Updated: Feb 26, 2020
I guess my love affair with travel started when I was very young.
When I was a little girl I would play this game where I would close my eyes, place a pin on a map and whatever location the pin would land on, I would tell myself I would go there one day (I’m sure the ‘map’ in question was a road map of Great Britain and Northern Ireland!). Fast forward 40 years and the go to map that inspires my insatiable appetite for wanderlust is thankfully global!
As a child I was lucky enough to travel quite frequently. My parents were especially fond of France so many of our school holidays were spent exploring the different regions there. In recent years my parents owned a villa in beautiful Provence so their love affair for all things French (particularly the food and wine!) has always endured. I was lucky enough to get married in a beautiful chateau in Provence so I guess I also inherited the love, or should I say the 'joie de vivre', of the French (I’m very partial to a glass of cold rose!).
One of the places I have frequented regularly over the last 12 months is Bali. I’ve been there researching and sourcing a resort wear clothing line using indigenous woven cloth made by women in rural parts of the Indonesian archipelago. More on this in future blogs!
So. Stop for a minute…. Close your eyes….. What do you envision when you think about Bali? Unobstructed sunsets, endless beaches, spectacular scenery, ancient temples, world class villas…
Yes! All in abundance and so much more. If this island doesn’t inspire or ignite wanderlust, I don’t know what will! And what’s more it’s ideal for any type of traveller; solo, couples or families.
When I'm asked about Bali the first thing that springs to mind are the people. At the heart of the island are the locals. Generous to their core, deeply spiritual and smiles that light up their whole face.
The island itself is a feast for your eyes. A myriad of sights, sounds and smells. Yes, parts of Bali are much more developed than the other archipelagos within Indonesia but it's still a fascinating part of the world to visit. Whether you are weaving through quaint villages, taking in daily life, visiting one of it's thousands (I kid you not) of temples or palaces, or catching the break on one of it's vast beaches you will not fail to be captivated by the island and it's enduring spirit. Even more so if you venture out of the usual touristy hotspots. That said, some of those hotspots are still worth a visit! It's easy to see why Bali captures the hearts of those that visit the island and why Bali remains a favourite holiday destination.
The variety of accommodation options is vast. There is everything from world class resorts, to independent boutique hotels to jaw dropping villas. The choices and options from budget to blow-out are limitless.
I’ve outlined below some of our favourite things to do so far when we visit Bali! It’s not an exhaustive list by any means, we’ve not visited all parts of the island. So bear this in mind if you decide to visit. I’ve also provided links at the end of the blog.
A must for anyone visiting the island would be to take in it's incredible artistry. Be it wood or stone carving, batik painting or weaving the list of crafts goes on and on. Balinese are very talented artists, their skills will leave you in awe.
Visit Ubud, the spiritual home of Bali. Take in the palace and it's many temples. Participate in a yoga or pilates class (so many to choose from, Bali is great for the health conscious, it’s very holistic) and make sure you leave time to take part in a cookery class (if it incorporates a visit to a local wet market, even better) The sights and smells (sometimes not all good!) are fascinating to behold. I did the most wonderful class at Casa Luna, I highly recommend it. Casa Luna is also attached to Honeymoon Guesthouse which is a divine little boutique hotel. Attached to the hotel is also a restaurant which for those of you who may be foodies, hosted an event by none other than Yotam Ottolenghi when he visited Bali last year. So it must be good!
Hire a car and driver for the day. Head north or east of the island and bear witness to the greenest of green terraced rice paddies, observe daily village life, visit some temples and behold the offerings on the roads and in the temples as you travel through it's vast landscape. It’s very untouristy so a great opportunity to see the real side of island life before development reaches it. Also a great part of Bali to explore on foot as well as car (be aware there can be some sheer drops!).
Take in a sundowner on one of it's beaches and see for yourself one of it's incredible sunsets. Better still if you can do so in one of it's uber trendy beach clubs (Ku De Ta in Seminyak, Finns in Canggu or the newly opened Cafe Del Mar - to name just a few). Sip on a delectable cocktail, and look simply fabulous darling!
Tantalise your tastebuds! Bali will have you eating out of it's hands! Whether you are looking to sample the local cuisine at a warung, feast at a Michelin star restaurant or prop yourself up at it's hip little bars
or cool cafes you are spoilt for choice. There just aren't enough meals in the day!
Shop til you drop!. Shopping in Bali is dangerous, be careful of the damage to your wallet! Though you will not regret taking home some of the indigenous crafts on offer (the luggage allowance argument will be worth it!). If you are a jewellery lover then a must visit would be the John Hardy jewellery boutique outside of Ubud. Not only is the jewellery fabulous but the boutique and workshop is too. It is advisable to make an appointment should you wish to tour the workshop. Seminyak and Canggu has a vast array of trendy boutiques, you can easily while away a day or so shopping here. Bali is a great place to buy ethically made and environmentally friendly products.
Indulge in a blissful spa treatment. Most hotels and villas will have one on site but there are plenty of choices on the island. Very inexpensive too!
Catch some waves! Watersports are hugely popular on the island. One of my hubbie’s favourite things to do is while away a couple of hours trying his hand at surfing or bodyboarding. It’s very inexpensive for a couple of hours of exhilarating fun!
All in all whatever type of holiday you prefer, be it a relaxing, recharging escape, something off the beaten track or an action packed adventure Bali has it all.
Best times to visit: Bali’s peak season runs from May to October. Flight prices and accommodation will increase during this period. That said it generally only rains (heavily) for a couple of hours per day. There may be some days where there is no rain and there may be some days where it rains all day. It is pretty unpredictable. But it’s still possible to holiday in Bali during monsoon season.
Currency: IDR (1 USD = IDR 13,717.35)
Visa: Most on arrival but please check with the Indonesian embassy closest to you.
A small selection of our favourites:
The image of our Karma Sandal in this blog was taken at this gorgeous little boutique hotel. I can only describe it as a stunning little oasis. Beautiful large hotel style rooms, with large balconies overlook a small but beautiful pool surrounded by lush greenery. Attached to the hotel is a small restaurant serving a lovely choice of breakfasts (local, healthy and western were on offer) and the restaurant has some delicious food choices. The hotel is strategically located so you are just outside the centre of Ubud yet close enough walk in on foot if you so wish. If not the hotel has a shuttle bus and you are provided a phone so you can call ahead for collection.
A great option for the intrepid traveller! If you want something a bit different and unique this is the place for you! We stayed here in 2011. Located outside of Ubud (not within walking distance) it’s a fascinating place, owned by an anthropologist. Each room has a different country theme, filled with artifacts from the owners travels. Overlooks stunning rice paddies. If you visit and you get to experience dinner with the owner (who serves dangerous rice wine!) then you’re in luck. You’ll never forget a stay here.
We stayed in one of their stunning 3 bedroom villas with a large pool. Large bedrooms with open air bathrooms opened out onto a stunning pool with water features. Next to the pool was an open air kitchen and living room. Everyday we were treated to breakfast freshly cooked in our outside kitchen by our wonderful housekeeper. Fresh juice was served along with a choice of western style breakfast or pancakes and fresh tropical fruit. Should you so wish you could also book a seafood bbq (freshly prepared in advance so all you need to do is stoke up the bbq and away you go!) or a local meal lovingly prepared by the housekeeper (a must if you ask me!). This villa is slightly tucked away from the main parts of Canggu so this location is wonderful if you don't want to be too close to the action but also not too far away if you want to venture out. Most nights we stayed in and had the bbq, or local food and even got in a takeaway!. We made use of the resorts car and driver if we wanted to venture out, though leaving the villa was always hard! The resort offers spa treatments on site, so we were able to have a relaxing massage overlooking our pool. (Yes, life was hard!).
A (very!) small selection of our favourites:
Cool place where we had coffee and breakfast. I also understand it serves up a mean cocktail in the evening! It gets very busy in the mornings so get there early if you’re hungry or you may have to queue!
Bistro/brunch style place - very Australian inspired. Great food. Good for families.
La Luccola (no website)
A gorgeous, gorgeous Italian restaurant on the beach in Seminyak. The setting is fabulous and the food even more so.
Beach club with restaurant. Perfect for sundowners!
Restaurant located in the Alila Hotel. Gorgeous and innovative food, contemporary setting.
Chic setting, balinese inspired and overlooks rice paddies. Great food, specialises in fish!
Fun place, particularly good for breakfast/brunch. Great for families.
MyWarung Pasar Petitenget (no website)
Serves a mix of local dishes, seafood, grills. First time we went we reordered some of the dishes because they were so delicious. Service is also top notch. Good variety of wine available and fab cocktails too.
A very atmospheric restaurant in Ubud. Wonderful scenic views Casual fine dining with an attached cocktail and wine bar. Mouth watering food, attentive service.
Yum yum yum yum yum! Healthy and delicious. A small but perfectly formed little cafe. Not a large menu but what they have is great and their fresh lemon mint drink is a perfect cooler for the Bali heat!
The boutique carries stunning artisanal artifacts from many different parts of Indonesia and beyond. The team behind Souq also provide interior design services and design in house. There is an attached organic cafe which serves up wonderful dishes.
French design in Bali? Yes and it’s beautifully sophisticated. Vintage inspired. There are a number of boutiques on the island.
Wonderfully curated gallery showcasing a vibrant mix of artists from Indonesia and around the globe. The staff are very knowledgeable and will happily guide you around the gallery talking you through the art.
Stylish women’s boutique that takes a small and slow approach to fashion. All designs are original and produced in house.
If you do want to splash out you wouldn’t go far wrong with a piece from the John Hardy collection. The boutique and workshop is located just outside of Ubud and is as beautiful and interesting as the jewellery. You can also take a tour of the workshop and see the artisans at work.
This boutique sells indigenous textiles made by women from remote areas of Indonesia. They work with women to expand their markets. If you are a fabric lover then this is a must for you. Some of the textiles have been made into beautiful accessories for fashion and interiors.
More than just a gallery and shop Threads of Life is a fair trade organisation that works with men and women across the Indonesian archipelago. They use textiles as a means to support artisans to alleviate poverty in rural Indonesia. Profits from sales in the gallery help weavers to become independent and manage their resources sustainably.
A must if you ask me. You will leave with the most wonderful memories (and recipes!).
Don't forget to pack your camera!