A peaceful retreat surrounded by Hindu culture, Bali and its calm atmosphere
Updated: Apr 11, 2020
Bali has been one of the main tourist and backpacker spots for many years, and it has its reasons. An island with green jungle, stunning beaches, volcanos and moutains, and a beautiful culture carried by maybe the nicest people in the world. What could go wrong?
I heard many things about this place, mixed reviews from people I know, some telling me it was wonderful, others trying to convince me that this place is a scam, packed with tourists and not too much to do. So I decided to go for three weeks, enough time to get to know the real Bali, discover most of its hidden spots and dive a little into the culture itself.
Arriving in Denpasar I got hit by the heat and humidity, nothing new in Asia, but I also got my first dose of Hinduism. The calm music, the offerings on the streets and the smell of incense changed the tone for me. Driving from the airport about one hour to the center of the island, I saw more temples than I had seen in my entire life. It results that Balinese Hinduists have a family temple in each home, and they live together even if the family grows. So you could immagine, if each house has its temple, how many temples there are on the island. They also do an amazing job on stone and wood, for their doors, tables and statues, work that can take up to nine months.
I stayed for the first two weeks in Ubud, the famous town where you will find all the freelancers and youtubers in the world, and from there I rented a scooter and did most of my daytrips. You will have a huge amount of spots to see, from all the famous waterfalls, the volcano hike, local markets, beaches, partys and the well known monkey forest. But here is what I'm going to say: all places close to the south-center of the island will be totally packed, and you won't be able to enjoy anything. I went in march, when it was supposed to be low-season and even emptier because of the virus, but no, waterfalls were absolutely unvisitable. So here are my tips:
1. Stay in the north, in towns like Amed, Lovina, Munduk (here is where you will find the real waterfalls) or Pemuteran. I visited these three towns during my last week and there was noone else around. Hotels were cheaper, spots were lonely and beaches were beautiful.
Munduk was my favorite, as many amazing waterfalls were not far away from this little town in the mountain. It is also a little colder here. Another thing to see here are the twin-lakes. You can just ride around on your scooter for hours here and you'll love the landscapes, perfect for a thousand photos.
Between Munduk and Pemuteran you will also have many temples crowded with monkeys. So if you want to avoid spending money and time in a small park full of people, here is your best place to get bullied by these guys. I mean, seriously. I walked around for a while, and when I came back they were taking my scooter apart, they wouldn't let me ride it again.
The ocean in Bali is special. It is calm, of a beautiful blue tone and at least for the places I went to, it wasn't dirty. I visited the sea in Uluwatu (south of Denpasar) and in the north. I didn't make it to Nusa Penida, one of the famous islands that surround Bali, first, because I heard it was full of people at that moment, and second, due to the virus I was trying to get to Jakarta as fast as possible, to not be stuck far away from a big city.
In the end I would say, Bali is as any other touristy place on earth. If you know where to look and do your homework, there are plenty of places that won't be crowded at all, and you will have all nature for yourself. Prices in Bali were surprisingly cheap. I mostly stayed in the Halaman Depan Hostel in Ubud, where I payed about 2$ a night. The cost of renting a scooter for three weeks, reduced itself to between 3$-5$ a day, depending on where you rent it. Ubud was the cheapest place. Food was also mostly delicious and ranged within 1$-4$ per meal, also depending how far away from the tourist areas you are. If you plan to budget for Bali, a comfortable monthly budget for one person could be anywhere between 500-700$, and believe me, you can have the time of your life.
Here are some places I recommend you to visit:
- Hidden Canyon Beji Guwang (my drone died here, but the place is amazing. 10$)
- Taman Festival: Abandoned Theme Park (2$)
- Jatiluwih Rice Terraces (way less crowded and more beautiful thant the famous ones)
- Banyumala Waterfall (when I went it was free because the ticket booth was closed)
- Pura Pulaki (nice temple on a hill with tons of monkeys)
- Campuhan Ridge walk (do this for sunrise or sunset, amazing view on the jungle)
- Some other nice villages to see: Keramas, Kusamba, Tulamben, Subaya, Temukus.
If you want to see more photos of my trips, you can always check my Instagram @robwandering or my youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCODzIx4Fl57VcObl7qCIKgg?view_as=subscriber