For about three weeks, I had the pleasure to travel around the gorgeous island of Bali. It was the first place in Asia I have visited, and Bali was much different from how I pictured this continent. I have barely gone a day without Wi-Fi and the chance to get a Western coffee - for a Western price.
Still, somewhere in between the other seventeen thousand and something islands that make up Indonesia, the black beaches and meter high waves bring Bali close to how I picture a paradise for surfers. Bali also is the only Indonesian Island with a Hindu majority, making the island’s culture truly unique. For example, I had to get used to constantly looking down so that I would not trip over any of the sacrificial baskets that contain offeringss such as rice, money, crackers, and sometimes even cigarettes.
My tip: Skip the tourist crowds, expensive shops and sports bars in Kuta, rent a scooter and explore endless rice fields, curvy beach roads and stunning little towns. Here are some of my #favoriteplaces:
Canggu and the beaches
My absolute favorite was Canggu, a strip of costal communities north of Kuta and about forty minutes by scooter from the airport. Among some local restaurants and the typical snack-and-cigarette stores you will find some surfer and hipster stores and coffee shops where you can easily spend your money euro-style. But if you want to avoid these places, you easily can. The light traffic and selection of gorgeous beaches make it the perfect spot for exploring the area. Both Echo Beach and Old Man’s beach are popular surfing locations with a great choice of laid-back bars. Here, you can enjoy a cold local beer while listening to either reggae or electronic music – a perfect spot to watch the sunset.
Amed and Mount Batur
Amed is a popular spot for scuba diving and snorkeling on the east side of Bali. The city is built along a coastal road that is blessed with stunning beaches. You can simply grab your snorkel and walk right into one of the most beautiful coral reefs that you can visit without a boat. Plenty of colorful fish will welcome you to their home of various and equally colorful corals. A beauty to watch, and if you bring your own snorkel and fins, it does not even cost you a buck. If you do not have your own equipment, stop by at the little beach huts and locals will rent it to you for very little money.
There are two mountains here to visit: Mt. Agung for the somewhat fitter people and Mr. Batur. No matter for which tour you decide, you will be picked up from your hotel early in the morning (between midnight and 2am, depending on the tour you choose) and brought to a starting point where you meet your guide. What follows is a rocky and sandy climb of 700m in height. You will be among many other tourists, but it is worth it: The most beautiful sunrise will reward you for the climb. On our way down from Batur we had the pleasure of meeting the local monkeys living between black rocks and volcano caves.
The Gilis are a truly special place. Located near Lombok, they are a group of three tiny islands. As there are no fuel-powered vehicles allowed here, your best choice is to rent yourself a bike. And that is really all you need, since the biggest of the three islands, Gili Trawangan, can be encircled in about an hour, including the few times where you have to push your bike through the sand. The only time you will hear an engine will be when some tourist brings down the power net by plugging in their 2500 watt hair dryer. The shops and bars will then start generators to keep their business going. To complete the picture of this somewhat different place: Magic Mushrooms are legally allowed on the island.
The Gillis are definitely worth the 1-2 h trip from Bali. I can only recommend that you treat yourself to the overpriced speedboat - the only other, more affordable way of getting there is the painfully slow public ferry that is a going to consume most of your day.