Before I get to the list, there’s one important thing I need to share — Ferdy. That’s the only name you’ll ever need to know in Bali.
Ours was a serendipitous meeting — we were a group of six stranded in Jimbaran, at the mercy of the overpriced taxis that lurked outside the restaurants. That was, until Ferdy came along in his Bluebird cab to drop off his passengers.
“Six, can?” – Us
“Can!” – Ferdy
And with three words, a bond was formed.
Ferdy had a smiling rest-face, which puts you at ease at once. We liked him so much that we hired him to be our driver/guide for the whole of the next day. He was honest, cheerful, and extremely generous the whole time, as if he were taking long-time friends around to see his home. I can honestly say that our trip wouldn’t have been as memorable if we didn’t get to know Ferdy.
Okay, now that you know the best driver-slash-guide in Bali, it’s time to explore! The island is simply humungous. For the six visits I’ve made to Bali, I’ve barely scratched the surface. It’s uncanny: each time I go, I find around 5 more things to do when I return to the Island of the Gods.
Here are ten suggestions on how you can make your own Balinese adventure unforgettable, based on the knockout experiences that made me come back for more (I’ve listed them in no particular order):
1. Paraglide at Timbis Beach
A sure way to get a Bali high is to paraglide at Timbis Beach. It sounds crazy to jump off a bluff, but once you soar above the hills and the sea, over the ridiculously expensive cliffside mansions, then it will all make sense. If you’re lucky, your tandem instructor may let you take the reins and control the chute for a bit. If you’re extremely lucky, you may even get to literally touch the clouds! This adventure is time-dependent; paragliding season in Timbis Beach is from May to October.
Back in 2010, we paid ~USD100 for a tandem flight; contact Bali Paragliding Adventure for the latest rates.
2. Go whitewater rafting at the Telaga Waja River.
Personally, the highlight of the rafting trips down rivers of Bali is the scenery. You get to pass by lush riverbanks and graceful waterfalls. Here, the trip is more of a gentle drift than an adrenaline rush, and that’s perfect when you’re here to take time out to reconnect with nature. All that’s asked of you is an occasional paddle; the rest of the time, you’re free to hear the birds chirp and the water gurgle cheerfully across the rocks. You should know, though, that the Telaga Waja rafting route is punctuated with a gaping 4-metre drop — you know, just to make sure you didn’t snooze off.
Here, we enjoyed a 2-hour rafting trip with Sobek Adventures, at a discounted price of USD 65 (lunch is included).
3. Watch the sunrise at Mt. Batur.
On my first trip to Bali, I felt a bit pressured to come up with a fun-filled itinerary for our group. I may have overdid it by booking activities from sun-up to sun-down. It did turn out well though, as the sunrise trek up Mt. Batur turned out to be a brilliant idea. No one spoke a resentful word about the chilly 4 am hike, as the watching the breathtaking burst of pink and orange across the sky from the top left us speechless.
The sunrise trek offered by Kintamani Tours is at USD 50/pax; try to ask about other sights you can visit along the way before and after the hike, as to make the most out of the travel time.
4. Take Balinese cooking lessons.
You know how the saying goes: teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life. Isn’t it much better to have a first-hand knowledge of the colorful and zingy Balinese cuisine? Once you get home, instead of daydreaming about that mind-blowing satay and tempe manis you had at a random street stall, you can whip them up yourself!
We thoroughly enjoyed Paon Bali‘s Cooking Course, which started off with a walkthrough of the local market, followed by an excursion to the rice fields, all before being welcomed into Wayan and Puspa’s lovely home to get cooking. All for IDR 350k (~USD 30), the mind-broadening experience (not to mention the mouthwatering meal we all shared after) was more than worth it.
5. Bungy in style
Okay, it may not be the highest bungee jump you can do anywhere, but how many places do you know will let you jump off while riding a BMX bike? Or a motorcycle? Or while being set on fire? I gotta hand it to the Bungyco guys, they do have imagination.
6. When in Bali, surf.
Now I can’t go on this far without mentioning the Bali surf. Blessed with long coasts everywhere, the island offers a myriad of choices for pros and newbies alike. If you’re just starting out, you can enroll yourself in one of the more famous surf schools like ProSurf at Hard Rock. Or, you can simply walk along Kuta Beach, and be approached by one of the many local surfers who’s willing to teach you at USD 10 per hour.
7. Go on a day cruise to Lembongan Island.
I’m not exactly the type to go ga-ga over cruises, but I did have lots of fun on this one. On our day trip to Lembongan Island, we had a mid-sea pitstop, where we can water-slide or cannonball into the blue, or take up a snorkel mask to explore. They offered kayaks and banana boat rides too. Bottom-line, they wouldn’t forgive themselves if there was even just one bored passenger onboard. The limitless food and drinks on the Bali Fun Ship were lip-smacking good too; we couldn’t have enough of the seafood.
8. Pamper yourself with a poolside villa.
It doesn’t take breaking the bank to feel like a deity in the Island of the Gods. A lot of resorts offer villas with a personal pool at a relatively affordable rate. Try to browse for villas around Seminyak, Legian or Ubud; you can even have some luxurious finds at below USD 100/night. If you’re going to (relatively) splurge, do it in an island when they got pampering and massages down pat as an art.
9. Grab dinner at Menega Cafe at Jimbaran.
Jimbaran’s widely-known as THE dinner spot in Bali. While you dig your toes into the sand, mouthwatering seafood are brought to your beachfront table. A friend gave us a tip for one of the more affordable restaurants along the strip. Menaga Cafe offers a BBQ dinner set that’s guaranteed to fill your tummy, for a reasonable IDR 125k (~USD 10).
10. Catch the sunset at Uluwatu Temple.
And here’s yet another reason why we’re grateful for having met Ferdy — as dusk loomed, he suggested that we end our excursion with a sunset trip to Uluwatu. We gamely followed his advice, and were not disappointed. Uluwatu Temple is perched on a dramatic cliff, whose tall drop draws your eyes down at the spectacle of waves crashing beneath. It wowed us enough to climb over the fences, lie on our bellies upon the grass, and sigh as we watch the sun disappear by the horizon.