What is beyond this EPL island haven?
In 2016, Frenchie and I literally spent our first two weeks of the year in this small island of Indonesia, which became famous by the Eat, Pray, Love memoir of Elizabeth Gilbert.
Because of the book, many single (and divorced) women have packed their bags (and life) to settle (and travel) to the island, hoping to be able to find themselves (and a new love) just like what happened to Elizabeth Gilbert. That even the local Balinese people (who can speak English) called this the E-P-L-syndrome.
Bali, as a place to travel and visit has so much to offer. They even have hidden gems along the way! So what's beyond this Eat, Pray, Love island haven?! Oh, so much more!!!
We stayed in Ubud, in this family-owned bungalows. The place reminded me of a Beijing hutong! The family was so nice and accommodating. They barely speak English but somehow their one-word-sentences help us get by when we stayed there.
Things You Can Do In Bali:
1. Visit the Sacred Monkey Forest
In Ubud, the most famous tourist attraction is the Sacred Monkey Forest. For Balinese culture, they have high respect with monkeys, as they believed they were the spirits of their beloved dead. So whenever they see monkeys around, they don't shoo them away. They just let them do their thing. But you have to be extra careful being around them.
Frenchie and I had a very, very close encounters with them while we were there. They were very playful and would grab things from your hands, especially if it's food.
2. Watch a shadow puppet show
They have so many cultural shows and event around the island. Wayang, the art of shadow puppet was one particular show that made Frenchie so curious. I, on the other hand had no idea what the whole thing was about, although they gave an English explanation about the plot of the play before they started. I was more fascinated on who were behind it.
Apparently, being a shadow puppet "manipulator" is not just a talent you can develop but to be a dalang means you're an artist and a spiritual leader. And at the same time, had an extraordinary talent to showcase the epic mythologies. That's why if you'll get to watch one of these, they're usually old men. UNESCO required Indonesians to preserve this heritage.
3. Get lost in the middle of their rice fields
Indonesia's staple food, like many other Asian countries is rice. So it's no surprise that you will see hectares after hectares of rice fields in the country or in the island of Bali. It's not something special but somehow for many tourists, this activity brings another bucket list adventure and experience.
Well, being Filipino myself and being surrounded by rice fields all my life, this was like--- nah! :P
4. Rent a motorbike or scooter
It's the best way to beat the traffic around the island! Also the best way to move around and even go farther from Ubud.
We had so much fun with this form of transportation and I highly recommend this! Fret not because you'll see a lot of rental places in the area and they're relatively cheap.
5. Find an infinity pool for an afternoon dip
There are so many resorts around Bali and most of them have swimming pools. Some of them have infinity pools overlooking the rice fields. So use your Google search and find one. You don't need to stay in the resort, you can order food and drinks, or just pay for swimming fee.
6. Dress up like a Balinese and join their local ritual event
Indonesia is primarily practicing Hinduism, so they have plenty of religious and ritual events all year round. They have at least one per month. In order to truly immerse yourself in this fascinating culture, make an effort to join in, but do dress-up appropriately for the event.
We were lucky that our bungalow owners were kind enough to lend us their costumes/clothes, so we didn't have to buy them.
7. Rent a car (oh, it's right-hand drive)
If you plan to see more of Bali, this is the best way to go around, rather than taking a taxi every time. I was lucky to have Frenchie, who had an International Driver's Card, as my official driver. It's the best road trip we had so far in our travels. And it's cheaper to rent as well ($15/day), so it's not bad for your travel budget.
8. Go to the rice terraces
They have several ones around Bali. And if you're a nature trekker, this is one good activity for you. We went to Ceking Rice Terraces, when we did our car road trip. It's my first rice terraces visit, ever.
So I made a promise to myself that my next rice terraces visit should be the Bananue Rice Terraces in the Philippines.
9. Visit the volcano
If you're a risk taker, you can even hike it. The most famous and the highest one is the Batur Volcano. It's the volcano located at the center of two concentric calderas.
10. Swim in a hot spring
Hot springs are another tourist attraction in Bali. But you need to go farther from Ubud or Kuta. Frenchie and I stayed overnight in a resort nearby a hot spring. It's a public one and it's mostly locals who come and swim here. You can spend an hour or two in the area-- no more, no less.
But since it's quite a ride going back to Ubud, we decided to spend the night in the area. I loved it because it was more quiet and we had the resort to ourselves at night. They even had their own hot spring!
11. Snorkeling to see shipwrecks
There are quite a few of shipwrecks in Bali dating back during the World War II. We drove all the way to Amed to do snorkeling and shipwreck hunting.
Amed is still relatively cheaper compared to Kuta and Ubud-- and still less touristy. If you're into scuba diving and free diving, this is a place to be.
We spent several nights there and we paid cheaper compared to the resort we were staying in Ubud.
13. Visit sacred temples
Again, Indonesia's religion is mostly Hinduism so it's not surprising to see temples, temples, temples. It is a very fascinating religion-- at least from my very Catholic background.
I love how they offer flowers everyday, without missing a corner of their house. Visiting a temple, it'll give you an idea how Hinduism is being practiced.
We went to the temple on their 50.000 IDR. We even had a dance entertainment while we were there.
15. Go the surfer's paradise in the island
Bali is a surfer's paradise. One of the many reasons why they come is to surf. There's at least 10 great spots to go, and they're mostly in the southern part. You can ride a motorbike to get there as well.
Uluwatu is the most famous and most likely the best one. I tried surfing once, but I did not go on surfing here. But if you are, this is the most scenic with big waves.
16. Explore and swim in their waterfalls
This activity was among my top favorite. We had a great time looking and swimming in them. There are a lot of places to go, you just need to do a little more out of the way and ready to explore them.
The best one we had was the hidden waterfalls that we just kind of saw while we were driving around. It was a great find! But the water was sooo cold!
17. Check out the local market and buy unique souvenir pieces
It has been on this trip that I was really fascinated on visiting the local markets. I love all the things I see. I love bargaining and interacting with the local people.
I love how things can be a good idea for souvenirs for families and friends-- the best part, they're cheaper compared to buying them from a souvenir store!
From then on, I made a conscious effort to visit the local markets on our travels. And you should, too. You'll be very surprised on the things you can find.
18. Go on a food trip! Like a lot!
I'm one happy Asian to have tasted all the varieties of food we tried on this trip. It was, of course, my most favorite activity on this adventure. It made me realize that Asian food is really the best there is.
I may be biased on saying that. It's the most authentic and the most savory of dishes with the exemplary spices, I've ever tasted. My most favorite Indonesian dish is nasi goreng with satay. It is somehow similar to Thai food.
On our last night in Bali, we went to the fish market in Kuta, bought some fresh lobsters, and gave our seafood to a cook--- who made our very fresh and cheap dinner goodness!
I even went for a Balinese cooking class, which I will also blog about.