My first impression of Bali – I’m in a taxi (taksi) and there’s another taxi with no driver blocking our path. My driver gets out and single handedly pushes the car away.
This is going to be an interesting place.
Within 10 minutes, I knew I was going to come back here – I had a good feeling about this place. Twice have I ever felt this feeling – once in Las Vegas, then here. And both times I’ve been extremely mesmerized.
While on the taxi ride to our villa, Bali reminded me of Cambodia a little bit, but a much more developed version of Cambodia. You can also tell there were tourists left and right. In fact, there was traffic even at 9:30pm – 10:00pm ish on a Thursday. Even Hong Kong and Los Angeles doesn’t have this type of traffic at these time intervals.
In a way, it also reminded me of Phuket. All the villas and stuff… but there were much nicer stores everywhere. It felt much more urban and international. You keep coming across Japanese and Chinese restaurants and the roads are very nice and not bumpy at all, very smooth (unlike Johannesburg and Cambodia).
I’m in love with this place; you can feel its vibrancy at night.
By the way, to be honest, I didn’t had a chance to do much cultural stuff. Basically the few days I was here we spent our time eating, drinking, partying, going to nice restaurants and places. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking for this post.
Z Rezidence – Jl. Umalas, no. 22 Seminyak Jl. Umalas; in front of Nook Restaurant. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/5599571?s=8.
We had a huge group over our weekend, and in order to accommodate our vast amount of people, we actually booked TWO of these villas. The point is, you can get these nice villas for an extremely cheap price – our average cost per person per night was USD 70. What a bargain right! And the thing is, there are so many different villas you can choose from in Bali that also provides these attractive prices.
The best part of each morning of our villa was that there were staff members who would make Indonesian noodles for breakfast… and you get to choose whatever fruit juice you want to drink as well. Friendliest, most professional, and most welcoming staff members ever.
- the locals can speak English, but since some of their English isn’t terrific you may have to repeat a few times so that they can understand you
- taxis will try not to use their meters and charge you a fixed price. If you can, insist on using a meter as it is usually cheaper, otherwise negotiate with them
- if you have a large group of people and want to travel to many places or faraway places, it might be easier and more convenient to rent a driver for a day instead. For one of the days, we managed to fit about 10 people in the van
- You can also ride a motorcycle there too. Helmets are required and are for your safety
- from my overall trip, the service was excellent here
- my flight from Hong Kong I took Singapore Airline. It was cheapest option since I had to go to Singapore after so I stopped at Singapore first on the way to Bali
- Bali has a lot of good food, so make sure you go to the nice, good, recommended places instead of wasting your meal on something bad
- Choose where you stay based on what type of trip you have in Bali, since Bali is a huge island
Right next to our villa, they offer a mixture of Western and Balinese food. Gotta be honest, the food wasn’t astounding (but it wasn’t bad), but during the day and afternoons, being surrounded by the tranquility of the rice fields really gave it that relaxing and open vibe.
La Laguna (Facebook)
Tucked away in a hidden area, this gem is an exotic restaurant that delivers a diverse choice of meals.
There was a cat that wanted to join us for dinner in La Laguna. I tried really hard to move it away as it was occupying one of our seats.
An Indonesian restaurant that fuses with tea lounge and antiques. Great little cafe that also has live music time to time.
Barbacoa offers a variety of Latin American influenced dishes (well to me they are like Mexican dishes)… actually they are more like small dishes / tapas style. Its flavors are mainly BBQ, wood fire, charcoal, and smokey. It reminds me of Ted’s Lookout in Hong Kong for those that have been. To see Barbacoa’s menu, click here.
Metis is an upscale French Mediterranean restaurant near Umalas (actually very close to Barbacoa). They utilize their space so that there’s a restaurant, a lounge, and a bar. They have a very nice outdoor paddy fields as well. My pictures don’t do them justice, so visit their website here.
Roma (Trip Advisor)
Want to stray away from all the international and upscale restaurants in Bali, and still want a decent local meal? No problem. Located in Jimbaran, you get to dine in a beautiful setting – on the beach. You choose the seafood and they will BBQ it for you. Perfect for small groups and large groups. Nearby should be a person selling corn cob very cheaply too.
Other restaurants that we went to and didn’t have pictures: Sardine (website). It’s mainly a fish restaurant. Decent, but long waiting time for the food to arrive.
As mentioned before, our time was limited and we spent most of our time chilling in the villa, eating, and going to bars and nightclubs. We did manage to squeeze time to go to one beach though – the Balangan beach. An hour away from Umalas, this beach is incredible. Lots of restaurants nearby, sea coral, and the waves are like 10 feet tall. It is one of Bali’s most quiet secrets in my opinion (not many people were there). Still not impressed? Look at the pictures below.
Bars, Beach Clubs, and Nightclubs
The bars, beach clubs, and restaurants sure know how to complement their interior design to complement the naturally beautiful scenery that is of Bali’s. All the bars, beach clubs, and night clubs here are of top notch. I don’t think I’ve ever been to these type of places where the energy was as raw and as mysterious as here.
Finn’s Beach Club (website)
You can rent kayak and paddle boarding here. Although if the tides are too low, they may not rent it out. It’s located in Semara Luxury Villa Resort. This was my first beach club in Bali and I was just taken aback… they have breathtaking views over here.
Rock Bar (Website)
Rock Bar is on a whole other level. This so called ‘bar’ (it should be called like a super bar or something) just has an impressive view… and it feels like it stretches for miles! It is located inside AYANA Resort and Spa Bali. It’s one of those places where you can have the worst camera and still turn out good pictures, it’s that amazing.
Potato Head (website)
Boom. That’s the only word to describe this place. You walk through their spiral corridor of window panels and you are greeted with… Boom. The second you step outside of it’s amazing hallway and you are greeted with a masterpiece. Seriously, it’s like, boom. This place is a must for anyone who ever goes to Bali… if you’ve never been here before I wouldn’t consider you having been to Bali.
OK, now with the nightclubs. I didn’t bring my camera out but here are a few shots from my iPhone.
La Favela (Website)
Technically, it’s a restaurant, but at night it transforms more into a club kinda place. Very Balinese, has an outdoor garden. We didn’t go there for the food so I cannot comment on it, but the nightlife scene was pretty happening.
Again it’s one of those restaurant/club kind of places, but by the time we arrived it was fully transformed into a nightclub. Basically you go down the stairs and there’s the bar area where it’s accessible at all four sides, a place with tables, and a dance floor with the DJ Booth in the front. The music is fabulous… you look at their website and their lineup and they have a lot of underground dance music, especially deep house. I like how it was dark, a bit mysterious and haunting, but like in a good way.
Other Things To Do
So I also had a Balinese massage session and a yoga lesson (first time ever). With Balinese massage, they basically glide their hands around your back for the entire session, so they don’t really do the part where they put pressure on a specific point on your body. I forgot the name of the massage place, but it was right next door to our villa so somewhere near Umalas.
As for the yoga session, I found it very inspirational and quite a bit of a workout! If there was any place to do yoga it would be Bali. You’re surrounded again by paddy fields and nature, and since you’re away from the hustle and bustle of a city, you get to do yoga in an outdoor area where the only sounds you hear are birds chirping.
The Yoga place is called Desa Seni (website). One of the signs you see before heading to the class was “Inspiration is ahead.”
I love Bali. It’s left me a very good first impression from the beginning to the end. I would have loved to explore more historical and cultural things in Bali, including going to Canggu, but no worries, I am sure I will be back here again. If I was to design a bucket list of 50 things to do before you die for everyone, visiting Bali would be on that list.
*Originally published on Oct. 6, 2015