1. Beautiful sunsets by the water
I never felt like you have to sunbathe or go into the ocean to enjoy the beach. When I go to the beach, I just want to enjoy the ocean breeze in my hair and the sun on my face, my toes digging into the sand. If the sun is setting over the waves, all the better.
Rabbit sponge enjoying the sunset on Kuta Beach with throngs of beachgoers.
No filters, just nature.
Toes in soft sand with the sun on my face. Now this is vacation!
The sunset lasts only about 20 minutes, but each minute is different.
Almost everyone left the beach after the sunset. I think they missed out.
We got to Tanah Lot just in time for the sunset.
There’s very little in this world that is more beautiful than the contrast of the blues of the ocean and the blues in the sky.
Tanah Lot at sunset.
2. Balinese Culture
I have to admit, I’m not entirely sure which parts of my experience are Indonesian, and which parts are Balinese, but I loved it. I liked the intricate wood carvings, each hand carved and unique, sold at Batik Keris and the little stalls at the market. I liked learning a few words of bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language); not to brag, but I know more than 10 whole words in Indonesian now. I’m also in love with the sarong; I love the way it swished and highlights a woman’s hips. They also look great on men, as my boyfriend will demonstrate (heehee).
At first I thought the checkered skirts were a fashion statement, but it’s just a traditional pattern.
Checkered sarong as modeled by Zulfan.
Tim insists that beer is culture. Indonesian beer, like most Asian beers, are meant to drink with a meal, and so are milder and (according to Tim) has less personality.
Balinese wood carvings
Kite flying at Kuta Beach.
I love seeing the familiar in unfamiliar ways. Even Starbucks oozes culture.
Traditional Balinese dance about how a man conquers his inner demons. Although how traditional, I’m not really sure… I was very surprised when they used a boar penis (fake) to sing “Happy Birthday” in English…
We stayed at the Novotel Benoa in Tanjung Benoa near Nusa Dua, and they hosted a New Year’s dinner complete with traditional Balinese dances, including a very impressive fire dance (although I was a bit concerned that part of it was done in a large wooden hut…). We got to ring in the New Year’s on the beach, in the rain, literally a few steps away from the fireworks. Yeah, safety’s not a big concern here.
Why oh why is that guy taking a picture of us taking a picture?
Love that I’m the same color as that cat!
Everything about the New Year’s dinner was designed to showcase Balinese culture. Shame it didn’t taste so good…
Firedancing on the beach! Unlike the feeble performances I’ve seen elsewhere, the dancers were very skilled.
Watching the fireworks on the beach, under an umbrella. Definitely a different countdown experience.
3. Novotel Benoa
They didn’t pay me or anything (really!), but I really have to give them kudos. The minute we got to the hotel, we immediately felt like we were immersed in a different culture, while at the same time enjoying all the conveniences of a modern hotel.
Our beach cabana! Completely worth the extra money to be so close to the beach!
The interior is pretty modern, with Balinese details. Watch out for bugs in the shower though…
An outdoor tub sounds like a good idea, but imagine this. You’ve filled the tub with hot water, the air around your head swarming with mosquitoes…
Swimming pool area. Really nice but always filled with kids.
Everything about this hotel reminds us that we’re in Bali!
The Novotel Benoa is located right at the beach, and literally a minute away from where our bungalow was. Most of the water is roped off for a variety of water sports, where you can sign up for at a stand on the beach. This is separate from the hotel, and prices are definitely negotiable (up to 50% off the listed prices). I opted for the donut cube (as there was a close call with a boat the last time I was on a jet ski), where a speedboat pulls a square donut and does circles in the water while we hold on for dear life. Fun! They also have something called a flying fish, where you get tied onto a large kite-like thing, and trails the speedboat pulling it. I wanted to try that, but unfortunately after that first few days of sun, it started pouring, washing out any chance of water sports.
Paris on a jet ski, $25 for 15 minutes. With an instructor of course!
Sunny day at the beach!
The hotel staff really went out of their way to add a personal touch to the hotel experience. They were eager to give us suggestions for activities, and helped us contact reputable agencies. My only qualm is the slowness of their kitchens; it takes about an hour to get room service.
We found this note and two plumeria (frangipani) blossoms on our bed after a long day out.
Our new year’s gift from the hotel, a traditional Balinese thumb piano.
I really regret only planning a day in Ubud. It’s such a beautiful place, all that green and nature. It’s much more relaxed than Kuta, where everything is basically built to cater to western toursits. If I go to Bali again, I’m spending the entire time in Ubud.
We were lucky enough to get a beautiful villa at the Alam Ubud Culture VIllas, and at a reasonable price too! It’s in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by rice paddies. There’s only one road going up the mountain for cars going in both directions…definitely do not attempt to drive up yourself!
Lesson learned from Bali; if they provide mosquito nets, use it! There were fireflies and all sorts of bugs flying around at night.
Oh to wake up everyday to this!
My friend thought it would be nice to get on those beds for a nap and found they were covered with little bugs.
I mentioned we were on a mountain right? We had to climb up and down hills to get to the pool and restaurant.
Infinity pools are awesome!
The “city” area of Ubud is basically a couple streets of small specialty shops, cafes, and foot massage places. Here, you will see some people who are obviously not local, but have fallen in love with this place and settled down. Because of them, you can get authentic Italian gelato and amazing Indonesian/Western fusion restaurants right there in Ubud.
Gelato secrets, one of the best gelato experiences I’ve had in a while! Keep in mind that I was in Europe a few months ago. They have normal flavors such as pistachio and vanilla, Asian flairs like green tea, and exotic ones like chocolate chili and salted caramel.
Amazing restaurant recommended by both Chinese travel sites and Lonely Planet. Perfect example of Indonesion cuisine served Western-style.
Just thinking about their miso butterfish makes my mouth water…what is butterfish btw?
Despite a horrible experience at Anika Spa (more on that later), I still ended up with a great feel for Balinese massage at the Home Spa.
Definitely a must-visit if you’re staying near Nusa Dua!
First of all, massages are cheap in Bali. You can easily get a foot massage for less than $5 and a full-body massage for $10. The Home Spa is a little more expensive than some of those little places, but worth every penny.
We decided to try the Four-Hand massage, which is exactly like it sounds; four hands, two masseuses massaging at the same time. This massage is insanely expensive in other parts of the world. For example, in Abu Dhabi, a one-hour four hand massage goes for about $250 at a 5-star hotel, and even in Thailand it was over $100. At the Home Spa, it was 250,000 Rp ($21) for one hour. And let’s not forget this is considered a more expensive spa!
The experience was surreal. At first I was worried that two people massaging at once would be more distracting than soothing, but the masseuses were incredibly in sync, working both sides of the body in perfect tandem. They used long strokes, soothing but at the same time applying enough pressure to work out any knots. I have to admit, I don’t remember much after the first 10 minutes, as I was lulled into a deep, relaxing sleep. Definitely try this massage if you go to Bali, you won’t get a deal like this anywhere else!
That’s it for now, more on Bali coming soon!