1. DRINK SUNDOWNERS AT SUNSET
Sunset hour at many Bali watering holes can be the busiest time of the day. Instead, head for the lobby bar at the Four Season’s Sayan where a happy hour discount applies depending on the day’s temperature. Cross the bridge James Bond style to enter the bar from the rooftop and take a seat overlooking the Sayan Valley and listen to the forest symphony and gentle sounds of Bali’s longest river (Ayung) flowing below. Alternatively, watch the sun slip into the Indian Ocean over the black sand beach from Ombak at Soori Bali with a lychee cocktail in hand. Marvel as thousands of tiny bats depart their cave for the sultry evening sky. See fourseasons.com/sayan; sooribali.com.
2. STRETCH AT A YOGA CLASS
Bali offers some of the world’s best yoga classes and health retreats. Everything from vinyasa, yin, hatha through to Bikrim is on offer. Fantastic classes are offered at the Four Seasons Sayan and the Yoga Barn in Bali’s spiritual heart, Ubud. The Power of Now Oasis meanwhile is a wonderful place in Sanur to escape the crowds and do yoga in a striking all-bamboo tree house. See fourseasons.com/sayan; theyogabarn.com; powerofnowoasis.com.
3. EAT BALI’S FAMOUS BABI GULING (SUCKLING PIG)
Sure, Bali is best known for its rice dish nasi goreng – which trust me, you will end up eating like Weetbix – but the one dish you should try is the famous Babi guling, or suckling pig to us foreigners. Some of the best places to try this delicious roast pork dish include Ibu Oka’s in Ubud, and Babi Guling Pak Malen along Sunset Road in Seminyak.
4. SEE BALI’S WORLD HERITAGE-LISTED RICE TERRACES
Marvel at Bali’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed rice terraces and water temples that date from the 9th century at Jatiluwah. The Obamas visited these five magnificent terraces on their Bali holiday. The road leading to the rice terraces can get busy, but once there it’s easy to lose the crowds and take in the glory of these verdant rice fields. Head to the market and then cook up a Balinese feast.
5. HIT THE MARKET AND COOK UP A FEAST
Bali offers several excellent cooking classes where you can learn to make everything from nasi campur, sizzling sate sticks through to steamed duck. Many classes start with a visit to the local market to collect fresh ingredients. Afterwards, participants sit down to enjoy the fruit of their labour, often in settings like the middle of a rice field. Try the fantastic cooking class at Alila Manggis, or Australian Janet DeNeefe’s famous cooking school Casa Luna in Ubud. See alilahotels.com/manggis; casalunabali.com.
6. CLEANSE YOUR SOUL IN A SACRED SPRING
Beyond Ubud, Balinese worshippers have been drawn for centuries to Pura Tirta Empul (Temple of the Holy Water), whose sacred spring is said to have healing properties. Today the tradition continues with the Balinese bathing and praying in the holy water. A clearly marked sign north of Tampaksiring, via Ubud, leads to the popular holy springs.
7. HIT THE SURF
Bali has some incredible breaks including Uluwatu, Padang Padang and Impossibles, but it’s also a great spot to learn to surf. Canggu has three main breaks with waves to suit everyone on small days, not far from Uluwatu is the secluded surf spot Suluban or Blue Point while Padang Padang Right on the renowned Butik Peninsula is good for beginners to intermediate surfers. On Bali’s east coast, surfers keep secret surf spots close to their chest, but the spots are possible to find if you get out and explore.
8. VISIT A TEMPLE
Bali offers incredible, jaw-dropping temples, including the famous Pura Besakih, Tanah Lot and Uluwatu. For those wanting to immerse themselves in Bali’s spiritual side far from the throngs, join the fascinating Seven Temples of Enlightenment Tour. This immersive tour takes participants through seven World Heritage temples and monuments that trace the creation of the Balinese Hindu religion, Hindu Darma. The temples and meditation sites are seldom frequented by locals, let alone visitors. See urbanadventures.com
9. VISIT SEKUMPUL WATERFALL AND LAKE BRATAN
Sekumpul has two big waterfalls and a stunning “virgin Bali” trek past a vast valley of rice fields and down to the waterfalls themselves. Here, you can even refill your water bottle from a natural spring.
10. SWIM AT BALI’S SECRET BEACHES
Bali’s most famous stretches of sandy real estate are typically packed with crowds. Steer away from Seminyak, however, and just past Candidasa on Bali’s east coast is Pasir Putih Beach (Virgin Beach). Found at the bottom of a dirt track with a few simple warungs (local eateries), this beach offers a refreshing swim in emerald coloured sea. Another beautiful beach is Gunung Payung Beach, or Pantai Gunung Payung, on Bali’s south coast, where steep stairs keep away both the crowds and the touts.
Sheriden Rhodes was a guest of Alila Hotels and Resorts, Sanak Retreat Bali and Urban Adventures.