I went to Bali in April last year for a friend’s wedding. It was long before I started this blog, and I never thought my holiday pics would make it further than the eyes of my closest family. But, a good friend is on a world adventure and although she has been gone for months and she will now be a worldly-wise traveller with a knowledge that far outweighs anything I can impart, I did promise to share some of my Bali tips before she heads that way. So here we go…
If you are travelling from the UK to the far flung isle of Bali, you will touch down with a sigh of relief, wonder how you will ever stand up after being sat down for what feels like days. You’ll have probably had to hop off one plane and onto another. I did this in Singapore’s Changi Airport which is one of my favourite airports. Here’s my tip numero uno: there is an excellent shoe shop at the airport called Charles and Keith. Make sure you pop in – they sell fabulous shoes at very reasonable prices. This leads me to Tip no: 2 If you have a stop over for a couple of hours or more at Changi, pack your bikini into your hand luggage. There is an open air pool on the roof which you can pay to use as a guest. Floating on your back and watching the planes take off over your head is the perfect way to un-plane (there is also a cinema, giant slide, free tours of Singapore, and more).
Don’t get carried away and miss your Bali flight though. Another three hours in the air you’ll be touching down with an undeniable excitement to explore this place that nothing, not even the darkest case of jet lag could hold back.
So there we were with sore legs, tired but wide, wide eyes, and our bags in our hands ready for our adventure to begin. We had pre-booked our hotels, so we jumped in a taxi and headed the 45 minutes towards Seminyak, where the luxurious Hotel W awaited us.
(OK so this picture isn’t one of mine, it’s from here)
What I hadn’t expected from Bali was how it hits your senses, all at once. It is not restricted to the gentle sloshing of waves on a deserted beach as I had expected, but it batters you from every angle. Horns BEEP BEEP on the roads for no obvious reason except the joy of the sound it makes; the heat will tingle your skin; smells linger and waft – of delicious cooking, fragrant flowers, salty water, sun and the less pleasant smells of open drains; your eyes just won’t know where to look, and if you are in a taxi like me, you’ll probably close your eyes and wonder how on earth anyone survives a whole journey.
But survive we did, and this is where I give you my third tip. The one I believe in the most of all, if you take anything from this post, please take this.
Tip 3: Do not drive in Bali. No matter how adventurous you are. Or how often you have driven abroad to explore properly. We’ve all done that. Don’t in Bali. There are no signs. No English. No road markings. No rules. And there is just no point. Taxis are so CHEAP. Like chips. No, in fact even cheaper than chips, and this means there really is no point in going to the hassle and the stress of even turning a key in an ignition. Let alone navigating the craziness that are the roads of Bali. For our long and winding journey from the airport – where you will expect to pay the highest taxi charge, our driver charged us about 100,000 Indonesian Rupiah. Which is about £5. Amazing yes! Now I had heard that taxi drivers are pretty corrupt in Bali, and will swindle you out of your money if they think you might be a bit gullible. Me, gullible. No way! So we obviously passed the first hurdle.
And it was like this that we arrived at our jaw dropping beautiful hotel, to be greeted by a very polite footman who asked us how much we paid for the taxi and when we told him, feeling pretty smug I must admit. His reaction? To tear off down the drive chasing after our driver waving his hands in the air. Turns out we had been ‘swindled’! And we should have only paid around £3!
“Disaster” diverted, we were seated in opulent chairs and given chilled fruit juices whilst the paperwork was sorted.
(Picture from here)
We were then quickly whisked away to our room which was deliciously scented, with funky chilled out house music playing. Now I might have said earlier that nothing could have kept me from exploring, but I lied. I saw the huge fluffy bed, and couldn’t keep my eyes open for a moment longer.
Luckily Mr B wasn’t hit by the immediate effects of jetlag, and took some snaps of our room before we messed it up.
Yes, that bump in the bed is me, fully clothed, sleeping already.
I woke up three hours later, and looked around me as if in a dream but luckily enough this was no dream. I jumped into the open-air monsoon shower to perk up, and hotfooted it down to the bar to check out our new surroundings and celebrate our arrival with a cocktail or two.
Tip 4: If you are anywhere near the W in Seminyak, head over to the bar at night for a few drinks. Pretty coloured lights, funky music, beautiful surroundings and some great people watching awaits you. Heads up, it’s a bit pricey.
But it’s worth it.
The next morning, we had a delicious breakfast. I must have had seven courses there was just so many delicious things to chose from.
Then we wandered around the cavernous pool and beach looking for the perfect spot to settle down to relax.
It was a tough decision to make but we opted for one of the oh-so-comfy sun beds.
Around lunch time we took a buggy to the end of the drive where we had good look around, some delicious lunch and I stopped off at a spa to have a mani/pedi.
Tip 5: Don’t get your beauty treatments done before you go to Bali. The Balinese are fabulous at all things beauty and relaxation. You will have better treatments, for half the money you’d pay back home.
We made a hasty retreat back to our hotel, clambered back on to our sun bed and stayed there until the sun went down.
It was only polite to order a gin and tonic and mojito or two.
The next few days and nights passed in a similar manner. We ate a couple of delicious meals at the hotel’s restaurants, which were fabulous.
But this is where I give you Tip 6: You can spend a lot on great food in Bali. But you can more easily spend VERY LITTLE on GREAT food. Excellent food, in huge portions will set you back only a handful of pounds. On average in a local restaurant, I would say you can expect to pay only a few pounds per person for a three course meal with beer. You will be full. Your purse will be full. Everyone will be happy! But this leads on on to Tip 7: Stick to beer – Bintang to be precise as this is all they sell – if you are watching your pennies. Wine is imported, generally not very good and is very expensive. Spirits are similar.
We made one trip into Kuta – which is pretty awful in places. But it has a great beach if you want to learn to surf. Which I did, eventually!
Tip 8: Kuta is the best place in the whole of Bali if you are new to surfing. The waves are just the right size, and come steadily. Only a few miles down the coast and you will be beaten into a pulp – for the seasoned surfers of this world only! To get a lesson, just walk along the beach where there will be loads of ‘surf school’ men lounging under umbrellas. They will give you one on one tuition for as long as you like, hire of a board and cheer you on if you get up on the board. Tip 9: If you do surf, wear something on your legs. Mine were rubbed raw by the rough surface of the board.
After our luxury stay in the W, we headed to the wedding and into more luxury. I’ll give you this tip for nothing, Bali knows how to treat a guest.
We were waited on hand and foot, in three massive villas the wedding couple had very generously hired for the wedding party. We swam, relaxed, were massaged and ate delicious meals all together under the stars.
With that, i’ll leave you with my final tip of the day, and it’s a good ‘un. Tip 10: Don’t worry if by day four you have worn most of your clothes and have a suitcase of dirty washing. You can get your washing laundered and ironed at a very affordable price, and they do it so beautifully. It’ll come back to you smelling fresh, fragrant and folded to perfection.