The Real Bali – Life Outside the St. Regis, W, & Sheraton

Leave your hotel! Hah, yes it may sound shocking from someone who writes trip reports about their favorite hotels and resorts, but I do love getting out and exploring new places. In fact, I hate being somewhere new and not feeling like I experienced the local culture or fully explored the destination. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m just saying balance is important. I too love an amazing hotel, a beautiful beach, and a great pool. The St. Regis, W, and Sheraton (review coming soon) were great places to come home to after days “outside the gates” exploring.

Some of my favorite activities in Bali included checking out the many jungle temples, exploring and walking through the rice fields and terraces, seeing a local Balinese dance/music show, and viewing Mount Batur (an active volcano) from Kintamani and later hiking up for sunset. One of my other favorite activities was visiting Ubud. It’s the artsy town in the center of the island that was made famous in Eat, Pray, Love, filled with tons of galleries, museums, craft and antique shops, and great restaurants and bars.

One other activity that I loved was swimming in the pools at the Ubud Hanging Gardens (yes, it’s located at a hotel but the infinity pools literally have you feeling like your swimming through the jungle, see the pic below). I had both pools to myself!

Coincidentally, touring in Bali is cheap. I had a great tour guide who does 12 hour days for $50 including gas! Shoot me an email if you are interested in his details or need any advice.

 

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  1. This isn’t the real Bali at all.. just more touristy parts. If the rice patty charges you to view it, it’s a tourist spot :-). We did the exact same itinerary.. they just bus tourists from point to point.

    • @Paul – that’s why you need more than one day of touring. I wanted to see and did the required tourist temples and stops but also ventured up north to the secluded beaches (highly recommended) and jungles, hiked and biked all over the island, and visited several local places to eat with no tourists! Let me know if you need any suggestions for your next trip.

  2. We reluctantly went to the Monkey Forest in/near Ubud at the urging of our driver (I think we paid $55 for our driver). The Monkey Forest was crazy, something out of Indiana Jones. Ubud turned us off – tourist schlock. You haven’t lived until you experienced a torrential rainstorm while driving the hilly roads around the rice fields.
    One of my best memories is eating a coconut treat. A small ball of coconut and sugar cane with a liquid filling. A woman was selling it at a temple and our driver for the day suggested we try it – awesome We gave him the money and he bought it for us because he said we’d be charged 5x his price. It was warm, the woman made them, then heated them in a wok. It may have been wrapped in a leaf – cheap and awesome. We asked our driver if we could join him for lunch – a hole in the wall near a temple, away from the nicer places. Good move on our part, excellent food.
    I don’t know how that country is going to solve their infrastructure problem, namely the road system Nusa Dua. They need better roads but there simply isn’t space.
    Our driver brought us to a huge store on the way out of town where the hawkers buy their stuff but open to the public. Not a whole lot of public there though. It was a 2-story building filled with the stuff for sale at every market and temple. One stop shopping! Cheap! Bought sarongs for under a buck, nice ones. This place moves the merchandise, saw 35 cent t-shirts and 25 cent flip flops.

  3. Acker, what was the name of that wholesale two story store? Sounds like you had a very knowledgeable local driver, would you may share his contact info

  4. We bought a cool silver Buddha head in silver for $2.40 and I shoved the plastic bag and price tag in it’s head – the name of the store is Agung Bali. Try this link:
    http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.agungbalioleholehkhasbali.com%2F&hl=en&langpair=auto|en&tbb=1&ie=UTF-8
    We got “ripped” as our driver cost $55! He said he was at our disposal for 12 hrs! We called it a day at 3pm (he picked us up at 8ish I think) as we had some serious eating/drinking to do @ Conrad suites lounge. All the hotels are super fancy and fun – HH/SPG/IC/Hyatt but they might as well be in Miami for the feel of Bali they provide (beyond the obligatory dishes on their menu and their garden)s. Beaches stink, but then I live on Nantucket.

  5. Seems Bali has changed since I went in 1999. On your next trip try hitting up Lombok which is Bali circa 1972. The only way to get there is by ferry and thus the tourist schlock is still in very low #’s.

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