I really didn’t like Bali. I’m saying that now so that when you read my post you can take that into account and take everything I say with a pinch of salt! It wasn’t all bad but it definitely didn’t live up to my expectations…
Basically as soon as we landed I felt like the entire country was trying to rip us off. From getting into our first taxi to our final meal- it was not a good feeling.
So from the top! From the airport- if you’re getting a taxi, use the official taxi desk in the arrivals hall (the bit before the duty free section), they’ll be the only ones to give you a fixed appropriate price in rupiah. Their drivers wear the blue floral shirts. Otherwise when you leave you’ll be faced with a sea of Balinese men shouting taxi at you, offering to take you for extortionate prices. We had one offer US$40 (double what it should be) and tell us that’s going to the best offer we’d get. Luckily we went back to get a proper taxi and paid just 250000 rupiah to get to Ubud.
We stayed at Taman Harum Cottages- a small property made up of lots of little buildings and structures in the traditional style. This place was actually pretty nice (and very cheap). We were greeted with fresh orange juice on arrival and taken to our twin room. We were tempted to get a cottage here but didn’t think it worth the extra expense at the time! The hotel also offer their own range of activity classes. We chose to do a batik painting class and a cooking class as well as Balinese massages at the hotel. They were pretty fun I have to say. We probably totally overpaid for them- $10USD for the painting and $20USD for the cooking class each but we felt safe and happy doing it with them.
Ubud centre itself was very busy whilst we were there. Apparently their two princes were getting married! The streets around the palace there were filled with these big bright coloured boards covered in fake flowers saying congratulations. And the activity at the palace itself! Music playing and guests dressed in sparkly sarong kebayas, that was pretty cool. Though it all made for crazy traffic and it took the hotel shuttle bus a long time to drop off and pick us up!
On our last day at this hotel, we arranged a day tour of the island to visit a few temples etc. as well as drop us off at our next hotel in Kuta. It was expensive- 600000 rupiah (or around £30)- which didn’t include entrance fees, but I did feel like we got a good service as we had a nice minivan and one of the hotel drivers taking us around and we felt safe leaving our luggage in the van with him. We made it to a few nice temples including the holy spring one which is interesting. Don’t be fooled by people trying to sell you sarongs in the streets and car parks. All the temples we went to offered them for free for those not appropriately dressed already.
Our guide even took us to a couple of places not on the itinerary- a coffee plantation and a batik factory. Both were interesting additions to our day. I’d definitely recommend the coffee place- they even have the cat poo coffee there and give you a wide range of coffee and tea tasters for free.
Following our day around Bali, we went to our next hotel- Hotel Fontana- in Kuta. The hotel looked nice but we soon found out it was all style over substance. The food (we had breakfast and dinner there) was poor and the service often worse, the pool lounge cushions were dirty and the lobby lights turned off at night so when we left for an early flight we could barely see where we were going. It was not at all what I expected.
And Kuta itself! The beach was poor and the markets were scary. You couldn’t walk 10 metre without someone harassing you about one thing or another. I just didn’t see what the attraction was. Also, I think my sister’s credit card was cloned here when we took money out of an ATM. They stole over £1000 a few weeks after we left. Luckily we were able to recoup it because it was a credit card but if that was your debit card you could easily be left out of pocket.
Overall I was deeply disappointed with Bali. Maybe I had unrealistic expectations, maybe movies like Eat, Pray, Love have raised them too high or we were just unlucky with the people we met and places we went to but I don’t think I’d ever go back to Indonesia. Ever.