Bali is just one island that makes up the Indonesian archipelago. The mere thought of mentioning its name congers up images of paradise beaches, surfing, palm trees.
The three main resorts are the Capital Kuta with neighbouring Legian and Seminyak. I have stayed both in Kuta and Legian The beaches of Seminyak are cleaner and less populated than those nearer to Kuta.
Likewise, the shops and restaurants are somewhat of a higher standard to those in Kuta. Yes, Kuta has those high street chains but due to the ever increasing popularity of Bali, Kuta is continually developing, and is not short of unsightly, poorly planned buildings. It can come across at times to be chaotic, overcrowded and congested. However, amongst all the mayhem this place somehow works, and hundreds of thousands of visitors enjoy their time in Kuta every year.
SOME USEFUL INFORMATION:
ℹ️ Entry Requirement: There was a time were tourists were charged US$35 for a visa on arrival but the government of Indonesia have now relaxed the regulations for 140 countries. Providing your stay is under 30 days no visa is required. For a list of those entitled countries click here.
ℹ️ Travel: The main airport into Bali is Denpasar International and is the third busiest airport in Indonesia. The airport is extremely close to Kuta roughly 2 miles away. With this distance in mind the easiest way to transfer from the airport with all the baggage is by taxi. The official taxi counter is located outside the arrivals hall. Tell the attendant your destination, pay the fare according and proceed to the taxi with the receipt. Heed some advice! Do not accept the first taxi booth right outside the arrivals hall. I was quoted a fare 500,000IDR more than another taxi booth a short minute walk away that charged me much less. Depending on where you are staying a transfer to Kuta is roughly GB£10.00 (200,000IDR or US$14.00). If you are staying in the Legion area then fares are around GB£14.30 (250,000IDR or US$17.50), and, fares to Seminyak are roughly the same as Legian.
ℹ️ Currency: The Indonesia Rupiah (IDR)
ℹ️ Credit Cards and Banks: ATMs are common place especially in and around Kuta with several ‘bureau de change’ around the town centre, with almost every retailer accepting Mastercard and Visa.
ℹ️ Accommodation: If you want to be in the thick of it all but far enough not to have the hum of the strip then consider staying at the Coast Boutique Apartments in Kuta.
ℹ️ Weather: The best time to come to Bali is April, to June and September, just before and just after high season. It is still dry season, it is slightly less humid, and room prices and villa rentals can be up to 50% cheaper than during high season. Many shops offer sales and promotions, restaurants are less crowded in those mid season months, and in general Bali is a bit more relaxed.
KUTA and LEGIAN DISTRICTS
Kuta has Bali’s most raucous clubs, and you can still find a simple room for GB£10 (180,000IDR/US$13.50) in dozens of hotels. Its an area where you will find the demograph to be very young were you will discover bus loads of backpackers lightening the load with their bags.
Kuta and Legian is the centre of mass tourism in Bali. Although this is often the first place many visitors hit in Bali, the region is not for everyone. Kuta in my opinion has narrow lanes crammed with cheap cafes, surf shops, incessant motorbikes and an uncountable number of T-shirt vendors and bleating offerings of “you want a massage?” or “transport?”. The flash new shopping malls, especially the ‘Beachwalk’ shopping mall and chain hotels show that Kuta’s lure will only grow.
Neighbouring Legion district appeals to a slightly mature crowd those in their later 20s and into 30s, is equally commercial and has a long row of family friendly hotels close to the beach. Tuban differs little in feel from Kuta and Legian, but does have a higher percentage of visitors on package holidays. The beaches along Legion tend to be cleaner and the beach bars offer a more relaxed vibe about them, than the loud music of Kuta.
WHAT DOES KUTA and LEGIAN OFFER?
Bali has some incredible beaches and surfing is popular. Surf that started far out in the Indian Ocean crashes to shore in long symmetrical breaks. Low-key hawkers will sell you soft drinks and beer, snacks and other treats, and you can rent surfboards, lounge chairs and umbrellas or just crash on the sand.
You will see everyone from bronzed youths strutting their stuff to local families trying to figure out how to get wet and preserve their modesty. When the tide is out, the beach seems to stretch forever and you could be tempted to take a long stroll. The best bit is south of the entrance where Jl Pantai Kuta reaches the beach.
is a little further up from Kuta. It is quieter thanks to the lack of a raucous road next to the sand and fewer people. The section in front of the Sari Beach Hotel is far from any road, is backed by shady trees, is never crowded, has somnolent vendors and is not crossed by a stream with dubious water.
KUTA NIGHT MARKET
is an enclave of stalls and plastic chairs bustles with locals and tourism workers chowing down on hot-off-the-wok treats, grilled goods and other fresh foods. Its busy, crowded but a great experience and cheap for all those souvenirs.
KUTA BEACH BARS
which is my favourite place to share some ice cold beers or watch the sunset over cocktails. There is a huge pool with a view of Double Six Beach anchors this sort of high-concept club, that has parties and events around the clock. Beds, loungers and VIP areas surround the pool; at night DJ’s spin themed nights.
Sky Garden Lounge
This multilevel palace of flash flirts with height restrictions from its rooftop bar where all of Kuta twinkles around you. Look for top DJ’s, a ground level cafe and paparazzi wannabes. If you fancy somewhere to eat you can enjoy a long menu of bar snacks and meals. Roam from floor to floor of this vertical playpen.
is a beautiful restaurant. This simple stall with shady tables is right on Kuta Beach. It dishes up some of the freshest local fare you’ll find. Tops is a bowl of spicy garang asem, a tamarind-based soup with chicken or pork and many traditional seasonings. Enter the beach where Jl Pantai Kuta turns north and walk south 100m along the beach path.
is another very popular restaurant just off the main promenade road near the Beachwalk Mall tucked down a side street near the Bali Sandy resort hotel. Its not a huge venue but the food is tasty, satisfying and cheap. Get here fairly early though. People actually begin to form a line outside the restaurant to get seated from early evening.
Tubes Restaurant and Bar
is another great place to eat and have drinks. Tucked behind the Beachwalk Mall a little further down from Fat Chow. You will know you have the right venue once you see a surf board at the entrance way.
Taris Bali Bar
is located on the beach and has an incredible relaxed vibe about it. There are soft beanbags laid on the sand were you can grab the local beer ‘Bintang’ or grab a burger, while listening to a relaxed live band. The views of the Indonesian sunset are breathtaking.
The Sunset Hut
is located on Legian beach and has an incredible relaxed vibe about it. The local owner additionally offers surfing lessons too. This beach bar was my favourite place to knock back a few beers and watch the sun set.
The Beachwalk mall is found along the main promenade adjacent to Kuta beach. It an air conditioned haven offering clothing, souvenirs, food and even a multi-screen cinema. A little pricier than walking 10 minutes into Kuta town itself, but alas, offering a good reprieve from the street touts.
SEA TURTLE SANCTUARY
An absolute ‘must do’ on your trip. Head to the main gate opening onto Kuta Beach and look for the lifeguard tower just off to your left. At 5pm every evening the Sea Turtle sanctuary releases baby turtles into the ocean. This is a free event but you must obtain a free ticket to handle the turtles. Before the main release there is a talk that lasts about 20 minutes highlighting informative facts about these creatures along with a nursery where they hatch.
Once the talk has finished you will be asked to collect a tub that is filled with sea water and a baby turtle placed into it. From here a guide will shepherd everyone to a spot on the beach where you can then release the turtle onto the sand and watch it race towards the lapping waves. Its quite the tear jerker!
Seminyak is more upmarket with mostly boutique style accommodation and trendy fashionable restaurants and bars. The atmosphere is much more sophisticated and laid-back than Kuta, and the beach in particular is quieter during the day. Seminyak is also the high end spa and boutique shopping capital of Bali.
Seminyak additionally boasts a great beach. This beach features beautiful panoramic views of the Indian Ocean. beautiful white sand situated to the north of Legian Beach, that stretches for just under 2 miles (3.5 kms).
Seminyak Beach is favoured by surfers for its great waves. This is where I participated in a 4 hour lesson on how to surf. It was great fun!
SEMINYAK’S COOL VIBE
La Plancha Bar
The most substantial of the beach bars along the beach walk south of Jl Camplung Tanduk. It has its share of ubiquitous brightly coloured umbrellas and beanbags on the sand plus a menu of Spanish-accented bites. After sunset, expect DJ’s and special events like beach parties, surfer movies and more.
Ku De Ta Bar
This bar teems with Bali’s relaxed and chilled people. This is where you can spend your afternoons supping cocktails or beers with your friends/family watching the world pass by. The Sunsets bring out the crowds. The music throbs with increasing intensity through the night.
TEMPLES NEAR KUTA
There are plenty of activities to keep you entertained in Bali and one of the main trips to book is to visit one of the many hundreds of temples peppering this island.
Below I have listed the top three to visit. There are many other temples to visit if you venture into Ubud that are mentioned in a separate blog on Ubud.
Tanah Lot Temple
is one of the important directional temples in Bali. The temple is located on a rock just offshore. It is said to be the work of revered 15th century Hindu priest Nirartha and forms an important element of Balinese spiritualism and mythology. This is an extremely popular tourist destination and the whole area is often very busy indeed, especially in the late afternoons, pre-sunset.
Tanah Lot Temple is located about 10 miles (15 kms) from Kuta. While it is possible to get to the temple on your own by taxi it is most commonly visited as part of a guided sightseeing or sunset tour. The tour will cost roughly GB£33 (605,000IDR or US$45).
I myself hired a scooter from the hotel for IDR60,000 and made my own way to the temple. It was a great way to see the surrounding countryside and rice fields.
GOA GAJAH TEMPLE
apparently translates as ‘Elephant Cave’, however, there are no elephants to be seen. Goa Gajah dates back to the 11th century, built as a spiritual place for meditation. The main grounds are down a flight of steps from the roadside and parking area, which is lined with various art and souvenir shops and refreshment kiosks.
Upon reaching the base you will come across a large ‘wantilan’ meeting hall and an assortment of large old stone carvings, some restored to their former full glory. The pool, excavated in 1954, features five out of supposedly seven statues depicting Hindu angels holding vases that act as waterspouts.
ULAN DANU BERTAN TEMPLE
translates as ‘the source temple of Lake Beratan’, is easily the islands most iconic sanctuary sharing the scenic qualities with the seaside temples of Uluwatu and Tanah Lot. The smooth reflective surface of the lake surrounding most of the temple’s base creates a unique floating impression, while the mountain range of the Bedugul region encircling the lake provides the temple with a scenic backdrop.
The temple was built in the 17th century in worship of the main Hindu trinity, Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, as well as the lake goddess, Dewi Danu. The sight and cool atmosphere of the Bali uplands have made the lake and this temple a favourite sightseeing and recreational spot as well as a frequently photographed site.
My Thoughts on Bali
Bali has been synonymous as a romantic Honeymoon destination for years. Nonetheless, with the introduction of cheaper air fares everyone now has the opportunity to experience what this Indonesian island has to offer. The beaches are stunning and really come into their own at sunset as the bronzed rays of the sun reflect off the ocean.
There is plenty to see and do and prices are cheap. The people are warm and friendly and welcome tourists. If you want a quieter holiday then the districts of Seminyak and Legin are perfect: close enough to Kuta for the entertainment and a rouge night out, yet, far enough to not be spoilt by the loud music from the bars. Bali is certainly a great place to spend a week exploring or as a transit stop onwards to other countries in South-East Asia.