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Bali/Indonesia Itinerary - Avoidance of Super "Touristy" Areas/Activities

Bali/Indonesia Itinerary - Avoidance of Super "Touristy" Areas/Activities

Jan 15th, 2007, 10:39 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 8
Bali/Indonesia Itinerary - Avoidance of Super "Touristy" Areas/Activities

My husband & I are planning our first trip to Indonesia. We have planned to spend the majority of our time in Bali, however haven't ruled out days on other islands. When traveling we look for a good balance of adventure, nature, culture and relaxation - we are adventursome, active and eager to learn. Turned off by the larger, "popular" type attractions/areas. As an example our trip to Thailand last spring was incredibly amazing, minus Patong beach in Phuket, Patpong market in Bangkok, "elephant rides" in Chaing Mai, etc - avoidance of these "types" of areas is really what we are looking for. Best experiences included visit to the elephant nature park in Chaing Mai, renting of motorcyles to self tour countrysides, eco & environmentally friendly sea kayaking out of Phuket.

Hopefully this helps paint a picture of what we are/are not looking for.

As always, your travel experiences and opinions are much appreciated!
steph_bert is offline  
Jan 15th, 2007, 11:43 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,892
There's culture everywhere on Bali. The best way to see it is with a driver such as Putu (e-mail: [email protected]). A knowledgeable driver can take you to the off-the-beaten track places - perhaps a Balinese home, a temple ceremony, a festival or a cremation. Some of the major temples are touristy but worth seeing - Tanah Lot and Ulawatu come to mind immediately. There are other smaller temples that you can visit. Do drive out into the countryside - the rice fields are beautiful - see if your driver can arrange a hike if you are so inclined. You did not say how long you will be on Bali but the loop drive through the lakes region and returning via the volcano is interesting. We spent three nights in Lovina (on northern Bali between the lakes and the volcano) and did some snorkeling at Menjangan Island while we were there.

You do not want to drive yourself or use a motorcycle to self-tour - its just not safe. Bali is a heavily populated island. The roads are narrow and crowded with cars, bikes, carts and animals.

Another thing you might view as touristy but was loads of fun for us was whitewater rafting on a river near Ubud - worth checking out.

You will love Bali - it's magical.
Craig is offline  
Jan 15th, 2007, 12:14 PM
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 175
We used Putu for one day and felt he was fine. He has a good grasp of the english language. But I believe Putu is a driver. We also used another official "guide" -- someone who went to school and was certified by the government. He went by "Mr. Frog" and though we did some tourist type day adventures, it was through him that we experienced the highlight of our trip: an authentic village ceremony. I forget what the occasion was but it only happens 2x year and was occuring in his village. He picked us up and while he prayed and participated in the ceremonies, we just tried to blend as best as we could in the background, soaking it in. It was an amazing experience. Clearly not a "tourist attraction" as we were the only non-locals. The kids were the best part, they were so happy and enthusiastic when we took pictures of them and then showed them the "instant" pictures on the back of the digital camera. I will try to find you his information if you'd like, and perhaps you can ask him or any other guide you encounter if there are any local celebrations during the time you will be there.

Overall, I found Putu to be well informed but I really enjoyed Mr. Frog's knowledge and enthusiasm of the Balinese history, culture, and a bit more formal education. He seemed like he was more eager to please. He also did a great job explaining the various parts of his religion.

Btw, we were there in May 2006.

Also, I agree with Craig, although some of those temples such as Tanah Lot and Uluwatu are "tourist must-sees", I hope you won't discount visiting them as they are incredibly beautiful.

A bit OT: Craig, I believe you also helped me when we were planning our trip, so a bit belated Thank you!
junkgalore is offline  
Jan 15th, 2007, 12:41 PM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 288
Pick your location in Bali carefully if you want to avid tourists. Kuta is jammed with cheap accomodations but also with folks just there to party. In Nusa Dua you will get luxury, but it is also sort of sterile - really you could be on any beach anywhere. Personally I like either Lovina in the north or Sanur in the south.

Try eating in a night market. You can see food being prepared so you can pick safe foods.

I wouldn't suggest self-driving. I lived in Indonesia, married to an Indonesian and I was very hesitant to drive. You will be safer with a driver.

On Java I would suggest visiting Borobodur in Yogyakarta (pronounced Jogja). This sight along with Prambanan are fantastic.
teach2travel is offline  
Jan 15th, 2007, 01:15 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,892
Well, Putu is a guide but with only one day he probably wouldn't open up to you. Also if there wasn't a festival going on, what could he really do? He's kind of laid back anyway and being established may not come across as easy to please. It's much about timing - although in Bali it seems there's some sort of festival going on every day.
Craig is offline  
Jan 15th, 2007, 02:32 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5,034
We had an absolutely wonderful experience with Alam Sari. Short on time right now, but if you search on Alam Sari here you'll likely find my report and comments to other questions like yours. www.alamsari.com is their website.
KimJapan is offline  
Jan 15th, 2007, 09:21 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
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Indonesia is a BIG country with over 17,000 islands. Aside from a very small area in the south of Bali, tourism is underdeveloped. If you wish to get off the beaten path, you might want to consider going to one of the more remote islands like Sumba, Papua, Sulawesi, Borneo, Sumatra. I can recommend the following group for organized, but still very adventurous tours: http://www.expat.or.id/sponsors/remotedestinations.html

For Bali tourism is concentrated in the southern beaches -- Nusa Dua, Jimaran, Kuta, Sanur, Seminyak. These are all developed, some more lively, some more relaxed. The Balinese who live at the beach are still Balinese and still maintain their culture and traditions. You just have to scratch a little further under the surface. Personally, I like the beach in Bali, but if your objective is to avoid the commercial youíd better head inland.

In the Ubud area, there are plenty of resorts but they are widespread enough that you donít feel crowded. The town itself is fairly sleepy.

Then there is the whole rest of the island Ė about 99% -- which is fairly pristine. You will find resorts, villas, homestays allover and traveling from village to village is a charming way to see Bali. Culture really is everywhere. You can easily search out temple and village festivals, dance performances, special ceremonies like cremations.

Everyone seems to have their favorite guide in Bali. The fact is that ALL Balinese maintain ties to their home villages. The may be drivers or waiters or gardners at your resort, but they are also dancers or gamelan players or mask carvers or even priests in their villages. Itís easy to find someone to show you their culture. As Craig says they are eager to share.

Balinese and Indonesians in general are not aggressive and may look to us to tell them what we want to see. Sometimes they just read us wrong and take us to the most tourist-y sites on the assumption that that's what we would like. It can takes some doing to overcome the cultural misunderstandings.

Iíd recommend the following group for incomparable depth of insight: http://www.danutours.com/

Where you stay depends much on your budget. Paradoxically, the more you pay the more authentic your experience can be as money can buy serenity and aesthetics. There are,however, plenty of choices in all prices ranges. I especially concur with Kimís suggestion of Alam Sari as a good mid-range starting place.

On Java, the major destinations are in the Yogyakarta area Ė Borobudur and Prambanan temples. Prambanan is close to the city, Borobudur is in the country side. I would head for the Borobudur area. Although there are many places to stay, tourism isnít really well developed. Again, the choice would depend on your budget.
marmot is offline  
Jan 16th, 2007, 05:54 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,197
Like you, we try to avoid touristy areas and activities. We spent a couple of weeks in Bali last year and on the advice of KimJapan stayed at the Alamsari and thoroughly enjoyed it! A highlight was the walk through the villages and paddies into UBUD (approx 12k)-great scenery and lovely people. IMO renting a motorbike is ok in Bali as long as you steer clear of the south and stick to Ubud and the north and take the usual precautions etc.

We also spent a week in Permuteran in the north to do some diving off Menjangan Island (the diving was surprisingly good!. The drive north through the mountains was v. scenic
crellston is offline  
Jan 16th, 2007, 08:55 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Another beach option is Lombok, right "next door" to bali. It is quite different from bali culturally, and the beaches (I think) are better. We had a wonderful stay at the Qunci Villas.
Kathie is offline  
Jan 24th, 2007, 07:29 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 8
Thanks for the insightful posts and feedback. I see many posts describing a self drive as not safe. Is it meant primarily for physical reasons (i.e. poor infrastructure/traffic circulation, etc) or more for personal "tourist" safety (i.e. own well being as stopping along routes as a tourist). As always a huge thanks!
steph_bert is offline  
Jan 24th, 2007, 08:22 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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The issue about self-drive is that the roads are narrow, the drivers (of cars, bikes, motocycles, carts, etc) are wild and you won't know where you are going. This is NOT an issue about personal safety.
Kathie is offline  
Jan 24th, 2007, 08:25 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5,034
Exactly what Kathie said, plus the fact that whoever is driving does not get to enjoy the scenery along the way due to having to keep your eyes on the road all the time. A car and driver is not expensive, the money you pay them supports them and their family, and if you get a good match, you will likely have your experience much enhanced by being invited to your driver's home.
KimJapan is offline  

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