Famed for its remarkable beaches, coral reefs, volcanic mountains, temples, rice paddies, silver jewellery and Luwak Coffe, Bali is an Indonesian island that seamlessly sums up as a holiday for anyone seeking a break from the chaotic city life. The island is thriving with family temples, cliffside religious sites, lively bars, resort towns, as well as, many meditation retreats. While there are a zillion things to do in this vibrantly robust island, here’s a rundown of 12 best things that you cannot miss while you are here.
Check Out the Making of The Balinese Batik
The art of Balinese Batik is synonymous with the traditional and cultural lifestyle of the nation. Whichever street or lane you walk into, you will find a wide range of Batik men and womenswear hanging on the racks. You will find most locals, or for that matter, even the tourists dressed in Batik. As it not only represents, the national costume but also, is one of the most comfortable and vibrant fabrics that you can slip into. On our way to Mount Batur, we stopped by Sari Amerta Batik Collection in Gianyar, where we had the pleasure to observe the making process of this beautiful “drawing with wax.” The quilting process is quite fascinating to watch. From what I gathered, in order to create traditional art on the fabric, the weavers make use of a lot of dots and lines to create intricate patterns. When in Bali, do drop by one of the Batik Boutiques to understand the making process and don’t forget to buy yourself Batik prints to get an authentic feel of the nation.
Take a Trip To Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park
You will get the first glimpse of the massive silhouette of the GWK statue, as soon as, you land at the Bali International Airport. As soon as, I stepped out of the airport, my first question was, “What is that massive statue?” I have to say that I straightforwardly got mopped up by the largeness of this statue when I finally paid a visit to the cultural park. Devoted to Hindu Lord Vishnu, and his mount, his companion, the mythical bird, Garuda; the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park will take you on an epic adventure if you explore it the right way. First thing first, ditch the shuttle! Especially, if you are on a lookout for the instagrammable pictures. Instead, walk it up and make multiple stops. You may not be able to cover the entire 60-hectare at one go but that gives you the reason to visit this venue a few times before you completely explore its magnanimity. Besides, there are a lot of activities you can take on, while you are here. Like take the pictures of the iconic 21 story statue, learn history, watch traditional performances, participate in Yoga classes and indulge in food and souvenir shopping. Sip on a couple of beers to beat the scorching heat, if you like – our personal favourite being the stout! However, most importantly, do watch the remarkable Balinese Kecak dance in the in-house amphitheatre, if you get a chance.
Watch The Chak, Chak, Kecak – The Famed Dance Monologue
One of the best activities that represent Bali’s unique culture is it’s famed Kecak Dance monologue. For about an hour, the sound of Kecak will fill up your senses like a state of trance. While, all along various artists will appear on the stage as the various characters of Ramayana – the most popular Sanskrit epic of ancient India. Dated around 500 BCE, the traditional tale of Ramanaya follows Prince Rama’s pursuit to rescue his idolized wife Sita from Ravana with the help of a monkey army. Since this dance form skips dialogues, it will be best if you read up the epic before attending the performance. Be assured to be consumed by the costumes, the makeup and the rhythm performed very seriously by the artists on a professional stage. Kecak dance form is Bali’s legacy that is bound to leave you awestruck and soul stirred for life.
Explore The Transparent and Unclouded Bali Beaches
The postcard-perfect milky white beaches of Bali are what make this island such a breathtaking destination. No matter which part of Bali you are travelling to, the Indonesian aquamarine will make sure to catch up with you. Moreover, the island dwells with the touristy vibe, rich surf culture and tropical weather, so if you are here to attain peace, you are sure to find it in a quiet yet, fancy corner. Bali’s ravishing beaches are a magnet to swimmers and divers, but even if you are not a water baby, you will be drawn into their serenity for the love of the ultimate beach scenes. With numerous beaches surrounding Bali, there’s a lot to do! You can go surfing, chill under the umbrellas, take up water sports, get tanned, go souvenir shopping, observe sunsets or just play with the milky white sand. Whichever activity you choose to indulge in, Bali will revive a poetic sense of romance. The beaches we recommend are Kuta Beach, Sanur Beach Harbour, Kelingking Beach, Angel’s Billabong, Broken Beach, Crystal Bay, Dream Beach and the Tanjung Benoa Beach.
Trace The Balinese Temple Trail
One common aspect that prevails across Balinese Temples is its stacked up stones architecture. These slender structures are quite different than any other temple you will visit in the rest of Asia. Which, is why they are both mesmerizing and intriguing! Word has it, that these stacked up stones are the adopted emblem that carries a particular spiritual significance. While each stone is dedicated to one of the gods, the totem all together is regarded as the epitome of the collective religious energy. While in Bali, do trace the Balinese Temple trail and to do it like a local, you may even place flower offerings dressed in a sarong. The strange fact is that apart from flowers, Balinese people also offer cigarettes to the Gods. Even though the island is thriving with over 10,000 temples, the two you must not miss on your first trip are the Ulun Danu Beratan Temple and the floating Temple of the Tanah Lot.
Observe An Active or Inactive Volcano
Some of the tour operators in Bali would tell you that one of the best offbeat activities, on the island is to trek an active Volcano. While we wouldn’t recommend you going anywhere near to an active Volcano, we think it’s cool to observe one from a far distance. Amongst 139 volcanoes in Indonesia, two active ones are in Bali, continuing to be the most popular with the tourists. These are namely Mount Batur and Mount Agung. The deep crater of Gunung Agung has been erupting ever since 2019 and is the highest volcanic mountain of the island. Gunung Batur, on the other hand, was last seen spewing lava in 2000. Each of these Volcanoes is surrounded by black ash and continue to influence the climate of the neighbouring region. We visited Mount Batur during our Bali trip and unlike movies, we didn’t hope for it to belch smoke. Instead, we were glad that the deep crater was surrounded by clouds at the time with drizzles keeping it light. Watching a live Volcano tick-off is no less horror than watching a bomb explode. Watching the lava on TV can make you tremble, let alone watching it in person. The eruption, at its best, can get highly explosive. Yet many find the nerve to trek up to the sacred peak of Mount Batur. While it may be an unforgettable experience, risking it in the first place takes serious nerves. Mount Batur hasn’t exploded in the last 19 years, but you never know when mother nature could take a heavy toll. So keep safe and watch it from a far distance with binoculars to get a good view of the crater opening.
Tour The Family Temples of Bali
With countless holy places of worship, one fascinating aspect prevailing across Bali is its Temple culture. However, did you know that most temples you see on the street, are in fact family temples? Yes, you heard that right! Some of the most stunning architectural complexes lined on either side of Bali streets are family temples. Something you will first mistake for a real temple as each of these holy edifices is dressed, with extremely impressive designs. From vibrant doors to upper covering ornamented with captivating figurines, the Balinese family temples are an absolute treat to observe. As a matter of fact, the first time you see one of these temples, you will be highly tempted to walk inside and unearth more of it. As for the religious practices, Balinese people tend to offer prayers to Gods as well as ancestors every single day inside these temples. A unique custom that allows them to stay connected to the human and the Godly spirits or souls. Though these are private residences and least to say, Balinese people are overly protective of their family temples. So do not attempt to walk into one, unless you have the permission of the house owner.
When in Bali, Buy Silver Jewellery
Any form of jewellery is a form of self-expression. Which, is why most people resort to designs, that best express their individuality. While Bali may be famous for beaches and temples, it is also the island nation where you can procure the purest of silver accessories. From tribal to ethnic, you can choose from a plethora of zillion designs. Although, ensure to look out for a 92.5 mark inscribed behind the personal ornaments. This mark indicates the purity of the precious metal, whether it be, the earrings, bracelets, rings or necklaces. These ornaments make an excellent choice of gift, whether you are purchasing it for self or a loved one.
Immerse in the Surf Culture
No trip to Bali is complete, until, you have immersed in at least, one of the water sports. From Flying Fish to Fly Boarding, a wide range of water adventures are waiting to be explored by you in this island nation. Some of the incredibly popular water sport activities include sea walking, sub wing, parasailing, rafting, canyon tubing, jet-skiing, snorkelling, kite surfing, scuba diving, and wakeboarding.
Food Tasting in The Volcanic Island
Bali has a very distinctive food culture, so to say. Foodies that get their adrenaline pumped up by digging into unusual and crazy foods, try the Balinese Satay – that could be anything from skewered pork meat to chicken. For indigenous Indonesian cuisine, try the Lawar, Betutu, juicy Babi Guling, Nasi Tepeng, Urab, Nasi Goreng, Sambal Udang, and Tempe Manis.
Try a Cup of Kopi Luwak
One of the best things to do in Bali is to try a hot cup of the world’s most expensive coffee – the Kopi Luwak. This coffee became the popular choice of affluent in the 18th-century after coffee farmers invented a unique way of sourcing the finest coffee in the world. When Dutch coffee plantation owners prevented coffee farmers from using the beans for their personal use, they found a substitute method to get access to it. Bizzare as it may sound, the coffee farmers began to collect the faeces of a cat-like nocturnal animal called Luwak. Apparently, Luwak is known to eat the best of coffee cherries and it then poops out the partially digested coffee cherries. These pooped out beans were collected by the farmers, which they cleaned and grounded for their personal consumption. The result was incredible! They invented the world’s smoothest coffee by accident. Today, this civet coffee, alternatively known as Kopi Luwak is one of the world’s best coffee. With a retail price of €600 per kg, this coffee is exorbitantly priced in the market. However, since the coffee origins in Bali, it’s the best place to try or buy it.
Get a Balinese Massage
During my Bali trip, one of the best experiences I indulged in, was a full-body Balinese Massage. I tried this deep-tissue, holistic therapy at M-Spa, an outlet perched on Bali’s largest Spa facility in Nusa Dua. However, most luxury hotels in Bali have an in-house Spa with best of best services. As for the Balinese massage, it’s a combination of tender stretches, that makes use of reflexology, acupressure, and aromatherapy to stimulate blood flow, oxygen and Qi energy around your body. On the whole, the body massage results in educing a sense of deep relaxation.
P.S. I visited Bali as a guest of Indonesia Tourism Board, however, the views are my own.