Australians have a long affinity with holidaying in Bali. A cheap and cheerful holiday destination, Bali is a close and convenient option for those seeking an island break. On a recent trip to Bali, my sister and I took a few days to wander off the well-worn tourist trail and discover a few secret spots.
If you’re seeking a party, Bali has no shortage of pumping beach clubs (Ku De Ta, Potato Head) but for a more relaxed setting to watch the sun go down, head to La Plancha on Mesari Beach, Seminyak.
While we had a great time hanging out in Seminyak we decided to hire a driver for a few days and explore a different side of the island.
We gave our driver a shortlist of places we wanted to visit and after looking over our list, he had a few suggestions of his own.
First stop Jimbaran Bay- known for its many seafood warungs (restaurants) that line the shore. Each warung displays a smorgasbord of seafood - snapper, lobster, shrimp and crabs – caught fresh that morning in iced displays and live tanks.
While most tourists enjoy a seafood dinner and sand between their toes as the sun sets, our driver suggested we head there for lunch. I’m glad we took his advice because we had the restaurant and in fact the entire beach, to ourselves!
Rock Bar in Jimbaran is known as THE place to watch the sun disappear behind the Indian Ocean, cocktail in hand. You will, however, need to arrive hours in advance to have any chance of gaining entry.
We were pushed for time and instead opted for sister venue Unique Bar, one of the newer additions to the Ayana chain. I’m pleased to say we did not have to hustle for a spot here and the view did not disappoint!
The following day we spent some time exploring Ubud, Bali’s art and spiritual home.
Here locals and long-term travellers hang at cafés by day and yoga studios by night. The Ubud arts market was a treasure trove of beautiful handcrafted wares from paintings to woven baskets and clothing.
Whilst in Ubud we ventured 800m along a narrow dirt track off Subak Sok Wayah, passing lush rice paddies, towering coconut trees and the occasional motorcyclist, to arrive at Sari Organik Café. Accessible only by foot, Sari Oragnik is a spilt level restaurant situated amid an organic farm serving organic, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes.
The menu is healthy and homegrown; from traditional Balinese nasi goreng and gado gado to nutritious salads with ingredients picked to order from the onsite garden. Homemade wine is available along with the tastiest cocktails made with herbs straight from the garden.
We ate our lunch overlooking the cascading rice paddies to the sound of roosters crowing in the farm below us. It was a picturesque and serene setting; I could have lost myself here with a good book for a good part of a day.
A few days later we took a day trip to the heart of rural Bali with Budaya Tours. After being collected from our hotel for our ‘Bali Eco Tour’ we arrived in Penelokan and enjoyed a buffet breakfast overlooking Mt Batur volcano.
We visited a Balinese compound where we learnt about traditional Balinese culture, then it was off to a rice paddy to see locals harvesting rice. We stopped by a coffee plantation and after learning about the coffee-making process tried a glass of luwak coffee, considered the most expensive coffee in the world (I’ll leave it to you to research what makes this coffee unique).
Then it was cycling time! We then rode for 25km on mountain bikes along mostly non-trafficked village roads. Delightful local children sang hello and extended their hands for ‘high fives’ as we rode through quaint traditional villages and plantations brimming with Balinese staples from cloves to cocoa, taro and tapioca. We were rewarded with the most delicious meal of our trip, a traditional Balinese buffet lunch including smoked duck and gado gado chicken.
By straying off the traditional tourist track we had a unique cultural, educational and culinary adventure in Bali.
Tips and tricks:
- Always take a metered taxi. The most reputable taxi agency is Bluebird Taxi, which uses distinctive blue vehicles with the words ‘Bluebird Group’ over the windshield.
- Beware of money scammers when changing currency. Also opt for a bank outlet and not a street vendor.
- It is not safe to drink the tap water in Bali. You should also beware of ice in drinks and salads that have potentially been washed in tap water.
- Hire a driver for the day and ask for their local recommendations.
Natalie Hensby loves to travel, she is the ambassador of the Australian Government’s “Smartraveller” campaign and ambassador for Cover-More Travel Insurance.
Follow her adventures on Instagram: @nat_hensby
The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.