This past March, Bridget Kapinus, one of Marchay’s Senior Travel Managers, embarked on a ten-day Balinese getaway. Having returned from the longest flight of her life (17 hours!), she shares why Bali is well worth the time it takes to get there, along with helpful tips and recommendations for those looking to visit.
BALI: HOW DO I GET THERE?
Less than three hours by air from both Australia and Singapore, Bali lies at the heart the Indonesian archipelago surrounded by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. The most convenient flight options from the U.S. typically route through Dubai (Emirates), Doha (Qatar Airways), Seoul (Korean Air), and Singapore (Singapore Airlines). However, with around 24 hours of total flight time, each of these options has exceptional first and business class cabins to make the long journey more comfortable. The Singapore Airlines’ Suite is the most spacious and luxurious option.
WHY SHOULD I TREK HALFWAY AROUND THE WORLD?
Having been to quite a few exotic locations, I can honestly say that none offer the same combination of nature, cuisine, culture, and history as Bali. Even within Indonesia, Bali is uniquely stunning in a way I did not expect. As the only part of Indonesia that remains predominantly Hindu, the sense of peace and harmony with the world disseminates into every aspect of life, from the predominately plant-based cuisine to the reverence shown for sacred water sources and wildlife.
IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE BEACHES!
Like many, my preconceived notion of Bali was gorgeous beaches with a bohemian, spiritual vibe. While this is certainly a part of the island’s appeal, I was surprised to find how much of an impact the jungle as well as the people had on my time there. One of my favorite experiences was a Balinese home cooking class with our guide Dawa. After a brief walk through picturesque rice fields, Dawa skillfully harvested produce from the community garden before instructing us on what and how much to mix to create a spicy sambal (a sort of Balinese salsa) to accompany a variety of rice, satays, and steamed banana leaf dumplings. Alternatively, just down the road was the option to trek into the lush foliage for a rafting trip down the Ayung River or ziplining over vast rice paddies.
WHAT’S THE BEST TIME TO GO?
As is the case with other parts of Asia, there has historically been a “wet” and a “dry” season for Bali. The rainy season runs from November through April and dry season follows from May through October. However, as climate change continues to alter global weather patterns, locals have found the distinction between the two to be increasingly blurred. Now, it is not uncommon for visitors in June to experience sporadic showers while in March I experienced more sunny days than not.
WHAT IS THE CUISINE LIKE?
The perfect combination of healthy and delicious. As the lone Hindu island in Indonesia, Balinese culture emphasizes a deep respect for all life. As a result, much of the population is either vegan or vegetarian. Not to say there are not amazing meat options, but the focus is largely on fresh, nutritional farm to table food.
WHERE TO STAY ON THE ISLAND?
There is no shortage of luxury accommodations in Bali. Familiar high-end brands such as Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, and Alila (Hyatt) have also made their mark with coastal resorts on the southern end of the island in popular areas such as Nusa Dua, Jimbaran Bay, and Kuta. For those who prefer something more secluded, the stunning Amankila lies on the eastern end of the island with its own private beach and gorgeous views looking out onto neighboring Lombok.
Of course, no trip to Bali is complete without stay near Ubud amidst the jungle. If looking for some restorative rest and relaxation, COMO Shambhala is just the ticket, while those hoping to be closer to town can enjoy the charming COMO Ubud or the enchanting tented camp that is the Capella Ubud.
WHAT SHOULD I COMBINE BALI WITH?
Although Bali has no shortage of coastline, I found that a few nights on Sumba Island provided the perfect complement to my time in Ubud. A quick 80-minute flight from Bali lies Nihi Sumba, a veritable island paradise largely untouched by foreigners. Not only did the beach rival those of the Caribbean, but the opportunities to explore nature and engage with the local community were seemingly endless. I was able to go from swimming on horseback to visiting the local English school, largely funded by the resort, all in a single afternoon.
WHO SHOULD GO TO BALI?
Overall, I would highly recommend Bali to anyone willing to step outside their comfort zone for a wholly uncommon experience, so long as you don’t mind hot and humid weather or a fair bit of stairs. The ancient temples and relentless jungle create a rugged landscape that is not easily accessible for those with mobility issues, but for those who appreciate a challenge, it is perfect.