Bali is one of the 17,000 islands of Indonesia. Located only two hours 35 minutes from Singapore and six hours 15 minutes from Sydney Australia, Bali attracted 3.27 million foreign tourists in 2013. Australians contributed to over 25% of the numbers followed by China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, France, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Culturally, Bali has always been different from the rest of the Indonesian islands. The island is predominantly Hindu and the villagers still hold on to Hindu beliefs, traditions and festivities. Bali is filled with temples, rice fields, mountains and of course the sun and the sea.
In recent years after the Eat Pray Love book and movie the island has been attracting women in their 40s and 50s searching for spiritual awakening.
Is Bali for you?
Here are 5 things you can do in Bali:
One: Rice fields and rice terraces in Ubud
Ubud is Bali’s cultural and traditional art center. Since the 1930s, artists like Walter Spies and Rudolph Bonnet resided in the area and promoted the Balinese art and culture to their worldwide audience. Apart from that, this central highland area is also home to rice fields and rice terraces of Bali.
The best way to experience the rest fields is to take a biking or walking tour where you can have a chance to talk to farmers and school children and help local farmers plant rice.
Bali Eco Trekking organizes rice paddy/village eco nature walks where you will explore ancient ruins, traditional villages, local plantations and trek through rice fields. The tour will take you to hidden temples, hermit sanctuaries, craftsmen’s workshops and a chance to visit an orphanage too.
This three to four hour walk includes lunch, a tour guide and pick up from your hotel.
In our opinion the top things to see in Bali are the rice terraces. Here are three best rice terraces in Bali:
1. Jatiluwih –this is UNESCO’s Cultural Landscape located in the Tabanan area of Bali. It is the oldest and a great example of the Subak rice terrace system in Bali. You will see miles and miles of rice fields and terraces surrounded by greeneries and mountains. A must-visit site if you are visiting Bali. Stop by at Jatiluwih Café for a great view of the terraces and delicious nasi campur lunch.
2. Tegallalang- located close to central Ubud and the easiest to get to, Tegallalang is a small and offers stunning views. Tegallalang attracts plenty of tourists throughout the day. The Rice Terrace Café is the place to get the best view of Tegallalang.
3. Pacung – located in Baturiti village, Pacung Rice Terrace is best viewed from the restaurant.
Two: Temples of Bali
Hinduism came to Bali in the 11th century. Since then, the candi (ancient temple) and pura (Balinese temple) of Bali have been essential places of worship and for social gatherings.
Here are 5 temples to visit in Bali:
1. Tanah Lot – described as Bali’s scenic sea temple, according to bali-indonesia.com, Tanah Lot is “an ancient Hindu shrine perched on top of an outcrop amidst constantly crashing waves.” It offers one of the best sunset views in Bali.
2. Holy Water Temple- or Tirta Empul Temple is where tourists and locals go through a ritual of bathing in holy spring water. The entrance fee includes the usage of sarong and sash.
3. Ulundanu Beratan Temple- located at the Beratan Lake this temple is surrounded by water and hills. It is one of the most beautiful places in Bali.
4. Besakih Temple- known as the Mother Temple, this temple is located in Bali’s holiest site – Gunung Agung.
5. Gunung Kawi Sebatu – located near Tegallalang, this is a tranquil temple with few visitors.
Three: Eat nasi campur and babi guling
When in Bali you must try nasi campur, a type of Balinese mixed rice. It is a scoop of white rice served with small portions of vegetables, pickles and a meat dish. Not one eatery in Bali serves the same type of nasi campur. You will get a variation of nasi campur in the island.
Another dish to try is babi guling. Babi guling or spit-roasted suckling pig is an important dish in Ubud. Ibu Oka on Jalan Suweta in Ubud serves the best babi guling.
The Balinese calendar is filled with festivals every month. There are a few rules to follow if you are joining the locals during festivals or visiting the temples. Never wear sleeveless clothing or short skirts and pants. You must wear a sarong and sash. Women are not allowed in temples during menstruation.
Some of the festivals to look for:
Bali is blessed with beautiful beaches. But not all beaches are created equal. Here are some of the beaches to look into before your trip to Bali:
• Sanur Beach
• Kuta, Legian and Seminyak (crowded)
• Nusa Dua
Tips on traveling to Bali:
1. Americans are required to pay $35 for a tourist visa upon entering.
2. You will need to have local cash in hand (200,000 Rupiah) when departing Bali at Ngurah Rai International Airport.