After two months in Indonesia exploring the Gilis, Lombok and Flores, we return to Bali for our final week to indulge in a bit of luxury, take a slower pace and eat great some food. Everything that Bali can offer is here to make your stay pleasant and enjoyable. Being the most developed island, the landscape is completely diverse with lush green rice paddies, a volcano and beaches. We discovered it was easy to escape the crowds and the scenery here still makes it worthwhile to go.
We stopped in two places; Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali and Sidemen with its picturesque rice fields and quieter scene.
WHERE TO STAY
On arrival at Bali, we treated ourselves to a luxury villa resort in Sukawati (8 miles south of Ubud) for a few nights. After weeks of travel living in basic accommodation in Flores, even having hot water was a blessing! It was also a special occasion as we celebrate our first travel anniversary, one year on the road. We thoroughly recommend Bali Masari Villas & Spa, it’s a great place to unwind and the pools here are the best.
In Ubud we stayed at the Nyoman Warta Accommodation, a small B&B with a only few minutes walk into Ubud centre. It’s far enough to escape the traffic noise and the bars but close enough to all the action. The breakfast here is great, especially the fruit salad!
In Sidemen we stayed at Kanda Homestay, one of the best homestays so far on our trip in Indonesia. The owner, Jack is very friendly and helpful. The Balinese breakfast made each morning is delicious, and worth staying here for.
WHAT TO SEE
Ubud is a very busy place, the streets are filled with traffic, numerous touts trying to sell you something and there are crowds of tourists on every corner. It can seem a little chaotic at first especially for us after travelling through rural parts of Flores the week before. We focused on escaping the crowds where possible, near to the end of the main road a small concealed path takes you to the rice paddies. If you follow the Google Maps walking directions to Joglo Organik – this pleasant trail will take you up to the farmlands that surround Ubud. Dotted along the trail are a small number of resturants and cafes, some with spa and massage facilities, despite this the surroundings here are quite peaceful and uncrowded.
We also walked the Campuhan Ridge Walk, this is a much more popular walking trail and runs parallel to the trail as mentioned first.
Six miles north of Ubud centre lies the Tegallalang Rice Terrace – probably the most photographed rice terrace in Bali. We had hoped to make a visit but ran out of time, we have been advised to go as early as you can due to its popularity.
After a few nights in Ubud, we make our way to Sidemen. We arranged with Jack (the owner of Kanda Homestay) to take us there in his car. The drive was just over an hour, as we left Ubud we were presented with stunning views of the Sidemen landscape.
Sidemen is one of the hiking bases to do the Mt. Agung climb to its summit at 3031m. Another active volcano, another challenge (I am drawn to volcanoes since this trip). After completing Rinjani (3726m) earlier in our trip I finally decided not to do hike this volcano due to our tight budget. Typical costs can start around 700,000 rupiah (£40 per person), depending on how money people go the total group cost can be shared. Your accommodation host can arrange a guide for you (which is mandatory to do this tour). Agung can be done in a day and usually starts very early so you can reach the summit to watch the sunrise. Authorities have temporarily suspended hikes and activities at Mt. Agung due to seismic activity – see Tips below.
The village centre of Sidemen is very small, there are a small number of shops and resturants. It is still relatively low key and the natural surroundings remain unchanged – providing a quiet escape from the busy places of Ubud and Kuta. Jack, our host can arrange a guided walking tour around the village and the nearby rice fields.
To explore further, we recommend you rent a motorcycle. We rented one for a couple of days, not only to explore around Sidemen but to some other parts of Bali like the coastal town of Amed.
On one of our motorcycle days out, we went to the Pura Besakih Temple. Bali’s most important Hindu temple, unfortunately it is the most touristy place we have visited and ran by mafia style locals who demand money at any opportunity (our guide was quite aggressive when we declined to pay an additional donation – even though we had paid a hefty entrance fee). We advised against going here if possible, there are plenty of other temples across Bali.
A temple we can recommend is Pura Bukit Sangkan Gunung, perched on a hill overlooking Sidemen – providing one of the best views of the valley from the top.
Bali is also blessed with a number of waterfalls, we went to Tukad Cepung Waterfall – water pours into the cavern like space creating a beautiful scene.
It is not until you travel around Bali you realise how big the island is and there is so much more to see than the main tourist bases.
WHERE TO EAT
Bali offers one of the best foodie experiences in Indonesia, especially in Ubud where are there a multitude of resturants, warungs and cafes. It is very vegetarian and vegan friendly and many places offer healthy cuisines in line with Ubud’s yoga and healthy living scene.
Due to the number of places to eat, we tried as many different places as possible during our short stay. Next to our accommodation is Mama’s Warung, a cheap, friendly place to grab some popular Indonesian dishes. Another warung in the heart of town is Warung Makan Bu Rus, set in a garden with pagodas, the food here is excellent and inexpensive. Save room for dessert, and order the fried coconut with chocolate sauce. Lastly we also recommend Warung Pondok Madu not far from our accommodation. Local dishes as well as burgers are served here, a very friendly owner and every dish we ordered was delicious and well presented.
For coffee lovers go to F.R.E.A.K Coffee serving good strong coffee, with some lovely homemade cakes on offer. Also, Dayu’s Warung is nice spot to have a drink especially their collection of herbal teas (its a great place to have a meal as well).
In Sidemen our favourite place to eat was Rad-Ha Warung, the Indonesian dishes are perfect and portions are large especially the nasi goreng – do try the tempeh curry with rice, a personal favourite. It is a popular restaurant, during busy times service can be slow.
- Uber is operational in many of the tourist centres in Bali including Ubud and can offer a cheaper alternative to the local taxis. However beware the local taxi drivers do not like Uber with reports of violence between drivers, some resturants in Ubud will try to prohibit Uber pickups. Be discreet when using Uber and be careful where you get picked or dropped off.
- Dress appropriately when visiting religious sites, covering legs and bare shoulders.
- At the time of writing, Gunung Agung (Mt. Agung) has seen an increase seismic activity and experts warn an eruption maybe imminent. Local authorities have already evacuated people from the areas surrounding the volcano. The hikes to the summit have been suspended until further notice. Bali itself, is a large island and the main tourist spots are in the south and west, “There is no indication that any of those areas are in danger of being caught up directly in an eruption.” BBC News. Our advice is to check the latest developments and see if it will affect you before you go.