If you think of Bali you probably think of beautiful and lonely beaches, impressive temples, green rice paddies and dense jungle. We were quite unprepared and unbiased and thought of that dream island prior to our arrival. To be honest, when we arrived there, we were a bit disappointed. Of course, you can find all this on Bali, but as far as we can say, it is more or less the exception and is often smartly photographed (like we did with our photos ).
Our first bungalow-like accommodation (which was really nice btw) was in Canggu, a small village on the west coast, which was recommended by a lot of people we had met so far. Hoping for a relaxed island time, we were surprised that you get to Canggu without even leaving the crowded area of Denpasar, Kuta or Seminyak. It felt to us like one big touristic city.
The population on Bali is raising so fast, that every empty spot in the south is used for houses or other constructions. No jungle, no large rice paddies, no lonely dream beaches, but at least a lot of temples between the houses. With all the people living there it is no wonder that the traffic is really crazy. Simply walking around the streets, like we really love to do to explore our surrounding, was quite difficult and we were afraid of getting hit by a scooter or car. Our host told us once, that there are a lot of accidents with scooter every day and that each night scooters have to be salvaged from the rice fields, because a drunken scooter driver lost control over his vehicle while driving on the badly maintained roads.
Canggu is known for its first-class surf spots and indeed, there were great waves and a lot of surfers obviously enjoying it, which was fun to watch. But the beach itself wasn’t so nice in our opinion. There was nothing special about it and the huts next to it seemed kind of deserted and looked a bit like ruins. But on the other side, the sunsets on the beach were amazing!
Canggu consists of about three main streets with a lot of hipster-fresh-organic-restaurants and bars. You can get really good and healthy food in Canggu, but we sometimes kind of missed the street markets and the local food restaurants we went to in Thailand. We spent four days in Canggu, mainly relaxing on the pool overlooking one of the rare rice fields, going to yoga classes, running on the beach or enjoying the healthy food.
Our next stop was Ubud, the cultural center of Bali. What we really liked there were the cute temple like guest houses. They were really beautiful with their wonderful carved wooden entry doors, their shrines with colorful flowers and their typical Bali architecture. There are also a lot of nice temples and palaces and you can easily get to know Ubud by walking around town. But you need to know, that the traffic is still crazy and you will be followed by people wanting to sell you transport/taxi, traditional dancing or other stuff. That kind of stressed us a bit after a few days. But if you would like to have some minutes for yourself and relax in the countryside, there are beautiful (but small) rice paddies around Ubud with the so called “ridge walk” to stroll around.
On one day we did a sunset trek to Mount Batur further north. We got picked up from our tour operator (Mount Batur Sunset Trekking, 45 USD per person) at 2:15 a.m. and drove around one hour to their base on the foot of Mount Batur. At approx. 4 a.m. we started our trek upwards and kept on going for about two hours. We took an alternative route, so there weren’t too many other groups. During the hike we could see the sky changing colors from black, to blue, red and orange and when we arrived on the top we watched the beautiful sunrise and enjoyed the amazing view towards the active volcano Mount Agung, a large lake and the surrounding countryside. You could even see the ocean in the distance. Our tour guide served us some banana pancakes, fruit and an “egg cooked in the hot steams of the volcano” (while we still think, the eggs must have been preboiled) for breakfast. After this break we took an alternative route down and were back at the hotel at around 10 a.m. where we had to get some rest for a couple of hours. In my opinion this was a great experience and I would totally do it again (while Basti was struggling with the time we got up ).
While waiting for our Vietnam visa we spent the last days on Bali in Sanur, a small town on the south-east coast with a lot of resorts and a nice, white sanded beach. We liked it there, because (except on Sunday, when all Balinese were heading to the beach) the beaches weren’t crowded and (relatively) tidy, there was a nice pedestrian walkway between the resorts and the beach had a lot of beachfront restaurants, which covered a distance of about five kilometers. The speed boats to the islands of Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan depart also from Sanur, so most people just stayed there for one night and we had all the facilities for ourselves .
When we left Bali for Singapore we were not very sad that we had to leave because we had not found the relaxed dream island we are looking for. We are sure, that Bali used to be like that maybe 20 or even 10 years ago, but now it is crowded by tourists as well as by Indonesians. Maybe you can still find the old Bali in the north-west, where we haven’t been. Unfortunately, there isn’t many public transportation and you get ripped of a lot of times while booking transfers. Because of the crazy traffic we were also too afraid to rent our own vehicle, so we just stayed in the south and we keep on looking for our paradise. Maybe it is in Vietnam.