Bali: 10 insider tips

Go beyond the tourist track and do Bali like a local

Bali: 10 insider tips Escape the crowds in Seminyak - © Anantara
By Unggul Hermanto

You've heard about the backpacker hangouts, boozy drinking joints and perma-packed main beaches, but where do Indonesians go to enjoy Bali? Unggul Hermanto, editor of Time Out Jakarta, offers his top ten insider tips for doing Bali like a local.

1. Swap Kuta for Seminyak

The frenzied buzz of the Kuta resort town used to be exciting, but not any more. Tourists and chains have overrun the town, so those in the know have moved north to Seminyak instead. Book in to the ultra-slick Anantara Seminyak, where you can watch the sun go down from your balcony while luxuriating in an alfresco bubble bath. It's the perfect prep for a night spent dining and bar-hopping nearby – The Living Room, Double Six and Kafe Warisan are the places to see and be seen.

Anantara Seminyak, Jl Abimanyu, Seminyak (+62 361 737 773/ A four-night stay for two (including breakfast) from £259.

2. Drink the hemisphere's best martini

It's a bit of a mission to track down Bali's best take on James Bond's favourite tipple, but the signature martinis served in Naughty Nuri's are worth the effort. An unassuming little warung down a dusty road in Ubud, opposite Neka Museum, Nuri's wouldn't attract a second look from the spy, let alone entice him to perch his tuxedoed tush on one of the wooden stools and order a drink.

The house martinis are shaken right in front of you by one of the local ladies and the resulting concoctions are the best in Indonesia, and among the finest in the world: US gourmand Anthony Bourdain reckons only a handful of places in New York boast better tipples. It's a mystery how Nuri's stumbled upon the recipe – and, even more remarkable, how it's managed to keep its rustic charm and resist being bulldozed into a pretentious, high-end haunt. Thank Nuri's for small mercies. And large measures.

Naughty Nuri's, Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Ubud (+62 361 977 547/

3. Play with your food

An essential destination on any foodie's hit list is Spice at the Conrad Bali hotel in Nusa Dua. The Blumenthal-phile chef, Ketut Gede Eka Kurniawan, serves up a molecular menu introduced by founding chef Gary Rosen. The experimental delights, such as steak imbued with the sweet smell of chocolate cake, play sublime havoc with your senses.

Spice, Conrad Bali, Jl Pratama 168, Tanjung Benoa (+62 361 778 788/

4. Eat out of town in spectacular style

Visiting Bali without netting a reservation at one of Indonesia's most innovative restaurants would be an unforgivable oversight for anyone with a taste for the unusual. Dinner at Mozaic more than justifies the hour-and-a-half drive from Seminyak into the green hills of Ubud, but be sure to reserve a table at least a week in advance - there's a serious waiting list, especially in the high season.

So what's on the menu? Don't even ask to see one – go with whatever chef Chris Salans feels like making that day: his tasting menu is the perfect introduction and will set you back only about £45. The waiter takes notes of any allergies you have or any foods you're not partial to over pre-dinner drinks in the lounge, but after that you're in Salans's hands. When the chef's creations are served, the waiter explains each dish, ingredient by ingredient, and the in-house sommelier can guide you in pairing each course with the right wine. If the weather is good, try to nab a table in the garden – adding spectacular views to the equation makes for a sensational experience.

Mozaic, Jl Raya Sanggingan, Ubud (+62 361 975 768/

5. Savour the early-morning rush hours

Finishing off a night out at the Double Six club is a long-standing island tradition. Sadly, the club's not as au fait with the cutting edge as it once was – the music has been dragged into the mainstream in recent years, and a good crowd is only assured when an international deckhead is in residence (Sasha, Pete Tong and Tiesto have all appeared in recent times). Yet Double Six remains essential. The reason? The 44m bungee crane that towers above the club like an accident waiting to happen. Thankfully, the jump, the tallest in South East Asia, is run by respected operator AJ Hackett, and is as safe as a bungee can be. As you swan-dive into the dawn (the club is open until 6am), post-clubbing comedown takes a whole new meaning.

AJ Hackett Bali, Double Six Club, Jalan Arjuna, Legian Beach (+62 361 731 144/

6. Don't buy a Barong mask

It's a quiet revolution, but Indonesia's art scene has slowly been throwing off its shackles. For years lumped in with the oiled monstrosities of Bali dancers, a new wave of contemporary artists is dragging Indonesian art into the light.

Avoid the tourist tat at Seni Ubud's art market (if you must go, at least have the decency to barter down by at least 80 per cent) and head to the family-run Komaneka Fine Art Gallery in the Monkey Forest of Ubud. The family-run gallery is a joy just to amble around, but those looking to invest will find the staff only too happy to talk you through the options. Current stars of the scene are Wayan Wirawan, Wayan Sadu and Made Arya Palgunaand and prices start at around £700. It certainly beats hanging a clichéd ceremonial mask on your wall.

Komaneka Fine Art Gallery, Jl Monkey Forest, Ubud, Gianyar (+62 361 976 090/

7. Join in a local kickabout

If football is the global language, then the beaches of Kuta and Legian are the ideal places to perfect your Indonesian accent. These interconnected stretches of sand host numerous 'sarongs for goalposts' games that are open to all. The atmosphere is always friendly, and if you ignore the wash of Manchester United shirts – the Red Devil has set up camp on these far-flung shores – then you're in for a great, if humbling, afternoon. If you're more hands on, the area in front of Ku De Ta hosts some very competitive volleyball games.

8. Join a cremation ceremony

It may seem like macabre voyeurism, but if you get the chance to attend a local cremation ceremony, take it. The Balinese bury their relatives when they die and save up for years until they have enough money for the cremation – meaning the day is one of celebration rather than sorrow. The ceremony lasts all day and begins with prayers before dawn, after which the family walks with friends, relatives and random strangers to the cremation site. Everyone is dressed in traditional Balinese costumes and there is more prayer during the burning. After the cremation the procession moves on to the sea, into which the ashes are scattered.

Most cremation ceremonies are open to all, but make sure you dress conservatively (which in Balinese is a sarong and a shirt), observe local customs and show respect. To attend, visit a local temple and enquire about open ceremonies.

9. Shop for silverware – or forge your own

While the sunburnt masses 'enjoy' the tat on offer at Jl Legian, Indonesians head to Ubud for their shopping fix. Here you'll find swathes of jewellers dealing in exquisite, Buddhist-style silver trinkets. If you yearn to unleash your inner Fabergé, then head to Studio Perak. The family-run jeweller - which has three stores in the town – hosts great silversmith courses. The classes run every morning and over the course of three hours you'll design and forge your own silver ring or pendant while also getting a basic overview of Balinese silversmithery.

Studio Perak, JI. Hanoman, Ubud (+62 361 780 1879/

10. Croak in the countryside

For many visitors, Balinese wildlife doesn't extend far beyond tiptoeing through the trollops in Sanur, but more fool them. Trekkers, cascade fans and orchid lovers should head to Munduk in the north of the island. In these verdant highlands you can escape the world and enjoy waterfalls, temples and a frog chorus that could fill Wembley. Most car-hire companies will provide maps and directions to the major beauty spots, but if you prefer to be guided, Bali Tours organises excursions with driver and guide from £50 a day.

Bali Tours, Jl Hangtuah, Sanur Raya (+62 361 87720/