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Paradise is a word that often gets kicked around when talking about Bali, and for good reason. It’s no doubt that the Island of the Gods is one of the top vacation destinations in the world, as people flock here to relax on the beach, experience the culture, partake in countless adventures, or just party the night away. There’s a lot to love about Bali – I love it so much I’m heading back for a year to study Indonesian starting this fall. To give you a glimpse into what makes this island such a special place, here are ten things I love about Bali:
Bali may be famous for its beaches, but there’s a lot more to this island’s natural beauty than sand and salt water. People are often surprised to hear that Bali also has gorgeous terraced rice paddies, towering volcanoes, wonderful lakes, and so much more. Sure, the beaches are nice and all, but I much prefer taking in some of the other landscapes across the island. Take a day or two off from the usual vacation routine and get out there to see some of this stunning island.
In the island’s cultural heart – the town of Ubud – you can catch a different cultural performance every night of the week. Those interested in Balinese music, dance, and art should definitely plan for at least 3-4 nights here to check out a few of the shows. Although these shows are put on specifically for tourists these days, they still represent an integral part of the island’s culture, and you can really feel the energy flowing in the space – the performers still put their heart and soul into the shows, and being a part of them is a great cultural experience.
Some people like to know exactly where they’re going at every moment in their trip, especially in a foreign land. I’ll admit that I’m usually one of those people as well; I get angered and frustrated when we get lost or waste time on our travels. Bali is an exception, though. One of my favorite things to do there is just get on a motorbike and go. Sometimes you just end up meandering through the island’s many villages, sometimes you discover a great viewpoint, or sometimes you end up exploring a coffee farm and chatting with the owner for a few hours. There’s much more to Bali than the tourist hot spots, so hit the road and get lost for a while to see more of it.
Perhaps the main draw to Bali is all of the fun one can have on, in, or under the water here. The island is famed as one of the best surfing destinations in the world, and there are waves here suitable for surfers of all levels and ages. In addition, there’s also world class snorkeling and scuba diving readily available. Add to that boogie boarding, kayaking, rafting, or just relaxing by the beach, and you’ve got tons of fun in the water up for grabs in Bali.
No matter what kind of traveler you are, you can find a great place to lay your head in Bali. Whether you’re a backpacking surfer looking for a cheap dorm room and friends to party with or a filthy rich couple on your honeymoon seeking 5-star amenities, Bali has something for you. Here you’ll find: hostels, guest houses, home stays, hotels of all shapes and sizes, and even “glamping,” to name a few. Thanks to sites like Air BNB, you can now find even more cool places to call home on Bali. Just last year, I rented a private house in the rice fields outside of Ubud with a private pool. I won’t spill the beans but I will tell you it cost me well under $100/night.
There’s excellent food to be found all over the Island of the Gods, but one dish in particular deserves to be on this list – babi guling – roast suckling pig. In a predominantly Muslim country, it’s not exactly easy to get your pork fix. On the majority Hindu island of Bali, however, this is a different story. Far and away the most famous dish on the island, this delicious plate of all things pig is hard to beat. At most places, you’ll get a sampling of the meat and crispy, golden brown skin, plus potatoes or rice and a few other sides for just $3-4. If you’re throwing a party, you can even buy a whole one!
In some parts of Bali, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the island belonged to monkeys. Indeed, our distant primate relatives make their presence felt at many locations across the island. They basically watch over their own temple in the northern town of Pemuteran, they’ve got a whole forest named after them in Ubud, and they also dominate the temple of Uluwatu at the very southern point of the island. They’re friendly for the most part – just don’t agitate them or carry food, as they will find it and do their best to get it from you.
Although it’s not known as a place to party nearly as much as other SE Asia destinations (Bangkok, Saigon, Vang Vieng), Bali does boast an incredible night life scene. There’s no shortage of options after the sun goes down here, whether you’re looking for cheap beers and a loud, raucous atmosphere, or craft cocktails accompanied by smooth jazz, you’re sure to find a way to entertain yourself in Bali. Of course, the southern part of the island is far and away the busiest and most lively place after dark. Ubud also has plenty of options for nighttime fun, and most of the diving towns around the island also have a few bars where you can enjoy a cold one and chat with fellow travelers.
A lot of people aren’t aware of the fact that Bali is actually more than one island – there are three much smaller islands off the main one’s southeast coast that don’t get a whole lot of attention. Just a 30-minute speedboat ride away, these islands make for a great vacation from your vacation. That may sound a bit silly, but staying in the south of Bali can be a bit draining and frustrating at times – the endless touts, the motorbike traffic, the huge crowds of tourists. Cruise over to Nusa Lembongan to get away from it all, where you’ll find one small dirt road, no cars, and a much more laid-back atmosphere.
As you can clearly see, there’s lots to love about Bali. I’ve gone and saved the best for last here, as the people of Bali are without a doubt the greatest thing about the island. Sure, sometimes the touts can get a bit pushy and obnoxious in the touristy areas, but you have to keep in mind that this is how they make a living. Get out of the southern part of the island, and you’ll find that most people in Bali are incredibly friendly and personable, and are always up for a chat. Through our visits there, we’ve met so many lovely locals in all corners of the island. Remember that you’re visiting their home, so treat it with respect and care. The Balinese people are some of the most hospitable in the world, so thank them for it!
What do YOU love about Bali? Feel free to leave your comments here, as I’m sure there are a few things I forgot! Keep an eye on the blog as we’ll have tons more stories, photos, and videos from the Island of the Gods in the months to come.