Bali is one of the most intriguing destinations in the world, an island both physically and culturally, it is unique in countless ways. As far as island getaways go, few would say you can go wrong with Bali, but many who visit, see only one side of this exotic island, to really experience it, you need to see its many faces.
Bali as a luxurious and relaxing getaway
This is probably the most famous side of Bali seen on tourist brochures and in the windows of travel agents. The island’s southern edges are lined with countless luxury hotels and spas – some from big luxury names like the exquisite BVLGARI resort. If it’s a chilled-out holiday you’re looking for, full of pampering, you won’t go wrong with Bali.
Bali as a fun, sunny surf-spot
Being an Island, Bali will not disappoint when it comes to a fun island feel. While it’s beaches are not always the same silky white sand you’d find in Thailand – they’re generally dark volcanic – Bali delivers fantastic nightlife concentrated in the tourist and beach town of Kuta. You’ll find plenty of great shopping too, generally knock-offs of popular name brands are the easiest to find – not high quality, but so cheap you won’t really mind. For the surfers, Bali is a top destination too with about 18 good surf spots to choose from – make sure you check the seasonality of the waves in each place to ensure you stay close to the right spot at the right time!
Bali as a cultural island
In the 15th century Islam arrived in Java, Bali’s big neighbour to the West, the former Hindu princes fled ahead of it across the narrow straight to their colony, Bali. With them came their entire courts full of intellectuals, musicians and artists, making Bali the densest concentration of Hindu artisans on earth.
If you can find a way, make sure you see the world’s largest percussion orchestras, the Balinese Gamelans, in performance – each village creates and maintains its own and practices daily, many are world-renowned. Also keep an eye out for some traditional Balinese artworks and their modern interpretations based on German artist, Walter Spies’ paintings during his time living on the island.
I’d recommend taking a day tour from one of the many tour companies. Bali Traditional Tours is one of the highest rated and will cost you about $90 for a full day with over 100km’s driving up into the hill-villages and to all the famous temples. You’ll get the opportunity to see some traditional Balinese dancing on some of the tours, including my favourite, the infectious and trance-like Kecak or Monkey Dance.
Bali is a long way away, it’s a trip you’ll likely make only once in your life, if you go, read up and do as much as you can to see all the faces of this stunning island, you may not get another chance!