“Padi makin berisi makin merunduk.”
“The more substance a rice grain has, the more it bends.”-Indonesian saying
Indonesia has a wealth of proverbs, sayings and idioms that provide so much wisdom and teaching. Normally, I start my country guides with a quote about the people, beauty, or geography of an area, but to do the culture and the country justice, I felt like a typical Indonesian saying was the perfect way to step into this country.
This saying depicts the idea that the wisest and most equipped person will often be the one to act the most humbly and modestly. The ones who “stand tall” and never bow often lack substance and feel the need to puff themselves up to show their wisdom. Many believe this saying comes from observing rice crops where it’s seen that the crop with the most grain begins to bow over.
In my experience traveling to Indonesia, I have met some of the kindest, most modest and humbling people. There is so much to learn from the people, places, and culture.
Country Overview and Fun Facts
When people think of Indonesia, many people think of Bali (which I’ll share more about below) but it’s important to note that not all of Indonesia is like Bali.
Indonesia is made up of over 17,500 islands. One of which—Borneo—is the third largest in the world. On many islands you’ll find remote beaches, jungles and even caves. Bali is the most well-known island and the place that draws a lot of travelers to Indonesia (including myself) but with so many islands, there are many adventures to be had. It’s not uncommon to hear of people “backpacking” or island hopping through Indonesia.
I’ll dive into some fun facts about Indonesia and then share all of my favorite places to see and eat in Bali as that’s where I’ve spent my time while visiting the country.
Alright, let’s dive into some fun facts about Indonesia.
Facts about Indonesia
- Indonesia is located in Southeast Asia, and is a safe country to travel to
- The primary language is Indonesian (known locally as Bahasa Indonesia) and the majority of Indonesians speak it. However, one of the more widely spoken languages in Javanese or Jawa as it’s known locally.
- The capital city of Indonesia is Jakarta, and it’s also the largest city in Indonesia
- It’s a predominantly muslim country
- Indonesia is made up of over 17,500 islands (that’s A LOT of islands!)
- It’s home to the komodo dragon—the world’s largest lizard—and many people come to Indonesia just to see it because it’s only found on a few islands in Indonesia.
- The weather is split by the equator but Indonesia has an almost-entirely tropical climate
While the primary language is Indonesian and one of the more widely spoken languages is Javanese (Jawa), many guides, shop owners and sellers do speak English in Bali. Because of tourism, many people can communicate on a conversational level or to a degree that allows for interactions and exchanges to occur.
The currency in Indonesia is the Indonesian Rupiah. All businesses, except for maybe a few large hotels or tour operations, require you pay in Rupiah. Paying in your home currency always results in pretty bad exchange rates so it’s always best to exchange some currency once you arrive in Indonesia. Especially in Bali, there are many money changers and you won’t have a problem exchanging currency at a decent rate.
Best Time to Visit
Peak season in Indonesia is July and August so depending on what your travel preferences are, you might love the bustle of many vacationers and travelers. Prices are higher if you travel during the peak season
Many say that May, June and September are the best times to visit because they’re not as busy. They also fall within the dry season.
While the temperature in Indonesia is pretty great year round, the wet season includes January and February and if you’re wanting to hike, many of the volcano treks are not operating during those months.
I personally visited Bali in May and June and found that these are the best times to visit the island, when conditions remain warm and sunny, but there are fewer crowds in popular beach resorts like Sanur and Seminyak
Warmth, friendliness and hospitality are three words that encompass everything about Bali. There is something so simple and yet incredibly grand about the way the people interacts with strangers and travelers. Sometimes we forget how profound common decency and courtesy can be yet we know the impact a yelling stranger or grumpy driver can have on us.
Both the people of Bali and the landscape are incredibly beautiful. Ubud is known for its emerald green rice paddies, many of which are shaped in these remarkable tiered, staircase structures.
That shade of green is penetrating, especially when you pause and realize the magnificence of nature.
Bali is home to two active volcanoes and you can actually trek to see them.
Bali is also especially unique in that they have coffee plantations that specialize in making the world’s most expensive coffee made from Civat Cat droppings. My dear friend went to Ubud on her honeymoon and her and her husband actually did a taste test of it along with what she called her favorite coffee, Ginseng Coffee. She visited the Luwak Coffee Plantation and raves about how fun it was.
Here are some more fun facts about Bali:
- Has black sand beaches
- Follows the Pawukon Calendar, meaning they have 210 days in a year with a year divided into 6 months with 35 days per month.
- People only have 4 names and it doesn’t matter whether its a boy or girl, there is a name for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th born.
- Bali is very dependent on tourism
Alright, let’s talk about what to do in Bali
What to Do
These are definitely my top 8 experiences in Bali, and I have had the privilege of experiencing them all!
Visit a Black Sand Volcanic Beach
The black volcanic beaches are so unique and some even say they have natural healing powers. It’s said that black sand beaches are made of lava fragments and volcanic minerals. While there are many black sand beaches in Bali, I visited Keramas Beach
Visit White Sand Beaches in Uluwatu
White Sand beaches are also great for intimate weddings and I have done a few here. Padung Padung Beach is a popular, secluded beach in Bali. You get to the beach via a long staircase down that cuts through rock. It’s pretty cool and was featured in the bestselling book Eat Pray Love, which was made into a movie. I visited Suluban Beach.
Go On a Marine Safari at Dolphin Lodge Bali
Although I can’t swim (and that’s a story for another day), the marine safari is definitely one to experience. This is where you can touch and swim with Dolphins. You can also go on a number of other excursions and do everything from elephant riding to horseback riding on the beach.
Visit the Temples
I have visited the temples which are unique and they help you understand the local beliefs and culture. A few of the top temples to see near Ubud, Bali are the Pura Taman Kemuda Saraswati also know as the Ubud Water Palace and the Tirta Empul. I visited the Pura Luhur Uluwatu and it is very highly revered and one of the best temple spots in Bali.
The Ubud Art Market
Who doesn’t like arts and crafts right? I found that The Ubud Art Market is the place to go especially to appreciate local artisans and pick up souvenirs. You can find everything from silk scarves to woven baskets, bags, kites, shirts and more.
Tegallalang Rice Terraces
The Tegallalang Rice Terraces are strangely satisfying to the eye. It’s so fascinating to see how much work goes into the rice growing but also how beautiful the scenery is here. This is a must see! It’s so striking and unique.
Ubud Monkey Forest
The Ubud Monkey Forest is also another unique place to visit! Monkeys come right up to you, and will even crawl up your arm if you stand still and hold a banana! This is a fun place, but be prepared to get up close and personal with the monkeys!
Active Volcano and Mountain Treks
If you like the outdoors and hiking, then you will love the mountain and volcano treks. Come well prepared to walk! Wear comfortable shoes, don’t carry heavy things and most importantly keep hydrated. There are so many beautiful views to take in and many trek options but definitely go on one while in Bali!
Where to Eat In and Around Ubud, Bali
Alright, let’s unpack some warm and yummy dishes and fabulous restaurants for all tastes. Bali has something for everyone!
Mozaic – French Cuisine
Eating at the Mozaic was my absolute favorite fine dining experience. I had the privilege of taking a private cooking class facing the beautiful rice fields, which was incredible. Started by a French-American chef, this restaurant merges Balinese ingredients with French cuisine to make the most delectable dishes. You can try everything from crispy seared French duck to New Zealand venison to Slipper Lobster, fine wine, fresh passion fruit sorbet and more. You can also take the private cooking class with a group, which I highly recommend.
The interior of this restaurant is absolutely divine! If you want to experience true Indonesian food, this is the place to be! The atmosphere is chic, romantic and really stunning in the evening with the indoor lighted trees and columns. They have both a restaurant and bar. The restaurant features a lunch, dinner and vegetarian menu. You’ll eat family style here, in the traditional Balinese way, with plates set in the middle of the table so everyone can sample and share the dishes. This is a really fun and unique experience. It’s also a great way to try multiple Indonesian dishes!
Metis Restaurant, Lounge and Gallery-French Mediteranean
The meals at Metis Restaurant are acclaimed as a sensory experience, and they truly are! Dining at the Metis should be turned into an evening at the Metis! You can grab a drink in the lounge, browse the gallery and boutique and enjoy a mouth-watering meal. The Metis was ranked one of Asia’s Top 20 restaurants (Miele Guide Best of Asia, 2013) and was the recipient of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence (2013). Their menu includes items such as beef tenderloin in black pepper sauce, roasted quail stuffed with duck, slock cooked lamb shank, waygu burgers, chicken and prawns and more. They also offer organic vegetables, organic white rice and organic salad, which is great for vegetarians.
Sardine – Seafood
I couldn’t go to Bali without trying seafood! I love my seafood so this was definitely my kind of place. The food was so delicious and tasty! The atmosphere is truly unique. Tables are set under these stunning pitched roof structures with open sides which makes for such a fun atmosphere. There’s also tables available next to a rice field. The setting is truly unique and really a highlight of this restaurant. The menu changes daily based on the catch, which comes from a morning pilgrimage to the nearby fishing village of Jimbaran. They also serve organic vegetables, herbs and salad from their own organic garden.
Sarong Restaurant-Pan Asian
Sarong is acclaimed for being one of the most sought after Asian cuisine restaurants in Bali. The presentation here is remarkable and they offer everything from fish to chicken to pork and veggie dishes. You’ll find items like coffee wood smoked mackerel, Alaskan grilled scallops, pakora cauliflower with smoked chili sauce, 12-hour smoked lamb and more. They have a really impressive menu with a wide variety of dishes and a separate drinks menu. Sarong has a reputation for innovation and authenticity so this is definitely a must-try for a night out in Bali.
Slippery Stone Bali-Greek Cuisine
Stepping into Slippery Stone feels like stepping into Greece. Using an abundance of rocks, stones and carvings, this dining experience is truly transportive to Ancient Greece. The menu selection is full of Greek delicacies sourced from Greece. The olive oil, olives, lamb, beef and cheeses are all imported and of the highest quality. Their menu includes items such as yiros, beef patties, prawns, calamari, char-grilled chicken skewers, margherita pizza, greek salad and more.
A five-minute drive from the center of Ubud, this restaurant is in a convenient spot yet surrounded by a lovely valley few in Ubud’s jungle. They are also one of the few restaurants in the area that have their own greenhouse that grows an abundance of fresh organic vegetables and herbs which are used in their dishes. They also import the finest meats including Australian wagyu beef, New Zealand lamb, and French duck. You can try everything from Lobster bisque to seared barramundi to roasted lamb rack, fish and chips, pizza, beef bolognese, glazed carrots, chocolate fondant and more. It’s an absolute must try for the incredible ingredients, dishes and surrounding destination.
Opia Bali-International Dishes with a Modern Asian Touch
Opia Bali is known for its celebration of art, global culture and food, and architecture. The restaurant is perched on the side of a beautiful limestone cliff for an incredible dining view and atmosphere. At Opia, you’ll find dishes from around the world. They print new menus daily to reflect seasonal ingredients, but the menu includes a wide variety of items such as pulled pork tacos, vegan jackfruit tacos, soft shell crab, spiced pumpkin salad, lamb adobo, turmeric chicken, chargrilled octopus, smoked beef tenderloin, fresh squid ink pasta and more.
Until next time…
Check out our Bali stay blog here