Manic Bali Streets Adventurous
This was my second visit to Bali after an absence of 7 years. For some reasons I feel that the roads and streets are busier and narrower than when I visited last. Crazy traffic on the roads just creates a different tone and vibe to my first visit. Manic is the only word I can use to describe it.
Bali fully opened to tourism in May 2022, and here we went to take a relaxing 2-week holiday, to do nothing and just chill.
Places we stayed were: Ubud – Medewi – Kuta.
Things good to know about Bali…
Only a handful of countries don’t require Visa on arrival. Most travellers visiting Bali are expected to proceed to buy a Visa on arrival. The queue at immigration takes approximately one hour to complete.
You are expected to pay USD 35 / IDR 500,000 per person, credit card is accepted with 3% additional fee, so if you can plan to have the cash in hand this would be the best solution.
Ubud – the heart of Bali
Ubud is a town located amongst rice paddies and steep ravines in the central foothills of the Gianyar regency, it’s promoted as an arts and culture centre and receives more than 3 million foreign tourists every year. There are plenty of hotels and cafes in Ubud centre and from here you will also find many walking trails to scenic routes.
We found the best restaurant for authentic Balinese cuisine – Sun Sun Warung – in Ubud town centre. There is no way you would find this place unless you know the name, although it can be found on Google maps. We found this place via Grab delivery for our first order, then we sought out the actual premises. The overall dining experience is far better than delivery and is highly recommended. This restaurant is set away and somewhat hidden from the main street, inside a courtyard in a residential street making it a quiet oasis from the bustle of the town centre.
How to get around in Ubud?
There are plenty of tourist attractions near Ubud, which makes a great starting point for all directions. Getting around is not easy if you don’t drive though. As much as the traffic is horrific, I would still recommend renting a motorbike to get around. If you’ve never ridden a motorbike, you might want to practice a little before hitting the road.
Get a day tour to different parts of Bali
Scooter may or may not get you to the nearby attractions, as some attractions are just a little too far to reach on a scooter. So it’s not a bad idea to buy a day tour, they are not too expensive for a private car and a driver to take you to popular tourist spots. If you travel on your own, try to find another solo traveller through the hostel or social platforms.
There are many tour agencies in Ubud, where you can consult and make arrangements for the route. Costs range between IDR 400,000 – 600,000, depending on how far and how much you want to pack in the day.
Medewi Beach – a great sunset observation spot
Black sandy beach, Medewi Beach is famous for its surfing spots. A lot less touristy in comparison to Kuta Beach, which may or may not suit everyone. The area is very Islanmic so you would expect to hear the call to prayer. For non-surfers, getting around on a motorbike and touring around randomly onto the backstreets to explore the local parks is a very fun way to enjoy the surroundings.
We were there the first week of June, sunset was around 6pm. Going for a stroll during sunset is pleasant and you are guaranteed to see an amazing golden blanket of sunlight spread across Medewi beach.
There is a little downside of Medewi beach, when we were there there were not many restaurants and cafes. Finding a decent place to eat is pretty hard in the region.
We chose to stay in a self-contained apartment which had its own cooking facilities. Before heading over to Medewi, we smartly decided to purchase enough supplies for the duration of our stay. You will find nowhere to buy alcoholic drinks in Medewi beach, other than some of the bigger hotels, you will need to bring this with you.
A fun spot for a scooter drive in Medewi area
Don’t miss out on a fun spot for the scooter. We randomly drove on an unexpected side road that led to a very steep slope, it was 60 – 75 degrees down. We managed to drive down on the scooter, it was a rather fun adventure. Google map location: 8°24’45.7″S 114°51’33.3“E.
Appreciating and admiring Balinese Architecture – intricately carved gates and symmetrical garden
Balinese architecture is so distinct from other parts of SouthEast Asia, it’s so unique. A traditional Balinese home surrounded by a thick stone wall, enclosed with a square garden and pavilions.
Balinese gates typically divide in 2 styles: Candi bentar (split-gate), mostly seen as entrance to a temple or palace. The other style is Paduraksa (intricately carved gate), typically for family homes. Balinese gates are designed to protect the family from evil spirits.
Balinese gardens are planted around the courtyard along the walkway between the pavilions. These gardens are perfectly maintained, every object in the garden is symmetrical. It’s quite pleasing parsing through the garden after the intricately carved gate leads into the building.
Don’t bother with Kuta Beach
Kuta beach is very popular but it’s by far the most crowded and commercialised area that we visited. The roads and traffic was worse than Ubud centre. The beach was also very packed and contaminated with an urban vibe. I personally preferred Medewi beach, which is much quieter.
My top 3 Bali sightseeing highlights
Highlight 1 – Which rice terrace to visit?
Tegalalang Rice Terrace is the most popular for tourists, however, being there twice in 7 years, the most recent experience was not great, perhaps it was due to COVID restrictions. Most retail shops around the area remained shut, but you can see the whole place is overwhelmed by commercial attractions. You are expected to pay a fee even if you just park in the street to take a photograph.
I personally preferred Jatiluwih Rice Terrace, it’s a larger area, less commercial and it’s free to enter. There are plenty of hiking trails if you fancy a walk, long or short.
Highlight 2 – Kintamani Volcano (Mount Batur)
You are expected to pay IDR 50,000 per person (I’ve seen IDR 30,000 in other travel blogs) as entrance fee when you enter Kintamani park. Almost every driver will drive you onto Penelokan Main Road, where you will see many cafes and restaurants with great scenery to the active volcano.
We made a stop at La Vista Coffee & Roastery. It has a viewing deck where you can sit, however, when we were up there, the weather was quite moody and it was pretty cold as we arrived unprepared. This cafe location has a great view of the volcano and Batur lake, but not the day we were there.
Highlight 3 – Besakih Great Temple
We’ve run across so many temples in Bali, almost every corner you will see a little one. Besakih Great Temple is still the leading one in my opinion.
It sits on the slopes of Mount Agung in eastern Bali, the largest and holiest temple of Balinese Hinduism, perched nearly 1000 metres up the side of Mount Agung. The temple is built on six levels, terraced up the slopes. At the Candi bentar (split-gate), you can really appreciate the impressive Mount Agung standing in the background.