After about a month of traveling, we found ourselves in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia waiting for our visa to Myanmar to be approved. It was not improved in time for our flight to Myanmar (which we just lost because it was too late to change the flight) so we needed a plan B. As luck would have it, there were good prices for flights to Bali so off we went!
Glenn had been to Bali a few years earlier and loved it but he was not there for very long so we made the decision to stay in Bali for two weeks to really enjoy it and to relax.
We booked two nights in Kuta (the main city next to Denpasar Airport) to start and planned to decide on the rest of the nights as we went. Eventually we decided to spend our entire 2 weeks in Kuta. It is a great city with a ton of restaurants and shopping, excellent hotel deals and a great beach. In the future we would like to come back to Bali to experience more of it but for this trip we were perfectly happy in Kuta and the surrounding areas.
Leaving the airport:
We arrived in Bali in the late evening (about 10pm). The hotel we had booked with did not provide airport pickup so we just took the first taxi driver we found, mostly because we were tired and just wanted to get to our hotel.
I DO NOT recommend this. We were very overcharged.
We were charged 350,000 Indonesian Rupiah, that is about $29.
During the rest of our time in Bali the average taxi in Kuta cost between $5-$10.
At the airport someone also helped us with our bags (and by that I mean he took our cart without asking and took it to the taxi so we really had no choice but to follow him). You must pay this person as well though not much. We gave him $1 and he was very happy with it.
US dollars are worth much more to the locals than their own currency so be sure to bring some small bills with you.
For our first two nights we booked at Sayang Maha Mertha Hotel
This hotel was lovely but nothing special. The rooms were clean and comfortable.
The air conditioning worked well. Our room had a nice balcony (though there was nothing really to look at. The bathroom was dated but clean and had a large bathtub which was nice. There was also a nice TV and DVD player in the room (great for playing the bootleg movies you can buy all over Kuta, 5 DVDS for $1)
The hotel did have a pool, though it was not as nice as the pictures made it seem.
The wifi worked fine but the signal was much stronger in public areas than in the rooms.
A very simple breakfast was included: toast, butter, jam and juice or fresh fruit.
The location is great, just 2 blocks from the beach.
After two nights there, we decided to move to another hotel. The room was a bit nicer than the last hotel. It also had a pool and good wifi. It did not include breakfast. The location was nice, not far from the beach and some good restaurants. Nice option.
Then we finally hit the jackpot! Glenn found an amazing deal on Agoda.com (now our go-to hotel booking site). 10 nights at the 4* hotel Bali Kuta Resort for only $400 (total), thats only $40 per night for 2 people including breakfast!
This hotel lived up to the reviews and photos and more.
At check-in we were offered a welcome drink of nice cool fresh fruit juice and were assisted with our bags. We were also given a room upgrade when we mentioned that we were on our honeymoon (score!).
Our room was so amazing!
We had a lovely bedroom and bathroom
A living room
A kitchen area
And and amazing balcony overlooking the pool
Breakfast was included every morning and the breakfast was amazing. It was a large buffet of western and asian foods served in the open restaurant on the second floor overlooking the pool. There was also a made to order omelet station. (sorry the photo is dark)
This hotel also had the most amazing pool, including a swim-up bar.
Many of our days we just spent sitting moving between the pool and our balcony. We still needed a bit of a rest after our busy time in trekking in Nepal
In addition to the pool, the beach was only a 15 minute walk away!
The beach is the reason you come to Bali and the reason you stay. The water is clean and beautiful. The beach is simply a wonderful place to be. It is also the perfect place to catch a beautiful sunset.
You will have to deal with vendors along the beach selling sarongs or jewelry or hair braiding. This can get a bit irritating but we found that most of them will move along after hearing a polite “no thank you”.
The best of both worlds:
A few days into our trip we discovered the best thing ever. Along the beach there was a free swimming pool! All you have to do is order a drink and you can use the lounge chairs and swimming pool for as long as you want with an amazing view of the beach and the ocean. It is called HQ Headquarters and is a MUST for your next trip to Bali.
Food in Bali is amazing! There is a huge variety of food and restaurants available at every price point. Actually, we were shocked by the prices as we had expected Bali to be much more expensive that it actually was.
Of course the very touristy restaurants (i.e. Bubba Gump Shrimp Company) were very ‘expensive’ with main dishes approximately $10.
However, at the local restaurants it is very easy to find many different main dishes for $1-$4 and the food is excellent!
Like this $2 chicken satay
Be sure to get off the main streets a bit. In Kuta, the Main Street and area is Kuta square. There are tons of shops and restaurants here and the prices are cheap compared with home, but if you want to find the amazing local restaurants with the best prices, get off this street. Luckily you don’t have to go far.
The best restaurant we found was led Gong Corner on Poppies Lane II (just a 10-20 minute walk from Kuta Square – depending on what end you are starting from)
Here is some of the menu
(Note: $1 = approx 12,000 Indonesian Rupiah)
A few days we also made food in our room (since we had a lovely kitchen area in our room). This served two purposes: we saved a bit of money and it allowed us to not leave our hotel and just keep enjoying the pool and our balcony.
I highly recommend this when you are traveling. Our kitchen had a sink, refrigerator and water boiler so we had food to make sandwiches, salads and ramen noodles.
We also bought the supplies to make our own cocktails to enjoy on our balcony which was way cheaper than always buying them from the hotel bar.
There are some really wonderful things to buy in Bali, traditional souvenirs, cloths, batik fabric and paintings, jewelry, etc. However, we did not do much shopping because the shopping experience is not a nice one. As you walk past the various stands, vendors and shops everyone gets in your face trying to get you to buy something. If you make any effort at all to look at something or ask a price they latch on and are very unwilling to let you go. Some even touched our arms as we walked past to get our attention. We did not like that and ended up not buying much.
We were lucky though. We came upon a grocery store about 1 block from the beach which sold most of the same souvenir type things as the stands with a much more pleasant shopping experience.
Renting a Scooter:
A scooter is a great way to get around Bali. This is how most locals get around and they are very inexpensive. We rented one for a day and it was $7 for the entire day!
I do have to warn you, please be careful. Scooters are not exactly safe, especially if you do not know how to drive one.
We rent scooters a lot when we travel but Glenn has a motorcycle license and he drives a motorcycle back home instead of a car so he is very experienced.
I sit on the back because I would be a disaster driving a scooter.
Also, PLEASE WEAR A HELMET. Most tourists and locals will not be wearing a helmet but that does not mean it is safe. Wear a helmet. Protect your head, it is the only one you have.
I also recommend wearing a light long sleeved jacket or sweater when you drive. This is mostly to protect you from the sun and you will not feel hot once you start to drive.
The roads in and around Kuta are in good condition and the road signs are excellent so even as a tourist you should be fine driving around the area.
We drove down to Nusa Dua (the next nearest city to the south of Kuta. Renting the scooter was a lot of fun but Nusa Dua was not worth the trip. It is mostly big resorts like Westin and Hyatt and there is not much else to see.
On our way we did visit the temple Uluwatu. This was fun and beautiful but it is not as impressive as some of the other temples and can be skipped.
Remember: knees must be covered for both men and women. This temple had sarongs available for free for visitors to borrow.
Also: watch the monkeys – they have been known to steal things (though truthfully, the monkeys we say here were very mellow). They were also quite fat – clearly many tourists have been feeding them. Please do not do this. It is not safe for you and not healthy for the monkey.
If you rent a scooter in Kuta, I recommend just driving around Kuta or maybe north a bit to Seminyak (we didn’t go there but it sounds nice).
A Day of Sightseeing:
As much as were were enjoying our lazy, relaxing beach and pool days we did want to see some of the sights around Bali so we booked a day tour. All of the companies offer essentially the same product at roughly the same price so it really does not matter which company you book through. The tours are private, with a guide and a driver.
Our tour was $45 pp
We started with visits to the artisans an craftsmen (and women) in and around the Ubud area. We saw the artisans at work and had the opportunity to buy their product (none were in our budget for this trip but we have some ideas for the future).
Making Batik Fabric
We visited a family temple
Next stop was a coffee plantation where we enjoyed a lovely coffee and tea tasting
We also learned more about the famous Kopi Lewak coffee. This is the most expensive coffee in the world. The best coffee berries are chosen and eaten by the native civit cat, digested and the coffee beans are then passed out again. These droppings are then collected, washed and the shells are removed. The beans are then finally roasted and made into coffee. We had the opportunity to try it at the coffee plantation for $5 per cup but we decided not to. we had seen much cheaper prices for Kopi Lewak coffee at the local grocery store so we will try it at home.
This is the civit cat. They are nocturnal so this is why they look so sleepy.
The we had a lovely lunch (included in the price) stop with a view of the volcano Mt. Batur
After lunch we continued on to the Mother Temple, a must see if you visit Bali.
Knees must be covered for both men and women so bring a sarong. You can also buy one there from one of the many vendors.
Entrance to the temple is included in the price of your tour, however, you will then be forced to pay for a local guide to walk you through the temple complex. They try to get as much money out of you as they can but try to be firm, it is your choice what you give. We saw many people before us had been guilted into giving 400,000 rupiah! We gave 100,000 rupiah.
Finally after a long bumpy drive from the Mother Temple, we reached our last destination for the day – Tanah Lot Temple. This temple can only be reached at low tide and becomes an island at high tide. It is also one of the best places to see sunset in Bali.
At the temple, we were blessed by holy men before we could enter the area (you have to pay for this but just a token, i think we gave 2,000 each.
The last thing we did was have dinner not far from Tanah Lot Temple and with a view of the ocean. Dinner was also included in our tour. You could choose between Indonesian food and seafood – we chose seafood.
We started with a fish and vegetable soup
Our main dish was some of the best seafood I have had in a long time. Squid, fish filet, clams, shrimp, rice and vegetables.
I HIGHLY recommend booking a tour like this.
We can’t wait to go back!