Bali usually conjures up images of majestic coastlines, powdery golden sand and rolling surf. However, there is much more to this tropical island than just sun-drenched beaches. With rich cultural traditions, stunning natural wonders and delicious cuisine, Bali abounds with off-the-beaten path delights just waiting to be explored.
The mother of all markets: Pasar Badung in Denpasar.
iDiscover City Walks is an ingenious app that lets users download a range of walking and cycling routes. Developed by locals, each route comes with a lineup of fascinating spots handpicked by those in the know. Better still, iDiscover users can rest assured that they are supporting local businesses whilst exploring some of the best spots on the island.
Curious about what iDiscover could reveal to us about our coconut island, we downloaded the app and hit the road.
Beyond the beach; exploring Sanur’s paddyfields.
While the tourist enclave of Sanur is mostly known for its beaches, we fired up the app to explore some lesser knows spots in this laidback village. After starting our morning at Nasi Bali Men Weti, with a spicy Balinese breakfast, a local favourite, we hopped on our rented bamboo bicycles and headed for Rumah Sanur, the beating heart of the area’s creative and entrepreneurial community.
Daily offering rituals in Nyuh Kuning.
Next up, we let the app lead us to nearby mangroves and rice paddies that still utilize the traditional subak irrigation system developed in the 9th century. Far away from the tourist crowds, over muddy paths and small back alleys we were led to places that we would never had found on our own, Pasar Intaran, a popular local market and evening food bazaar, Mak Beng, Sanur’s oldest eatery and Jalan Danau Beratan, Sanur’s most splendid street with elegantly decorated geria, the homes of Balinese high priests.
Personalized stone statues for every house in Nyuh Kuning
Bali is often referred to as the island of the gods, and for a good reason. In the woodcarver’s village of Nyuh Kuning, we explored the more spiritual side of the island. ‘Smile’ is the credo of this lovely eco-village smack bang in the middle of the lush rice terraces. Here we discovered the world’s best kept medical secret in a small ashram, where we joined 200 or so locals in an hour long session of unabashed laughing yoga. Laughing is free and according to local laughter guru Kadek Saumbara it has amazing physiological benefits… he might be right, I’m still laughing as I write this.
The world’s best kept secret: laughing yoga at Ambar ashram.
The app led us through Nyuh Kuning’s frangipani lined streets to some local eco-champions: crop-to-cup coffee Old Friends, organic café WAMM, Karja the woodcarver and the happy crowd of Mekenyem (meaning ‘smile’) who keep the village clean.
The ‘smile’ team that keeps Nyuh Kuning clean.
But perhaps the biggest surprise was Denpasar, a place most travelers avoid. We now wonder why? Denpasar’s alleyways offer a fascinating insight into local street culture. Eager to experience the local way of life, we followed the app to Jalan Sulawesi, a bustling fabric Mecca in the Arabic quarter, we met BOG BOG, Bali’s own adorable cartoon character, we marveled at Pura Moaspait a hidden holy sanctuary carved out of red bricks and before hitting up Pasar Kartini, the picture perfect flower market brought our senses alive with colors and fragrances.
Exploring Pasar Kartini, Denpasar’s flower market.
The app highlights small local places like Kopi Bali, the city’s premier coffee shop that dates back to 1935 and Rujak Kuah Pindang where we indulged in a spicy fruit salad. Hungry for more, we sampled the popular local dish of suckling pig (just make sure you follow the app to the aptly named (haha) babi guling warung before they shut their delicious doors at 2pm) and to finish off our culinary feast, we made a beeline for Tipat Tahu, a warung famous for its tofu dish based on a recipe that goes back three generations. We left Denpasar with full bellies, a soothed soul and many new friends.
Get your fix of Babi Guling before they sell out at noon.
iDiscover City Walks certainly took us by surprise. Little did we know, even for us, Bali still holds hidden treasures around every corner. But don’t take our word for it. Download the app from iTunes or Google Play, and find out for yourself. And if you happen to get lost, take it easy and have fun. The app will guide you back home.