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CubeNY Feb 8th, 2008 01:18 PM

Your input on Bali destinations

My wife and I have 14 days for a first visit to Bali this September.

We enjoy music and dance, hiking, touring the countryside, swimming and snorkeling>>>and we really don't care about shopping or spas or nightlife.

My plan is to go straight from the airport to Ubud for the first 4 nights--I'm debating whether to stay in town at Komaneka or out at Alam Sari or Ulun Ubud. I'm a little worried that latter 2 might feel somewhat isolated....

We have a driver lined up to tour us around on days 3, 4, and 5, and I was planning on having him drop us in Munduk where we'll spend 3 nights at Puri Lumbung.

Then on to Pemuteran (somehow) for 3 nights at Taman Sari where we hope to get the snorkeling bit done.
This leaves us 3 nights at the tail end of the trip and I wondered if anyone has opinions on the best places to spend those days-

Is there a great place in East Bali? (we plan to see Tirtagangga, Gunung Batur with the driver)

Is there someplace we're leaving out?

Thanks in advance for your opinions

Becalm Feb 8th, 2008 04:58 PM

In town or outside is a subjective decision based on your likes. Some people love Komanneka. I believe if you do a search for "JohnH" you'll find his trip report from last year where he really liked Komaneka. Others have said the same for UU. Do you prefer strolling out of your hotel right into the shops and restaurants or a more unspoiled natural setting ? Munduk ? - now thats isolated LOL.

Since you have a driver for most of your stay and you'll likely want to rest your first day, staying outside of Ubud doesn't appear to be much of an issue. Remember most hotels run shuttles into Ubud on a frequent basis during the day and evening.

In addition to Amed you can consider staying at Tirta Gaggna. Haven't been yet but have read good things and will probaly stay there next visit.

marmot Feb 8th, 2008 05:44 PM

Cube, It looks like you've done your homework. Both Komeneka and Alam Sari are good choices. (I've not been to Ulun Ubud) Becalm is right, you'll get plenty of isolation in Munduk, so you might prefer to be in town for part of your stay.

There is so much available in the way of music, dance and drama in the Ubud area. Wherever you stay, be sure to get a list of performances so you can plan your nights around what you want to see. Your resort will have a list or you could stop by the Ubud Tourist Information Center.

I'm particularly fond of the Kecak that's performed by Janganan village.

The dances that are performed at the Ubud Palace are high quality and very authentic even though the venue is more commerical. If you can ferret out a village festival or celebration a dance will most likely be part of the entertainment -- although it may take place well into the night. You just have to be patient.

For those interested in performing arts, I've been touting this place recently as it was quite a serendipidous surprise for me to "discover" it.

If you're interested in masks and puppets I'd highly recommend a visit to Kubu Bingin in Tengkulak Tengah near Ubud. It may take a while but eventually your guide will find this place. We have studied Balinese masked dance for several years and we were completely blown away by this man's collection. It's extraordinary.

Whether you spend you last three nights in East Bali or in the Ubud area won't make a hug amount of difference. To locals, the cultural distinctions from area to area are night and day, but to visitors (me included and I've been there dozens of times) there are more similarities. So choose your destination by the resort that appeals to you. The isolation is also a matter of perception. There are villages everywhere in Bali and at any given time you will be within shouting distance of 100's of thousands of people, but it still FEELS isolated -- quiet and mystical.

What is wonderful to me about staying at a place like Alam Sari (and many others) is that you can venture out from your doorstep, through the forest, along the rivers, through the rice paddies, the villages, the markets -- its all right there for you!

If you're fit and energetic, you might arrange a late night trek up one of the mountains for sunrise at the peak. A demanding, but very rewarding, experience.

KimJapan Feb 8th, 2008 06:02 PM

We stayed at Alam Sari 3 years ago, and Ulun Ubud 12 years ago (and stopped by there 3 years ago, too). They are different kinds of places.

Alam Sari is about 10 minutes drive from Ubud, which is nice imo. They run a shuttle at scheduled times, but you can go any time for a small fee if you want. Being right in Ubud doesn't appeal to us - we are not into shopping. It's quiet, but they offer tons of cultural activities that are excellent and keep you very busy if you like. Contact the owners in advance and they will take care of all arrangements...costs are very reasonable, and the experiences we had showed us an entirely different Bali than the one we saw 10 years earlier.

The staff at the hotel are friendly and welcoming, and the food is very good, especially the vanilla milkshakes. Girls from Keliki village come and give massages in the spa, the pool is very nice, and the overall atmosphere of the place is calm. I would stay here again in a heartbeat. If you are not interested in taking advantage of their many cultural offerings, however, then Ulun Ubud is also very good.

Ulun Ubud is built into the hillside overlooking the river..lovely views that many hotels charge much more for. The rooms are nice, and they serve breakfast on your balcony (you order the night before and say what time) which is nice. It's closer to town than Alam Sari is...we walked from Ulun Ubud, though the road is busy and I'm pretty sure they have a shuttle. The overall aesthetic of Ulun Ubud is a bit nicer than Alam Sari because the rooms have such a great view. But, Ulun Ubud's pool is small and cultural offerings are scant.

CubeNY Feb 11th, 2008 10:54 AM

Thanks for the advice all.
After reflecting on your insights
I'm going to stop worrying about those last 3 nights--there's no reason we can't start out at Komaneka or some other high-end place and then return to finish out the trip at Alam Sari. It looks like there will be plenty of things in the Ubud area to keep us occupied, & lots of day trip possibilities.

JohnFitz Feb 11th, 2008 09:52 PM


I am cheating by tacking onto CubeNY's post but just wanted to let you know that having booked to go back to Bali in June ,after 4 years and as my 15th trip , we decided to stay part of the time in Ubud and of course I recalled your various posts on the subject .So did a search and up they came and with everything I wanted to know .So my thanks to you and the other Fodorites who gave generously of their experience .Hard choices now .John

ps CubeNY ,
You will have an excellent time .It is my favourite destination and was the first overseas place I visited and I have loved it ever since .The others have given excellent advice .You are not staying on or are inclined to spend the last 3 nights on the coast eg Seminyak / Canngu / Sanur ?

CubeNY Feb 12th, 2008 08:10 AM

We considered Sanur but decided to do the beach part of the trip in Pemuteran instead. I may be totally off-base with respect to Bali, but in general
I'm leery of large beach resorts--I have a phobia of staying at places where people get into fights over the lounge chairs by the pool.
If any of you have other tips on out-of-the-way places let me know--the mask collection looks great.

J_Correa Feb 12th, 2008 08:53 AM

Cube - I have been following this thread closely since we are planning our first trip to Bali too. I just wanted to say that I have the same phobia of places where chairs by the pool can become an "issue" - LOL.

onemoremichael Feb 15th, 2008 10:35 AM

Hi - Enjoyed this link and wanted to pulse anyone for feedback regarding an itinerary i've put together for a trip I'm taking in April... planning on doing 3 nights a piece at the Westin Nusa Dua, Komaneka Ubud, and Taman Sari Pemuteran... wanted to get a taste of the "touristy" Bali with Nusa Dua then wanted the cultural part with Ubud and then the unspoiled beauty/beaches of Pemuteran... what do you think, am I on/off target???.. .also would be extremely grateful if anyone can recommend ideas for transportation between spots... hotels are happy to set this up but at $60 to $90 USD each way seems overpriced for this area... i've taken a number of cab rides in Jakarata and am apprehensive to sign up for any old ride through bali, do want to feel safe with my driver but also want to use the long ride to the North as an opportunity take in some sites. Thanks!

cruisinred Feb 15th, 2008 10:40 AM


Nusa Dua is a very touristy, sterile area....doesn't quite fit with your other choices. What made you choose ND?

onemoremichael Feb 15th, 2008 01:14 PM

Well I did want to briefly take in the touristy part of Bali but thought Kuta would be too touristy/Phuket-like for me which is why I'm gravitating somewhere more like NDů Just kind of taking a shot in the dark here with ND, is there a better part of this area you'd recommend that's touristy but not too commercial? Thanks

Kathie Feb 15th, 2008 03:13 PM

I'd also avoid Nusa Dua. It's a sterile tourist enclave - the area was given for development of many large resorts. And I'd agree to avoid Kuta - it makes Phuket's Patong look sleepy. Ok, I exaggerate. But Kuta is mostly young backpackers, mostly Aussies and mostly drunk.

I always enjoy staying in the Sanur area. It's a beach area that is located at a small town, so you can walk to restaurants and such. It's not an over-run with tourists area, but it has good amenities and places to stay in a wide price range.

marmot Feb 15th, 2008 06:19 PM

michael, I'd suggest that you take a look at the Seminyak area. You get a good balance of big beach, surf, sunset, shops, restaurants, spas. It's lively but not as crazed as Kuta and not as artificial as Nusa Dua.

I'm not sure what you're seeking in not commercial. ALL of the beach areas in Bali -- including Sanur -- are commercial. That's the point. To attract tourists and travelers and provide experiences and services. There's a balance of upscale, expensive and inexpensive, back packer accommodations on every beach.

The beach front property in the areas that developed first -- Kuta and Sanur -- tend to be, not surprisingly, older and showing their age. The newest resorts are being built on the cliffs as it's hard to secure beach fronts, but recently there's been a trend toward redevelopment which I think is a good thing.

I think the major differences among the different beaches is the type of sand and surf which varies widely. Nusa Dua and Sanur both have a long sandy beaches with quiet surf. Sanur is a great swimming beach. Nusa Dua gets VERY shallow and rocky at low tide.

Jimbaran is a wide cove with a good swimming beach, but some what eroded. The Eastern and Northern beaches are mostly volcanic.

The Western beaches extend from Kuta to Legian to Seminyak and beyond. It's miles and miles of sandy beach with the big, pounding surfer waves.

The "housekeeping" of the individual beach front depends a lot on the resort or organization that claims that particular area. The upscale resorts in Seminyak keep their beaches fairly well raked and cleaned. The backpacker and public area can be littered with trash both natural and man-made. When big storms blow in, the beaches, everywhere, are a mess because the surrounding oceans are highly polluted.

North Bali has some wonderful nature preserves, good diving/snorkling opportunities and quiet friendly resorts. I wouldn't call it unspoiled beauty, though. The beaches are just so so, (maybe it's just personal preference but I can't get enthusiastic about black volcanic sand) and the flora on the scrubby side. Culturally you get a lot more Islamic influence and not as much of the Hindu dynamism that makes South and Central Bali so appealing.

Becalm Feb 15th, 2008 07:03 PM

Putu Arnawa ([email protected]) was recommended to me by several of the regulars here as a driver/tour guide. I was so impressed with him I have joined the ranks of his advocates.

His tour blog details a recent overnight trip for clients going from ND to Permuteran and then onto Ubud. Details of the stops along the way and photos are included (he's also a talented photographer).
Have a look:

A 2008 Suzuki minivan and a late model Toyota Kijang are Putu Arnawa's vehicles. In contrast to the majority of Bali drivers who have no car insurance both his vehicles are properly insured for passengers for your protection.

Since you are visiting Tirta Gangga there are villas on site that look like a nice place to stay:

rhkkmk Feb 15th, 2008 07:19 PM

putu is fantastic....we used him a few years ago and will use him this spring again for a few days...

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