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If you’ve never been to Bali,
start here.

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Hands up if you’ve ever had this Bali conversation?  *waves hand around in the air madly*

 

Me (or, I guess, you):  Oh, I do have some holidays booked!  I’m off to Bali next month!

Person who has never been to Bali or may have once done a weekend in Kuta 18 years ago, probably named Susan: *scrunches up their nose* oh Bali?  Really?  OMG, I can’t believe how dirty that place is and all those people who won’t leave you alone trying to sell you shit, oh why would you go there?!  I have no desire to ever go there, what a hole.

Me/You:  *smiles and walks away slowly, resisting the urge to beat them over the head while screeching ‘you have no idea what you’re talking about, Susan!’ with the Seafolly bikini you just unwrapped*

 

WHY ALL THE HATE, HATERS?  Bali-as-a-holiday-desination sure does seem to bring some opinions out of the woodwork, and I’m not sure why you have such strong ones Susan, because your last holiday was to Wollongong which TBH, I think sounds boring as shit.  Bali seems to be more polarising than tequila – you either love it or hate it.

Ok yes, Bali does have some not-so-great-parts.  Kuta can be a bit rough and touristy, and yes, the pollution on the beach in Seminyak can sometimes make Port Phillip bay look like Bora Bora.  (But get off your high horse, Melbourne, because we have the Docklands, which I think was actually added to the dictionary in 2013 as the definition of ‘Embarrassment To Tourism’.)

But if you’re going to Bali and judging it only by it’s tourist cover, then you’re missing the point.  The ‘people will harass you to buy stuff ALL THE TIME’ notion is not even 1/10th of as big deal in the flesh.  The cramped, smelly streets are actually kinda cool and quaint, and are home to some legitimately great food.  And in closing, members of the jury, did you know that you can get beer for $1?!? #TheDefenseRests

There is So. Bloody. Much. beyond the Bintang singlet-ed streets of the touristy hot spots.  Like, literally the rest of the country. Head north to the rice padded oasis of Ubud, take a boat to one of the seventy-batrillion islands, or you could take my advice*, and head south to Uluwatu.  In traditional Balinese, ‘Uluwatu’ means ‘Em’s Happy Place’, and what a coincidence, eh?

(*Generally, I don’t recommend ‘taking Em’s advice’ because once that involved erroneously being convinced I could fit an entire outdoor setting in the back of my old Mazda, but this advice is pretty solid, promise.)

 

But whhhhyyyyy?  (Sweet Lord, you are a whiney bunch today…)  In short, Uluwatu is the perfect little slice of Bali heaven, and if you’ve ever been kinda nervous because people like Susan keep filling your head with stories of DIRTY CRAMPED STREETS! then it’s the ultimate first date to get to know Bali before you decide if you’ll go steady.  (Spoiler alert: you’ll fall in love, I’ll get to say TOLD YOU SO and then we’ll probably be sharing Jetstar deals for the rest of eternity as we plan our annual trip.)

The beaches are spectacular.  Legit tropical island holiday spectacular – the kind you may be thinking Bali doesn’t have if you’ve only camped out at the resorts in Seminyak.  Instagram isn’t prepared for the beach game you’re about to bring.

Everything is cheaper.  And in a country that’s kinda known for being cheap trick, that doesn’t seem possible, but I promise you, all truth.  The salt scrub and full body massage that seemed a steal at $50 further up north can easily be obtained for 35 smackeroos, exchange rate pending, obvs.

And everything is chill.  Oh so much more chill.  That ‘Balinese Time’ that you hear about?  Even more so in Uluwatu.  People will get to it when they get to it, and you don’t even mind because the only thing you have to do anyway is finish reading your book on the pristine sand and wait for the fishing boats to come ashore with the latest, freshest catch of the day that they’ll cook right there and then for you, and would you like a cold beer to wash down those giant prawns?  (Yes.  The answer is always, yes.)

 

BINGIN BEACH

SAL’S SECRET SPOT

SAL’S SECRET SPOT

SAL’S SECRET SPOT

BINGIN BEACH

KELLY’S WARUNG, BINGIN BEACH

BINGIN BEACH

BINGIN BEACH

BINGIN BEACH

BINGIN BEACH

BINGIN BEACH / EL KABRON BEACH CLUB

EL KABRON BEACH CLUB

EL KABRON BEACH CLUB

EL KABRON BEACH CLUB

EL KABRON BEACH CLUB

SUNDAYS BEACH CLUB

SINGLE FIN / BLUE POINT BEACH

BLUE POINT BEACH

PEDANG PEDANG BEACH

PADANG PADANG BEACH

ULUWATU TEMPLE

PADANG PADANG BEACH

 

Here’s some tried and tested and never wanted to leave recommendations to start you off:

Stay at…

Sal’s Secret Spot:  Tucked away quite literally off the beaten track, this gorgeous boutique hotel has just eight bungalows meaning you’ll never have to fight for a pool lounger.  Outdoor showers and staff that couldn’t be more helpful – I mean, they found me a cake on my birthday!  Request a room near the pool and keep the coconuts coming…

The Brothers Villa: A little less luxe than Sal’s, but it’s location can’t be beat.  Walking distance to a massage parlour, real legit could-be-in-Melbourne coffee and Padang Padang beach.  Their pizza is ridiculously good if you CBF-ed leaving the pool to get dinner.  Have heard rad things about Pink Coco across the road as well…

 

Laze around in the sun…

Padang Padang Beach: Seen Eat Pray Love?  Good.  Then you’re already familiar with this little gem.  Pack the lotion and a book and don’t ask any more questions.  (Ok, one more, and the answer is yes.  The water is as spectacular as it looks.)

Bingin Beach: Look, it’s not the easiest place to get to (think: eleventy billion stairs down the side of a cliff) but absolutely bloody worth it for the best surf in the land.  And don’t even think about leaving before dark.  Wait for the local fisherman to arrive back – they’ll pop out some Bunning’s chairs and tables, let you pick what takes your fancy out of the day’s catch and cook it right there and then for you on the beach.  It’s not often that I’ll call seafood life changing, but it seems appropriate here.

Sundays Beach Club: Full disclosure.  You have to pay to join the party at Sundays.  But it’s only about $15 AUD, ($30, but you get half back in food and drink vouchers) and for that you get a cable car ride down the cliff, full use of snorkels and flippers, and a sneaky peek a the luxe resort that Jen Hawkins got married in.  The massages are slightly exxy for Bali prices, but it’s in a villa overlooking the waves, so shut up and just take my money already.  Stay late and roast marshmellows on the beach after dark.  YOU EVEN GET A BEAN BAG.  #NeverLeaving

 

Eat and drink…

El Kabron Beach Club: Holy sweet lord.  I didn’t know they even MADE sunsets like this.  Boasting the most ridiculous infinity pool you have ever seen, this beach club by day/restaurant by night serves probably the best cocktail and tapas this side of Ibiza. Pro tip: get the squid ink pasta and thank me later.  Another pro tip: Bring a cover up, because your bikini won’t suffice for the slightly fancier dinner situation.

Single Fin: This place is a bloody institution.  Think The Espy in St Kilda, but with more surfers and less trams.  On weekend’s, everyone in the south of Bali descends to drink beers and watch the sunset – so get there early if you want a good balcony seat.  This place becomes party central on the weekends, so if you’re after something a tad more chill, wait for a weeknight.

 

Like what you see?  Think it would look rad on your lounge room wall in a ‘oh, yeah, that’s from Uluwatu, you should totally go, and I have some great recommendations for you’ kinda way?  Well the great news is that this post is about 33% shoppable, and you can buy some of these prints very right over here.  Run, don’t walk.  (Oh. Wait. We have slower internet speeds than Kenya.  How about you moderately and patiently navigate your way here then, and I’ll boil the kettle while I wait.)

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