What to Do in Bali? I’ll tell you!
I, like many, became familiar with Bali from the book Eat, Pray, Love (which I actually thought was a bit overhyped…). The book romanced the third world country and sent tourists running to experience its lush greenery and peaceful yoga experience. I, along with everyone else, added it to my list and started researching what to do in Bali. I spent 10 days there in 2013 and had such a blast, but it was different from what I had expected from the book.
In general, I went to Bali with a very different perception of what I ended up experiencing. It wasn’t bad, just different (it’s not you, it’s me?). I imagined remote, peaceful, lush and serene, which did exist in some areas. But what I also found was lush greenery, surrounded by traffic and garbage. That was mostly confined to the cities, and is to be expected of a third world country, but I don’t know why that didn’t even cross my radar as I planned our the trip.
That being said, I still had a really incredible trip to Bali (besides the night I spent sick up on top of Mt. Rinjani on the next island over, Lomboc). Day two in Bali was easily one of the coolest days of my whole life…and I’ve had some pretty cool days so far!
Planning For and Traveling to Bali
I had, of course, done my research of what to do in Bali before we went, and I found this company that does all sorts of adventure tours. The one we decided to go with was a bike ride through Balinese villages, an elephant ride at the Safari, and then some (lazy) white water rafting. Signing up online we were able to get a discount, so we booked it, selected our day, and we were ready to go!
I flew to Bali separate from my friend Sarah – she was going to visit some friends in Asia first, so when I got to Bali she was at the airport with our ride. Our hotel was pretty nice for as cheap as it was (I think about $15USD/night), and it was only about 5/10 minutes from Kuta Bali, one of the main cities in Bali. We dropped my stuff off in the room, and then headed to Kuta beach for some food and a cocktail.
What to Do in Bali – Kuta Bali
On the strip in Kuta were local restaurants and bars, but also the usual American junk..McDonalds, Starbucks, etc. After flying for what seemed like forever (light to Taipei was about 12 hours, then a 3 hour layover, and then about 6 hours to Bali), I was appreciative of the Starbucks junk and got myself a nice iced coffee to sit with on the beach for a beautiful sunset.
The strip itself is nice – there is a lot of higher end shopping (nearby there are more touristy-type souvenir shops) and restaurants. Would be nice to stay right on the beach, but we opted for the cheaper option a few miles away. We didn’t last very long after sunset that – I think we were both in bed by around 8pm, and it didn’t take long to fall asleep. Our hotel was nice – simple, but modern. The room was pretty small – for the two of us, it was fine, but for anyone with a family it might be a tight squeeze.
The next day we woke up and went to the bakery down the street for some breakfast before our ride came to get us for the tour. Another thing I was not prepared for was that the bakery would have metal detectors…what??? Apparently, ever since a club in Bali was bombed a few years prior, knowing how important tourism is, business owners take the proper precautions to keep the tourists safe.
At one point, I went to take a picture of the amazing looking pastries and almost got kicked out because photos weren’t allowed. Pastries in hand, looks of awe on our faces, we headed back to our hotel.
What to Do in Bali? Adventure!
Our van was prompt, and there was another girl, Laurente, already inside traveling by herself. She was French but spoke English very well, and it was fun to have someone else to share the day with! The car ride took about 45 minutes or so, and they drove us to a high point on the island where we got out and took pictures with the beautiful vista behind us.
What to Do in Bali? Bike Riding!
After our photo shoot, we got back in the car and drove another 5 minutes to another location where we got out and found our bikes waiting for us. They were mountain bikes, nothing spectacular, but luckily the whole ride went downhill (nicely planned!) so you didn’t have to be in excellent shape for this trip. I was a little disappointed since it would have been nice to get a little workout in, but it was still incredible!
We set off on our ride, and got to see some super cool back villages that you wouldn’t normally get to see driving along the main roads, or in the real touristy areas. If you’re looking for what to do in Bali, this is a great way to see things you may not reach otherwise.
Bali is mostly Hindu, although the surrounding islands of Indonesia are heavily Muslim. Everywhere we looked was another beautiful Hindu temple – they call Bali the land of 1,000 temples, although I think they may need to update that number because there were far more than 1,000!
It was really cool to be able to see Bali like this – to stop, look around, learn about the communities who make stone, and others who harvest rice. Our guide was great – he was very knowledgeable and had a lot to teach us! At one point he stopped to show us this freaky looking gigantic spider that apparently doesn’t bite, so Sarah decided to let it crawl all over her. Crazy girl. I was perfectly content playing photographer. I may be big on the outdoors, but I am NOT a fan of spiders.
What to Do in Bali? To elephant, or not to elephant..
Eventually we made it to the Elephant Safari where we got a delicious buffet lunch, and then got to ride the elephants. I have to say, this part was a bit tough for me. I had been really excited to get the chance to be so close to elephants because they’re such incredible creatures, but I’m always torn on the subject. The elephants may be safer at the Safari than they are being hunted by poachers, but ideally they really shouldn’t have to worry about that, except people suck. They should be able to run free as the incredible, beautiful, smart creatures that they are. Riding along I felt sad, and luckily we didn’t stay around long after.
As for their treatment, they definitely seemed well taken care of, and were only chained up when out in the open for short periods of time…but that was sad to watch. Luckily, you can usually tell when animals are in distress and we saw a baby elephant having a jolly old time which made me feel a little comforted with the idea.
What to Do in Bali? Definitely go White Water Rafting Down the Ayung River
Next, we got back in the van and drove back to where we started, and then off to another location. Here we changed into clothing more suitable for “white” water rafting, and met our new guide. The hike down to the Ayung river was intense – it was like 400+ stairs! The view was incredible on the way down, though.
We got in the boats with our ores and helmets and set off down the river. There were some rapids, they just weren’t very intense. We were surrounded by jungle, though, and it was beautiful! We saw monkeys hanging on vines, we hit areas of calm water where we were able to jump out and float alongside the boat, and then we stopped at this area that we thought seemed like it had been carved into the side of the hill long, long ago….but really our guide told us it was quite recent.
The stone carvings were beautiful, and were crafted to represent the Story of Rayamana , a Hindu story meant to teach the values of ideology, devotion, duty, relationships, dharma and karma.
Along the way we saw this incredibly beautiful hotel that I would love to stay in if I had me a suga daddy, but instead we paddled to the end, and then continued to walk up the approximately 200 stairs to the top. Beat the 400+ down! The one thing I regret is that in all the excitement is that we didn’t even think to tip our guide until we were already in the van on our way home – terrible faux pas on our part! If anyone knows the guy with the funny face – let me know!
We continued our trip with other adventures, both of us getting sick at different times and separating being one of them, but we ended up back together to close out the trip and as always, it was well worth every penny and every minute!
“It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves – in finding themselves.” – Andre Gide