Bali undoubtedly is one of the most famous holiday destinations in Asia. It’s an island which embodies the phrase scenic beauty in all its grandeur. In the month of May, we got a chance to travel to Bali for our honeymoon. The first thing we had in mind is the beautiful beaches. But we’re surprised to know that the island is beyond the beaches and actually bursts with unique and amazing cultural experiences. A chance we got to immerse ourselves in the charming culture of the Balinese people, that we create our very own Eat Pray Love journey.
Move away from the busy beaches and explore more of what the island has to offer. Here’s a little slice of Balinese culture, religion, food and adventure. The 11 things we did in Bali beyond the beaches.
1. Visit Temples and Understand Religion
Religion is an integral part of Balinese life that Bali is known as the Island of the Gods. Majority of Balinese are Hindus. This diverse religious belief definitely added colour to its fascinating culture. We visited the two of the most striking temples in the Island – the Tanah Lot and Uluwatu temple. There’s a ritual ongoing with our visit to Uluwatu temple that we find them bringing small offering baskets offered to their Gods. As our tour guide explained, they believed that it will bring prosperity and good health to their families.
2. Visit a Cultural Park
The GWK or Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park is definitely worth a visit. It has a magnificent view, a cultural museum of traditional performances, costumes, masks and more. It is carved out of a limestone quarry and has a huge work in progress of the giant Garuda which when finished will be one of the tallest statues in the world. There are a lot of food and drink stalls, souvenir shops and costumed Balinese characters appear among the crowd at infrequent times.
3. Try the Local Food
Bali is a food heaven and there is something for everyone. The food here are so fresh, made with simple ingredients, tasty and aromatic. It’s always served with rice. For a taste of authentic Balinese flavours, we had lunch at The Veranda – an eat all you can restaurant inside the GWK cultural park at Kuta where we tried different Indonesian cuisines. We also tried pecking duck at one of a small restaurant in Kuta area. A reminder though, drink only bottled water when in Bali, I’ve got a bad stomach after feasting in this island!
4. Watch a Cultural Balinese Dance
No visit to Bali would be complete without seeing a cultural Balinese dance – an ancient art form which narrates myths, legends and religious rites. We watched a Barong dance performance which is probably the most well-known cultural dance in Bali. It is a story telling dance, narrating the eternal battle between good and evil. Balinese dancers dressed in elaborate costumes of gold, jewels and heavy makeup convey the character of the dance with very precise body movements. They carefully move their feet, hands and head in circular motion, twisting hands and fingers. But it’s the stunning eyes and facial expressions that draw us with their great performance.
Added attraction to the performance was the musicians sit on the side which provide the occasional beat of the gong, followed by tinkering of chimes and the shrill song of the flutes, while the women dance and performers do their acts.
5. Learn Batik Making and Wood Carving
Learn how to make batik cloths and gain knowledge of this heritage textile of Bali. It’s a technique of dyeing the cloth in various stages, through the application of wax after each stage to protect areas of unwanted color. The end result is beautifully patterned cloth where Indonesians can sell and wear it.
We also see the beautiful paintings, amazing wood carvings and the process of making it at one of Ubud boutique stores.
6. Visit a Coffee Plantation
We visited a coffee plantation where we get to know the Luwak coffee, the most expensive coffee in the world and a very unique brew. It has been produced from the coffee beans which have been digested by a certain Indonesian cat-like animal called civet cat. We got to sample a variety of teas and cocoa along with an explanation of the medicinal health benefits. My favorite was the red tea and the husband likes the chocolates samples.
7. Have Lunch at a Ferry
Again we indulge ourselves with the spicy local food of Bali but this time in a ferry. Though the ferry is only park, it was a whole different experience since we have a gorgeous view of the sea. Besides, we have the whole ferry for the two of us that we opt to take a lot of photo ops. We also got the chance to see the captain’s area. How cool is that?
8. Ride a Banana Boat
It was our first time to ride a banana boat and it has to be in Bali! 🙂 You can also try a lot of other water sports activities at Tanjung Benoa besides swimming and relaxing on the beach for a more adventurous stay in Bali.
9. Explore the Turtle Island
We hop on to a glass bottom boat from Tanjung Benoa to Turtle Island. The glass wasn’t actually clear to see what’s below. The boat stops at some spots so we can feed the fish with bread. When we reach the Island which is very small to be called an Island anyway, we checkout the turtles and take photos of course. We actually liked this turtle reserve, there were loads of baby turtles and the guide seemed to have a genuine care for the various animals. There you can learn about the turtle life cycle, see their eggs and the little hatchlings.
10. Have a Seafood Dinner by the Beach
What could be more romantic than having a special dinner by the beach? Have a grilled seafood dinner with your partner, enjoy the sunset as the beach waves sound like music to your ears. Ok, it’s just my imagination. It was supposed to be part of our agenda but due to my bad stomach after drinking common water from the local restaurants, I felt ill that we need to rush back to our hotel 🙁
11. Experience a Balinese Massage
After all the activities and experiences we had, we ended our trip with the perfect massage ever. It was a very soothing massage by the Balinese young ladies. The Indonesian music playing on the background adds more relaxation to the experience. And we personally loved the scent and petals at the tub. Thank you Galuh Bali Spa.
An advise from us, don’t go to Bali for just the beaches. Go instead to experience the intriguing, diverse culture, religion, food and adventure.
Things to Note
- We paid departure tax of Rp 200,000 (15 USD) per person during our time of visit. Better check with your airline.
- Public transport is non-existent in Bali. Taxis are available easily on the street and are affordable or hire a taxi or rent a motor bike.