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Entries in paradise (6)


A true surfers paradise. Bali's new luxury vacation trips

Riding Bali's new wave of luxury

Balifornian Tours can include an epic surfing adventure and depending on what level of accomodations, we can arrainge anything from the ultimate deluxe luxury on down.  Let us help you design the ultimate surfing trip.  Other passions?  We can do that too!

Escape - Bali

The oceanfront pool villa at Bali's Alila Villas Soori resort. Source: Supplied

AN exclusive new Bali resort creates a surf trip of liquid gold, writes Peter Hall.

For a surfer this is the ultimate "if my friends could see me now" moment.

You emerge elated and exhausted after riding the longest, smoothest and most exotic waves of your life and there stands your beach butler.

Impeccably dressed in white linen, silver tongs in hand, he presents you with a citrus-infused refresher towel.

"How was your surf, Mr Peter?" he inquires. "Would you care for some fresh fruit and then perhaps we can explore another location?"

Bali may be renowned as a budget beach paradise but it also can deliver a surf experience that makes you feel like chairman of the board.

We are at Medewi on the Indonesian island's west coast, having been chauffeured here in a four-wheel-drive provided by our host, Alila Villas Soori.

The tiny fishing village is home to Bali's longest left-hand point break, where dreamy double overhead walls peel endlessly for up to 400m over smooth boulders and black sand.

Astoundingly, there are only a dozen surfers in the line-up a mixture of Japanese, American, Australian and a beaming New Zealand longboarder fleeing the icy waters of Gisborne.

We are three hours' drive from the madness of Kuta and two from our resort, Alila Villas Soori, an exclusive new property that overlooks the azure Indian Ocean in the Tabanan Regency, near the famous Tanah Lot Temple.

It is not a surf resort, but one that creates unique experiences for guests. In Alila Villas Soori speak, these tailored adventures of mind, body and spirit are called journeys.

Of course, you are free to laze about in a private Eden, sip cocktails, tantalise your tastebuds with authentic and continental cuisine, watch fishing boats chug past, or be pampered in one of the best spas in Bali. But if it's cultural exploration you're after, this is the place.

MasterChef fans won't be able to resist a Journey of Culinary Delight, where you visit village markets accompanied by the resort's chef, select fresh ingredients and join in a Balinese kitchen masterclass.

There's something for all the family. Spend a day learning from an artisan, go temple-hopping on a Journey of the Gods, or saddle up for an unforgettable horseriding experience on the Journey of the Balinese Knights.

And if you want to mix all of this with some of the best waves on the planet, they are not too far away. Just south of Alila Villas Soori is Canggu. It's a regional classic that many of Bali's hottest surfers head to when other spots are too small and crowded.

The rocky reef break offers a solid, winding left that presents a series of power changes and leaves the best to last with a sand-spitting barrel close to shore.

A right-hander that spills into deeper water is a much mellower proposition.

In the resort's comfortable vehicle, it's also a breeze to shoot down to world-famous Uluwatu for the morning and when arms become paddle-weary you can drop into Kuta for some fun, easy-access peaks.

There are waves most of the year in Bali, but the west coast captures the southerly swells of the Indonesian dry season from April to October.

There is much to love about this tranquil island and it's only about a six-hour flight away.

Pacific Blue flies direct from most Australian capitals to Denpasar.

Seating is comfortable, the service cheery and all passengers have their own TV/DVD screens.

The 5-star accommodation at Alila Villas Soori is breathtaking. There are 47 spacious and luxurious villas, each with a private pool, dedicated hosts, gourmet bar, espresso coffee machine, 24-hour in-villa dining and LCD televisions.

The property is an inspired expression of contemporary Asian architecture and there is a wonderful flow from interior to exterior spaces. It is so well designed you rarely see other guests and the only sounds are the waves thundering on the beach or friendly greetings of staff.

Food is another highlight and visitors can enjoy the many flavours of the region served on their own private deck, in casually elegant Cotta restaurant or at a Japanese-inspired beachfront grill called Coast, where seafood sizzles through the evening and wine and beer glasses clink to celebrate another day in paradise.

>>The writer was a guest of Alila Villas Soori and Pacific Blue.


Wish you were here

Getting there: Pacific Blue flies direct to Denpasar (Bali) from Sydney. Flying time is six hours and 25 minutes. Upgrade to premium economy for 50 per cent more room and a fully inclusive food, beverage and entertainment package.

Staying there: Alila Villas Soori is a luxury beachfront property in the Tabanan Regency in West Bali, about an hour's drive north of the airport. A Pool Villa Indulgence package costs $500 a person a night, including daily breakfast, signature spa treatments and round-trip transport (minimum three-night stay).



Doing there: Surf Bali's name breaks, immerse yourself in culture by taking a Journey by Alila, including Journey of Culinary Delight, The Gods (temple tour), Discovery (all-terrain-vehicle ride, whitewater rafting), Balinese Knights (equestrian), Dance or Art.


Tips: There are always waves somewhere in Bali but the west coast works best from April to October. If tackling Canggu, Balian or Medewi, get up early for the cleanest conditions.


In Bali you can be Green AND be pampered in Luxurious Paradise

Balifornian Tours can take you to some of the most forward thinking, eco-conscious spots in all of Asia.  Our Bali tours work with many amazing and green companies, hotels, restaurants and many others.
Some eco-conscious entrepreneurs on Indonesia's Island of the Gods are working to build a future in tune with nature

Idyllic green tourism at The Springs

green living bali springs
The Springs features a cluster of three bedrooms and one reading hut.
While the Green Village offers a permanent greener life in Bali, if you wish simply to step with ecologically friendly footsteps while traveling, Bali also has alternatives offering idyllic and green luxury at affordable prices.

Situated in a valley facing Ubud, the green heart of Bali, The Springs offers lodgings made out of natural materials: coconut wood and bamboo with thatch roofs.

The views are astonishing. There's Mt Agung, Mt Batur and Mt. Abang, rice paddies, a river gorge, all right in front of the private villa cluster which is itself a dirt-track drive from the main streets.

Self-grown menus

green living bali springs
Bedrooms in The Springs are natural but luxurious.
“We have tried to maintain a pristine environment here that would be conducive to people's well-being and inner peace,” says owner Farah Kimball, who recently returned from Iran where she sat on a panel titled "A Culture of Peace" for World Philosophy Day. 

“With that in mind we have developed a restorative and healthy live food menu, have organic vegetables and fruits growing on the property, use natural materials and environmentally friendly buildings,” says Kimball.

The Springs outdoor lights are all solar powered and Kimball is planning to generate all electricity from solar. They have their own well for water usage and created two waste water gardens to ensure no waste pollutes ground or river water.

Ranging from US$275-375 per night, the cluster includes three bedrooms, one reading room, and an expansive deck with open-aired dining table, benches and hammocks.

According to Kimball, "Most people come here to be in the natural paradise setting and for rest from the hustle and bustle of their travels. Some people are of a spiritual bent and find the energy here very powerful."

A private natural pool

green living bali springs
A private pool with natural water faces a waterfall.
Down through fields, guests can enjoy a private plunge pool filled with water flowing from a natural spring.

Cut into the rock-side, the pool overlooks the river Wos and is placed directly across from a waterfall.

"We use almost all natural materials for building and very little cement. We use coconut wood, bamboo, recycled teak, river stones for steps, lava stones in the bathrooms, and local woods (lychee and suar) for counters. Our roofing material is thatch (alang-alang) which we grow and harvest on the property a few times a year," says Kimball.

Located 10 minutes away from Ubud center, The Springs makes sure that even in the natural atmosphere you are still connected to the world with free Wi-Fi and loan of a local mobile phone.

It also makes a convenient base to explore Bali's other green projects, including The Sari Organic and Bali Buddha restaurants, and the protected mangrove park.

Other organizations have also begun tackling local pollution, such as Eco Bali Recycling. Established in 2005 in response to the urgency of waste management problems, it has a team of professionals experienced in environmental and educational programs, and has teamed up with drinks packaging giant Tetra Pak to increase recycling.

Despite the growth of green projects though, Kimball feels there is much yet to improve.

"There is very little trash pick-up so people throw trash by the side of hills or into the river. Pesticides are heavily used in almost all rice growing. Septics are polluting the ground water so people get sick from drinking polluted well water even," says Kimball.

"I applaud the good work of those doing [these projects] but there is still more momentum through education needed to get everyone on the bandwagon," says Kimball.

green living bali springs
The Springs is the perfect green place to put your feet up and enjoy the view.


More Praise for Bali as the Best Island Paradise...

Bali Baby!

A scenic view in Bali. (Bob Schiff)

Editor's Note: Our roving international correspondent, Bob Schiff, has been traveling throughout Asia, reporting on the obscure and exotic. Here is his fourth of many communiques detailing his travels. Enjoy Shiff's musings on the locals, customs, accommodations, and certainly the visual and descriptive majesty of the sites he is visiting and documenting.

A three hour van from Ijen to the port on the western tip of Java, a half hour ferry ride across to Bali followed by a three hour bus ride to Denpasar and a half hour taxi ride and I arrived at my hotel in Legian. I think everyone has an image of Bali in their minds - idyllic tropical island with beautiful white sand beaches and an exotic culture unlike anything back home. Wrong - at least in the tourist area of south Bali. South Bali is a heavily overbuilt and crowded tourist scene. Australian is the predominant language spoken here, mate. There are a few areas that range from high-end Seminyak to the young and wild party enclave of Kuta. The beach runs all along the western shore but with all the development it's not very inviting. It does have killer sunsets though. Rip tides claim quite a few tourists; three people drown on Kuta beach the day I took my first surfing lesson.

Padang Padang beach, about 45 minutes south of the Legian/Kuta area.

Surfing is huge throughout south Bali. The breaks off the entire southern peninsula are legendary. Most of the rental motorbikes have u-shaped brackets to hold surf boards. Surfer shacks and guesthouses dot the cliffs of the southern Bukit peninsula.

There is a great beach near the southern end of Bukit called Padang Padang that runs true to my vision of Bali - tiny crescent of white sand surrounded by steep cliffs. Calm turquoise water with a surf break beyond the bay out in the Indian Ocean. Lunch is available from a traditional warang right on the beach. I went there three times during my week stay in south Bali.

Unlike the rest of Indonesia, Bali is primarily Hindu; a beautiful interpretation of Hindu unique to Bali. After weeks of traveling through Java during Ramadan it was refreshing to get to somewhere where there was pork and a vibrant nightlife. The Balinese dishes are a nice change from the rather bland and somewhat limited food choices in Java. My plan is to wait out the rest of Ramadan here in Bali. The holy month ends with the two day festival of Idul Fitri and a nine day holiday of Lebaran when Muslim people go back to their villages to celebrate with their families. It is a crowded time to travel in Indonesia. In Bali many of the workers (mostly from Java) go back home and many of the rich from Jakarta come to Bali with their families for holiday. Many hotels are booked during this period and prices are firm.

Padang Padang beach.

Now this is a magical place. Ubud is in the hills a little over an hour north of the south Bali tourist area. Steeped in the Balinese rendition of Hindu culture it exudes charm. Incredibly green rice fields and tropical mountain jungle everywhere. Many of the vistas are breathtaking. Unfortunately it is deservedly-so a major tourist destination. The roads were never designed to handle the larger vehicles used by the hotels and tour operators to move people around so traffic is a nightmare. Not unlike Rt. 27 in the Hamptons in August. On a motorbike with no visible enforcement of traffic regulations I easily skirt the worst of the congestion.

There are endless performances and religious celebrations and festivals. Every evening just after sunset one can hear a mix of many gamelan musical performances throughout the village. One can't help but feel the spirituality and ancient mysticism in this special place. One evening there is a parade from the main temple in town to another a few kilometers away. Most of the local townspeople, dressed in traditional costume, participate in the procession.

Tough to find good value with accommodations but I did luck into two great places for my week long stay. There are many four and five-star hotels and spas and plenty of great restaurants. Nightlife is limited. As I'm exploring the area by motorbike I'm distracted by the sweet smell of barbeque from a smoking grill on the sidewalk in front of a crowded warang - Naughty Nuri's Place. It's packed with Asian tourists. I strike up a conversation with a table of local expats and am invited to sit down. One of the guys, Brian, is a very funny New Yorker and immediately we hit it off. He and his wife, a local named Nuri own the place. It's the same scene as at Cyril's table in Amagansett - a group of middle-age guys sitting around all afternoon drinking and telling tales while the place just jams with business. I feel right at home and spend about five afternoons there with my new friends. Oh, and easily the best pork ribs for thousands of miles.

The Balinese architecture around Ubud is spectacular. Dozens of temples and traditional family compounds. There is a large artist community and many galleries. Crafts - wood carvings, stone carvings, architectural details, garden features, etc. - from all over Indonesia are presented to the wholesale export trade in the Ubud area. I'm tempted to try my luck at a container of goods but quickly come to the realization that I'd most likely loose my shirt. Plus, I'm not ready to stop traveling yet.

Finally I tear myself away from the beauty of Ubud and my new friends at Naughty Nuri's and head to Sanur to sort out transportation to Gili Trawangan island – my next port of call. 

Tours can be planned through Balifornian Tours- The leader in custom tours to Bali and Indonesia.  make the most out of your holiday vacation.


Bali- The ultimate Island Paradise- and the islanders are happy to share it

Foreign tourists  sunbathe on Kuta beach on Bali: it's a rare travel magazine that  hasn't tempted readers at least once with stunning visuals of the  island's beaches.
 Bali prizes serenity -and the islanders are happy to share it
Benevolent spirits, elaborate temples
By PATTI NICKELL, McClatchy-Tribune; Lexington Herald-Leader

Foreign tourists sunbathe on Kuta beach on Bali: it's a rare travel magazine that hasn't tempted readers at least once with stunning visuals of the island's beaches.

Photograph by: MURDANI USMAN, REUTERS, McClatchy-Tribune; Lexington Herald-Leader

The Indonesian island of Bali -half a world away -has become synonymous with grace, simplicity and serenity, an oasis in an area of the world that is frequently tempestuous.

Bali's easygoing way of life has caused the rest of the world to take note. It's a rare travel magazine that hasn't tempted readers at least once with stunning visuals of the island's beaches, terraced mountains and palm-filled jungles. Spas around the world have tried to copy the famed Balinese massage with varying degrees of success. And try as hard as they might, no one has come close to copying the graceful elegance of Balinese dancing. To what does this tiny island owe such great good fortune?

Some Balinese will tell you it's the gods that define the tempo of daily life, whether it's the "good" spirits that inhabit the highlands or the "evil" spirits that dwell in the lowlands near the sea. Good or evil, pious or impish, all have their place in Balinese mythology.

The outward manifestations of the belief in these gods are the places of worship that dot the island -from the simple shrines in every home and business to the more elaborate temples that illustrate the Balinese love of harmony and nature. While Bali lacks the huge temple complexes such as Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world, on the neighbouring island of Java and Angkor Wat in nearby Cambodia, it does offer a chance to see temples in a variety of gorgeous settings.

Among the loveliest is Taman Ayun ( "beautiful garden"), a name that could not be more fitting. The temple, built in 1637, is in its own Eden, separated from the rest of the world by a moat. Another temple, Pura Ulun Danau, also was built in the 17th century to honour the water goddess charged with protecting the rice crop. It sits on Lake Bratan in the crater of an extinct volcano.

Perhaps the most exquisite setting is that of Tanah Lot, dating to the 15th century, which hugs the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea. At low tide, the island on which it sits is accessible by foot, and while each evening, hundreds gather to watch the sunset, many are careful to go no farther -perhaps because of the giant snake reputed to live in the temple, protecting it from evil spirits and intruders.

Religion in Bali is very complex. Unlike the predominantly Muslim islands of the rest of Indonesia, Bali's religion combines polytheistic Hinduism with Buddhism and borrows from ancient indigenous mythology.

The temples are bastions of serenity on an island that prizes serenity. You can see it in the graceful movements of the traditional legong dance performed each Friday at Nusa Dua Beach Hotel's Budaya Cultural Theatre or in the other traditional dance, the ketjack (monkey dance), performed by more than 200 people at one time during ceremonies in rural villages.

You can see it in the Balinese love of symmetry, a good example of which is Eka Karya, Bali's botanic garden. It is a tropical rainforest in the volcanic highlands and lake districts of central Bali that just happens to have 1,200 species of plants ranging from orchids to cactus.

With the tragic exception of the 2002 terrorist bombing at a popular nightclub, serenity is such a way of life here that the turbulent outbreaks in other parts of Indonesia seem light years removed. One afternoon, as I sat in a beachside restaurant in Singaraja after a day spent touring the coffee and tea plantations of the highlands, I stared out over the ocean and watched as a dolphin executed a perfect leap right in front of me. I saw a lone boatman, paddling a canoe piled high with bananas, breadfruit and mangos. In Bali, it seems, the grocer still makes deliveries.

Another day was spent driving around the interior of the island, where the mountains were decorated with row upon row of terraced rice paddies. Every so often, the lush green was interrupted by a silvery flash of falling water as a waterfall erupted from a hidden spring. I reflected on those good spirits residing in the mountains and thought what a lovely home they had.

Plan to spend a day at Ubud, Bali's arts and crafts centre. You will find shops and galleries offering island specialties from colourful batiks and wood carvings to Balinese shadow puppets. These are small, beautifully crafted leather figures lit from behind so that when their images are projected onto a screen, they become shadowy creatures of the imagination.

A good place to stop for lunch after a morning in Ubud is Kamandalu Resort in lush green hills above the town in an area once famous for its royal palaces. The great hall of Kamandalu, with its rattan furniture and ceiling fans, is open-air, affording a spectacular view of the surrounding hills, rainforest and Petanu River.

For a real taste of local colour, visit Jimbaran Bay for one of the famous barbecues. Everyone sits at folding chairs at long tables on the beach, breathes in the smoke from hundreds of pits and eats succulent lobster washed down by cold beer. It's the Balinese equivalent of the Friday night fish fry, where tourists are outnumbered by locals. Don't miss it.

Where to stay: Bali's popularity has resulted in lodging choices for every pocketbook. While all the luxury chains have properties on the island, a proliferation of smaller properties such as Bali Garden, Barong Cottages and Green Garden Hotel have nightly rates from $100 to $300, and local guest houses are cheaper still.

For more information:

Balifornian Tours offers the best custom holiday experience on Bali and all of Indonesia.



Hidden Paradise in Bali- Far away from tourists

Have you seen this Bali too?

Far from the madding crowd ... Sanur, Bali.

Far from the madding crowd ... Sanur, Bali. Photo: Dennis Walton/Lonely Planet

Uncrowded beaches, authentic warungs, great waves and not a tour bus in sight. Lee Atkinson investigates beyond Kuta.

BALI is busier than ever, with tourist numbers hitting record highs. However, sometimes it can seem as if the whole world has joined you to watch the sunset on Kuta beach. There are places where you can relax with very little company. Here are 10 places to take your towel.


In the 1960s, when Kuta was attracting its first wave of tousled-haired surfers, Sanur was the ‘‘in’’ place, where visiting royals, heads of state and superstars such as Sophia Loren holidayed. About a 30-minute drive from Denpasar airport on Bali’s east coast, Sanur is where Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall married in a traditional Hindu Balinese ceremony in 1990 and where celebrities flocked to enjoy upmarket hotels and resorts.

Fast- forward two decades and Sanur has been overshadowed by the glitzier Seminyak and party-hearty Kuta but there’s still a lot to love about this seaside resort area, even if some southern Bali expats call it ‘‘snore’’ rather than Sanur. Edged by one of the best beachside promenades in Bali, it has brilliant white sand, umbrella-shaped trees for shade, clear water, a few little waves to make it interesting, great cafes and bars and enough life to remind you that you are indeed in Bali. What Sanur doesn’t have is the aggressive sales pitches you get on Kuta, the traffic or the crowds.


On Bali’s north coast, Lovina is not just on the opposite side of the island to Kuta and Seminyak, it’s about as far removed as you can get. Laid-back, quiet and low-key, this is what Kuta might once have been but with volcanic black sand and minus the rolling waves. Hotels are shabby and cheap and almost all front the beach.

There are no upscale restaurants, although all the seaside warungs have million-dollar water views and there’s none of the pesky hawkers you find in some of Bali’s other beach enclaves. In fact, there’s not even very many tourists and the handful that are here don’t do much. It’s a wonderful place in which to laze around while making friends with the locals and eating grilled fish that was flapping around in the bottom of a boat at the beach only minutes earlier.

When you tire of that, head into nearby hills to visit Brahma Vihara Arama, Bali’s only Buddhist monastery, a mini-Borobudur with grey stone stupas and an overriding sense of calm, although there are plenty of Hindu touches as well. Or go to the magical Air Panas Banjar, the natural hot springs surrounded by lush gardens where you can stand under the demon-head fountains and let gushing warm water work its magic on aches and pains.


Bali’s second-largest city is not a tourist town but is well worth a visit. It was the capital under Dutch rule and you can still see traces of its colonial past in the architecture, particularly on the old harbour, lorded over by the cantilevered Yudha Mandala Tama monument to independence. A highlight is getting lost in the crowded warren of woven baskets overflowing with fruit and vegetables at Pasar Anyar, Singaraja’s chaotic and colourful produce market.

Bookish types will like the little library next to the Museum Buleleng (give the museum a miss, though: it has some dusty archaeological exhibits and a room with some images of the local rajahs of the 1930s but not much else) for its collection of lontar books made from dried palm leaves.


You don’t go here for the nightlife, surf, or the beach, although Candidasa is beside the sea. Sadly, most of the sand has been washed away, thanks to the mining of the offshore reefs in the 1980s. The beach is slowly returning but you can’t really walk the length of it because hotel walls drop straight into the sea in some places. Despite this, I love Candidasa for its relaxed attitude and easygoing nature. At the beach’s northern end is a fishing village where you’ll find coconut trees and chickens and piglets rooting around the gardens.

In the middle section is a beautiful lily-covered lagoon. If you want to swim, paddle or hire a boat, head to the southern section, where you’ll also find warungs serving fresh fish. Take a day trip back in time to the nearby Aga village of Tenganan, famous for its traditional arts and crafts, particularly the finely woven baskets, hand-woven ikat cloth and lontar books.

There’s no denying the village is touristy but it’s worth visiting. It’s the perfect place to pick up a souvenir or two and at least you know your money is going directly to the person who made what you buy. Remember, it’s cash only.


A seafood meal on the beach at Jimbaran at night is one of the most magical things you can do in Bali but be prepared to share the moment with several thousand other diners. Go during the day for a long, languid seaside lunch, however, and the place is pretty much deserted and the drinks are cheaper.

Start at the fish market at the beach’s northern end – it’s crowded, a little smelly and full of action. Watch where you step because there are fish scraps and puddles and try to keep out of the way of carters with baskets of just-caught fish on their shoulders. The best time to go is in the morning; by mid-afternoon, it’s all but over. By that stage, you’ll be enjoying the fruits of the fishers’ labour as you watch the surf roll in without a sea of people spoiling your view.

There are three warung strips, each with dozens of almost identical restaurants and cafes spilling across the sand and all charging much the same price for much the same food. The southern section, near the Four Seasons Resort, is the best pick of the three and the swimming is also best at that end of the beach.

Pura Taman Ayun

Despite being a stop on many tours to Tanah Lot, this former royal temple at Mengwi, built in 1634, is free of T-shirt sellers and the hawkers you find at Bali’s other big-ticket temples (Pura Besakih, ‘‘the Mother Temple’’; Tanah Lot; Ulu Watu) and seems to swallow the crowds the way other temples can’t. Perhaps it’s the beautiful gardens that surround the complex of three interconnecting yards.

Most tours stop here for half an hour but if you can avoid the pre-sunset crush about 3-4pm, you can wander almost alone on the riverside paths or relax in one of the pavilions scattered around the grounds, which are perfect for a moment or 20 of peaceful contemplation.


Ubud moves at a gentler pace than the tourist towns of the south, although that doesn’t mean the traffic is any better and sometimes it can feel just as crowded on Monkey Forest Road as it is in Kuta’s Poppies Lane. Ubud’s saving grace is that it’s so easy to escape the crowd – you have to walk only a block or two away from the shopping streets before you’ll be surrounded by terraced rice fields.

The Botanic Garden offers even more serenity. You could spend all day sitting quietly in these gorgeous gardens with its meandering creeks, rainforest gully, silent meditation court, love nest (just follow the signs), bamboo grove and orchid garden – and that’s without getting lost in the maze. It’s about two kilometres north of Ubud; a motorbike taxi will cost about 10,000 rupiah ($1.14) each way, or catch a ride and walk back down the gentle slope through rice paddies.

Pasifika Museum

I can’t quite work out why this museum in Nusa Dua is often empty, given its extensive collection of art. Most of it is either painted by Balinese, or features paintings of Bali and the Balinese by visiting Asian and Western artists. All the big names are here, including Donald Friend, Arie Smit, Theo Meier and Le Mayeur, as well as works by luminaries such as Gauguin and Matisse.

For those who don’t fancy room after room of art, the Pacific Room has a fantastic collection of Pacific carvings, masks, canoes, jewellery and artefacts from across the Pacific and is well worth the price of admission (about $10, which is steep by Balinese standards).


For many tourists, Denpasar is little more than the name of the airport into which they fly before heading to their hotel in Kuta or Seminyak, hillside bungalow in Ubud, villa in Jimbaran or resort in Nusa Dua. Few visitors go into the Balinese capital unless they have business or an emergency.

If you want to get a sense of the workaday Bali, this is the place to go and, despite its (deserved) reputation as a sprawling, traffic-choked metropolis, you can see the best of the sights on a one-day walking tour. Start at the Museum Negri Propinsi Bali for a crash course on Balinese culture and art, visit the state temple, Pura Jagatnatha, next door, then head around the corner to Pasar Badung, Denpasar’s main produce market.

Just across the river is the art and craft market, Pasar Kumbasari, a great place to pick up a souvenir. It’s a wholesale as well as retail market, so this is where most of the work you see in the shops of Kuta and Legian comes from. The surrounding area is called Kampung Arab, the heart of the Arabic district, and the streets are lined with gold shops, where, if you’re bargaining skills are up to it, you can pay local not tourist prices.

Ulu Watu

A temple has been perched on the cliff-top at Ulu Watu since the 11th century. Non-Hindus can’t enter the temple courtyard but do go for the views of the line of sheer cliffs being pounded by the super-sized surf for which this part of the southern coast is famous. The best views are at the end of a short walk along the cliff edge and through the forest on the right-hand side, although the views are almost as good on the left, too.

Like Bali’s other famous sea temple, Tanah Lot, Ulu Watu is a popular sunset spot when tour buses from Kuta and Nusa Dua arrive to take in the scene and see a traditional Kecak dance, in which the singers enter a trance as they chant. Go early in the morning, though, and you’ll have the place to yourself. The delinquent monkeys may also still be half asleep and less likely to steal your sunglasses.

It will cost you the equivalent of about $10 each way by taxi (from Jimbaran; a little more from Kuta, Seminyak or Nusa Dua) and most drivers are happy to wait free while you visit the temple.

Frommer’s Bali Day by Day, by Lee Atkinson, will be published in April.


Getting there

Garuda, Virgin Blue and Jetstar fly direct from Sydney to Denpasar. 13 31 33

Staying there can help make your Bali Vacation the best it can be

More information

You can obtain an Indonesian visa on arrival in Bali.