4 Things to Keep in Mind When Visiting Bali
Kelli and I have collectively spent a year on Bali between multiple trips.
The Island of the Gods runs neck and neck with Thailand as our favorite place on earth.
The fascinating culture, the unbelievably kind people and the stunning beauty of the place make it a must see island if you happen to be traveling through SE Asia.
In its own way, Bali is similar to here in NYC: no place is even close as far as comparisons.
From the Hobbiton-like scale of the place (narrow roads, small buildings) to the seemingly endless temple ceremonies to the overall vibe of the island you will never find anywhere quite like this charming Indonesian treasure.
Keep these 4 things in mind when visiting Bali.
1: Spirituality Is Ingrained into the Culture
The majority of Balinese people live from the inside-out.
Spiritually is deeply ingrained into day to day life.
Frequent ceremonies lead to street closures. Gatherings expressing gratitude for everything from:
- deceased loved ones
- cell phones
and virtually everything else seem to go down every few weeks.
Balinese men and women don traditional wear to attend temple ceremonies regularly.
Kelli and I spent the silent holiday of Nyepi on the Island of the Gods once. No talking or electricity during this sacred day. People do not play around either, as we received a phone call to turn off the small lights we had on in the kitchen, for not honoring the rules could result in an invitation for an evil spirit to plague the island.
Women can be seen making temple offerings throughout the day, serving food to the gods along with incense.
The minute we pass a temple offering after leaving the airport Kelli and I often note how the incense “smells like Bali”.
2: Bali Changes As You Leave Kuta
I recall speaking to a British ex-pat couple in Chiang Mai, Thailand about their trip to Bali. The couple did not like Bali at all. I asked where they went on the island. Kuta.
What did you expect?
Kuta is Siem Reap, Khao San Road, Patong or any tourist town in the tropics, or hell, anywhere on earth.
Restaurants. Bars. Restaurants. Bars. Convenience. Western trappings. Restaurants. Bars. Little flavor. Little texture. A bit bland.
This is not a good or bad thing. It just is.
Stepping away from Kuta introduces you to rocking towns like Sanur, Jimbaran and Ubud, among other spots.
Seminyak is a bit hectic and in truth, Ubud town center is a little busy for my taste, but each of these communities gives you a less busy change up to Kuta.
Now….riding the motorbike outside of Ubud to the rice field villages surrounding the city center introduces you to a whole new Bali. Gorgeous views. A sleepy, peaceful way of living. Kind, generous locals – although virtually all Balinese are kind and generous – doing as they have done for decades.
You get to live like a Balinese in these villages outside of Ubud, in places like Lodtunduh and Keroutan. Chickens walking in the middle of the road, farmers working the fields, warungs, cute little restaurants and quiet, serene villages greet the tourist who strays from town center.
The Bukit – see below – is another region to visit. I also found farm country in Jimbaran – where Kelli and I did our 6 month house sit – to be delightful, as we experienced Balinese village life well away from the busier areas of this fishing village.
3: This Is A Developing Island
Bali is perhaps the most well known vacation island on earth.
But this is still a developing island.
The majority of the police are nice but corruption is an issue. You may encounter polisi looking for bribe money from time to time if you forgot to wear your helmet or don’t have a motorbike license. Stand your ground. Ask for a ticket. The legit cops write one. The others send you on your way.
The visa process should be a 1-2 day deal but again; developing islands may require a 3 day process involving 3 separate trips to immigration. One trip to drop off the paperwork. One trip to pay for the visa. One trip to pick up your passport with the visa stamp.
The little inconveniences here and there are small potatoes compared to the beauty, brilliance and kind people that is Bali.
4: The Bukit Is a Freaking Gem
The Bukit is my second fave area of Bali after the rice fields around Ubud.
For good reason; this region boasts some of the most pristine, jaw-dropping beaches in Bali.
Pandawa Beach and Ganung Payung are 2 of my faves. Pandawa is a swimming and laying out beach while Ganung Payung is an eye-candy beach but not swimming friendly.
If you are a surfer, the Bukit is your dream destination, as Anna explains at Fathom Away.
The Bukit is the southern most region of Bali. Think semi-remote. Not super duper developed, save the area around Uluwatu.
Rent a motorbike. Get lost riding around the Bukit. Just bring your camera for some Instagram worthy, classic shots of these mind-blowing beaches.