Bali Beach

Bali - Not Just For A Honeymoon

Think Bali. Think honeymoon haven? Think again.

Nusa Dua White Sand Beach

With endless glossy pages in the Romantic Destinations Travel Brochure, Bali may be perceived as no place for backpackers, and particularly not for solo travellers; but that is not so. Yes, this Indonesian island packs a punch in the beauty stakes making it an obvious destination for canoodling couples, but with stretches of beaches and lashings of water perfect for sports, and a kicking nightlife (outside of the cutesy-double-occupancy-only-resorts), Bali is a real treat for backpackers.

Sleeping in the gangs

Legian gang

Not as scary as it might sound, ‘gangs’ are the name for Bali’s maze-like streets; and when you arrive on the island you’re likely to head towards the beach and well known Kuta, which is backpacker-central and the best place to score a cheap bed. Try any of the guesthouses along the two gangs Poppies I and Poppies II.

Legian, which neighbours Kuta, is also popular with travellers. It is a bit pricier, but you will be a little further away from the incessant calls of the street traders. Continue on and Legian seamlessly morphs into Seminyak; by now the Ralph Lauren Polo fakes have become real with an extra zero on the price tag. Add the same for a room and you’ll see that this area is better for a visit than a base.

Working on the tan: Bali’s Beaches

Beach, beach, beach. This is likely to be your natural inclination when you arrive, and why not? By day, spread out your sarong (that includes you, boys) and lie down on one of Bali's idyllic beaches to work on that enviable tan you plan to take home. Jimberan, Kuta and Legian beaches are some of the best.

A bit more activity: Surf City

Surfing In Bali

With Australia a relative stone’s throw away, it won’t take long to notice that Bali is riddled with surfer dudes (and dudettes) and as you watch the bodies bobbing on their boards at sunset it will take you even less time to want to get out there with them. If the only surfing you’ve ever done is on someone else’s couch or on the web, don’t worry, getting lessons is easier than catching your first wave.

You’ll find that many of the known surf brands offer lessons (think Roxy). But with designer brands come designer price tags and popularity. Avoid these expensive and over-subscribed classes. Ask around for more personal, and often cheaper, one-to-one or small group lessons and you’ll be up sooner than you think.

Diving is another prevalent activity, if you prefer to be under the water than on it.

Bali’s Bintang and iconic Sky Garden

Bintang Beer

Come evening, assuming you can still walk after your surf lessons (I won’t lie, it can hurt), pop open a bottle Bali’s omnipotent Bintang beer and get ready for a wicked night out. Kuta is home to a wonderful bevy of places to get a bevy, perhaps the most popular of which is Sky Garden and it is likely that you will visit this multi-level party emporium at least once, and probably until dawn.

Ku de Ta is great for a sunset beer, but only stay for one and don’t even think about eating here – you'll be on the next plane home with your travel budget vaporised.

Seeing the sights

Ulu Danu, Bali

You’ll quickly establish that the Balinese are deeply ceremonial with small offerings of food and incense in a banana leaf littering the streets each morning.

To get a closer glimpse of Balinese history and culture take a bike or taxi south of Kuta to Ulu Watu. This temple has a dramatic location atop a cliff overlooking the crashing waves below. Go at sunset and remove all valuables or anything grabbable – the monkeys at the site can be vicious and have no boundaries.

Ulu Danu in the north on Lake Bratan is a bit more of a trek, but it’s an amazing temple that is the epitome of the multi-levelled Balinese structure in a picture-perfect location.

With over 10,000 temples throughout the small island, as well as many other tourist attractions, there is plenty to see if you are interested and can drag yourself away from the beach. Task enough in itself.

Head inland for hedonism in Ubud

Ubud Terraces

It is very easy for a one week stay in Kuta to turn into two, then into three and four, but give yourself a kick and take the one hour journey to Ubud.

Whether you love or loathe Julia Roberts for bringing Bali to the attention of the world in the box office hit Eat, Pray, Love, there is no denying that Bali’s inland delights deserve a visit. Vivid green rice paddies and spiritualism burst out of the town’s seams and are best explored by bike.

Don’t fight the recent commercialism and price inflation that have come off the back of the movie because, let’s face it, a massage is still miles cheaper here than anywhere you’d get in the west and the locals are still benefitting. Simply go with the flow, take a massage, conquer yoga, watch a traditional Bali trance dance and let the Bintang get momentarily cleansed from your system. Hedonism awaits.

Safety: Yes, Bali has suffered fatal terrorist attacks in the past, but so have many countries in the west. Keep an eye on local news and there is no reason your trip to Bali can’t be trouble free.