Bali has a magical charm that draws us to the vibrant island again and again – be it the surf-friendly, clear blue beaches, the exotic temples, the (thankfully!) sleeping volcanoes, the soothing green of the paddy fields, the buzzing nightlife, the exciting street shopping and basically the chill island vibe, and to top it off, affordable.
When I first moved to Singapore, Bali topped my rather long list of travel destinations. It became so reachable and at a good price too. The ticket fares from Singapore to Bali are somewhere between $80-$100 roundtrips.
We planned a quick extended 3 days weekend holiday in Bali and were keen to do the ‘touristy’ things on this trip. It was our first Indonesian holiday and we relied completely on Internet reviews for accommodation and what to do in Bali.
Day 1 – Airport to city and exploring Kuta
Even though we knew that transport to and from hotels will be more expensive, we took the chance and sign up with a random transportation company directly at the airport, and luckily they turned out to be extremely courteous, helpful and did not charge an extra rupiah. What surprised us instead was the traffic on our way to the hotel, a supposedly 15 minutes ride away end up taking 1 hour 30 minutes, though thankfully that was our first and last encounter with such madness. The rest of the trip was relatively smooth and traffic-free.
Our hotel – The Stones * – was everything that we had imagined. An offshoot of the Marriott chain, it upheld all the standards with aplomb. Generally, we are budget travellers but an irresistible deal through Booking.com * – for around SGD 90 per night – had us booking at The Stones Hotel. And boy, are we glad we did! The hotel was beautiful and the Kuta beach was right across the street. And the pool was to die for!
We spent the first day of our trip exploring Kuta. After watching a glorious sunset on the beach, we headed towards the more happening part of the street for some shopping and beer. Bali has extensive nightlife, with loud sports bars, quaint beer pubs, romantic candle-lit pubs and a wide range of eating joints. We were spoilt for choice and finally settled for the Bubba Gump Shrimp joint, mainly because we love the movie. The last thing we did before we hit the sack was to get into a random roadside pub for a beer because the local band was so good.
Day 2 – Temple run – Tanah Lot and Uluwatu plus Kecak Dance
The second day on our itinerary was for ‘temple run’. Tanah Lot and Uluwatu were the two temples we had set our eye on. Our driver advised us to head for Tanah Lot first, have lunch there and then return towards Uluwatu in time for the spectacular sunset and the famous Balinese play performed by the locals. The only problem with covering these two temples in one day was the time-consuming distance – they were at opposite ends on the island. However, since we did not have many days in Bali, we went for this mad, hectic route.
Driving through Bali were super smooth and we enjoyed the quintessential Balinese landscape of green paddy fields and pagoda-like local houses and temples as we snacked on chips and sodas. It was over an hour when we reached Tanah Lot. Since we managed to reach before the high tide, we could cross over the rocks that otherwise remain submerged, and to reach the temple. Although tourists are not allowed inside the main temple, we were quite happy to explore the surroundings with a stunning view and sounds of splashing waves against the rocks.
After a local lunch and 200 pictures taken, we headed for Uluwatu Temple. The temple is a breathtaking sight itself, sitting majestically on a cliff top amidst the crashing waves. The colors of the ocean from high up on the cliff were mesmerising.
Well before sundown, the crowd had begun to crowd the amphitheatre for the traditional Balinese dance-play called Kecak Dance. It was set against the backdrop of blazing skies of a glorious sunset. Though we enjoyed the famous scenes from the Hindu tale of Ramayana, we stepped out just before the act ended, as wisely advised by our driver. Those crucial 5 minutes saved us from an hour’s worth of traffic.
We ended the day with a dinner in the room as we are tired to do anything else.
Day 3 – Parasailing, deep sea diving and sunbathing
The final day on our itinerary was set aside exclusively for some beach time and water sports. Tanjung Benoa Beach is the place for water sports. As a non-swimmer who wants to experience the thrill of these adventure sports, I settled for parasailing and deep-sea walking. The package cost somewhere around Rp700,000 per person after much haggling. The aerial view from parasailing was as spectacular as I had thought it would be. Though the landing can be pretty tricky, overall, it’s a safe affair.
As for the deep-sea diving, after the first few daunting seconds, it turned out to be pretty amazing – to be transported amid beautiful corals and schools of colourful fish. The guides are wonderful who sense your discomfort at the slightest change in body language.
After the high-adrenaline water sports, we went in search of a beach to chill. Padang Padang beach turned out to just perfect for what we are looking for, being one of the best beaches in Bali. Clear blue turquoise water, unlike the murky blues of Kuta, greeted us, after a long, good climb down the rugged stairway, narrowing to the extent that no other person could walk alongside you. A tip is also to carry your own food because the choice is rather limited in the shacks down there. We spent the rest of the day lying under the sun and dipping in the sea. We watched the brilliant hues of the sky as the sun sank over the horizon. Sunsets in Bali are simply beautiful.
We spent the morning before our flight buying local souvenirs and an early lunch at a local Indonesian warung. We set off for the airport well before time, fearing traffic, but the roads were pretty clear early in the evening.
These three days in Bali left us yearning for more, and like all travellers, we vowed to be back. This time we actually did, within six months. And that is another tale altogether! Indonesia is truly a beautiful holiday destination, with amazing island vibes, beautiful landscapes and pocket-friendly adventures, and Bali epitomises all of these. Be careful, though, because once is never enough for Bali!