Bali: more than a beach – travel review

bali Sure, Bali is something of a tropical paradise. It was once only visited by Australians but these days, with regular flights with Singapore Airlines and their subsidiaries, Bali is open to the whole world.

The very name ‘Bali’ conjures visions of palm trees, azure sea lapping on golden sands (words like poetry, aren’t they?). But there is more to this island than beaches and beach bars. There is nature, history, culture and guides to show you the most unique views and to tell you the story of this incredible island.

The Ubud Monkey Forest is a popular tourist attraction but also an important spiritual, economic, educational, and conservation centre for the village of Padangtegal, of which it is a part. The forest is home to around 700 monkeys, in 12.5 hectares of forest. It is both a nature reserve and a site of intricately carved and gorgeously ornate Hindu temples. The Monkey Forest has a goal of creating peace and harmony for visitors from all over the world.

See macaques at close quarters

There are a few rules if the aforementioned visitor would like to remain peaceful and harmonious. These monkeys look charming and playful but don’t interact with them. Mother monkeys don’t appreciate their cute and innocent babies being touched or petted. Mum is liable to become aggressive. Don’t carry food even if it’s hidden away – these guys have x-ray vision for snacks. Don’t carry valuables in your hand as they run the risk of being snatched by a curious macaque. Don’t look a monkey in the eye as it’s considered a provocation. Follow the above guidelines and all will be well. The troupe are well-used to visitors and they are photogenic, and the forest offers a unique opportunity to see the macaques at close quarters. A few hours here would be fun for all the family.

bali temple
The temples still play an important part in the religious life of the village community. The Monkey Forest area is considered holy by the local population, and some parts of it are not open to the public. Sacred areas of the temples are closed to everyone except those willing to pray and wear proper Balinese praying costume. Temples all over Bali are beautiful but don’t be tempted to enter as it would be considered grossly disrespectful. Take your photographs from the steps outside.

Those who want to see more temples set on an amazing backdrop should go to Tanah Lot which is perched on a rock in the sea and is cut off from land at high tide. This must be one of the most photographed temples in Bali and should be on everyone’s Bali Bucket List.

bali costume Dazzling Balinese dress

Pura Tanah Lot was built, it is thought, in the 16th century and is an important destination for pilgrimages. Worshippers arrive in dazzling Balinese dress, with offerings in baskets balanced high to maintain the purity of the goods within. The temple and its grounds are busy all day long but especially in the late afternoons, pre-sunset, when the views are at their most stunning. So don’t forget the camera.

The streets before one reaches the temple approach are filled with souvenir shops. There is every stripe of Balinese keep-sake to tempt those searching for low-priced retail therapy. Bargaining is expected in many shops but even if one pays the ticket price it’s likely that it’s still a bargain. Look out for items that are actually made in Bali such as stone or carved wood pieces.

All tour guides are not created equal. It’s important to choose a company which prides itself in employing professionals who will show you the best and most interesting aspects of Bali life and culture. Learn more about quality local tours here

But where would be a convenient base from which to explore? The Montigo resort in Bali offers high-end, yet family-friendly, luxury. Facilities are first-class but there is attention to detail, and personal care which is noteworthy. The staff are well-trained and charming and nothing seems too much trouble for them. Learn more about Montigo Resorts Seminyak here

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Travel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018