10 things to do in Bali before you die

Most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes.
~Oscar Wilde

Life is short. So don’t piss it away. Get out and do some stuff that will be etched on your memory for the rest of your life. But what exactly? Well, if you are lucky enough to find yourself in Bali and have some time on your hands, there are plenty of interesting things to do. Here is my list of the top 10, and all compiled from personal experience of course as anything else would be cheating!

1) Do a heart-stopping free dive into the raging ocean at Ceningan Island. It’s a long way down from where you’re standing and the more time you take to prepare yourself before you jump, the greater the fear. And what happens if you can’t manage to swim back to the precariously-placed bamboo ladder once you are in the water? Well you might drown. Or possibly be swept over to those razor-sharp rocks over there…

Ceningan Island

2) Dive the Tulamben shipwreck. The huge USS Liberty shipwreck lies so close to the shore that this is one of the easiest wreck dives in the world. Just walk from the beach. And if you can’t dive? Then learn! Tulamben Wreck Divers gets my recommendation for its professional setup, experienced dive masters and decent accommodation.

3) Go fishing with an Indonesian fisherman at Amed. Get up at the crack of dawn and climb into a tiny little fishing boat (called a Jukung) which is soon rocking and swaying in the increasingly big waves which splash over the sides of the boat soaking you to the bone while the insides of your now rumbling stomach are threatening to push their way up and out of your throat. But things soon change and it isn’t long till the relentless sunshine is melting you into a blob – and guess what? – there’s no way to hide from the sun whatsoever! So you pull your T shirt over your head and start to pray. Four hours later and you find yourself back on dry land, jump off the boat and instantly sink three liters of aqua and thank the dear God above that you’re still alive. And the total catch? Three mackerel, two red snapper (kakap merah) and an old flip-flop. Indonesian fishermen? There for the grace of God go I…

4) Play a game of Balinese roulette. In Russian roulette they place a single round into a revolver, spin the cylinder theatrically, place the muzzle against the head and then pull the trigger. In the films it always seems to work out okay but in the Balinese twist of the game, in which arak (rice wine) is substituted for the revolver, that is not the case. Consider temporary blindness a let off as some unfortunate blighters have been transported back home in body bags.

5) Visit the Antonio Blanco Museum. If the idea of spending the afternoon looking at paintings of nude Balinese women appeals to you, then head over to the Blanco Renaissance Museum in Ubud. Just don’t take your mother in law with you – she may find it just a bit too titillating!

Antonio Blanco painting

6) Have a night out in Kuta. If you can’t pull in Kuta, you can’t pull your own socks up. Really. On the difficulty scale this is Angry Birds level 1. Among the attractions are the large number of scantily dressed girls – both local and foreign, cheap booze, free admission policy (usually) and very loose dress codes. In fact the nightclubs are so unpretentious in Kuta that a 74 year old bloke in shorts and a T shirt could turn up and noone would bat an eyelid. Kind of cool really. Just don’t go looking for trouble, or you might not get out alive.

Bounty Ship – Loud, rumbustious disco in central Kuta with plenty of Aussie Shelias looking for someone special (actually they’re not that fussy) to take them home.

Sky Garden – Also on the main road. Three storeys of unfettered fun.

MBARGO. Is it worth it? Well, just be careful.

Peanuts Discotheque on Jalan Raya Legian (at the corner of Jalan Melasti). Dance well and you should score as easily as Lionel Messi.

7) Do a bungee jump at Seminyak. Although there have only been a handful of deaths from bungee jumping, it’s not without risk. Typical injuries include dislocations, rope burn, back injuries and eye trauma. In Bali the place to do a bungee jump is in Seminyak where they’ve rigged up a 45 metre tower on Seminyak Beach with a five metre deep, purpose-built bungee pool beneath. The pleasure of having your guts nearly come out of your mouth doesn’t come cheap however – a single jump will cost you a cool one million rupiah! (about 100 bucks).

8) Visit a foreign inmate in Kerobokan Prison. If you want to be reminded of just how wonderful it is to be free then visit one of the many foreigners currently locked up in Bali’s infamous Kerobokan prison. Guests include such fuckwits as the Bali 9, French dude MichaĆ«l Blanc (who still pleads his innocence) and the once extremely fit but now very haggard Schapelle Corby. Bring along some books and food for the prisoner you intend to meet - and make sure you give them some pocket money as well – after all, you will never have to go back unless you want to; these poor blighters are in there for the long haul.

9) Watch a cockfight. Although the sport may not go down too well with the RSPCA, cockfights are still an integral part of Balinese culture. And here I quote:

The fighting goes down with an assortment of birds measured by height, weight, and wing span to make for an even battle. When two birds match, they're fitted for a razor sharp blade that is tightly tied around one foot, with the blade sticking out the back. The birds are held face to face as their feathers are pricked to stimulate aggression. A fury of money changes hands as bets are accepted. The roosters are taken to their respective corners and released.

For one, maybe two minutes, roosters fly in the air and that's it. The loser backs off, slowly collapsing to the ground. Their legs are then sliced off or the throat is cut. The losing bird is scooped up and skinned right outside the stadium to get ready for the dinner pot. The winning rooster will be heading there as well, as most times their injuries are just as bad.

Source: Josh Grillo

10) Attend a ngaben cremation ceremony. A joyous celebration of life over death, even the most hardened atheist cannot fail to be moved by this emotionally charged ceremony. At the beginning of the ceremony the body of the deceased is placed in a sarcophagus made in the form of a bull (Lembu) or in a wooden temple structure called a Bade. This is then carried - on a crisscross of bamboo poles - to the cremation site. Here prayers are said and other rituals performed. The sarcophagus is then burnt. Later the ashes are taken to the sea and the whole cycle is complete. In 2008 I was fortunate to attend one of the largest ngaben ceremonies ever held in Bali: a great experience.

ngaben cremation ceremony in Bali


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