Contemplating Bali....

Old Apr 11th, 2007, 01:39 PM
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Contemplating Bali....

After reading all the reports about Thai beaches being more designed for tourists and not as "authentically" Thai as most places, and realizing we were devoting five nights, six days to beach time, we're now contemplating blowing the budget out of the window (moderately speaking) and heading to Bali for the beaches instead.

We'll arrive in Thailand May 28th, do BKK, CM and CR. We're wrapping up our time in Chang Mai June 10th and need to head back to the US on June 17th. We have a day or two of wiggle room, in that we could leave northern Thailand June 8th or 9th if we need more transit time.

Is Bali "doable" in five to seven nights? What's the best way to get there? Your impressions of Bali would be greatly appreciated. We both could spend a week never straying from our lounge chairs, but I'm sure there are many "must sees" in Bali. Are the beaches and culture really worth the extra expense and travel time to experience them? While we certainly don't anticipate this being our last trip to this corner of the world, we're realistic enough to know we might not have three weeks of travel time and no children until we are retired and as such, want to really make the most of this trip.

Thanks for the opinions (I know Fodorites have them!)

kat_in_the_hat is offline  
Old Apr 11th, 2007, 02:16 PM
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Don't go to Bali for the beaches. Go to Bali for the culture. There are many must sees in Bali but you need to drive around and get away from the coast to do it. The beaches aren't particularly great. Why waste the 3-4 hour travel time each way if there are perfectly good beaches (maybe not "authentically" Thai but nice none-the-less) in Thailand.
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Old Apr 11th, 2007, 02:16 PM
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I loved Bali. We did not spend much time lounging by the ocean, though we spent 5 nights at a beach resort so we could have. We took a great many day trips and also spent 5 nights inland near Ubud. It's away from the beach that more of Bali reveals itself, but it's relatively easy to do day trips around the island from a beach location. There are so many wonderful things I can think to recommend.

I think if you read through all the Bali/Thailand beach posts, you'd probably notice many people saying the physical beaches are better in Thailand, and I think what they mean is more swimmable and prettier sand. I've only been to Bali's beaches so can't attest to that.

I would check connections via either Kuala Lumpur or Singapore to Bali -- and of course it would matter what hub you're using to get to Thailand to begin with -- straight there, or thru another Asian city, and whether you've already booked your ticket -- just to see how much time you're going to lose going there rather than to a Thai beach.

From a looking at thundering surf, great sunsets perspective, it seemed Seminyak/Legian beaches were best, also very close to lots of good restaurants, so you're not at the mercy of your hotel's.

My trip report from January is posted if you want to read more. The web site we built out of our pictures with a blow by blow blog is at http://web.mac.com/kitskarstrom/iWeb/Bali/Welcome.html
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Old Apr 11th, 2007, 08:02 PM
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not a bad idea....the beaches are ok in bali but not as fantastic as one would think....i feel the same about thailand....both are servicable...the beaches in the north of bali are said to be the best, but i did not get that far...

thai air has one direct round trip from bkk daily to bali--i think it leaves about 9AM from bkk...as craig says its about 4 hours....you will need a visa probably which is available at the airport... the flight is not cheap $400-600...i booked through eddie at sea tours and saved quite a bit--maybe 30-40%...
just like thailand there are accomodations at all prices...
we loved our stay at sanur, a small town in the south...we stayed at the hyatt for a cheap price...

5-7 nites is perfect...

hire a driver for a few days to get around--very cheap....maybe $50 per day for 10 hours...we loved putu often spoken of here...
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Old Apr 11th, 2007, 08:29 PM
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I could not agree more with Craig that Bali is not about the beaches, and you will not find any “authentic” Balinese culture on the beaches. The Balinese in fact shun the beach and do not go there except for funerals. The Balinese don’t even have much of a tradition of fishing, and there are few fishing villages in Bali, they pretty much avoid the sea and the beach areas, their culture is to be found inland in the hills areas and sacred mountain areas. The Thaïs, like most Asians, have a fishing culture, but do not have a developed “beach culture” mostly because until recent years their economic development has not permitted them leisure time to spend at the beach; hence beach developments are for wealthy tourists. There are of course plenty of middle class and wealthy Thais who own homes and who vacation at Thai beach hotels, but you may not consider them “authentic” because they aren’t wearing conical bamboo hats and working in the rice fields.....

As mentioned above, the beaches in Bali are pretty, but not spectacular, and Bali is quite a way to go to sit on a beach. Even the northern beaches, some of which have black sand, are no where near as beautiful as many other beaches around the world, IMO, notably in the Caribbean or the Maldives. There is nothing wrong with wanting to spend 5 days sitting on a beach, it is your holiday and that is certainly a legitimate way to spend one. I would just say that you do not have to go to Bali to do it if that is really what the primary purpose of this particular vacation would be; esp when you will be in Thailand and you can certainly easily get to a nice beach there. You would need to get up in the inland hill areas to really see and enjoy the culture of Bali. If you want to do that, then 5-7 days from Thailand would work, assuming you can get non-stop flights with decent arrival and departure times. Also, try not to have to fly back to Bangkok for your return international flight if you can avoid it, see if you can connect via Singapore or Hong Kong, which may be a more direct way to back to the US.

If you want to stay in the Thai area but perhaps avid the more developed beaches, then avoid Phuket, which was of course not even a fishing village, but a purpose-built tourist island. You might want to consider the coastal areas south of Bangkok, away from Hua Hin. My vote would go actually to the east coast of Malaysia, which is much less developed and there are lots of fishing villages and little islands. Kota Bahru and that area. This is a bit harder to get to from Thailand, you may have to fly to KL and then transit, but certainly would give you a different experience. Or fly to Singapore and drive up the coast of Malaysia. Perfect in June and July.
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Old Apr 12th, 2007, 02:57 AM
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Cicerone has put it all very well indeed.
The closest you will come in my opinion in Thailand ( and also easily accessible with good accommodation ) is past Hua Hin along the Sunrise coast, within 15 minutes you find fishing villages near the beaches, within 30-40 minutes other fishing villages like Pak Nam Pran, these are local fishing villages and small towns but there are also beaches, they are not the best but it is mixed with local areas, national parks, farmlands, and of course local temples, rivers and mountains.
These areas also have some very good accommodations like the Evasons at Pranburi, the Aleenta and Praseban. Evaason Resort is around $100, the Hideaway though is in the $350-450 range. All low rise places close to villages / life.
Bang Saphan and Ban Krut also have comfortable beach accommodation, Koh Talu Island is small, nice beach and snorkeling. You 'do' find tourists in these areas but you do not have amusement created for tourists, they are 'get away from it all' places. You can take fishing trips but these are arranged with local fishing bopats, not tours groups! Local temples are there ( no entry fees ).
Evenings are very local places though luxury resorts do put on beach BBQ's etc, not a fast food joint in sight! Rural, villages, plantations, coastline, beaches, it 'is there'.
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Old Apr 12th, 2007, 03:13 AM
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Some photos of Bang Saphan / Ban Krut area which gives are fair idea, you will see the beaches are not great, but.....
http://www.bangsaphanguide.com/images.htm

http://www.ban-krut.com/samran-beach-photos.htm

http://www.suanbankrut.com/en_gallary.html

Suan Ban Krut Resort

http://www.suanbankrut.com/

You have to car+driver, train or express bus to these places, if there was an airport not hard to imagine these places would be far more talked about. This is the area 'we' go when we want to relax and are still planning to try and move to.
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Old Apr 12th, 2007, 03:16 AM
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I am not knocking Bali at all, it is different, but inland is far nicer than beaches in my personal opinion, and yes I agree in Bali you do see local culture in it's natural state a lot. I am just saying there 'are' beaches and areas in Thailand that have not become swamped by mass tourism and are not difficult to get to if you are happy not flying, but don't expect malls or nightlife, though depending how far south you go you can still be within 40 minutes of those ( e.g staying around Pranburi area 40 mins from Hua hin ).
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Old Apr 12th, 2007, 03:36 AM
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In answer to your question: Are [Bali's] beaches and culture really worth the extra expense and travel time to experience them?

Beaches, no. You could do as well (or better) in Thailand.

Culture, yes.

5 to 7 nights is good for Bali. You could spend a few nights on the beach and a few nights inland.

I don't agree entirely that Balinese shun the beach. It's true that the ocean doesn't play a big part in Balinese livelihood and culture. However, Balinese live all over the island, including in the seaside communities and have done so forever. There are temples (and temple festivals and religious processions) everywhere, even in the most heavily touristed areas. I don't think I've ever been to Seminyak and NOT seen an offering ceremony on the beach.

Travelers have been visiting Bali's beaches for decades and beach culture is now an integral part of Bali's tradition. The popular beaches are not pristine and secluded -- they are lively, sometimes crowded, full of restaurants, shops, spas, resorts -- in otherwords, a lot of fun.

Having said that if I were already in Thailand I wouldn't make the trip to Bali for the beach. But once in Bali, I really like to divide my time between the beach and inland. In my opinion, both represent the real Bali.
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Old Apr 12th, 2007, 06:26 AM
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Thanks for all the wonderful replies everyone. You have given the H and I many things to think about.

I'll start investigating Hua Hai and the surrounding areas. It certainly cuts the travel time down than trying to deal with getting in and out of Koh Samui.

Perhaps Bali alone will be our next Asia destination - since it sounds as if a seven or ten day trip is ample time to explore without feeling rushed.

Again, thanks so much for the thoughts!

katherine
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Old Apr 12th, 2007, 06:33 AM
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I'd agree with marmot re: the shun the beach observation as well -- Jimbaran is a town of fishermen -- we saw them out in their small boats and also on Sunday at low tide with nets. And Jimbaran Beach, though isolated from a tourist perspective (few other shops and restaurants for foreigners, save what's at the hotels and the fish grill places down the beach, which were being rebuilt last I heard) was mobbed with Balinese on Sunday -- 2 huge soccer games, kids with parents, etc; a Balinese at our hotel (I think thinking we were dismayed by all this boisterousness on the beach -- we weren't) said "Sunday always popular day at Jimbaran for Balinese people." I'm sure some of this is a more modern development and had heard that traditionally, the Balinese were not "sea loving" people, but times change. Our first day with a driver, we saw a temple blessing along the streets of Jimbaran 5 minutes from our hotel -- a tree had partially knocked down a shrine and the people were making extra offerings, renewing the decorations and umbrellas.
The cultural aspects of the island are most prevalent inland. It's really a cost vs benefit call -- as Bali's culture is distinctly diverse from Thailand's.
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Old Apr 12th, 2007, 11:01 AM
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take a look at the hyatt in HH
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