48 hours in the Island of Love - Bali

Published Jul 5, 2014, 11:55 pm IST
Updated Mar 31, 2019, 9:10 pm IST
This weekend, let's explore the lush tropical landscapes of Bali
Tanah Lot temple, Bali. Photo: Wikipedia
 Tanah Lot temple, Bali. Photo: Wikipedia
Sanur, Bali: Lush tropical landscapes, intricate Hindu temples, long stretches of beach fringed with palm trees, and traditional dances both graceful and furious are all part of the charms of this resort island that keep visitors coming.
Yet venture away from the main tourist drag and it's still possible to spend hours strolling through rice fields, stopping in villages along the way to chat with locals.
Correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a 48-hour visit.
Day 1
5 p.m. - Check into your hotel and head out for a drink. For a quiet alternative, try Sanur on the island's eastern side. Though it lacks the western view and sunsets of its raucous rival Kuta, Sanur has a long beach walk that hugs the coastline, lined with bars and small restaurants. Buy a beer and watch the pastel light fade from Nusa Lembongan, an island crouching on the edge of the horizon, and listen to the sound of the waves.
7 p.m. - Stroll the beach as the evening cool brings Balinese out for soccer on the seashore or wading in the ocean.
There are any number of dinner options along the waterfront, including "Stiff Chili," an informal Italian restaurant at the southern end, or its fancier -- and pricier -- compatriot "Isola," about halfway up. A more local option is "Kami Sama," which features Indonesian food, including the Balinese "Siap Sambal Matah" -- shredded fried chicken dressed with chopped chilis, shallots, coconut oil and lemon grass.
For grilled fish, try the popular "Bonsai Cafe," where you buy your seafood by weight and have it grilled over a coconut husk fire. And yes, there are bonsai trees in the garden.
Day 2
9 a.m. - Beach time! Tidal extremes can make swimming at Sanur iffy -- at low tide the water draws out so far that swimming is impossible for an hour or so -- but there is nothing to stop you from catching some rays if so inclined. Sanur village rules prohibit vendors, so it's possible to lie out undisturbed, unlike at Kuta. If you're lucky, you may see Gunung Agung, a 3,142-metre volcano, emerge from the clouds across the water.
Noon - Head up to Ubud, about 40 minutes away. Known as the island's centre of arts, dance and fine dining, this town sprawls further every year but still seems like a village.
Lunch at Ibu Oka, a suckling pig restaurant across from the palace. The usual serving gets you a heaping plate of juicy roast pig, green vegetables, crispy skin, cracklings and blood sausage. Crowded and popular with tourists and locals alike, it's open until the pig runs out, usually in mid-afternoon.
2 p.m. - Museum and gallery crawl. Choices range from the bright, airy Neka Art Museum overlooking the Campuhan River to the cosy Seniwati Gallery of Women Artists, where women -- long excluded by custom from becoming artists -- finally get their due. An afternoon stop at the ARMA museum complex comes with the bonus of being able to watch children's Balinese dance classes, complete with scoldings from the teacher and endless repetition.
5 p.m. - As the heat starts to ease, wander through the Puri Saren palace in the centre of town. Stop off at Cafe Lotus just down the street for a cool drink and snack overlooking the lotus pond and red brick temple, glowing as the sun dips lower.
7 p.m. - Take in a traditional dance performance. There are about six different offerings each night, both in Ubud and in surrounding villages. Notable performances include dance troupe Semara Ratih, known for expressiveness, and Suara Sakti, a bamboo gamelan group that invites viewers up on stage at the end to feel the thunder of the giant instruments in their bodies.
9 p.m. - For crispy fried duck, fish steamed in banana leaves or "Tahu Petis" -- fried tofu chunks dipped into a rich, dark sauce -- try Kafe Batan Waru (www.baligoodfood.com). If weather allows, eat in the courtyard under the frangipani trees.
Day 3
7 a.m. - Head for the market in the centre of town, a raucous warren of shops packed at this hour with locals bargaining over bundles of greens, heaps of tomatoes or live chickens as incense floats from the Pura Melanting shrine, dedicated to the god of business, just outside.
9 a.m. - After breakfast, take a walk through the rice fields and villages around Ubud. There are many routes, but one long loop starts at the crossroads by the palace and heads straight up before curving right over a river and then back into town. Watch farmers work in their fields, ducks foraging among the rice stalks, or talk with people sitting on their front steps. Take a hat, sunscreen and plenty of water.
11 a.m. - Erase your aches and pains with a massage, spice rub and floral bath at Ubud Bodyworks Centre or one of the many other spas around town. (www.ubudbodyworkscentre.com/)
2 p.m. - Have a late lunch at "Warung Lada," where you can choose from an array of prepared food behind the counter to eat with rice. Try the spicy eggplant and the luscious chicken curry, with lashings of fresh sambal.
3 p.m. - Stroll through the Monkey Forest at the end of the eponymous street. Though a bit over-hyped, the forest is cool and refreshing, and the monkeys fun for a short visit.
4 p.m. - Head to the southern tip of the island to Uluwatu, a temple perched on a cliff high above the ocean. Watch out for the monkeys here, who have been known to steal cameras and sunglasses -- and then fling them, in some cases, into the sea.