I’ve visited quite a few places around the world, but until recently, I had not been to Bali. That must make me in the Aussie minority, right? 😛
I had heard mixed reviews. That it was beautiful, busy, peaceful, dirty, too many people, lots of Aussie bogans, etc. I know people that have visited and loved the place, and others that have not been a fan.
Cheap flights via AirAsia were the catalyst for a two-week getaway for hubby and I.
I’ve had a few people ask me for some info on food and attractions. So as a bit of a community service announcement (and not as a food or travel expert!) I thought I would put together a list of places we visited. For the most part, I loved the food and drinks and hospitality. By the end of the trip I was sick of being constantly asked to buy things – do I want a massage, transport, a taxi, manicure, pedicure, art, bracelets, a bow and arrow (yes, they sell them on the beach. Not sure it would have gotten through customs though!). But I found I mostly just smiled and said “no thanks” and all was good. I can’t really comment on the shopping because I didn’t really do any!
I found the quality of food in Legian and Seminyak to be good, and really cheap (think average $5 or less for an entree, less than $10 for a main). Most places we went to served a variety of Balinese, asian and western food, so it’s not hard to find something to eat. As someone who tries to eat a lot of wholefoods and keep my added sugar intake down, I did try to stick to salads and vegetables (although did sneak in the odd nasi goreng!). After a previous trip to Thailand which ended in way too many cocktails and pad thais, I wanted to look after myself a bit more this time around. At the same time, I wasn’t overly anal about it. I did give most of the cocktails a miss but I did drink a lot of beer. Because holiday!
Sea Side Cafe: a friend of ours introduced us to a guy who is a travel agent/ family friend of theirs. His name was Balun and he was so lovely! We followed his advice for quite a few parts of the trip (he even sent us a list of how much we should pay for things when out bartering/shopping). I told Balun we wanted to go somewhere to celebrate our wedding anniversary so he booked us in to the Sea Side Cafe in Jimbaran Bay. For those who haven’t been, it’s THE romantic place to watch the sunset and enjoy a good seafood meal. While I am not the biggest seafood fan, we ordered a set menu option featuring prawns, lobster, calamari and barramundi. We chose to have it marinated in a basic garlic sauce, and it was delicious. It’s not the cheapest in Bali, although I think we spent just over $100 which included the food, and quite a few beers each.
There was a singing group who serenaded us with soppy love songs and Balun had organised a celebration cake for us. I did have a piece, and found it sooo sweet. We ended up giving some cake away to girls on a neighbouring table and the staff at our hotel loved us after we gave them the rest. We got picked up and dropped off from our hotel in a private transfer so all in all it was a really fun and special way to spend our anniversary.
Mugshot Coffee: We conveniently stumbled across this place as it was about a one-minute walk from our hotel. And who doesn’t want a coffee fix some days? It seems we weren’t the only ones undeterred by the humidity as this place was busy every time we went in, mostly with tourists. The cost was on par with Melbourne prices and I loved the smooth flavour. We didn’t eat here, but they did some dessert-type things, breakfast and some pastries. And you get a cool towel on arrival – how’s that for service?
Fat Bowl: Another Legian restaurant, just off Padma Rd, we ate here one day for a late lunch. A very eclectic menu, which also included, from what I could tell, a mix-and-match salad bar where you can choose two or four from a list of different salads. I decided on rice paper rolls while hubby had massaman lamb shanks. I wanted to come back to try the salads but didn’t end up making a return visit. It was very quiet when we were in but the place seemed very airy and spacious. And food prices were reasonable.
Sisterfields: this place was on my “must visit” list after quite a few recommendations. A cafe in Seminyak that has all the hallmarks of the Melbourne scene, with great quality food and drinks at slightly cheaper-than-Melbourne prices. While still a bit more expensive than a cheap Bali meal, if you’re craving your smashed avo then this is the place. I visited twice for lunch during my stay (once with hubby and once by myself). They don’t take bookings but luckily scored a table inside with minimal wait on both visits even though the place was full. The smashed avo with semi-dried cherry tomatoes, popped capers, feta, lime and sea salt did not disappoint. Other food we ordered: the Sisterfields “dirty burger” with beef, smoked cheddar, pickled onion rings, mustard, aioli, special house sauce and fries; and I can also recommend the smoked salmon scrambled eggs. I loved the iced latte and Green Fields juice (spinach, apple, cucumber, celery and mint) and hubby enjoyed the Strawnanie smoothie (strawberry, banana, honey, yoghurt). I loved this place, and so did everyone else by the looks of all the people snapping away pics of their meals!
Nalu Bowls: another place on my must-try list, it was a good walk between Legian and Seminyak. With some talk that these are among the best smoothie bowls in Bali, I knew I had to pay a visit. Hidden down a side street, a small shopfront greeted us, packed with people. Luckily, the Shelter cafe upstairs also serves the smoothie bowls, and we were lucky enough to grab a spot. Hubby ordered a chicken baguette from the cafe menu while I ordered the “Mavericks” acai bowl with homemade granola, bananas, strawberries and coconut flakes (I said no to the honey). For Bali, the bowl wasn’t cheap at about $8 but it was delicious and kept me full til my next meal! Hubby’s food came a lot earlier than mine, which is understandable as it was busy downstairs. This place was all bamboo and inspirational quotes. So I loved it! This is definitely a place for wholefoodies to check out.
La Favela: this was probably my favourite place to eat on the trip. While exploring Seminyak, we noticed a really cool entrance just off the main road and decided we had to see what was inside. The atmosphere was amazing, it was like being in a rainforest! The food (think tapas and a lot of shared plates) was more on the expensive side, but we ate so much – a gourmet pizza with cured parma ham, feta, gran padano, cherry tomatoes; a greek plate with the usual suspects… If only hubby was a cheese fiend like me, because I really wanted to try the baked camembert. Hubby did order more food though because he was still hungry! Cue grilled octopus with chimichurri sauce and prawns in jerez sauce.
Romeos: this place was a few minutes from our hotel so we thought we would give it a go. Two-for-one cocktails went down a treat (hello espresso martini!) and I found it to be a bit more dressy than a lot of the other restaurants. I ordered a salmon salad thinking it would be a normal salad in a bowl, but it was artistically plated, and very tasty. I wish I got a photo of it but the couple at the next table were eyeing the food off and I didn’t want to look like an idiot taking photos of my food (funny that). Hubby ordered fish and chips.
A few other spots…
Ku De Ta: we only went for a drink after dinner one night but would have loved to have watched the sun set here. A Bali institution on the beach in Seminyak. Definitely one of the more pricey places we went to but the place is stunning.
La Plancha Beach Bar and Restaurant: one of my favourite things to do was to walk along the beach around sunset, find a restaurant and settle in to watch the sun go down. La Plancha is one of those restaurants on the beach on the border of Legian and Seminyak. The menu includes meals and tapas.
Bali Juice Park: Another restaurant on the beach in Seminyak, but close to Legian. We ate here a few times as hubby loved the pizzas, and I loved that they were creatively named like the “Humphrey Bogart”. I had gado gado (my new favourite food featuring vegetables, tofu, tempeh and bean sprouts, although I probably went too heavy on the satay sauce!) and a roasted vegetable panini and enjoyed both. Staff were a bit slow to take our food and drink order but we enjoyed watching the sun set while lying on beanbags on the beach. Another place with a relaxed vibe.
Capil Bar, Grill and Resto: on Padma Rd in Legian. We ate here a couple of times. It had a varied menu and catered to my request to switch out barbecue sauce on prawns for a garlic sauce.
Where we stayed
The Hotel Sinar Bali was our home for two weeks. Friends stayed there last year and recommended it as a value-for-money, quiet place that was centrally located. That pretty much sums it up!
We stayed in a bungalow (there is also a small block of apartments) which had a queen-sized bed, air con, an ensuite bathroom and a bar fridge. It was basic, but I don’t need to stay in a big, flashy resort. We weren’t in the room a lot of the time, anyway! The bathroom did sometimes have a bit of a funny smell (hey, honesty!), but the room was cleaned every day and it cost about $1200 for the stay, including breakfast.
All of the accommodation faces a well-maintained pool that has a swim-up bar and plenty of banana lounges. Despite being on busy Padma Rd, it is surprisingly quiet. It’s about a five-minute walk from Legian beach and within walking distance of a lot of the area’s eating and drinking spots. It’s also about a half-hour walk from Kuta and Seminyak (although most people would just get a taxi!).
Breakfast was included for our stay, which was served in the hotel’s restaurant. A small selection of fruit, spreads, toast, coffee, juice, and a rotation of foods including scrambled eggs, omelette, roasted tomatoes, potatoes, fried rice and noodles were on offer. We also asked for omelettes to be specially made if they weren’t available and you can also get bacon for a small cost (about $1). The staff were friendly and hospitable, providing us with plenty of towels for pool and beach use, although they did try to charge us a bit extra for our mini-bar purchases. But overall, an enjoyable stay.
Where we played
Waterbom Park: who doesn’t love a waterslide? The big kid in me had a lot of fun at this park, although I did run out of steam after a few hours. There are a range of different slides, some you can go tandem.
There is also a surfing area and there is heaps to do for kids with a massive play area. There are pools, a swim-up bar, a food court and food stalls with a wide range of things to keep your energy up. There are plenty of banana lounges and other seating, some of which can be reserved.
We were there at a quiet time, so we didn’t really have to queue up too much. I liked that when we went into the park, we got a wristband which we loaded money onto, which is used to buy things in the park. At the end, you get any unused money back. It made for a very easy visit. Entry was about $45 each, but for basically a whole day I thought it was reasonable. Extra costs for lockers.
Lunch on the boat included sushi rolls, roast veg salads, cheese and crackers, seafood – I was impressed! The only downside was you had to pay for all drinks. I don’t mind paying for soft drinks and alcohol, but for the price I thought water could have been included. In the afternoon we stopped off for a few hours at the Bali Hai Beach Club on Lembongan, where we got to swim, drink, try out the water activities and just relax before we headed back. A very enjoyable day, and added bonus, I managed to not get very sunburnt!
La Karma Spa: A friend recommended La Karma Spa for massages. They have three locations in Legian and Seminyak and I believe it’s Australian-owned. We went twice (I know, only!) and got a full-body (about $9) and a hot stone (about $15) massage. I loved both and felt so relaxed afterwards. I always forget how good just relaxing is! Although I basically just fell asleep both times.
They also have other services including manicure, pedicure, reflexology, facials and waxing. The salon we visited at Jalan Padma Utara was very clean and staff were friendly. You can make bookings but we just turned up on both occasions but got in pretty much straight away even though it was very busy.
We went white-water rafting, which was lots of fun. And hubby went ATV riding and tubing. We also went to a coffee plantation to try the lowak coffee, or as Balun called it, a “cat-poo-cino”! It is the world’s most expensive coffee and it was actually pretty tasty!
I didn’t see much of Ubud at all, which I was a bit disappointed about. I have heard so many good things!
Some other places that I had my eye on for eating and drinking which I didn’t get to were:
- Potato Head Beach Club (noooo! I really wanted to go there) for sunsets and drinks
- La Lucciola for reportedly good food
- Revolver Espresso for reportedly good coffee
- Motel Mexicola for reportedly good Mexican (I am a big Mexican fan)
- Mozzarella: There are a few Mozzarella restaurants in Legian and Seminyak and we ate at the one in Padma St on our first night. But a friend also recommended the one at the Magani Hotel in Legian.
All those mentioned above are in Seminyak, and if we stayed in Seminyak we probably would have visited them. Even though it is only a short, cheap taxi ride away, most nights we just walked down the road or down to the beach to get food. I really did get my walk on while I was there – which probably counteracted all the food and beer I ate and drank 😛