Bali For The Complete Idiot. What To See And Do.

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June 15th 2011
Published: June 17th 2011
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Dirty DuckDirty DuckDirty Duck

Cooked underground and served with a plethora of side dishes. Made' needs 24 hours to arrange for the meal which is served in the Pramesti garden.
A car slides up behind you. At regular intervals the driver will give the horn a little pop with the side of his fist. A Doppleresque monkey finger violating your ear canals like a pair of vibrating bratwursts rattling around in tin cans. 'A moment of your time, if you please Dear Sir.'

'Honk. Can you hear me?' Pause... 'Honk. Can you hear me?' Pause... 'Honk. Can you hear me.....'

This is the point upon which I pivot to tell the driver that I don't need the services of his taxi. Not today nor tomorrow nor the day afterward. I say it in exactly this way so as to kill the inevitable follow ups. His desperate grin evaporates and he accelerates across the short distance between myself and the next unfortunate. Within a minute another bird of prey is perched on my blind side.

'Honk. Can you hear me?' Pause... Welcome to Bali.

The island is approximately 153 km (95 mi) wide and spans approximately 112 km (69 mi) north to south; its land area is 5,632 km². The population is 4,000,000. That works out to be 710 people per square Kilometer. As half of the island
Monkey SanctuaryMonkey SanctuaryMonkey Sanctuary

Do not, under any circumstances walk into the sanctuary carrying any food on you. It's like painting a target on your back. Bad Monkey!
is made up of uninhabitable steep-sided mountains the actual population densities are somewhat higher. The first thing you'll notice after you arrive will be the crowded conditions. Denpasar is the capitol of the island and for most tourists the port of entry. Navigate out of the airport during the day and you will find yourself entrenched in one of Bali's infamous traffic jams. Traffic in the south of the island has gotten so bad that the Kuta government has declared a moratorium on the construction of new hotels. Eighty-five percent of Balinese hotels are located on the south side of the island. Of these, the average occupancy rate is less than sixty-percent and still investors want to build more.

Karen and I have spent more than two months on the island in total. Our impressions are as follows:

Kuta. Avoid it unless you're into time share salesmen or you're Jonesin' for a McDonalds fix. Grids of high-priced resorts with low end guesthouses grouting the cracks. Dirty beach. Surf at your own risk. Twenty boards on the water for every decent wave. It's a zoo. If you need a cheap over-nighter look for a room on any street that has 'Poppi Lane' in its name. Make a break for it in the morning.

Sanur: We call it Snore. Main street (Jalan Danau Tamblingan) is a 3 kilometer stretch of Aussie owned sports bars, convenience stores, overpriced restaurants and hotels. There is a large Hardy's store on the main drag. Great place to shop for cheap souvenirs. They sell the same stuff here that is sold on the streets but for ten cents on the dollar. There's a grocery store on the ground level with a pharmacy. Very good prices. There's a bank of ATMs in the front. The Sanur crowd is older. Made up primarily of bottle-nosed Australians and Russian bears. Our hotel's pool area had all the ambiance of an upper end assisted care facility in Florida. The restaurant should have passed out bibs at meals. Best restaurant we found was 'Cinnamon' at 80 Jalan Danau Tamblingan. Zuby and Dina turned us on to the spot. Not cheap but good. Pretty much everything Zuby turned us onto was not cheap but good. Best hotel we stayed in was Parigata Resort. We knocked them down to $75 a night with a three night stay. Very nice place. Wonderful
Parigata VillasParigata VillasParigata Villas

Very nice room but for $75 US in Indonesia it should be.
bed. Included breakfast was OK. There's a very good Thai restaurant next door to Parigata. Second time around we stayed at Prima Cottages for $30 per night. Small but clean bungalows with a pool. Sanur is not a cheap stay by Indonesian standards.

Lovina: No center to this north side town. A compilation of hotels and resorts and fishing villages stretched along the northern coastal road. Bemos can be ridden back and forth for 5,000 Rp a pop. Don't let the driver tell you differently. The town's main draw is a group of harried dolphins. For 100,000 Rp you can get up in the dark and ride in a small outrigger to an area off of the beach where you'll find yourself part of the armada that pursues a pod of Flippers around the water for an hour while the sun rises. There is a dive center but it's one of those all day deals where it takes two to three hours to get to the dive site. Little to be had in the way of shopping. Sleeping: Villa Agung on the coastal road. Very private. Six rooms. Small pool. Good restaurant and breakfast is included. 275,000 Rp
Cinnamon Restaurant in SanurCinnamon Restaurant in SanurCinnamon Restaurant in Sanur

Really good food and the best part was that Zuby and Dina paid the tab. Way to go guys!
no air. 350,000 with A/C which you probably won't need. Lovina is good for three days.

Singaraja. The old Dutch capitol of Bali near Lovina. Big central market in town and a Hardy's department store. Little else worthy of your attention. You can visit while you're in Lovina if you like. Take a blue Bemo from Lovina. Change to yellow Bemo at the market. Watch out for pickpockets and con-men. It's an OK way to kill a couple of hours.

Candi-kuning or Candikuning. Cute spot on main south-north road.. Sits high on a mountain ridge at about 4,000 feet. Crater lake with small temple called Ulun Danu on the shoreline. Temple is too small to enter. Admission to the grounds is 10,000 Rp. Popular backdrop for photos. The town is known for strawberries. They are not very good strawberries but apparently this is the only place in Bali you can grow them. Overpriced buffet restaurants abound hoping for the occasional busload of South Koreans to roll in and make their day. Buffet lunch of Indonesian food is quoted at 70,000 Rp plus tax but they'll bargain if you do it quietly. You can rent row boats on the
Hardy's SanurHardy's SanurHardy's Sanur

Everything from groceries to souvenirs to paintings to carvings to kites.
lake for 20,000 Rp an hour. Good produce market near the statue of the giant ear of corn. Lots of roadside monkeys looking for handouts. Not the kind of town you want to spend a night in. Sleepy. Chilly. Bring a sweater.

Denpasar. There's an airport and a luxury goods mall. And the traffic. Don't forget the traffic. Do not linger. Get in and get out.

Padangbai. Bali's port. Boats to the Gilis and Lombok. No other reason to go there.

West Bali National Park. Beautiful park and I would recommend it if it were not for the people in the area. Price fixing abounds. Everything costs three times what it should. Two dives will run you 120 Euros which is outrageous. It takes so long to get to this part of Bali that most people just bite the bullet and give the extortionists what they want. Our advice: Skip it.

Amed. Great snorkeling. No town center. It's not an actual town but more of a region on the east coast. Everything is spread out. You will need your own transportation as there are no Bemos. Except for the snorkeling there is little else to do.
Karen, Dina and ZubyKaren, Dina and ZubyKaren, Dina and Zuby

We hired a car to take us from Sanur to Lovina with a stop in Candikuning.

Candidasa There once was a town called Candidasa on Bali's east side. Beautiful beach but not enough hotels for all the tourists who wanted to enjoy the beautiful beach. So they built a bunch of hotels and used the beautiful beach sand to make the concrete they needed to build the hotels. Now Candidasa has plenty of hotel rooms but no beach hence no tourists which means; Why go there?

Ubud. The gem in Bali's crown. Wonderful place to spend a week or more. Best shopping in Bali. Innovative crafts. Cutting edge designs. Great spas. Cheap accommodation if you need it. Laid back population for the most part. Good food if you know where to look. Best laundry service in Indonesia. (Bakti Laundry on Monkey Forest Rd.) Tired of shopping? Walk one street over to the west and find yourself in the middle of some of the most beautiful countryside in Bali. Ubud is the only must see destination in Bali in our opinion.

Pramesti Bungalow is our Ubud hotel of choice. Run by Made' (pronounced Mah-Day) and her family it is an oasis. Convenient to the main drag but far enough off the beaten track to
Villa Agung BreakfastVilla Agung BreakfastVilla Agung Breakfast

Cute little resort right on the beach. Good restaurant. The man sitting in the background is 'Gus' he is one of the owners.
leave you dozing peacefully at night and enjoying the rice paddy view from your balcony while eating breakfast and being serenaded by songbirds. 200,000 to 250,000 Rp per night with breakfast included. E-mail: We cannot say enough about the superb quality of this place.

There are many restaurants in Ubud to choose from. Also be advised that most restaurants in Ubud will add an additional ten to twenty-five percent to your bill for ‘service and taxes’. The additional charge can be found written in tiny print on menu bottoms. This can increase your food bill dramatically so be advised. Restaurants that advertise ‘live music’ may only have music once a week so make sure to ask if the band is playing the night you plan to attend. Roast duck, ‘Bebek’, is a highly touted item here. It is cooked and smoked underground. Tourists seem to be quite taken with this Balinese version of a Luau pig. Made' will have the duck prepared for you and served in the hotel garden. The cost is 250,000 Rp total for 4 people. You need to let her know a day in advance. It's a lot of food so come hungry.
Villa Agung PoolVilla Agung PoolVilla Agung Pool

Restaurant in background. Library and reading room upstairs with sea views.

The best pizza in Ubud is served at ‘Bali Pesto’ on Monkey Forest Road. The best restaurant overall that we have found is Bianglalah. A wonderful eatery at the end of a small lane off of Monkey Forest. The lane is right next to Cha Cha’s Variety store. Great food at low prices. The candlelit tables overlook a beautiful rice paddy. Try the Ayum Goreng. The owner, Norman, speaks excellent English and the restaurant has the cleanest Western style bathroom we have ever seen in Bali. You can have a wonderful meal for two here for well under 100,000 Rp, drinks, taxes and service included. A little further away is the Taman Curry Restaurant and art gallery East of the market on Jl Raya Ubud near the Neka Gallery. Wonderful Indonesian foods at remarkably low prices. The restaurant is very clean. A meal for two with soft drinks can be had for less than 80,000 Rp.

Best Spa: Padma Hastaa Spa on Monkey Forest Road. There are dozens of girls passing out flyers for spa services along Monkey Forest. Padma Hastaa is the best we have found. Nice, clean operation. Staff is impeccably trained and the price is on the low end. 60,000 Rp ($7 US) for a one hour massage.

DVD’s can be purchased at a few places but the best selection is at PANDAWA Mini-Market and Music Center on Monkey Forest just South of the market. The largest selection of DVD’s we have seen anywhere in SE Asia. They also carry music videos. Be advised that these are pirated copies. They sell for 15,000 Rp each. If you buy a copy of a newly released film it is likely that it was copied with a tri-pod mounted camera in a movie theater. Don’t be surprised if you hear an occasional cell phone ring or see somebody walking to his or her seat. I bought a copy of a new film but it was inaudible. The store cheerfully took it back and then put it right back on the shelf for the next sucker. Movies that have already been released on DVD are usually OK. There are guys selling DVD’s out of backpacks on the street . Never pay more than 10,000 Rp for these as that is the going rate.

There are hundreds of wood carvers in the Ubud area. You will find about a
Sunset in LovinaSunset in LovinaSunset in Lovina

Taken from the porch at the Villa Agung
half a dozen women selling wood figurines on the street out of suitcases they carry around. Anything in their bag can be had for 10,000 Rp no matter what they quote.

Best walk in Ubud. Head north on Monkey Forest Road until you come to Jalan Raya Ubud and make a left. Walk down to Jalan Bisma which will be on your left hand side. There's a stone wall there covered in signs for various hotels and galleries. Opposite the signs there is a small statue of Ganesh (the elephant God) set into the wall. Turn here and get your camera out. Within a few minutes you will find yourself surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Continue south on the unpaved road. It will eventually curve east into a narrow trail and bring you back onto Monkey Forest Road.

Best shops in Ubud are along Jalan Hanoman (one street east of Monkey Forest). Wonderful stores offering designs that you will find nowhere else in Bali. Excellent quality. Bargain hard. Go to the Ubud 'Market' for a look around but buy nothing as the same tourist goods can be purchased at any Hardy's department
Rice PaddyRice PaddyRice Paddy

This was the scene just outside our room in Pramesti. Fields are flooded to start the seedlings after which the paddies are drained. Each plant provides two harvests.
store for far less money. There is a small temple attached to the market that folks seem to enjoy photographing.

Post office is just off Jalan Raya Ubud 2 blocks east of the tourist market. You don't have to pack anything. They'll box everything up for you there. Excellent service. We've used them twice before. Surface mail takes 6 to 8 weeks to arrive. Air is faster but be prepared to pay heavily.

Tips for travelers:

There is a severe shortage of small denomination currency in Bali. Keep as many 5,000 and 10,000 Rupiah notes on you as you can when shopping. Trying to buy goods here with a 100,000 Rupiah note is like trying to buy a McDonald’s Happy Meal with a $100 bill. I do not know what they do with the small bills but they’re hard to come by. I got a massage the other day for 70,000 Rp. I paid with two 50,000 notes. It took the spa 15 minutes to come up with the change. Today in lieu of a 1,000 Rp note they gave me a package of gum. It’s crazy but it happens.

When changing money you really need
Ubud SignsUbud SignsUbud Signs

Opposite the statue of Ganesha where you make the turn into the fields.
to check around the various currency exchanges. The rates are written on large dry-erase boards in front of the shops. Today’s official rate was 8,525 per US dollar. The exchanges were offering anywhere between 7,900 and 8,500. The best rates are given for large bank notes. Less for travelers checks. Always ask if they charge commission. Unless the sign out front specifically says that they do not charge commission then you can be pretty certain that they do. If you can’t find a decent rate at an exchange you might be better off with an ATM withdrawal. If you use an ATM card use a major bank’s machine. Never use an ATM in a convenience store, as their rates are approximately 4% less than a bank’s. The best exchange rate in Ubud is consistently found at an exchange at the bottom of Monkey Forest Road, on the west side of the street just outside the monkey sanctuary gate. Credit cards are difficult to use in Ubud. The few places that will accept them charge a 4% to 6% fee. Cash is king here.

Regarding taxis; You cannot walk 5 yards down any Balinese street without some driver asking you

Statue where you turn to walk the Ubud fields.
if you want a taxi. They will follow you anywhere. Walk on the opposite side of the street. They can't drive backwards. It will reduce the number of touts. Taxi drivers congregate in small groups along the roadsides looking for trade. Bargain and bargain hard. You should be able to get a driver and an SUV for the day for 400,000 Rp especially if you allow him to take you to a few factories. Going to a factory means that you are going to a store to look at anything from jewelry to ceramics. The drivers are paid a fixed fee to bring you to the shop. The drivers do not get a cut of anything you buy so they could care less if you buy something or not. If you tell the driver that you want to go directly to your destination without any factory stops your fare will be higher and there is less wriggle room in negotiations. If you are paying to go directly to your destination and the driver pulls into a factory anyway, refuse to get out of the car and demand that he continue on to your destination. If you like going to factories
Ubud TrailUbud TrailUbud Trail

Just a block away from the madness of Monkey Forest Road is one of the most beautiful walks I've ever taken.
then hammer the driver on the fare since he’ll be making it up from the store owner on the back-end. The taxi drivers will also try to sell you on any number of ‘programs’ like river rafting, elephant rides, cultural dance performances and trekking. In these situations you are better off negotiating directly with the tour operator. Never book a tour on the Internet. For example: a river-rafting trip is quoted at $66 US on the Internet. The same trip can be had for $30 US on the street in Ubud. The same holds true for booking hotels.

You will need to buy a visa upon entry to Bali. The cost is $25 US for 30 days. When you leave they will charge you 150,000 RP as a 'Departure Tax'. Make sure that you have enough Rupiah in your pocket to pay this final bill. It's collected upstairs in the gate area after you receive your boarding pass.

Additional photos below
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Room at Prima CottagesRoom at Prima Cottages
Room at Prima Cottages

400,000 Rp/ night. ($48 US) Very clean and quiet though a bit of a walk from the main drag.

25th August 2011

nice and informative blog
we are currently planning to go to Bali, encountered a lot of hate blogs. We dont travel a lot so wouldn't want cheating drivers and other cheap trciks ruining our vacation. Isit better to stay on a packaged tour to better enjoy Bali?
25th November 2011

Solo vs. Package
We're solo travelers so we rely on word of mouth and blogs. Regarding Bali taxis; always negotiate the price before you get in the car and if the taxi has a meter always have it turned on. If the driver refuses get out of the car. If the driver tries to raise the price after the ride refuse to pay and start screaming for the police. Works like a charm.

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