The last time I was in Bali was 1998. I’m sure a lot has changed. But homes and galleries and hotels are probably still where they were. This is just to start you out. Have a fabulous time exploring on your own.Bali is my favorite place on the globe.
THINGS TO DO IN BALI
…in the rice fields
…down to the Ayung River from Amandari
…behind the Campuan Hotel — down to the rivers and up along the ridge to the little road that leads to Neka Museum
…up the giant stairs in Campuan, eat at Ibu Putu’s, then walk along the path, through the bamboo patch into Penestanan
Watch a sunset (Kelating Beach in Kerambitan, Kubuku in Ubud, or anywhere)
Listen to the palm leaves clapping in the wind
Watch ants at work
Watch a lotus pond dance in the rain
Visit a traditional family compound
Draw in a women’s drawing class (Seniwati Gallery–see board at Bali Buddha-a “bagel!” place near the post office in Ubud)
Take a cooking class (ask in Casa Luna)
Spend a morning reading the beautiful books on offerings, textiles, culture, etc. (Pondok Pekak Library) Laurie Billington, the founder, died a couple of years ago. (I’m editing this in 20010.) I don’t know what has happened to the library. There were lots of other books there as well.
The library was located on the back side of the soccer field on Monkey Forest Road).
Take a walk on a village road at 6 AM…
…and another walk at 6 PM
Rent a bike and ride outside into small villages
Visit any family that invites you to its home, however poor they may be. Bring a kilo of rice and/or some fruit from the market if it’s an appointment. If you want to give people things, rice is probably the best gift these days. It will cost you 50 cents and them a day’s wages.
At least sip at and eat a little of whatever they offer you; but wait until they say, “Silahkan, minum,” Please drink. Or Silahkan makan, please eat.
Carry a sash, a sarong, an umbrella, a flashlight, and a hat with you wherever you go so you can…
…go to a temple ceremony or enter any temple
Watch performances at a temple ceremony late at night
Ask about processions that are part of temple ceremonies
See if you can find rites of passage ceremonies (three-month baby ceremony, tooth filing ceremony, wedding, cremation) and dress traditionally
Learn about ten stock phrases in Indonesian…good morning, afternoon, etc. “I’m from the US, I’m staying in…, How are you? I’m fine.”
Art and Entertainment
the Kecak Dance in Peliatan on Thursday night (7:30)
Tilem Gallery, in Mas and mention that I sent you, they’re all good friends (Guides don’t like to take people here because there’s very little commission but it’s the finest wood-carving gallery in Bali. Of special interest is the collection room of Njana and Tilem. Nothing there is for sale.
Rudana Museum and Gallery, in Mas
Anom Mask Maker, also in Mas
Legong: Pura Dalam on Saturdays (Gunung Sari group)(Go in back to see the dancers getting ready)
Ulu Watu Temple (eat fish in Jimbaran which is far out of the way unless you happrn to be down south
A massage at Nur Salon in Ubud (for a hedonistic experience, go for the works), or at Bodywork for a Therapeutic Massage from Ketut Arsana 975-720. They are both on Jalan Hanoman in Ubud.
If you’re too modest for a massage, get a “cream bath” shampoo and head massage for at least an hour. My favorite spot for that is in Mas, around the corner from the Tilem Gallery. Have someone who speaks the language make an appointment with Dayu Anom of the very primitive Geriya Salon. She has magic hands. 974-553. She used to have a salon at one of the big hotels in Kuta. Now she’s home with the kids.
Tampak Siring is one of the tourist things that I like. The other is the old village of Tenganan, touristy but interesting
Check the guide books for other touristy things. If you don’t do the recommended things, don’t feel guilty; you will have a more peaceful and more Balinese experience.
Sports: trekking, mountain climbing, snorkeling (Pulau Menjangan), rafting
Novel: Tale of Bali
Best Guide Book: Bali, Island of the Gods
Best insight into the culture: Sekala, Niskala (Volumes 1 and 2)
Covarrubias, Island of Bali, was written in the 30’s but it’s still relevant
Restaurants in the Ubud Area
There’s a terrific lunch buffet at Cahaya Dewata and it’s my favorite view on the island. I’d give this a top star for tasting Indonesian food and looking out over a spectacular valley.
Very expensive, very good: Amandari They charge in dollars and the food isn’t very Indonesian. If you have to go there, try their scallop appetizer, lamb chops, and raspberry sorbet. It’s great for an ex-pat now and then, but you can get all that at home.
I like the Thai restaurant in Pengosekan, Kokokan (they’ll pick you up if you’re in Ubud.) Try their fish wrapped and cooked in a banana leaf.
Ryoshi Japanese, in the center of Ubud. Be sure you have white marlin…best sushi fish I’ve ever had. Also try their hot mushroom salad.
Tutmak, try the organic salad with chicken. It’s wonderful.
Do try anywhere: hot lemon, gado gado, ginger tea.
Where to Stay
In Ubud, my favorite place to send people to stay is: Melati Cottages. Ask for room five or seven. There’s a pool, a great big room, hot water, terrific breakfasts, and good people. It’s also an easy place to pick up other tourists if you want to share a trip around the island. (011 62 361 975-088 fax 975-298) I think it’s US$35 for the room and breakfast. No air conditioning, but you don’t need it. The owners, Pak Ruta and Ibu Putu are friends. They may give it to you for $30 if business is slow.
The losmen and homestays (same thing) are much cheaper and you get to meet a family. I would stay in them if I didn’t have friends. A place called Rumah Rodah, up the street with the footprints, where Hans Snell’s is, off the main road in Ubud, is owned by an interesting guy who is very knowledgeable. He’s a guide too. I don’t know him, but I have talked to him and friends stayed there.
A beautiful and peaceful spot in the west is Yeh Panes (Jl.Batukaru, Penatahan, Tabanan) Hot baths, beautiful view, serenity, and air con. 361 221263. Expensive by Balinese standards.
Take a ride to Jatilui while you’re in the Tabanan area. Beautiful drive and view. Rough road.
The “palace” – Puri -in Kerambitan, Tabanan, where I lived for the better part of 4 years, is the true Bali and it’s the perfect place to take those 6 AM and 6 PM walks. Also go into the market around 8 or 9. Wayan (see below) is from that village and he can meet you there … and arrange for your stay. The accommodations are not all that clean or comfortable, but it is very much Bali. The family is wonderful, though they hardly speak any English. There’s a beautiful black sand beach 4 kilometers to the west (for walks, not swimming). You will taste Balinese food (as opposed to Indonesian) and it’s excellent. Three meals a day. Around six or seven dollars US each. It’s the best view of the real Bali you could experience. Make offerings with the women. Watch them put them in the altars. Maybe there will be a temple ceremony (odalan). They will dress you up and take you and show you how to do offerings. At the very least you will see women dancing in the streets to usher the spirits into the temple.
Be sure you find out if there is a Puri Night at Puri Anyar. The 7PM greeting of the guests who have commissioned the night (most bus up from Nusa Dua or Sanur for the event) is absolutely fabulous. Go for the greeting, go back to the other palace (Puri Gede, Saren Kangin) and have dinner, then return for the “Tektekan.” You’ll have to ask Wayan (or the family) about the details.
(Puri Gede, Saren Kangin, Kerambitan, Tabanan. This is my home in Bali. If you did nothing else but base here and wander out now and then, you would discover what the real Bali is like.
Call my friend Wayan Sukerta. He’s a guide, a good friend, and his English is excellent. He will answer questions and point you in the right direction if he can’t guide you himself. Maybe you can take him to dinner, just for the pleasure of meeting him.
Wayan’s e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Do accept all invitations even if you don’t know what they’re about.
Do stay away from Kuta. If you do go, hold onto your wallets and leave someone to watch the car if you have anything in the trunk. The shopping is very good in Kuta but it isn’t worth the culture shock. Try Ubud for shopping instead.
Have a wonderful time and don’t be lured by the big tourist spots. You can know Bali without the hassle of people trying to sell you stuff if you go off the main tracks. By the way, things are appallingly cheap right now. Plan to buy a lot, if you are so inclined (jewelry, sarongs, art). The places that charge in dollars are not as cheap as the ones with prices in rupiah.
The situation is sad and the money unstable, but Bali has been peaceful throughout all the Indonesian troubles. I love these people. Hope you do.
If you’re staying in Sanur, go south one night and have the barbequed fish in Jimbaran. Unless you want to see resort hotels, you don’t need to go to Nusa Dua.
When you leave Sanur, you might think of going along the west coast (take the bypass road) to Tanah Lot and then through Tabanan and off to Kerambitan. Go to the Puri and tell them you want dinner and a bed for one night. Spend a couple of days around there, it’s Bali without tourists. Visit the beach at Kelating for a walk on the black sand, eat your meals and stay in the Puri. Ask them for a tour of the Puri and ask if there is a Puri Night in Puri Anyar. If there is, go over for the greeting on the street (it’s spectacular), and go back for the Tektekan. The Puri people, who barely speak English but can communicate anyway, will tell you when the Tektekan is starting. It will cost you nothing if you stand with the villagers and watch.
If you have a Thursday night in Ubud, don’t miss the Kecak in Peliatan. It’s my favorite performance…..there are 150 men sitting on the ground and “singing” by making percussion noises with their voices.
Go to the market in Amlapura on the east coast (check which days it is open) and then on to Tenganan and Candi Dasa. A reasonable, OK place to stay in Candi Dasa is Kelapa Mas toward the north end of town.
That’s a full day. There’s also an ashram on CD that is interesting.
Have a fabulous time.