A guest post about the beautiful island of Bali by FLOW-er and traveler, Adi Zarsadias.
Bali is just one of 18,306 islands in Indonesia. The island is blessed with a picturesque coastline, a rich culture and most of the time, perfect surf conditions which attract tourists from around the world. Bali's southwest coast has been described as the land of the lefts and epic sunsets.
Kuta Beach, Legian Beach & Seminyak Beach
All these beaches are on one vast stretch of fine grayish sand dotted with just a few stones and pebbles. The waves are usually a big close out too near the shore so I wouldn't really recommend beginner surfers to learn on them even though it's a beach break and there are many surf schools in the area. Flags are put up depending on the beach conditions. Red means no swimming allowed. Try to swim between the yellow flags for your own safety.
Unlike other beaches, there aren't any accommodations right on the beach except for maybe one 5-star hotel. Highly commercialized, this area is generally more expensive. On the contrary, there's a wide variety of cuisines so this is the best place in Bali to dine if you're craving for diversity. Also the best place for shopping as it is home to huge outlet stores and quaint designer boutiques.
When walking along these beaches, many vendors will approach you selling everything from sunglasses, fruits, ice cream, island tours, hair braiding, massage, mushrooms, temporary boyfriends, etc. The crowds should disappear as you walk further up north to Double Six Beach.
Outlet stores along Jalan Ngurah Rai
Quicksilver, Volcom outlet store along Jalan Dewi Sri
Luke Studer along Jalan Dewi Sri for custom surfboards
Balangan is a backpacker's haven. Upon arriving at the first parking area, each car must pay a minimal fee. Walk or drive to the far right of the cliff for a stunning bird's eye view of the beach. This is where surfers check out waves before walking down the long winding stairway by the cliff. You can also drive further down to a lower parking area which I recommend if you're carrying heavy luggage.
Scruffy backpackers welcome you to Balangan. There are about a dozen places to stay at right on the shore for as low as IND 125,000 (P 552) per room for two people. This includes breakfast, usually you have a choice between pancakes or omelets. All are rustic, have no wi-fi, no hot water and no aircon.
If you're not too comfortable surfing an unfamiliar reef break, consult the locals first or book a lesson with Balangan Surf School. It's quite a long walk on the reef to get out to the break. Also make sure the tide is high enough to surf.
More advanced surfers will have a photo with every wave they ride, thanks to the professional photographers with 600mm lenses shooting continuously from the warungs. After a surf sesh, come up to them and ask for your photos. There is a big computer screen from which you can choose the ones that you like, have it burned onto a cd or copied into your memory card for a fee.
Just behind the far end of Balangan is Dreamland. You can walk on the reef to get to the other beach if the tide is low enough. You can also paddle from one beach to another on calmer days.
If you prefer traveling by car, Dreamland or New Kuta Beach is reached 10 minutes from the main road, Jalan Uluwatu after driving through a village of upscale houses and condominiums. There are ATMs right at the grand entrance.
Don't be surprised to see big tourist buses parked on the roundabout. A few souvenir shops line the walkway going down the beach. There is only one cafe on the beach so feel free to bring your own picnic lunch. Set up your Lagu on the far right of Dreamland where the crowds are too lazy to go. Fine white sand covers this huge reef break.
There are quite a few breaks on Dreamland on a good day. As always, consult the lifeguards about the surf conditions first. Some of them will offer lessons when they're not on duty but don't expect for any intros on the basics of surfing. Many will just give you a board, paddle out with you and push you when they see a wave.
Some villas and condos in Dreamland are for rent. They're not only expensive but are usually rented out for longer terms as well. Look for affordable accommodations outside Dreamland instead so that you're always just 15 minutes away from the other beaches on the southern west coast.
Fusion bar along Jalan Uluwatu for reggae music
Yoga Center along Jalan Uluwatu IND 60,000 (P 265) Monday, Wednesday, Friday afternoons. +62 85 792 109 500
Bingin and Impossibles
Bingin has more of a hippie vibe because of the presence of a few yoga studios. There are a few narrow stairways leading down the reefy beach of Bingin and its next door neighbor, a surf break beside a huge reef called Impossibles.
Believe me, the walk down the narrow, dangerous and dark stairways is worth it when you start seeing the ocean view from up above. As you are encouraged to go down further, you wonder if you're on the right path to the beach. Since there are no crowds to follow, ask a local of you're going the right way.
Big chunks of reef and cream colored sand occupy most of the shoreline. There are more than a dozen accommodations, some with stunning views. Rooms start at IND 150,000 (P 662) for two people with breakfast.
A small hut perched on top of a reef is a professional photographer's office where he shoots everyone who gets a wave. Many surfers wear helmets when surfing these breaks. This is the longest left I've ever seen, starting from Impossibles all the way to Bingin on a good day.
Suzie's Warung has fast, free, unlimited wi-fi
Yoga on Bingin beach IND 100,000 (P 442)
Chocky's Place. Rooms start at IND 90,000 (P 397) www.chockysplace.com
Don't be discouraged by the huge parking lot. Padang Padang is a small beach so it easily gets crowded but the vibe is still cool and laid back. One must go through a dark cave leading down the beach. Some parts are only wide enough for one person so give way and walk carefully.
There are no accommodations on the beach, there is only one warung and a small tent that sells souvenir T-shirts of about IND 50,000 (P 220), far cheaper than any cliché brands. Surf competitions are always held here for its favorable surf conditions.
A trip to Uluwatu temple is a must. Go before sunset and catch the Kecac dance at 6 pm. No worries if you're not dressed appropriately, sarongs can be borrowed for a small donation at the entrance. Monkeys play in the area and they have been known to steal tourists' bags, sunglasses and slippers so be careful not to bother them. A stunning view awaits when you get to the edge of the cliff and you are left speechless.
- Pack light. Laundry is cheap at IND 10,000 (P 45) per kilo. And the outlet stores really have huge discounts.
- Bali gets chilly at night, so bring some light jackets or sweaters.
- Bring your own sarong or Lagu unless you don't mind paying IND 50,000 (P 220) for a beach bed.
- A 30 day visa on arrival is given free for Filipinos.
- And if you end up falling in love with the island like I did, you can always have it extended for another 30 days ;)