OLDER REPORTS -- from 2004, 2000, and 1996 (outdated but maybe informative)
Our best hotels and restaurants of Bali 2004: Ubud, Sayan, and Amed
Here are some notes about some favorite places during our three-week visit to Bali in May 2004. We spent six nights in Ubud, four nights in Amed, another two nights in Ubud, then two nights in Sayan, just outside of Ubud. It was low season and tourism was still slow in the aftermath of the 2002 bombing. Of course Bali felt as safe, friendly and magical as ever.
General comments about travel in Bali:
You can sleep in Kuta, Sanur, Seminyak, etc. if you arrive in the evening. But on this, our third visit, we chose to skip that part of the island altogether. We arrived in Denpasar at about 7pm--and our hotel in Ubud sent a car to meet the flight. Then it was a 45 minute ride up north.
It’s easy to arrange day (or night) trips to the Kuta area from Ubud if you like.
If you want to drive yourself, rather than hiring a car and driver, you’ll need an international driver’s license, which is not hard to get.
We booked our first three nights in a place I’d read about in other people’s posts: Tegal Sari Resort. But our first morning we hired a driver to take us to look at 8 or 9 other places I’d read about. We wanted to see the rooms and the pools and find out what kinds of deals we could negotiate face to face. That worked out quite well. In one place, we eventually ended up getting an incredible room for US$75 per night (it listed for $175). I don’t know if that strategy would be as effective in high season (Dec.-Jan. and July-August), but it might work then as well.
I won’t quote the prices we negotiated for the hotels below since they would be misleading--the price you get depends on the situation at the time you’re negotiating. But be sure to bargain--it’s natural here.
There must be crime on Bali, but we’ve never seen evidence. Rome and Amsterdam are MUCH more dangerous in terms of pickpockets and robbers.
Note on Tegal Sari: the hotel was very good value for the money (rooms ~ $20-40), but it wasn’t quite as spectacular as we have come to expect from Bali and it was a tad too close to road noise. However, we can see why people like it!
There are lots of places to stay in Ubud--you won’t have any trouble finding accommodations. Just ask your driver to help you check things out; or park your bags and walk for awhile.
Unfortunately our beloved Vila Bukit Ubud (see our 2000 and 1996 posts) is no more. The grounds were a busy construction site during our visit (the new resort is called Uma). Since we couldn’t stay at Vila Bukit, we were forced to find new homes. And that worked out well!
PO Box 9696, Pengosekan, Ubud 80571, Bali.
Tel. (62-361) 976 659
ARMA stands for the Agung Rai Museum of Art--it’s one of the three main museums in Ubud and is located in the vicinity of the Monkey Forest (it’s close to Tegal Sari and adjacent to the village of Peliatan). But ARMA is much more than a museum--it’s a performance venue (Balinese dance and music), it’s a gallery space, it’s a foundation dedicated to preserving traditional Balinese culture (especially through training and promoting young artists), and it’s 15 bungalow-style rooms and 5 amazing villas. The resort grounds are Bali-gorgeous! We spent eight nights there and loved it. The deluxe room we had during our second sojourn was truly spectacular! I am a swimmer and always look for a decent lap pool--the one at ARMA was reasonable and usually empty. They offer free tea, coffee and traditional Balinese snacks by the pool in the afternoon. But the greatest thing about ARMA is the culture connection: every day after school, children come to ARMA to learn Balinese classical dance--it’s always free, and great fun, to watch! The most talented kids dance each Saturday night at the ARMA Open Stage, next to the Museum--don’t miss it. And the charming and informative Agung Rai himself-- owner of the resort and director of the museum and foundation--often hosts guests on short field trips to see “his” Bali or to receive a special blessing from the Peliatan high priest. He is an amazing man! ARMA offers a wide range of cultural classes, but the time with Agung Rai is gratis. ARMA also is very generous with it’s in-house transport service--they are willing to drop and pick you up anywhere in the Ubud area, free, up until 10pm. ARMA has air-conditioning, but no TV and no on-site web access. However, there are web cafes, a supermarket and ATMs on the road, outside the Café ARMA entrance. Finally, the staff are great--very, very helpful with all things--and ARMA was a wonderful place to stay!
Jl. Raya Sayan, Ubud, Bali
Tel: (62 361) 974 384, Fax: (62 361) 975 384
Having read “A House in Bali” by Colin McPhee several times, we wanted to hike on the Sayan ridge, northwest of Ubud. Following directions in our guidebook, we started out from the Sayan Terrace resort. When we returned after the hike, we looked at their rooms (and those incredible views of the Ayung River gorge!) and decided to spend our last two nights in Bali at Sayan Terrace. It is next to, and above, the Four Seasons, so you get the same view at 25% of the cost! The Sayan Terrace staff were great--they even carved us some Balinese sate sticks to cook with at home. Unfortunately, the Sayan Terrace pool is for splashing only, but it IS a cute little “infinity pool” and, again, offers those fantastic views. Shopping Op: there are some very tasteful art, jewelry and décor shops on the road, near the Sayan Terrace entrance. There are also two restaurants nearby: Gaya and Red Rice. We timed our move to Sayan to coincide with a once-in-25-year festival at the temple in the next town. It was the most amazing we’ve seen! The Sayan Terrace staff were kind enough to give us rides to the town on their motorcycles, then we easily found paid transport back a few hours later. It was a great experience! One caution: Sayan is several kilometers from Ubud and the Sayan Terrace isn’t set up for guest transport as well as ARMA. They got us where we needed to go, but be sure to ask if you need to pay for the ride (we didn’t, but at first all the rides were on our bill). In spite of those minor complaints, we certainly will stay at Sayan Terrace again. The memories of lying in bed, looking out the nearly-all-glass wall of the bedroom at the clouds and river gorge as they change color during sunrise are too sweet not to repeat. PS--if you’ve read “A House in Bali,” the Sayan house was adjacent to the current Sayan Terrace resort. And the owner’s mother used to cook for McPhee!
Mozaic may be the best continental-style restaurant in Bali. Run by a Franco-American chef formerly with the French Laundry in Napa Valley, California, dining at Mozaic is a wonderful experience. One is steered by the staff towards the prix fixe dinners, but everything also is available a la carte. With wine, we spent about US$75 each.
UPDATE 2012: Prices have increased at Mozaic and dinner will be more like US$150-200 with wine. The restaurant is near the Neka Museum and Indus Restaurant.
Three Monkeys is a pleasant bistro with good food on Monkey Forest Road. Sometimes dessert is free with dinner!
UPDATE 2012: A new Three Monkeys has opened in Sanur and Denise Abe, the owner, also has a new Italian restaurant in the heart of Ubud, Il Giardino.
Gaya is a pyramid in Sayan, five minutes walk from Sayan Terrace. It’s set in a rice field--the bottom floor is an art gallery. and on top is a charming restaurant and bar. Gaya specializes in Italian cuisine, but has Indonesian dishes as well.
Amed is a small fishing village whose name is commonly used to refer to a semi-developed coastal area north of Candidasa. There are many small hotels and restaurants scattered along this beach road. Some are right on the beach, others on bluffs above (with fantastic views). There are black sand beaches here, though they often are crowded with fishing boats.
Diving and snorkeling: There is a great WWII wreck to dive in Tulamben (north of Amed) and reefs and walls in Amed itself. We saw sharks, rays, turtles, and many other creatures. I dove with EuroDive. They were fine, but some of their equipment was oldonce my depth gauge got stuck, another time the booties they gave me gathered more pebbles than they kept out. So next time I might try EcoDive instead. The “Japanese Wreck” is about 10 meters off a beach near the southern end of the Amed stretch (2012 UPDATE: currently home of Baliku Resort). Snorkelers also will enjoy this wreck and the coral and fish are nice all along this beach. Some people I spoke with were staying at the next bay south, at the Meditasi bungalows. They said the snorkeling was even better there, but I didn’t see it for myself.
Blue Moon Villa
Selang Beach, Amed Karangasem, Bali
Tel: (62 812) 362 2597 (International), 0812 362 2597 (Local)
Blue Moon Villa has wonderful staff, comfortable rooms, and beautiful views. The restaurant is nice too. Blue Moon is on the bluff, but the stairs to the beach are only a minute or two away. The Japanese wreck beach is a kilometer south--an easy walk.
Have a great time in Bali!
Scott Wittet swittetATpathDOTorg
Our best of Bali 2000: Kuta Amed - Pemuteran (north coast) - Ubud
Here are some notes about the favorite places of a 40-something couple during our three-week visit to Bali in March 2000. Because it was the rainy season and due to the previous political troubles in Timor, Lombok, and other parts of Indonesia, tourism was down. It was bad for the businesspeople but great for us since we could bargain for everything, especially hotel rooms and rental cars!
The exchange rate was about 7,330 rupees to US $1.
Kuta is the very touristy area close to the airport. It has the best surfing beaches (and wave action) on Bali and also has beautiful, long white sand beaches. Body surfing was a blast! The biggest waves I’ve ever been abused by! You can find better exchange rates here. There is good shopping and this is the place to pick up beach clothes, sunscreen, etc. There are lots of bars and clubs. The problems with Kuta are overcrowding and obnoxious beach hustlers selling sarongs, watches, massage you name it! This is also the place with the most cyber-cafes, though you’ll see plenty in Ubud and Lovina too. If you want to do parasailing, snorkeling, “big banana-ing”, or jetskiing, go to Nusa Dua (near Kuta). But the snorkeling is much better on the North coast, Amed, or Lembongan Island (near Nusa Penida).
Kuta is not our favorite part of Bali by a long shot, but there are some treasures…
La Lucciola, tel. 261047. Continental and global cuisine. Beautiful open location on the beach, just north of the Bali Oberoi and Bali Pesona hotels. It’s on Jl. Oberoi Kayu Aya, next to a large temple. We watched boys practice gamelan in the temple courtyard after dinner.
Ketupat, tel. 754209. Indonesian cuisine. Interesting menu, nice location behind an antique store. Jl. Legian 109, just south of McDonald’s Legian.
Jimbaran Beach (a 20 min. ride from Kuta) is famous for seafood. Most folks go in the evening to watch the sunset; we went during the day to play in the water (it’s a nice beach with good waves for body surfing). The food was great and we could sit all day for the price of lunch and a few drinks.
Ida Beach Inn, tel. (0361) 751205. Quiet garden setting smack in the middle of Kuta. Pretty, though overshadowed by Matahari dept. store (at least it’s convenient!). AC rooms, small pool, nice outdoor baths attached to some rooms. We paid 200K net with breakfast. Fax (0361) 751934
Drag show at Hulu Café Shows at around 10:30 Wed., Fri., and Sunday. Near the Bali Padma Hotel off Jl. Legian.
Pemuteran is a small village one hour west of Lovina, 1.5 hours west of Singaraja. The main reason to go there is to relax at a quiet beach resort with diving and snorkeling offshore. You are also just 17 km. From the national marine park (for the best snorkeling you’ve ever done)! It is very quiet in Pemuteran and there is nothing going on at night (not even videos), so bring some books!
The Pondok Sari Bungalows (Pemuteran/Pulaki, N. Bali. Tel./Fax (0362) 92337. We paid 210K net for three people with air con and breakfast. This was our second staywe checked out the competition this time, but decided that Pondok Sari was the best value. The bungalows are in a pretty setting with nice snorkeling from the beach. They have those great “outdoor” private bathrooms that you will learn to love on Bali. You can rent snorkeling equipment at the hotel or from a dive shop a hundred yards east on the beach (about 30K/day for mask, snorkel, and flippers). Next door is the beautiful Taman Sari Resort, but it is a bit more expensive. However, we want variety in menus, so we stayed at Pondok Sari but sometimes ate at Taman Sari. The Pondok Sari food was much better than in ’96.
Fantastic snorkeling and diving: There is no need to book with a dive shop to go snorkeling at Pulao Menjangan (Deer Island). To get to the park entrance, catch a “bemo” (local mini-bus, costs 1K) outside of Pondok Sari. It will take you the 17 km. to Labuan Lalang, the entrance to the park (it is not on most maps but is well before Cekik). Don’t worry, it’s a common destination. At the park you will have to pay for a boat and guide (about 217K whether you have one person or six, so try to arrange a group) and rent equipment if you need it. The guides are good and necessary. Our guide was Suparno (nickname No-No) and he was great. You can get box lunches, drinks, or snacks at the small restaurants in the park. The boat fee is for about 3 hours. You can add $$ to stay longer and visit more sites around the island. In 1996 we snorkeled at 5 sites in two days (it was well worth it); but it would have been cheaper to do it in one. Unfortunately, due to reef dynamiting, in 2000 there were only 3 snorkeling spots left. Go soon before they all disappear! One caution if using bemo: they can be harder to catch in the late afternoon, so it’s best to finish by 2 or 3 pm if possible.
Beware of Fire Coral (I still have scars!) and a kind of really obnoxious starfish that’s super poisonous and is destroying the reefs. The guide will tell you all about it (part of their job is to kill as many of these starfish as possible).
[UPDATE 2007VILLA BUKIT NO LONGER EXISTS, IT HAS BEEN REPLACED BY OVERPRICED UMA RESORT]
…life at Villa Bukit: I am relaxing with a fresh fruit juice and book, on a private porch, gazing along a vast valley south, towards Sanur and the sea. Birds and frogs serenade me; butterflies, dragonflies, banana flowers dance in the breeze. Magic! A woman walks down the ridge in the middle of the valley, balancing a load on her head, holding her young son by the hand. The bored waiter in the restaurant begins to play a hypnotic bamboo gamelan to pass the time. Heaven!Villa Bukit is a gorgeous place with charming service and reasonable prices. It is right next to the Museum Neka. We had a luxury double, normally US$90, but because there was only 25% occupancy at the time, we got a discount. We stayed here in ’96 too. The photos on their webpage don’t give a hint of how lovely it is there. Some amenities are a bit run down (like the pool furniture), but our room was clean and everything worked and in general a quiet, peaceful charm prevails. The waiters and waitresses were particularly friendly and helped us out with many things, like finding safety pins to help secure our sashes and drawing maps for fun rice paddy treks. The front desk staff are also very good and helpful. We were invited by staff to temple festivals several times. It is easy to get a car from the desk anytime, or catch a bemo into town during the day. Indus Restaurant is 10 minutes walk towards town from there you get a different view of the same wonderful valley. Taxis from town at night back to Vila Bukit usually cost 10K. We spent 8 nights there and really got to feel at home. I would have loved to make it 18 nights…
There are lots of cheaper places to stay in Ubud you won’t have any trouble finding accomodations. Just ask your driver to help you check things out; or park your bags and walk for awhile.
Things to do:
You can go to a cultural show every night of the week in Ubud and they are generally worth it. Tickets are about 20K. We saw a wonderful Kecak dance in a small town near Ubud. They performed in front of a marvelous split temple gate, lighting by oil lamp! It was great and the people were extremely gracious.
Ask a driver, waiter, bellboy, or friend if there are any upcoming temple festivals. The festivals are a mix of praying, eating, shopping, seeing and being seen, and gambling. Be sure to take a sarong and sash to wear inside the temple. It’s nice to get a headscarf too you’ll feel well-dressed. Get a copy of “Have You Been In Bali?” if you can. It’s a local guide full of practical, interesting information on religion and culture (including how to tie a headscarf!)
The Museum Neka is a good art museum visit it on one of your first days in town to get oriented to Balinese painting. It is next door to Villa Bukit. The Puri Lukisan museum downtown is also very good. The grounds are spectacular!
Since we hadn’t gotten quite enough snorkeling yet, we booked with Bali View Dive Center (Tel. 062 0361 753441) for a day trip to Lembongan Island (next to Nusa Penida, off of Sanur). For $40 each they picked us up at our hotel in Ubud at 7 am, took us in a speedboat to the island (about 45 minutes or an hour), let us snorkel in two different spots, gave a box lunch, and got us back home by 3 pm). Nice, professional bunch and one of the cheaper options for that trip. You can pick up their brochures at the reception area in Vila Bukit and probably at many other hotels as well.
Have a great time in Bali!
NOTES FROM DECEMBER 1996
I’ve organized this by geographical area on Bali. Hope it helps! It is by no means exhaustive, I’m just passing on things we did during our recent two weeks there.
Kuta has expanded north and now incorporates the villages of Legian and Seminyak, which are less crazy. We spent our first two nights at the Dhyana Pura Hotel, Jl. Seminyak, Kuta. Tel. 0361-730442, Fax 0361-730463. $50 inc. breakfast. (Note: Jl. means “jalan” or street). I highlighted it on the map. It was very comfortable with hot water, air con, cable TV, and pool. The beach outside is gorgeous with incredible sunsets. It was not too crowded when we were there and the vendors weren’t too bad. There is bungy jumping nearby! You can get a taxi from outside the airport easily and the prices are fixed (you buy a ticket at a window near the taxi stand).
It takes several hours from Kuta to reach the north coast. You’ll go through the mountains, past Lake Bratan with a nice lakeside temple (your driver will probably want to stop there), then to the capitol of the north, Singaraja. You want to either head for the Lovina area or go straight to Pemuteran.
Lovina: This is an area where a bunch of small villages along the road/coast have developed for tourism and sort of melded together. It’s the most touristy part of the north, but it’s nothing compared to Kuta. There are many cheap and less cheap places to stay and many restaurants. The black sand beach is OK, but not that great. If you stay in Lovina, go on an early morning dolphin watch. It’s fun. You won’t have any trouble booking a boat since everybody will be offering. If you want to terminate the conversation quickly, tell them you’ve already seen the dolphins.
We stayed at the Aditya Bungalows (west end of Lovina; $46/night with air con, cable, and hot water) but I wouldn’t particularly recommend it. I checked out another place that was much cheaper, more central, and seemed quite nice. We would have moved there if we hadn’t gone on to Pemuteran. It’s the Bayu Kartika Beach Bungalows, Lovina/Kalibukbuk, Phone (0362) 41055 or 41219. It was about $20/night with hot water, fan, no TV. Bungalows right on the beach. Very clean and nice setting.
Restaurant: Don’t miss Warung Made. It’s next to the Aditya (a 15 min. walk west from Baya Kartika. Lian Chinese Restaurant (across from Aditya) was also good.
Music/Entertainment: Every Saturday there is a gamelan and dance performance at the town stage in the center of Lovina. We missed the show, but happened to sit in on a gamelan practice which was very interesting and fun. Many restaurants have cultural shows, but the one we checked out was pretty amateurish and awful. Many places also show videos at night to attract customers.
We spent a week in Ubud and still didn’t get to do everything. It’s wonderful!
The first hotel we stayed in was Melati Cottages, Penestanan, Ubud, 80571. Tel. 62-361-974650 Fax 62-361-975088. $25-35. Pool, very big rooms, fans, clean, views and breakfast is included. It is in a quieter area about 1 km. from downtown Ubud.
But we wanted air con, so we moved to a spectacular place called Villa Bukit Ubud (Sanggingan/Ubud, Phone 361-975371, Fax 975787), right next to the Museum Neka. You’ve seen our pix of the view from Villa Bukit. We were able to get a double for $50/night inc. tax and breakfast. Normally the rooms are $70 plus tax and breakfast, but we bargained.
Things to do: You can go to a cultural show every night of the week in Ubud and they are generally worth it. Be sure to catch the shadow puppets at Oka Kartini’s. One of our favorite shows was the “Ciwa Ratri” (Night of Shiva) performance at the Tirtasari Dance Stage (I think that was the place, anyway it’s on the next street east of Oka Kartini’s). Ask a driver or friend about temple festivals (be sure to take a sarong and sash to wear inside the temple).
The Museum Neka is a good art museum visit it on one of your first days in town to get oriented to Balinese painting.
Rice Paddy/Ridge Walk: There is a nice 2-3 hour hike beginning either at what used to be Ubud Indah Garden Restaurant (now closed, hard to see sign) or, by the bridge in town, near the Campuhan temple. We bought our paintings from a shop along the walk.
A mountain stay: We drove through Munduk on the way back from the north coast but didn’t stay. Someone on the net highly recommended Puri Lumbung Cottages, Munduk. $50/night. Very pretty. NW of Bedugal, going towards Lovina.