February 2009

We spent the last two weeks in the beautiful island of Bali, Indonesia. Bali is very small in size. It's easy enough to drive around the entire coast in one day. We stayed in the areas of Kuta/Legian, Ubud and Seminyak. The Balinese culture is very rich and from my observation is defined in large part by religion. They are predominately Hindu, while Indonesia as a whole is Muslim. The Balinese practice of Hinduism is can be seen in their temple ceremonies, dance performances, and daily prayers/offerings to the Gods. Every Balinese native we met throughout our trip made a mention of their rituals and ceremonies.

Bali was the most relaxing of all of our vacations. Everything there is designed around R&R....abundance of spas, beautiful villas with private pools, and beaches. We definitely did our share of relaxing, but I can only relax so much before I get "antsy". So, everyday we did a long walk in the city, making little discoveries along the way. Shopping in Bali is endless!! Often we would end our city walks with a massage/facial at a spa. Neil got totally addicted to the spas, that we would sometimes spend part of our day going "spa shopping". Yes, there are that many, and SUPER cheap. After walking/spa, we'd go back to the villa for a dip in the pool and light reading before getting ready for dinner. Of course, dinner was the highlight of my night :) Bali has an abundance of phenomenal restaurants, catering mostly to tourist population. One interesting tidbit we found out is that the Balinese typically do not go out to dinner, nor do they have the tradition of eating at defined times during the day, or as a family. This is not indicative of Indonesia as a whole (just Bali). Several locals we spoke to said that they usually cook food in the morning, and eat that same food throughout the day whenever they feel hungry. The only times they actually make a production out of eating is during ceremonial events. Due to this, you can find virtually every type of cuisine in Bali for the tourist population. We ate everything from traditional Indonesian food to even Spanish food, often prepared by top chefs.

Of all the countries that we have visited, Neil and I both agree that the Balinese are the friendliest. We felt special at every establishment...at hotels, spas, restaurants, even taxis...they go out of their way to conversate with you and make you feel welcomed to their island. This island thrives on tourists, and only now are they finally starting to get the tourist livelihood back.

Below is the breakdown of the different areas we stayed within Bali:

KUTA (3 days)

- Kuta is one of the main areas and is only about 5 minutes from Legian. It's a bustling city with a good amount of shopping/boutiques in both Kuta and Legian. Also, this area has the most options for nightlife/clubs. Kuta beach is very popular, and Legian Beach is right nearby too. Looking back, I don't think it's necessary to stay in Kuta. It's only 15-20 minutes from Seminyak, which we enjoyed much more. So, taking a taxi to Kuta for a day is more than enough.


- We stayed at Villa De Daun. Our villa had a private pool and full kitchen. Minibar is complimentary. The decor of the villa was very simplistic, modern, and very clean. Breakfast served in the villa every morning. We definitely recommend this place, and it is walking distance to everything. Even though it's in the heart of the city, the villa provided complete privacy. We also got an amazing complimentary welcome "foot massage" in their spa.


- We did lunches along Legain Beach. We enjoyed eating at Lanai, that had a great rooftop and veiw of the beach.

- We had dinner one night in Jimbaran Bay (about 20 minutes from Kuta). There are an abundance of fresh seafood restaurants along the bay, all having a gorgeous view of the sunset. We ended up at restaurant "AMC", but all along the bay appear to be the same.

- We also did dinner at Ku De Ta. This is actually located in Seminyak. Like I mentioned before, the cities are all very close by. Ku De Ta is one of the more upscale/ritzy restaurants. The menu is good, but it's a lot pricier than other even better restaurants in Bali. I don't recommend this for dinner. However, it's great for drinks and catching the sunset at Seminyak beach. We did this while in Seminyak, and the scene was really cool, and the sunset, breathtaking.

UBUD (2 days)

- Ubud, located about 45 minutes from Kuta, is known as Bali's centre for arts, dance, and music. This is where you would come to by art, fabrics, and wood carvings. There's a huge outdoor market for shopping, which is great for gifts to take home. Ubud is a very quaint town, and very different from the bustling of Kuta and ritz of Seminyak. It has a very strong character, and draws in those individual that are active in art, nature, anthropology, environmentalism, etc. You'll find a vast difference in the tourists that exist in Ubud versus the other cities. One local told us that many writers come to write their books in the environment that Ubud offers. Also, Ubud is very culturally scenic, with it's rice paddies, small villages, arts/craft communities, and temples.

We spent one day taking a bike tour along many villages near Ubud. I highly recommend doing a bike tour, as you will be able to see amazing views of the picturesque rice paddies along the way. Some of the views were breathtaking. Also, our tour guide provided us with so much information on the culture of Bali. During the bike tour, we also got to visit a coffee plantation. There, they have this animal called a Luwak, known as the "coffee cat". We were told that this cat serves the purpose of eating the coffee beans and then the droppings are used to make the actual coffee. The coffee itself is very expensive. Check out this website: http://www.animalcoffee.com/

We also spent at day at the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud. It is a small nature preservation having lush surroundings, a temple, and hundreds of monkeys (Balinese macaques). The monkeys are very tolerant of people, but you have to be careful around them. We were allowed to feed them, which was a blast but a little scary. One of the monkeys patted my behind and another even jumped on my head!!!


- We stated at the Greenfield Bungalows. This wasn't as lush as where we stayed in Kuta or Seminyak, but it complimented the overall feel of Ubud. The bungalow was decorated in traditional Indonesian style, with traditional wood carvings and furniture throughout. Our deck overlooked rice paddies. The environment was very serene...again, very different from the other two cities. Breakfast in the villa is complimentary.


- We enjoyed eating lunch at Tutmak Cafe in Ubud. The cafe had a continental menu, and was packing with a lot of interesting people. I noticed that a lot of "ex-pats" frequented this spot

- For dinners we went to Nomad and Cafe Wayan. Nomad did a modern take on Indonesian cuisine. It was quite good. If you go, the Indonesian Beef Kebab is mind blowing...everything else was just good. Cafe Wayan serves traditional Indonesian fare. The setting at the restaurant is gorgeous. The tables are situated in a beautifully lit, lush garden. There are some low tables too where you sit on pillows to eat. Traditional Indonesian food is typically served on a big plate with small offerings of different items all in little banana leaf bowls. The overall look is very pleasing, as is the variety. We enjoyed trying this, but we didn't love the traditional Indonesian. We found that we enjoy the "fusion" take that a lot of other restaurants did (i.e. mixing Thai, Indian, Indonesian cuisines)

SEMINYAK (5 days)

Seminyak is considered the swanky/ritzy city of Bali. You will find some of the best villas, spas, restaurants, and shopping in this area. All are in abudance! We enjoyed Seminyak the most of the 3 cities, so I'm glad we spent most of our time here. This is where we did most of our spa visits. We enjoyed the Bodyworks spa there, but you can't go wrong with many of the spas there. Just do your research and check out the rooms before reserving it. We ( I mean "I") did a lot of shopping here too! There are dress boutiques galore! We enjoyed eating here the most also :)


- We stated at the Villa Kubu. This was even more beautiful than the villa in Kuta. Again, it was modern decor villa with a living room, full kitchen, eating area, bedroom, private pool, and a beautiful outdoor bathroom. Had it not been for all the spas/shopping in Villa Kubu, I could have hung out in the villa all day. Breakfast is cooked and served in the villa too!


- Seminyak has a lot of great restaurants along the beach where you can go for drinks and catch the sunset. Ku De Ta and La Luciola are both very popular for sunset drinks.

- After hours, people gravitate to the bars at Hu'u bar, Gado Gado, and the Living Room. JL. Diana Pura Street (aka "Drink Street") is also a popular street for bars.

- There are also some afterhours bars along Seminyak beach.


- We did our lunches on the go. We enjoyed the Junction (for fresh/healthy food and drink), the Corner (freshly made sandwiches), and Lanai for beach views. We also frequented Bali Deli, which is their version of a Whole Foods/Balduccis. You can find virtually everything there. Also, you can do your shopping here if you wish to cook in your villa.

- Dinner in Seminyak is truly an experience. The options are endless as is the cuisine! Being in Bali, I tried to stick mostly to Asian cuisine. There are excellent Italian restaurants too (Ultimo and Trattoria are popular), but I didn't bother. Our favorite restaurant was Sarong, specializing in Asian fusion cuisine. The restaurant itself is absolutely stunning, and the food was so delicious, and very reasonably priced. They serve dishes like red Indonesian matarbak with paneer and chutney, red curry duck, southern indian fish curry, tandoori chicken, etc. We loved it so much that we went there twice. Ask them to make your food spicy if you prefer. We also enjoyed Antique restaurant, specializing in modern Indonesian. The curry dishes there were excellent, and very affordable. We deviated from Asian one night and tried La Sal for Spanish tapas...another great find in a fabulous, upscale setting. Our last night, we went to Chandi restaurant for modern Indonesian food. The chef there is a former chef of Nobu. The food was excellent, and again cheap. The black pepper crab dumplings are to die for!! There are so many other restaurants we would have liked to go to but did not have the time. We found a lot of our information on restaurants from Tripadvisor.com. The following tripadvisor contributors were extremely helpful: jade_du and BrigidE.

I thoroughly enjoyed Bali. It's an island rich of beauty and culture, and I'm fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience it. I hope that I've convinced someone out there to take a trip to Bali. If I can handle the flight time, literally anyone can.


Anonymous said...

We have spent the last two weeks on beautifull bali. One of these days we had dinner at GADO=GADO.
What a disappointment ! The only one thank God. I don.t mind to spent money for a good meal, but this was awfull. Portion where very small and the quality was not better as in a normal every day restaurant. After dinner we had a port wine. the glass was a port glass but the messure was a tea spoon full of port. When we asked for the bill there were things on it what we didn't had. The qualtiy and the quantity included the see vieuw don't compere to the price. One big disappointment. Never again GADO-GADO

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