Bali is one of my favourite travel destinations, I don’t mind coming back again and again. If you haven’t visited Bali, you really should make a trip as soon as possible!
The top reason I keep coming back to Bali is, the food. I love Balinese cuisine, of which I best describe as Malay cuisine mixed with other Asian influences, plus lots of pork. For example, pork sate (which usually is made with any meat but pork, considering it is a Malay dish), or ‘Babi guling’ (pork rotisserie), or my favourite rijsttafel (it is actually a Dutch word, which means rice table).
Of course, there are pork free options, but if you come to Bali, be prepared to embrace pork everywhere. Roadside stalls grilling pork pork ribs in the open, lard in your noodles etc. For Muslims, it is not the easiest to find halal restaurants, so your safest bet is to go for vegetarian options.
Another reason to eat your heart out is the price! Food in Bali is relatively cheap compared to most Asian developed cities. Even fine dining in Bali is so much more affordable. And the best part, you don’t need to dress up! You can find most of them along the touristic Jalan Petitenget. One of my favourite fine dining restaurants in Bali is definitely Sardine.
Sardine is tastefully decorated, overlooking a lush beautiful paddy field. The cuisine is mainly seafood, and it goes without saying, the food is really good! I can never forget the barramundi wrapped in banana leaves! Another highlight of the evening is hands down the chocolate fondant, the best I had yet in my lifetime!
No need for dressing up
You really need to try very hard to look bad in Bali. And not because others are uglier. But because nobody cares! You can roam around in whatever makes you comfortable, whether it is an over-washed singlet or nothing (topless for guys); pyjamas pants or short shorts; slippers or bare foot.
Of course, if you visit a temple or other holy grounds, you need to dress decently, and most touristic spots will provide sarong (cloth) to cover your upper arms for ladies, and knees for all.
However, my favourite part is not having to dress up for fine dining restaurants! I am very fond of my gastronomical adventures, and of course I love exploring local cuisines. But, every time I am on holiday, I always try to at least have one nice fancy meal. And for this, I always need to pack one set of evening dress shirt and dress shoes for my fancy dining occasion. Guess what? I don’t need to when in Bali. I can just walk in with a decent T-shirt and a pair a jeans, and I am not surprised if some restaurants even allow shorts.
Bali has been in the tourism scene for a long time, and you can tell from how conversant they are in English. As such, Balinese hospitality is nothing but the best! Everyone in the service industry are extremely friendly and helpful, they always go all out to offer assistance. Language (English) is never a barrier in Bali!
Accommodation in Bali is dirt cheap! A decent three stars hotel cost on average, less than RM 150 (USD 30) per night. But, the best is you can get a private villa with private pool for less than a hotel night stay in KL Sentral! There are so many options on Booking.com or Airbnb.
Check out this 3 bedroom private villa on Airbnb which costs about RM600 per night, for 6 pax!
Where else are you going to get Balinese massage than in Bali itself. Balinese massage are lighter compared to Thai massage (where they bend you in awkward positions). I do enjoy Thai massage, especially when my body is tensed and aching. I buy the whole “No pain no gain” theory.
But, I enjoy Balinese massage when I prefer a more relaxing and soothing experience. One where I can just fall asleep and wake up feeling like I am in paradise!
A decent Balinese massage in KL cost on average RM 100 to 130 per hour, and at least RM 400 for a fancy 2 hours session in a boutique spa. But in Bali, you pay as little as 90,000 Rupiah (USD 10) per hour!
However, not everything in Bali is perfect.
Getting around Bali on a scooter is probably the most convenient way to explore the island. Despite how crazy people drive there, it is much easier to scooter around town, or even go on excursions out of town, e.g. Uluwatu, Tanah Lot etc.
Renting a scooter in Bali is easy and cheap, some as low as USD 3 to 4 a day! And you need is to pay a deposit and maybe a copy of your passport. You don’t even need to present an international driver license when you rent a scooter.
Legally, you need to get yourself a local license, which can only be obtained from the police station in Denpasar. You just need to show your home license, and your passport. And it costs about USD 30.
If you have an International driving license, you do not need to get the local Indonesian license.
Now, here’s where it gets a little bit dirty. Local police in Bali has been trying to earn some side income (if you understand what I mean). They will stop foreigners for no reasons, e.g. no signalling, speeding even if you did not, or running a red light (which in our case, we were very sure we did not).
So, this was what happened. We were stopped by 2 local policemen. They told us we ran the red light. We were sure we did not. But, they asked for my partner’s driving license. My partner has an French International driving license. But, they still gave us a difficult time, saying they didn’t understand what’s written on it, that we should have gotten a local license regardless. All the time, one of the policemen were holding on to my partner’s license, refusing to return it to him. We ended up paying them 500,000 Rupiah (about USD 30), just to get the license back.
Obviously, this incident caused a tiny black stain on our otherwise perfect holiday. We later researched more about “foreigners driving scooter in Bali”, and realised that what happened to us, is one incident too common. There are many stories of foreigners (like us) who got stopped for no reasons.
Some of the tips other foreigners shared are,
- Never give them your license. Show them but don’t let them get a hold of it.
- If you don’t mind a bit of hassle, insist on a police summon. Worst case, you need to make a trip to the police station in Denpasar and pay a fine, but at least it is legitimate. Most cases (I read online), they’ll just let it go, because they never had any interest upholding the law, just the money.
- Otherwise, make sure you always carry some small notes (10,000 or 20,000 Rupiah). And if you really want to pay off the inconvenience, just tell them that’s all the cash you have on you. I don’t subscribe to paying bribe, but in our situation, we had no choice as they refused to return my partner’s International driving license.
- Another extreme method, is to just drive off and don’t stop. I have friends who done it a few times and the police never chased after them. Even if the police did, they said they were planning to act dumb.
I hope my little incident will not refrain you from visiting Bali. You just need to accept that for places like Bali, tourism has became their main source of income. And with tourism comes many opportunities as well as abuse.
If you ever had to encounter something like this (which I hope you don’t), just try to deal with it politely, and don’t be invasive. Most importantly, after the incident has past, try not to let it ruin the rest of your holiday. Let it go!