The end may be in sight for this particular backpacking trip, but as far as I am concerned, the best has been saved for last. I can see why people love it here. Whether you are lying on the beach, or just touring around, a common question is, “Is this your first visit to Bali or your second?” Clearly there is a high return rate.
Uluwatu – Land of Waves and Sunsets
After flying out of Jogyakarta on West Java, we landed in Denpasur and headed south to the Bukit Peninsula. Finally in Bali! The peninsula area has a reputation for great surfing, nice beaches and beautiful sunsets. We chose Uluwatu as home base for a couple of nights while we explored.
To keep costs lower, we chose accommodation further away from the beach at Jolie Hostel. This place was a bit challenging to find, but completely worth it once we found it! Set back off the main street, Jolie was quiet, full of friendly people, had a nice pool and comfy dorm rooms. To top it off the staff were awesome and the price was right. Cheap and delicious food is readily available on the main street. Check out ‘Stop’, our favorite warung/restaurant while we were in the Jimbaran area.
Because we were a fair distance away from the beaches, our group opted to rent scooters through the hostel for 50,000 IDR a day to tour the area. Beaches are not within walking distance from the hostel we chose, but scooters are a fun adventure if you are comfortable driving (or riding on the back as I opted to do). The main beaches in the Uluwatu region are Dreamland, Bingin, Padang Padang, and Balangan.
My favorites were Dreamland and Balangan! Dreamland is a lovely beach to play in the surf, swim and sunbathe, especially if you keep heading to the right, past the first main cove area. The waves can get high enough at high tide, so make sure you aren’t too close to the beach. Otherwise, you may face-plant in the sand like I did, after paddling to the top of a large wave and being deposited on the other side before the water. Fun times were had by all!
Balangan Beach was also fantastic. The waves can get pretty big at high tide, which makes it an excellent beach for surfers. It is also a little harder to find/get to than some of the others beaches, and there seemed to be less tourists there on the days we visited.
Besides visiting the beaches daily, we used the scooters to head to the cliffs and watch the sunset over the ocean. To switch it up, you can head to the temple of Pura Luhur to watch the sun go down. We did not make it this trip, so it’s going on my list for next time.
Kuta Beach – Tourist Central of Bali
On our way up to Padang Bai, we spent two nights in Kuta Beach. Known world wide as a backpacker hot spot and a great place to party, we had to check it out. Apparently the world comes to party in Kuta Beach. It is also a really good ‘jump off’ point to explore the rest of Bali due to its central location.
We were not to be disappointed, although I could only handle one night out in Kuta Beach. That place would drain your budget in a hurry! The streets are full of vendors, hawking clothing, jewelry, DVD’s, and a wide range of Balinese handicrafts. The Balinese people seem to be extremely creative.
Head down to the beach proper, where the town takes its name from, and the hawkers multiply by 10. Bow and arrows, pedicures, surf boards, sun chairs, drinks, fruit and who knows what else – you name it, there is probably someone selling it on Kuta Beach. Be prepared to bargain, as prices are massively inflated for foreigners.
Padang Bai – Fishing Port, and Portal to the East
Padang Bai was a very relaxed stop on our route to the Gili Islands after Kuta Beach. A small fishing village, Padang Bai acts as a portal the islands to the east for those who don’t want to fly. Shuttle buses are available from Kuta Beach, but we opted to bargain for a private car. Since there are five in our group, we got a good price.
Arriving in Padang Bai, everyone tries to sell you a ticket for the fast boats to the Gili Islands. There are two options: the fast boats that take about an hour, or the slow ferry which can take a few hours or many, depending on weather and currents. We opted for the fast boat, since the price difference was not that great.
Before heading east, there is enough to do to keep you busy for a couple of days. Many people pass right through, but they are missing out. Visit the Blue Lagoon and White Sand Beach for wicked local snorkeling spots. Turtles, rays and all manner of tropical fish and coral! There is also a temple on the northern arm of the bay. Keep an eye on your gear, as the temple is full of macaque monkeys pillaging the shrine offerings.
For the most adventure, talk to one of the local tour agencies about booking a volcano trek to Mount Batur, or one of many dive shops around. The smaller shops are going to offer the best price, especially in low season! I opted for the dive and got in two with Widana Dive Service. I chose that particular shop because they offered me the best price, and were located directly across the street from our hostel (the Fat Barracuda). If you have the time, stop in Padang Bai and get in some diving because the sites were quite fantastic. The rest of the group decided on trekking, and conquered Mount Batur. Padang Bai has something for everybody.
So all of this in a week! No surprise here that our time in Indonesia is flying by. Next up: A week (or two?) in the Gili Islands.