Now it’s time to get to the fun stuff – what is there to see and do in Bali?
Here are some of the highlights, based on what we saw during our 2 month stay in Sanur. It’s by no means a complete list, we couldn’t see everything after all, but it should get you started.
I know we didn’t come to the other side of the planet to see Western-style waterparks, but I’ve gotta say, this one is flipping fantastic! We originally went here to do something nice for our kids – something special, just for them. But now that I’ve been here, I’ve got to admit that any future trips to Waterbom will be as much for us grown ups as for the kids. We are heading back to Bali for another 2 months in April and May 2015, and Waterbom is on our must-do list for a repeat visit!
I’ve been to some really nice zoos in North America, and after reading articles about the mistreatment some animals endure in zoos in developing countries, I was not sure if visiting a zoo in Bali would be a good idea. I’m certainly not saying all zoos in developing countries mistreat the animals in their care – heck, even in developed countries you’ll find stories of wrongdoing in their own zoos. But as I said, this was on my mind.
One of the focuses of the Bali Safari and Marine Park is education and animal conservation, so we thought it would be worth a look. And I’ve got to tell you, it did not disappoint. This was a really modern facility, well run, and had very helpful staff. The animal habitats looked as spacious as you could hope for in a zoo-type environment.
If you go, be sure to make time for their presentations – these well-done animal presentations is the “secret sauce” that made the visit as awesome as it was. To fit in all the presentations, you’ll have to do some rushing around, but it’s well worth it.
Money-Saving Tip: If you want to go to Waterbom too, check the Bali Safari website and see if they are still offering the “Double the Fun” package. We bought it because it’s significantly cheaper than purchasing admission to Waterbom and Bali Safari separately.
This was where we spent most of our beach time, and it was quite nice. The best things about Sanur Beach:
- shallow, calm water at low tide, that’s perfect for little ones
- if you want deeper water, you can get that at high tide, complete with waves crashing on the beach
- easy access to amenities such as washrooms and restaurants
- you can rent a lounger and beach towel from the Hyatt for only 50000 rupiah (about 5 bucks!) per day
The only downside to this beach is that if you’ve been to perfectly manicured beaches, and expect that level of polish, you won’t get it here. There is seaweed washed up on the beach – nothing you can do about that, and it’s not a big deal. But if your kids like to dig around in the sand, and what kid doesn’t, caution them to be careful – I found some broken glass in the sand, and every time we went I’d find quite a few intact glass bottles that had washed up with the incoming tide, along with other random bits of garbage.
Last, but not least, you might come across jellyfish in the seawater here, so be on the lookout for them.
So now that I’ve put you off wanting to come here, I want to say that you shouldn’t worry. Honestly, if you just take rudimentary precautions, I think you’ll have a wonderful time, like we did. Knowledge is power, and if you know what to look out for, you’re more likely to avoid the undesirables, right?
We stumbled upon Kuta Beach purely by accident – we were just wandering around after leaving Waterbom when I caught a glimpse of sand and found myself drawn like a lemming to watch the sunset here. So, if you are lucky enough to find it in pristine condition like we did, then be sure to come here and watch the beautiful sunset at least once!
The monkey forest is located in Ubud, and is home to oodles of wild monkeys.
If it were just Paul and I, we probably would have gone into the monkey forest since it would have been so much fun to be surrounded by all those monkeys wandering around – but with the kids along, we didn’t want to chance running into a grouchy, bite-y monkey. (Apparently while most people have a great experience visiting here, the unlucky ones have been bitten by monkeys. Ouch!)
That being said, I’ve read about lots of other families who have gone into the forest with their kids and had a wonderful time, so perhaps we were overly paranoid about biting monkeys 🙂
Bali is often called the “Isle of the Gods” due to the vast number of temples scattered around the island. Since this was our first chance to see “real” temples, this was something we were not going to pass up on!
The best way to see the temples on a budget is to hire a driver to take you around for the day. If you get a good one, they’ll even suggest stops along the way that you wouldn’t have thought of, and they basically act as your own private guide.
If you have kids, bring lots of snacks to munch on – all the driving can be boring for them, and if yours are anything like mine, snacks will keep them happy.
Tip: If you go to the temples, dress modestly since most of them have dress codes. To be on the safe side, wear something that covers your shoulders. Your knees will also need to be covered, so either wear something that does that, bring your own sarong, or use one of the free ones available to borrow at the temples themselves (in exchange for a small donation.)
Here are some of the temples we saw:
This is the one where you climb down about 300 stairs to reach the 11th century royal tombs that are carved into the cliffs below.
On the way you’ll pass a long stream of locals selling their wares, and some very scenic views. Since going up is much harder than the descent, I recommend you try to hit this one early in the day before the sun’s heat gets too overwhelming.
The sarong sellers on the way to the temple entrance are by far the most persistent of anywhere I’d been so far. They come up to and try to drape the sarong around you, try to grab your arm and pull you towards their shop… they follow you until you either buy from them, or it becomes clear that they will not make a sale after all. It all sounds much intimidating than it actually is though – they aren’t aggressive about it, so if you just smile and continue to say no thanks, eventually they’ll leave you be.
This is the temple built around a sacred spring that is believed to bring health and prosperity to those who bathe in it. People have been bathing here for over 1000 years apparently. If you wander around the grounds, you’ll see other smaller temple areas, and some lovely koi pools.
Another 11th century temple, this one features beautiful carvings bordering the entrance to a small cave. This stop won’t take more than a few minutes, but it was neat. I’m a sucker for caves mind you, so if caves aren’t your thing, this might not do it for you.
Heading up to view the crater of the volcano is another must-do in Bali. The views are magnificent, and if you’re lucky, you’ll even see the lava flow glowing orange far beneath you.
The one thing you should NOT do however, is check out the buffet restaurants at the summit. Our driver took us to one of them, telling us the food is good, so being really hungry, we cautiously chose some food and ate. But it was cold. Even when they replenished empty trays, the “fresh” food was cold too! So, scared of food poisoning and the dreaded Bali Belly, we didn’t eat much. When we admitted to our driver that the food was cold and way overpriced compared to other Bali restaurants we’d seen, he admitted that this has happened before, and that no matter what restaurant up there he takes people to, they all complain the food was cold. I’m not sure why he started off telling us the food is good here – that will remain one of life’s mysteries.
If I could do this trip again, I’d eat in Ubud – lots of nice restaurant choices there – and then head for the volcano to check out the views.
Tegalalang Rice Terraces
These were absolutely gorgeous. I was intensely in LOVE with them the moment I saw them.
And what made them even more awesome was the fact that there was a little pathway that you could use to climb all the way down to the bottom, and back up the other side. What can I say, I like to clamber around and explore. And yup, it’s totally doable even with young kids – just keep a good grip on their hand, and go slow.
A note on the kids thing. So back home, a trail like this would have railings all over the place to protect against any possibility that one could fall off the trail and get hurt. Here, they leave it to you to judge your own balance and abilities. This is not a place to let young kids go alone on the trail with you following behind… or even a place where you’d let young kids follow you on their own… not even if they are only a few feet behind you. There are places where there is a significant drop-off from the trail, so be sure to keep a good grip on their hands… just in case they need it!
There are lots of little restaurants lining the road above the terraces, and the views from their outdoor seating were to-die-for. It’s the kind of place you dream of sitting for a romantic meal with your love… really. So if you are here sans-kids, do that 🙂 I can’t comment on the quality of the food here though, since we didn’t try any.
Traditional Balinese Dancing
If you’re really ambitious about saving money, you can research and find the elusive free dance shows. I was only moderately ambitious on that front, so found us a local restaurant in Sanur where they put on a dance show every Wednesday and Friday evening. There was no minimum purchase, so if you were reeeeeally on a tight budget, you could probably just order a drink and see the show. But we decided to buy dinner there – it seemed more like a fair trade that way.
The dance show was simple, but entertaining, and well worth the price of dinner if you ask me.
The End of Our List
So that’s it – the end of our things to see and do in Bali list. Have you been to Bali? What should we see next time we’re here?