Top ten reasons to travel to Bali: #1 it has a little bit of everything
Bali is constantly voted the best island in the world. It is the dream destination for many, and the epitome of the tropical island idyll. Bali really does have it all – a Shangri–La by Sea, in it’s natural and spiritual beauty, as well as a sophisticated social scene for the less wild at heart.
There are the famous surfing beaches and indigo swells of the south, central tropical forests, temples and palaces of Ubud, rice paddies of Jatiluwih, as well as volcanoes, pristine diving and riotous river rafting to adventure and explore. Naturally, Bali is blessed with a cultural and natural landscape to captivate the most jaded of travellers.
Its rich and diverse interpretation of Hinduism permeates every inch of the landscape, from offerings every morning, to the Nyepi day of silence that shuts the airport. This unique blend of Hinduism lies at the heart of Bali’s beauty paired with the smiling warm embrace of the people’s faces everyday. Artisans line the roads and scatter through the villages, carrying on the centuries old tradition of art and creation and producing some of the finest craftsmanship in the world.
Every tiny village has a specialty, be it weaving, stone carving or puppet making.
The thriving and rapidly developing southern areas may not be to everyone’s taste, but they are home to some of the best restaurants in South East Asia and a small creative fashion scene for the more urbane traveller. In contrast, the stunningly sustainable Green School and Green Village sits just outside Ubud, proving a strong green movement exists on the island.
It is a place of contrast and chaos – people may tell you the beaches are better on Bora Bora, or the temples are bigger in Orissa. But where can you find an island that has such a perfect balance of surf, sun, spirit, smiles and sophistication? Nowhere – Bali is unique – and a perfect tropical island paradise.
Top ten reasons to travel to Bali: #2 the unique and captivating culture
The Balinese culture has captivated the imagination of tourists since the early black and white films of Charlie Chaplin, made during his visit in the 1930’s. Things were a little more innocent then, and the women of Bali still walked around topless, actually making the island one of the first ‘sex tour’ destinations for colonials in search of a cheap thrill.
Today, the kebaya (a traditional lace blouse) may have been adopted but the ancient customs and religion are unchanged in a rapidly developing setting. Central to their religion is their philosophy of Tri Hita Karana, meaning ‘Living in harmony with God, among humans and with nature.’
Hinduism came to Bali in the 5th Century but was ousted by Christianity and Islam, leaving Bali as the only Hindu island.
Although it has a lot in common with Indian Hinduism – such as belief in the opposing forces of dharma and adharma – Balinese Hindus worship a range of deities unique to their branch of the religion.
The supreme God of Balinese Hinduism is Saang Hyang Widhi Wasa, who is placed beside Vishnu and Shiva.
These beliefs permeate everything. Every shop, house, hotel and restaurant can be seen to be giving offerings in small banana leaves each morning and temples lie on every tree and every corner. Ceremonies occur daily and can be witnessed all over the island. To really witness the majesty of this incredibly individual and strong culture, it is worth visiting at the time of a major ceremony, such as Melasti.
Top ten reasons to travel to Bali: #3 surf, sun and sea
Bali has been a mecca for surfers since the 1970’s, with its world-class waves and perfect line-ups. From Uluwatu and Impossibles in the Bukit, to Old Man’s Canggu and Balian’s break – the entire island is a surfer’s paradise.
The first foreigners in Bali to surf the perfect breaks were GI’s and smatterings of tourists in the 1960’s. But the ‘discovery’ of Bali’s Uluwatu came when Australian Alby Falzon filmed Steve Cooney and Rusty Miller riding perfect peaks for the surf film Morning of the Earth. From there, a legend was born.
Now Bali is packed with surf schools, camps and shops drawing enthusiasts from learners level to professional from across the globe every year.
If surfing is not your thing, there is fantastic diving and snorkeling in Lembongan and Menjangan, sailing in Sernagan, and just lazing on the beaches that stretch out around the island. Beach life is at the heart of Bali, best prepare to get salty.
Top ten reasons to travel to Bali: #4 the myriad of shopping options
Bali also happens to be a shopper’s paradise. The plethora of artists, artisans and handicrafts is overwhelming. Villages dotted across the island specialize in batik, baskets, silver, stonework, woodcarving and paintings. If you do not have time to tour the island then markets are always a glimpse into the soul of a place and there are plenty available to scour for bargains.
Ubud market is probably one of the most popular with travellers as it’s in the middle of town. Recently renovated, it is clean and new but has now lost a little of its rambling charm and the influx of tour buses has driven prices up. It’s still a great place to find a large selection of sarongs, basket ware, general handicrafts and small presents.
Just remember this is a place to haggle hard as prices vary hugely.
Meanwhile, KungklungMarket in the south is great for textiles, while Denpasar Market ticks the box for the most authentic market experience. The villages that fan out around Ubud, like Mas and Londuh, are a treasure trove of furniture and handicrafts.
On the other end of the scale is Seminyak. Packed with designer boutiques and surf shops, you’re guaranteed to find something unique to add to your wardrobe. Just be be prepared to pay European prices.
Top ten reasons to travel to Bali: #5 the full spectrum of culinary satisfactions
Bali is an island of contrasts, and this is particularly true in the realm of food. You can pay as little as US 50 cents or as much as $500 to eat some of thebest food in South East Asia.
Street vendors walk around with their Kaki Lima (literally translated as ‘five feet’) food carts, selling tastebud treats aplenty. Bakso is a delicious beef ball noodle soup that can be found everywhere, corn or jagung is a staple on the beach and a variety of rice, satay and noodles pop up at every corner.
At the other end of the scale are world class, award winning restaurants such as Sarong, Metis and Kayaputi that offer incredible culinary experiences.
Somewhere in between the two are the ubiquitous warungs that can be found everywhere and sell staples such as nasi goreng, noodles and fresh juices. Many have a bain marie area where you can choose a variety of dishes, usually curries and vegetables, to accompany rice. This is a wonderful way to experiment with local dishes.
Top ten reasons to travel to Bali: #6 investment opportunities for the tycoon traveller
Bali is rapidly becoming one of the most desirable locations on the world map. It was named by Knight Frank as the destination with the 3rd highest growing luxury housing market.
With an annual growth of 22%, it has become a magnet for those looking to make foreign property investments.
This has led to the building of larger villas and more people choosing Bali as a base or a place to host their second home.
The downside of this frenzy, however, is the explosion of development sites popping up in certain areas, causing the phenomenon of rapid overdevelopment – Seminyak and Kuta being a prime example. This has led to speculation that diminishing returns will cause a crash in the southern part of the island.
The moral of the story? You need to make a trip to do your research, internet research will not suffice.
Top ten reasons to travel to Bali: #7 value for money
Named the best value long-haul destination by the Times of London, Bali has become an attractive option for foreigners, again due to the devaluation of the local currency, Rupiah.
Your money is suddenly going a lot further than it used to, especially in relation to the pound. This is attracting a new, younger tourist back to the island, that for many years was lost to Thailand.
In turn this has produced a lot more variety in the hospitality industry with cool little local run boutique hotels springing up that cater to low-budget travellers. On the flip side, there are wildly luxurious villas peppered across the island, as people are free to indulge in high-end accommodation when they are saving in every other department. When comparing Bali to the likes of other island escapes such as the money haemorrhaging Caribbean, it’s clear Bali can brag best value for money.
Top ten reasons to travel to Bali: #8 beautiful temples to stir the soul
Temples are part of the very essence of Bali and are evident in the very framework of this island. The ‘Mother’ Temple,Besakih, lies in the center of Bali and is a mystical and magical place that is best visited at full moon if possible.
Bali has several directional temples, such as Uluwatu and Bedugul, that serve to protect the island, ward off evil and hold a spiritual force. The architecture varies and is heavily influenced by cosmology.
The tiers on the pagoda represent the importance of a particular temple. A family temple in a compound will only have one, whereas the major temples can have up to twelve.
A visit to a temple is a must as it is a representation of the Balinese culture and a truly beautiful experience.
Top ten reasons to travel to Bali: #9 the Eat, Pray, Love experience
Every major holiday destination has a movie. Thailand has ‘The Beach’, Venice has ‘Don’t Look Now?’, Paris has ‘Amélie’. And now Bali, obviously, has ‘Eat, Pray, Love‘.
After scenes of Julia Roberts cycling through the rice fields hit the big screen, Bali definitely experienced an influx of visitors looking for enlightenment and love.
As demonstrated by Liz, for alternative therapies, Ubud is your place – it’s full of retreats, yoga studios and raw food. This Western amalgam of healing should not be confused with Balinese, but it is a great place to rebalance depending on your needs.
Prices to see Ketut Liyer, her healer in the film, increased significantly with the movie’s success, and the influx of visitors even saw Ketut hospitalized for a short time, purely from exhaustion. The film also spurned a boom in pseudo spiritualism and Ubud is now the center of every type of healing imaginable. For a hefty fee, you can have your chakras and bowels cleaned simultaneously. (Thanks, but no thanks).
Although good for tourism most of what has developed from the movie is not based around Balinese philosophy or healing. For a truer experience you are better off visiting lesser known healers and asking a Balinese mangku or priest to take you on a healing journey to a sacred site or spring, such as Tirta Empal.
The film has caused mixed reactions from some restaurants printing ‘Eat, Pay, Leave’ t-shirts and signs, to a hike in healers prices to Bali boys faces lighting up with glee with the latest fresh faced arrivals looking for love.
Best to remember it was a book of Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s experience and not a template for the Bali experience. One thing is certain; it has changed the landscape of Bali for a generation.
Top ten reasons to travel to Bali: #10 a world class party scene
On the other end of the spiritual spectrum is the reputation Bali is building as the ‘Ibiza of Asia’. The famous, or infamous, KuDeTa White Party of the high season in August has become the epicenter of Bacchanalian excess.
Potato Head Beach Club has emerged as the frontrunner for bringing in international DJ’s with Fat Boy Slim, M.I.A and Snoop Lion gracing their crazy swimming pool stage over the past few years.
Then you have La Favela and La Laguna which have, in very short time, become two of the most iconic venues in Bali, thank to the amazing work done by their owner Gonzalo and his partner Luigi.
With the number of people flocking to the island to party on the beach increasing every year, things are guaranteed to get weirder and wilder on the island in the future.