The most touristy island in Indonesia is famous for its surfer vibe beaches, mystic Hindu temples, yoga and meditation retreats, exotic nature and endless rice fields. Packed with tourists and expats, Bali is very developed and is a must go place if you are looking for an exotic destination with all the western comfort.
How to get there
Denpasar Airport has direct flights to a wide range of destinations in Asia, Australia, Middle East, Asia and Europe. Low cost airlines such as AirAsia, Lion Air, Garuda and Tiger Air also connect the island with the main cities in Southeast Asia. There are also daily ferries and speed boats from Java and Lombok to Bali.
How to move around
Renting a motorbike gives you freedom to explore the island for as little as 4€ per day. There are also Travel agencies organizing tours to the main temples and sightseeing attractions. The blue taxis are everywhere in the island, you can either bargain a set price for the journey or ask them to run the meter counter, which is usually cheaper. Uber was popular, but it has been recently banned in certain areas like the airport and Ubud.
Where to stay
I choose Ubud as my base camp to explore the island and stayed in one of the cheapest hostels in town called Jukung Hostel. A bed in a 6-bedroom aircon dorm with hot shower costs 5€ per night including pancake breakfast. The place is beautifully decorated and peaceful, the staff is super friendly and helpful.
Where to eat
Ubud offers a wide range of healthy restaurants and western cuisine. If you have a small budget like me, I would recommend the local warungs where you can eat for less than 3€ per meal. 9 Angels is an open vegan buffet where you pay yourself according to how much you take.
What to see
The Ubud Monkey forest is a preserved area that has a philosophical mission of creating peace and harmony for visitors from all over the world. This nature reserve has a complex of three Hindu temples from the 14th century. The temples play an important role in the spiritual life of the local community and are only open for prayers.
Pura Dalem Padangtegal, also known as the Great Temple of Death or Main Temple, is a worship dedicated to Shiva. Pura Beji is the personification of the goddess Gangga and contains a Holy spring used for spiritual and physical cleansing and purification. The last one, Pura Prajapati, is used to worship Hyang Widhi in personification of Prajapati, the lord of creatures and protector.
The Ubud Monkey Forest is a conservation area that contains more than a hundred-different species of trees and more than six hundred macaques divided into five different groups, each occupying different territories. The park staff feeds the monkeys sweet potato three times a day, providing them with their main source of food in the park, alongside with the bananas, peanuts and other snacks given by tourists.
I visited the rice terraces of Jatiluwih village and Tegallalang. The first ones are in the north of the island, near Mount Batukaru, and have a cool climate. They are UNESCO cultural heritage and are way less crowded than the touristy Tegallalang.
Jatiluwih rice fields
Tegallalang rice terrace
I visited six temples during the 8 days I spent in Ubud.
Pura Kehen is a 13th century Royal Bangli temple set on the foot of a wooded hill. It is divided into three areas and it’s terraced up the hillside, with a set of steps leading to the beautifully decorated entrance. The first courtyard has a huge banyan tree and features an 11-story tower dedicated to the God that protects the temple. On the second level there are thrones for the Hindu trinity: Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu. Alongside Pura Kehen you can find carvings and stone statues representing characters from the Indian epic Ramayana. The entrance fee is 30.000 rupia.
Pura Ulun Danu Beratan is a major Shaivite water temple located on the shores of Lake Bratan in the mountains near Bedugul. The lake is known as the Lake of Holy Mountain due to the fertility of this area. Located 1200 m above sea level, it has a cold tropical climate.Built in the 17th century, this temple is used for offerings ceremony to the Balinese water, lake and river goddess Dewi Danu. The 11-storey pelinggih meru in the complex is dedicated to Shiva and his consort Parvathi. The entrance fee is 30.000 rupia but is easy to sneak in by the side doors of the site.
Pura Tirta Empul is a Hindu Balinese water temple famous for its holy spring water, where Balinese Hindus go to for ritual purification. The temple was founded in the 10th century and its dedicated to Vishnu. It consists of 3 yards, one of them containing 2 pools with 30 showers. Changing facilities and sarongs are available for rent to those who want to do the purification ritual in the pools. The entrance fee is 10.000 rupia.
Gunung Kawi, best known as the Rocky Temple, is an 11th century funerary complex located across either side of the Pakerisan river. It comprises 10 rock-cut sanctuaries carved into a cliff wall, five on each side of the river. They are dedicated to the King and queens of the Udayana dynasty. It also costs 10.000 rupia to get in the complex.
Goa Gajah, or Elephant Cave, is a small sanctuary built in the 9th century, distinguished by the creatures and demons carved into the rock at the cave entrance. There is a bathing place on the site that was built to ward off evil spirits. The fee to get in is 10.000 rupias.
Pura Tanah Lot is an ancient Hindu pilgrimage temple located on a large offshore rock. It was built on the 16th century and the main deity of the temple is the sea god Dewa Baruna. The temple is one of seven sea temples around the Balinese coast. Each of the sea temples was established within eyesight of the next to form a chain along the south-western coast. The site is really beautiful and a great spot to enjoy the sunset. However, it is really crowded and quite expensive to get in: 50.000 rupias.