South Bali has cemented itself as the island’s hub for everything leisurely. From the simplest pleasures such as watching the sunset with your toes in the sand to indulging and pampering yourself in the area’s many fine establishments, down south is where both residents and visitors alike flock to get a piece of the island’s hedonistic offerings.
South Bali is predominantly characterized by the sandy beaches, the dramatic, towering cliffs that dominate the must southerly area, and the dramatic sunsets. Today, in the midst of modernization and tourism boom, South Bali is celebrated for its resort lifestyle, famous for the area’s shopping, dining, party, and other leisure hubs. The congested roads may be a turn off for some, but the world-class establishments scattered around the island’s south will please just about everyone looking for the best extravagant lifestyle Bali has to offer.
Back in 2011, The Global Language Monitor ranked Bali 21st on its list of the 50 top fashion capitals in the world. Of course, this achievement is due to the productivity and creativity of the island’s fashion folks, in which Bali-based fashion designers are key players – and the majority of these designers, if not all, are based in South Bali. So when it comes to shopping, the island’s south is where Bali’s well heeled go for some retail therapy, for this area is flooded by high-end designer boutiques and concept stores.
Down south’s Jalan Raya Seminyak and Jalan Oberoi are probably two of the most posh, fashionable streets on the island where you’ll find Bali’s top-notch fashion houses. Many a name in these areas have arisen to become internationally known, from jewellers to stylish frock makers, luxury Asian vintage and more.
Of course, the malls are ubiquitous shopping Meccas of South Bali that are currently dwindling in numbers. Old and new, these popular one-stop shopping centers lure visitors and residents alike by offering much more than retail therapy. Like the trees that line the wide paved promenades, Bali Collection, NusaDua’s premier shopping complex, continues to mature into a complete shopping experience, while Beachwalk in Kuta is still an inspiring open-air complex destined to bring a touch of sophistication to Kuta’s shopping scene.
In Seminyak, the high-end Seminyak Village continues to impress with the stores of some of the island’s hottest, most upscale brands and stores. The new Samasta Lifestyle Village in Jimbaran is filled with selected tenants to reflect today’s lifestyle. In Denpasar, Level 21 offers hassle-free shopping.
And to add deliciousness to South Bali’s shopping experience, the area also offers some of the most magnificent dining settings that you could ever imagine. Whether you long for original European dishes, Asian delicacies, finger-licking American food, or the wonderful creations of fusion items, you can spend time splurging yourself in the many dining establishments here.
For breakfast, many restaurants especially around the island’s south offer breakfast specials. Starred and luxury resorts in this area are definitely upping their breakfast ante, and restaurants are adding innovative, scrumptious items to their breakfast menus. There are also dining establishments that don’t just serve lunch as an afterthought, or as a trial-run to dinner service. No, they give lunch its deserved spot in the sun and offer up all of their best tricks. And for dinner, you can easily find fine food at its finest.
Looking for something to wash down your food? Then look no further. Those on the island’s south are spoilt for choice when it comes to stepping out for a tipple. There are craft beer bars, whiskey bars, wine bars, cocktail bars, and new, emerging speakeasy bars. For a unique drinking session, you might want to head out to the Four Seasons at Jimbaran Bay, where the resort will take you onboard their traditional fishing boat all the way to the ocean – canapes and Champagne will be served then. For those who are no longer pleased by drinking on daybeds or fancy restaurants, then clinking glasses while afloat on the Indian Ocean, watching the sun go down over the horizon can be pretty special.
In addition to the eating and drinking, South Bali also hosts a number of beach clubs for those who cringe at the thought of spending time at a waterfront venue. In Seminyak, blends the daytime and sunset beach parties, upscale restaurant, and sophisticated nightlife into an experience that transitions patrons from day to night. In Legian, S.K.A.I brings the beach club vibe to an intimate scale but offers no less of an experience than any other. In Canggu, down on the popular surf break of Berawa Beach, Finns Beach Club brings the island’s sun worshippers and cocktail sipping crowd to a new destination. Moving on the southernmost tip of the island, Sundays Beach Club’s circular bar gives every seat a sea view, making that sip of their signature cocktails and classic mixes even more tasty. On the neighbouring tropical oasis that is Karma Beach, you can curate your days with a personalized itinerary of experiences.
Of course, South Bali is famous due to Kuta. Many consider Kuta as the absolute ugliness of the island due to its mix-bag tourism projects in combination with the ridiculous commercialism. That’s right, even today, Kuta is still about the boldest boardshorts, and people really let their hair down. Yet, both residents and visitors alike still flock around the area’s long-stretched beach. Old things still remain; people posing with the pink-coloured sky, couples holding hands, some walking the dogs, kids playing in the sand, local ladies offering massage, braids, nail colouring along with countless guys trying to offer temporary tattoos.
And then there’s the breathtakingUluwatu. The area’s dazzling white cliffs with waves rolling at the bottom are so alluring, making it so very worth it for many who drive up the road on their motorbikes to the parched lime hills under the unconstrained glare of the equatorial sun. Definitely the gems of Uluwatu are hidden away from the main road to the smaller, winding road ascending deeper to this southern part of the island. Though more and more buildings are coming in, the area might look deserted – with arid lands and withered trees – that do not look too inviting especially during dry season. Just drive further, and you might end up in some of the most dramatic beaches on the island.
Uluwatu is home to one of Bali’s most spectacular temples, especially with its position that sits high on a cliff top some 250 feet above sea level. The PuraUluwatu is dedicated for the spirits of the sea and to protect the whole island from the evil coming from the southwest area. Aside from the temple, Uluwatu is also a natural habitat for hundreds of monkeys which can be aggressive sometimes. It is, therefore, understandable that precautionary signs are put at the entrance gate and several other places to remind the visitors about their aggressiveness.
Further up on the northwest tip of South Bali is Tabanan. This area is best known as the host of a Balinese Hindu temple that somewhat sails the ocean, and probably the most photographed place of interest on the island, Pura Tanah Lot. But if you explore the neighbouring villages, you will most likely be the only tourist there, surrounded by the friendly Balinese people living their true, unpretentious Balinese life. You have to get a taste of this.
If you’re coming from Canggu, and approaching Tanah Lot, entering any left-turn in this area will lead you to black-sandy beaches, which according to the Balinese have a very strong association with spiritual activities (like ceremonies) in Bali. Anyway, through the narrow, bumpy roads behind the rice fields, you can visit these beaches that are actually interconnected with each other. These beaches are given a different name in referral to the name of the village where it it is connected to.
The beaches are probably nothing to shout about; yet, joining the villagers sitting in their ‘beachfront’ warung, talking to them, and gazing at the ocean could be fun. The villages in this area such as Seseh, Cemegi, and Nyanyi are renowned for retaining the traditional Balinese lifestyle; thus, resulting in breathtaking natural, traditional surroundings. Harvesting season is probably the best time to go there, observing the farmers getting all busy yielding the harvests in the fields that, at around five in the afternoon, seem like an ondulating, golden ocean. Some sections of the rice fields are in different stages and it can be interesting to see the ripening crop next to a section of young shoots.
Anyway, the current frantic state of South Bali may come as a disappointment for those who knew these two areas in the ‘good old days’: Kuta with its fishing villages, and Seminyak with its rice fields. However, both now and then, when the sun slowly and gracefully sinks into the horizon of the area, every pair of eyes look at one specific spot in the sky. It’s very comforting to see that finally we, despite our differences, agree on one thing: sunsets in South Bali never fail us.