Most of the countries are so expensive that you have to be a billionaire to completely enjoy travelling in comfort to them. However Indonesia is one of the few countries that make you feel like a billionaire given its exchange rates. Imagine spending over million Indonesian rupees for a couple of drinks and still it does not pinch your pocket given an exchange rate of approximate INR 1 = IDR 200.
Interesting Facts about Indonesia:
Indonesia is the world’s largest island country situated between Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean with over 17000 islands. It is huge and is 14th largest in terms of land area and 7th largest country in terms of combined land & sea area. Though it is the world’s most populous Muslim majority country however it is still not a Muslim nation and is a Republic. Indonesia’s Capital is Jakarta and over half of its population lives in Java which is also the world’s most populous island.
I travelled to Bali in this visit which is an island and province of Indonesia. Bali’s capital is Denpasar and Bali also includes 3 other islands – Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. Given that Bali has no mining or other resources, it majorly depends on tourism for its economy. It is important to note that while Indonesia has majority of Muslim population, Bali is dominated by Hindus.
How to travel to Bali:
Bali is easily accessible by most major airlines. I travelled by Air Asia which has a layover at Kuala Lumpur when travelling from Delhi or Bangalore. Air Asia has a direct flight from Mumbai with a halt at Kaula Lumpur.
When to Travel to Bali:
Bali’s tropical monsoon climate has two distinct seasons: dry (between May to September) and wet (between October to April). May, June and July are generally considered to be the best time to travel to Bali in terms of the weather. However, depending on whether the traveller is a surfer or explorer, preferences may change. During the dry season, May to October, the western side of the peninsula creates some of the world’s best waves.
Where to Stay in Bali:
Bali has stay options for every budget. However the location can depend upon your preference. Seminyak is a laid back night spot with many cafes without much dancing, Jimbaran has spots for dining on the sea beach and Kuta is known for its nightlife. However unlike Thailand, Bali is a great family spot as prostitution is not legal. I stayed one night at Seminyak at Ize hotel which is a boutique property with very functional rooms and has a great restaurant – Meja. Ize Seminyak roof top bar with swimming pool offers a great view of Bali’s sunset.
I spent the other 3 nights of my stay at Le Meridien at Jimbaran. Le Meridien is a beautiful property just next to Jimbaran beach (not overlooking the sea) with excellent dining out options both inside and outside the hotel. The outside dining options overlook the sea and makes for a good romantic seafood meal. Some of the rooms at Le Merdien Bali on level 1 have a direct access to the swimming pool. Le Meridien Jimbaran at Bali also offers spa, yoga, gym and other facilities.
What to Shop in Bali:
Ubud is the main shopping spot in Bali. While there is nothing much to shop but here are few things that you must consider: wooden & metal souvenirs, coffee, spices, traditional kites etc.
Where to Eat in Bali:
Given that Bali is an island, it has access to some great seafood apart from some of the best meats. I simply loved the pork at Bali which I ate at Meja restaurant of Ize Seminyak Hotel. Bali also offers a smoothie fruit bowl which is very popular here and a treat for vegetarians who would otherwise have to struggle a bit unless they want to eat a sandwich or find out a close by Indian restaurant.
Here are the some of the interesting places I visited:
Lawn Canggu: A beautiful relaxed and laidback beach restaurant with a swimming pool and good seafood.
Bella at Jimbaran Beach: Another one of the lovely shacks at Jambaran beach for romantic dinner in candle light overlooking the sea.
Meja Restaurant at Seminyak: A small restaurant of the IZE hotel on main Seminyak overlooking the road. It has live music and the food is fabulous…especially the pork dishes.
Et Tu Da, Seminyak: A beautiful and huge restro-pub. It is so lovely to watch the waves and enjoy the well made drinks. We did not at here so can’t comment on the food.
Queens Tandoor: It is a popular Indian chain perhaps the most well known of the Indian restaurants. Food is pretty average with small portions. However if you get craving for Indian food, you may want to try this.
What to See in Bali:
Bali is a historical city with excellent coastline and beaches. There are many temples and beaches to visit. Bali also offers some great adventure activities like surfing, Quad Biking, white water rafting, para sailing, snorkelling, Flying fox, animal safari etc. Otherwise various half day or full day packages can be bought from the tour operators who would pick you from your hotel in the morning, take you on a guided tour and get you back to your hotel. The brochures of these tour operators are freely available at the airport. Here are the top 5 must see things in Bali as per my experience:
- Angel Billabong Beach: This beach comes as #1 on my list for a reason. The biggest reason is that not many tour operators will tell you about it. The other is that it is the most beautiful site that you will see at Bali. Angel Billabong has a natural pool that looks like an infinity pool going into the sea. You can swim here when the tide is not too high. To reach here you have to take a 40-45min motorboat from Sanur to reach Nusa Penida. From here you will have to take a taxi to reach Manta bay which also has Broken Beach. You can easily relax here though there aren’t any refreshments since it has some of the untouched cpastline with natural beauty. The road is under construction and some 40-min of the total 2hour cab travel will be taxing on you.
- Tanah Lot temple: Tanah means sea and Lot means land, so this temple is basically a land on sea. This place is a beautiful sunset point too. Tanah Lot onshore site is dotted with smaller shrines alongside visitors’ leisure facilities that comprise restaurants, shops and a cultural park presenting regular dance performances.
- Rock Bar: It is a bar on the rock of land that hangs over the sea. Part of Ayna resort & spa, Rock Bar allows guest entry. One can easily buy drinks and snacks at the bar and enjoy one of the best views of the sunset.
- Quad Biking: Try the real quad biking experience at Bali Quad Discovery Tours. The real thrill of driving around in a heavy all terrain bike through the heart of Bali and seeing the island’s natural beauty of rice fields, plantation, steering across mud and jungle for over 45-min is another fun not to be missed.
- Nightlife: You have to experience the nightlife at Sky Garden at Kuta to feel the pulse of this island. This huge bar has a performance almost on a daily basis by a leading band & DJ’s. The performance area has a huge screen all over for visual effect. Along with fireworks, performances, smoke and other digital effects you will hardly get a place to stand if you don’t reach in time.
- Spa: Though I promised only 5 best things to do, neither I nor you should miss the traditional Balinese spa or foot massage
What to pack:
It is good to travel light since you will be around beaches. Here is the recommended list that you should carry along:
- Sunscreen / Sun Lotion
- Sandals / Hike Sandals
- Underwater camera if you plan to do snorkelling
- Insect repellent
- A swim suit or bikini
- Fast drying clothing as it can rain anytime
- Stomach medicine
- Shorts and T-shirts
- Athletic shoes if you plan for trekking
You may hear that Indonesia is not very safe for travel. However given my personal experience I can very well say that Bali is very safe for the tourist. Just like any other tourist city in the world it may have few pickpockets but it is otherwise safe for late night travels. However it will be good to keep your passport in safe custody and carry only required cash enough to meet your daily requirements.
On this visit I only explored Bali but I would love to go back to explore Java and other islands of Indonesia.
Disclaimer: This visit to Indonesia was sponsored by Air Asia and Tourism of Indonesia. While both Air Asia and Tourism of Indonesia officials helped us plan the itinerary and were very hospitable, just like our all other experiences, we are reporting an unbiased experience of the country.