Forget Eat Pray Love, this Indonesian getaway is real appeal lies in its action adventure offerings.
Its lush green rice paddies, pretty white sand beaches, plethora of spas and retreats and frequent colourful festivals make Bali the obvious choice for a relaxing getaway. But not all of us love spending ten days sprawled out on a beach towel soaking up rays. Thankfully, the island’s incredible landscape makes it ideal for numerous activities to inject a little excitement into your trip, too. Despite its tiny size, each area of the island is quite distinctive, so it’s worth hopping around every few days to experience the best Bali has to offer.
Ubud is perhaps the best known spot, due to its starring role in the ‘Love’ section of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book (and subsequent ﬁlm) Eat Pray Love, and the town certainly has a lot to offer those looking for the same spiritual awakening (some may say midlife crisis) she experienced. The activities available are somewhat serene and, as such, draw those attracted to its slow pace, vegan cafés and the possibility of meeting their very own hunky Javier Bardem.
If you spend any time in the town’s cafés munching on raw cakes and spirulina and berry smoothies (and you absolutely should), you can’t fail to notice leaﬂets and posters promoting Yoga Barn. The studio offers the usual power yoga and Iyengar to help you destress and lengthen those limbs as well as some more, ahem, unusual activities such as ecstatic dance (dancing like a loony), crystal bowl meditation and sound healing. It’s easy to get swept up in this way of life in a town that wafts with the smell of incense from every temple and seems to encourage clean living and a slower lifestyle with its café culture and pretty surrounds.
To complement your yoga, most of the town’s guesthouses rent out cheap bicycles which can be used to explore the jaw-droppingly beautiful (and sometimes surprisingly steep) lanes and roads that wind through the temples and the green rice paddies which are stacked up on hillsides surrounding the village. Make sure you remember to pack a camera and plenty of water!
But if Ubud is a little too laid-back to satisfy the adrenaline junkie in you, Kuta is the best spot for some of Bali’s best known activities. People ﬂock to Kuta for its long beaches and great surf. Whether you’re a beginner or you could show the Balinese beach boys a thing or two, the whole town is set up to ensure you have access to everything you need to hit the waves and show off your skills. Unfortunately, that comes at a price. The town is far from beautiful, except the beach, which remains relatively unspoilt. It is no doubt the ugliest part of Bali, and is lined with western style pubs and restaurants and was the site of the tragic Bali bombing in 2002. By day, everyone hits the beach for surf school and to show off their toned abs while at night the town comes alive with thumping music pumping out of a whole street full of clubs.
But to base yourself in Kuta would mean missing out on some of Bali’s most dramatic and beautiful sights so ensure that, if you want to surf, you also allow time to pack up your belongings and stay in a hotel elsewhere for at least a few nights. It is also worth nothing that Kuta is not the be all and end all of water sports on the island. While it is the best spot for surfing and kite surfing thanks to its impressive waves, stand up paddle boarding can be done almost anywhere. Schools tend to be based around the Sanur area which is free from surfers and allows beginners to learn on flat waters before progressing to catching waves on their very ﬁrst lesson.
If you’d rather keep your feet on dry land, one of the best ways to take in Bali’s coast, temples, mountains and rice paddies is to take an organised bike trip through the very best the island has to offer. There are a clutch of companies offering tours ranging from simple loops around Ubud (which are easy enough to navigate alone) or more advanced trips, such as the popular Mt
Batur Crater Rim to Batur Lake route, which involves a hair-raising descent from 1,700m above sea level with the sea on one side and the crater on the other for a lengthy 35.9km. There are a mind-boggling number of companies offering guided tours of most parts of the island, ranging from easy loops of Ubud to challenging mountain descents.
If you’re not very conﬁdent on two wheels, you can also scale the island’s volcanoes by foot. In fact, hiking in Bali is big business and there are a number of hikes you can arrange with a guide or for smaller trips, set off on alone. One of the most popular is the sunrise hike to Bali’s tallest mountain, Gunung Agung, which involves a mostly dark trek up the mountain, rewarded with a spectacular sunrise when you reach the top. Many people consider this one of Bali’s most rewarding experiences. There are also numerous hikes through paddy ﬁelds, thick forest and waterfalls and hidden temples. If you decide to hike, do your research in advance to ﬁnd out if a guide is needed (sometimes scammers will tell you a guide is necessary when it isn’t, but in other spots an experienced guide is essential), ﬁnd out what you should wear for the journey and if there are any permits you need for the walk. A good concierge or tourist information centre will be able to discuss this with you.
A trip to Bali isn’t complete without a little diving or snorkelling. Nearby islands of Lombok and the Gili’s are great for exploring the ocean, but you can ﬁnd plenty of spots on Bali that are teeming with marine life too. The most popular spot for snorkelers and divers alike on the island is Pulau Menjangan, where you’ll ﬁnd a reef alive with parrotﬁsh, clownﬁsh
and corals as well as exciting caves and drops in which to explore the local ﬂora and fauna. Tulamben is another option, offering a sunken freighter just metres from the shore, making it perfect for easy snorkelling. Ten days is a good amount of time to spend hopping around the island by taxi or bus and take in its best activities and sights. Travel from one side of the island to the other can take just a few hours if you go directly (signiﬁcantly more if you take a bus).
The best news is that however active you are, you can rejuvenate your aching body for pocket change. In Bali, you are never far from a great Balinese massage, the island’s traditional and well known techniques of acupressure, skin rolling, and stroking using essential oils to stimulate the lymphatic system. Those who are really interested in the technique can take a short course to master the massage – which is both a brilliantly selfish present and the best souvenir you can take back to friends and family! Everyone is a winner.
Courtesy by K.T.