While Paris has popularly been declared the love capital of the world, beautiful Bali tugs at the heart in its own way. It’s a honeymooner's haven and for good reason. Consider this, even an intimate wedding these days costs a mini fortune and makes it difficult for one to allocate the desired funds for their dream honeymoon. Bali, however, ensures that you don’t compromise either on your dreams or your budget. 1 Indonesian Rupiah (IDK) = 0.0053 Indian Rupees (INR). From picturesque locales, ancient temples, inviting mountains, luxurious massages, delicious food, quiet islands, adventure sports, and affordable shopping to fun nightlife, Bali has it all. The people of Bali are warm and friendly and, anywhere you choose to stay, you are likely to find the staff courteous and well- mannered. Bali’s hospitality game is spot on.
In the past two years, Bali like most other destinations, hasn’t been easy for tourists to access. Visitors to Indonesia have had to quarantine in a government-approved hotel for at least three days, but not anymore. From March 14, 2022, vaccinated Bali-bound travellers will no longer need to quarantine upon arrival. You will still need to get a negative RTPCR test, taken within the 48 hours before your flight to Bali, and will also have to take another test upon landing. The rules change often, and it may be best to check the Bali Tourism Board website or with the airline while booking.
While there are various locations of interest in Bali, the good news is that the distances aren’t too much. The thing about Bali is that it's a popular destination and everyone knows someone who’s been to Bali. When we decided to go, we got a bunch of great recommendations and decided to divide our 10-day itinerary into parts and stayed in Seminyak, Nusa Dua, and Ubud. While you can base yourself in any one of these locations and still visit the others, we wanted to go slow and experience the flavour of each place. Here’s what our itinerary looked like.
Our first stop after landing in Denpasar, was Seminyak, the party capital at the southern end of Bali, with clean streets packed with cafes and pubs. We checked into Amalfi Hotel, which offered clean, neat, and basic rooms, and most importantly, was centrally located. Uber doesn’t work in Bali so you can either get a TukTuk or take a regular hired cab (your bargaining skills will come in handy). You can also download the Blue Bird Taxi App. It is easy to rent a bike and a scooty anywhere in Bali and we found that very useful. We took our scooty to Seminyak beach which is beautiful. There are pool beds placed along the beach and the place gets packed in no time. It’s best to go there around early evening and get yourself a table or a bed, to witness the sky turn amber at sunset.
Where to eat
It was fun to walk around and pick from the many inviting cafes and pubs. We particularly loved the Clean Canteen, whose salads, juices, and wraps were worth recommending. For an authentic Balinese meal, we went to Made’sWarung, an Indonesian-style roadside food stall, run by a grandmother, mother, and granddaughters. The place makes excellent Gado Gado and Nasi Goreng.
There are a bunch of terrace cafes in Seminyak that make good cocktails and offer a relaxed ambiance with live music, Potato Head being one of the most popular party places. Another part of Bali that is popular for its buzzing nightlife is Kuta, which is half-hour away from Seminyak. Kuta is known to attract backpackers from across the globe.
After two days in Seminyak we chose to head out to the peaceful and more scenic Gili Islands, which is a group of three tiny islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air, near the coast of northwest Lombok Island. From our research online and some asking around we came to understand that while Trawangan was recommended for people who liked a good party, Air and Meno were the quieter islands. We chose to head to Gili Meno touted as a honeymooner's paradise, owing to its crystal-clear water, coral reef, tall palm trees, and secluded white sandy beaches.
There are regular boat services that run from Padang Bay in Eastern Bali to the three islands. It takes about two hours to get to Gili Meno in a fast boat. We contacted an operator named Komang and reserved our seats in advance. Of the tour guides, operators, and drivers we met in Bali, eight of them were called Komang (a name usually given to the third son in the family), so we made it a point to store the numbers carefully.
The many reasons to choose Gili Meno island over Gili Trawangan
While most tourists on our boat got off at Gili Trawangan, our delight knew no bounds when we approached the gorgeous Gili Meno island. The coast, lined with pretty bicycles and fairy-tale-like ‘cidomo’ horse-drawn carts, was everything we had dreamed of. Motorised vehicles are strictly banned on the Gili islands, therefore, transport is by bike or a cidomo, or you can also hike. The horse carts ferried us deep inside the island to our home for the next few days - Gili Meno Getaway. The arch-shaped cottages, flanked by a pool were cozy and comfortable.
After a hearty breakfast, we set out on foot to explore the villages and the island. All of a sudden, we heard a rustle in the leaves and saw what we thought was the end of a tail move swiftly. When we went back to our hotel and mentioned it to the staff, we were told that it might have been a Komodo dragon, a notorious member of the monitor lizard family. If that wasn’t enough, we found ourselves chased by a bunch of chickens that evening. Your honeymoon must always have such tales you can never forget, we think.
We found a small, local shack in the village serving home-cooked meals. We ordered a large squid that was cooked to perfection and served with a side of vegetables, fragrant sticky rice, and refreshing lemonade. The hovering flies were the only drawback to this otherwise fun meal. The other side of the island, has more tourist-friendly beach shacks, serving heady cocktails, homemade gelatos, and delicious food with the deep blue sea serving as the backdrop. We spent our evenings on beach beds, reading and sometimes simply watching the sun go down to paint the sky in a different colour every evening, and enjoying the sound of the waves.
Snorkeling at Gili islands
The next morning, we decided to do what Gili was most famous for - snorkeling! The island is also a diver’s paradise but since neither of us had done this before we decided to take it slow. No matter which of the Gili islands one choses to stay at, it is around Meno that they come for their diving activities as it is known for its spectacular underwater life. There are three popular dive spots called the Meno Wall, Sea Point Turtle, and Point Coral Blue. There is also Bounty’s Wreck, a sunken jetty (not technically an actual shipwreck), located just behind Gili Meno, which has an average depth of 12m and a max depth of 20m. I must admit I was nervous when we first entered the water, but our first underwater experience brought us closer, I would say. It’s always a good idea to try something new together on your honeymoon.
One for the Gram
After Gili, we stayed in Nusa Dua for two days. Located in South Bali, this area is home to some of Bali’s most luxurious hotels and resorts and we picked the Grand Hyatt, with its sprawling grounds, delicately trimmed gardens, and access to a private beach. Nusa Dua is also popular for its golf courses and water sports, especially surfing and diving. On our second day in Nusa Dua, we decided to sign up for what is increasingly becoming popular as an Instagram Tour in Bali. An online search will reveal many tour operators who offer to take you to some of the most photogenic locations in Bali. Some of these magnificent temples and historical landmarks with vistas are worth visiting.
We left at 5.30 am with packed breakfast boxes from our hotel and were headed to The Gate of Heaven. This controversial temple has been the subject of many newspaper articles, that point out how social media has ruined travel. If you google ‘Gate of Heaven, Bali', you will see photos of people standing at the carved stone gates while their reflection is seen in a glistening water body, which in fact, doesn't exist. The ‘water’ at the Gates of Heaven is actually just a piece of glass under an iPhone used by the photographers who perch themselves at the gate to take photos. Guides insist that you reach the spot early because you need to queue up to get your pictures taken. We are guilty of having one such photo ourselves.
Exploring the other side of Bali
If you leave the social media gimmick aside, the Pura Lempuyang temple is one of the oldest temples in Indonesia and among six most sacred temples dedicated to the worship of Acintya - the supreme god of Indonesian hinduism. It is 1,170m above sea level and really makes one feel like they are touching the clouds. The view of the mountain and the island below is absolutely worth climbing the 1,700 stairs it takes to get there. Legs and shoulders have to be covered when you visit this temple. You can also rent a sarong at the spot for 10 IDR.
Our next stop was TirtaGangga, a former royal palace in eastern Bali, which is named after the sacred river Ganges. We were delighted to see the lovely maze of pools and fountains that surround a lush garden and stone carvings and statues. The complex was built in 1948 by GustiGedeDjelantik but was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Agung in 1963. It has been carefully rebuilt and restored since. You can also feed the large, shimmering orange koi fish here. The photographers offer to take pictures of you at almost every spot, but you can politely decline if the posing gets to be too much for you.
One of our favourite stops on this tour was the TukadCepung Waterfall. A beautiful trek through a forest trail leads you to this waterfall between the rock formations inside a cave system that has a natural and unusual spotlight when sunbeams hit the top of the waterfall. The sound of the gushing water, the cool breeze, and the feeling of the tiny droplets of water on your skin, all make for a perfectly romantic setting.
We were also taken on a tour to a coffee plantation where we could taste and buy Balinese coffee. We steered clear of the main attraction, the Luwak coffee, which is made from partially digested coffee cherries, which have been eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet. Another popular tourist attraction that we decided to skip was the Bali swing - a giant wooden bench swing that is harnessed and swings to different heights as per your liking. You can go to numerous jungle swings ranging from 10m, 15m, 20m to 78m above ground. The experience, we were told offers spectacular views of the Ubud forest and plantations.
The artsy side
Our last destination in Bali was one that we definitely wished we had stayed longer at. An hour’s drive from Denpasar, the hills of Ubud exude a distinguished charm and are quite unlike any other location in Bali. It is rustic, serene, and everything else that ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ claimed it to be. We stayed at Manyi Village Ubud, located in the middle of a rice field. Every evening, as the sunset, we were privy to a bunch of nocturnal sounds including those of frogs and crickets outside the room. The hotel had regular shuttles to the market located about 15 mins away from the property.
The Ubud Art Market, locally referred to as 'Pasar Seni Ubud' is an absolute treat. You can buy beautiful silk scarves, lightweight shirts, handmade woven bags, baskets or hats; statues, soaps, essential oils, lamps, wooden signages, bowls made of coconut shells and mother of pearl, kites, masks, perfumes, and a bunch of other hand-crafted goodies. We couldn’t get enough of the narrow lanes lined with shops selling everything under the sun. We also bought one of our favourite pieces of art that now adorn the walls of our home, from this market.
The canvas painting was being sold at an artist’s home by his widowed wife. The market is a treasure trove and there is something in it for everyone. The cafes and restaurants in Ubud are exquisite, as are the many luxurious yet inexpensive massage shops. We indulged in one on each day of our stay here and we believe you will need one after your long exhausting yet exhilarating walks in the market and after testing your bargaining skills.