bali-beach

We all have firsts. When I first arrived in Bali on a fam-trip (familiarization trip) hosted by the Indonesian Tourist Bureau, my expectations were high. After the threat of terrorism in Jakarta, the Indonesian government wanted to send a message to the world that Indonesia was still a safe, desirable tourist destination. The trip was exciting, relaxing, informative and a wonderful ‘first’. As I learned, however, Bali, the jewel of the country, doesn’t need promoting since it has all the charm, laid back atmosphere and natural attractions that fill any self-respecting tourist’s bill.

When I travel I like to go off the beaten path and into the backdrop of an area. I choose to visit with the people who live outside of the tourist traps and learn about the culture more directly. I do occasionally run into a snag here and there like the time my little boutique hotel didn’t have hot showers since the local hot water heater repair fellow was entertaining guests of his own and unavailable. Doing without a hot shower wasn’t fun, but hardly a show stopper.

So as not to make your first trip to Bali come up short, here are a few insights on things to keep in mind when making this a potentially life changing event.

World Class Dining
How can you miss with the sea supplying an abundance of all the culinary treasures imaginable? From fresh sea urchins, to eel, to lobster, chefs have a plethora of ways to express their talents. In the Seminyak district, you’ll find high-end offerings by some of the most talented food masters anywhere in the world. If you have a few rupiah to spare, visit the Potato Head Beach Club and cozy up to a banana leaf plate of fried calamari with a coconut Thai sauce that you’ll want to drink from a glass.

Warungs on the Southside
warungIf you want to get a taste for the people’s fare, Indonesian food stalls deliver a variety of traditional as well as unusual foods. Take a stroll up Eat Street
and let your senses be overwhelmed by the waft of aromas coming from the Mom and Pop warungs and small cafes. It’s hard to choose just one, but don’t miss out on Pondok Duo on upper Jl. Seminyak for some tasty bites.

Hotel, Inn or Homestay?
It seems that Bali learned long ago to stay true to itself, and tourism has not diluted that relationship. However, the Balinese want to please and give the tourists what they want, so there is a great variety of accommodations to choose from. Personally, I prefer the small boutique inns that dot the island or to arrange a homestay. What I like about the homestay is the relaxed feeling of being a temporary member of a Balinese family.

bali-high-end-hotelMy hosts have been kind and generous and willing to share parts of their lives and culture that I can’t get in a large, more Western-style hotel. I learned to milk a goat, courtesy of my last host family. They then let me take it a step further and showed me how they make the most delicious and creamy cheese I’ve ever tasted. Can’t do that at a Hilton. To each their own, and Bali offers plush (and expensive) accommodations for those who need turn-down service and cushy couches. I like to mix it up and spend a night or two, out of a ten- day visit at the Red Door Bali Villas where the spa treatments alone keeps me coming back.

You can’t go wrong once you step foot off the boat or plane onto Bali sand. The island is comfortably safe – just use common sense. The people are respectful and expect the same from those who come to their shores.

Have you been yet? Is it on your list of travel priorities? Join the conversation and leave a comment below.