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Best of Bali

Best Books to read up on Bali

“The Painted Alphabet” by Diana Darling is a whimsical and well-written tale based on an epic Balinese poem. It’s charming, engaging, and a great intro to Balinese culture. Also check out, “A House in Bali” by Colin McPhee, an American composer who fell in love with the sound of Balinese gamelan, moved to the island, and left in 1938 as WWII began to encroach upon the South Pacific. For a well-researched, comprehensive look at Bali’s architecture, from temples to five-star hotels, see “Gathering Places: Balinese Architecture, a Spiritual and Spatial Orientation” by Barbara Walker.

Best place to see Balinese Dance & Gamelan

Pura Uluwatu Temple in a spectacular location, on top of a huge cliff overlooking the sea, at Bali’s southernmost point. It can be magic on a full-moon for the kecak dance.

Best place to see Macaque Monkeys

The Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud –please exercise caution, as monkeys have been know to steal cameras!

Best place to buy Balinese Masks

The town of Mas (near Ubud), for museum-quality masks, seek out the shop of master carver Ida Bagus Tilem.

Best place for Babi Guling (roast suckling pig)

Check out Ibu Oka’s small food stall in Ubud (featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations TV show) Renowned for some of the best- tasting roast pig on the planet!

Best Place for snorkeling

Menjangan Island, a national park located just off of Bali’s northwest coast, best accessed from the village of Pemuteran via dive operators ReefSeen. The wreck of the small freighter, Liberty, near Tulamben, off Bali’s northeast coast is also known for diving.

Best place to learn to surf

Kuta/Legian Beach

Best place to get off the beaten track

The mountainous, clove-forested region of the village of Munduk is great for jungle hikes to numerous nearby lakes.

Best place to take cooking lessons

It’s a toss up but in the village of Ubud, there are two great options: Café Luna holds terrific classes – be sure to sign up for one that includes a guided tour of the market. Café Wayan also holds classes and it’s a treat to learn the finer points of preparing Indonesian food and then enjoy the fruits (and vegetables and satay!) of your learning in as you sit in their beautiful outdoor restaurant.

Best place to shop for traditional crafts, paintings, carvings, etc.

The art center of the island is the village of Ubud, which began attracting Western artists and intellectuals in the 1930s. Today it is a bustling place, with scores of galleries, shops and restaurants. Be sure to visit the Neka Museum, which houses the finest collection of Balinese art on the island. Murni’s Gallery in Ubud has some of the nicest pieces of art and artifacts. It’s worth a visit!

Best place to shop for modern SE Asia fashions

The village of Seminyak, a little north of Kuta.

Best place to shop for jewelry

The village of Celuk (note: in Indonesian, “C” has a “ch” sound, i.e. Che-luk)

Best place to drive in Bali

NOT! Southern Bali’s traffic is insane. Save your sanity… hire a car and driver. Your hotel can usually recommend a reputable one.

Best place to see rice terraces

While these can be seen in many areas of the island, one of the best places is near the village of Sideman. This is because of the dramatic setting, backed by Bali’s most sacred volcano, Gunung Agung, revered as “the seat of the gods”.

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