We just came back from Bali about 2 weeks ago. All I can say is, why did we wait so long to go? Everything I had imagined Bali to be came true for me, and there were others I hadn't even expected. I've been missing Bali since we came back, especially Ubud...the smiling people, the Ubud restaurants, the rich and verdant tapestry of rice terraces, the spiritual culture, the beauty and serenity of waking up in the morning and looking out at the rice paddies from our balconies. We're already talking about returning soon.
In spite of the ever-present humidity and heat (even in Ubud), the mosquitoes (they loved me, my husband never got bitten, he said just drink a lot of Bintang), getting tricked exchanging money in Sanur (we got our money back in the end but the experience shook us up a little bit), our mishaps and discomfort were so minor compared to the awesome time we had in Bali.
We spent 16 days in Bali, 9 in Ubud and 7 in Sanur. Before our trip, a few of our friends who had been there before said that 16 days were too much, but it wasn't enough for us. We got to do a lot of relaxing which is something we always try to do but don't always get to do on our vacation.
We stayed at Tegal Sari and Green Field Bungalows. In hindsight, I'm happy to have stayed at Green Field. I had booked Tegal 4-5 months earlier but because of their popularity, I couldn't get all our nights there. Ended up liking them both, Tegal is rustic (we stayed in the super deluxe wooden room), and Green Field is more ornate, but both have wonderful views of the rice paddies. Green Field was a little rough around the edges, but their staff was so sweet and accommodating. Their egg Jaffle (kind of like a Egg McMuffin but much better tasting and not greasy), and banana pancake for breakfast was the best we had in Bali. Reminded us of the banana roti in Chiang Mai. We'll definitely stay at both hotels next time.
Ubud had many great restaurants. We used tips from Lonely Planet, not all were good, but here are our favorites:
- Casa Luna, great international food. We ate there 3 times.
- Warung Mina, Jl Gunung Sari 2, great Ikan Bakar (grilled fish) and grilled prawns
- Warung Taman, Jl Sri Wedari no 3, best seafood Nasi Goreng or fried rice, medium spicy was pretty spicy for me, and fresh stir fried veggies. We even tried frog leggs fried in butter but it was ok.
- Lotus restaurant, good food, great lotus pond.
- Cafe Mocha, the best cafe latte with sample-sized pastries. We were there every night before going back to our hotel.
Laundry service - very cheap and super clean. It's called Super Laundry Service. Coming out of Tegal Sari, turn left, walk a few steps, laundry near circle K. Circle K is also good to pick up cheap water, drinks, snacks.
We saw the Legong dance, would recommend it. We bought $8 tickets from the ticket sellers on the street. Make sure to see it at Ubud palace.
Shopping - lots of arts and crafts in Ubud. I'd recommend buying what you need here. We didn't go to Kuta or shop in other areas but Sanur beach stores didn't really have much.
Touts - many on the streets. Men asking "transport, transport?", women and children selling tickets to shows. I thought I would be annoyed from being asked too often, but I wasn't. They were just people trying to earn a little money to feed their families. I found that politely saying "no thank you" or just shaking my head and smiling, I got a smile back almost every single time, even if they were disappointed that I said no...that's the spirit of the Balinese people.
Dogs - lots of mangy, sad-looking dogs on the streets of Ubud. It will be heart-breaking for those who love dogs. It was difficult to see even for a non pet-owner like me.
Very relaxing, our favorite activity was to rent bicycles on the street (cheaper than on the beach) and rode along the beach every day, or rode to restaurants, and markets. We didn't go into Kuta, did try seafood dinner at Jimbaran Bay one night. Lobster was just ok, cost 2-3 times more than California. But the ambience was worth it, sitting on the sand having seafood dinner with our favorite drinks, listering to the waves, having the musicians play our favorite tunes...can't be beat, you have to try it once! Make sure you give yourself enough time to get there, traffic was horrendous for us, it took about 45 mn from Sanur so we kind of missed the sunset.
- Kayu Manis/Jl. Tankadan no. 6, excellent fusion food, good bread with cream cheese & peppercorn spread. Opens at 6:00 pm
We ate mostly around our little hotel, Sari Sanur, at the following beach front restaurants:
- Bennos restaurant -- great grilled fish or seafood kebabs
- Bonsai cafe -- good grilled tuna fillet, french fries, good cold juices like avocado and orange/pineapple (I had 2-3 juices a day in Bali!), satay plate is good, comes on wooden tray, very cheap and popular there. Only place on that stretch of the beach with free Wi-Fi if you eat or drink there.
- Mango Cafe
Reputable money changer with security guard in front -- Pt. Bali Maspintjinra (on main street which is Danau Tamblingan no. 18). Try to have crisp bills if you can, and uncreased. We had a creased $100 bill and got $50 exchange rate for it. They have 3 rates for US$, $100, $50 and $25.
I'm glad to have shared our experiences of Bali. I think you'd have to be there to fully experience it for yourself. If you do, I hope you'll come away from Bali with a different view on life. I came back to southern California not only rested, but a little kinder and a little more patient.