We arrived in Bali on the back of the disappointment of cancelling our South American adventure and in need of some rest and recuperation. I’m not sure what I had been expecting but I wasn’t prepared for how much I fell in love with everything Bali had to offer.
Most people arrive either by plane Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar or by boat from the neighbouring Gili Islands, Lombok, Komodo or East Java.
We stayed at The Pavillion in Kuta. It was a basic hotel, away from the main strip, but it suited us. It was close to shops, restaurants and easy walking distance to Kuta beach. What it lacked in space (the rooms were tiny and we had to share a King size bed with Issy) it made up for with friendly staff and a nice pool. We paid £135.00 for 8 nights so the price did reflect the facilities. It was popular with families and budget backpackers alike.
From the descriptions in the guide books I was expecting something like Kho Sang Road in Thailand. Yes, you have to dodge the shop owners wanting to ply their trade but a jovial Tidak (no!) as you walk past and the promise of looking again tomorrow is met with a smile and a high five.
We spent hours walking along the beach from Kuta up to Legian, attempted surfing lessons (with limited success) and watched the sun go down over the sea.
Balinese Cooking Course Anika Cooking School via Get Your Guide - £60.66 (for 3)
It is fair to say that all three of us loved this activity. It was a great introduction to Balinese food. Neither Issy or I are big on spicy foods and if you told me at the beginning of the day that we would have tried fish curry, nasi goreng, spicy corn fritters, shredded spicy beef and fragrant yellow rice I’d have laughed but in my case I not only tried them but really enjoyed them.
We were picked up from the hotel and taken to the market where we met the other 12 people for a visit to a traditional market. It’s not for the feint-hearted as with all Asian markets the conditions were unsanitary by western standards and I saw at least one rather large furry friend scuttle past but the smells, colours and range of weird and wonderful fruits were incredible.
We then jumped aboard a minibus and were driven out to the cooking school .After a quick demonstration, it was to the cooking stations. We were handed an apron and a knife and given a bowl or plate of vegetables, spices and herbs to chop before polverising our mixes to a paste a volcanic pestle and mortar. With preparation completed it was on to the cooking stage. Again everyone was involved and the dishes carefully chosen to match the aptitude of the cook.
It’s safe to say that they saved the best till last as we ate our fare.
Surfing Lessons - Negotiable - £60.00 for 2 hours (for 3)
The best description of our surfing, is that we gave it a go! We had a bit of fun but to say we were useless is an understatement and fortunately there is no video or photography evidence of our pitiful efforts. Our biggest downfall was that we were simply not strong enough to get up on the board quickly.
If you wander down the beach from Kuta to Legian there are surf schools aplenty. Have a good idea of the prices at the time of your visit and be prepared to negotiate. Whist no doubt of fitness (or lack of it came into play) having walked the beach a few more times didn’t pick the best of instructors.
Snorkelling £88.59 (for 3) – Rukmana Bali Tour – Bali Snorkelling Tour at Blue Lagoon including lunch
We visited 2 sites; The Blue Lagoon and . It was awesome and I think we’ve found our thing. All our equipment was included and the guides were brilliant. At the Blue Lagoon we managed to see turtles and a relatively small number of fish. At the second site we saw an amazing amount of fish and a stingray. The snorkelling guide and the boat man were excellent with Issy and lunch was delicious and plentiful.
Our guide Soma was lovely. He had excellent English and took loads of photos of us which was nice. He bought plenty of water and nothing was any trouble for him. As we were driving to and from the Blue Lagoon he explained key sites on the way and aspects of Balinese culture.
Island Tour - Full-Day Traditional Village Sightseeing Trip with lunch – £124.00 (for 3)
We booked an island tour with Tour Bali via Viator. Pakis was brilliant. He would have arrived on time if we hadn’t told him the wrong hotel. He came with a plentiful supply of water and cold towels for when we got really hot.
During the day we visited a cloth making and batik making collection, a jewellery making centre, the Puseh Batun Temple, Monkey Forest, lunch overlooking Mount Batur, Satria Agrowisata coffee plantation and Tegenungan Waterfall. This was a full on day (about 10 hours) but we had great fun and I feel that I learnt a lot about each site, Balinese culture and the Hindu religion as we were going round.
It’s difficult to explain why Bali has had such a lasting effect on us but I think it’s to do with the fact that none of their core values is about monetary wealth. It’s all about happiness, kindness and karma and if more of the world operated on the same basis it would be a much nicer place to be.