A piece written by our friend Maddie Meddings while in Lockdown.
The longer the lockdown continues, the more I notice my mind wandering. Generally it’s to my next meal, the waves or reminiscing times more social than these. All too often, however, it’s the crystal waters and bleached sands of tropical shores that my daydreams morph into, the destination of choice? Bali.
Bali is pure magic. A land so rich in nature, colour and culture it’s impossible to do it justice merely with words. I’ll give it my best go though, with the hope that one day you’ll be witnessing it first-hand.
Upon touchdown on the island, nestled in the centre of the Indonesian Archipelago, you’re instantly wrapped in a blanket of warm tropical air and the aroma of sweet incense. Being the only Hindu majority island in Indonesia means the incense, part of the ‘Canang Sari’ - their daily offering of flowers and food in banana leaf baskets, is common throughout the island. You’ll also see an abundance of beautiful temples, home shrines and you may even be treated to the sight of the myriad temple ceremonies, a tradition whereby the locals pay homage to the deities that rule over their temples with a plethora of offerings, live music, dance and performances.
Bali, with just a 370 kilometre circumference is one 23rd the size of England but don’t be fooled by its humble proportions - there’s so much diversity from one town to the next, as well as endless activities to fill your days with.
Denpasar - Kuta
First we have the popular tourist town of Kuta. Situated just a 10 minute drive from the only airport on the island assures most travellers spend at least a night or two there during their stay. Kuta is the meeting of two worlds. On the seafront you have a shopping metropolis of sprawling western stores and the best air conditioning imaginable. Walk a few streets back however, and you’re in the depths of a bustling locals market where authentic silver jewellery, block printed fabrics and fresh dewy fruits glisten like jewels amongst the stalls. Though not particularly picturesque, Kuta is a buzzing party hotspot. The town transforms as dark descends into an array of happy hours, pop up restaurants that seem to appear from nowhere and an abundance of clubs and bars open up so you can dance the night away.
During the days, watersports is the go. If you’re on a surf trip hit up one of the sprinkling of spots Kuta has to offer; Airport lefts is my personal favourite; a crumbly, long left hander that breaks a mere 700 metres from the runway. The proximity to landing airliners gives the term ‘dry hair paddle out’ an entirely new meaning. If surfing’s not your thing then give Waterbom, their renowned water park complete with rapids and eye wateringly tall slides, a try.
Canggu is the most up and coming part of the island. It’s the perfect balance of amazing waves, lush countryside and a humming social scene all combined in an irresistible package. The town is home to a bunch of Aussie expats who have introduced a real undercurrent of Western art and culture as well as contributing to an impeccable cafe scene. Everywhere you look there’s a different hangout in sight and with their minimalist interiors, hanging plants and avocados on demand they wouldn’t go amiss amongst Melbourne's renowned, caffeine crazed streets.
Spend your days surfing on the black sand beaches where there’s waves suitable for beginners, right up to air punting shredders. In between sea dips and ice cold coconuts, served from freezers on the beach, you can get any cuisine imaginable. Try authentic Vietnamese, stuffed Rotis, fresh fish or a famous Bali buffet style meal from one of the local Warungs. Much like Kuta, Canggu has an incredible party scene. Think less thumping nightclubs but more live music, hectic pool parties and dancing on the tables at Old Mans (chilled cafe hangout by day and buzzing beach bar by night) on a Wednesday evening. There’s even Pretty Poison where you can sip an ice cold beer whilst watching locals skate the in-house bowl.
If you’re looking for the Balinese experience of Julia Roberts’ in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ - all jungle exploration, rice paddy bike rides and blissful yoga, then Ubud is the destination for you. Take the 26km journey from Kuta and you’re transported into the depths of the Balinese countryside. The main town, much like Canggu, has an alternative vibe bursting with gorgeous yoga studios, experimental vegan food and a treasure trove of traditional Balinese goods.
Ubud, nestled in the central foothills of the Gianyar regency, is home to deep ravines, ancient monuments and acre upon acre of rice paddies. The higher altitude of the mountainous island centre ensures, as well as cooler temperatures, high view points for breathtaking sunrise and sunset tours. Try the Campuhan ridge walk for a secluded and rambling hike through the wilderness as day breaks, illuminating the farmlands surrounding you and the wildlife waking as the sun burns through the highland mist. During the day you can make a trip to one of the many surrounding waterfalls. The Nungnung waterfall is unparalleled, with 164ft of cascading water and a natural swimming pool at it’s foot. However it’s an extremely popular attraction for both tourists and locals alike, so be sure to get there early to enjoy a refreshing dip without the crowds.
The Bukit Peninsula is the surfing capital of Bali and with crystal clear waters and 6ft reeling perfection breaking off mechanical reefs it’s easy to see why. You have world famous spots such as Uluwatu, Padang Padang, Keramas, Impossibles and so many more right on your doorstep. There’s plenty of activities for those rest days too. Head over to the monkey temple, overlooking Uluwatu. You get to see loads of little primates misbehaving, as well as the ancient temple architecture and stunning views of the Indian ocean.
The area enjoys a mellow atmosphere the majority of the time; most punters rise early to get in the sea for a dawn session then spend the rest of the day eating, surfing, having a sunset beer or two and getting in some much needed rest. However on Sunday nights the Peninsulas’ iconic party spot; Single Fin, comes to life. During the day the venue, complete with panoramic views of Uluwatu reef, is a haven for salty sea dogs resting their legs, eating acai berry smoothie bowls and taking selfies on the deck. However as night falls the club transforms into a pumping party with regular international Dj’s and two stages of mayhem.
Bali is captivating at every turn, whether it’s waves you’re looking for, Yoga, a good party or a little tranquillity. There’s such a beautiful balance of traditional Balinese culture woven into everything you see or do. You’re constantly aware of the lifelong traditions surrounding you yet there’s the residing expats who have helped to build Bali’s thriving creative scene, allowing this already diverse island another level of intrigue and culture.
Check out the Bali Small Step.