Bali typically conjures up dreamy images of geometric rice fields, beautiful beaches, and relaxed island vibes. So, of course, I asked my coworker and friend Jess, who recently returned from Bali to share some of her must see and do things on the island - hope you enjoy her post below of what not to miss!
1. EXPLORE THE OCEAN
Bali is world renowned for the incredible coral and sea life visible off it's coasts. Coral gardens, shipwrecks taken over by creatures of the sea, and turtles are all within an easy swim or boat ride. I admit that I'm a bit freaked out by the hugeness of the ocean, but I'm so glad I did a lot of snorkeling. The ocean is something that is largely unknown to us humans and I was in complete awe of all of the fish, coral, and turtles that I was able to see. I thought about getting scuba certified while I was there, but the courses can take up to 5 days and we didn't stay that long in any of the coastal places we visited. On my next visit (oh yes, I'll be back), I do plan to allow myself the time to get certified.
2. UBUD MONKEY FOREST SANCTUARY
Okay, let's be clear here: this is a big tourist spot. Pretty much everyone that visits Ubud, Bali's artistic and cultural hub, goes to the Ubud Monkey Forest. But, there's a good reason. For a small fee, you get to wander around with hundreds of monkeys. I could have stayed here and watched these little guys all day. The sanctuary is pretty big and, if you get bored of the monkeys (you won't) there are plenty of beautiful bridges, sculptures, and areas to explore. Pro tip: cough up the $2 and buy a bunch of bananas from one of the vendors. The monkeys will love you. Also, they will try to get into your backpack.
3. Temples: Tirta Empul and Lempuyang
Bali is unusual in that it is the only Hindu province in an otherwise Muslim country. All Hindu families have a temple in their homes, and every village has their own local temple. Then there are the bigger temples that hundreds and hundreds of Balinese trek to for various ceremonies. Some of these are open to the public, some aren't. We visited quite a few temples during our 2 and a half weeks in Bali, and the first one we explored became one of my favorites. Pura Lempuyang is one of Bali’s oldest and most sacred temples. The temple offers incredible architecture and stunning views of nearby Mount Agung. It was also deserted when we visited, something that we sorely missed at all of the other temples. Trita Empul was my second favorite temple. Balinese from all over the island make the pilgrimage to Tirta Empul to spiritually cleanse themselves and cure their physical ailments by bathing in the holy springs. Bring your bathing suit and a sarong (modesty is important) and get in the water! You have to visit each of the 11 elaborately sculpted spouts to be fully cleansed and healed.
4. Cheap Massages and Tasty Food
These are no brainers. With hour-long massages for $15 at the most, you don't even have to think twice about treating yourself. Don't expect an ultra luxurious (or even completely private) atmosphere, but the massages are still relaxing and a great way to end a day full of walking all over Bali! The food in Bali is incredible! And so affordable! Even our one really fancy meal was only $20 per person. Normally, you can get a delicious and super filling meal for $3-$5. Everywhere we went, the family owned restaurants (called warungs) offered a variety of menu options, from traditional Balinese dishes, to Mexican food - we even found a yummy Chinese place!
5. Traditional Balinese Dance Performances
Ubud is your best bet for catching one of these amazing performances. There are many options for watching a dance performance in and around Ubud, sometimes up to 9 different dance shows every night. We saw the Legong, and while it is known to be a bit more understated and refined than some of the other traditional dances, it was a truly incredible feat or artistry. From the costumes and masks, to the makeup, to the live music, to the expression shown through the performer's hands and eyes - it blew us away. Other popular dances you can check out are the Kecak (Monkey Dance) and the Barong (Lion Dance).
Have you been to Bali, Indonesia before?