Over the course of our visit, it becomes increasingly apparent that Bali is one of those rare destinations that offers everything you could possibly ask for while traveling. Welcoming locals, great food, rich culture and spectacular scenery adorn our nine-day stay. My good friend Vivian and I spend the first part of our trip in Kuta, one of Indonesia’s most popular tourist destinations. Kuta is known for its stunning sandy beaches, bustling nightlife and is recognized as a prime spot for surfing. We spend 3-days embracing the beautiful weather and cheap food before moving on for a longer stay in the district of Ubud.
Pedang Pedang Beach
On our first day in Kuta, we visit its namesake beach. Within seconds of our arrival, we’re presented with a swarm of unwanted sales pitches for sunglasses, bracelets and henna tattoos. When we finally make it clear that we’re not interested in any of this we’re able to find a spot on the beach and rent an umbrella to keep us cool.
Along the coast, amateur surfers attempt to ride the beach’s fierce waves under the supervision of their teachers. There are a number of established surf schools that operate along with beach, as well as unaffiliated locals that also offer surfing lessons for a much cheaper price.
Feeling curious and disregarding my near-non-existent swimming ability, I take a lesson with Tori, one of the unaffiliated teachers I find plotted on the beach beside a handful of bright surfboards. For 150,000IDR (around 7GBP) he takes me out into the water after teaching me the basics on the sand. It takes one hour and a mouthful of salty water for me to decide that, despite Tori’s incredible patience and encouragement, surfing is not for me.
Exhausted from the heat of the sun and strength of the waves we grab some food at one of the beaches restaurants. I opt for a 35,000IDR plate of Nasi Cumpur, a dish consisting of small portions of rice, meat, vegetables, egg, and tofu, that soon comes to be a staple of the trip.
Pedang Pedang Beach
As we emerge from a dark narrow cave, our eyes are overwhelmed by the dazzling sunlight that bounces off of the ocean’s turquoise waves. The sand they meet with is impeccably golden and gigantic boulders stagger the shore. We’re on Pedang Pedang beach in the South of Kuta, which is one of the most beautiful shores that I have ever seen and a small paradise.
We’re impressed to hear that Pedang Pedang is also known by locals as ‘Julia Roberts beach’ – a name they use proudly after the star shot scenes for her 2010 film Eat, Pray Love. Admittedly, I’m yet to watch the film, but the with scenery like this, I’m not surprised at Pedang Pedang’s selection for it.
The beach is small and some areas busy, but the further we walk from its entrance the easier it is to find a vacant spot of sand. When settled we spend a few hours laying in the sun, drinking from coconuts and, of course, getting some essential shots for Instagram.
On our way to the beach, we were unsure of whether we should spend the day here, or on the well-known Dreamland Beach. Our taxi convinces us that Pedang Pedang is the best option for the day, not only for its beauty but also as it’s close to Uluwatu Temple which is where we plan on ending our day watching a semi-traditional Kecak dance at sunset.
After a short rest at our questionable hotel (where we’re woken at 5 am by gossiping guests & where the staff ‘accidentally’ open our door at random intervals) we make the spontaneous decision to experience the region’s nightlife. Walking down the almost desolate road, Jalan Raya Legian, we’re skeptical but are impressed when we come across Eikon and their playlist of pretty decent hip-hop & R’n’B tracks.
We had been recommended by our driver to go to Sky Garden, a huge club that offers a roof-top view of the city but, other than a super-strong mojito, aren’t blown away by its offerings so return to Eikon for the rest of the night.
Slightly hung-over, we spend our last day in Kuta lazing around on Legian Beach. Upon our arrival, we’re immediately shocked at the greatness of the waves that roll up on the lengthy shore. The tide here comes up extremely high so instead of lying on the sand we rent some sun beds to keep dry.
As on Kuta, we are approached several times by local vendors carrying their offerings. One seller we do give into is a woman skillfully balancing a large bowl of fruit on her head. From her, I purchase the most incredibly delicious passionfruit I have ever tasted.
When we are hungry enough for a meal we find that a lot of the restaurants on the beach are targeted at Western clientele and as such, set their prices as if they were operating in a western market. As a cheap alternative we find a small stall close to the entrance of the beach, here we get a delicious dish of Ayam Goreng (Indonesian style fried chicken) and an iced tea for around 30,000IDR a third of the price of a meal in one of the restaurants.
For dinner, we move to Jimbaran Bay to taste some fresh seafood and watch the sun as it sets. There are a number of restaurants along the bay, all offering outdoor seating on the beach with a spectacular view of the sand, ocean, and sky. We arrive at around 6 pm and get a table in the second row. I would recommend trying to get there around half an hour earlier than this to guarantee an unobstructed view.
To order we choose from a selection of freshly caught fish, crabs, lobsters, and prawns. The restaurants also offer a number of non-seafood dishes. I opted for Ikan Bakar, grilled fish with a sweet-but-spicy sauce. The prices here are more expensive than other restaurants offering Indonesian dishes, I think I paid around 100,000IDR for my meal, however for the experience I believe it to be worth it. Our night ends with us listening to the music of a mariachi band as they make their way along the beach, playing ballads to each table of diners as we eat.
How we traveled: We arrived at Ngurah Rai International Airport. I booked a return flight from Hong Kong with AirAsia for 160GBP and Vivian booked a return flight from London withSingapore Airlines for 560GBP. When we arrived in Bali we used a private driver as our main means of transportation. We found our driver through our hotel and he offered us prices much lower than if we would have used local or a BlueBird taxi.
What we did: In the daytime, we visited Kuta Beach, Pedang Pedang Beach, Legian Beach. Kuta and Legian have free entry to the public, however, Pedang Pedang charges 10,000IDR per person. In our evenings we visited Uluwatu Temple to watch a Kecak performance (20,000IDR entry and 100,000IDR for the performance). We also experienced Kuta’s nightlife by visiting Jalan Raya Legian where we went into Eikon (free entry) and Sky Garden (150,000IDR including a free drink). On our last evening in Kuta, we ate and watched the sun as it set at Jimbaran Bay.
Where we ate: We made an active effort to only eat at local Indonesian restaurants. Opposite our hotel, we found a breakfast option that offered dishes for 20,000IDR. When at the beaches and tourist spots meals were around 35,000IDR upwards. Our dinner on Jimbaran Bay was in one of the many seafood cafés and was around 100,000IDR per person.
Where we stayed: We stayed in the Hawaii Bali Hotel. We found the hotel on AirBnB and our stay was very… interesting, but equally, cheap.
Tips & Tricks: Never accept the first price offered to you by taxi drivers or local vendors. If they’re not using a meter, always try to reduce the price for a taxi by at least 50-100,000IDR and when shopping for souvenirs, we were able to reduce prices from 300,000 to 50,000IDR in minutes.