“Om Shanti” is just one of the many Hindu phrases that Nengah, our Balinese driver taught us during our nine-day vacation in the land hailed as the island of the thousand gods. Om Shanti, which is considered as a peace invocation, is just the perfect phrase to sum up our recent trip to Bali.With its breathtaking landscape, warm people, vibrant food scene, and colorful cultural backdrop, Bali truly sets that much-needed peace in anyone’s soul.
Is your soul battered from your fast-paced city living? Then, Ubud is your much-needed remedy. With its very rich art scene and local color, Ubud will selflessly feed your hungry eyes and heart with all that it can offer. Majestic temples, lush forests, cold weather— Ubud has its quiet, unassuming ways of putting your mind and body to reconnect with what you once lost to the world.
Or maybe you are that person who just wants to blow off some steam. Are you itching to just bum around, lie down by the beach all day, with a drink in your hand? Then, Kuta or Seminyak is the solution to that thirst for vitamin sea. Cheap drinks during happy hours, lazy living by the beach, and voila! You have the perfect recipe for relaxation.
Whichever place you choose to stay in Bali, or whatever need it is that you are looking for, one thing is certain— Bali is something that you MUST visit at least once in your life. It’s a place where you can let yourself loose and at the same time, find what was once lost in the hustle and bustle of life.
As a popular tourist destination, you probably have read and heard all there is about this island. Allow us to walk you through our first Bali experience, and hopefully show, and not just tell you why this place is something that we will probably visit again in the near future.
Indonesia is a Muslim country. In fact, according to BBC, it has the world’s largest Muslim population. However, Bali, Indonesia is predominantly Hindu. Thus, cows are sacred and eating them is prohibited. If they fall into the temptation of eating one, because of unavoidable reasons, they can go to their temple and cleanse themselves from this impure act. Apart from this, we did not see a lot of restrictions when it comes to food in Bali. Our driver, who in a way became a very reliable resource person during our stay, shared to us the fact that Bali, more than a food destination, is a land of spices. Truly, this is evident in all of the local dishes that we were able to try there. In the succeeding section, we present to you our favorites when it comes to the food scene in Bali.
In our desire to be one with the locals, we ate in places where locals also frequent. Our favorite local food has to be babi guling or suckling pig. Lots of places, from Kuta down to Ubud serve this dish. It’s easy to know that because the poster of babi guling is the same for all: a picture of a pig being spitroasted and a sign that says, babi guling. It’s easy to understand too why locals and tourists alike are crazy over this food. The crispy skin is truly roasted to crispy perfection and the meat cooked to tender excellence, where various herbs and spices are added. Apart from the pork being the main star of this dish, it is equally important to give credit to what they call as lawar or a sort of vegetable side dish, made from vegetables, coconut, minced meat also mixed in Balinese herbs and spices. Be warned that this dish is truly spicy, so if you’re not a fan of spicy food, you have to tell the servers that you don’t want it spicy.
Aside from babi guling, we were also very fond of eating nasi padang during our stay in Bali. In a nutshell, nasi padang is a rice dish which is composed of meat, and vegetables.
According to our driver, padang actually originated in Sumatra-a Muslim region in Indonesia. Thus, there are no pork dishes available here. No sweat though, because there is a whole lot of other food choices that you can choose from. Think of padang as the Philippine version of turo-turô because you literally point to the food that you want to put on your plate. You will see this sign in almost all of the places that serve nasi padang in Bali.
We also tried their pork satay. Almost every store in Bali sells satay, but because of a recommendation from another blogger, we decided to try the satay in a restaurant called Satay Under the Tree. Their name is as such because in their former location, they were literally under a tree in front of a futsal field. They moved a few months ago and although they are not under a tree anymore, their name remains the same.
This seems to be the most famous satay place in the whole of Bali, as both tourists and locals alike line up patiently just to eat here. When we arrived, the line was unbelievably long. After trying a few sticks, it’s easy to understand the fame that the place experiences. The store’s soft and tender pork meat greets every hungry customer.
Aside from the local food scene, we also read how Bali houses the most instagrammable spots in the region, offering scenic views and equally delicious food.
Our first breakfast bowl/dessert place is a restaurant in Seminyak in front of rice paddies. The place is called Nook and its aptly named as such, as the comfort that it provides its customers is incomparable. Below are our favorites from their menu.
Moving away from Seminyak, all the way in Denpasar is a quaint little cafe called The Alleyway Cafe. From the outside, the cafe looks small. When we went inside, we felt sad that the tables were already full. However, when the waiter escorted us to the outside seating, we were then greeted with a very cozy outside atmosphere. The food too did not disappoint. After driving for about 30 minutes, it’s very refreshing to be greeted and treated to good food. Below are some of our favorites.
Ubud, being the heart of culture of Bali, also houses some really good restaurants. Take the cheesecake below from the very famous Caramel Patisserie, as an example. The place offers numerous pastries which are not only pleasing to the eyes, but to the taste buds as well.
Just a few minutes away from the center is a small place called Acai Queen. Acai, as we have learned, is a fruit similar to that of blueberries. Acai Queen specializes in creating very beautiful and healthy acai bowls. Below is our favorite order.
With a country as majestic as Bali, it can be overwhelming to plan one’s trip. The irrational fear of “What if we don’t get to see much during our stay there?” continues to ring in one’s ear. When we were planning this trip, we learned that it is best to divide your itinerary to the major places in Bali namely: Kuta, Seminyak and Ubud. We were very fortunate too that during our travel dates, it was one of Bali’s major celebrations called Galungan and Kuningan.
This Hindu celebration, according to our driver, is a way for them to celebrate the victory of good against evil. Consider it then as another ‘new year’ in Bali. In this celebration, families gather and pray in the morning. After the celebration in their respective houses, the locals go to their respective temples, wearing their traditional clothes, and bring with them their offerings in their temples.
This is also a time when streets are decorated with colorful bamboo poles, known as penjors that resemble that of a dragon. It was a very festive day in Bali and our hearts were so full knowing that we were able to witness it.
As mentioned earlier, each place has something special to offer to its excited visitor. To help you decide, it will be best to determine what you want to make most out of this trip. Do you want to bum by the beach all day, with mojitos in your hand? Then, by all means, go to Kuta.
Are you into shopping and you want to stay in high-end beach resorts which are close to the shopping boutiques? Go to Seminyak.
Are you into immersing yourself in the Hindu culture? Are you more of a countryside person? Do you wish to see lush, green forests and a cooler weather? Then, spend more days in Ubud. Being the old souls that we are, we decided to spend only a few days in Kuta and Seminyak, and more days in Ubud.
Saying that Ubud is beautiful is an understatement. As we are writing this, it’s difficult to think of the right words to encapsulate the enigma that Ubud is. As it seems, Ubud is like a good work of art.
The Monkey Forest is a very vast piece of land that serves as a sanctuary to numerous monkeys who can roam freely around the forest.
Here, guests can interact with a lot of playful monkeys. Just a warning though, these monkeys tend to be attracted to visitors’ personal belongings so extreme care is advised.
For the more adventurous lot, this swing is just the perfect adventure. There were lots of places that offer the same swing, but we opted for Bali Swing, as recommended by our driver.
We have to admit, it was a terrifying experience at first when the guides were putting on the harness and preparing to push you for the first time.
After the push, you would start feeling that cold breeze of air touching your skin. You’d then feel an overwhelming sense of bliss. As your body dangles in thin air, you’d be greeted by the sight of the green forest around you, and the raging river below. Next to riding an airplane, this might just be the next best thing to fulfilling one’s dream of flying.
If you’re tired and drained from all that adrenaline, you can also rest in the numerous bird nests positioned around so you can enjoy the majestic view around you.
BARONG AND KRIS DANCE
This was one of the two traditional dance dramas that we watched in Bali. Barong, as we have learned is the benevolent spirit in beast form, who is tasked to protect the kingdom from the evil witch, Rangda.
Because the show is in Indonesian language, the play can be difficult to follow. Fortunately, they give out pamphlets before the start of the show so foreigners can follow the flow. What we appreciate about this show is how the dancers and actors were very graceful and dedicated to their performances.
The musical accompaniment also of the orchestra, using traditional Indonesian musical instruments, is such an eargasm.
Tegenungan Waterfalls is just one of the many waterfalls located in Bali. The place is famous among tourists who are very much appreciative of nature’s wonders. We did not choose to go down and take a dip in its cold waters, but instead, we chose to admire this gem of nature.
TEGELLALANG RICE TERRACES
LUMBUNG SARI COFFEE PLANTATION
For the coffee lovers out there, Bali is one oasis of coffee as well.
Pay a visit to Lumbung Coffee Plantation and experience their free tours inside their plantation. They also let you try the coffee and tea samples from their farms. Our favorite was the mangosteen and so before leaving the place, we made sure to buy some packs to bring with us to the Philippines.
Uluwatu is probably one of the most photographed temples in the whole of Bali. Situated on top of a very steep cliff, Uluwatu temple gives you a very soulful experience, as you feel very connected to the sky and sea.
KECAK AND FIRE DANCE
Aside from the Barong and Sari dance, the Kecak and Fire Dance is one of the famous traditional dances in Bali. We originally wanted to watch this in the Uluwatu temple because we have read that the sunset is a very beautiful backdrop against this dance-drama. However, we learned too that the organizers have the tendency to pack all the audience in the open auditorium in Uluwatu, so we opted to watch the one in Ubud inside an open air theatre.
Similar to the Barong and Sari Dance, the dance-drama is also in their native language so they provide pamphlets that contain the story line in English. The Kecak and Fire Dance, from what we understand, includes episode from the Hindu epic, Ramayana, which features its main hero, Prince Rama. However, unlike the Barong and Sari dance, the Kecak and Fire Dance does not make use of Indonesian musical instruments. Instead, the men who are seemingly part of the ensemble chant all throughout the show. You have to give them props for it because they do it very vigorously.
Aside from being a world- class hotel, W Hotel is a favorite among tourists because of its IG- worthy facade.
POTATO HEAD BEACH CLUB
MOUNT BATUR HOTSPRING
Our last destination was Tanah Lot, which means “land in the sea”. This place is famous because of its natural rock formations and its sunset.