24 Feb The Other Side of Bali
This post was guest authored by Keith & Amy Sutter from GreenAroundTheGlobe.com. They are currently traveling the world for a year documenting efforts in sustainability.
Expanding on Amar’s experience in Kuta, Bali I wanted to showcase what else Bali and the nearby Gili Islands have to offer as part of a trip to Indonesia.
Our first stop after arriving at Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport was Ubud. Ubud is Bali’s artistic and cultural center and is only a 90-minute taxi ride from the Australian packed party scene in Kuta. One great way to see the surrounding countryside outside Ubud is a day-long bike tour. The tour starts with breakfast overlooking an active volcano, Mt. Batur, then heads out on a 25K downhill ride that snakes its way through picturesque rice paddies and local villages. The destination is a delicious traditional Balinese lunch. Be sure to try the smoked duck, it takes all night to make but it is worth it!
Another great way to experience Balinese culture is to take a cooking class. We took a half-day class that started with a visit to the Ubud local market. Besides learning about the local spices and vegetables, the chef also told us about collecting delicious (his opinion) rice paddy eels on his days off. I was thankful that eel was not on the menu later in the class after getting a close up look at the ones in the market.
After getting your dose of Balinese culture and food be sure to hit the famous beaches. If you are avoiding Kuta, there are plenty of other great options. We first traveled three hours by bus from Ubud to the port town of Padang Bai. If you are interested in scuba diving this is a great place to spend a day or two. The diving right off the beaches is excellent, and you also have access from Padang Bai to the WWII USS Liberty wreck. The wreck is unique in that it is in very shallow water allowing nearly an hour of bottom time to explore and swim through the large pass throughs.
From Padang Bai you can easily get to the Gili Islands via the fast ferry. DO NOT make the mistake we did by taking the slow ferry. Spend the extra $35 per person and take the direct fast ferry, which gets you to the Gilis in two hours vs. the nearly 12 hours it takes to go door-to-door on the hot, frustrating and extremely slow ferry. For the Gilis, if you are looking for a quiet and secluded island, head to Gili Air, the easternmost of the Gili Islands.
We stayed on the eastern shore of Gili Air and the snorkeling 15 meters from the beach was some of the best we had seen since our time at the Red Sea in Dahab, Egypt. The beach was nearly deserted all day, making for great relaxing days spent reading and soaking up the sun. We ended each night with dinner at Biba Beach CafÃ©, which is run by an Italian ex-pat who serves up fresh pasta and very crisp thin crust pizza. Taking in a blazing red sunset over delicious pasta may not be the most authentic Indonesian experience but it is amazing nonetheless. All of this is a world away from the non-stop party of Kuta, so be sure to get a taste of both Balis before leaving Indonesia.