One of the temples around Uluwatu
Cycling in Ubud
Seafood in Jimbaran
Shops by the roadside along Legian, Seminyak and Kuta
South Bali was hot, humid, noisy and crowded. Did I enjoy it? Absolutely. Will I go there again? Probably not.
South Bali felt to me like a tourist’s place. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a tourist myself. But I’ve always loved traveling because I like discovering culture, and the best feeling in the world is when you find yourself wandering in a place where locals are going about their daily business and you’re just observing in amazement. Here in South Bali, it seemed like everything was catered for tourists. The beach was filled with tourists, the shops sold imported things, and the restaurants served hamburgers. Most of the shops sold overpriced souvenirs and it felt like a tropical Westernized city, in a way. Which is fine if that’s what you were hoping for, but I was personally looking forward to see the real authentic Bali. The traffic was horrendous too.
I wanted to discover this part of Bali on foot, so I made a point to walk along the stretch of Seminyak, Legian and Kuta, ending my walk at Kuta beach. The shops were interesting, and there were plenty of art galleries displaying works from local Balinese artists to some more established European ones. There were nice cafes open all day, and I spent a good day going in and out of shops with a bottled ice tea in hand. For every six shops I passed I was bound to find a massage parlor, and for as cheap as USD20 you can get an hour’s worth of good, Balinese massage. Which I did. A couple of times.
A common misconception of Bali is that it is famous for its beaches. It is not. The beaches are average, and truth be told you can get better ones in Malaysia. But the appeal was definitely there. We had dinner at Jimbaran, a famous place to have seafood right by the shore of the beach, and the energy was quite good. We went to see the Kecak dance at Uluwatu, which was a pretty good show, and later visited the many temples around Nusa Dua. If you put aside the fact that there were herds of people visiting that place all day everyday, you could imagine that once upon a time, Bali was a mystical place with high cliffs and temples in a faraway land.
A good way to explore the more local side of Bali would be on bicycle around Ubud. The route takes you through local villages, paddy fields and temples. It was good fun, and the weather was sunny with a chilly wind, which makes the perfect condition for a bike ride. Most of the routes were downhill, so I wasn’t all sweaty and disgusting by the end of it.
Overall, I could see why Bali would appeal to a lot of people. It has the wonderment of an exotic place with the convenience for all kinds of tourists. Aside from the nightlife, which was a bit too wild and noisy for my liking, I quite enjoyed discovering it, while hotel-hopping every single night. It certainly brings a lot to the table in terms of what you can do on vacation at a single island.
Where to Eat: There are plenty of restaurants offering both local and Western delicacies. Try Flapjacks if you’re looking for really good pancakes, both sweet and savory. If you walk into a local diner, try the fish satays which are really amazing. Food prices can range from as cheap as USD4 (local places) to pretty steep (Hard Rock Café, Kuta Beach). If you’re having seafood at Jimbaran, do NOT overlook those small hawker stalls selling grilled corn. They are out of this world!