Once in late autumn, I was on the East Coast of the US with a female colleague. We were frozen to the bone beneath the hotel blankets and decided then and there that next time we would travel to a decidedly warmer place—which was how Bali appeared on the horizon.
But on an imaginary world map, Bali was much closer to China than Australia, and as the misunderstanding got cleared up, it also quickly became clear that when the time came, it should be for at least four weeks and preferably in November—a month that I’d much rather avoid every year.
“A whole month for vacation?” my boss asked, incredulous. But I promised to come back.
Now arrived at Denpasar airport, we were picked up by a friend of a friend, who rented us a home and gave us a crash course in life on Bali. The best fruit juices were to be found at the market, you should only take the blue taxis, and if you wanted a SIM card, then only get the ones by Simpati and have them immediately activated by the vendor.
In hindsight, I wouldn’t live in Kuta again but in the more beautiful and less hectic Seminyak. But back then we had firmly decided to lead the “local lifestyle” that our new friends (all expats) were already living all over Kuta. For us as beginning surfers, this place was a great fit.
On Bali, you rapidly become a millionaire, since 100 CHF yields about 1,400,000 Indonesian rupiahs, and local life is really inexpensive. A car with driver costs about $40 for the whole day. A small villa without a pool goes for $500 a month, and you can get a surfing lesson for $10. In the larger shops and restaurants, they also accept credit cards.
“Surfing is everything.” And it’s through this that the sport shapes the rugged beaches of Bali. Among the most beautiful are Padang Padang Beach, where Eat, Pray, Love was filmed; Jimbaran Beach, with its famous fish restaurants; Dreamland Beach, with its gorgeous sunsets; Bingin Beach, for fun quick trips; and countless other surfing spots around the island.
It’s important to know, though, that the wide fine-sand beaches, where long, curved palms kiss the turquoise-blue water, don’t exist on Bali. So forget those comfortable strolls along the surf, and instead rent a longboard—because, after all, surfing is everything.
Bali’s numerous Buddhist and Hindu temples are legendary! But the one I remember is Pura Uluwata, with its thrilling ceremonies, meddlesome monkeys, and fascinating Kecak show dance. Many Indonesian tourists have never seen Europeans before, so we were totally flabbergasted when they wanted to have their picture taken with us. As we were enjoying the view from the stone steps, an estimated 60 people (a whole tour group, among others) had their picture taken with us. The children absolutely wanted to touch blonde hair, and afterwards they giggled among themselves. It makes you suddenly feel like a movie star!
Whoever says “Bali” often also says “yoga,” and that leads straight to Ubud, right in the midst of bright green rice paddies and terraces. A place where you’ll find an organic lifestyle, colorful artist’s galleries, and countless yoga retreats—like The Yoga Barn, for instance, which is equally good for exercising and wellness. In the garden, aside from coffee, there’s also wifi. Speaking of coffee, the Luwak Kope Coffee Farm is located right there. Someone once told me that there was a land where foxes lived in the trees and drank coffee. The source of these stories is surely to be found in Ubud, in the small cups with somewhat overly strong coffee.
Yoga and surfing define the island so strongly that one other option for adventure goes almost unnoticed: the wonderful and colorful world beneath the water. Diving lies in the shadow of the neighboring Great Barrier Reef, but there’s still a wide variety of fish in Bali. Definitely plan on a couple of days for diving. During my open water diver course at the Tauch Tulamben Resort Terminal, I saw a shark, turtles, moray eels, and tons of fishes and coral. The terminal features a house reef with old marble statues, impressive drop-offs, and even an old shipwreck (the Liberty), whose holes I swam through along with a bunch of fish. At the time I didn’t yet know that there was a red dive filter for the GoPro, so the videos ended up being dark blue.
Back in Seminyak—and off to the chic shops, where even Rip Curl and Roxy fans get their money’s worth like nowhere else. And, of course, to the nightlife. While the parties at the Sky Garden Club and the surrounding bars in Kuta are dominated by Australian teenies and the alcohol flows like a river, Seminyak’s nightlife is more stylish. Not to be missed is the Potato Head Beach Club, where you can sip fine cocktails from morning till evening—on a daybed or in the pool that merges into the ocean almost seamlessly.
Bali gave me these and many other memories. Fun, adventurous, relaxed—memories that will always stay with me. After a month, there was still much that the island hadn’t yet revealed. The gorgeous waterfalls, the pearl culture in the north, and the climb up the Agung volcano are all things that I have to catch up on someday. As the locals say: you either fall in love with the island, or you never come again. Time will tell.
Photo Credits: Daria Mühlethaler & Olga Zhavoronko