By: Susan Gerle


When I was 16, my high school put on a production of the play South Pacific, set on the Indonesian island of Bali. I’ve wanted to visit Bali since then. That was nearly 50 years ago and I finally made it this year. I know I’ll return.

Getting in and out of Bali can be an expensive proposition but it’s well worth it for a holiday. I wasn’t sure what to take with me so I over-packed , of course. All I really needed after the fact was a couple of tops, shorts, a light skirt, and a bathing suit or 2 with a cover up and a couple of travel-size sunscreen and some mosquito spray. I know for next trip, anything else I might need can be purchased very cheaply in Bali.

Had I packed lighter I would have saved $40 to $50 on luggage fees. Then there is the $25 fee to enter and exit. Next time I’ll try to get away with a small carry-on under 7 kg. Of course I may end up paying for extra weight one way anyway after seeing all the great bargains!

There are so many places to see and experience in Bali but the two I enjoyed visiting the most this time were Kuta and Ubud.

By The Ocean

Kuta is definitely a young person’s play place but even adventurous seniors will get lots out of the pulsing energy. The secret is to stay off the main drag where 75% of the traffic spends their time! The balance of the traffic, mostly scooters and the odd delivery truck, “scoot” up and down the narrow alleys of places like1 Poppies Lane, situated in the heart of the old city.

Shopping abounds in the narrow lanes, and dodging the bikes can be a full exercise program at times. If you find an honest money exchanger, stick with them. Some are really good at playing the “sleight of hand” game. Always count your money again before leaving to make sure it’s still the amount you expected.

If the plan is to take some surf lessons, wait until you get there to book a session. The surf may be gentle enough to take it on but other times even the most experienced won’t attempt the cross waves. There are lots of surf schools in Kuta too so don’t hesitate to check a number of them out for their credentials.

Many people think Kuta is noisy and crowded but there are many little oasis available in the city. There are traditional style cottages with swimming pools and large amounts of green space situated a block or two off the main street. Kuta Puri Bungalows is a fantastic place to stay and is located right near the beach on 1 Poppies Lane. The only noise you might experience is the evening doves singing or frogs croaking around the pool, or possibly the odd Australian partying it up!

Even though there are many places to eat, one of my favorites was Poppies Restaurant, also located on 1 Poppies Lane. Not only is the food excellent but the service is great! It might be a little pricier than some places but you really get to enjoy a variety of the traditional Balinese fare.

Inland

If you want to get away from the ocean, head inland to Ubud and the surrounding areas. Kuta is at sea level, where Ubud is hilly and surrounded by jungle and rice paddies. It’s a peaceful, quiet area on the most part but the making of the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” staring Julia Roberts has changed things right in the main city of Ubud. Bus tours full of tourists clog the city sidewalks at times.

We stayed about 10 minutes outside of the city in a small village called Penestanen. We were lucky enough to find a small traditional villa, the Villa Baliku, complete with a private swimming pool and an on-site houseman. Our houseman made a great breakfast for us every morning. A few meters down the road were paths leading into the rice paddies. There were also many little boutique hotels along the pathways.

Right in the middle of the city of Ubud is the Monkey Forest, which is a place that shouldn’t be missed. For a small entrance fee you can walk around and watch the monkeys play and fight and look after their babies. Make sure you have everything secure in your pockets or purse because they don’t hesitate to grab stuff and run. Even prescription eyeglasses and hoop earrings are fair game to them. When an ear is attached, it could be a struggle.

My close encounter was having a monkey climb up the side of my body to my shoulder where he perched to check out my earring. The warm feel of fluid running down my back as he peed on me was not appreciated but I chose to stand quietly rather than end up getting bit. They are still wild animals!

Another place we experienced while in the Ubud area was Hotel Tjampuhan and Spa. The spa was originally built as part of the Ubud Artist Colony in 1928. The natural spa rooms were created by many of the students. The location of the hotel is supposedly where two sacred rivers meet and is therefore considered very spiritual.

The people of Bali are very friendly and helpful. We hired a driver while we were there to take us to some of the places we wanted to see. Ketut spoke English well and knew a lot about the local history. He was also able to help us with doing some banking for business.

One of the interesting facts Ketut explained to us was that depending on his position (male or female) in his Balinese family determined his name. Because he was the 4th child his name was Ketut. Wayan is the first child, the 2nd is Made, and the 3rd is Nyoman. If there is a fifth child, his or her name is often Wayan Balik meaning Wayan again.

The perfect sized family in Bali is 3 children. We also found out in our travels that if there is a 4th child, he or she is often the one who inherits the family property. Balinese properties are not sold. They are passed down through the generations. There are also castes and rules around the Balinese families.

We visited Bali in March as the rainy season was just ending but even then the weather was warm, although occasionally wet! We experienced many things and even though we only stayed a week this time, I look forward to the next visit.