Bali, my ultimate guide

Bali, my ultimate guide

As I sit at my desk wrapped in my dressing gown staring out at a grey London sky, it’s hard to imagine that just a couple of weeks ago I was living in a bikini in the tropical heat of Bali on what was the trip of a lifetime. Forgive the cliche, but it’s true.

Bali is an Indonesian island located only a couple of hours from Australia known for it’s beautiful beaches, rice paddies, and beautiful landscape. As well as being visually pleasing and having lot of sunshine, there’s so many different places and things to see and do.

Whilst some of you might be fed up of my continuous references to Bali if you follow me on social media or listen to my radio show (“this one time in Bali…”), lots of others of you have been asking me for tips and recommendations, so here is my ultimate Bali guide.

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Eat Street Food

First things first – the street food is epic. Don’t be afraid to eat local, because it’s totally delicious and also insanely cheap. I paid 40p for ‘Bubur Ayam’ (chicken porridge) and it was out of this world.

Bali street food

Canggu

Canggu is a small beach village about 20 minutes north of Seminyak and has a good ex-pat community so it’s not that touristy. I stayed here for a few nights as my friends live in a beautiful villa there after leaving London for good a few months ago (I’m so jealous).

The Crate Cafe
I am still dreaming about the smoothies at the Crate Cafe – they taste as good as they look! The iced coffee and salad was pretty epic too. There’s space to eat indoors but also a really cool outdoor space.

Crate Cafe awesome smoothie baliCanteen 
The poached egg on toast with avocado and a side of spinach were unbelievable – definitely a great little brunch spot. I had a juice and an iced coffee there too, which was delicious (although I missed those smoothies at Crate Cafe!).

canteen cafe canggu bali

Old Man’s Bar
Old Man’s is a popular bar and restaurant right on the beach front and it has loads of outdoor space and a lively atmosphere. I had a rather spectacular chicken caesar salad and caught up on some work whilst my friends surfed. Oh and not to sound like a total loser but there’s some great walls around here for instagramming – sorry not even sorry!

Old Man's canggu bali

Old man's bali cangguAshley James bikini

Ashley James bikini

Seminyak

Seminyak is definitely has more of a tourist vibe than Canggu, but maybe that’s because it’s bigger – there’s a really good buzz anyway. There’s streets lined with shops, awesome restaurants and bars, and some great beach bar vibes.

Shopping 
I wandered aimlessly through the streets of shops and was so impressed with the awesome range of things on offer. Think beach and boho vibes, lots of vintage clothes, Australian brands, and cute stationary and homeware bits too. I also loved the market for it’s wonderful assortment of trinkets and all the fabulous colours.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetShopping in SeminyakShopping in Seminyak

Sushimi
If I could eat one food for the rest of my life it would be sushi, and I stumbled across the most delicious sushi bar. It’s got a revolving table, but you can also order food too.

sushi seminyak bali

Potato Head
A very popular all day drinking beach club – it’s much more chilled than anything I’ve experienced before though so don’t be put off if you don’t want a hardcore day of drinking. I didn’t see champagne being sprayed anywhere once, and the music was very mellow and never loud. Try and get a bed, but otherwise there’s lots of places to sit indoors and outdoors. I drank incredible cocktails whilst in the jacuzzi and we watched sunset from the beautiful infinity pool overlooking the ocean.

Potato Head Seminyak Bali cocktail

Other things to do in Seminyak:

Sea Circus: Amazing breakfasts and dinners – apparently the fish tacos are out of this world.
Sisterfields: A cool cafe / restaurant with good burgers and lamb wraps.
Fat Turtle: You can eat red velvet pancakes for breakfast.
Merah Putah: More of a fancier place to eat but a nice dinner spot.
Bambu: Another good restaurant, but a little more expensive.
Ku De Tah: Apparently the best place to watch sunset with a cocktail, you can also get decent food – try the black cod! Get a bed out the front so you can watch the surfers as the sun goes down.
The W: A great place to go for a drink at night.
Rock Bar & Jimbaran restaurant: A vey James Bond-esque setting. The bar is cut into the rock of the farthest point of Bali and there’s a little ski cart that takes you down to the bar. Usually a queue so get there early so you can watch sunset.
La Lucciola: An incredibly romantic restaurant – make sure you book in advance. Bamboo: Located in Seminyak town with incredibly special food.
La Favela: Book dinner in the courtyard then stay afterwards as it turns into a club. Very fun music – leave your heels at home though.

Uluwatu

We went on scooters to Uluwatu, which took about an hour and a half from Canggu. The beaches were the nicest I saw in Bali, although possibly the busiest too – it’s become a little touristy because of Eat, Pray, Love.

Padang Padang beach
This is the beach from Eat, Pray, Love and despite being quite busy it was still incredibly beautiful so don’t be put off. You have to walk down some steep steps to get there but it was really quite breath taking – a turquoise sea, white sand, and green and luscious landscape surrounding it. I even saw a monkey on the way back up!

 

beach from eat pray love padang padang beachbeach from eat pray love padang padang beach

Sunday Sessions @ Single Fin
Just to state the obvious this is a day to night party that happens every Sunday. We got there early afternoon and grabbed some delicious food, before finding a good floor space to base ourselves on (the tables are usually booked in advance). This was definitely one of the funnest days we had. The music starts relatively chilled and gets more and more amazing as the night progresses – we kept doing that “okay one more song” thing where you really need to leave but the DJ keeps playing tune after tune. There was a really young and vibrant crowd – lots of ex-pats and tourists alike all having a good time. The service is pretty slow because there are just so many people so stock up on a few drinks at once!

Sunday sessions Single FinSunday sessions Single Fin

From there you can walk down some steep steps to this little tiny cove where there’s a few sunbathers and huge waves so it’s a great surf sport.

ashley james bikini

Nalu Bowls
I honestly don’t know how I lived without knowing these bowls of goodness existed. You can get them all over Bali, but there’s a bowl bar just at the entrance of Single Fin and you can take them inside with you. It’s like a frozen sorbet, meets smoothie, meets health.

 

nail bowls

Blue Point infinity pool
Coincidentally this is based right above Single Fins, but you need to pay an entrance fee. We didn’t end up going in here, but I’d recommend it if you want the vibe of Sunday Sessions but with more space and a bit of luxury.

Balangan: Cool place to watch the sunset in a little shack whilst eating really cheap food.

Ubud 

Probably one of the most magical places I’ve ever been in my whole life because it’s incredibly green and beautiful, and full of raw food, yoga, and meditation so it’s just got this really happy and tranquil place.

The Hanging Gardens of Bali
I usually like to holiday on a bit of a shoe string, but when I saw a photograph of the Hanging Gardens I treated myself to a night of luxury, and I’m so glad I did! The hotel has won so many awards and the two tiered infinity pool is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. It’s located about a 20 minute taxi ride from Ubud town, and is extremely remote so you are surrounded by the rainforest. You have to get a tiny ski lift down to the different levels of the hotel, and if you’re a guest you also get free afternoon tea which was pretty special. Our villa was incredibly spacious, had both an indoor and outdoor bath, and a private pool. Saying that, we took advantage of the incredible infinity pool and I was introduced to Avocado Magaritas, which were the most incredible and refreshing drinks I’ve ever tasted.

If you don’t want to break the bank you can come for lunch or drinks and you just need to pay a small entrance fee. It’s so worth it though!hanging gardens ubud bali

 

hanging gardens ubud balihanging gardens ubud baliavocado margherita hanging gardens ubud balihanging gardens ubud bali

Tunjung – the fortune reader and healer
If you’re looking to see a Balinese fortune teller or healer then I cannot recommend Tunjung enough. You can see her for a range of things from tarot reading, fortune reading, karma healing – I booked for both a reading and healing session and it’s the best thing I’ve done. I’ve seen lots of people in my time, but Tunjung got everything spot on, gave me lots of clarity and since seeing her I’ve felt like a different person. Maybe I’ll do a separate post about what she taught me, if you’re interested?

http://pertenin.com/healing
kaivalyamyspirit@gmail.com

The Yoga Barn
The most incredible little barn where you can book to do a retreat or drop in and do a one-off session. Sadly I didn’t experience anything myself because of my cracked ribs. I was told I must try the Tibetan meditation, but it was fully booked an hour and a half before it began so make sure you get there early to avoid disappointment. I did have a lovely browse through the books at reception and made a couple of purchases.

http://www.theyogabarn.com

White Water Rafting

The only way I can describe White Water Rafting in Ubud was like being taken on a tour of Jurassic Park (without the dinosaurs obviously). The waters were quite calm as it didn’t rain that day, but I just kept looking around thinking how incredibly lucky I was to be seeing such beautiful landscape. We even saw loads of monkeys running through the trees directly above our heads. I think we paid about £40 each, but this fee included hotel pick-up, a free buffet lunch and a good 3 hours out on the water.

White water rafting ubud bali

Mosaic 

The most amazing culinary experiences I’ve had for a long time. We were walked out into an outdoor courtyard onto our candlelit table, there trees were hanging down all around us and it felt like we were eating right in the middle of the jungle. The space was quite big but the tables are quite far apart so you get a really private experience. We had the six course taster menu and were given appetisers on top; each course was total food porn! It was pricier than other places but totally worth it for some real fine dining, my taste buds are watering now just thinking of the little truffle balls.

Seniman Coffee Studio

A coffee shop with a little outdoor space that looks onto the street. They brew their own coffee here and it is absolutely unreal. Actually, the matcha latte was damn good, as was the smoothie bowl. It was all delicious and the presentation was epic too! I’d pay good money for someone to bring me one of those right now. Or even better, for me to be taken back out there right now.

Seniman Coffee ubud baliSeniman Coffee ubud bali

Seeds of Life

I met up with a friend in this little raw food place. I came straight from the Seniman coffee studio so was too full to eat, which is a shame because the salads looked out of this world. I had a very green juice though, which was pretty amazing. The loo door was covered in cool motivational quotes too so I took some time reading all of those!

the seeds of life raw food ubud bali

There was a really cute shop a couple of doors down from the Seeds of Life (facing the cafe turn right and it’s about two shops away) – it had cool home decor and jewellery so I’d recommend a browse in there too.shopping ubud balishopping ubud bali

XL Shisha Lounge

If you’re looking for a nice chilled evening then go smoke some shisha at this little place. You can sit outside overlooking the football field or sit inside in the most incredibly decorated space ever. The daiquiris and Margaritas are pretty nice too, just be sure to specify you want them frozen (if you want them frozen that is).

Other things to do in Ubud:

Visit a Temple
Monkey Forest: 
Probably the main touristy thing to do, and I am obsessed with monkeys. I got so distracted with all the spiritual side of things that I didn’t go see the monkeys, sob.
Padi fields: you can hire bikes and go on a half day trip with a guide round the Padi fields and visit the ‘Agro Tourism’ coffee plantation where you can have a coffee up at the highest point of the Padi fields up in the trees.
Naughty Nuris: An old traditional place which is famous for its ribs (its a cheap roadside restaurant BBQ)
Uma by Como: A hotel with the most beautiful bar & restaurant.

Getting around 

Rent a scooter! You can rent a little scooter for about £2 per day so that’s probably the cheapest and easiest way to get around. I wasn’t brave enough to ride by myself but I hopped on the back of my friend’s scooter as much as possible.

Taxi. You can get taxis pretty cheaply out there (especially a scooter taxi). One great discovery was an App called GrabTaxi; I saved 200 cheaper on my journey when I booked it through it!

 

scooter bali

If you’re thinking of going abroad this year then I cannot recommend Bali enough. I hope this post has inspired you to go there. If you’ve read this because you’re going to Bali then I HATE YOU. Not really, but I’m pretty jealous. Either way do let me know if the post was useful or interesting, and I’d also recommend checking out the Bali Bible’s bucket list.

Finally, I must say a thank you to Nick and Hayley for all the advice and recommendations, most of these places I’d never have discovered without your geeky little guides. And to Dave, Amy, and Jess for their awesome hospitality and company – I’ll be back!

Bali sunset ashley james

Speak you very soon,

with love from ashley black

Ashley James

Ashley James

2 thoughts on “Bali, my ultimate guide

  1. Hi Ashley,

    I just wanted to let you know how helpful I found reading this blog on Bali. I have booked to go myself mid-September and I have pretty much copied your same itinerary. Apart from the staying at The Hanging Gardens in Ubud part, I reckon I will need to start a paper round or start mowing people’s lawn before I could afford to stay there.

    Never-the-less thank you for all the helpful tips.

    Kind regards,
    Todd

    1. Hey Todd,
      This is so great to read. Thank you for reading the post and for trusting my advice – you’re going to have the best time ever.
      Yes Hanging Gardens is crazy, I was lucky to be offered a press discount 🙂 but you can go there for the day to have a drink and that’s an affordable way to see it and get your photos.
      Have the best time!


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