I always make sure I get myself a bottle of it. It is divine and when you are back at home and apply it after a shower, the scent takes you right back to the holiday in paradise.
I’m a total spa junkie, where can I get an awesome massage?
In Seminyak, I recommend Prana Spa. They offer a massage where two people massage you at the same time, but it’s quite expensive. For a more local experience, go to my massage place called Devira on Jalan Batubelig and ask for Putu. If you are in Ubud, again I highly recommend Como Shambhala Estate, best health retreat on the island.
What books should I read before I visit?
Fragrant Rice by Jane De Neefe, it will help you to understand the culture a lot more. The Interpretation of Cultures by Clifford Geertz and Lonely Planet: Bali.
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