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10 must-dos on your Dubai holiday

Once upon a time, Dubai was one of those places that rarely featured on people’s travel bucket lists. Then, as more and more Indians began to set up base in this glittering Arabian city and the wheels of its publicity began spinning, the world started waking up to its many attractions. We are all well acquainted with the urban paradise that is the commercial centre of the United Arab Emirates. But what really sets a holiday in Dubai apart is its potential for adventure, discovery and inimitable experiences. It also helps that getting a Dubai visa is a breeze for Indian nationals.

1. Swim with the dolphins
It’s not easy on the pocket (13000 rupees onwards) but where else are you going to get a chance to get so up, close and personal with dolphins? Dolphin Bay at Atlantis The Palm is a beautiful lagoon surrounded by palms, where you can swim with adorable dolphins and indulge in various water sports. Getting clicked with the dolphins will put you back by a few more rupees though the memories are worth treasuring. If the water baby in you is still not satisfied, head to Wild Wadi Water Park and try every one of those roller coasters, wave pools and gulp-inducing water slides!

2. Go for a desert safari
Dubai is in the Middle-East after all, which is synonymous with large expanses of strangely hypnotic deserts. And no amount of civilisation can take away the primitive appeal of spending a day in one of nature’s most trying landscapes and ending with a star-studded luxury desert camp. To get your adrenalin pumping, go dune bashing, ride a camel or enjoy a four-wheel-drive safari that ends with belly dancers, desert barbeque and cocktails in the setting sun. And did we mention that you can get an Arabian style mehendi done as well? At around 6000 rupees, this one’s not too expensive either.

3. Ride a hot-air balloon
This one’s for those who simply can’t get enough of the desert. Personally, I think a hot air balloon is just the right amount of adventure. Unlike bungee jumping, you get to stand comfortably and enjoy the sandy panorama around you. And you also have other people with you to make it less forbidding. You’ll have to wake up before the birds do for a truly memorable hot air balloon ride, because then you get to see the sun rise over the horizon of the Sahara desert and capture some truly breath-taking photographs. An hour in the balloon will cost you around 18000 rupees.

4. Get a bird’s eye view of the city at Burj Khalifa
You haven’t really seen a city until you’ve looked down upon its urban jewels from up above. A must-do while in Dubai is a visit to the observatory deck at Burj Khalifa, which is the world’s tallest building at 828 metres. Prices begin at 125 dirham (2300 rupees) and you can choose between the 124th and 148th floors. End your experience with a drink at their restaurant bar on the 122nd floor. Since this is a sought after experience in Dubai, it is advisable to book your tickets well in advance. Both the day-time and night-time views are equally spectacular.

5. Shop till you drop (and a lot more) at Dubai Mall
Dubai seems to excel at building the world’s record-breaking architectural marvels. With 1200 stores, Dubai Mall has the distinction of being the world’s largest mall and it’s safe to say that there isn’t a single luxury brand you won’t find here. The best part is that there’s so much to do apart from shopping! You can go skating at a giant ice rink and peek at fishes in the aquarium. Kids will also be wowed by the dinosaur skeleton on display and indoor theme parks. When you get hungry after all that shopping, there are 150 food outlets to choose from.

6. Stay at Burj Al Arab and Madinat Jumeirah
I have just two words to recommend this Burj Al Arab and they should be enough – seven star. Sure, a stay at Burj Al Arab might involve mortgaging your house and everyone in it but imagine scoffing at five star hotels and telling them you’ve seen better. Although seven star hotels are not really verified, the exceptional restaurants at Burj Al Arab make a visit here worthwhile. You can also spend a couple of nights at Madinat Jumeirah for an authentic Arabian experience. It’s a replica of a traditional Arab village with souqs (markets), palm-ringed canals and romantic villas and hotels.
And in case you cannot afford it for your entire duration of travel (it can get really expensive!), make sure you book Dubai hotels in advance since there is always a certain rush. Planning your travel can also help you save on airfare, with multiple providers like flydubai offering economical prices, which means you don’t have to string out your accommodation, food or shopping!

7. Get off your high horse and dig into street food at 2nd of December Street
Enough with all these expensive indulgences, we say. Sink your teeth into some refreshingly cheap street food with the locals at this lane, earlier known as Al Dhiyafah Road. Here you will find tasty treats from Iran, Lebanon and India. The grilled lamb and couscous salads come highly recommended. For a filling meal, try the seafood at Pars Iranian Kitchen and home-style fare at Ravi Restaurant. As per regulations, these restaurants cannot serve alcohol but a meal here will only put you back by around 1500 rupees.

8. Walk down history lane
And get a dose of art and culture too, while you’re at it. Dubai was once a quiet fishing village and remnants of its serene past can be found at Al Fahidi Historic District and the endearing Basta Art Cafe. At the erstwhile Bastakia Quarter, you can walk through a maze of tiny lanes that are dotted with museums and art galleries. Notable among these are XVA Gallery for contemporary art and Majlis Gallery for Middle-Eastern art. Shop for fabric at the textile souk and then treat yourself to a scenic tour in a water taxi. The Dubai Museum is also worth a visit for history lovers.

9. Play a game of golf
In case you didn’t know, the folks of Dubai are quite crazy about golf. At the golf courses designed by Colin Montgomerie and Ernie Els, you might bump into a known face or two. The most famous courses are the Emirates Golf Club which hosts the Dubai Desert Classic tournament and the excellently designed Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club. Tiger Woods is also set to launch a stunning golf course this year after an earlier failed attempt.

10. Let your hair down at Pacha Ibiza Dubai
What’s a Dubai trip without a night of revelry? Pacha is the name of everyone’s lips when it comes to nightclubs that stand a foot apart from the rest. And the Dubai chapter is as impressive as the rest, with groovy house music and amazing acrobatic displays. Located at Souk Madinat Jumeirah, the club comes with a Main Room, Red Room and Rooftop spread across three floors. Too expensive, you say? Well, you can afford to splurge a little since your flight tickets came so cheap!

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Ramada Bali Sunset Road Kuta: Accessible luxury

Don’t be too quick to believe people when they say there’s nothing to see in so and so place. True, Kuta is more urbanised than Ubud or Sanur but its beaches are no less spectacular, it’s a good access point for the spectacular Tanah Lot Temple and luxurious Nusa Dua area and best of all, it lets you stay in a four start hotel for the price of a three star. Our stay at Ramada Bali Sunset Road Kuta, was made most memorable by a lovely dinner at the gourmet lobby restaurant, a sunset soak at the rooftop infinity pool and a couple spa session to soften the ache of a beautiful trip coming to an end.

Our room

A large bed with a thoughtful pair of towel swans, little balcony lined with green fronds and a bathroom with a beautiful patterned wall were some of the salient features of our honeymoon suite at Ramada Bali Sunset Road Kuta.

Our room
Our room
The balcony
The balcony

The TV even had a couple of Indian/Hindi channels to keep us entertained while we sipped on some coffee. We had some issues with the Wi-Fi and air-conditioning, both of which were quickly and satisfactorily resolved. So you can definitely expect great service at this hotel.

The hotel

The seven-storey Ramada Bali Sunset Road Kuta sports some stunning architectural touches such as a rooftop infinity pool; a ground-level lagoon-style pool with a long walkway that leads up to a bar, along with rooms on either side; couches backed by arresting paintings, exhibits of Indonesian masks and Buddhist percussion mallets outside some elevators and a spectacular view of the pool and the sky from the railing at each level.

View from the railing
View from the railing

The fitness centre adjoins the pool at the rooftop, which is also where Sandekala, the hotel’s sprawling in-house restaurant is located. The spa is also on the roof-top and tends to be very busy so book your treatments in advance. We enjoyed an hour-long full-body Balinese massage in a functional but comfortable therapy room. If you have children along, they can swim in the kids’ pool beside the rooftop infinity pool.

Children's rooftop pool
Children’s rooftop pool

Dining

The breakfast buffet is served in the enormous and cheerful Sandekala restaurant featuring usual favourites like eggs, fruit, cakes and French toast along with an impressively large array of juices and shakes and a ‘surprise’ counter with a different Asian or western specialty everyday.

Breakfast buffet at Sandekala restaurant, Ramada Bali Sunset Road Kuta

There’s always one traditional Indonesian sweet on offer as well, such as sticky rice or pumpkin pudding, as well as one Asian/Chinese dish as stir-fried noodles or rice.

Breakfast buffet at Sandekala restaurant, Ramada Bali Sunset Road Kuta
Salad counter

Dinner at Angsoka, the lobby-level gourmet restaurant was an experience to treasure, as every dish that came to the table awed us with its delicate perfection. The consistency of the pea and leek soup was just right – neither too creamy nor too thin, and it was served with soft and delicious garlic bread soaked in the soup.

Pea and leek soup
Pea and leek soup

This was followed by a platter of vegetarian spring rolls served with lettuce and carrot salad and dips. Finally, we feasted on a classic pizza Margherita.

Pizza margherita
Pizza margherita

The hotel also serves a buffet dinner in a wonderfully luxurious ambience set to soothing lounge music.

Nearby beaches

Kuta, Seminyak and Legian beaches are all close to Ramada Bali Sunset Road Kuta and form a part of the same gorgeous coastline. We went to Seminyak Beach in the bright light of day and were dazzled by the picture-perfect reflection of the clouds on the shore.

We etched Trail-stained Fingers on the shore
We etched Trail-stained Fingers on the shore

A neat array of lounge chairs sheltered by cute pink umbrellas lined most of the beach. We sent the waves flying, carved our names on the yielding sand with our toes and walked the length of the sun-kissed sea until we could walk no more.

Sea-bashing
Sea-bashing

Nusa Dua is half an hour away and perfect for those who wish to try water sports. We undertook the longer ride (21 km) to Tanah Lot temple instead to enjoy one of the most breath-taking sunsets of our lives.

Practical information

Rooms: Rooms at the hotel start at around 2500 rupees per night. Book them here.

Address: Jl. Sunset Road No.9, Seminyak, Kuta (don’t rely on Google Maps – the marking is inaccurate – ask the locals). The hotel is only 7km away from Bali International Airport.

Tip: Ramada Bali Sunset Road Kuta is a part of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and you could get a free stay there if you join their Rewards Loyalty Programme.

Getting around: Rent a two-wheeler for around 60000 IDR per day or book Bluebird taxis. There is also the Kura-Kura public bus shuttle service with fixed routes.

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Chasing the sunrise at Bedugul Lake Temple

We had grand plans for our last day in Ubud, Bali. We were to be up hours before the crack of dawn, and ride through the shadowy darkness to make it 46 km north to one of Bali’s most famous and picturesque temples – Pura Ulun Danu Bratan or the Bedugul Lake Temple.

This plan was an impromptu alternative to our initial aim of witnessing the sunrise unfold over the volcanic Mount Batur at Kintamani. We realised that there was a long trek involved to get up to the summit and we’d have to leave in the middle of the night to make it in time for sunrise. And after a day filled with exploring the Sacred Monkey Forest, Goa Gajah Cave Temple and Tegallalang Rice Terraces, we didn’t really find the time to book ourselves on a group tour to Mount Batur. Besides, riding on our own in the wee hours of the morning sounded like a more exciting prospect.

And that was how we ended up rubbing the sleep out of our eyes at 4:30 AM on day six of our Balinese honeymoon.

Maya Ubud to Pura Ulun Danu Bratan

At 5 AM, the darkness was yet to pierced by the first semblance of light. Our route took us through various little roads, involving so many turns that we lost count. It was also surprisingly cold at that time of the morning, a fact we hadn’t accounted for. It was summer after all, with day temperatures hovering at a sunny 28 degree Celsius. But combined with the gusty wind and the light fabric of our summer overalls, we were left yearning for the fluffy jackets in our winter wardrobe back home!

Advice to travellers: Carry a warm jacket for early morning trips, regardless of what time of the year you travel to Bali.

Eventually, we left all the little roads behind and caroused smoothly for a good 26km on Jalan Baturiti Bedugul, with beautiful vistas passing us on either side of the road. It was nearly 6:30 AM now and Mohit was pressing down on the accelerator hard so as not to miss the first rays of dawn. The sun had begun to announce its presence and I was able to feast my eyes on the misty Bedugul mountains in the distance. Other cars and a few bikes/scooters kept us company as we finally made our way to Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, the water temple dedicated to Shiva and his consort Parvathi.

Note: Google Maps asked us to ride further ahead but we soon asked a local and turned back. Take a small right when you start nearing the temple, as per the map.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan - Bedugul Lake Temple, Bali

After confirming with a guard that the temple was indeed open, we entered. There was no entrance fee or the compulsion of a sarong. A handful of tourists were already there, all seemingly mesmerised by the golden brilliance being cast from the high heavens. In silence, we walked around the banks of Lake Bratan, admiring the 11 storey tall Meru tower of the temple and its wobbly reflection on the water.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan - Bedugul Lake Temple, Bali

The pagoda-like Meru tower is made of wood and always the primary shrine of a Balinese Hindu temple. While Pura Bratan’s Meru tower is dedicated to Shiva and Parvathi, the temple is also used to worship the Balinese water, lake and river goddess Dewi Danu as Lake Bratan is the chief source of irrigation in central Bali.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan - Bedugul Lake Temple, Bali

It is also possible to go boating on the lake for a price and we did see some colourful canoes lined up on the banks but there didn’t seem to be a boatman available. A lone boat carrying a couple of western tourists slid through the water while the rest of us looked on. After having our fill of watching the sunlight glimmer over the temple, we took a walk, circling the lake as far as we could. There was no one on the other side and we had the view of the mountains and the sky streaked with haloed clouds all to ourselves.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan - Bedugul Lake Temple, Bali

While the main shrine is on the water, there are many other temples inside the complex, accessed by well-maintained gardens strewn with large animal statues and tall coniferous trees. We walked through the garden, admiring a dolphin and a tiger, lavender fields, a couple of fighting pigeons and an Indonesian woman wearing the local straw hat.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan - Bedugul Lake Temple, Bali

Presently, we encountered an arresting pair of gates which we presumed to be the main entrance to the temple complex. In all, there are four groups of shrines housed within the complex, dedicated to the Gods Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma and Goddess Danu.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan - Bedugul Lake Temple, Bali

A pair of beautiful snarling dragons awaited us on this side of the lake, surrounded by a cluster of short bamboo trees.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan - Bedugul Lake Temple, Bali

Witnessing the sunrise over the mountains on our way to Pura Bratan and then immersing ourselves in the scenic serenity at the lake temple was a deeply spiritual and satisfying experience for us in Bali. After our invigorating walk and exploration of the temple complex, we rode back to Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, thankful for the warmer air and the promise of another destination waiting to be explored before we bid goodbye to Indonesia’s favourite honeymoon destination.

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Maya Ubud, Bali: Wooded wonderland

No trip to Bali would be complete without a visit to the forested, mountainous Ubud. And in our humble opinion, no visit to Ubud would be complete without a stay at the magical Maya Ubud Resort & Spa. Lined with traditional Balinese-style cottages that come with private gardens and pools as well as a serene golf course, gym and ethereal riverside spa, this resort is an extension of Ubud’s prime attractions such as the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Goa Gajah Cave Temple and Tegallalang Rice Terrace. Ubud was our second stop in Bali after Sanur, and so large and enticing was Maya Ubud that we changed our hectic travel plans and spent an entire day simply enjoying the various sights and pleasures the resort offered.

Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, Bali
The way to the reception

We reached Ubud after an hour-long drive from Maya Sanur and the change in landscape was remarkable. Gone was the easy, seaside rhythm of Sanur and in its place was an older, deeper music, personified by stunning paintings on display outside art galleries at Ubud market, little roads fringed by whispering trees and a cloudier sky. A long path within the gate led us to the bright and cheery reception area of Maya Ubud Resort & Spa. All the staff wore the traditional dress of kebaya (fitted lace blouse) and sarong for women and sarong, shirt and udeng (head dress) for men. After a brief wait during which a refreshing welcome drink kept us company, we were taken to our cottage in a golf buggy.

A luxury hideout in the woods

Petanu Villa, Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, Bali
Petanu Villa, with a longer version of our pool and multiple settees

Our cottage was so vast and the room so wide that we were simply not able to contain it all in one frame. Photos really don’t do justice to this resort but we’ll endeavour to give you a glimpse of its loveliness, even if we did have to pan each time to include the high ceiling crisscrossed with Balinese wooden beams! Our cottage had a high, four-poster bed, a large LCD TV hidden within a multi-purpose unit, writing desk, wardrobe with self-sensing light and a luxurious bath-tub and entrance to the outdoor shower in the bathroom. Yes, we had a completely private outdoor shower adjoining the cottage pool, both of which were surrounded by thick, protective foliage. But the fixture we ended up using the most was the comfy, long settee outside the cottage, perfect for listening to the birds and bees and dozing the afternoon away.

Early morning jottings

Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, Bali
In contemplation at Petanu Villa

Tiny blackbirds slice the Balinese sky
Even as a golden orb peeks
From behind the trees –
It’s divine light so all-powerful
That even the neighbouring clouds aren’t immune.

The sun rises early at Maya Ubud, as do the little spotted doves and other myriad birds on the elven property. Last night, we glimpsed the tinkling Petanu River and waterfall in the indigo moments of a passing day. This morning, the light flutters in through our shuttered door and reminds us of lovelier joys ahead.

Pool at Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, Bali
Smaller pool beside the infinity pool

The day we arrived, we kept up our exploration of Maya Ubud’s infinity pools, walking trails and hidden sanctuaries well until darkness took over. We raced against time to make it across the wooden bridge over the robust Petanu River, close to the spa and the riverside restaurant. We felt like we were in a rainforest, surrounded by lush greenery and the soothing gush of the waterfall. Another favourite moment was when we climbed a large mound in the middle of the resort garden so we could be silhouetted against the setting sun. We also toured the prestigious Petanu Villa and observed red and orange fish swimming around in the L-shaped pond between the gym and golf course.

High tea and breakfast

Laklak during high tea at Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, Bali
The chef prepares laklak, a Balinese pancake

Maya Ubud offers complimentary high tea for its guests at Bar Bedulu, the garden restaurant, consisting of tea, coffee, iced tea, cakes and one Indonesian specialty such as laklak, a delicious pancake served with grated coconut and palm sugar. We chose a table on the terrace where a sweet breeze kept us company and panoramic views of the forest and mountains enveloped us on all sides.

Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, Bali
The scenic resort

Breakfast was always served at Maya Sari, the signature restaurant with a variety of dining spaces. One counter was dedicated entirely to local delights and some of the dishes we tried and enjoyed included pisang goreng, banana fritters served with custard; bubur sum-sum; pandan rice pudding with palm sugar; pumpkin pudding and potato and vegetable coconut curry. We also loved the organic yoghurt with coconut and honey. We’d always choose a table overlooking the garden even if it became sunny because one simply can’t get enough of the scenery at Maya Ubud.

Balinese massage at the spa

Spa at Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, Bali

Our second day at Maya Ubud began with a rejuvenating couples’ Balinese full-body massage. We were given a choice of three different oils – jasmine oil, ginger oil and a traditional Balinese flower oil with curative properties. The last one smelt heavenly and so, the Balinese oil it was. The cooling lemongrass drink we were offered on arrival put us in a great mood, as did the artful massage room, where we could hear the tinkling of the Petanu River. We’ve enjoyed several Balinese massages in India but to experience the real thing in Bali was a revelation. We wished we could learn to massage the soles of our feet the way the therapists did! After our session was over, we were asked to let the oil stay for an hour. In the meanwhile, we munched on a platter of fruits and relaxed by the infinity pool outside River Cafe.

Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, Bali
View from the restaurant

Every morning at 7 AM, the resort conducts complimentary yoga classes at the open-air yoga pavilion overlooking the gardens and terraced rice fields. But if like us, you like to linger over your mornings, it might be a better idea to take a dip in the infinity pool outside Maya Sari (there are three different pools at the resort) and swim up to the rim to look over all of the surrounding forests.

Practical information:

River Cafe, Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, Bali
River Cafe

Getting there: It’s a one hour drive from Bali’s international airport to Maya Ubud Resort & Spa.

Getting around: Rent a bike at around 75000 IDR per day or book a sightseeing tour from one of the operators at Ubud Market. You can go up to Mt Batur, an active volcano in Kintamani or Pura Bratan, a scenic temple in the mountains near Bedugul.

Bookings: Rooms at this five star hotel start at around 19000 rupees per night. Please visit their website for bookings.

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Sanur: The Bali you haven’t seen

Sanur doesn’t figure on any tour operator’s must-see places in Bali. Yet, this sleepy seaside town has a beguiling charm and it’s not just due to its glorious blue beaches. Sanur is the gateway to a chain of untouched islands and offers close proximity to offbeat attractions that let you discover Bali’s rich biodiversity. Here are our top seven picks of things to do and places to visit in Sanur, the non-touristy part of Bali that offers the best money exchange (better than market rate) and bike rental rates (50000 IDR per day)!

1. Go on a walking trail through the Mangrove Forest (Suwung Kawuh)

Bali Mangrove Forest
You may see locals fishing with rudimentary rods.

Beautiful board walks, observatories and serene pools of water and greenery replete with marine and avian species make the 1300 acre Mangrove Forest a rare treasure. Mangroves are crucial for maintaining the ecosystem as they provide sustenance for hundreds of types of animals. This forest has been funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The entry fee for foreigners is pretty steep (200000 IDR per person) but we managed to get a 50% discount so do try bargaining. Once inside, you’ll be glad you paid the price. Because the Mangrove Forest is a secret web of nature in its undisturbed glory.

Bali Mangrove Forest
One of the trails leads to a mesmerising view of the sea and the city in the distance.

You may see locals fishing with rudimentary rods, young couples huddled in the huts named after birds in the forest and many strange creatures in the undergrowth. Pointed growths typical of mangroves compete for space with larger trees in the water on either side of the shaky wooden bridge. There are two or three trails that you can follow within the forest and one of them leads to a mesmerising view of the sea and the city in the distance. We were there at sunset and stayed until twilight cast its moody shadows on the water.

2. Feed baby turtles at the Turtle Conservation and Education Centre

Turtle Conservation and Education Centre Bali

The Turtle Conservation and Education Centre on Serangan Island is home to six different species of rescued and baby turtles. These include the leatherback sea turtle, the largest of all living turtles; the large green sea turtle; the flatback sea turtle with a flattish shell; Olive Ridley sea turtles, the smallest of the marine turtles; the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle and the commonly found loggerhead sea turtle. For a nominal entry fee (around 25000 IDR if memory serves right), one can observe these turtles at close quarters and even feed the tinier ones from little buckets holding powdery turtle food.

Turtle Conservation and Education Centre, Bali

We enjoyed analysing the patterns on their shells and were awed by just how huge these cute creatures could be. In a little pond outside the main shelter, many medium-sized turtles swim lazily. And there’s even a hatchery to welcome new turtles into the world. This centre was opened by the governor of Bali, Mr Dewa Barata in January 2006.

3. Surf the waves at Sanur Beach

Sanur Beach

There are a host of water sports available at Sanur Beach but the real joy is in finding a good spot on the sand and soaking in the perfection of the blue beyond. We loved how clear the sky was in the summery month of May and how well the water of Sanur reflected its azure magnificence. You can spend half a day at the beach, swimming in the sea, surfing the waves or simply sun-bathing to acquire a healthy tan.

4. Watch the locals play football at Lapangan Puputan Renon

Lapangan Puputan Renon

Did you know that Bali has its own worthy answer to London’s Hyde Park and Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens? Lapangan Puputan Renon in Denpasar is a sprawling garden that comes alive with joggers, walkers, football players and yoga practitioners in the evening. Part of the garden often serves as a venue for concerts and other events and when we were there, there was a Yamaha company event adding to the festive spirit of the park.

Lapangan Puputan Renon

Lapangan Puputan Renon is also home to the towering Bajra Sandhi Monument, dedicated to the struggles of the Balinese people throughout history. There are three courtyards within the monument but unfortunately, entry is restricted and one has to be content with admiring the carvings on the gate. Interestingly, a lot of fitness enthusiasts prefer to do their crunches and spot jumps on the steps leading up to the monument.

5. Listen to the mesmerising temple chants at the Pura Blanjong temple

Pura Blanjong, Bali temple
The temple

Hinduism is the dominant religion in Bali, unlike other parts of Indonesia where most residents are Muslim. However, the temple chants in Bali are quite different from those in India. Sung in the Indonesian language with bells and the traditional bamboo and flute music, the overall effect is quite mellifluous and enchanting. We paused every time we heard these sonorous chants in the evening from one of the many temples in Sanur.

Blanjong Pillar and Inscription
The inscription

The most prominent one in the area is Pura Blanjong, adjoining the Blanjong inscription. The inscription dates back to 914 CE and serving as evidence of contact between Bali, Java and the Indian subcontinent. Although the pillar is not much to look at, the temple is pretty with its coral wall and pair of headless calf statues. It was built as a cenotaph for Sri Kesari, a Buddhist apostle.

6. Take a ferry to Nusa Penida-Ceningan-Lembongan islands

Scuba diving in Nusa Lembongan, Bali
Scuba diving in Nusa Lembongan, Bali by Ilse Reijs and Jan Noud Hutten

Various kinds of boats ranging from cheap local ones to high-speed motor boats go to the triad Nusa Penida, Ceningan and Lembongan from Sanur Beach. There are two or three different ferry points depending on which island you want to go to. Once there, you have a host of exciting water activities to choose from such as snorkelling, swimming and canoeing. Nusa Lembongan is also home to an underground cave built by a local man, mangrove forests and glorious white sand beaches.

Nusa_lembongan_cliff
Nusa Lembongan

At Nusa Ceningan, you can jump off a cliff, get a glimpse of seaweed farming and explore a swallow’s cave at low tide. With its gorgeous marine life, Nusa Penida is the best spot for diving and snorkelling and also visiting the Bali Bird Sanctuary. This island houses incredible marvels such as a natural infinity pool and a ‘broken sea’. Day cruises will let you return the same day but if you’re on your own, you’ll most likely have to stay overnight at one of the many resorts on the islands and return the next day.

7. Go ghost hunting at Taman Festival Bali

Taman-Festival-Bali
Courtesy: http://www.chantae.com/taman-festival-bali/

If you love haunted places, this abandoned theme park might give you fresh fodder for the next session of ghost story telling. Built in 1997 by the Indonesian government with aid from an affluent investor, the park failed to attract tourists despite its $5 million laser show. Today, it’s a quirky attraction with ruins of a ticket booth, an arcade room, an ominous crocodile pit, many broken windows and decrepit graffiti. It’s unlikely that you’ll find any locals inside as Balinese believe such places are frequented by malevolent spirits. But the isolation and overgrown paths enhance its creepy allure!

There are also a lot of museums and galleries in Sanur such as the Le Mayeur Museum, Seiki Torige’s Open Space Gallery, Griya Santrian Gallery and Darga Gallery.

Practical information

Things to do in Sanur, offbeat things to do in Bali

Get there: Sanur is just a 30 minute ride away from Bali’s international airport by cab. The ride will cost you around 150000 IDR.

Stay: Maya Sanur is a beautiful five-star resort with lagoon access and beach view rooms, a sea-front restaurant and bar, spa and gym.

Eat: There are several great restaurants and bars on Jalan Danau Tamblingan. We enjoyed pizza and mie goreng at Gopal’s Cafe and sandwiches and sayur urab (brown rice with long beans and shredded coconut) at Warung Blanjong.

We have so much more to tell you about Bali and Indonesia, so stay tuned!

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