Bali Travel Guide - Clubbing in Kuta - Bali Surfing and Dive Trips
Bali Dreaming - Guide to Bali
By Brett Turner
The Balinese are a warm and welcoming people who are never short of a smile. And with diving, culture, and fun accomodations, Bali can be explored again and again. Read more for a personal, insider's review of great spots for staying in Bali and having fun.
For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of visiting one of Australia’s most popular playgrounds, and indeed for those of you who have, I would like to introduce some of my favorite aspects of Bali.
If you are sitting at home, work or school, day dreaming about your next holiday I would strongly suggest giving some sincere thought to visiting Bali, a place that truly is a paradise on our door step.
There are many things to see and do on a holiday in Bali and I cannot and do not claim to be able to give you an insight on all of them. I would like to simply share some of the experiences I have enjoyed so far and hope to be able to offer some advice on a broad range of activities as I feel Bali has something to offer everyone.
Kuta - Clubbing/ Partying
Strap yourself in because a stay in Kuta is sure to be a hell of a ride. This particular section is for those of you who like to party.
The night life in Kuta really is something matched by nothing back home in Australia. A night in Kuta really only just begins at about 10 or 11pm and is not uncommon to end until 6 or 7am the next morning. There are literally too many clubs and bars in Kuta to mention them all so I will instead simply inform you of a few favorites of mine.
Located just off the main drag in a side road off Legian St, Troppo Zone is central to all of the major action. Troppo Zone proudly boasts to have some of the best drinking records in the world and when you read some of the achievements printed on banners all over the main bar it is clear to understand why. It is hard to believe that a person could consume so much alcohol and survive. There are no RSA laws in Bali, or at least none that are policed, so a person can continue to drink until either they have had too much or the establishment has had too much of them.
A word of warning I feel is applicable here. Whilst it is quite easy to over indulge in a country with no policed RSA laws it pays dividends to be your own voice of reason. Just about every night in Kuta, from about 2am onwards, a fun and vibrant night life starts to turn a little ugly. The sight of holiday makers who have had too much sun and too many Bintangs is not at all a pretty one. There are also some less then favorable people searching the streets, looking for an easy target and there is no shortage of candidates. A good night can turn bad very quickly in the madness of Kuta so it helps to be cautious.
That which makes the Troppo Zone so different from the other night clubs is the staff. Troppo Zone is also paired with the Puri Rama Hotel and for my 10 night stint in Kuta I stayed there the entire time. Whilst it is more then possible to find cheaper accommodation elsewhere in Kuta your money will be well worth the comfort in the peace of mind you get in exchange. The rooms are not by any means glamorous but they are more then sufficient.
The main pool is also quite pretty at night and a great place to escape the heat of the day.
The main man at Troppo Zone is a man by the name of Nyoman Naya, aka ‘Grumpy’, an ironic nickname for his personality, achieved from his days as a school teacher. Grumpy is your go to guy whilst in Kuta which is more then a helpful thing to have in such a wild place, especially when travelling like myself, solo.
Grumpy will ensure that your every need is catered for and will give you good advice such as how much to pay for certain things and where to change your money so you don’t get ripped off. Along with Grumpy are several other colorful characters such as Cheeky, Crazy Leg and Ande. These guys all know how to have a good time and will ensure that you do too.
For more information on Troppo Zone, and to book your accommodation directly with ‘Grumpy’ contact Nyoman Naya @: firstname.lastname@example.org
or to find his Facebook page for testimonials search: Nyoman Naya (GrumpyTroppozone)
Espresso Bar & The Appache Reggae Bar
Two other bars worth mentioning are the Espresso Bar and the Apache Reggae bar. These are two great places to get your night rolling before being dragged to one of the other wilder clubs, like Sky Garden, by some new backpacker friends. Like the Apache Reggae Bar, the Espresso has live music every night of the week and a dance floor that packs out to maximum capacity, and some times even out onto the street, by midnight. The girls at Espresso will make sure that you are never without a drink and are always handing out free smiles. The guys behind the bar are always good for a laugh and will even do a tequila shot or two with you.
Remember, a little tipping goes a long way. The average annual wage in Bali equates roughly to the average monthly wage in Australia, if not less. When a beer costs $2 at a bar you won’t exactly break the bank by tipping your server or barmen 5000 rupiah, roughly 50 cents. It may not sound like a lot of money but when you are only earning 35,000 rupiah a night it is, especially if you drink ten beers. People don’t expect to be tipped but are very appreciative when you do, and your service will get even better.
The Apache Reggae bar is quite a bit bigger then the cozy confines of Espresso and therefore you don’t tend to gain that first name basis repoir with staff. What it lakes in intimacy it makes up for with spectacle. As the name suggests it is strictly a reggae bar and a haven for Rasta’s of all shapes and sizes and fans of reggae music in general. On the wall behind the large stage, where a live band plays your favorite reggae songs by request, are some images of the late and great Rasta king, Bob Marley including a rather large painting of Bob, smack in the middle, in a royal like pose encircled ornately like a great shrine paying tribute to the fallen Buffalo Soldier. Needles to say, for me as a reggae fan, I was in Rasta heaven.
Balian - A Break from Kuta - 90 Minute Drive by Taxi
For those who aren’t exactly party orientated or for those of you who are and need a break from the craziness of Kuta, it is well worth a trip to Balian. Situated on the west coast of Bali, about an hour and a half away from Kuta and a 400,000 rupiah, ($40) cab ride, who my good friend Grumpy was more then happy to make the trip for me, Balian is a small village on the beach made up of home stays, restaurants and little stores that appear to be more like houses then shops. There are far less tourists in Balian and it is generally only visited by surfers.
You won’t get hassled on the streets by merchants trying to make a sale and while it isn’t as great a surf break as some of the many other surf destinations on the island there are fun waves to be had without the crowds on one of the few different banks created by the river mouth that opens out into the ocean. Expenses are just as cheap as in Kuta, if not cheaper, and the standard of accommodation is of a far superior quality.
For my visit I stayed at a place called Krisna Villa, just close enough to everything you need. The accommodation at Krisna Villa is made up of a small group of bungalows with amazing sweeping views of the ocean and a coconut tree lined landscape. All of the staff are extremely friendly and the beautiful owner, Deacy, was for then helpful during the entire duration of my stay and for 150,000 rupiah, ($15-20) for a single or 200,000 rupiah, ($20-25) for a double you won’t get better bang for your buck.
Whilst the night life in Balian is almost non-existent there is a really cool little bar right on the beach with tables and chairs nestled neatly on the sand. The crew at the bar will even light a bonfire on the beach for you to have endless conversations about surfing with other travelers whilst enjoying a cold Bintang. While I was able to meet some other fellow travelers in Balian and some Aussies who had set up home there, Balian would be an ideal place for a couple to spend some alone time.
For more info on and for details of how to book a room at Krisna Villa visit: www.krisnavillas.com
Padang Padang - Surfing Bali
Padang Padang sits east of Kuta about a 200,000 rupiah cab ride from the madness of 24hr drinking opportunities. Not as quite as Balian but still much quieter than Kuta, Padang Padang is a haven for surfers with numerous different reef breaks offering some amazing surf. There are several different accommodation options but I would have to recommend, as it was recommended to me, the little ‘Eawok’ village sitting at the bottom of a cliff right on the beach with amazing views of ‘Padang Padang’, ‘Baby Padang Padang’ and ‘Impossibles’ reef breaks from every room. The accommodation complex is very makeshift which left me thinking that perhaps building regulations in Bali weren’t quite on par to the ones back home but its all part of the charm.
The rooms are very basic and the walls are almost paper thin but for anyone keen on surfing it has all you need, a place to rest your head and a Warung, little restaurant, to grab a feed and a cold drink after a hard day of surfing or sun baking. There are two separately operated accommodation options in the little ‘Eawok’ village, one a bit cheaper then the other, but both of relatively the same quality.
For one night you are looking at about 85,000 to 125,000 rupiah depending on which accommodation has vacancy and the time of year you visit. The names of the accommodation are Madi Madi Warung and The Bali Rock.
The best way to find it is to head toward the Mexican restaurant (Sunset Grill, a place of good vibes, great food and the odd glimpse of great surfers such as the owner’s good mate, Nat Young) next to the Padang Padang Inn and simply ask someone.
From Padang Padang it’s only a short scooter ride up to Ulluwatu and a seemingly endless string of amazing reef breaks. The waves generally don’t cater for the inexperienced, with the exception of ‘Baby Padang Padang, but there are a few different surf schools about the place that will get you on your feet. I can recommend one, not from first hand experience from the school itself but based on first hand experience from the operator Wayan Sukarmana at the LBS Surf House and the very helpful scooter hire store person, Maddi.
After a trip to the local ATM I had realized I had foolishly left my card in the machine which it had consequentially captured. Maddi went well out of her way to help me get it back from the company that managed the ATM and Wayan was more then helpful driving me to meet the technicians who had retrieved my card.
LBS Surf House - Padang Padang Accommodation
The LBS Surf House also offers accommodation for 150,000 rupiah a night and is located conveniently on the main street, Melasti St, in Padang Padang. For information on rental cars, scooter hire, surf lessons and accommodation you can contact the crew at LBS via email @ email@example.com
For anyone seeking the beauty of the little ‘Eawok’ village I can’t recommend strongly enough the Bali Rocks, the place I called home for my two week stint in Padang. The man who runs the show at Bali Rocks Beach Hut is Gede Suarta, (pronounced G’day), one of the nicest, warm and welcoming blokes you could ever meet. You can check them out @ www.bali-rocks.com or contact Gede directly via email on firstname.lastname@example.org or on email@example.com. You will also not be disappointed by the food provided by the sweet and amazing cook, Putu.
Monkey Forest - Ubud
Whilst you are more then likely to see your fair share of monkeys during your stay at either Madi Madi or Bali Rocks you may feel the urge to hire a car, about 200,000 rupiah per day, during a lull in the swell and make the trip to the monkey forest in Ubud. There is a monkey temple in Ulluwatu which is only a stones throw away from Padang Padang but the surrounds of lush green rice fields makes a day trip to Ubud well worth the effort. The monkey temple itself is enclosed by a spectacularly beautiful forest that is, aside from all the rambunctious monkeys running around all over the place, amazingly tranquil. Despite the claim that our monkey cousins are simply animals who didn’t quite cut it for the next step in evolution, these creatures are incredibly smart so don’t be fooled by their cute and innocent looking exteriors.
They know what they want and they know how to get it.
Don’t pass up the option of buying a bunch of bananas at the parks entrance but be warned, it is wise to hold only one banana at a time and hide the rest of the bunch under your shirt unless you wish to be mauled by a pack of monkeys. It is also advisable to not wear loosely hanging jewelry or your sunglasses on your head and keep all of your possessions close to hand. While it does make for an amusing experience to see a tourist have something stolen from them, which they then have to trade a banana to get back, they could easily, just as quickly as they have taken your favorite pair of sunnies, decide that they have had their fill of bananas for the day and destroy your possessions for their own amusement. After all there is some truth behind the expression, ‘cheeky monkey’. The majority of the monkeys are relatively well mannered, so long as you have a banana for them, however some of them can become quite aggressive and if bitten it is wise to seek a doctor’s opinion.
Diving in Bali - Ex-Kuta
A lot of people who come to Bali come with the aim of spending the majority of their time on the surface of the water riding the dream-like perfect waves yet there is a whole other world below the surface just waiting to be explored. While I was staying in Kuta I got together with four other Aussies, also staying at Troppo Zone, for a day of diving.
The day trip cost each of us first time divers 450,000 rupiah ($50) and included transport to and from the dive site, two dives, all of the necessary equipment required, such as the always handy oxygen tank to keep you nice and alive under water, and also lunch with bottled water and soft drinks.
For an extra 35,000 rupiah we were given a CD full of photos and a couple of videos of us during our underwater experience.
The site we were taken to was a rather famous one, The USS Liberty shipwreck in Tulamben, North East Bali. Situated just off the beach in Tulamben the shipwreck begins at 6 meters and continues down to a depth of 30 meters. For our first dive we only circled the bow at roughly 6 meters to allow us to become orientated with life below the surface of the ocean. Our second dive took us to a depth of 16 meters, respectable enough for any first time diver. It was hands down one of my most memorable experiences I had in Bali.
A huge school of fish has made this site their home and they are brave enough to let you swim right into the middle of them which looks like an underwater silver tornado, a perfect place for a photo op. The guys who took us into ze briny deep were all PADI qualified instructors which made for a great deal of peace of mind.
For more information on this particular dive site you can visit: http://divehappy.com/indonesia/scuba-diving-the-liberty-shipwreck-bali-a-quick-guide/
There are many different groups operating dives in Bali and can be easily found walking the streets in Kuta. Look for PADI certified dive schools to be sure that you know that they know what they are doing.
The best thing about a holiday in Bali is ... The Locals
The best thing about a holiday in Bali is the locals you meet. Like everywhere there are some not so pleasant elements but for the majority of the population the Balinese are a warm and welcoming people who are never short of a smile regardless of what circumstances they may be coming from. Whether it be a chatty cab driver from the airport, a valuable host in Kuta, a good friend in Padang Padang or a bunch of drunk builders living in a shanty town next to their work site, shouting you home made Arak, the people you meet in Bali will make you fall in love with the place and make you want to go back again and again.