Bali Bucket List: Eight Incredible Experiences
Updated: Sep 29, 2019
Bali. A destination millions all over the world desire to visit. An idyllic, tropical destination with rolling waves, luscious green paddy fields and dense, buzzing jungles full of life. I had the privilege to spend two weeks in this wonderful location, touring the island taking in rugged coast lines, golden beaches, thick jungle and volcanic terrain. Not to mention the wonderful culture of the Indonesian people and their incredibly friendly welcome.
ps. This trip wouldn’t have been half as good as it was, were it not for the expert knowledge of our travel guide, Adon, who’d been recommended to us prior to travelling. A great guy, Adon took us to places off the beaten path that we’d have had no chance of experiencing if it wasn’t for him! Thank you Adon.
Bali has a warm, tropical climate throughout the year, with two distinct seasons: dry and wet. The dry season takes place between April and September, with the two busiest periods for tourism being July and August. We travelled at the beginning of May which I'd read is one of the best times to travel to Bali; it was good as the weather was warm and dry with various locations across the island not too busy.
Aside from a few select countries that Indonesia grant VISA-free entry for up to 30 days, the majority of visitors will be required to complete a VISA-on-Arrival (VOA) in Bali. As a British citizen, I had to do this after what was a very long, tiresome flight from London. To avoid any hassle upon arrival, my advice is to make sure your passport remains valid for a minimum of six months, complete your immigration/arrival card on the plane and have $35 (or the equivalent in Indonesian Ruppiah) to hand ready to enter the country.
Travelling around Bali
As mentioned above, we were extremely lucky to have been recommended the services of Adon, who transported us across the island and provided excellent information throughout the two weeks.
It could be worth, however, checking out the following two article's I found online if you're looking for different methods of transport around Bali:
Now that the useful information is done, here are eight incredible Bali experiences I loved throughout my time on the island:
1) Uluwatu Temple
Uluwatu Temple, otherwise known as Pura Luhur Uluwatu, is a beautiful temple perched upon the cliffs, offering spectacular views of the waves dashing into the rocks 70 metres below. I loved visiting this place, with the resident macaques in the car park, the magnificent 10th century structure of the temple itself and the historic atmosphere prevalent across the site. Uluwatu is considered one of the six key temples considered to be Bali’s spiritual pillars and at the beginning of the tour, we were required to hire a sarong and sash. With its views of the Indian Ocean, Uluwatu Temple was without doubt one of the highlights of my trip.
2) Blue Point Beach (Suluban)
After the temple, we were in for a second treat witnessing one of Bali’s most famous pastimes: surfing. We were taken to Suluban Beach, commonly known as Bluepoint, where we had a drink in one of the cafes hugging the cliff-face, enjoying the brilliant professional surfers catching some huge waves below in the bay. Bluepoint isn’t one for the amateur surfer, with it being clear those out in the swell were regulars. Needless to say, I kept my kit on and stuck to the beer!
3) Ubud & the Monkey Temple
Ubud is brilliant. Although I liked Kuta (and Seminyak afterwards), I also found them quite commercialised. Ubud was a welcome return to South-East Asia for me. The smells, the foods, the market, the temples, the streets; it really felt like another world. We stayed at the Puji Hostel, a fantastic spot just off the main road with a good crowd and a great view of a paddy field from the rooms and pool.
One of the main attractions in Ubud is the Monkey Temple, also known as the Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal, home to over 700 grey long-tailed macaques. This is an excellent walk through the forest, admiring not only its boisterous residents but some of the 14th century architecture on show. The roots of ancient Banyan trees hang across the site, almost giving it that Indiana Jones feel of discovering a lost world whilst there were some interesting statues of mythical creatures I couldn’t even attempt to describe! Still, they were fascinating all the same. One thing I’d stress when visiting the Monkey Temple is to respect its residents and not get too close; we did witness on a couple of occasions a tourist rather foolishly getting too close to the macaques and getting a clout for their trouble, or worse, losing a possession!
4) Night Climb of Mount Batur
Without doubt a highlight of the holiday for me, the night climb of Mount Batur to witness the sun rise is an experience I’ll never forget. I’ll be covering more of this in a dedicated post, so be sure to check that out, but this is something you must add to your bucket list. Starting at around 4:00am, we were aided by an excellent young guide named Yoda who sprang up the volcano paths effortlessly, taking us to the top of Mount Batur on what was to be a two-hour climb. It’s a popular walk with torchlight snaking up the path of the volcano, but as you reach the ascent, it’s a breath-taking moment when the sun breaks over the horizon to the joy of everyone present.
Bear in mind that the weather can be unpredictable (especially when climbing 5,633 ft) and that it will be colder at the summit so, unlike this idiot, take an additional layer to stay warm. Thankfully I got away with it on this occasion. The descent is equally as stunning, with the morning light enabling you to see the surrounding landscape including the dazzling Lake Batur.
5) Jungle White Water Rafting
Another memorable moment of the trip, I’d highly recommend white water rafting in Bali. We were picked up from our hostel in Ubud and driven further into the countryside, where we arrived at the centre and were given our kit ready to get out on the water. I’ll be honest, I can’t remember which company we used on this occasion as Adon booked it for us, but the experience was amazing all the same. Rather than walking down the valley and crossing the paddy field to reach the riverbank, we had the option of a shortcut via zipline. Two of the group obliged, but the rest of us chickened out (no prizes for guessing which party I was in!).
The experience of being carried 10km down the Ayung River through the jungle was utterly incredible as we drove our way over rapids, navigating the meandering river and often engaging in friendly competition with other boats. Maybe there was the odd naughty nudge between vessels as we battled down the tighter stretch of the river, but it was fun all the same! Halfway down, we stopped for a break where the tour company had refreshments awaiting, whilst also enabling us to check out a cliff-face breaking through the jungle canopy with a wonderful waterfall.
Back in the raft and gathering pace as we made our way down river, we eventually reached the crescendo; a rather steep drop that required us all to lean back into the raft. It was certainly a heart-in-your-mouth moment, but a great climax to what had been a brilliant two-hour experience. To top it off, we were treated to some wonderful lunch on the crest of the valley overlooking a vivid landscape of jungle and paddy fields.
6) Food & Drink
The local Indonesian cuisine in Bali is excellent, with some fantastic dishes such as Beef Rendang and Mie Goreng. Like anywhere in the world, I’d always recommend eating where the local people dine, as this will give you a true experience of local delicacies and their incredible flavours. Fortunately, thanks to our guide, Adon, we were able to visit some family-run warung’s (small cafes/restaurants) that were off the tourist trail and mainly frequented by the local people. Incredibly, at one venue we were able to get five meals from the buffet and five cans of coca-cola for a total of £5.00! The quality and taste of the food was also excellent, providing a real insight and appreciation into Indonesian cuisine. Immerse yourself into the local foods and discover some true gems; I’ve no doubt you’ll be taking the recipes to try yourself back home.
7) Sky Garden Club, Kuta
As a big electronic music fan, and avid collector of DJ Mag, I always try to visit clubs voted in the Top 100 in the World by the magazines readership if I’m in the area. Upon hearing Sky Garden in Kuta had made the list, it was a no-brainer! Consisting of five rooms and a wicked rooftop terrace bar at the top, it definitely gave us a good night out. Although there wasn’t a big DJ playing the night we attended, I have since read it does attract big names such as Dash Berlin.
8) Surfing Lessons
“When in Rome”, as the saying goes, so how could I go to Bali and not have a surfing lesson? The island is famous the world over for its surfing hotspots, with its origins reaching back to the 1930’s. I’ve body-boarded from a young age, spending countless summers on the coast of Cornwall flying through the surf as a kid, but “proper” surfing has always been something I’ve admired but never tried.
Our first destination of our tour across Bali was Kuta and if you walk out on to the beach, you’ll see that instructors offering surfing lessons are not in short supply. Adon had arranged for us to learn from some friends of his, who duly provided us with the boards to use. What happened next had a rather painful impact on the rest of the holiday! We were on the beach, lying on the boards and practicing getting up into position once we’d paddled and caught an incoming wave. Ever the idiot to get over-enthusiastic, I got carried away and leapt up quickly into position, bending my one of my toes in the process and feeling a shot of pain! The trooper I am, I gritted my teeth and carried on into the surf. It was great. Our instructor made it look so easy, walking up and down the board as he caught each wave, and had a good laugh with us as we toppled and tumbled into the water. On a couple of occasions I did catch the wave and managed to stay standing, which provided a massive buzz and jolt of confidence, only to come crashing down on the next one! Not quite Kelly Slater yet lad.
Hobbling out of the surf, it quickly became apparent I’d done something bad (to this day, I’m not entirely sure whether it was broken or severely sprained), with a swollen, red and angry blob in place of my second toe. Thank God for a pair of Air Max I’d taken with me, as they were the only footwear I could walk in for the rest of the holiday, enabling me to climb Mount Batur and white water raft!
Injury-aside, it was a great experience learning in one of the world’s best locations for surfing. If you’re looking for a fun physical activity whilst you’re in Bali, make sure you add surfing to your list.