The tropical island of Bali, a province in Indonesia, lies dead smack in the middle of the country’s string of islands. It is by far Indonesia’s most popular tourist spot and has gotten a lot of hype over the last few years thanks to, amongst other things, Julia Roberts.
But UNLIKE Eat, Pray Love Julia, we didn’t come here to live in a temple or take a longstanding vow of silence, OH NO…
Yaaasss Julia Yaassss.
Relax. Party. Repeat. That was our Bali mantra. Very Zen of us we think.
Overall, it’s an amazing tropical getaway with a well-balanced mix between spa and party life with most of it at the affordable prices you normally see across South East Asia. Standouts include Zen retreats and villas, beautiful rice terraces, a world renowned tropical reef ecosystem, Hindu temples, monkey infestations, a pumping nightlife (both gay and straight) from luxury clubs to small dirty bars, a wonderful, friendly and accommodating local people and a whole lot more.
For North American friends looking for an alternative tropical getaway to Central America or the Caribbean, we highly recommend considering Bali as an option. Just be sure to try and find a seat sale.
So let’s break down the ins and outs of Bali. For this post, Part 1, we’ll be focussing on the rest and relaxation side of things, in the coming Part 2 we’ll dive into field trips, night life and gay Bali!
First, let’s get oriented.
The most frequently touristed parts of Bali are Seminyak, Kuta and Ubud which are regions part of the greater area of the capital city, Denpasar.
Seminyak and Kuta are just a 20-minute drive from Ngurah Rai International Airport while Ubud is about an hour to an hour and a half drive.
Wanna be a Millionaire? – Currency and Customs
Bali’s currency is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) and $1 CAD/AUS equals about 10,000 IDR. So you only need $100 of IDR to be a local millionaire!
Don’t forget, to enter the country you need to pay USD $35 cash at the airport for your tourist Visa (there is an ATM in the airport if you forget).
And at the end of your trip you’ll need to pay a 200,000 IDR ($20) airport tax if you want them to let you out of the country.
Villa Life – Why Can’t This Be Everyday?
Bali is best known for its tourist offering in Villa living. Across the island and concentrated in Kuta and Seminyak, are resorts made up of groups of self-contained villas.
Ranging from an average range of $250 – $1000 a night for an entire place (though we always aimed for $300-500), it is the pinnacle of luxury living at a reasonable price. Most commonly they include an outdoor area with your own pool, open kitchen and living space and separate bedroom huts and bathrooms for your guests.
At Chandra Luxury Villas in Seminyak, where we stayed most often, the villas were massive with high ceilings and a large pool. The gardens were green and luscious and the fridge was fully stocked with snacks and drinks. We had never experienced hot outdoor showers before (hard to do in Canada when it’s minus 25 degrees Celsius), and it was gloooriousss.
Butlers, cooks and masseuses are also on call at any time if you want some additional assistance or relaxation by the pool, but of course they are at an extra cost.
When you’re spending the week or even a weekend, especially with a few friends, it is the best for lounging around at your own pace and in full privacy.
Of everywhere we have travelled, we have NEVER been so taken care of and enjoyed spending hours around the hotel as much as Bali for a balanced cost especially if you’re sharing the cost amongst a few couples. We are spoiled forever because of it.
Spas to Cure Any Hangover
Spa opportunities including massages, mani-pedis, oil and mud baths, hot stones and more are everywhere. For a cheap massage you can get one for as low as $5 for an unofficial experience or $20 and up for an accredited spa.
I tend to just fall asleep during them so massages are completely wasted on me but Larry lived the high life with a massage, every. single. day. He traveled to Bali often for work and it’s probably why he looks younger and fresher than me…
When you’re out every night, a morning after spa session is a luxury most just cannot pass up…
Life’s a Beach…
With a tropical location like Indonesia, beach options are of course many. The main touristy beaches are all within the Greater Denpasar area and include the most popular Kuta, Seminyak, Legian and Jimbaran Beaches.
But to be honest, we weren’t strongly swayed to spend our days on them for several reasons.
Many areas of the beaches were kindof dirty and not as well kept up as they could be including garbage on the sand and in the water.
Jimbaran Beach is the most popular beach for waterfront restaurants offering fresh seafood straight from the tank, likely caught that day or at least recently.
Fishing boats line up on the beach and the bi-products of a day of fishing also end up on the sand including fishing lines, rope scraps and even fish carcasses. Not refined resort life in any fashion, but we enjoyed to be able to walk among the locals as they pulled in that day’s catch. They even welcomed a helping hand from those more adventurous like us, willing to risk staining their clothes with seaweed or fish guts to help keep boat traffic moving.
The temperatures can also reach quite high (35-45 degrees Celsius) and get quite humid especially during peak daytime hours, so it’s not a common occurrence that you want to be out laying on the beaches for hours.
Also, in many beaches in Bali especially on the south coast, the winds are quite strong resulting in strong waves and currents which doesn’t add the most to laid back beach weather either.
On the other hand, what the beaches are most perfect for are adventure sports like surfing of all variations (body boarding, kite surfing, boardsailing, standard surfing, etc). If you’re looking to try any of these sports out this is the perfect place to try it as there are tons of rental and training class opportunities.
If you’re looking to enjoy a more upscale beach life there are of courses resorts that would have perfect and well maintained beaches and weather more enjoyable for a relaxing day out, but best to have a look around and always check reviews.
Shopping for Disco Penises…
The shopping opportunities in Bali are MANY and especially lucrative when anything and EVERYTHING is up to be bartered for.
From souvenirs, paintings, luxury fashion brands (real and knock off), anything made of leather to amazing home pieces like carved tree artwork and tables, artisan sculptures and even that disco ball penis statue you always wanted.
Getting dresses, shirts, suits and leather bags FULLY TAILORED or designed at any request, even from just providing a picture are also on the table (Legian’s the best district for this).
Seminyak and Legian are where you’ll find a range of higher end brand shops and items with a few wide-ranging markets.
The largest outdoor market and indoor mall are in Kuta and it’s where you’ll get the most bang for your buck if you’re looking for quantity over quality. But still lots of great items to be uncovered.
Just make sure you go in with your bargaining hats on as when you have the word TOURIST written on your forehead, venders will immediately triple the price.
A general rule would be to aim to offer a third of listed price. In a future blog we’ll be outlining a number of ways to get the most out of bartering while traveling.
Now that we’re all relaxed…
So that’s a big part of the leisure life of a Bali Vacay. In Part 2 we’ll get into activities like yoga, shipwreck scuba diving, food, the nightlife, gay Bali and more!
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Chris & Larry