Author: Jennifer Cheong, MBA Office
Bali, an Indonesian island located between Lombok and Java, is one of Asia’s popular travel destinations. Although there are many beach retreats in Asia, this paradise island is still worth a visit with its offerings of beautiful beaches & landscapes, sumptuous yet affordable food and friendly locals. It is ranked as one of the top 5 best islands in the world by Travel & Leisure Magazine (the only island in Asia to make it to the top 5 list) while Lonely Planet’s Best of Travel 2010 ranked Bali second place among the world’s Top Regions. What makes Bali so unique? From pristine beaches, lush green rice paddy fields, gorgeous romantic sunset or a mysterious peek at the volcanic Mount Agung, Bali welcomes its visitors with its very best. You can choose to seclude yourself for a peaceful recharge, party to a beautiful sunset or just enjoy the turquoise sea and the lively greens of Bali with your family & friends. What’s more, this luxurious yet romantic oasis can be enjoyed at an extremely affordable price.
Bali is blessed with quite a few beautiful beaches with soft, powdery sand. The beaches are usually popular with surfers and not all are safe for swimming with its big waves and strong currents. Kuta beach is the most popular amongst tourists with availability of a multitude of restaurants, shops and pubs within walking distance. However, the place can be rowdy and packed. Sanur beach is more popular with families with children with its calmer waters. Seminyak beach draws a more high-end crowd with its trendy shops, cafes and bars. The beach has strong waves but is good for surfing and body-boarding.
Bali is also ideal for scuba-diving with its most popular season in August. During this period, scuba-divers have a high chance of seeing the rare ocean sunfish or mola mola. Macro-lovers can also enjoy Tulamben wreck and Secret Bay. There is also spectacular wall diving at Menjangan known as one of the best diving spots in Bali.
Less adventurous travelers can head to Lovina beach for a dolphin watching cruise.
Bali is known for its rich green paddy fields which can be a sight to behold. Tirta Gangga in central Bali is home to some of the most beautiful rice paddies in Bali. Around this region, enthusiastic hikers can also arrange for a hike up Mount Batur (1,771 m) – a volcanic mountain in Bali with a beautiful view of the surroundings and Lake Batur. The hike takes about four hours round-trip. For those who are not hiking, you can arrange a day trip with a personal driver for your group to have lunch in Tirta Gangga while soaking in the enchanting views of the rice paddy fields or enjoy a cup of coffee at a café with a view of the volcano and the lake. The drive can also the hilly region of Batur which has a multitude of small shops selling local crafts and furniture as well as some art galleries where you can obtain a large, beautiful oil painting for about SGD 100 or less. Most will also include Ubud as part of their destination in the day trip where you can visit the Ubud Market, Monkey Forest or even head off for white-water rafting at the Ayung River!
Those seeking peace and quiet can find respite in Ubud – a mountainous area in Bali which has a few resorts offering yoga retreats. Bali is also known for its spas which one can easily find in any hotels or tourist areas. One can choose from a simple foot, head or shoulder massage or a full body treatment that includes a body wrap or scrub, bath and massage. A good, luxurious full body treatment typically does not cost more than SGD 120. Those on a budget can enjoy a 1.5 hour massage for SGD 20 at Cozy Spa – a simple and basic massage center popular with locals and backpackers. But for those who wish to indulge a little, a good place to visit is the Mango Tree Spa at the Kupu Kupu Barong resort in Ubud. It is a unique experience where you can to enjoy your treatment on top of a tree inside a cosy bamboo tree-house whilst listening to the soothing rhythms of the Ayung River. The two-hour Mango Tree treatment cost about SGD 200. Do note that reservations are mandatory for any kind of spa visit to avoid disappointment.
What you definitely should not miss is the sumptuous selection of fresh seafood available in Bali. Jimbaran is an area synonymous with fresh seafood in Bali. Here, there are many restaurants serving fresh seafood by the beach. The setting is typically a romantic candlelit table on the beach. Feel the soft sand on your feet while you feast on your grilled seafood. Another place for fresh seafood is in Echo Beach, Canggu located on the south-west coast of Bali. It’s a good idea to check with your hotel on the local sunset time before heading out. This way, you can enjoy the sun painting the sky and the sea into a magnificent golden hue while having dinner.
There are a variety of accommodation options available in Bali: from backpacker’s lodges, boutique inns, hotels to villas – a vast selection for travelers to pick from. It really depends on the travelling group size, the activities you’re planning and of course your budget. Bear in mind that even the most luxurious option of a villa may not always be the most expensive. If you are travelling in a group of six or more, a villa may be an extremely feasible option. These villas are self-contained with your own living, dining area, kitchen, 2 – 4 bedrooms and even your own private pool. Search for online deals for villas in Bali and you may pay as low as SGD 40 – 50 per person a night!
It is fairly inexpensive to get around Bali. One can easily rent a bike or car. Taxis are extremely affordable. A more popular way is to hire a driver which typically, for a group of eight, can cost about SGD 60 nett per vehicle for a full day of touring any destination of your choice. Some resorts even offer free shuttle transport to popular tourist areas.
Getting to Bali
There are daily flights from Singapore to Bali daily. The flight only takes 2½ hours. Major airlines such as Singapore Airlines, Garuda Indonesia and Qatar Airways all fly direct to Bali. For the cost conscious, budget airlines such as Jetstar and Air Asia flies direct from Singapore to Bali as well. All-inclusive fares cost as low as SGD 128 for promotional fares offered by the airlines.
Remember, it’s not all about studies and gaining professional experience while in Singapore. Take off during a long weekend and bask in the sun & sea of mythical Bali! After all, it’s not every day one gets to earn a world-renowned MBA degree and yet have the opportunity to enjoy one of the world’s top 5 best islands at the same time.
Note: You may like to avoid the Nyepi – Balinese New Year in March to travel. The Balinese calls this day the Day of Silence and the shops and restaurants will be closed.