Anyone have insider tips on Bali?
I'm heading to Bali for a week and will be in Ubud for a couple of days, then to the northern coast area (not sure where, maybe Lovina, but I'm open to suggestions). I'm staying FAR AWAY from Kuta. I'm at a bit of a loss as to where to go and what to do, as everyone keeps saying Bali's basically ruined, but I can't believe there's nothing for the intrepid traveler and chowhound. Suggestions?? Thanks!!
Denpasar is still probably still a good alternative if you want to stay away from Kuta. Quite a bustling center, great for the exploring local cuisine and also lookout for the nite markets...
The locals still have to eat no matter how bad it gets.
Then again there's always the trusty 4 seasons....
One of the best restaurants we have ever eaten at just happens to be in Ubud: "Casa Luna" on Jalan Raya. It's run by a western woman and her Balinese husband (or the other way around..). We went there thinking we'd "splurge" for a fancy dinner (dinner for two including cocktails, appetizers, desert, coffee is only around US$15-25 I think) and everything we had was great. We ate there almost exclusively the rest of the time we were in Ubud (we had been eating roadside mi goreng/nasi goreng/gado gado with random fish dishes for the previous weeks). My favorite dish was a Balinese seafood paella. They do a couple-day cooking school as well, which I would have been interested to take had we not been on our way out. The arak (local rice alcohol) cocktails are much fun. We never tried any of their wines (we weren't familiar w/any of the Australian wines and, besides, it was 90 degrees).
Lovina has some tasty street food (see photo). They set up stalls in the evenings east of the main Kalibukbuk area on the other side of the hiway--not the hotel/beach side.
Kuta is indeed much maligned, and yes it's chaotic and chock full of Aussie revelers but it has its 'charms' so to speak; I don't think it was necessarily any more "touristy" than Ubud, just in a different way. We walked there from the airport (much to the chagrin of the taxi drivers) and stayed a couple of days when we first arrived. The walk was basically along a more or less deserted beach and then we hit this little beach bar w/nobody in it except some guys who worked there--they were playing guitars. We got beers & chatted w/them for awhile and were found out that they played traditional gigs at the local hotels but when they were on their own, they played covers of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Manu Chao. We discovered on our last day when we tried to meet a friend that there is a section of Kuta which is completely scary with name brand shopping malls & discos & such. It was the only place we ever saw beggars.
The other best insider tip I can think of is Pack Sparingly. I bought everything I needed (with *much* delight) upon arrival.
Bali's not ruined, and there is some good chow there!
I think Denapasar or somewhere in the vicinity is worth at least a night ... the museum is good and there is an abundance of street food to try! (never had satay like that in the States). Consider heading to Jimbaran Bay for dinner one night. A loooong row of seafood vendors BBQing lobster, fish, prawns over coconut husks. Choose what you want and take a table on the beach. You'll come away smelling like a smokehouse but the fish is fantastic and eating with your toes in the sand, listening to the waves, is pretty relaxing.
Sideman, in east Bali but not on the coast, is a nice laid-back little town. There are a few guesthouses and some pleasant hiking/walking ... if you're lucky there will be a festival at the sprawling temple. There is a shop on the edge of town (porch overlooking rice paddies) that sells beautiful textiles and woven fabrics. It's not super-cheap but the workmanship is incredible. We just ate at various shophouses in town.
We stayed at a place called Sacred Mountain Sanctuary (not as oppressingly new-age as it sounds), which has a web site and usu. offers deep discounts for the asking.
You're lucky to stay in Ubud. It's a really interesting place and you can take nice hikes and day trips from there. It's also cooler than near the coast and you'll definitely find the best food in Bali there. I think there's an eatery called Inda or Indus on the main drag in Ubud. Their food is top notch, great service and fabulous views of the surrounding rice paddies and countryside. Enjoy.
re: christina z
I'd second Cafe Indus, although to clarify on location it's up by the Neka Museum rather than in the main downtown area of Ubud; not a particularly long walk, but long enough depending on the heat! Food and views are both very nice, as mentioned. We also enjoyed a cafe called Tutmak that's more in the downtown area--it was a good place to sit down, have a cold drink and relax.
I was there about a month ago. Since it was a honeymoon, we roughed it at the Four Seasons in Jimberan Bay. However, we did venture out of our hermitically-sealed corporate comfort kingdom on a few occasions.
Of the other places we ventured to, I would second the Casa Luna in Ubud, a pleasant setting and a good lunch from an interesting menu. Also eating on the beach at Jimberan Bay. I don't think it matters much which outlet you pick, we just found one that looked well maintained at the back and busy. (There are about three clusters of eateries along the bay - we were at the southernmost, the far end from the fishmarket). We had excellent and simple barbequed fish (which had taken some of the flavour of the coconut husks over which it was cooked) and a range of sambals; local beer too. The price is set according to how big a fish you choose and the whole thing came to less than two beers at the Four Seasons.
(BTW, I would rate the restaurants in the FS from moderate good to very good. I would rate the prices from obscene to grossly offensive. The top flight Indonesian restaurant was very tasty. However, since I'm not a regular at this class of hotel, I haven't yet managed to separate the concept of price from enjoyment in the careless way that much of their clientelle seem to manage. By carefully avoiding imported wine (which carries a HUGE duty; but then Indonesia is predominently muslim, so this seems to me an entirely reasonable Govt policy) we managed to keep the bill to about $250 for two. I couldn't help feeling that this dented my enjoyment. I have spent this (and more) on dinner several times. But I got a lot more for it and I wasn't eating on an island with and average daily wage of about $7. Also avoid their beach restaurant PJ's where the food is poncier but no more flavoursome than the local shacks fifty yards away, and the 'entertainment' does unnatural things with Burt Baccherat and an Hawiain guitar.)