Bali is one of the premier tourism destinations of southeast Asia and is enormously popular with people travelling from Australia. If you ask anyone what things there are to do in Bali, you'll probably hear about shopping, nightlife and day spas. However, there is so much more to Bali than first comes to mind. There are fascinating activities, spectacular natural paradises and plenty of things for travellers to try out.
1. Have something custom made in leather for you
You know how you desperately want that pair of shoes you saw in a magazine but they're ridiculously expensive? Well you can actually have Kuta Leather and Tailor create them for you, in your size! They'll also custom tailor a leather hat, leather pants or a gorgeous leather handbag, all to your specifications.
2. Go and see actual fireflies on a night tour
You've heard and read about them, they're mentioned in songs, but you've probably never seen real fireflies. In Bali, you can book a tour in Ubud where your guides will lead you to their habitat in the rice fields. The best time is from April to October. You'll learn about the fireflies' behaviour and get to see them up close for a mesmerising experience.
3. Stay with Balinese locals in their home
Anyone can stay in a hotel or backpackers' hostel. But not everyone can call up their best friend in Bali and stay with them as though they're family. Actually, you can book to stay overnight in an authentic Balinese house and your hosts will provide breakfast. Then, they'll take you to the traditional markets to buy ingredients for lunch which they will cook for you back at home. You'll also take part in a traditional Balinese dance lesson and feast on a wonderful, healthy dinner of Lawar, a meat and vegetable dish flavoured with coconut, herbs and spices.
4. Surf world class waves at night
You might expect this to be a promotional event or a temporary setup but it's actually the first permanent night surfing installation in the world! Stadium-style floodlights illuminate the ocean, providing visibility not just for the daredevil surfers but for the spectators who are mostly guests of the Hotel Komune resort. You might even catch a pro surfer in action in one of the surf shows which are held from 7pm until midnight and from 4am to 6am. The Keramas reef is considered to be world class in terms of the surf quality so it's a must-do if you dare.
5. Learn how to cook, Bali-style
Tourists love to indulge in traditional Balinese cuisine but how many people actually think to learn how to cook it themselves? At Paon Bali in Ubud, you can also go shopping for the ingredients at the local markets. You'll learn the fascinating etiquette surrounding this unique cuisine and use time-honoured preparation methods. All the classes are conducted in English by Balinese chefs who delight in talking about their culture and cuisine. You'll receive recipes and notes to keep and you may have the opportunity to chat with local farmers or neighbours, or take a tour of the temple. One of the more special aspects is that you will be shown how to make a simple offering to the gods.
6. Make like lovebirds and enjoy dinner in a nest
Indulge in spectacular cuisine that merges the southeast Asian palate with the French. La View Restaurant in Ubud offers magnificent panoramas over the valley and, during the day, serves up traditional Indonesian dishes then switches to a more glamorous, gourmet menu at night. Choose from various table arrangements including the delightful Birdnest table, specifically for dinner for two. You will relax together in the pretty 'bird cage', the floor festooned with fresh blooms as your waiter brings you beautiful food.
7. Visit a full-on 'man shed' for a meal
It's not just any old car-themed restaurant at all! The Man Shed opened in January 2014 and ever since, people have been fascinated by its collection of antique motorbikes, number plates and car bodies. Clever design has turned out tables made from repurposed Vespas and over-bar lamps made from discarded motorbike helmets. Visitors enjoy the cold beers and Nasi Goreng, as well as a few other 'manly' meals including steaks and burgers. With its cement floors, exposed ceiling and harsh lighting, it's definitely more suited to the male tourist who will appreciate the relaxed atmosphere and attention to detail. It could even be considered the 'mantidote' to the more female-friendly pursuits of day spas and picnics in Bali!
8. Eat with lions (yes, real, live lions)
The Tsavo Lion Restaurant is unique in that diners can sit and enjoy African food or other international dishes, all while watching lions parade around outside the large windows. To some, it feels as though the lions are the visitors and the humans are on show so it can be a little disconcerting. The restaurant is part of the Mara River Safari Lodge which offers guests the opportunity to experience staying in the African wilderness.
9. Get your adventure on in Bali
If you're the type who needs an adrenalin rush for it to be a real holiday, then Bali has plenty for you.
Before you book your trip to Bali, make sure you do lots of research. Think of the things you really like to do and find out where you can do them, but also, think of some activities that take you out of your comfort zone. If what you're looking for is an 'experience', not just a holiday, then there are countless things to do in Bali that will introduce you to fun, history, intrigue, adventure and so much more.