Of course, you wanna go to Bali. The tiniest dot on the globe that has to be zoomed in even to be found. Of course, you wanna feel the salt in the air that makes your hair super unmanageable. Of course, you wanna slow down time and forget yourself amidst its serene nature. And why shouldn’t you? I did!
And let me tell you, you’re gonna have a vacation of a lifetime. But just before you set out, make sure you’re aware of these things, so you’re not taken aback if you experience a thing or two.
1. You’ll find more temples than homes
Hinduism prevails in Bali. And, to the extent that you question how much you know about the religion, even if you’re a Hindu yourself. The Balinese are very religious people. They believe in God, and they respect their culture and tradition beyond your comprehension.
The Balinese have a strong association with the number 3.
They worship the 3 main Hindu deities – Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
They have three types of temples – one for each of the deities.
Brahma temple (Pura Desa)
The Pura Desa, also known as the temple of local spirits or the village temple, is a temple dedicated to Lord Brahma. The temple is typically situated somewhere amidst the village.
Vishnu temple (Pura Puseh)
This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is usually facing the holy Mt. Agung. The temple is also built to portray respect for the founding fathers of the village.
Shiva temple (Pura Dalem)
Also known as the temple of the dead, the Pura Dalem is dedicated to Lord Shiva and other deities like Kali, Durga, or Rangda. The temple is found facing the sea.
The Balinese are not idol worshippers. And, for people like you and me, it’s not really easy to identify a temple just by the looks of it. The key to identifying Balinese temples is the location.
If the temple is found in the middle of the village, it’s a Brahma temple. If the temple faces Mt. Agung, it’s a Vishnu temple, and if the temple has a cemetery close by, it is a Shiva temple.
Each temple is divided into 3 zones – an outer courtyard, a holy inner-yard, and another holy inner-inner-yard if that makes sense. Some temples also have a 3 Pagoda structure, depicting the 3 main deities.
Further, they also have 3 varieties of temples, in a way. Considering the deity temples to be one, they also have house temples and business temples.
Unlike in India where we have a “Pooja room” or a “Mandir”, they have a small temple outside their homes. You can also find temples outside every place of business, even small shops. They also make offerings to their ancestors in a small “Thali” with three colors of flowers, again representing the three deities, and other fun stuff like candy, cigarettes, and alcohol!
Also check out – Basic Bali etiquettes – what to wear in the temples, dos and don’ts
2. In Bali, everybody smokes!
I mean, EVERYBODY! I did not meet one person there who did not smoke. From tour guides to drivers, from shopkeepers to scuba diving instructors, you’ll find people smoking everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean inside the temple, too – some parts of the temple allow smoking. Most fishermen and water activity instructors smoke in the middle of the ocean.
The weirdest part is, the air still doesn’t suffocate you although there’s quite a bit of nicotine in the air. Most of them smoke clove cigarettes, making you look for a bakery here and there, but that’s just smoke.
Whether you’re a smoker, a non-smoker, traveling with a child, you’ll always find smoke-free zones in most places. You can always choose to get a table in a non-smoking zone in a restaurant or a cafe. But places like the boat, or somewhere in the street, you simply cannot avoid. If that makes you uncomfortable, feel free to wear an anti-pollution face mask to cover your nose. I saw quite a few doing that!
3. You may experience a volcanic eruption or a mild earthquake while in Bali
Yup, you read that right! Indonesia is very much prone to natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions (they have over 130 volcanoes in Bali alone), Tsunami, and more. But the thing is, they’re experts at making sure none of these affects them since they’re so used to them. They treat something like an earthquake like heavy rainfall, to draw a comparison.
Kumar, our Balinese tour guide refused to park his car next to a wall in the parking facility at Tanah Lot temple. I was stunned. And, he simply said, you don’t want your car next to a wall if there’s an earthquake now, do you?
And my jaw dropped at the casual way he’d just said what he said.
All hotels and accommodations have guides that help you understand what you should do at times like these. Don’t take them for granted; spend at least 20 minutes to read all the guides and understand them, so you already know what to do.
4. Beware, the Balinese cuisine will blow you away!
And, there’s no guide for that at your hotel 😛
I’m a Bangalorean, and I know what a good restaurant means. Good ingredients, presentation, ambiance, cutlery, taste, hygiene, and service. It pains me to admit that all of these are better at Bali. You’re gonna find every single cuisine you find here, from American to Asian and all cuisines in between.
I’m sure you’ll get drawn to some Indian food while you’re there because home is where the heart is and all. But I highly recommend you stick to the local food. DO NOT MISS Nasi Goreng (Indonesian style fried rice) and Mie Goreng (Indonesian style fried noodles) because your trip is not complete without them. The Balinese style is slightly different and spicier, so go ahead and let the kitchen know if you’re feeling adventurous!
They also make some of the best Mexican food ever, and really good American food! I didn’t have the pleasure of finding good Italian, but I did find the best Greek food!
If you’re staying in Seminyak area, go to El Greco for the best pizza you’ll ever eat! The crust is unlike anything I’ve ever eaten. The best Baba Gannoush and Souvlaki can also be found here!
Potato Head Beach Club should be your way to go if you’re feeling spendy. The most upscale and highly rated place in all of Bali is a must visit especially to watch the sunset. Great food, great uplifting ambiance!
If you love Asian food, make a stop at Ling Ling’s! You’ll find the best Korean food at this culturally diverse place. Don’t forget to try their Coconut and Mango Creme Brulee!
And, if you happen to visit Ubud, don’t forget to go to Kayun, for some lip-smacking, organic, authentic Indonesian food.
Folk Pools and Gardens is another place near the Ubud Market to make you feel elite! Yes, it does slim out your wallet a little bit, but it’s totally worth it!
5. The Balinese locals will warm your heart
Ever been to a super touristy place and thought that everything you see is fake? That’s what I thought when I met a few people in Bali. They’re too nice. I couldn’t even tell if they were trying too hard to make an extra buck or just being themselves.
The Balinese locals are just being themselves.
They’re warm, they’re welcoming, they’re polite, and they’re humble. I mean, I’m a city girl, and for me, this is just not real.
I faced many many situations that made me realize they actually care about your vacation there and they make sure of that. It really matters to them that what they do to make your stay memorable, is appreciated. And a “thank you” goes a long way in Bali.
Bonus Guidelines for traveling to Bali
- If you’re traveling to Bali from India, you don’t require a visa. You’ll be exempted as long as you show your return tickets at the airport.
- It’s highly unlikely that you’ll find a direct flight to Bali. So, prepare yourself for a layover and some beautiful views of the ocean from outside your window during your flight.
- If you’re one of those who don’t like carrying wads of cash, a forex card is going to be your best option. But, if you don’t mind, I highly recommend you convert INR to USD. You’ll find money conversion at every nook and cranny of Bali. Just make sure you go to an authentic place.
- Spa in Bali. Please don’t go to a place that would cost you IDR 75,000. I did, and I regretted what I did to my back. A spa that costs IDR 3,00,000 to 3,50,000 is ideal.
- Bottled water only. Tap water isn’t really safe.
- If you’re a wiper, carry your toilet paper. We’re still in Asia where we use water.
- You’ll find plenty of pharmacies and “Mini Mart” outlets (whose logos reminded me highly of Myntra) and these are open 24 hours.
- As long as you’re not eating too much street food, you should not have a problem associated with your gut. I didn’t fall sick at all throughout my time in Bali.
- The local drink at Bali is called Arak. Unless you wanna have a blackout or live dangerously enough to possibly die from alcohol poisoning, avoid it. It’s cheap and inviting. But stay away.
- Carry bandages. You don’t know how much you can hurt yourself when you’re around sand and water.
Traveling to Bali has been one heck of a life-changing experience for me, all thanks to Pickyourtrail. And, with Pickyourtrail, you travel. Not tour. I highly recommend you give yourself the privilege of a life-changing experience as well! One mile at a time, only in Bali. 🙂