As a first timer in Bali, I can really feel that this island is something very different than any other place I’ve been before. You can immediately sense that there is a deep spirituality on the island, and a peace and calm in the air.
Despite living in Singapore, which is a mere 150-minute flight away from Bali, I’ve never actually been there, that is until I was planning for the Skyscanner blogger trip end of 2016 with 25 international travel bloggers to Bali, the island of the Gods.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the endless options on offer, whether for food, or drinks, or even the choice of hotels to stay in or beaches to go. I am by no means an expert so I can’t say that I am a Bali insider, but I am a food lover!
Here's my top 10 list for an affordable hotel, restaurants, beach clubs and cultural experiences in Bali
1. Stay at Tijili Hotel, Seminyak
Tijili Seminyak Hotel is a boutique hotel, with an eclectic sense of style and simplicity. It features a nice blend of modern and traditional artistic concepts, making it a very instagrammable hotel. More importantly, the staff are very welcoming and friendly and make you feel right at home! Even though, it’s located a short walk from the Double Six Seminyak beach (there’s also a buggy shuttle service), the street that its located on, Jalan Drupadi, is a pretty quiet and chill location. The rooms at Tijili are exquisitely designed with tropical artisanal touches that would put a smile on your face. The pool and lounge are great for a relaxing day in the sun, if you feel like taking an easy day.
2. Eat the crispy duck at Warung Eropa, Petitenget
Having been recommended to try this by regular travellers to Bali and a few local insiders, I can say that this place lived up to its hype. Housed in an open air two-storey building, dining here takes you back a few decades to a simpler time and space. Coupled with the wooden furniture, the ambiance is one of a relaxing, home-style diner. The crispy duck on offer here is pretty legendary to say the least, the skin is crispy and full of flavour and the meat inside is moist and juicy. The sambal matah that accompanies the duck is really amazing too!
3. Eat the BBQ pork ribs at Hog Wild with Chef Bruno, Batu Belig
Originally from France, Chef Bruno was inspired by Bali, to create the perfect ribs on offer at Hog Wild. It’s a unique take on this American diner classic, with a thick caramel stickiness, charred ends, smoky flavour and soft, succulent meat. It’s comfort food at its very finest. The cheeky, sassy atmosphere, coupled with the smell of smoke and meat on the grill filling the air, makes for a very heart-warming meal. This is one meal that will leave you licking your fingers and lips.
4. Sunset at Uluwatu Temple
Sunset in Bali is usually around 6-6:20pm and since every visitor to Bali will want to get a great sunset shot for their social media accounts, I would advise you to go there at least two hours earlier so you can arrive before the busloads of tour guides and you’ll have some time to explore the temple and then find the best vantage point for you to take in the glorious sunset views. Uluwatu is quite a long drive from the Seminyak area, so be ready to set off early if you don’t want to be stuck in traffic. There are many playful monkeys at the temple, so be careful of your belongings and don’t carry too many loose items. The standard requirement is to either borrow a sarong or to be dressed in long pants to cover your legs. Once you’ve successfully navigated towards the cliff, you’ll see wonderful panoramas overlooking the sea and if you look down, you’ll see the bright blue waters crashing onto the shoreline and on the rocks. Before you go to the temple, say a prayer that it won’t be a cloudy evening, so you’ll see the full glory of the setting sun!
5. Dinner at Menega Café, Jimbaran
Jimbaran Bay is a short drive away from the Uluwatu Temple and makes for a great choice for an after sunset romantic dinner. If you’re planning on going on the weekends, do make a reservation, as the café is usually very crowded. Menega Café has a delightful seafood menu of freshly caught prawns, fish, clams, squids and even crabs. They even have a special set menu if you come in a group of 4 people with a whole live lobster, a whole fish and side dishes of clams and squid, vegetables and rice. Don’t miss it out if it’s your first time in Bali!
6. Drinks at Potato Head Beach Club, Petitenget
This is one of the most vibrant, lively and happening beach clubs to be seen at. A long narrow road separate the club from the main road, and this journey will transport you to the lifestyle of the rich and famous. The entrance is a great spot for photos with its quirky patchwork of teakwood windows and designed by world famous architect Andra Matin, and after your photo, you’ll enter the beach club via a thin curved pathway, making you feel like a celebrity entering a secret venue or a boxer entering a ring. Once in the club, you’ll see lots of good looking people, hear the sounds of a DJ spinning tropical house music, a lovely flat lawn and an awe-inspiring infinity pools. This club also hosts the annual Ultra Beach Bali event which brings the world’s best DJs to the island.
7. Dumpling at Fat Gajah, Seminyak
Fat Gajah has grown in popularity in recent years, with its critically acclaimed dumplings. They have more than 10 options for you to choose from. The two that really stood out for me was the black pepper crab dumplings and the spicy beef rendang pot stickers. While you’re there, do try out their noodles to go with your dumplings, I’d recommend the divine pork belly in egg noodles.
8. Babi Guling at Ibu Oka
Babi Guling, which is Balinese roasted suckling pig, is typically served at celebrations like weddings, birthdays and anniversaries. It is made with stuffing of blending traditional spices called basa gede and combines shallots, ginger, garlic, turmeric, chilli, peppercorn, salt and shrimp paste. The result is a truly satisfying dish, with crispy pork skin and juicy, melt-in-your-mouth pork meat. Ibu Oka is only open for lunch, so get there early to avoid the disappointment of it being sold out. When you’re there order the special plate which comes with roasted pork, fried pork, crispy pork skin and blood sausage and some vegetables. This is a meal you won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
9. Be a culture-vulture at Garuda Wisnu Kencana
Garuda Wisnu Kencana is a cultural park, which features many aspects of traditional Balinese heritage. The Garuda is the national symbol of Indonesia and the park is set to become one of the most visited attractions in Bali. It is dedicated to the Hindu God Wisnu and the statue is being designed to be 120metres in height, which would make it the highest monument in the world. There are ongoing performances of dance, music and storytelling so you can learn more about Balinese heritage. It has also played host to rock concerts like Iron Maiden and electronic music concerts like Dash Berlin. At Wisnu Plaza, there is a nightly Kecak Fire dance, which is a traditional form of Balinese dance and music drama, that was developed in the 1930s and based on the epic Hindu story of the Ramayana. Its features an enthralling mix of hypnotic chanting and its rhythm sets up the backdrop of the drama unfolding in the middle of the circle.
10. Soak in the sun and sand at Double Six Beach, Seminyak
No list of top things to do in Bali would be complete without including one of its many beaches. For me, the Double Six beach was the nearest to Tijili hotel, where I stayed and hence was the first one I checked out. As they say, you always remember your first time, so did I! My first time on Double Six beach, I strolled along the peaceful stretch of fine sand and walked towards the colourful umbrellas along the Mesari beach, at a café called La Plancha. I choose a comfy beanbag to lay back and enjoy the stunning views of the sea, with a Bintang beer in hand, listening to tropical house and reggae and relaxing after a long day. The refreshing sea-breeze, coupled with the rustic laid back atmosphere, and the cute furnishings make it the perfect spot to unwind and take in the sunset.