Two weeks, two diverse locations, fantastic cuisine, ultimate culinary experience of cooking in a traditional Balinese home, a rafting trip through the jungle in the mountains, a temple on a cliff top surrounded by some of the best surf in the world, board hire and surf lessons, friendly faces and an unforgettable experience, all on one small island in Indonesia, Bali!
Coming out of the the Ngurah Rai Airport in Bali the first thing that hits you is the heat and the second thing is lots and lots of shouts of ‘Taxi’ or ‘Transport, transport’ and this familiar shout accompanies you for the majority of the trip. As Bali has no form of public transport, taxis are the most effective way to get around.
My first destination in Bali was Ubud, the cultural centre of Bali. Ubud is surrounded by many of the things that bring people to this diverse island: scenic rice fields, ancient temples and luxury spas and hotels. I stayed at the Hotel Tjampuhan, situated in tropical forest on the side of a mountain.
In Ubud a must-see is a Balinese dance shown at the lotus temple under the stars. The show consists of five different types of dance, each dance has different costumes and music which is played on large xylophones, which give the show a spellbinding atmosphere. One particular dance called the ‘Calonarang’ involves a Barong, the king of spirits, which is carried by two dancers to the stage accompanied by music. The Barong represents much of Balinese Hinduism, the worship of Gods, demigods, Buddhist heroes and the spirits of ancestors. It is prominent in almost every aspect of life with over 20,000 puras or shrines many of which are in family homes.
A cooking lesson in a small village near Ubud, in a traditional Balinese home introduced me to the lives of Balinese people. As we cooked, Puspa told us about her life . Also as a great lover of food, the cooking lesson was a real highlight of the holiday, we made clear, spicy soup, chicken curry, curried, steamed tuna and bananas poached in coconut milk.
Balinese cuisine is similar to both Thai and Chinese food and can be extremely cheap if bought in the right places. Dishes can cost as little as 14,000 Rupiah (£1) so Bali is a fantastic destination for backpackers as so much can be done for little money. This we found out when we arrived in Kuta, the surf and nightlife central. If you are a surfer this is the ultimate destination, as Kuta beach has some great surf and a really relaxed attitude. Surf board hire is available on the Beach itself for about 400,000IDR (£28) for a week. The local people who work on the Beach work from around 9am to sunset everyday and take their boards during quiet periods into the sea. In the heat and with surf that big, they are the epitome of surfer dudes. Transport in Kuta is mainly by scooter/moped, which can be hired, mainly by Australian tourists so be careful not to get run over in the back streets.
Bali has so much on offer, there are many things that can be done for little money, with help from the locals and not a lot of pre-holiday planning. There is a lot to see and do, this island is definitely worth a visit.
Book flights quite a long time in advance as these will be cheaper the earlier they are booked.
Work out how much money will be needed: there is a 30 day visa to buy on arrival for $25 (£15.61) and a departure tax to pay of 150,000 IDR (£10) so keep these payments separate from spending money.
Also if you don’t own a credit card it is difficult to pay for hotels in Bali as the majority accept either dollars or credit cards. So take money for hotels in cash and buy a money belt.
A good website for booking hotels is www.asiarooms.com/Bali-rooms if you book a room they will tell you how much it will cost and the price will remain unchanged.
Learn to haggle with the local people! This is essential!