Travelling is always risky business – get stuck in a touristy area and your meals are terrible. The same can be said of sightseeing, hotels and nightspots. Travelling to a place where you know people to recommend the right places makes your stay all the more enjoyable.
Best place to eat
I’m a foodie and won’t be able to narrow it down to one place. In Bali I love the local Indonesian food from the ‘warung’, which could be compared to a mix between a pastizzi shop and a local kazin in Gozo, good excuse to sit down and chat away with the villagers in a typical setting. Ask for a nasi campur (mixed rice), ayam betutu (chicken in spices) or nasi pecel, you’ll also be surprised to discover that suckling pig (babi guling) is one of their specialities. If you’re looking for a good healthy breakfast, hipster cafes and surfers, head to Canggu, some favourite spots include Crate, Peleton, that serving amazing vegan food, that is even loved by non-vegans and Monsieur Spoon.
Best local thing
I won’t go back to the local food, but there are two things that have always struck me in Bali. One thing that you cannot miss and is an art in itself, are the Balinese offerings. Offerings vary from small pallets to more elaborate tower creations made from flowers, fruit and decorations. Created by the women and even sold at traditional markets, they are placed everywhere from doorways, to junctions in the street and on cars. The offerings are simply everywhere and are created as a gift to the gods while also to appease the demon spirits lurking around. The second thing to stop and appreciate is the use of bamboo; from decorations, instruments and furniture to buildings it really creates a connection between nature and functionality. Bamboo not only creates an aesthetic beauty but is also very sustainable and seen as a green building material. Make sure to check yourself into a bamboo villa while in Bali, or even better join a bamboo course. Bamboo U: Build and Design Course hosted by the Kul Kul Farm at the Green School and facilitated in collaboration with IBUKU is one I would surely suggest.
What is great about living in Bali is that your back garden is not only paradise but a playground for adventure and exploration. While Bali has loads of adventure activities to offer from canyoning, to water rafting, climbing Mount Batur for sunrise, sliding down waterfalls, mountain biking and just getting lost in the middle of nowhere, one memorable adventure was on the Island next to Bali, Java.
Rocking up at the airport with no concrete plan we took all sorts of local transport to head up to Mount Bromo, an active volcano at 2,329 metres. Waking up before the crack of dawn we trekked up to Mount Penanjakan for sunrise to the most incredible views one could imagine. In order not to get trapped in the touristic routes, we trekked up by ourselves. We managed to also pop our heads into Mount Bromo’s crater and eventually travelled towards Mount Semeru by bikes. We didn’t drive ourselves since the bike ride was an adventure on its own. Skidding and holding on hoping to make it through the ‘ocean of sand’ we were glad to reach our destination to begin another trek at Ranu Kumbolo. It’s an easy hike where you end up at an amazing lake on the slope of the highest peak of Java. We spent the night in tents and woke up to a misty lake, followed by chilling in a hammock in a lavender field soaking up the sun before heading back to reality.
Best areas to wind down and enjoy nature
If you want sunset and beaches head south towards Uluwatu, a favourite to lie on white sand and enjoy a breath-taking sunset. If you’re not into the beach then head up to Munduk and its surroundings, one of my favourites places to chill and explore. From watching the view over the twin lakes, to chasing waterfalls and tasting coffee at one of the coffee plantations with unbelievable views.
The best thing about travelling to Bali is that you are not far from many of the 17,000 islands Indonesia is made up of. Make it a point to visit any of these less touristic islands which will surely be an adventure, while also allowing you to wind down and enjoy nature. To mention a few Lembongan to snorkel and enjoy the beaches, Penida for exploring off the beaten track, Lombok to climb Mount Rinjani and Sumbawa for surfing, you are spoilt for choice.
Fly over to Flores Island where you get to explore beautiful islands, pristine clear waters, Komodo dragons, swim with Manta rays, snorkel, dive or go inland and drive across the island through untouched jungles and traditional villages.
Once in Bali it is also great to see different sides of the place, not just the tourist areas. My favourite place in Bali would actually be the place I spend most of my days, the Annika Linden Centre. Built as a health facility for persons with disability and an incubator for social impact, it houses a number of non-profit organisations changing lives in Bali. These include an organisation that produces prosthetic limbs, a school for children with cerebral palsy and a project that helps people with disabilities to find employment. The place is filled with inspirational people and achievements. Created by the founder of the Inspirasia Foundation as a memorial for his fiancée, who died in the Bali bombings, today it’s a hub for non-profits, partners and change makers. For more information check out their site www.annikalindencentre.org and www.inspirasia.org.
How to get there
Emirates fly from Malta to Denpasar, with a stopover in Dubai. Otherwise you can fly with Turkish or any options to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur and catch a flight to Denpasar from there.
Best time of year to visit
June to August