“Once a year, go some place you’ve never been before.” Dalai Lama
After a long and somewhat bumpy Etihad flight we landed into a hot and humid Jakarta, expecting massive queues and a long wait to get our visas, but it was actually really easy and completely free (as British passport holders we didn’t need to pay the expected $35 US dollars). Further anticipated hassle transiting between terminals were also non-existence, we just jumped on waiting free shuttle bus with the locals for a smooth transit to the domestic terminal for the onward Air Asia transfer to Bali. Our first glimpse of Bali was the hectic roads from the airport to the hotel where hundreds of motorbikes jostled for position and the driving appears somewhat manic but also ordered at the same time.
The Intercontinental Bali Resort located in Jimbaran Bay, part of the Bukit Peninsula was recommended to us by the Intercontinental staff here in Abu Dhabi and was our first stop on our two-week, five hotel Bali adventure. This vast beachside property set in lush manicured gardens gave us a fantastic first impression of this Indonesian paradise island and was our base for the first four nights (read more about the hotel in Beachside Beauty: Intercontinental Bali Resort Review).
After a fantastic lunch at the Jimbaran Garden restaurant on our first day with the Intercontinental’s Dewi and Anie, who gave us lots of local information and tips, we took a stroll along the stunning white stretch of sand that is home to millions of tiny white crabs and an abundance of fresh local seafood cafes. Further investigation past the boundary of the Four Seasons Hotel revealed a rocky enclave and some pretty tiny coves. Local families were laying offering of flowers and food to the gods as part of their Hindu prayer ritual (more of that to follow in a later post). Bali is famous for its colourful sunsets and as the sun was starting to disappear we grabbed a prime viewing spot with cheap happy hour buckets of beers and ciders, happy days!
Sunset brings out the crowds with locals and tourists alike grabbing spots to eat at the various open-air seafood cafes. This area has transformed itself back to a busy tourist spot after the devastation of the second Bali bombings back in 2005 and although it’s hard to imagine that ever happened here on this picturesque sandy stretch, you are constantly reminded of its reality with vehicle searches and security checks at every resort entrance. A quick change and we headed back to the beach where the busy informal seafood cafes had been transformed by candle light for dinner. The air was filled with the aroma of seafood, garlic and spices and the other half consumed a fresh seafood barbecued platter washed down with an infamous Bintang (you just need to say Bintang not beer in Bali) before heading back to the hotel for cocktails to watch the crashing waves and enjoy the cool sea breeze.
An early start (8am say what ?!? I don’t do mornings and I’m on holiday!) the next morning for the ‘Colours of Jimbaran’ cycle tour to see some of the local life as the neighbourhood slowly awakened. After a rather fraught cycle along the main road dodging hoards of motorbikes and mini vans, we made it to the beach. Bikes ditched we mingled with the local fishermen who were hauling their catch of the day up the beach from their bobbing colourful wooden boats to the waitingwholesalers and the local market. Blue marlin, massive yellow fin tuna, snapper and lots of crab, lobsters and prawns to name a few were transported in the traditional way in baskets slung through bamboo poles for display at this daily early lively market that Jimbaran is so well-known for. Local children snatched the odd fish or two from the top of the baskets and locals, young and old were all involved in the hustle and bustle of their livelihood, some balancing full baskets on their heads, others gutting and preparing their wares, it was quite a fascinating scene.
The precious yellow fin tuna cargo was being packed into ice on trucks ready to be shipped to Jakarta yo be flown onto places such as Hong Kong for sushi and sashimi. The covered fish market was a hive of activity and aromas as restauranteurs, hotel chefs and locals bartered for the fresh produce. Next stop was the colourful and vibrant vegetable market where fresh produce straight from the farms was on display, every type of vegetable, fruit, herb and spice imaginable were stacked neatly for the buyers attention. Enormous hanging banana ‘trees’ hung everywhere and the women sit weaving coconut leaves into offering baskets to be filled with flowers and food for the Gods. Back on our bikes we rode along the main road to a temple site before heading back to the hotel, I’m happy to report there were no casualties just a little saddle soreness.
A well-earned hearty breakfast and a brief respite on a sun lounger and it was off again to Ulu Watu, the revered sacred temple that is dramatically perched on the limestone cliff side and dedicated to the spirits of the sea. Powerful surf and waves pound noisily against the cliffs below creating a staggering backdrop. Stories of cheeky monkeys snatching belongings prompted me to go with out my sunglasses and any jewellery, a wise move too as the aggressive (rather than cheeky I would say) primates snatched a man’s glasses from his face and a bewildered child’s flip-flop right off her foot in front of us! The best thing about this site were the sweeping views out across the Indian Ocean and it was a perfect spot to enjoy another enchanting sunset while watching the traditional Kecak and fire dance show in the temples amphitheatre. The trance like sounds of the large choir of identically clad men chanting was part of the show that portrays a classic Balinese Hindu story of good versus evil.
Our final stop of the day was to the Ayana Resort to visit Rock Bar, a trendy establishment in a jaw dropping location ‘on the rocks’ (hence the name) jutting out above the crazy continuously crashing waves. You descend via an inclinator (queuing may be necessary) down the rock face to the multi-level open-air venue at the base of the cliff, which attracts the sunset crowds and glamorous folk. Listed as one of the world’s top ten bars, it’s a ‘must-do’ if you are in the area, especially if you like cool places with awe-inspiring panoramas and cocktails. The DJ is perched in his station up in the rocks behind, the atmosphere is cool, they offer a good bar menu and a wide selection of signature cocktails, what’s not to like right?
An acquaintance here in Abu Dhabi who absolutely loves Bail had mentioned and thoroughly recommended we take a Balinese cooking class and with Dewi and Anie suggesting the same activity we booked a full day tour at Rumah Desa (coincidently turned out to be the same place). Another even earlier start, our very cheery driver Putu collected us for the drive to Tabanran to spend the day in a traditional Balinese home (read Rumah Desa:A Balinese Home and Cooking Studio). An even briefer spell on a sun lounger followed to catch our last Jimbaran sunset before we were off to the enclave of five-star resorts known as Nusa Dua (meaning Two Islands) for dinner at the sparsely populated Nusa Dua Beach Grill that afforded good view across the ocean and lots of fresh seafood.
I can thoroughly recommend Jimbaran as a great spot to chill out near the airport on a perfect stretch of pristine beach with lots of sights and interests in the locality. Next stop for us was to embrace our inner Eat, Pray, Love in the epicentre of creativity and artistic clichés that is Ubud……..
Jimbaran Top Tips
DON’T miss the sunsets in Jimbaran
DON’T wear anything you don’t potentially want snatched by an aggressive monkey at Ulu Watu temple
DO explore the local area either on foot, by bike, motorbike or hire a driver. If you use a taxi ask for a Blue Bird and either negotiate a price before you set off or ask for the meter to be on.
DO visit the fish and vegetable markets, but get there early as it’s all done and dusted by 10am at the latest.
My MUST DO – visit Rock Bar (particularly at sunset) for a trendy cocktail in the most amazing setting
Read Bali previous post for more photos In Pictures – A Postcard From Bali Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved. Photo of Rock Bar used courtesy of ayanaresorts.com