I met this Swiss guy travelling in Nepal who had recently been to Bali. Bali was the destination I longed to go to throughout my entire time at University. I saw it as a place to head onto for my next Asian Adventure, somewhere where I can surf continuously for a month and fall head over heals in love with a gorgeous Australian. I arranged a 7 month trip (including Indonesia and the long awaited stop of Bali) for after my time at university, a reward to myself. So meeting someone who had recently visited Bali, I pressed him for his opinions of the place. He responded: “it’s a white man’s paradise”.
Unsure to recognize if this was a good thing or not, I swallowed this information down. Finally, after 7 months of traipsing around some of the most poor countries in the world; India and Nepal, some with the most magnificent beaches: Malaysia and the Philippines, as well as natural beauty: Borneo, Java, Gili, Lombok and Komodo Island, I finally made it to Bali, to Ulu Watu and I recognized what this fellow traveller was getting at.
A land where impossible becomes possible, where everywhere has WIFI and everyone speaks English. Where Rip Curl shops line the coast selling surf boards for half the price, luxurious resorts have infinity pools and buffet breakfasts are a plenty. South Bali is not real Indonesia. Although, yes it is incredibly beautiful. The dramatic coastline hugs the pounding savage ocean which endlessly tumbles and cascades over each colossal wave, breaking over one another, smashing anything that gets in it way and spitting out a foamy layer of washing powder suds. The waves churn out tiny figures that wait patiently on surf boards, trained to spring up gymnastically and balance, to catch a wave. The figures work all day, from early morning to when the sun begins to set. Tirelessly paddling to and fro, sitting and waiting, sitting and waiting.
The area of Ulu Watu is filled with different small coves, providing different types of beaches. All have weather beaten rocks that are carved by the ocean. Planted as if an obstacle course around the smooth white sand. And when the tide goes out, the algae green reef juts out of the ocean, resembling a picturesque scene of Ireland, rather than Indonesia. Each beach is entirely different. Ulu Watu is good for its massive surf where surfers dash out to endlessly catch waves. When the tide is out, the beach is small, yet mystical because of the various shaped rocks that create a cut away appeal, as if a beach from the movie: Cast Away.
Padang Padang is a beautiful beach, yet is small, so over populated when it’s busy and is filled with tiny painful jellyfish and cheeky thieving monkeys. Whilst Bingin beach has more coral than sand, creating more of a place for a photo shoot rather than a sunbathing session. Head to Dreamlands beach– the best beach in the Ula Watu area (excluding expensive and snooty Jimbaran), this beach is large with soft sand and it has the perfect surf for beginners or enthusiastic boogie boarders.
Hiring a bike to get around is the easiest and most sensible option as distances can be quite long and walking seems to be a mad option. We stayed in the main area of Ulu Watu, walking distance from the Ulu Watu beach. Accommodation varies greatly here on how much your willing to spend. As we were travelling on a budget, we found only a select few in our price range of 150 thousand rupiah for a fan room. Finding only two home stays of that price but one with cleanliness, which was Ulu inn. Ulu Inn is a wondrous wooden cabin (think the movie Cabin In The Woods but without the violence or murder). There are 4 double rooms, all with balconies, lovely bathrooms and a main shared balcony that is at the end of the entrance hall. The place is furnished as if of a hunters cabin in the valleys of Wales, or the hills of America and the superb location means you get no mosquitoes or loud noises of traffic at night, only waking up to the sweet sound of bird song.
The cheapest restaurant we found which serves good quality local food is Padita– try the fried fish in sweet and sour sauce- its beautiful! The night life here is sporadic due to the many beaches of the area, but also sporadic in time because of the surfer’s desires to well, surf. Those who choose to party face a particularly shaky day surfing the next day. Drinks are popular at Single Fin bar in Ulu Watu where house music floats gently in the background and where the best view is to be had of the disappearing sun over the balmy shimmering waves, and where drinks are the same price as my dinner at Padita. Keep an ear out for what’s happening at night, we stumbled upon a reggae party at Thomas Home stay in Padang Padang Beach where we danced barefoot in the sand under the stars to the mellow sounds of Bob Marley.It is difficult to get to Ulu Watu as there are a limited number of buses that make it here, so arranging your own transport is recommended. I got an ojek here from Kuta for 100 thousand rupiah.
Although I enjoyed my time at Ulu Watu, one of the biggest havens for surfing in the world, I won’t return- neither to Bali, because it is not real Indonesia. Unfortunately the tourism industry has swamped over most of Bali, stamping on Indonesian Culture and minimizing it. Plots of land turn into fancy hotels and lavish apartments that capture right down to every detail: a white man’s paradise. Indonesia is filled with so many more islands and untouched beaches to explore, I’d rather climb through a jungle and down a cliff face to get to a beautiful beach rather than jump out of an air conditioned taxi and fight over a patch of sand with fellow tourists. But I guess that is how I like to travel in Asia, and not everyone follows this same style of suit. But please, if you are a family or a bunch of surfers heading to Ulu Watu, please visit somewhere else in Indonesia where you can explore and learn a bit more about their culture.