Bali, Indonesia. One of the biggest tourist spots in all of Southeast Asia known for it’s beaches, surfing, yoga, rice paddies, culture, mountains, and friendly people.
Bali is a small island in the middle of the archipelago of Indonesia and offers something for everyone; whether you are looking for a beach getaway, a luxury honeymoon resort, spa and massages, a yoga retreat, partying, or if you just want to be deep in the jungle and nestle up in a gorgeous villa, Bali has it all.
When I decided I was going to head to Bali for the long weekend, the biggest dilemma I had was where to begin in starting my itinerary and planning my trip.
There were just so many things I wanted to see and do. I decided I was going to do one beach day, one day in Ubud, and one day to relax. I learned that a lot of people who have the luxury of living in close proximity to Bali (e.g. Australians and Singaporeans) will only stay in one part of the island and then come back again to do another part of the island. In my mind there were two kinds of vacations in Bali: a beach getaway or a jungle retreat.
Some might compare Bali to American’s vacationing in Mexico, which I think would be an accurate assessment; rich in culture, beaches, good food, the right balance of luxury and budget.
Fortunately I had a friend who was generous enough to let me crash at his place for the weekend near Nusa Dua on the south part of the Island where all the nice resorts and beautiful white sand beaches are located.
I also had a driver since I was by myself and didn’t want to always have to find a taxi after every excursion. The taxi situation in Bali is a little sketchy, and even though they have Uber and Grab, most places don’t let you get picked up by a ride sharing service, and I found out the hard way with the Bali mafia.
The first night on the island I went to the beach clubs near Semanyak and had to visit the famous pool side bars of Potato Head and Ce La Vi. I had a couple drinks, watched the sunset, and then walked on the beach for a bit. Semanyak is definitely touristy with lots of foreigners walking around but the pool side clubs and ambiance of the area are well worth it and the views are wonderful so I would recommend doing it once if you visit.
For dinner I wanted to try some Indonesian food and went to a place called Baitk Restaurant which was in the heart of Semanyak. I ordered the Balinese fried chicken as an appetizer, which was recommended by the waitress. It was really good and I’m not joking here but it reminded me and tasted exactly like Chik-fil-A nuggets. So obviously it was extraordinary!. For my entree I had a sampler of a bunch of traditional Indonesian dishes. Everything on the plate was outstanding and for being in the touristy area of town I thought it was reasonably priced (I think everything including beers, appetizer and entree was $15USD).
The sampler included two chicken satays, a spicy coleslaw, a pickled ginger coleslaw, diced teriyaki eggplant, green beans, a spicy sambal dipping sauce, a fried eggroll, a fried potato cake, Prawn rice chips, and inside the banana cone was the Nasi Lemak or the famous coconut rice.
One of the big distinctions with Indonesian food is that there are so many different flavors thrown together it can be quite overwhelming for your taste buds. Each little portion of the dish has it’s own unique flavors and sometimes they are very intense and can overpower each other.
In the dish pictured above, there was the lemongrass flavors in the chicken, the spiciness from the sambal, the sweet from the coconut rice, and the salty from the vegetables. I would say that in general Indonesian food has extremely contrasting flavors which does take a little getting used to because it’s so rich in spices.
There were two drunk Australian girls sitting next to me at the restaurant and they were not ready for these bold flavors as was apparent from them stating very loudly “WTF is this stuff?!” As they got about halfway through their meal I think they started to appreciate the variety of flavors and were complimenting on how authentic it was and unlike any other meal they’d had. I would have to agree with them, Indonesian food is one that I am not accustomed to.
Breakfast each morning consisted of toast with Srikaya, a unique Indonesian jam made of coconut jelly with egg yolks. It was very good. I could of eaten this stuff all day everyday.
The next day I was going to go surfing at Balangan Beach but when I got to the beach and surveyed the surf, the waves were a little too big for my liking (15 ft and breaking on the reef) and so I decided to go to the center of Bali and visit Ubud to see some of the temples and rice terraces instead.
One of the really cool things I did in Ubud was stop into one of the Luwak coffee plants. Indonesia is known for their world class coffee on each of the different islands like Java, Sumantra, etc. In Bali, they are known for their special Luwak coffee.
Luwak coffee is made when the Asian Palm Civet (a Native wild cat with stripes, or as I call it “a wild tree cat”) eats and then excretes the coffee beans which then are used to brew a fine cup of joe. So yes, Luwak coffee essentially fermented cat poop coffee. It’s considered a delicacy and apparently the cat’s are very selective and eat only the best coffee beans. After the beans come out the other end they are dried, scrubbed, and roasted so you’re not getting any feces in your coffee.
The cat’s digestive tract and the fermenting process of the coffee beans takes out the acidity but also gives it a peculiar bitter flavor. I did the whole tour and got to see the entire coffee making process. At the end they give a free sampler of all their coffee and teas (all of which were great) but you have to pay for the Luwak coffee – of course I had to try it for myself after all the hype.
Luwak coffee in all it’s glory.
I think the coolest part about these little coffee huts is that they have the cats right there and the coffee house is built into the side of a mountain so you look out into the rice terraces and jungle. It feels very authentic and intimate. All-in-all I’d say if you go to Bali it’s worth the $3.50 to try the Luwak coffee if only for the experience. It doesn’t taste bad at all and it’s neat to see the process of how it’s made.
That evening for dinner my driver took me up to the north side of the island into the mountains. We ended up at a restaurant called Batur Sati perched on a ridge that overlooked both Mount Batur and Mount Agung (tallest mountain on the island) that offered some spectacular views.
The food was alright, again traditional Indonesian cuisine buffet style with an emphasis more on the ambiance and view looking over the valley to the volcano peaks. The food definitely did not compare with the previous night’s meal.
The next day after surfing the south side of the island at Padang Padang in the morning, I decided to splurge on dinner and enjoyed a fresh seafood meal in an area called Jimbaran. According to my driver, this was the place to get all the fresh local seafood and see some traditional Balinese dancing. I went with the Red Snapper and shrimp which was all caught that day. Everything was grilled with the snapper in spicy sambal glaze and the shrimp in a garlic pepper sauce -simply delicious. I could tell how fresh the fish was.
For my last day in Bali I went and got a Balinese Massage. I was told by multiple people that it was a must do when in Bali. I found a reputable establishment in the center of Nusa Dua called Zahra Spa. I ended up getting a 2.5 hour massage which was the Balinese full body then a head/neck massage all for about $30USD. The Balinese massage is similar to a Thai massage in that it’s quite gentle but they still focus on the big pressure points using their elbows and knuckles. I would definitely recommend getting one if you visit. Very affordable and relaxing.
Nasi Campur Bali
After the massage, I was ready for lunch and had my last meal in Bali. I went to a place called Bebek Bengil right on the beach in Nusa Dua. I ordered the Nasi Campur, which is a favorite Balinese dish that is a mixed sampler plate of all the local foods – the best of all worlds. The Nasi Campur plate was wonderful and was a fantastic way to end a great weekend in Bali.
From left to right the Nasi Campur dish included smoked pork (or as they call suckling pig), hard boiled egg, roasted peanuts in coconut oil, a grilled ginger and garlic chicken satay, a piece of Balinese fried chicken, Prawn crackers, and Jukut Urab or Balinese green bean salad.
I would definitely recommend Bali to other travelers but the only caveat I’d give is because there is so much to see and do, I think it’s imperative to do some research and decide what you want to get out of Bali. That being said it’s still possible to do a 4 day trip and see many of the highlights. If I get the chance I would for sure go back to Bali and explore more of the north/country side or go to one of the small surrounding islands. But until next time…I’ll have good memories of my Bali getaway weekend.