Bali: More than Just Beaches

Noyna Roy

Last updated: Apr 3, 2017

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Uluwatu Temple
Tanah Lot
Pura Besakih Temple


Take a relaxing chocolate massage at one of Bali's many spa centres
Learn something new with a cooking class on Indonesian cuisine


Pepes Ikan (steamed fish), Be Celeng Base Manis (pork in sweet sauce), Nasi Goreng (fried rice)


Hello: "Hai"
Good Morning: "Selamat pagi"
Good Evening: "Selamat malam"
Goodbye: "Selamat tinggal"


Handcrafted jewellery, wood carvings and carved sculptures at Kuta Art Market

Want To Go ? 

The first destination on our Indonesia trip was Bali. This was my second trip to Bali and my excitement knew no bounds. I had vague memories from my first Bali holiday when I had spent most of my time learning how to surf and playing with friends. I knew I would see beautiful Bali with different eyes this time—a place that is filled with beautiful people, traditions and celebrations. A lot like Goa, my home.

Arriving at Our Villa

We took an early morning flight. After two short hours, we arrived at the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali. The airport was new and gleaming. Our friendly driver, Ecko, picked us up. He was very gentle with my grandmother: whenever she needed to exit the car, he would help her down. He also told us about his company called Endo Bali Tour & Service.

On the way to the villa, we stopped at a convenience store to stock up on our favourite snacks and drinks. I picked up peanuts, candlenuts and rempeye, a deep-fried savoury cracker. The candlenuts were a surprisingly delicious and addictive discovery. I have never had crunchier or sweeter peanuts. The rempeye was also hands-down the best cracker I’ve had, with a whirlwind of flavours, starting with lemongrass.  Looking at all the food made me hungry and we headed straight for an Indonesian cafe called Nikmat (Jln Bakungsari, Kuta). It was a warung, which is the nomenclature for a local cafe. The ladies at Nikmat were very kind and let us try all the food before we decided what to have. After we chose our food, she packed it neatly and handed it to us.

There are warungs all over Bali and they serve authentic Balinese food. Most locals eat at these warungs and they serve delicious, hygienic, wholesome food at really reasonable prices. Even the variety is vast. Bali is a well-developed tourist destination so international food is easy to find. But, for me, warungs opened up a completely different window to Indonesian cuisine that in the past was limited to nasi goreng and mei goreng (fried rice and fried noodles).

Our next stop was our villa. It was called Villa Scene in Nusa Dua. It was a stunning two-bedroom villa with a private pool. Just in front of the pool, there was a big wall on which you could project movies in the night and see while you swim. A rather cool concept and definitely my favourite bit of architecture. I made a mental note of incorporating it in any home I build for myself in the future.

Uluwatu Temple

uluwatu temple bali more than just beach
The beautiful Uluwatu Temple


After a delicious lunch and a nap, we started for the Uluwatu Temple, a famous sea temple, to view the sunset from a cliff and see a dance performance depicting the Ramayana. The drive was around half-an-hour from our villa. We went through many villages and passed many rice fields on the way. It reminded me of Goa.

All the tourist books had warned us that the monkeys around Uluwatu Temple like to snatch the glasses off an unsuspecting tourist’s face. We didn’t believe them at first until we posed for our first picture and a monkey snatched the glasses off my aunt’s face and scampered off with them. There was a lot of commotion, and I clutched my glasses and ran as far away as I could from the monkeys. Unfortunately, we never got those glasses back. But the beautiful sunset soon made up for our loss: the colour of the sky was a vibrant orange and just below it you could see the gigantic waves pounding against the bottom of the cliff.

After the sunset, we walked up the hill to a small enclosure to watch the Kecak dance, a form of Balinese dance-drama. It was an amazing show filled with a lot chanting and dancing. All the characters had beautiful, colourful costumes. My favourite was Hanuman, because he would jump around the audience and interact with them.  

Back at the villa, we watched Fast and Furious on the projector. It was great fun to watch a movie under the stars.

Ubud Morning Market and Rice Terraces

ubud shopping bali more than just beach
Brightly coloured knick-knacks at Ubud morning market


I woke up to the smell of scrambled eggs and toast. The plan for the day was to go to the Ubud morning market to get some shopping done. The morning market had lovely things to purchase—colourful belts, shoes and dreamcatchers. It was all very appealing to the eye. While Mom shopped, I admired a sarong-clad local woman offering food and flowers to the gods in a little temple built inside her shop. The rituals performed by her were mesmerizing. As I looked down the street, almost every shop had colourfully garbed locals making offerings like these to keep bad spirits away and invite prosperity.

Shopping in Ubud can be exhausting. There are thousands of shops lining the road all the way up to the terraced rice field. The rice fields were beautiful but a little too touristy for my taste.

For lunch we went to a place that was very famous for bebek (duck). The restaurant faced the paddy fields and I walked around in them before lunch was served. The duck had an interesting deep flavour and was served with a peanut sauce and went well with the rojak salad we ordered. After a satisfying lunch and glasses of fresh orange juice, we were ready for the Luwak coffee farms.

 Luwak Coffee Farms

After a 45-minute drive, we arrived at the Luwak Coffee Farm. Luwak Coffee is the most desired and expensive coffee in Indonesia. Indonesians, unlike rest of Asia, are more of coffee drinkers than tea drinkers. The way the coffee here is produced is unique. The red coffee bean is fed to an animal called the Luwak (the palm civet). It is a nocturnal animal that looks like a giant squirrel. The Luwak digests the coffee fruit, and excretes the seed. The seeds are then collected, washed, dried, roasted and ground to make coffee powder for human consumption.

After we were shown how to roast the coffee beans and grind them, we tried the many amazing flavours of coffee and teas sitting by the paddy fields. My favourite flavour was the red ginger tea and Mom’s was the mangosteen tea. A few teas later, we decided to go home and rest because it was extremely hot.

Chocolate Massage

By the next day, I had caught a cold, so Mom decided that we should rest at home instead of going out. She got a masseuse to come to our villa and give me a chocolate massage. It was very relaxing and smelt delicious too. I didn’t get to eat any though, which was a pity.

Another advantage of nurturing a cold was the Soto Ayam, noodles in the most flavourful chicken broth ever. Taking full advantage of my sore throat, I had bowls and bowls of this delicious soup sourced from a local warung.

Cooking Class at Sate Bali

cokking classes bali more than just a beach
Alu batu (stone pestle)


All of us enjoyed the local cuisine so much that we decided to attend an Indonesian cooking class at a restaurant called Sate Bali in Seminyak, in southern Bali. The team was well prepared for us and every herb, vegetable and ingredient looked appetizing and fresh. There were a lot of names and types of herbs to remember so I decided to record the class on my ipad. If only it could record the aroma of all the wonderful things we cooked! Chef Nyoman Sudiyasa taught us interesting dishes like Pepes Ikan (steamed fish), Be Celeng Base Manis (pork in sweet sauce), satay sauce (peanut sauce), sambals (chutneys) and mei goreng (fried noodles). My favourite dish, however, was the dessert called Dadar, a sort of light, fluffy pancake with shredded coconut and sweet palm sugar sauce.

 Mom enjoyed cooking Indonesian food so much that she bought an alu batu (stone pestle) and a papan memotong (the chopping board). Since they were made out of lava rock, there was no way we could carry them with us. So, we went to a cargo warehouse to send all the stuff back home.

Tanah Lot

tanah lot bali more than just a beach
The ‘Land in the Sea’


After the cooking session, it was time to relax by the ocean and watch another spectacular sunset. So off we went to Tanah lot, which literally translates into ‘Land in the sea’. Tanah lot, a rock formation that is just off the coast, is famous for its beautiful temple and its sunsets. The walk to the viewpoint was long. We arrived just in time to observe the sun slipping under the horizon. The waves crashed against the rocks and sprayed seawater all over me. The sunset was amazing: the sky turned orange and the sun looked like a small glowing red ball in the distance, with its reflection shimmering in the sea. It made everything look surreal. I could almost imagine the famous priest Nirartha, who is said to have created Tanah Lot with his mystical powers, moving his place of worship quietly into the sea so that he did not anger anyone. What a spiritual way to end the day. 

Pacifica Museum

This trip was turning out to be completely different from the beach-holiday experience that I had in mind from my last visit …in a good way though. Especially because we had planned a trip to the Pacifica Museum of Art. So off we went in the morning to the museum. They had different rooms that showcased the different types of art made in Indonesia. The first room displayed art that was made by the Indonesian artists and the next room contained art that was made by the Dutch artists who came to Indonesia.  Then the French, English, Indians, Japanese and so on. I slowly fell under the spell of these artists, who had each interpreted Bali in their own unique way. I even saw the famous paintings and sculptures by Gauguin and Matisse.  

After the museum visit, I wanted to do something fun! It was time to get my hair braided at Jalan Pantai Kuta, where a woman deftly braided my hair in fifteen minutes, decorating them with coloured beads. At the same time, a lady painted my Mom’s nails in a magenta pink with a beautiful white floral pattern on them. After thanking them and tipping them handsomely, we walked down to Made’s warung for lunch.

Dinner at a Balinese Home

Our family friends invited us to their house for dinner. They lived in a traditional Balinese home with a courtyard and inner garden. I really liked the design of Balinese homes, with a big garden in the middle. There we snacked on Rempeye while we chatted about various things. For dinner we had Siap Base Kapas (chicken in coconut milk), Nasi Kuning (turmeric rice), Siap Mepangang (roasted chicken). For dessert, our friends had made an ice cream tub—a delicious way to end the evening. 

Besakih and Sanur temples

sunar temple bali more than just a beach
The offerings for the gods


It was our last evening in Bali and we could not leave without paying our respects to Pura Besakih, the oldest and holiest of all temples, nestled in the lap of Mount Agung. On the way, we stopped at a small village temple in Sanur. It was a magical sight, the skies were overcast, and roads, decorated with big banners made of banana bark, looked festive and welcoming.  I noticed a few kids playing gamelan music in traditional attire. Gamelan is traditional Indonesian ensemble music, played by a group of people. The sun’s rays were reflecting off all the instruments, making the scene look magnificent. On seeing our heavy-duty cameras, they left their instruments and beckoned us to take their pictures. We were only too happy to oblige.

Since there was a big festival the next day to celebrate Purnima, the full moon, there were piles of fruits and food all around, carried by some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. All of them, dressed in sarongs and lace blouses, looked like apsaras from heaven. I eyed all the gorgeous food and fruits on the plates they balanced on their head and wondered who would eat it all. Apparently, according to the custom, one gets to take the food back home after it is offered to the gods.

Our driver Ecko insisted we get on with our trip to Besakih as it would close soon. As we approached what looked like the end of the road, I realized we were at the gates of Pura Besakih. You had to wear a sarong to enter. So we bought three sarongs. Since it was almost closing time, the tour guides provided us with motorbikes so that we could have enough time at the temple. I quite enjoyed the ride and was amused looking at my grandmom riding pillion on the motorbike.

Besakih looked awe-inspiring. Its seven layers signify the seven stages to heaven. Besakih is dedicated to the holy trinity, Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver) and Shiva (the destroyer). After a short walk up the many stairs, we reached the main part of the temple and witnessed the worshipping ceremony. The worshippers walked around with offerings in their hands and flowers in their hair. We took a few pictures of the praying people and said a quick prayer ourselves, before starting the walk back down. As we were descending, I began talking to a lady who just finished her prayers. She reminisced about her trip to India and was especially nice to my grandmother. As the sun started to set, we started on our drive back home.

For dinner we went to an Italian restaurant called Ultimo (our first and only non-Indonesian meal in Bali) with our friends. We had a lovely evening and it was a great way to end the holiday in Bali. Next stop: Yogyakarta!