I got off a plane over a month ago to some blistering humidity and torrential rain. The first thing I thought was, “shit, here we go.” Sometimes I love getting the wrong first impression.
Fast forward to my final few days and I still feel like I need more time. If you are planning a trip to this diverse island, allow me to share my absolute must-do’s.
1. Death by Chocolate at Wacko’s – Seminyak
People who follow the trend of avoiding Kuta like the plague may miss out on the best beach clubs and restaurants on the island. The obvious standout is Wacko’s, an affordable but mind-blowing burger joint in Seminyak. The food, especially burgers, will keep you coming back, (we went there five times…) but what will change your life is the death by chocolate.
This is not a mere drink. It’s a milkshake experience. Topped with a mini trumpet, pretzels, M&M’s and a roasted marshmallow, I’ve only seen Korean soap operas more dramatic. Don’t order one willy-nilly, I still had half a burger left before I began to struggle. It’s a milkshake that demands respect and mental preparation, because you’ll simply never have a better one.
2. Cliffside sunset in Uluwatu
Bali’s south is a welcome change of pace compared to the hustle and bustle of Kuta. Famous for never-ending surf breaks and crystal clear waters, this area is a relaxed yet vibrant slice of paradise.
If you’re a confident surfer, you won’t need me to encourage you to paddle out in Uluwatu. It’s like the Mecca of surf. If you’re not up to scratch and don’t want any from the sharp reef, watching other surfers from a cliffside restaurant is an experience in itself. You’ll feel like you’re endorsing a Mexican beer, as there’s just nowhere else you’d rather be.
3. Swimming at Green Bowl Beach
Bukit has some of the prettiest beaches on the island, they just aren’t necessarily the best to swim in. The land sits on top of high cliffs so you’re always a long staircase away from the water, and the sharp coral at most beaches in the area makes swimming a nightmare. So picking the right spot is essential.
Green Bowl stands out for a number of reasons: the staircase down is mostly covered in precious shade, and is inhabited by quiet wee monkeys, making for a memorable walk down. Also, once you hit the beach you’ll find picturesque, cyan water which you won’t slash your feet in because it’s sandy. A large cave provides shelter over the beach, giving a comfortable place to dry off after your swim.
Quiet, beautiful, and underrated, it’s like the sexy book-worm no one asked to the ball. Don’t miss the chance!
4. Laughing at clueless tourists in the Monkey Forest
The monkeys at Green Bowl were quiet, kept to themselves, and seemed pretty well behaved. The spoilt little shits that infest the famous Ubud Monkey Forest could learn a thing or two from them. Aggressive, greedy, and overfed, these hairy devils are not ones to turn your back to.
What makes this forest worth seeing is simply observing everybody else. Most tourists will buy bunches of bananas to hand out, which inspires a combination of thievery, trickery, acrobatics, extortion, and invasion of personal space that is utterly hilarious when it’s not happening to you. No doubt you’ll leave with a story structured like “OMG we saw this monkey do XYZ because this stupid tourist did ABC.”
If you want to do the laughing and not be laughed at, wear closed shoes, don’t buy bananas, and for God’s sake don’t bring any food in. Because in the wise words of the employees, “sometimes monkey naughty.”
5. Going north to dive around a shipwreck
The drive to the north of Bali is just gorgeous; steamy mountains, dense jungle, wildlife just chilling. The drive alone is reason enough to hit the road, but you’ll also find a totally unique opportunity at the end of it.
My history is pretty sketchy, but a few years ago these dudes got all angry and started killing people. Then other people came to kill them. Some killing happened on ships. One of those ships didn’t float so good and now sits about 20 meters off Bali’s northeast coast. You are a set of flippers away from a once in a lifetime chance to dive down and explore a massive shipwreck over 70 years old.
The USAT Liberty is now home to thousands of wee Nemo’s and Dory’s, turtles, and divers. Just over $20 NZD will get you a full dive set to explore properly, however we saw plenty with just a snorkel mask. It’s an eerily beautiful thing to see so close to the shore – a once magnificent vessel of war reduced to fish-food. Don’t be deterred by the long (once again, beautiful) drive. Set aside a day and enjoy this completely different experience.
From monkeys to milkshakes, Bali is a lot more than a sweaty rave for shroomed-up douchebags. A perfect mix of tourist comforts, local customs, and stunning beauty makes this an island with its own special character. One so dramatic it deserves a spot in a Korean drama. #repeatmymetaphors