EDIT: I write about riding elephants in Bali. PLEASE DO NOT do this. This was 8 years ago when I was young and un-educated about animal welfare. All of the elephant venues in Bali offer elephant rides, which involve cruel training and expose the animals to stressful situations. It doesn’t matter how ‘nice and green’ the ‘Sanctuary’ they’re living in looks. Interacting with the animals is one of the country’s major tourism draws but over the years less and less tourists are doing this as they’ve come to realize it’s not all as nice as it seems. In order to make elephants submit to elephant rides and other human interactions, they are taken from their mothers when babies and forced through a horrific training process known as ‘the crush’. It involves extreme physical restraints, inflicting severe pain and withholding food and water. By the time tourists come to ride an elephant, it may look at peace, but this is because its spirit has been broken. The bullhook, used permanently, reminds the animal of human dominance.
Bali is a beautiful place.
If you look past the beggars, the market people haggling to sell you things and the litter from us foreigners on some of the beaches, there’s actually a lot to see and do.
Basically, if you’ve been to Thailand. Bali is just a nicer, smaller version of it.
The water is warm, they have kind people and some fantastic food. Not to mention it’s cheap as chips and there always seems to be great weather for sunbathing, shopping and surfing.
With everything being so cheap, it makes for an awesome vacation . What you’d pay per night for a hotel back home in New Zealand ends up paying for 4 nights at a super nice hotel in Legian or on Gili Trawagen!
Not to mention the things you can do in Bali that are well worth your money.
Many of the activities I’ve mentioned in this coming blog post I’ve done myself when I was there so I hope I can give you some ideas if you’re planning on going!
Private Day Trips – Ubud Tour
I beg anyone if you’re ever travelling to Bali, or anywhere else for that matter. Hire a driver and take a private tour or sign up for a guided tour!
I did a fantastic private day trip with Dewa Alit, an Ubud driver who’s been driving people around for over 21 years.
On the morning of our tour, I actually got the days mixed up and completely forgot about Dewa! Thankfully he was very patient and waited for my boyfriend and I while we rushed upstairs to pack a bag.
As soon as we were ready, we set off for the hours drive up to Ubud from Legian.
We went to the monkey forest, went for a walk through the hills, had lunch overlooking the rice fields, went shopping in Ubud, all while Dewa waited in the car and helped us with our bags whenever we passed him. Basically whatever we wanted to do he’d be happy to take us there.
It was quite a big day and by 7pm we were exhausted and pretty keen to go back to our hotel and rest. Dewa was planning to take us to a cultural/dance type show thing but when we said we were far too tired he completely understood and said “This is your tour, we do exactly what you want” and took us back to the hotel without any fuss.
We saw some great views on our tour and for NZD$83 (USD $54) for a full day it was an awesome price. However, you can do half day tours for $53 through Ubud if you don’t have a full day to spare.
I really enjoyed doing a private tour because we weren’t rushed, we had our drivers undivided attention, we could personalize our tour a bit and he knew exactly where to go.
The only thing I didn’t quite like was going to places that I guess drivers get ‘paid’ to take you to.
We went to a tea tasting place where we tried too many teas – and we don’t even like tea! Then we felt like we had to buy bags of it afterwards.
Also we went to this Weaving place which was slightly boring but there were many other tour groups there and we just wandered around looking at weaved pictures to buy.
Discuss with your driver before-hand what you want to see, and what sights you’d like to spend the most time at. If you have a private driver, they should always take you where you want in reason.
Other Top Rated Day Tours (I haven’t been on):
Bali Tradition Tours have amazing ratings on Trip Advisor.
They do Full Day Tours ranging from USD$79 – $94 (Per Private Tour, Not per person) and they also do Shopping Tours with Spa Stops, ohh la la. (That’d defiantly interest me if I was going with some girlfriends!)
You get to shop at the markets, go to Kintamani Village and see views of the volcano, have lunch, go to a family Balinese compound and see the traditional way of Balinese living then end your day with a one hour massage and reflexology.
Agus Bali Tours are also well talked about. Agus takes you on tours to the countryside to look at a traditional Balinese houses, Local Primary Schools, the Monkey Forest and even White Water Rafting at Ayung River. Otherwise you can design your own 9-12 hour tour for the day where you meet Agus before you start and look at a map of places you want to see. This costs about NZD $100 depending on what tour you do. Well worth it!
I went to the Monkey Forest in Ubud and that was an awesome experience!
It’s a hit with tourists as there’s monkeys literally everywhere. The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary isn’t just a tourist attractions though, it’s an important spot for research and conservation programs that the Balinese have. You can get there by a very long taxi ride from Kuta/Seminyak, hire your own car or include it on your day tour (Which is what we did)
When you get there, at the entrance there will be people selling Bananas to feed the monkeys. Generally the monkeys will not come to you if you do not bring bananas or any other food so it’s always a good idea to buy a bunch. However if you are giving bananas or food to the monkey and they come up to take it, don’t ever try and pull it away because they’ll seriously get angry. As harmless as they are, they’re not so innocent. Before you go in, make sure you bags are zipped up tight and put your sunglasses away because these little monkeys will try and grab everything and run off with it.
From what I’ve read online, it’s about NZD$5 for entrance fees.
- Location: Jalan Monkey Forest – Padangtegal – Ubud – Gianyar
If you’re a water baby and love jumping on a surfboard like my boyfriend is, you’ll love Bali!
If you’re like me, and just want to watch, the beaches have beach chairs you can hire and ice-creams to buy while you watch your significant other or read a book in the sun.
The best places to surf depends on the seasons.
They have a Wet and a Dry season with the Dry Season (May – September) being the best times to catch the big waves.
The easiest beach to surf on if you’re wanting to learn is Kuta Beach. It has a soft tide and many lifeguards on look out as the undertow can get quite strong. If you know your surfing skills the beach’s swell is easy to conqueror.
Keramas beach past Sanur, is a good beach for intermediate – expert surfers so head over there if you’re feeling pretty confident.
I didn’t go here when I was in Bali, But I wish I did!
This Sea Temple is built on the edge of a 70m high cliff projecting out into the sea. Underneath is the Uluwatu Beach which is one of Bali’s best internationally-known surfing spots.
If you don’t get a chance to head to the monkey forest, Uluwata Temple will have many monkeys for you to see but be careful as they’re notorious for snatching visitors’ belongings
I’ve had a read online, and it seems like it’s best to go in the morning just before sunset for fewer crowds, Otherwise you can head there from 6pm – 7pm to watch a Kecak dance which is performed every day at the cliff-top stage with the sun setting in the background. That’d make for some nice pictures!
- Location: Pura Uluwatu is located in Pecatu Village, Kuta sub-district, about 25km south of Kuta and it usually takes around one hour to get to and from there.
My partner and I went to Waterbom Park and we’re in our 20’s so it’s great for all ages. It’s apparently the #1 water park in Asia and has 13 rides, a bungy, pleasure pool, fish spa therapy, massages, reflexology and hair braiding.
It’s a really good family park. You have The Water Blaster where you get to fill up water balloons and fire them at your opposition, the little’s can swim in the ‘Funtastic’ pool where there’s water cannons, jets and body slides with life guards on duty the whole time.
The older kids and adults can go on the ‘Pipeline‘ which is what I did and absolutely screamed my head off. It’s a long 150m tube where you basically just plunge down in 13 seconds. Otherwise they have the Constrictor which is the longest water slide in the world at 1/4km long.
Don’t worry about bringing towels as you can hire them here. The park is open from 9am and closes at 6pm, You pretty much need the whole day but if you do get bored there’s the mall right across the road to do a bit of shopping afterwards or you can return to the park afterwards for ‘same day entry’
Adults are IDR 490.00 and children from 2 years old are IDR 325.00.
If you have a big family or you’re going with another couple you can do the VIP Package for IDR 950.00 per adult which gets you Admission, Lunch, All Rides, Gazebo, a Towel and the Express Counter. For VIP packages end an inquiry to their sales team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Birds, Birds, Birds!!
Maybe stick to the bird park if you hate snakes and reptiles.The park is divided into seven regions that recreate the natural habitats of the birds. They also do shows like the ‘Bali Rainforest’ free flight bird show and the ‘Basic Instinct’ show I’m pretty sure this is the one where I stood up and went to the front of the crowd and had big birds flying to eat food off my head. You can get pictures with the birds at ‘Guyu Guyu Corner’ and have some beautiful birds perch on your shoulders for some photo opportunities. The park and restaurant is open from 9.00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. daily.
- Location: Batubulan, on the road to Ubud. They’re just 20 minutes away from Sanur or 40 mins drive from Kuta.
Afternoon White Water Rafting & Night Safari
We booked this through our travel agent and it cost around NZD$200 each (maaaaybe)
I’m not completely sure. But I know that’s how much they’re advertising it for online.
We did our day trip through Bali Adventure Tours who have been operating for over 25 years.
For the White Water Rafting, you get picked up from your hotel around 12pm along with 6-8 other people and then head to the Ayung River.
We had lunch (which was just a buffet) and then headed down to the base camp where we listened to a short training session about White Water Rafting and got buckled up with our life jackets.
The Ayung River is the longest river in Bali, and to get to the top of it you walk down I swear over 100 steps to the rafts and oars.
It’s a long walk but it’s pretty much all downhill so not too bad. I had read online there were quite a few stairs so I was pretty prepared. (And now you are too)
The guides are really good. If you want you can take your camera with you and they put it in one of those waterproof bags so you can stop and take photos half way through.
They also have a camera man who follows the groups down the river and records heaps of stuff to make into a video at the end.
(You can buy the video or DVD at the end)
If you’ve done some extreme water rafting in the past, this would be pretty mediocre to you. This was my first time Water Rafting so I loved it. It was a great intro!
The scenery is lovely and it’s nice to just go down a river with no sounds of traffic or people around. Be prepared for it to rain at some point however and the guides to float you under little waterfalls and get you all wet!
Once the rafting is finished, they have showers so you can get changed and then you’re taken off to the Elephant Sanctuary for a Night Time Safari.
Unfortunately we ran over time so we missed the start of the Elephant show.
They’re in a big pen and the Elephants do tricks like painting and throwing a basketball into a hoop. I don’t have any great pictures of this as my Phone Camera is terrible in the dark.
I was a bit concerned about the Elephants as I always think they should be in their natural habitat, but the guide who took us for a ride on one was saying they’d never survive where they rescued them from. The park is acclaimed as the Worlds Best Elephant Park and has 2 hectares of exotic eco tourism landscaped botanical gardens, surrounded by national forest so they feel right at home.
You can even stay at the park if you wish!
They have accommodation ranging from Family Rooms to Suites where you can hire a private butler and private bar! Faaaaancy.
Staying at the park would be an experience in itself, imagine waking up and being able to watch the elephants get fed, ride them and then finish the afternoon off with food at their restaurant and then a body massage at their spa.
I’d recommend this adventure for couples, family’s with older children (Who can stay up past their bed time) and friends travelling together.
You can defiantly do it solo as you’re with a group of people the whole time.
Now I know shopping isn’t for anyone but if you have room in your bag, shop in Bali!
It’s sooo cheap.
I ended up going a bit over-board with my shopping and had to purchase another suitcase to take back home with me.
If you’re a backpacker, someone on a budget or just looking for some cheap souvenirs, the markets are always a good place to start.
Nothing ever has a ‘set’ price so you have to do some bargaining!
If you’re not very confident at it, act like you are. When I went to Bali, the shop keepers always seemed to ask us if this was “Our first time in Bali” we laughed and acted like this was our 3rd time hoping they’d think we were experts and not rip us off.
Whatever price they say, half it and then work your way up from there.
Say they want to sell you a bag for NZD $50 – IDR 441, 550 than half that price down to around IDR 220, 700 and work your way up from there.
Usually if they don’t like your price they’ll say “No no no! Too cheap” and wave their hands at you. However, if you walk away they’ll run after you and say “ok ok two hundred rupiah it is”.
Shop keepers hate to loose a sale so if they let you walk away, then you know for next time that the price you bargained was actually far too low. Sometimes if you only have a certain amount of money, just show them all you have and they’ll be more tempted to just take it instead of wasting time trying to get a better price.
If you’re wanting to buy a few pairs of sunnies or some watches (Let’s be honest, they’ll break at some point so you may as well get a few) then see if the shop keeper can give you a deal which they’ll always want to do.
The number #1 rule I suggest you follow, is always pay the amount you agreed on. If the shop keeper has accepted your price than don’t suddenly say “oh actually, no I don’t want it anymore” and walk off. It’s very rude to them and they’ll be very pissed off they just spent ages haggling with you for a couple of t-shirts when they could have been haggling other customers.
The best places for shopping are the boutiques in Seminyak if you want items that are more ‘high end’ and designer. Also the shopping malls in Kuta (Discovery Shopping Mall & Mal Bali Galeria)
You’ll find brands you recognize and prices that are much more realistic. The malls also have the westernized food like Burger King, Starbucks and Planet Hollywood if you get over noodles and fish.
Bali also have Art Markets if you’re into that sort of thing. You’ll find skirts and scarfs and wooden items to take home at the Ubud Art Market on the Jalan Raya Ubud Main Road or head to the longest standing market in Gianyar – Sukawati Art Market.
This is one other thing I never got to do but everyone recommended it to me before I went!
It’s located at Ayana Resort over looking the Indian ocean and it’s absolutely beautiful. It gets busy at sunset and I’d defiantly try and make a booking before turning up. It’s not a place to turn up in your flip-flops. They have a smart dress code so none of your Bintang singlets will be allowed. They open at 4pm and you can make a reservation through email@example.com
You can also have dinner here and if you’re feeling very very generous, book a private table for you and your significant other for NZD $210 per person and upwards. They set up candle lit dinners with flowers and a 4 course menu, an extravagant dinner with Balinese dancers or have dinner on their private jetty with soft music and three lobster dishes. I obviously didn’t do this because I’m always broke haha!
Gili Trawagen – Sunset Bar
If you’re staying on Gili Trawagen, head over to the west side of the island and check out the beautiful sun set.
It’s best to get there a bit early so you can grab a drink at the small bar and find a table.
There’s 2 sunset bars – I went to Paradise Sunset Bar which is located on South Beach. The service is a bit meh for drinks etc… but you really only go there for the view!
Gili Trawagen – Biking
It’s really easy to hire a bike on Gili Island. You’ll find many places hiring out bikes for cheap.
To bike around the whole island it takes about an hour. The only thing to remember though is if you’re doing a complete loop, there will be a part where you have to push your
bike through the sand and sweat your face off like I did haha.
Make sure to bring some water and wear a Bikini under your shorts because you’ll want to stop for a swim I’m sure! Continue reading