As an extension of my Bali guide post, this post will cover all the things we did while in Bali (except the temples, I’m covering that in a separate post) as well as other suggestions AKA things we wished we had time to do.
Bali has a lot of wonderful experiences to offer, some cheap and some a little pricier, but it is an amazing place to visit no matter what you decide to do. In a way, there’s always something for everyone. Most seasoned Bali travelers have already foregone these basic touristy things, but since it is my first trip (and probably yours too, if you’re reading this), why not be the ultimate tourist and do as much as you want?
DOLPHIN WATCHING AT LOVINA
Cost: IDR120,000 (RM34) for two pax, prices vary.
Off the coast of Lovina, right as the sun rises, dolphins come out to play. You can only find dolphins from between 5am to 8am when the sun isn’t too hot – which means an early rise for us. We were up by 3.30am to catch our 4am pick-up. The journey from Kuta to Lovina took nearly 3 hours, and I will admit, the drive was no fun. In between trying to catch some sleep, I was awakened by the incessant honking (which most Bali drivers use as a means of communication) and really curvy roads.
When we arrived, we were lead to a very small and narrow parau, where only three can sit comfortably, leaving the boatman at the back. We shared our parau with a very sweet girl from Germany who’s visiting Asia on a solo trip. It was a 15 minute ride out to the middle of the sea where we saw MANY boats out on the same mission. And we saw our first dolphins!
The dolphins are wild, so they do not do tricks like jumping onto boats or air-flips. They seem to want to avoid all the boats so they would constantly disappear and reappear at random. Once they are spotted, boats rev towards the spot like a bunch of hunters to get the best view. It was quite hilarious, but I also imagine it could be quite disconcerting for the dolphins. I have included a few shots of the dolphins in our Bali Vlog. After about an hour of chasing and rapid photo firing, we headed back to the jetty where we had breakfast. If you are interested in going for this, it’s probably safer to book in advance as the pick-ups are quite early (unless you are staying in Lovina itself).
SEE MOUNT BATUR VOLCANO AT KINTAMANI
Cost: No fees required to view or take photos
As part of our tour, we were brought to the perfect spot to view Mount Batur, a volcano that has been dormant over 20 years. It’s right next to the beautiful Lake Batur, so you’d get quite a nice view of the entire scene. From our vantage point, it’s quite high up the highlands and so it’s also pretty cooling.
There are restaurants nearby which serves buffet lunch for tourists to dine with an absolutely lovely view of Mount Batur. This buffet is not included in our tour fees, and they charge a standard IDR200,000 (RM56) per pax, not including tax. It’s pretty steep for buffet food that isn’t great at all, but I believe we are paying for the view, and also partly commission to the tour companies.
|Now this is what you call dining with a view!|
If you charter a driver, you can still visit the sight-seeing spot for Mount Batur, and you will not even be obligated to dine at these restaurants. For the adventurous, you can book a sunrise hike up Mount Batur, the one thing I regretted not having the time to do. I am pretty sure the view would be amazing.
VISIT THE TEGALLALANG RICE TERRACE
Cost: No fees required to view or take photos, free to walk around
One of the pride and joys of the Balinese locals – their gorgeous rice terrace, which have been around for many, many years and is totally unique. The rice terrace is one of the most visited in the world, due to its unique pattern and layers against natural terrains. If you happen to visit during the right timing (harvest time), you can help the locals gather the rice. There are some restaurants nearby as well and art shops – so you can both dine and shop for art/souvenirs.
I would suggest you visit between 7am-9am as the sun is quite harsh and bright later on, which deterred us from walking through the terrace. This is one place where you should utilize the panoramic photo feature in your phone/cameras.
KOPI LUWAK (CIVET COFFEE) TASTING
Cost: I didn’t see any entrance fees but the coffees cost quite a bit
Affordability: Quite affordable
There are many civet coffee farms in Bali, and the one we were taken to is Lumbung Sari. Civet coffee is one of the most expensive coffee in the world, and they are gathered from civet droppings.
These civets feed off the bright berries on coffee plants, and the berries will then pass through the civet’s system that helps ferment the coffee beans before coming out. The droppings are then collected, washed and sun dried before they are individually peeled by hand to retrieve the beans. The beans are then roasted for an hour on a wok, over medium fire to get that nice roasted flavor. The last step is to hand-grind the beans to powder in a traditional grinder. Two teaspoons of the grounded coffee powder gives you the perfect cuppa.
We were then taken to a hut where shot glasses of various coffees and teas were brought out for us to sample. They told us upfront that a cup of kopi luwak would cost IDR50,000 (RM14), so we ordered just one to share since I’m not a coffee person. The various beverages we tried were coconut coffee, vanilla coffee, regular coffee (not made from civet droppings), lemon tea, roselle tea and even mangosteen tea. After the tasting, we were led to the shop where we can purchase the coffees/teas we sampled. My boyfriend really liked the kopi luwak so he decided to purchase 250gms for about more than IDR250,000 (RM70). I decided to purchase the coconut and vanilla coffees as they were really nice. The coffees aren’t cheap but it is something different, so if you are willing to spend, do go right ahead.
VISIT A 3D ART MUSEUM
Cost: IDR100,000 per pax (RM28)
This isn’t something that is strictly Balinese (since it’s a Korean thing) and can be found in any other country, but Bali is the home of many great artists. In the DMZ 3D Art Museum, there are 120 unique 3D art pieces that you can pose with. We spent nearly an hour inside, and it was a lot of fun.
There are helpful guides inside who can help direct you to the best angle to shoot your photos from for the best illusion, or they can even help you take your photos. There is even a naughty section where adult 3D art can be found, sectioned off by a curtain. Overall, it’s all very good fun and some of the paintings are brilliantly amazing.
TURTLE ISLAND IN TANJUNG BENOA
Cost: IDR10,000 (RM3) entrance fee. Boat transport prices to the island may vary.
Affordability: Very affordable
First of all, I need to warn you: this so called “animal conservation” is not very clean, and the animals here look very stressed. I don’t know if it’s because when we went there, it was the school holidays and there was a high volume of people, but I’ll let you decide if you want to take a trip.
We decided to go initially, because I’ve never held or seen a turtle up close before. A guide greeted us as we entered and took us to see the turtles first. I didn’t like how those poor turtles were kept, and the guide just lifted a baby one right out of the water and thrusted it towards me. It was quite a blur of photo-ops as he brought us to each animal cage (sparse, dirty and small) to stand next to each animal which either looked dazed or just numb to everything. The saddest were the pythons whose mouths were taped shut, and were handed around from person-to-person, like toys!
I cannot imagine what sort of conservation this place is, but I know that I would not recommend nor return here. I’m only adding this to the list because most tour companies would definitely include this place in some tour packages, but at least you would know what to expect.
VISIT THE SACRED MONKEY FOREST (MANDALA SUCI WENARA WANA)
Cost: IDR30,000 (RM8)
Affordability: Very affordable
In the heart of Ubud lies a reserved forest sanctuary which is home to a lot of monkeys. Monkeys are seen as sacred creatures to the Hindus in Bali, and therefore are taken care of within this reserve. As with any animal sanctuary, you are cautioned to follow the standard rules – no feeding the monkeys, keep all loose items like sunglasses/cameras/phones out of sight and do not provoke or touch the monkeys.
We actually got robbed by a monkey. You see, there is a large wishing well in the middle of the sanctuary and my boyfriend was checking his pockets for loose coins. This little monkey heard the jingling of coins, and he quickly came by and held onto his pocket. The monkey was quite insistent on checking the pocket, so my boyfriend had to quickly pass him a coin to ‘buy him off’. One wasn’t enough and the monkey slyly held onto both his pocket and the coin, so we had to settle with giving him another coin. Daylight robbery! But it only cost us two IDR500 coins so we let it go.
The sanctuary was nice, and we even saw a couple of monkeys jumping into a pool for a swim, as seen in our Bali Vlog. You can also buy bananas from stalls within the forest to feed the monkeys. Just be careful though, you might get more than one monkey climbing onto you to reach for the banana.
TAKE A DIP INTO THE BANJAR HOT SPRINGS
Cost: IDR5,000 (RM1.50)
Affordability: Very affordable
The magic of the Banjar hot springs are in the water, according to locals. There is a type of sulphuric make-up that helps cleanse your body and gives you good chi. The water is also nice and lukewarm, not hot by any standards, but can feel quite hot if the sun is blazing.
It was an alright experience for me, as I think the changing rooms are quite dark and moldy, the lockers are also old and musty. The water feels nice, but you get a lot of weird stuff floating in the water like fallen leaves and particles. I’m quite a fussy person, so the water doesn’t feel very sanitary to me. As the whole area is made out of stone, you can actually feel the moss on the ground as you walk through the water – which is very icky if you ask me. The only thing I found enjoyable was standing under the spouts where water rushes out from – you’ll get a nice, warm ‘massage’ that feels good on the back.
We only floundered about for about 20 minutes or so, before we decided to leave. It’s very popular with the locals but I found it quite creepy when a whole bunch of locals were just sitting there, watching us and all the other tourists in our bathing suits. Nice place, but I wouldn’t come back again.
TAKE THE NIGHT SAFARI ADVENTURE
Cost: Tour price – IDR800,000 (RM225) / Retail price – USD75 (RM282)
We read that the Bali Safari & Marine Park is one of the best animal parks in Asia. The animals are definitely very well taken care of, and the park is beautifully maintained. There is even a hotel where you can wake up to the sight of galloping animals, as though you’re in Africa! Not forgetting the Tsavo Lion restaurant where you can also dine with a very beautiful view of the actual lions, with only a large piece of glass between you.
We took the Night Safari package, which required us to be there by 5pm in the VIP lounge for complimentary drinks and also to be sorted into four groups. The tour starts off per group, with us getting into a special tram that takes us deeper into the park (it is huge!). Our guide then walks us through a section of the park where we get to meet the tamer, free-roaming animals such as the parrots, porcupines, elephants, bats and various nocturnal creatures – our guide gave a very thorough and detailed explanation for each animal.
The next part of the tour is the fun part – getting into a cage-car. I can almost taste the nervous tension in the air we we bundled in with tourists from Jakarta, India and Germany. We stopped by lions, zebras, elephants and water buffalos; we were all given some carrots to feed them. The most exhilarating part is the tiger, where it actually jumped into the top of our cage (causing some of the Jakarta tourists to scream) and the guide fed him fresh meat. The meat juice splattered everywhere and the tiger’s paws dripped a little bit of mud (at least, I hope that it’s mud), leaving a lasting impression on those Jakarta tourists who got the most of it.
|Photo from Bali Hello Travel: This was what our night encounter looked like.|
The last leg of the tour includes a BBQ buffet dinner at N’kuchiro Bar & Grill, and a photo op with the friendly binturong (bearcat). The night ends with a Afrika! Rhythm of Fire Show after dinner at 7.30pm. They have very authentic-looking costumes and props with talented dancers. I actually felt like I was in Africa for a while. It was wonderful and we had a lot of fun. It is pricey, but I would suggest that everyone tries this for the experience at least once – it’s well worth every penny.
SHOP AT THE UBUD ART MARKETS
Cost: Purchase items from as low as IDR50,000
We visited the Sukawati Art Market, which carries everything from glass decor to furniture to soft pashminas and an assortment of handmade souvenirs. I didn’t particularly like the newer side of the market where most of the shops are crammed into this big shop – it was stifling and hot and I felt a little claustrophobic with the amount of items so close to one another.
I preferred the shops that were along the streets, particularly along Karna Street, since you get more breathing space and you can take your time to look at the wares with less hassling. Shoppers will need a little patience, as the sellers will be constantly calling out to you to buy their goods. All the more reasons to walk the streets as they can’t really crowd you there. I enjoyed myself thoroughly (which girl doesn’t enjoy shopping?) and I managed to purchase two silk kimono bathrobes, some silver pendants, three oyster-shell jewellery holders with velvet-lining, pashmina scarves, some dream-catchers and my boyfriend even bought a traditional Barong mask.
A general rule of thumb to bargaining: Always start at half the price of the offered amount, as that is usually where the cost value is about. One strategy is to buy more than one of the same (in various colors) and you can probably get a lower price per item. I find that most sellers are willing to mark down their prices just to make a sale – but of course, don’t be so ruthless as to bargain down to the threads, these people need to make a living too. If you can speak a little Bahasa, you will find that the shoppers are much more warm and willing to give you a much lower price (we noticed that when we were shopping next to a Norwegian family, we paid a fraction of what they paid).
Other notable markets in Ubud which we didn’t have time for are: The Ubud Art Market, Tegallalang Handicrafts, Guwang Art Market, Ikat Batik, and also the shops along the Monkey Forest street. Talk to your driver and he’ll bring you anywhere.
WHAT I WISHED I HAD MORE TIME TO DO
Bali is vast and chock-full of things to do, and with just 9 days, we barely made a dent. If my list of things above do not excite you, perhaps these will. Here’s a list of stuff I have not done but would do if I had more time (and money!)
- Hug a honey bear at the Pod Chocolate Factory & Cafe
- Visit the Waterbom waterpark
- Go through the ‘lucky’ hole in the Bunut Bolong Tree
- Visit the Gala-gala underground house
- Visit Git-git Waterfall
- Hike Mount Batur (as mentioned above)
- Visit Bali Zoo
- Visit Bali Bird Park
- Attend a buffalo race (Held between July-November)
- Attend a Balinese cooking class
- Join a yoga retreat
- Go horse riding
- Learn how to surf