Get the Best From Bali

Nestled amidst a scattering of islands that makes up Indonesia, Bali is a green jewel rich in flora and fauna. With an area of only 5,632 square kilometres, you can drive around the edge of Bali in a day, but the multitude of delights that await within its borders mean you can stay for weeks and never feel bored.

Bali’s unique landscape is made up of a chain of six volcanoes that straddle the island. These volcanoes measure from 1,350 metres up to an astonishing 3,014 and are responsible for creating the oddly intriguing black sands that swathe parts of the islands coastline. The Batur volcano is the most active on the island and has had a number of small eruptions over the years.

The lush forests of Bali are home to a plethora of flora and fauna, though some of the island’s native animals such as leopards, elephants and the Bali tiger can no longer be found, and in the tigers case is extinct. However, there is still plenty to see for the avid nature explorer with various types of monkey, deer and over 300 species of birds to be found on the island, including the extremely rare Bali starling. Bali is also surrounded by warm waters that are home to a whole host of aquatic life. Dolphins, fish, sponges and whale sharks are just a few of the species that inhabit the coasts of Bali making it perfect for divers.

A variety of tropical plants coats the island in rich green and creates welcoming pools of shade to escape the midday sun. Great banyan trees feature in most villages and temples, joined by tamarind trees in the North, clove trees in the highlands and acacia trees and mangroves in the South. A wash of colour covers the ground beneath these great trees, flowers are a big part of Bali and you’ll find them tucked behind ears, through button holes and used to decorate temples, statues and as adornments during traditional dance. The air is sweet in Bali, with the scents of frangipani, jasmine, hibiscus and bougainvillea drifting lazily on gentle sea breezes.

The island’s cultural heritage is visible everywhere, from the stunning temples scattered throughout the island, to the many festivals and ceremonies. Some notable events in the Bali calendar include Pagerwesi in August, which is a day put aside for special meditation to enhance the balance of the world, and the Indonesia Independence Day on the 17th of August. Art and dance play a big part in traditional Balinese festivities, with masks and decorative costumes used to re-tell folklore and are a true visual spectacle.

Bali holidays are perfect for those who want a varied holiday filled with memorable experiences, including lounging on black beaches, exploring lush forest and gazing up at awe-inspiring volcanoes with a handful of other Indonesian island hovering on the horizon.

Vespa Experience in Bali

For many travelers, Bali is the unique island of the Gods, or the island of thousand temples. These are just two of the nicknames, given to Bali by clever tourism marketing people.

That sounds mysterious and exciting. And for many tourists it is enough to visit several temples, to admire the exotic charm of another world from the outside,

and possibly enjoy some cheap massages in a spa. On my first visit to Bali that’s been enough for me also. But I was infected at the same time. A virus had overwhelmed me. A virus called Bali. Since those times I have been to Bali very often, have made many friends and experienced the “real”, the original Bali. The Bali beyond the illusory tourism-world.

For several years I stayed, whenever I have been to Bali, with my Balinese adoptive family. I shared their everyday live. So I got very deep insights into the culture of the island. And then it happened, that I met the Balinese Vespas.

Amazingly, there is a very interesting Vespa scene in Indonesia. This is because in Java until the year 2001 Vespas were produced. The old scooters are now often taken over by “young guns” to prepare them. There are three fractions. The first tries to restore Vespas faithfully. In this scene, you can meet real beautyful scooters.

There are also two other types of “scooterists”: extreme and gembel. The “extreme” change their Vespas often so, that you wouldn’t imagine that there is still a vespa-engine in the heart of the newly formed vehicle. There is a range from “choppers” to a variety of trikes and even small cars.

The “Gembels” (the Indonesian word ‘gembel’ = very poor, ragged, torn down), however, attach utmost importance to their Vespas just ragged, torn, rusted and almost like a moving pile of garbage come along. There are holes cut into the bodies and everything is omitted, which is not absolutely necessary. Often have Gembel Vespas sidecars in the form of a platform with a bamboo roof, sometimes even the classic sidecar-form as permeable grid structure made of tubes welded together.

All this is possible because a vehicle inspection by authorities is not performed. As long as there are papers in which the chassis number and engine number are shown correctly, you can unscrew the license plate of the “former” Vespa, simply put it on the redesigned vehicle – and no one complains… Common to all scooteristsin Indonesia is, that they are organized in clubs where close cohesion is practiced. And of course there are plenty of shared tours. Highlights are as in Europe, the big Vespa meetings.

Bali Driver – Finding the Right One

What should you look for when you are trying to find a good Bali Driver or Tour Guide?

There are many good drivers in Bali. But there are also some duds. When you are planning your trip to Bali, you obviously want to get the best value for your money, and will want someone who can help you make the most of your visit.

Using a good driver during you visit to Bali can make an amazing impression on your holiday. A bad driver could be the opposite, and leave you wondering what you might have missed.

Some drivers will have bomb cars, while others have late model cars. The difference between sitting in a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle for 8 hours versus one without A/C and a broken seat is obvious. Pick someone with a good car.

It is important that your driver / tour guide knows his way around the Island. That is fairly obvious. It is fair to assume that someone who is driving for a living would know Bali, but don’t take it for granted. Many drivers will go to the same places, along the same roads every time, without ever wondering what other options might be available. It is the hidden treasures of Bali that are usually the best. Only experience will find those special places.

Your driver should have a good grasp on your spoken language. Communication is the key to a successful day trip, or a complete holiday. Some drivers will say they speak English, when if fact they only know a handful of words. A few will be fluent, while most will have a reasonable handle on English and be able to engage in simple conversation. They don’t have to be fluent, but you need to easily understand each other. Trying to tell your driver that you need a toilet stop by sign language could be embarrassing.

You definitely don’t want someone who is receiving “kick backs” from manufacturers or retailers. Most Balinese are honest hard working people, but there are some who are unethical. You do not want to be going to the most expensive silver manufacturer in Teluk, and being told they are the cheapest. Meanwhile your guide is pocketing 20% of the sale. Or similarly being taken to a “great restaurant” where the food was very ordinary, but the driver received a commission.

The final quality of a good Bali Driver is his character. The last thing you will need on a long day trip is a driver who wants to talk all day, and thinks he is a comedian. Almost as bad is someone with no personality that only mumbles seven words for the whole day. The ideal driver is one who can talk with you when you want, and then stay quiet while you take in the amazing sights of Bali.

Do some research and then sit back and enjoy the ride.