The verdant and volcanic island of Bali is an Indonesian slice of Paradise. Some would argue that in recent years the island has become a seedy, tourist-overrun cesspit, tragically spoilt by hardcore partygoers and devil-may-care thrill-seekers. Others would disagree. And they’d be right. While the swell of tourism has indeed prompted a huge change over the last five or six years, the island’s true sense of spirit and tranquility has remained firmly intact. Beautiful bays, volcanic mountains, lush green rain forests, stacks of terraced rice paddies, exquisite cuisine and an enviable amalgamation of Balinese culture both old and new are plain proof of that. Sure, there are a plethora of noisy nightclubs and increasingly litter-splattered beaches but all in all, the negative effects of tourism are being well curbed.
Considering the astronomically low prices on the island, renting a Bali villa is not an entirely ridiculous option – they are surprisingly, and refreshingly affordable. If you plan on visiting Bali soon, here are five absolute ‘must sees’ that ought not to be left out of your itinerary:
One: Tanah Lot Temple
All enigmatic and postcard-befitting, this stupefying temple sits on a huge eroded, offshore rock to the southwest of Tabanan. It is one of the most tourist-trafficked spots in Bali but for good reason – the temple has served for centuries as the worshipping locus of the Balinese gods and is but the highlight of a whole other series that line the south shore. The spellbinding sunset is definitely worth staying for.
Two: Monkey Temple
Yet another temple, albeit one less mystic and provocative rather one more mischievous and whimsical. These guys will stop at nothing to get your hat or sunglasses, but are nevertheless first-rate entertainers. You can find the temple in Uluwatu to the south of the island. The entrance fee is more or less $2. The saying holds true: if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
Three: Bias Tugal Beach
There’s no shortage of beaches on Bali, and most are pretty cramped on a daily basis. Your Kutans, Legians and Seminyaks are the usual ports of call, but clandestine coastlines like this gem, however, are often overlooked due to the difficulty in actually getting to them. Bias Tugal is only accessible via a 500-metre trek down a rocky path but offers substantial reward by way of pure, glassy turquoise water, an elongated strip of white sand and bounty-advert coconut trees. To get there head east up the hill from Padang Bai.
Four: Kuta’s Food Stalls
If you’re into exotic foods then wandering Kuta’s teeming thoroughfares should keep you occupied for days on end. The island of the Gods is awash with road-side eateries, offering diners dishes such as the island’s renowned Nasi Goreng (fried rice with a mixture of herbs, spices, vegetables and meats), the variegated Gado-gado (vegetable salad smothered in peanut sauce), local’s favourite Babi Guling (suckling pig) and sweet-tooth sensation Martabak (stodgy pancake filled with either chocolate, banana or both). No stomach upsets. Promise.
Five: Kuta Nightlife
Love it or loathe it, Bali is unquestionably somewhere one can go to inebriate themselves to the point of near-paralysis and all-but guarantee some alarmingly easy lovin’. Whether that lovin’ coincides with your first ever same-sex experience depends on how much you have inebriated yourself I suppose but Kuta, by night, is definitely worth your time. Greenbox, Alleycats and Skygarden are ideal for budget-friendly prices. Double Six is the island’s most popular nightclub.
Whether you’re a hardcore partygoer hell-bent on drinking yourself into oblivion; a spiritualist seeking peace and purification in the rainforest; or in it for the whole shebang– you can do it all in Bali.