Although Bali is part of Indonesia which is primarily a Muslim country, the people of Bali are 90-95% Hindu. Being Hindu, there are 1000 of temples and you see remnants of offerings everywhere on the island. The Balinese are in general very nice people. If your only encounters were with taxi drivers or people in Kuta and Semniak, then your experience would be very different. We found the local people to be very kind and humble and the service was very good as well especially in comparison to our experience in Boracay, Philipenes.
In Semniak we stayed at a pool villa called Aleva Villas which was a super cute place with only 8 villas. It was a very new place - only 4 weeks old so everything was new and nice. My favourite part was that we could access our private pool from our eating area, our bedroom and from our bathroom. Felt very luxurious and the weather was wonderful during our time there. Every morning we were served breakfast in the our villa.
Everywhere you went in Bali you encountered Aussies. Bali is basically their Hawaii/Mexico with direct flights from most major cities in Australia in about 6 hours. A bunch of the hotels and restaurants are Aussie owned and a street in Semniak almost felt like you were in Australia with upmarket boutiques including locals and popular Aussie brands and restaurants.
We hired a driver from our hotel to take us for 6 hours or so to a few sites and then drop us off at our hotel in Ubud. Ubud is known for the lush forests and rice patty fields. It is closer to the volcanos where some people go hiking or sunrise trekking. The Monkey forest is also a popular destination which was walking distance from our hotel but we didn't have enough time and we wanted to do a bit of shopping for our future home even though our shopping time was also very limited. This time Aleena and the Tran girls would have been proud of our bargaining 😄
In Ubud, we stayed at Alaya Resort Ubud which was a convenient place to stay in town but in hindsight we probably would have preferred to have stayed at another pool villa hotel instead or an isolated hotel in the forest especially since the town isn't very happening in the evenings u like Semniak. Alaya had a very nice spa called DeLa spa with nice decor and services. A friend had recommended Alila Resort just outside Ubud in case anyone is interested for the future. Ubud used to be a lot more quite but became much more popular after the book and movie Eat, Pray, Love. Not sure what the price point is but Samaya Villas looked uber luxurious as well!
Bali has so much diversity on just one island. We didn't even see Nusa Dua, Kuta or Jimbaran Bay. It seems like the distances are close but there is a lot of traffic, varied topography and most of the roads are very narrow and not many "highways" so it takes a long time to get around.
One of our favourites was watching the sunset at Potato Head Beach Club which is an upscale beach club but suitable for all age levels. There were people who came here all day to lounge on day beds, beach and the infinity pool but without the Cabana price tag like in Vegas and far nicer scenery while other people just came here to have lunch, dinner or just drinks to watch the sunset. In peak season there is a minimum spend of $100 for a daybed but more reasonable than a similar place in any other country.
Another one of our favourite activities was a cooking class with Paon Cooking school which had pick up and drop off from hotels in Ubud. Half of the fun was chatting with other fellow travellers and we even met another couple from Calgary. The meal we made as a group was one of the best we had in our time in Bali.
Bali also had the best mocktails for us non-drinkers especially with so many fresh fruit options. We will miss all of the passion fruit, mangosteen, star fruit, mango, lychee concoctions. The best drinks were at Potato Head and Char Char Bar and Grill.
Massages and spa services were also fantastic and very cheap! We got a couple of foot massages, manicures and a Balinese full body massage which were all wonderful! We went to Beatriz spa and Spa Yasmin - Beatriz spa was just convenient for a foot massage after dinner when a nicer looking place was full and Yasmin spa was slighter nicer ambiance than Beatriz but the quality of the service was better at Beatrix. A 30 min foot massage was $5-6, manicure $5-8 ($16 with shellac). At a cheap price, quality is definitely hit or miss if you're very picky. Shampoo lounge was also recommended to us for a more upscale place for hair and spa services. Spa services were even cheaper in Ubud from what we could tell although we already had a Balinese massage included with our hotel package.
We were recommended to take Bluebird taxis by friends since it's the only metered Taxi so saves the hassle of haggling a taxi fare each time you want to go somewhere. There is a Bluebird "station" at Semniak square which we didn't know about until the last day. There's no bluebird in U us though but locals were very nicer hear.
As this post is getting quite long, I'll dedicate a separate post to Bali food!