When imagining Bali, most people picture empty white sand beaches, peaceful Hindu temples, and traditional local lifestyle. Unless you’re a seasoned backpacker. In the backpacker community, Bali is regarded as being spoiled by tourism and a bit of a has-been. Both of these perspectives on this small and legendary island carry some truth. Bali is both a spectacular, majestic island and a tourist trap. If you’re a jaded backpacker in South East Asia don’t be a downer about Bali, embrace it for what it is and submit to being just another tourist. Check out the vast array of tourist attractions and make the most of them.
-Traditional Music: Gamelan orchestras are Bali’s ancient musical tradition. The instruments they play include drums, vibraphones, flutes, and a variety of unique percussion instruments. The music made by Gamelan orchestras will be unlike any other music you’ve ever heard. It can only be experienced at a performance for tourists (there are plenty in Ubud for example), unless you happen upon a Gamelan orchestra practicing for a performance for tourists.
-Traditional Dance: The same rules apply to traditional dance performances, you’ll have to be surrounded by other tourists to experience it but don’t let this scare you off. For the equivalent of $5 US you can go see a Balinese dance performance in Ubud and be dazzled by their intricate costumes and twitchy angular body movements.
-Puppet Shows: These are hard to come by, since they only occur in temples during certain Hindu holy-days, but if you can catch one it’s worth the effort because puppetry is a landmark of Balinese tradition. This may be one of the only traditional performances one can see in a more local-centric environment.
–Arts and Crafts: Ubud is the epicentre to discover traditional arts of all kinds. Handicrafts made of stone and Wood are yet another famed art form of Balinese tradition. After driving past miles of stone statues on your way into Ubud you’ll think you’ve seen it all, but when you arrive on Monkey Forest Road, the main street and tourist strip in Ubud, you’ll find shop after shop full of traditional wooden statues and masks. Ask to try on a Balinese mask and look at yourself in the mirror, your immediate adoption of a new character can be spooky and magical.
-Temples: If you’re picturing an empty ancient temple, or you’re picturing yourself as the only foreigner among Hindu worshipers, give up those expectations. As one of the primary draws to Bali, temples are always full of tourists. Nonetheless, Bali’s Ancient temples are not to be missed. From Ubud you can visit an abundance of temples all in one day if you join a tour. Among the most impressive temples around Ubud is Gunung Kawi; a row of 8 meter high shrines cut into a massive cliff face that towers above a river valley and stands amongst impossibly green rice terraces.
-Rice Terraces: Unfortunately, once again you may not get the experience of the rice terraces that you were envisioning. Most people would love to walk aimlessly through the rice fields and be welcomed by traditional farmers with rice hats along the way. There are parts of South East Asia where one could have this experience but since Balinese people are so accustomed to tourists, they’re usually not to happy to have uninvited people trespassing on their land. However, you can still find stellar views of rice terraces in abundance all over the island. If you join a temple tour from Ubud, you’re likely to visit one or two breathtaking rice terrace view points to feast you eyes and take photos.