Bali: An unpopular opinion

I’ve always avoided Bali as a holiday, for no other reason than it’s full of Aussies and I have always steered clear of places ‘everyone’ is going.

Growing up, Bali was the place you went to get wasted at schoolies, or where ‘bintang loving bogans’ united to drink cheap booze and get tattoos.

I was never really too fussed.

Over the past few years, Instagram has transformed Bali’s image, and a new side to Bali is gaining momentum. A health food haven, yoga-filled, massage and relaxation heaven is the most common ‘Bali’ vision you’ll see when flicking through your social media nowadays. I’ll admit, it had me intrigued…

So I booked a Bali holiday along with the more than one million Aussies that do the same every year. Here are my thoughts.

SEMINYAK

I was completely underwhelmed by Seminyak. Granted I did pick the wrong spot to stay. We were at Grandmas which was a five minute cab ride from the main strip. We were on the ‘Kuta’ side not the ‘cool’ side…my bad.

A short stroll from the hotel and Seminyak beach was on our doorstep…in one word… gross. Horrible brown gritty sand, old falling apart umbrellas, and unappealing venues. No thankyou. One of the ‘hot’ Instagram spots you see is at this beach. You know the one with all the bright umbrellas for sunset? I couldn’t believe how grunge and gross its surrounds were.

How La Plancha looks on social media is very different to reality.
How La Plancha looks on social media is very different to reality.

I was excited to try the food here, but found a lot of the places I was recommended were again, underwhelming. Sisterfields is a health food café that is raved about by pretty much every Instagrammer that has been to Bali. Sure, the food was lovely. But I could have eaten the same thing in Surry Hills, Sydney. I go on holidays to try new things and immerse myself in the culture. Café Organic, another raved about spot – same deal.

Breakfast at Sisterfields.
Breakfast at Sisterfields.

There were a few spots I did like. I had the best Indonesian food of my entire holiday at Kaum, which is actually the restaurant above Potato Head ( another ‘hot spot’ which I found very meh.) It was impressive to arrive to, but if I turn up to a beach club on a Monday and am told the wait for a sun-bed is 95 people deep? Just no.

Dinner however was divine, and I highly recommend the banquet so you try a bit of everything. If you book for sunset, they’ll serve you drinks on the private balcony and then bring you in after dark for your meal – very romantic.

For drinks afterwards, La Favella was one of the coolest bars I have ever been too. Balinese? No…but VERY cool.

UBUD

I immediately felt better when we arrived into the outskirts of Ubud. The rice fields, the tradition, the culture – now I was on holiday in Indonesia! We stayed in a great resort with rice paddie views; Greenfields. Most of the advice I saw about Ubud was to stay  out of town, but we loved being within walking distance to the action.

The morning view from our rice field view room at Greenfields.
The morning view from our rice field view room at Greenfields.

Yoga Barn is very popular in Ubud, and while I don’t love yoga the food and ambiance at this place, while a tad on the wanky side, was lovely.

For exercise I went in search of Pilates instead, and I wasn’t disappointed with Ubud Pilates.The room was divine, the class challenging and the teacher, Asa so welcoming. A drop in class is about AUD $20.

Ubud is the perfect spot to base yourself and travel out to things. We found ourselves steering away from a lot of the more ‘popular’ activities purely because we didn’t want to be amongst the crowds. The sunrise hike sounded interesting, but a 2am wakeup and climbing in the dark with hundreds of others just didn’t rock my boat. We did however take the well beaten track to the Tegalalang rice terraces, and that was truly magical. Yes, it was full of tourists but if you walked in and around enough, you could escape them.

Tegalalang rice terraces are breathtaking, especially when you get deeper and deeper in, and away from the tourists.
Tegalalang rice terraces are breathtaking, especially when you get deeper and deeper in, and away from the tourists.

I had many a massage while I was in Ubud, at AUS $17 dollars for a full hour, how can you say no? The best one I had in the area was actually at Greenfields resort.

Our other mistake while in this patch of Bali was taking a hotel-organised-tour to a waterfall, they took us to Tegenungan. Which honestly, I would just give it a miss. It was so packed with tourists, the once I am sure –  lovely waterfall – was just tacky, touristy and full of people. We were later told it’s a two hour drive to get to the more remote beautiful waterfalls we had our heart set on. The other place to miss is the elephant caves. I can’t believe I actually got out of the car for this, yes, it was that bad. There was actually literally…nothing to see.

KLUNGKUNG

To escape the tourists we went up into the mountains and stayed at Bella Kita Mountain resort. When you first arrive, it’s gobsmacking – it’s truly stunning and in the most amazing spot overlooking the jungle and sea. However you soon realise how isolated you are up there. There is one place for food…the resort. We were only there two nights, so it was fine, and gave us a chance to relax and rejuvenate, however if you wanted to actually get out and see and eat and do things – this place isn’t ideal. We did go on a hike up the road behind our resort to the top of the mountain which was great, but that’s literally the only outside entertainment in the area.

The pool at Bella Kita. There is also a pool guests can use at the nearby Monkey Bar.
The pool at Bella Kita. There is also a pool guests can use at the nearby Monkey Bar.

ULUWATU

It turns out I saved the best until last.

Uluwatu was a dream, I absolutely loved it here – probably because it reminded me of home with its beachy, surfy, relaxed vibes. We stayed two nights at De Sapphire Cliff Villas, which it turns out was in a great location. We were right down the road from Single Fin, the must be sunset spot. Cascading down the side of the cliff underneath Single Fin’s awesome bar, is a mis match of shops, bars, restaurants and surfing shops. It’s fantastic. When you get to the bottom, you follow those in front of you through the secret entrance to Suluban beach, which is such a special experience.

Sipping on cocktails at Single Fin.
Sipping on cocktails at Single Fin.
A view back at the beach beneath Single Fin. You have to crawl through the rock to get here.
A view back at the beach beneath Single Fin. You have to crawl through the rock to get here.

By far the highlight of the trip however, was the last night of our holiday – which we spent at Suarga Padang Padang. I will remember our night there forever. At $530 a night, you pay for the luxury of this place, but boy is it worth it. Suarga (which means heaven) is a sustainable eco resort. When you arrive, the manager explains how and why that is with a personal tour over a welcome drink. She also talks you through your room and all of its special bits and pieces. The design of the resort is stunning, especially the main hub at the front that houses the restaurant, pool and sunset drinks spot. We had a delicious meal and romantic evening at their in house restaurant Dugong.

The little verandah on our room which was an 'Ulu pavilion.'
The little verandah on our room which was an ‘Ulu pavilion.’
The bathroom in our room. Such a dream.
The bathroom in our room. Such a dream.

JIMBARAN

I had no expectations of Jimbaran. We dropped in on our way to the airport for dinner, and I was blown away. We had the best seafood of my life right on the beach. What a lovely little spot! This area gets a bad wrap for its glitzy up market hotels that are all part of international chains, but if you want a delicious seafood meal and a sunset on the beach, it’s bloody fantastic.

So, will I go back?

I loved aspects of Bali, but if I am being real, there is also a lot I wasn’t really into. I would come back to Uluwatu and maybe Ubud, but I think I would probably skip the others and try out the Gili islands instead next time. I never need to see Seminyak again that’s for sure…

I had an amazing holiday because I had fantastic company, divine weather and a few highlights to add to my forever memories. But as a travel lover, the crazy amounts of tourists and the extreme ‘westernisation’ left me feeling a little bit disappointed.

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