Merah Filko

6 Questions: West Bali

Merah Filko
6 Questions: West Bali

6 Questions… will be a series dedicated to answering the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of locations I have visited, serving to answer questions fellow travelers may have when planning their trip.

Who:  West Bali is for that adventurous traveler, the person that likes getting off the beaten path.  Appropriate for all ages, groups, and levels of travel knowledge, West Bali is for the traveler that doesn’t care too much about being trendy, but more about exploring and escaping it all.

This reef was a straight drop off into an abyss, and was home to some of the most colorful fish I've ever seen!

What kinds of things are there to do:  West Bali is an adventurer’s paradise!  You will find some of the best snorkeling in the world here, and will be within an arms distance of creatures such as moray eels, clown fish, and anemones!  On my dive, I was paddling my way back to our snorkel boat and saw what looked like floating garbage.  Cursing the people who would let this float in the water, I swam closer to try and grab it and toss it in the boat.  I noticed this garbage had eyes…and legs…and was not garbage at all, but a giant group of squid!  They observed me from a safe distance, and drifted off into the current.  I chose to dive with West Bali Explorer, and found the crew to be incredible.  They allowed us to swim around and explore on our own, but brought our attention to sea life that would be a rare find anywhere else.  They also did their part in keeping our planet clean, diving into the reefs to retrieve garbage, and disposing of it once ashore.

Monkeys doing their own thing at Pura Pulaki.  They'll look at you, but don't expect them to sit on your shoulder.

There is also an abundance of beautiful temples to explore on this part of the island, such as Pura Pulaki and Pura Melanting.  Pura Pulaki is a small, lightly visited monkey temple where only locals are encouraged to feed the monkeys.  Unlike at the Monkey Forest in Ubud, the monkeys here are not as interactive with people.  They tend to keep to themselves, and the structures surrounding the temple.  Not to worry though, keep to yourself, and they will give you if just a glance as you pass through.  The other temple, Pura Melanting, was my favorite temple in all of Bali.  Though there are others that are far more popular on this island, this one was so intimate, and so welcoming.  Upon entrance to any quiet temple (aka, not heavily trafficked by tourists), you will be asked to cover with a piece of cloth that covers from your waist to your calves, each temple requiring a different pattern.  Once all gussied up, you can enter the temple and wander to your heart’s delight.  I loved this temple because it was quiet, allowed us into a religious ceremony, and was BEAUTIFUL.  There was gold leafing, mosaic tilework, decorative textiles, and painted sculptures all over, proving just how much thought and care goes into each and every temple.

Make sure to be respectful at temples and cover up accordingly.  Most will tell you how much you need to cover to enter!  Notice the skirt and sash around my waist that were provided by the temple.

If you are looking for a more laidback experience in West Bali, head to Pemuteran Beach.  This is a well-kept beach, with palm trees and chairs on which to lounge.  Resorts and villas line this beach, making it great for a relaxing day of sunning and enjoying food and drink.  My recommended lunch spot?  Taman Sari Resort and Spa had an amazing beef rendang that melted in my mouth.  The perfect cap to a beautiful beach day!

Had a delicious lunch on the beach here at Taman Sari!

When should I think about going:  Shoulder season, shoulder season, shoulder season!  We made the mistake of going the week between Christmas and New Years as our jobs quite literally shut down that week.  Perfect in a sense because, hello, we can go anywhere for a week!  Rough though, because this is a peak week for Bali.  Everything from our villas to food was more expensive, but relatively speaking (I mean $75 for an entire villa with a pool versus $50.  I can’t complain too much).  Be sure to avoid monsoon season, as well as any other holidays, such as Easter, as Australia is only a 4-hour flight away, and is a quick trip to Bali (yes, please).  Generally, April-June is the best time to visit for the bluest skies.

Where should I stay:  My top two suggestions for West Bali is NusaBay Menjangan and Mimpi Resort and Spa.  NusaBay Menjangen is set back in the West Bali National Park, and is a series of 14 bungalows situated amongst trees.  The staff here is incredible, greeting you after your longboat ride from mainland with a floral drink (I have yet to find out what it is other than delicious), and their service is impeccable.  You eat all of your meals here as well, which isn’t a bad thing at all.  I was able to get my hands on delicious fruit, smoothies every morning, and amazing Nasi Goreng.  And don’t be surprised if you wake up to monkeys playing on your bungalow balcony, or stumble upon deer on the beach.  This is their home, and we are just visiting.

Standing above the jungle on the deck of my bungalow at NusaBay Resort.

As for Mimpi Resort and Spa, this is an entirely different feel.  Where NusaBay has an adventurous feel, and really aims to connect us to nature, Mimpi aims to get us relaxed, housing one of the best spas I have ever been to, and villas that each have their own personal mineral tub.  Another great thing about Mimpi is that it is not cutoff from the world.  I was able to leave the resort and walk down what I have affectionately dubbed “Ankle Breaker Avenue” after having tripped, stubbed my toe, and twisted my ankle multiple times in the many potholes on the road on which Mimpi is located.  I could grab essentials at a convenience store run by a woman and her daughters, and dinner at a lovely place called Bananaleaf Hostel.  This is a newly built hostel, and is run by a lovely husband and wife duo.  Their food is fresh, inspired, and above all, delicious.  We happened upon this place one night and headed over just to give it a whirl, and returned every night thereafter.  The Nasi Goreng and spring rolls here are unmatched in all of Bali, so don’t even try!  They are also incredibly helpful, securing snorkel and scuba trips for visitors, helping them to find the best guide for their needs.  As this is a hostel, it looked like an incredible place to stay, with a giant pool, and new rooms in which to sleep!

Sending major Bali vibes your way at Mimpi Resort and Spa.

Why should I go to West Bali instead of Ubud:  I don’t know that I can really answer this question, as I don’t think this should be an either/or situation.  Both are incredible places, and serve completely different purposes.  West Bali is more of an adventure location.  Far less tourists head to this part of the island, and therefore it has more of a homey feel.  I saw temples and was the only traveler, walked beaches as the only person, and ate at restaurants as one of the few tables being served.  It was an incredible place to really disconnect and wander where the Wi-Fi is weak.

How should I plan on getting to West Bali: The island of Bali is accessible from a number of continents and countries, and is a well-connected island in and of itself.  Fly into Denpasar, Bali, and hire a driver to take you to the west side of the island.  The trip from the airport to Menjangan is about a 4-hour drive, so staying a night close to the airport and getting decent sleep will be your best bet.  For an excellent driver who has started his own driving club, and only refers people to the best and most efficient drivers, is Bali Fixer.  He can be found on Instagram under the handle @balifixer.  He was great, gave us incredible history lessons, and answered any and all questions along the way.