Bali Island has become very attractive for tourists from all around the world and especially from Ukraine in Russia in 2022. To my taste, it is too touristy with several consequences of mass tourism. The most severe of them are trash problems and higher prices than elsewhere in Indonesia.
We’ve been to several places in Bali: in Ubud, on the Dreamland Beach, and in Kuta.
I was charmed by Ubud. When you are walking along the streets, there is so much to see and to grasp. In the city, dozens of temples are situated, all intricate and spiritual. On the main streets you’ll see hundreds of different designer cafes, restaurants with cuisine from all over the world, artesanal and souvenir shops, spas, different people running errands or just strolling and plenty of motorbikes hustling in all directions. In the evening, Balinese traditional dances are performed in several locations. If you make a step aside, you’ll be rewarded with shady, peaceful side streets and juicy-green rice fields.
In the North of Ubud, numerous rice terraces are situated. Actually, we were lost in choice which one to pick.
Finally, we went to Alas Harum Bali (https://desty.page/alasharumbali). The entrance fee is 3 Euro. In this complex you can try the Luwak coffee, wander around the rice terraces and take pictures with, in or in front of the art objects (which is a total cliché, I know, but the pictures turn out to be beautiful). There is even a swimming pool with a view over the terraces. However, no kids are allowed in the pool, so we skipped it and proceeded to the restaurant Cretya Ubud, which serves tasty food and cool cocktails.
Have you ever heard of kopi luwak or civet coffee? Yep, that the coffee that was eaten, and defecated by a civet (animal) before being processed to end up in your cup! Does it ring a bell?
So, how do they produce this exclusive coffee? The civet is being fed coffee cherries, and they are being fermented in a civet’s intestines. Gastric juices give the unique aroma to this coffee and take the bitterness away. After coffee cherries were defecated by the civet, they were gathered, washed, and the shell is being removed. Then, the coffee beans are being roasted for 45 minutes. Luwak coffee is being produced on Indonesian islands. Bali is one of them.
We tried luwak coffee in Alas Harum in Ubud and paid 7 Euro for a cup. Matze actually liked the taste a lot. I found it good, pretty intense, but I’m no coffee expert.
Luwak coffee has been called one of the most expensive coffees in the world, with retail prices reaching US$100 per kilogram for farmed beans and US$1,300 per kilogram for wild-collected beans.
Unfortunately, the conditions at the civet farms are often unethical. The animals are deprived of exercise, proper diet, and space. Considering this my luwak coffee tasting experience will stay one-time.
One day, we had a beautiful stroll along the rice plantations in Ubud. We had a break at a very special place – Sweet Orange Warung. An Indonesian couple has built this restaurant with love to people, nature, and local society. We liked the fresh juice smoothis creations and the local soups a lot. The ambiente is lovely as well!
All around the place, you can see funny (sometimes scary) masks made of coconuts hanging. By purchasing such a mask (6€) you can contribute to the maintenance of the region Subak Juwuk Manis (where these rice plantations are situated). You can even paint your own mask to be hung in the restaurant. Mia had a lot of fun, and we had some calm minutes to enjoy.
Galungan and Kuningan is a Balinese celebration of good over evil. Galungan provides the best opportunity to observe the most fascinating part of Bali’s unique culture. In 2023, it took place from 4th till 14th of January. We were lucky to be on the island at that time.
Galungan is celebrated every 210 days. It is believed that during the ten days of Galungan, all the gods will come down to earth and join the festivities. The Balinese also believe that the spirit of ancestors and deceased relatives return to visit their homes, and for this reason, the various rituals conducted and offerings given to welcome them.
During the festival, all across island sprout tall bamboo poles called “penjor” – that are decorated with fruit, coconut leaves, and flowers, and set up on the right side at the entrance of every home. At each gate, one will also find small bamboo altars set up, especially for the holiday, each carrying woven palm-leaf offerings for the spirits. (Information from the website).
During Galungan, a ceremony known as Ngelawang is performed in every village. Ngelawang is a ritual to expel evil and any negative spirit, which is performed by “barong” – a divine protector in the form of a mythical lion – or dragon-like beast.
During festivities in the afternoon you will see the boys in Bali walking around the streets in traditional clothes, with music instruments and a barong. These children’s processions with the barong are a tradition, and a visit to your residence for a performance or a performance for you in the street is considered good luck for you. Usually, donations are collected, and the kids are happy about small money. Some people say these boys see it as a business. Other say this is a cultural practice when children learn and carry on the meanings and culture and their responsibilities to do that.
Do you want to see monkeys as close as it gets? You should come to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud. The entrance fee is 80000 – 100000 rupiah (6 Euro). It is open from 9 am till 6 pm. First, you need to learn some simple rules: don’t look a monkey into the eyes, it can interpret it as a sign of aggression; don’t feed or touch monkeys; don’t run; don’t fight for your food, just let it go. In the monkey forest, you will see a lot of scenes from monkey families’ lives: mothers with babies, alpha-males getting all food, some monkey drama. In general, if you are not afraid of monkeys being so close to you and follow the rules, visiting the monkey forest will be a great experience! For more information, visit the site of the Monkey Forest: http://www.monkeyforestubud.com/.
Balinese dance is an ancient dance tradition that is part of the religious and artistic expression among the Balinese people. Balinese dance is dynamic, angular, and intensely expressive. Balinese dancers express the stories of dance-drama through the bodily gestures, including gestures of fingers, hands, head, and wide-open eyes. (I took this description from the following website).
Among the dance traditions in Bali are:
• Barong, king of the spirits
• Legong, a refined dance
• Kecak, the Ramayana monkey chant dance
• Janger, a sitting dance with swaying movements
• Topeng, a mask dance
Traditionally, sacred dances can only be performed in temples.
We’ve been to two performances, Kecak with the elements of Janger and Barong, or Legong, I’m not sure anymore: a mysterious lion/dragon was involved as well as beautiful female dancers. Mia totally loved it, both of the shows. For me, the Legong / Barong dance was too loud, we even had to love to the last row from the first one. The Kecak performance I liked a lot, though, so we had to move forward.
Dreamland Beach was one of the places where you can catch a great wave as a beginner Surfer. Unfortunately, we got sich from the food at our hotel and spent a day in bed. The next day, we were still quite weak. I surfed, though. You pay about 30 Euro for a 2 hours private lesson. I gave up after only one hour. Though I caught a couple of waves, I was too weak to continue surfing.
The beach itself is very nice, with steady waves and the sunsets are gorgeous.
The last stop on Bali was Kuta. I was shocked to see the amount of trash at the beach and in the ocean. Local administration obviously doesn’t cope with the problem. Matthias said that 10 years ago, when he was there last time, the beach looked completely different. But irresponsible tourists and reckless locals let the beach grow dirty over those years. This, though, made us very, very sad.