There was one big reason we chose Bali as our post-school, first-time independent travel destination. This one reason rose above the rest: a lucky flight sale to Bali with Jetstar. Yep, we’ll admit it, Jetstar’s return-for-free sale really helped us choose Bali. However the proximity to home, the culture, and the sheer beauty of the island were welcomed positives.
We were a bit dubious to begin with because most of what we had heard about Bali was Schapelle Corby (soz, this is the reality of being 90s kid Australians), volcanic eruptions and the Tiger Air cancellation issues. It made us quite sceptical about whether a Balinese holiday was right for us. But over the course of the two weeks, we were pleasantly surprised.
After spending a night in Melbourne Airport (much to the annoyance of our parents), we arrived in Bali groggy, hot, and disorientated. We endured passionate hassling until finally finding an official airport taxi to get us to our destination: Uluwatu.
Uluwatu is nothing short of impressive. The temple is placed precariously on a cliff edge and has become one of Bali’s biggest icons. In terms of temples in Bali, it is definitely one of the most memorable ones we saw.
Accommodation is not difficult to find in Uluwatu and ranges from resorts to hostels, and it is also very affordable. While staying in Uluwatu we had delicious meals from Single Fin which is a classic Uluwatu institution. And don’t forget to pay a visit to Nalu Bowls for breakfast — you might be on holiday but Bali is the perfect place for a health cleanse.
After Uluwatu, we travelled north to Legian. Our first stop to the famous Kuta Beach left a lot to be desired. It was covered in litter from one end to the next. Pretty disappointing, but it is worth checking out Kuta Beach just to experience it.
So, we needed a pick-me-up.. and the DMZ Museum did just that. If you are a child (or a child at heart) then this will hype you up and keep you entertained. The DMZ Museum is an interactive 3D illusion art museum — it may not be something you would think of checking out in Bali but it is so worth it.
The memorial for the 2002 Bali Bombings is another must-visit for Australians to pay your respects to the lives lost.
We found Legian to be an optimal spot for tourists looking for a more cultural trip but wanting to still be close to Kuta nightlife. It has much better vibes and is not too inconvenient. If you strictly wanted to visit Bali to party and club then Kuta is the place to be.
Sunsets at Kuta Beach
We decided on a change of scenery and flew over to the neighbouring island of Lombok. Lombok is known to have a less “touristy” and intense feel than Bali. After even a few days in Bali we were ready for the change in atmosphere.
Upon arriving in Lombok we journeyed up the coast to Bengsal Harbour. Even this short boat trip up the coast was enough to make us fall in love with Lombok and promise to one day return and explore it. Arriving at Bengsal Harbour itself was pretty intimidating. There were loads of pushy locals to get on their boats. You have to be careful here because not all the boats are legitimate.
Using a tip from a friendly taxi driver, we looked for a building with a megaphone attached to the roof. From this building we bought tickets and caught the boat to Gili Trawangan (also known as Gili T). It only cost about $2 each — bargain!
We chose this option over getting a fast boat directly from Bali to the Gili Islands. This was due to the increase in wind intensity (read: intense waves) which would’ve rendered even the strongest stomach, and the journey itself, unsafe.
The Gili Islands, with no motorised transport and a population of only 800, was a stark contrast to the constant thrum of Legian. We spent 4 days on Gili Trawangan and did not regret a second of it. It was the perfect destination for beach-goers and anybody interested in watersports, snorkelling, and diving. There are plenty of options to choose from and you will get offered activities plentifully around the island.
However, being Tasmanian, our guilty pleasure on this island was getting some much-needed Vitamin D whilst reading on the beach (with a cold Bintang in hand, of course). Walking or riding around the island is also tranquil way to spend a morning. And then you can top off the afternoon having a cheap massage with water views. Nobody could argue that this isn’t a leisurely holiday.
We stayed at Puri Hondje which was not the most budget-friendly place on our trip, however, the staff were very friendly and the place was gorgeous.
On return to Bali, we moved up to Ubud for 4 days. We had heard great things about Ubud so the expectations were high! And, it did not disappoint. Out of all the places we visited in Bali, Ubud was our hands-down favourite.
Ubud is heralded as the cultural capital of Bali and focuses less on partying. There are plenty of things to pack your day with here. Whilst in Ubud we visited the Monkey Forest, and so many temples (Goa Gajah, Elephant Temple, Tira Empul Temple, and Sarawati Temple). The Elephant and Titra Empul Temple are the must-sees. Titra Empul is where the sacred cleansing tradition is performed.
A monkey at the Monkey Forest, Ubud
If you have ever heard of Ubud then you probably think of beautiful rice terraces. These would be the Tegalalang Rice Fields which you can explore in Ubud. The stunning rice fields cascade down the hillsides creating a wonderful effect. Despite this being the most tourist-packed spot in Ubud it is definitely the most worth-while and beautiful place to visit. Having visited Bali in the wet season, we got lucky as there was hardly anyone at the fields when we visited.
If you feel like seeing more of the beautiful Ubud landscape then doing the Campuhan Ridge walk, or seeing the Tegenungan Waterfall could satisfy. There are coffee plantation tours for the caffeine lovers, and plenty of art villages for the creative types. Basically, Ubud has it all.
Sanur and Tanah Lot
Between Ubud and Sanur, we spent the day travelling West to visit the famous Tannah Lot Temple. This was another highlight for the trip – the impressive culture and architecture of this temple was astounding. The only downside was large mass of people who had the same idea as us!
Tanah Lot temple
We then spent two days in Sanur, the first day exploring the beaches and local stalls, and the second walking more into the Denpasar area. The beaches at Sanur were clean which was a pleasant surprise compared to Kuta. The area was more family-friendly with resorts lining the sandy shores. If you are looking to spend time by the beach or perhaps a snorkelling trip to Lembongan, Sanur could be your perfect place.
For the both of us it was our first independent trip overseas. We had never travelled without family before and Bali was such a great place to start. Not only did we discover interesting places and learn about a vibrant culture, but we gained a feeling of independence and achievement. We recommend Bali as a place to visit, whether for two weeks or two months. Bali has a lot of diversity and intrigue to offer travellers of all ages.
As a special note to those fresh out of school, we found that travelling could not be a greater way to gain confidence, experience and knowledge and thoroughly recommend it to school leavers. We had an amazing time on our trip and has only made us keener to travel and explore in the future.
CURRENCY: Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
COST OF A BEER IN A BAR: 25,000IDR
WHAT TO EXPECT: Lots of Australians, chatty locals, Bintang beer everywhere, temples, scooters and lots of street vendors
OUR FAVOURITE DESTINATION: Ubud
Some Handy Hints
- Bring money with you before you land because trustworthy exchange places are hard to come by. However there are lots of ATMs.
- Travel money cards are useful if your bank covers the Indonesian Rupiah.
- Bartering is a big thing. Normally you can get items for half the price they initially say, even in proper stores you can get a discount.
- Don’t let people help carry bags unless you’re willing to pay them.
- Tipping is optional and often it has been incorporated into the bill.
- Arrange airport pick up initially (if your hotel offers it) as the hustle and bustle and people hassling you can be quite frustrating.
- Agree on a price before you leave the destination if using a taxi.
- Know where you’re going because the drivers often do not, download and use citymaps2go (or another offline maps tool) before leaving.
- If you decide to use the scooters, stay within your limits and do not take risks! There are many horror stories from locals about tourists using bikes.
- Be careful of the alcohol as methanol can be used in place of ethanol. This can be lethal. Always watch your drinks be made and drink from reputable brands.
- The best clubs are in the Kuta area if you are looking for the epicentre of Bali nightlife.
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Been to Bali or have questions? Comment below!