The Rough Guide to Bali

South Bali

Originally put on the map by Aussie surfers, Kuta has been transformed from a sleepy Balinese village in the 60s into a chaotic tourist destination in just two generations. Yet for all its crassness, Kuta’s appeal is surprisingly far-reaching. Not only will you find the ubiquitous Aussie surfers but also backpackers from around the world, grossly tattooed chavs (of both sexes), beautiful bikini babes, well-heeled Japanese and Koreans and, perhaps a little surprisingly, quite a few conservatively-dressed Muslim tourists in their full religious garb. But hedonism always did have universal appeal. The nightlife, as you might expect, is raucous and raw – as are the skins of the many sunburnt tourists who have spent too long under the blisteringly hot tropical sun.

Where to stay in Kuta
Cheap hotels: in the Poppies I and II side alleys which lead to the main road running the length of the beach
Expensive hotels: by the beach – Hard Rock Hotel etc etc

Tanah Lot – which is about 45 minutes drive away - is a useful diversion if you fancy visiting a more spiritual sort of tourist trap.

Conveniently located only 15 minutes away from the airport, Jimbaran is a quiet fishing village with a rather average beach. The area has been hyped for its seafood restaurants, but they are, if truth be told, ridiculously overpriced (Rp22,000 for a coke! WTF!) and serve very average food. You have been warned!

Sanur is a lot more laid back than Kuta but doesn’t have much going for it IMHO. Better to get a boat across to the interesting island of Lembongan which is about 40-60 minutes away by speedboat.

Nusa Dua
Nusa Dua is a “gated” resort area in South Bali where well-heeled holidaymakers stay in very expensive resort type hotels. Yes, this is technically Bali - but you wouldn’t know it but for the hotel’s piped Balinese music and the large Hindu statues outside.

Nusa Dua Beach, Bali

Not far from Nusa Dua is Tanjung Benoa, the best place in Bali to do watersports like Parasailing, Jetski, Banana Boating, etc. Don’t bother to book in advance. Just turn up early in the morning and you should be okay.

Uluwatu is a large limestone peninsula, connected to the rest of Bali by a narrow stretch of land just south of the airport, and best known for:
1) its rugged coastline and beautiful surfer beaches like Padang Padang;
2) a bizarre statue which, if ever completed, would be the world’s largest;
3) a wonderful temple which teeters precariously on high cliffs with rocks and boulders far below;
4) its ultra expensive accommodations which are built by the cliffs offering spectacular views. Some villas even have private infinity swimming pools.

Sunset at Uluwatu, Bali

Central Bali

Ubud is a modest sized “village” in the hills of southern Bali and is a popular holiday destination for new-age hippies, artists, budding film makers, yoga enthusiasts and middle-aged divorcees looking to “find themselves” (whatever that might mean, although it generally involves a shag fling).

It is true that Ubud has become rather over-commercialized in recent years – as witnessed by the overpriced eateries and pretentious art galleries that sell unoriginal artworks at ridiculously inflated prices - yet the village still casts a magical spell over all who visit it.

Ubud is indeed a very mystical place. Choose the wrong hotel or homestay and you will fail to get a decent night’s sleep: the demons and evil spirits will do their best to dance the night away and keep you tossing and turning in your bed until dawn.

Places to visit in Ubud
The Monkey Forest (don’t get bitten), the Antonio Blanco Museum. Eat fusion food at NOMAD and wonderful pork ribs at Naughty Nuri’s.

Nearby to Ubud
Besakih Temple is an hour away but be psychologically prepared if you visit this temple.
Tampaksiring – 30-45 minutes away.
Shop for souvenirs at the Sukawati art market – 20-30 minutes away.

Lake Batur
Lake Batur is a breathtaking lake with an ethereal ambience at dawn when the mists slowly lift to reveal the lake’s beauty and the high walls of a vast crater rim of an ancient volcano.

Lake Bratan
Lake Bratan is Bali’s second largest lake and a peaceful retreat away from the beer-swilling hordes who stay in Kuta and other places in the south of the island. Nice but Lake Batur is more interesting.

North Bali

Sleepy administrative town in Bali’s north. Nothing much going on here but it is pleasant enough and the traffic is light.

Laid-back beach resort. Not much to do here. Better to head along the road to Tulamben/Amed.

Eastern Bali

From here you can catch the cheap slow ferry to Lombok. Make sure to visit the idylic Blue Lagoon.

Nothing special here.

This area on Bali’s north eastern coast is thankfully free of the excessive commercialism and crass cultural tourism that plague much of Bali’s tourist industry. Noone here will try to sell you a mass produced low quality woodcarving or ‘original’ oil painting at a specially-for-you tourist price of 100 US dollars. Instead you will find superlative opportunities for snorkeling and diving, as well as unspoiled beaches and sleepy fishing hamlets, with magnificently rugged scenery and Bali’s highest volcano Gunung Agung (3,142m) providing a spectacular backdrop.

Amed (Bali) at Dusk


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