Friday, October 27, 2017

TOP 5 PLACES TO SEE IN BALI

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Ever since I saw Julia Roberts prance about the lush rice fields of Ubud, Bali, I've wanted to go to Bali. After "Eat, Pray, Love" Bali has more or less come to signify Love. Don't you agree?



We were so keen to go to Bali for our honeymoon, but the dates we had and my absolute ignorance about how transit visas work, led us to change our destination to Phuket. We loved the blue seas and golden sands of Phuket. And when you get so much Thai curry to eat, how can you not love it? But Bali always remained a destination that we wanted to vacation in. So it happened, 6 years late, but it did. We were in Bali for our 6th wedding anniversary , last week and it was awesome. The perfect stress free relaxing week that we were both craving for.

But all was not hunky dory in the start. Two days after we booked our tickets, we found out that Mount Agung was on high alert for eruption. Imagine a volcanic eruption pouring magma on to your vacation plans. How often does that happen? It was supposed to erupt in hours to days after the alert, it is still sleeping and lets pray it continues to do so. So after a lot of will it or won't it, we went ahead and booked our stay - 4 days in Ubud at Villa Loka Pala through Airbnb and 2 days near Legian Beach.

UBUD:




You cannot go to Bali and not go to Ubud. I simply loved how cute this place is. A small, yet fashionable town with some of the prettiest restaurants. You will be spoiled for choice of where to eat and what to eat. Ubud thrives on tourists and there is something for everyone - Indonesian, Italian, Thai, Indian, Vegan, Vegetarian, Ice creams, Gelato, Fro-yo - just take your pick. 

And you get more than just food for the soul here, you get some of the prettiest clothes here too. Big brands, local designers - the market has everything. Check out the famous Batik Indonesia has to offer. The heart of art and culture, you definitely want to pick up some wonderful wooden articrafts from here. You also get some of the best ceramics here, watch out for my post on the best ceramic shops in Ubud. 



Those lush rice fields I spoke of before are all around Ubud and definitely need to be visited. Goa Gajah - the Hindu cave temple is another site that is close by from here. The famed Monkey Forest that is teeming with monkeys of all sizes is another attraction Ubud has to offer. You can spend the night watching the local fire dance at the palace. 

I personally recommend staying in Ubud as it is closer to all the other attractions. The crowd here is well behaved and courteous. English is well understood and spoken, so no communication gaps there.




Recommended Restaurants - 

Moksa - You definitely want to try out Moksa if you are vegan or don't mind eating vegan. They grow their own fruits and vegetables and have a very interesting menu. The best and most expensive meal we had during our entire stay!! They are closed on Monday. Plan accordingly

Mamma Mia / Warung Citta Ovesta - Both serve good pizza and bruschetta. The pasta at Citta Ovesta is a definite must try as is the Pomodoro Bruschetta at Mamma Mia.

Gelato Secrets - The favorite Gelato shop in Ubud, they have branches all over the town. Plenty of flavors to try from. They allow you to taste the gelatos before ordering one, so give them a try.

Breadlife Bakery - You have to have their red velvet cake. The most sinful cream cheese filling ever!!! You get a variety of bread here too. Be aware that their products contain egg.

Other places we ate at - the raw chocolate factory, Healthy Juice Warung.

You also want to definitely try the local fruits available in Ubud.



PURA ULUN DANU BRATAN:



The most photographed temple in Bali and I definitely know why. Nestled up in the mountains on the banks of Lake Bratan (Beratan), this temple will take your breath away. The terrain to reach the temple isn't flat and there are several steep slopes along the way (almost like our Indian ghats). If you are not comfortable riding a two wheeler in such terrain, you may hire a cab/taxi from Ubud/Kuta or you can take a shared shuttle up to Bedugul and then take a two wheeler from there.

There is an entry fee here, about 50,000 IDR per person. And like almost all other temples in Bali, tourists are not allowed to enter the temples, just the outer campus. But this still warrants a visit and nothing can change that. 

You can go on a boat ride on the lake. The twin lakes of Buyan and Tamblingan are close and you can visit them too. The most photographed gates - the gates of Handara Golf Resort is also on the way to the Pura Ulun Danu and makes for a good click. The Munduk waterfall is close by but the ride has several steep ups and downs, so go only if you dare. 



Recommended Restaurants - 

Warung Classic
- Set amidst the hilly terrain of Munduk, it is very easy to miss this little place. Rated high on Tripadvisor, this restaurant definitely lives up to its reputation. They have a decent sized vegetarian menu as well. The food tastes really good and is reasonably priced. But the best thing here, is the view.

Terrasse Du Lac - Again, this place is highly rated on Tripadvisor and is reasonably priced. It mainly caters western cuisine. Vegetarian/Vegan options are available.



TANAH LOT:


This temple in the sea has become the landmark destination of Bali. Carved like a boat from rock, this temple is especially famous for the sunset. Since most of the tour operators, get tourists here for the sunset view, the place may be overly crowded. We went around mid-day and the place was reasonably crowded and we could squeeze in some good clicks. Tanah Lot looks awesome during high tide, although you may not get to go close to it. Check out the tide information before visiting. The entrance fee is appx 60000 IDR per person and like the other temples, tourists are not allowed to enter the temple. The cliffs around the temple are equally spectacular, so walk around.



The temple of Taman Ayun is on the way to Tanah Lot from Ubud, definitely make a stopover there.



Recommended Restaurants - 

Warung Disini - Famous for its Indonesian cuisine, this restaurant has a few vegetarian/vegan options. There is quiet a feast for non vegetarians.

You also have a lot of good restaurants very close to the temple offering seafood that are highly recommended on Tripadvisor. There is a Starbucks close by too for those who prefer tried and tested western food.

LEGIAN BEACH:



The west coast of Bali is awesome. A huge coastline with golden sand and one of the best surf. While Kuta is the more famous beach among tourists, I recommend Legain over it. Kuta tends to get extremely crowded. And Semniyak is way too exclusive. Legian falls somewhere in between. The beach is clean and the water is shallow for a long distance with a strong surf a little into the sea. You have instructors teaching you to surf here. You can rent out the boards just outside the beach. Legian has more families visiting as compared to Kuta, so the crowd is lot more well behaved. There is a sort of flea market right near the beach where you can pick up clothes and beaded jewellery and other souvenirs. The sunset here looks amazing. Head out to Kuta for the night life and malls. Beach Walk mall is pretty close to the beach and houses a lot of big brands.



Recommended Restaurants - 

You have a world full of options on where to eat here. Look at the displayed menu and make your choice. We tried a few places, but nothing worth recommending as they were just "okay". The meals around Legian/Kuta cost more than Ubud. Keep in mind there may be an added government imposed tax on your meals. 

PURA BESAKIH:




It is the holiest temple in Bali. It is not just one temple, but a complex of temples. It contains the temples of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva as well as temples for all castes. There are also family temples in this complex. The humongous campus is located on the slopes of Mount Agung - the tallest peak in Bali. The ticket costs around 60,000 IDR per person and while you are not allowed to enter the temple, you are expected to wear a sarong to enter the complex. Either carry your own or rent one outside.

Mount Agung has been on high alert for a volcanic eruption for over a month now and there is a 9-12 KM radius exclusion zone around the mountain. Due to this, Besakih is no longer accessible to tourists, until the government shrinks the exclusion zone, one cannot visit Pura Besakih. Unfortunately, we could not visit due to the Volcano alert. 




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