South Bali is a true hotspot – yet not too many seem to know. Escape the plastic feel of overdone and over rated Kuta, dirty Sanur and end up somewhere less than an hour away but worlds apart. Somewhere more traditional (yes traditional still exists on this island), more tropical and extremely welcoming.
ONE. Find yourself lost, as we did, for a week on the fringes of Bingin’s vertical cliff. Tiptoe down the stone steps while assessing the surf and contemplating which shack to have a detox juice in. The vibe here is really relaxed and full of international surfers on holidays, enjoying the 29 degree water and cheap beer. Just beyond your breakfast pancake are some surfing acrobatics, join them but be careful of the shallow reef that makes Bingin Beach surf so infamous. White shelled beach, rocky outcrops, tanned muscled bods and the fabled blue ocean, in low season we practically had it to ourselves – what more could you ask for?
TWO. Make a stop at the fabled Pura Luhur Ulu Watu temple. The great wall of the temple would be rather unimpressive had it not been balanced precariously on a vertical cliff face that plummets into crystal blue ocean. Playful swifts dance in the medley of blues created by the sky and the sea. And turtles surface to breathe between the thunderous rolling waves. Visiting at sunset would indeed be splendid but be warned, when we were leaving queues of buses were waiting to enter for this special moment. Right outside of the parking office is a corner side café where cheap curries, local dishes and western snacks are rather delicious.
THREE. For a more refreshing sunset experience drive five minutes from the temple to Ulu Watu’s surf beach. Its absolutely stunning. Pay the 3,000 Rupiah for moped parking. Do not barter to exhaustion over this 30 cents fee, get frustrated and stubbornly decide to leave, our Austrian companions sorely missed out. Aim for the very end of the rocky outcrop and grab a Bintang beer. Watch colossal waves, one after another dominate the landscape and a handful of talented surfers cruise for nearly a kilometre. Never did I expect this view and funky vibe from Bali, nor did I expect such a high standard of surfing. The beats pick up here on Wednesday and Sunday nights at the topmost balcony bars.
FOUR. Leaflets will announce a weekly live music special. The Cashew Tree, an isolated garden bar nestled in Bingin’s rainforest boasts an Indonesian band every Thursday evening. As the energetic local singer hip-hops his way across the stage with another tuneful cover song, let the music get under your skin. Dance beneath the stars or a blanket of rain and enjoy. For quiet Bingin, the Cashew tree is a perfect way to have a beer and meet other tourists milling about the area.
FIVE. Visit one of the ‘legendary’ local beaches such as Padang Padang at low tide and take a small detour around the rocky outcrops to escape the hustle and bustle. Enjoy your own company (or maybe a few others) as you sunbathe or paddle in the ocean and avoid the local women hassling you for “Masaaaaggggeeeee”. To be honest though, this beach is merely access to yet another outstanding surf break.
Taxi – 165, 000 Rupiah from the airport terminal. Prices are fixed and an orderly queue will allow you to quote your hotel name and be assigned a driver.
Hire a moped for 60-100,000 (renting a moped for 2 days gives you good discount). Head south of Kuta following signs for Ulu watu. This will lead you directly to the temple and famous surf beach at this south western tip. On your way south you might be fortunate/unfortunate to catch a glimpse of Spider City, Bali’s scariest attraction.
For another sneaky spot on Bali’s doorstep why not explore the magical cliffs and untouched island of Nusa Penida.