• Spike

Bali - Indonesia

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

There are so many things you can do on the island of Bali that I won't list them all here. I'll simply write about the sights I personally visited to give my views on them.

That being said if I was to return to Bali then I'd also consider a few days on Komodo Island to see the Komodo dragons and to spend some time on Lombok which is said to be a more beautiful and less touristy island than Bali.

I was expecting wonderful things from Bali, I arrived very late on Christmas Eve and I spent around 5 days over Christmas on the island.

I'm not so sure that this was the best place to be during Christmas, as I missed feeling truly festive. Besides some dancers dressed as sexy Santa girls at a bar, I didn't feel there was much else here to make it feel like Christmas.

The weather was great, and some of the sights I saw were beautiful, but the amount of tourists seemed to take away some of that beauty. Whether or not it was busier due to being Christmas, I'm not sure, but most of the sights were severely overcrowded, and the traffic was horrendous! Just to drive short distances could takes hours.

I hired a personal driver for around £20 a day which was great, as he would drive me around for between 8-10 hours anywhere I wished to go.

Obviously there's the choice to rent out scooters, which may be better to get you through slow and heavy traffic.

I think the mistake I made was to stay in the area of Kuta, which is where there is a lot of nightlife, but I think less beauty.

The beaches here were not as beautiful as I'd imagined, but I'm aware that there are much more beautiful beaches elsewhere on the island.

The other problem staying in Kuta was the amount of hassle I'd get simply walking down the street. I was constantly hassled by locals trying to sell me anything from souvenirs, drugs, scooters, massages and sex. I'm used to having this happen in many countries, but in Kuta, it was constant. Everyone I passed, all day every day would be trying to sell me something.

If Bali is less crowded at other times of the year and I was to stay in another area on the island, then maybe I'd consider returning. But considering the amount of hype there is around Bali, I was disappointed.

So my advice is to really think about where to stay on the island, what time of year to visit and would a neighbouring island be a better option to avoid the tourists?

Tanah Lot

I said above that I'd only write about where I personally visited, but this is an exception as it's a major tourist sight.

Tanah Lot is a rock formation off the coast, northwest of Kuta, with a temple sitting on it. It's said to be beautiful to see at sunset, but due to spending so much time travelling from place to place on the island in very slow moving traffic, I decided not to bother seeing it. Although it did not appear far, I imagine it could still have taken a couple of hours to get there, and it was bound to be crowded with tourists.

You can explore the temple itself, and there are several shops and restaurants in the area too.

Tegalalang Rice Terraces

I'm sure you'll have seen many photos of rice terraces on Instagram, on which they look amazing. The Tegalalang Rice Terraces are the most popular in Bali, but there are many rice terraces on the island.

Whilst exploring these I was lucky to see very few tourists compared to other sights in Bali, so that was a definite plus! It was late morning by the time I was here, so the temperature was getting hotter and hotter. Having to walk down hundreds of steps, and then up again was tough in the heat.

I could see the rice fields almost instantly, but I was sure the higher and further I walked along, they would get more beautiful. But I'm sorry to say they didn't. Maybe I had to go much further, or maybe I was just underwhelmed by what others consider an amazing sight.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I visited, but I was expecting so much more here. Once again I think that Instagram filters can spoil the true image of a place and lead you to expect more.

Ubud Monkey Forest

Again another severely overcrowded tourist attraction. Since my confrontation with a monkey in Tanzania, I am no longer a fan of monkeys. I was very cautious when visiting the monkey forest as I have heard they can attack tourists, especially if you carry food on you, or if you look at them the wrong way.

Thankfully I survived unscathed, and some of the baby monkeys were quite cute. It was also fun seeing ancient temple ruins scattered around the forest.

I think if I'd have got here much earlier in the morning with less tourists, Id have enjoyed it a lot more. I'd have loved to get some photos of the scenery here with monkeys in the foreground, but there were so many tourists it was hard to do so.

Bali Swing

A major tourist trap! Bali swing has several different swings you can swing on over beautiful scenery. There are of course many tourists here, long queues for each swing, and once you've been on one swing, there's not much difference to the others.

I actually spotted a swing at the rice terraces which would have given the same photo opportunity as here for a much lower price.

Save yourself the time and money and avoid this place. Take a swing over a rice terrace instead.

Goa Gajah

Goa Gajah or Elephant Cave in English, is primarily a small cave, however there is a temple complex next to it. The cave is of course the most popular thing to see here, especially due to the strange distorted face carved around the entrance.

Inside the cave is what seems to be an area for prayer. With incense burning the interior was very smokey with an interesting aroma.

There are gardens nearby, and also a fountain with water springing from female statues holding water pitchers. It's said that if you drink the water it will give you eternal youth. I had a small taste and I think it's certainly helped prevent grey hairs!

On a side note, you'll have to cover your legs here. It's likely that a local seller will insist on selling you a sarong otherwise you can't enter. Just ignore them unless you really want to buy a sarong. You'll be given a free sarong to wear at the entrance, so there's no need to buy one.

Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyang

More commonly referred to in English as Heavens Gate. It's likely you'll have seen this on many travellers Instagram pages, on which the photos look very impressive!

This sight is found quite far east on the island, so it's out of the way of many of the more popular sights. Still, I took the long drive there to see what it was like.

Once you get to the base of the temple you'll either need to take a bus to the top, or jump on the back of a scooter. The scooter option isn't encouraged, but it's quicker, although more expensive.

Most tourists only visit for the Instagram shot, but I had planned to see more of the area, however there were two problems with this. Firstly the line for a photo at the gate was huge, I had to queue for almost two hours just for the photo, with many people attempting to push in. The other problem was that there appeared to be a ceremony on whilst I was there, which meant that access was restricted. The positive side of this though was watching many worshippers carrying various objects through the portals at the top of the temple.

If you really want the photo, or if you're in the area, then take the time to visit. If you're short on time and not overly fussed about having a photo taken here, then spend your time elsewhere.

Tegenungan Waterfall

There are so many waterfalls in Bali, it's hard to know which is the best to visit. One I visited was Tegenungan Waterfall, which unbeknownst to me at the time is very popular with tourists. Swarms or tourists were gathered here which was not quite what I was expecting. It wasn't as if it was a secret waterfall hidden in the jungle, it was more like going to a popular beach resort with hundreds of tourists.

Although the large waterfall was very impressive, it was simply too crowded and so not very magical. However there is a much smaller waterfall which you can actually stand under halfway down towards Tegenungan Waterfall. You'll find it on a path to the left, and there are less tourists here. It's a little bit dangerous trying to climb over the rocks to get to it, and it's likely there may be a few people here, but at least it seems a little bit more magical and secretive. It's also a nice feeling to stand under the water in the immense Bali heat to cool yourself down.

Tukad Cepung Waterfall

This waterfall is simply awesome. I attempted to get here first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds, but there were already quite a few people here when I arrived.

It's essentially a waterfall inside a cave, which feel much more secretive and magical than other waterfalls in Bali.

Unfortunately the person I got to take photos of myself under the waterfall was not the best photographer in the world, so my pictures with myself in them are not all that great.

I think it's also worth noting that if you time it at the right time of day, the light coming through the opening by the waterfall will look amazing! However there is then risk of it being more crowded.

I believe the cave can get quite flooded depending on the time of year, so it may be inaccessible if it's too deep. When I entered, the water was up to my knees, but that added to the magic of the place.

Mount Batur

On Christmas Day morning, I woke up around 2am for my driver to take me to Mount Batur. As part of a small group we then began the trek in the pitch black darkness with only a torch to light the way. It was a two hour trek to the top, and it obviously got lighter as we gained height.

In comparison to other treks I've tackled, this shouldn't have been too difficult, but the humidity is what held me back. I was okay for the majority of the trek, but once near to the end I had to keep resting due to the heat. I wanted to strip naked as I was soaked though and covered in sweat.

Once we reached the top it got quite cold, but we sat and ate a breakfast prepared for us including eggs boiled from the heat of the volcano.

Unfortunately we were unable to see the sunrise due to how cloudy it was, so it was a bit of a let down. Once we knew we'd be unable to see the sun come up, I just wanted to hike back down so I could get back to my hostel for sleep.

There are a few things to do at the top, and there are areas where you can feel the heat from the volcano, but you have to be careful not to burn yourself.

Mount Batur was an okay trek, but if it's a clear day and you can see the sunrise, then I think it will be much more worth it.

As an alternative to Mount Batur, there is also Kawah Ijen which is quite a bit further away. But the bonus here is the blue fire you can see burning. Therefore it shouldn't be weather dependant.

Sky Garden

Although I was not fond of Kuta, and the nightlife was not so much my scene either, a club I would suggest is Sky Garden. Visit at happy hour for all you can eat buffets and extremely cheap drinks. If you're on a budget then you'll save a fortune coming here for food and drink.

The club is split over several floors with different bars catering for different music tastes. So there should be something for everyone here.

It was a good place to get chatting to fellow travellers, although the bars with live bands, which I much prefer, were empty over the Christmas period.

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