Glistening turquoise waters, pristine sandy beaches and rich culture present in every corner, Bali is a destination many go to escape the hectic Singapore life. Look to any travel guide book, and you will read suggestions to spend your weekend on the famous beaches of Kuta, the streets of Seminyak that comes to life at night, and the ancient Tanah Lot Temple.
Of course, those are things you have to experience at least once in your life. But once you’ve exhausted everything on the list, what do you do on your fifth visit to Bali? We spoke to the lovely hotel concierges of Ayana Resort and Spa Bali, Alila Seminyak, Bulgari Resort Bali and Conrad Bali for their local secrets. From hidden waterfalls to witnessing Balinese theatrical fights, here are the things you’ve never thought of doing on the Island of Gods.
Note: The names of the concierges have been kept confidential, as requested by the resorts.
Lifestyle Asia (LSA): What are some off-the-beaten-track experiences in Bali?
Ayana Resort and Spa Bali: Go dolphin-watching at Lovina, a 3-hour drive from the Ngurah Rai International Airport. Take the boat that departs early in the morning, and if you are lucky, you will be accompanied by dolphins while you enjoy the sunrise from the middle of the sea.
Conrad Bali: Bali’s cascading waterfalls are a sight to behold. These hidden waterfalls may not be easy to find, but you can get a local guide to show you around. The Aling-Aling waterfall is unique, as it is split at the top – leaving two streams the fall at completely different speeds. It also has a natural water slide that you can enjoy. While many tourists know about the famous Gitgit waterfall, the Air Terjun Jembong (‘air terjun’ means waterfall in Bahasa) is in close proximity to it and is known as the best waterfall on the island amongst the locals.
Alila Seminyak: Try as many things as possible, and go to places you typically will not find on Google Maps – like Bali’s secret beaches.
LSA: Besides the beautiful Nusa Dua and Kuta Beaches, which of Bali’s many secret beaches are worth checking out?
Alila Seminyak: I like Blue Point Beach near Uluwatu, Amed in East Bali, and Pandawa Beach near Uluwatu. For a more relaxed, surfer vibe, go to one of Canggu’s beaches – namely Berawa and Batu Bolong. As most of these beaches are not catered towards tourists, most do not have proper facilities – so come prepared.
Bulgari Resort Bali: Tegal Wangi is breathtaking. The beach features little holes filled with fresh seawater, so you can kick back and soak in a natural jacuzzi.
Ayana Resort and Spa Bali: Discover Nyang Nyang (Surfing) Beach or Green Bowl Beach located near the more known Pandawa Beach. Be prepared to grab your comfy shoes or sandals, as the paths that lead you there will be rocky with no proper signage to guide you. After all, the journey is part of the destination.
LSA: Where should one go for authentic Balinese cuisine?
Ayana Resort and Spa Bali: Of course, babi guling (or spit-roasted suckling pig) is a well-known Bali delicacy. The dish is a combination of crispy pork skin with diced vegetable – with rich Balinese spices. If you want to dine where the locals do, try Babi Guling Ibu Oka in Ubud (American chef Anthony Bourdain ate there), Babi Guling Pak Dobiel in Nusa Dua.
For those who want to avoid pork, try ayam betutu. It is a dish of steamed or roasted chicken or duck in rich bumbu betutu. Nasi Ayam Bu Oki in Nusa Dua and Jimbaran is a great place.
Alila Seminyak: For eclectic cafes, try Cafe Bali at Jalan Oberoi, also known as Bali’s “eat street”. At the restaurant, diners can enjoy authentic Balinese menus during dinner and lunch service, such as lawar udang (prawn salad with young papaya and creamy Balinese spices), ayam betutu (Balinese style slow-cooked whole chicken with cassava leaves) and bubur injin (black glutinous rice porridge) with coconut ice cream for dessert.
LSA: What is the best way to take in Bali’s culture?
Ayana Resort and Spa Bali: To fully immerse yourself in Bali’s culture, head to Candidasa, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the airport. Tenganan Village, approximately 4km away from Candidasa, offers magical experiences of the traditional events. If you happen to visit in June, you are in for a treat. Be sure to participate in a ceremony known as Mekarekare or also known as Perang Pandan (Screwpine Leaves War), an annual theatrical fight amongst Balinese men to honour the God of War, as well as their ancestors. You will get to see villagers dress in traditional Tenganan clothing.
Bulgari Resort Bali: Mekar Bhuana hosts different cultural workshops for visitors who want to learn about classical gamelan or Balinese dance. Sign up for one so you can go home with a completely new skill.
Alila Seminyak Bali: In Seminyak, explore the temples on feet or bicycle. Go to Pura Petitenget, where you can observe and participate in religious ceremonies. Just remember to ask for permission.
LSA: Are there any good places for shopping?
Alila Seminyak Bali: Petitenget is well-known as the must-visit district for fashion shops, chic galleries, and local boutiques. If you’re looking for a one-stop shopping spot, go to Seminyak Square and the fully air-conditioned Seminyak Village right next to it.
Bulgari Resort Bali: Italian sophistication meets Balinese craftsmanship at Gaya Ceramic and Design, who specialise in custom-tailored and hand-thrown ceramics in porcelain, stoneware and Raku clay. Go for a factory tour, where you can have a first look at the unique collections exclusively made for international labels, resort hotels and its private clientele.
Conrad Bali: For an authentic Balinese shopping experience, Pasar Kodok (Frog Market) is a treasure trove for vintage clothing. For fashion-forward shoppers, is not uncommon to find the occasional luxury vintage item being sold at a very low price. While it takes a keen eye and determination, going through the racks will score you some priceless bargains.
LSA: Would you like to share some Bali survival tips?
Ayana Resort and Spa Bali: While Balinese are very warm, welcoming and open-minded, there are certain guidelines to follow to respect the Balinese culture. Be sure to be respectful at all times, have a shirt on in restaurant and shops (even though it is a tropical island), not touch a local’s head (or anyone, for that matter), and avoid public displays of affection.
Bulgari Resort Bali: When you walk by Bali roads with many local stalls on the pedestrian or traditional markets such as the Sukawati market or Ubud market, be sure to bargain. Sometimes, the locals will raise the prices of goods to unimaginably high prices if they know you’re a foreigner. So be smart and get the local prices.
Alila Seminyak: Remember to always wear sunscreen and bring your own medicine, just in case your stomach can’t handle the exotic spices used in Balinese cuisine.
(Featured image credit: Bali Adventure Guide)