Bali Must-Sees! Bali Travel Guide and Highlights

Bali Mao and Then

Oh Bali, the paradise for “Eat, Pray, Love” people and party animals alike. The gorgeous beaches, mountains, resorts and friendly Balinese will certainly make your experience an unforgettable one.

During our short visit, we met some really amazing and friendly people while enjoying breath-taking scenery and landscapes. From the mountains to beaches and resorts, this is definitely a trip of a lifetime. It is also very cheap which is super awesome. Just pack up and go, not only will you love it, you might not even leave!

 

Mao and Then: Bali Hindu Temple

 

Bali 101

Where: Bali is a tropical island in Indonesia.  Due to its proximity to Australia, majority of the tourists are from Australia, followed by Europeans and Asians.

When to go: The peak seasons are July and August, Christmas and Chinese New Year. Try to avoid going during peak seasons as accommodations may be harder to find and are more expensive. November through March is the rainy season, but the good news is that the rain typically come and go quickly, so it shouldn’t be a problem. We spent a week there during the rainy season and only saw rain once, high up in the mountains. We were so pleasantly surprised!

Religion:  While Indonesian is the largest Muslim country in the world, Bali is the only island whose population is not –  it’s Hindu. You will find gorgeous temples and striking Hindu architecture throughout the island. Balinese Hinduism can also be mixed with various elements of tradition balinese religion as well, so it’s very interesting from a cultural perspective.

Where to Stay:  Airbnb is the way to go. Just browse around Airbnb and most of the accommodations look straight out of magazines. Gorgeous courtyards, outdoor showers, canopied beds, with pools and tropical plants are a given. Did you know most places provide delicious breakfast free of charge too? I could really have gotten used to this. If you are the resort type person, then Seminyak is the mecca of great resorts, classy and not too crazy like the Kuta area.

Language: People speak Balinese and Indonesian, but you will be perfectly fine with English considering the island runs on tourism and most speak English well enough.

 

Here are my tips for a great visit to Bali:

Mao and Then: Bali Hindu Offerings
Hindu offerings you will see everyday and everywhere you go

Ubud and surrounding area

Ubud is the arts and cultural center of Bali and it is by far my favorite city. Even though Ubud is only about 22 miles (35 km) inland, it takes about 1-1.5 hours to get to from the airport due to congested roads and lack of public transportation infrastructure. But still, it’s definitely worth the trip.

Not only will you stumble upon gorgeous temples and rices patties wherever you go, you will also get a glimpse of local Balinese life.

Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary: Walk around with hundreds and perhaps thousands of semi-wild monkeys in this beautiful tropical forest. You will see monkey mamas with their babies as well as mischievous teenage monkeys try to steal stuff from tourists.

Tip: make sure you have absolutely NO food (especially bananas, this is a given but unfortunately people still bring them) in your bags. The monkeys will come and get into your bags if you give them a reason to. A monkey even tried to steal my phone and bit me…regardless, we still had an unbelievable time.

My advice is that if you carry a purse, bring one that either zips up completely, or has a flap that you can point towards your body and hold close if a monkey gets too curious. If you have a backpack, make sure that either your zippers are able to be locked, or leave it at home. A monkey could unzip it and steal from you without you even seeing it behind you. Worst case scenario, wear it on your front so you can fend off any stray monkey hands. It sounds silly, but I’m serious – plenty of people had to run after monkeys for stealing phones, money, even cigarettes.

Campuhan Ridge Walk: Surrender to natural serenity with surreal rice patty and hill views at this ridge walk.

Ubud Palace: Right at the center of Ubud. Make sure to go to a night show. The lights reflecting the temple along with traditional Balinese music is simply mesmerizing. There are two options for shows – fire dance and traditional music. We went to the fire dance and while we expected fire spinning and such, it was actually a traditional dance telling stories of the gods. The costumes and chanting were amazing, and they gave out pamphlets so that non-Hindus could follow along. Very interesting!

Yoga and Meditation: Bali, specifically Ubud, is a mecca of yogis, holistic-living, and spiritual practitioners. I did my morning yoga with Ubud Yoga House which is situated in the middle of rice patties. The guided morning yoga with rice patty view and sharing experiences with yogis from around the world is a great way to refresh and get ready for the day.

Fair Warung Bale: Yummy Indonesian food with a greater cause of helping Indonesians who can’t afford healthcare. All profits go to this cause. The food was good and the service very friendly. Be warned, it’s upstairs and open air, so there is no AC. You will be hot, but it’s nice knowing that you’re contributing to such a wonderful organization.

Kintamani Highland: An inactive volcano about 40 minutes north of Ubud with fantastic mountain views and tranquil Lake Batur. There are tours that take you through a 2 to 3-hour hike in the middle of the night so that you can get to the top for sunrise. Tip: avoiding staying in Kintamani as Airbnb and/or hotels are not as developed and standardized as the rest of Bali – this was told to us by our guide.

Tegalalang Rice Terrace: Definitely a must as it’s only about 20 minutes north of Ubud, the view is simply breath-taking, and hiking for 30 minute and buying a coconut at a far corner of the terraces was so refreshing.

Tip – The people who work on these terraces are quite poor, and will basically try to make you pay tolls to cross bridges and go into certain parts of the terraces. Either walk quickly past them or haggle down the price. They know you have it and want to take all they can. Not their fault, but just be aware of what to expect.

 

Mao and Then: Bali Ubud Monkey Forest

Mao and Then: Bali Temple in Ubud

Mao and Then: Yoga House in Ubud, Bali

Mao and Then: Bali Traditional Dance

Mao and Then: Bali Kintamani

 

Hire a Local Guide!

This is probably the best tip I can give you. Not only is it cost effective to hire a guide who can chauffeur you around, you really get to learn more intimately about the local Balinese culture. Our tour guide Agung total made our trip complete and we had a great time with chatting with him. He answered every question we asked as best as he could, was honest if he didn’t know, and always tried to get back to us with an answer later. See my review and how you can get in touch with Agung here.

 

 

 

Seminyak 

Seminyak is a popular beach area full of world-class resorts and plenty of restaurants and bars. We chose to stay at Airbnb again due to the picture-perfect villas, and it’s very budget-friendly in this city which is always a plus. Our host, originally from New Zealand, had been living in Bali for the past 40 years, and it was really interesting hearing their perspective changes to the culture, the ever-growing tourist population as well as their marriages with local Balinese.

MoonLite Kitchen and Bar: They have a killer view over looking the beach with rooftop seating. Stoping here for a drink during sunset will make anyone you send the pictures too insanely jealous.

Mozzarella: Recommended by our Airbnb host, and this place is simply WOW. We actually went back twice.

I know, I know… “You came to Bali and went to an Italian restaurant?!” Believe me when I say it was the best I’ve ever had and I have no regrets!

Char Char Bar & Grill: This establishment features a set of steps- like platforms from the second floor down to street level where tables are set up. (picture amphitheater-like seating) Cool concept and great people watching. The food and drinks are also amazing.

 

Mao and Then: Beach in Bali

Mao and Then: Delicious Bali Cuisine

 

 

Kuta

If you enjoy some serious partying and shopping, Kuta is for you. Kuta neighbors Seminyak and it’s only about 10 minutes away. I stopped by for a little, and it really was as crazy as people said it would be. If drinking, drugs and partying isn’t your scene, skip it. My girlfriend did and she didn’t feel like she missed out on anything.

 

Mao and Then: Bali Kuta Beach

Mao and Then: Definitely get a massage in Bali

 

 

Other Things to Do:

Scuba-Diving: We took a day-trip to Tulamben in northeastern Bali where there’s the USS Liberty Shipwreck underwater. The boat itself was massive, and the marine life was of huge varieties. The trip can be tiring as you are spending 2.5 hours in the car each way for the day, but it was worth it for us.

Spa: Did I mention that you could get a 90-minute full Swedish massage for around $20 USD? It’s everywhere in Bali, so treat yourself! Make sure to partake in the traditional balinese massage. Its WAY different than any massage you’ve ever had! Sara still talks about it today as one of the most relaxing experiences of her life.

Bonus fun fact: Kuta Cowboys still exist! They are basically super chill, tan and fun Indonesia locals that are into foreign chicks and their money. Bali romance anyone?

 

 

Bali is super cheap compared to Western standards, and with the exchange rate everyone will be an instant multi-millionaire! A lot of people visited Bali and never leave. It’s not hard to see why as Bali really is the whole package. You will meet some of the most friendly people in Bali, and with its cinematic landscapes, mountains, beaches and amazing food, what more can you ask for?

 

Here’s a video of our trip, enjoy!

 

 

 

Final Thoughts

When chatting with our guide Agung, he brought up the ever encroaching impact of increasing palm oil production in Indonesia. Corporations are destroying Bali’s rain forests for palm oil plantations, causing many endangered species such orangutans (Asian apes) and Sumatra tigers to lose their home. I am not going in detail here, but simply raising awareness. As someone who loves our planet, I believe as a traveler and consumer, we should learn about different issues and see how we can make better choices and hopefully make an impact for the better. Click here to learn more.

 

 

 

 

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