Do you wish to plan a trip to Bali?
It’s been many years since I wanted to visit the Island of the Gods.
I can’t say exactly what attracted me to this land, probably the photos that depicted an idyllic paradise, with amazing beaches. Or their culture, which is so different, or the yoga retreats I’ve been hearing about (I’ve been practicing myself yoga and meditation for some time).
Or, simply, the huge distance from my house (as I live in Romania), which is both a challenge for me and a joy for the camera.
With a little help from some wonderful people, and because I had set my intention in this regard, I managed to finally turn my dream into reality: I’ve traveled for two weeks in Bali, more precisely in Ubud – although I had little time to get to know other areas.
So I will start this article with a list of interesting things gathered from my experience in Bali, which I think will help you in planning a holiday here.
1. Choose the scooter instead of the car when discovering the Island of Gods
I had heard before that it was good to know how to ride a scooter, but I didn’t know exactly why. Well, the streets in Bali are pretty narrow. I went with the van and the scooter, and when two vans meet, it seems like a miracle when they don’t collide. It doesn’t scare or bother them, though, but for me, it was something new.
Riding the scooter you can overcome the congestion in traffic and you reach your destination faster. Plus, what I really liked was the freedom you feel and the multitude of scents in the air that accompany your journey. Scented sticks coming from you wonder what house or resort, floral perfumes, offerings, fruits, spices, the smell of vegetation and jungle. The smell of the night, when you return in the evening from an outing in the city center.
So, the first recommendation is to rent a scooter, it is quite cheap with all the fuel, and you can even take a tour of the island this way! Oh and yes, it is on the left side of the road, which can be quite confusing at first!
2. Helpfulness is a basic characteristic of Balinese people
Since the 1980s, the Balinese economy has been based mainly on tourism. It is one of the reasons why they are such helpful and open and to constantly respond to tourists’ demands.
But their motivations go deeper than that and are based on their belief in karma and the ability to offer their best, on the principle that they will reap what they plant. In addition to greetings at every step, you also find such a natural power to forgive! I, myself, have witnessed such moments while I was there.
3. You can negotiate at most shops in Bali
Where prices are set, you have no choice, but in Ubud Market or many other stores, if you sit and look at a product for a long time and then leave, they’ll insist they will lower the price for you. They’ll seem to do anything, just so you buy it!
You can negotiate even one third of the initial price and they really appreciate a tourist with whom they can get a deal. A good strategy would be pretending to leave and showing less interest! What may be less common is the fact that children are also allowed to take on the role of sellers from an early age and come to you with big, innocent eyes and keep repeating very cheap, very cheap!
4. Get ready for beautiful sunrises and sunsets
You will find the most magical heavenly shows here and you will surely want to immortalize them! So many colors in the sky and so many shades of red, yellow, even purple, during a single sunset and none is the same as the other!
The island also has a special energy, which seems to show up in the heat of the sun, in the dawn. Despite the time difference and the 16-17 hour flight, I used to sleep only 5-6 hours a night and somehow in the morning, I could not continue to sleep once the first rays entered the window. I felt energetic enough!
5. About Kopi Luwak, the most expensive coffee in the world
The famous coffee, Kopi Luwak, is actually produced by a nocturnal animal, called Luwak, a kind of cat that feeds on coffee beans. The resulting excrement is then collected by the Balinese and passed through a process that results in the most expensive coffee in the world. And just as tasty!
We arrived at a plantation where we were shown the assortments of coffee and other cocoa, cinnamon, ginger or ginseng plants. We could also see the cages where the luwaks are kept, for a short period of time, after which they are released and exchanged with another animal.
Only later I found out it’s not actually OK for them to be locked up in such a small space. Therefore, some measures have been taken by various organizations, such as PETA . But people at the plantation are trying to make a change in this regard, by not always keeping them in captivity. During the walk, a nice Thai woman explained to us the process by which coffee beans are obtained.
We then sat down at a table in the middle of the jungle and tasted the available assortments – coconut, caramel, mocha, cocoa, ginger, but also teas. Chocolate was also sold there: dark chocolate, but not as bitter as we are taught, with chili, orange and ginger.
It seems that the best option is to buy the coffee there, compared to other countries, where it is exported.
6. Canang sari – Daily offerings you’ll find everywhere in Bali
As I left the airport for Ubud, I couldn’t help but notice, although it was already midnight, some colorful objects left in front of the gates of houses or various buildings. I had already entered the humid and fragrant air of Bali Island, in its specific vibration, which made everything look like a beautiful dream.
They call them offerings, but what exactly are they? Flower and fruit petals, rice, plant leaves, sometimes adorned with fragrant chopsticks, left in a woven basket. This is their way of constantly offering something to the spirits, keeping the place clean and purifying themselves.
It’s such a lovely habit! And not only aesthetically pleasing, because it reminds you that we come from somewhere else and that if we honor this in every moment of life, we will have a much happier and more peaceful life.
As you may have read, they are very attached to their traditions, despite being open to the diverse cultures of the crowds of tourists. Later, on scooter rides, I would come across the beauty of Balinese dressed in national costume, walking with offerings over their heads, heading to the temples where the ceremonies were to be held.
7. About Balinese temples and their spirituality
Most people in Bali have a Hindu-Balinese religion, which means that they have taken over Hinduism and have preserved the traditions of ancestor worship, specific to the period of the Majapahit Empire. Their temples, called Pura (space surrounded by walls), meet as often as their feasts, in which they participate with holiness. Specifically, there are at least three in each village.
To create a special energy, these temples are placed according to the mountain, sea and sunrise.
I had the opportunity to take part in some ceremonies, as well as to visit some of these temples that leave you speechless. Not only in terms of architecture and the meanings behind the representations and symbolism, but also in terms of energy and natural beauty.
Basically, a temple becomes a collaboration between man and nature, to create a sacred space in which all the elements of nature help to lift the mood of any being that steps inside, be it local or tourist. I also wrote an article inspired by the temples I visited.
8. Nightlife in Ubu, capital of Bali
It starts quite early, around 19-20 and ends just as early. Most bands that start their concert at 20-21 and end around midnight, and then stay for a maximum of 1-2 hours, depending on the venue.
I went to about 2-3 places and I enjoyed the talent of Balinese artists – most of them do covers, with a slightly slower rhythm or raggae, welcome for an evening of dancing or relaxing.
However, Bali can have a much extraordinary nightlife, as it happens in Seminyak, for example. There you will also find many tourists, especially interested in fun. But in Ubud, most places close during this period, because people start work once the sun rises.
One thing to know is that alcohol is expensive in bars (expensive compared to other products).
9. The Balinese New Year and silence
In other words, I had the opportunity to go twice in the New Year, in a period of 3 months. Because as you may know (or not), Balinese celebrate the New Year not according to the Gregorian calendar (which takes into account the solar cycle), but according to the lunar cycle.
They do not have a set day, but usually the New Year falls on a March day. I wrote a separate article on this topic. What may be surprising for those who expect costumes, dresses, heels, champagne, music, noise and greetings with duium, is the fact that the New Year in Bali is celebrated in… silence.
That means 24 hours of inner reflection, during which you do not talk to those around you and you are disconnected from the internet, telephones, devices – even the roads are closed. A tragedy for those addicted to a lot of talk and technology and a delight for those looking for quiet moments!
10. The green paradise: about rice plantations and the Balinese cuisine
Also known as a symbol of prosperity, the basic food in the Indonesian world is the rice.
The famous rice plantations are a delight both for the eyes of tourists and for the human spirit, because it is best to see the connection between the spirits of nature and man, which they support and nurture. Near Ubud, there’s Tegallalang Rice Terrace, and if you are hungry, you can sit at one of the pubs on the edge, eat something outdoors, enjoying the view.
Although you may think that rice is just too much, the fact that the Balinese always combine it with all kinds of sauces, sweet, sour, spicy, or that they prepare it in different ways (boiled, steamed, fried), makes it always a delight. No meal is boring or unsatisfactory in terms of flavors or satiety.
In Indonesian cuisine, hazelnut sauce and soy sauce are almost indispensable, as a side dish for the main course< spices are also in abundance. Vegetables are also prepared in different forms, just as meat or seafood.
The multitude of vegetables and fruits, as well as their preparation make Bali a perfect place for vegetarians.
11. A plant that is not missing from Bali: Frangipani flower
With the 5 petals, with its exotic, sweet smell, the Frangipani flower was a small miracle that I had discovered from the first day. Without knowing how many meanings it actually carries, it is used in ceremonies, rituals, and women usually wear it in their hair (in Indonesian it is called Jepun).
As delicate as it is perfect in its harmony, what makes it really special is the fact that it still produces flowers and leaves after the shrub is removed from the ground. Therefore, for Buddhists, it is a symbol of immortality, and is always present in their temples.
Plumeria, after its scientific name, has received a lot of positive connotations and meanings, depending on the culture which it grew up in (in most countries and exotic islands and the Asian world), and all this attests to its importance and admiration with which it is viewed. Unfortunately, I was not able to take some photos with these little wonders, but I found some sufficiently telling ones online.
12. About Gecko lizards, which are everywhere
It is a challenge to go to a tropical island when you are afraid of large reptiles and insects. And not only that, but it also scares you that they are different from what you met at home. I had learnt beforehand about the little lizards that enter your room and stay on the ceiling or on the walls, but it was already too late to go back for that!
I told myself I would test my limits. The first day came, when already enchanted by the beauty of the island, I noticed small creatures running on the ceiling and walls inside the resort, but actually, they were more scared than I was!
Later, I found out that Gecko lizards are a sign of good luck at the man’s house; moreover, when I heard that they keep mosquitoes and other insects away, they became even dearer to me! It quickly became a habit to see them every day looking at us from the walls, either at the resort, or in pubs (even on bright beer commercials) or other places.
I don’t have photos with them precisely because as soon as I tried to get close, they would quickly run away and hide.
As a general recommendation, if you want to enjoy Bali, it’s a good idea to book at least two weeks to explore it! No matter how small the island is, there is so much to see and experience! Especially since the center is different from the shores, and even the beaches between them show distinct activities from one area to another!
If you feel an inexplicable attraction to visit Bali, whether it is for the secluded culture or for the beauty of the beaches and nightlife, then quickly book a vacation that will be worth it, from all points of view!