Sure, driving is a little stressful, but having lived in New York and Hong Kong for the last twelve years or so, driving also has a novelty–it’s not something we have to do every day to get to work, but something we get to do on holiday.
We discovered that Bali is not only a pretty good place to have a car (reasonably good roads, easy navigation and relatively poor public transit, though horrible traffic and aggressive drivers around Kuta), but also possibly the cheapest place in the world to rent one: our Suzuki ran about 75,000 rupiah (~USD 8) a day, for seven days, plus a little extra for insurance coverage. A weak but pretty reliable, air-conditioned car.
We started our seven days by driving up from Legian, where we spent our first night (might have been fun to go out on somewhat seedy Jalan Dhyana Pura, but we were too tired), through the coastal road to the east which opened in 2006, stopping by at Pura Masceti and Pura Goa Lawah, two of Bali’s nine “directional” temples. We spent the second night at Padang Bai, where the ferries to neighboring Lombok, across the Wallace Line, leave. In Padang Bai we learned that Bali also has perhaps the best value accommodations of any country in the world. For 50,000 rupiah (~USD 5), we got a cute little cottage in the form of a Balinese rice granary, with an open air living area on the ground floor and a rustic bedroom upstairs (no a/c, but a real bed). Included was a decent breakfast delivered to our cottage, which faced a decently landscaped lawn (albeit one in front of the small parking area). Padang Bai, maybe because of the ferries, has quite a good selection of lodging and restaurants, which we also found to be reasonable value (though we initially found food in Bali shockingly expensive, relative to incomprehensively cheap and delicious street food available all over Java).
Our third and fourth nights were up in Amed, where I completed my PADI diving certification at the nearby U.S.S. Liberty wreck with Vicky at Euro-Dive. In Amed we stayed at the formerly quite grand and still very comfortable Indra Udhyana, where we had an oceanfront bungalow with nice open-air bathroom and the more modern comforts (television, a/c, etc.) for 300,000 rupiah (~USD 33), with breakfast delivered to our terrace just feet from the calm waters. The Amed coast was dry and peaceful, and the snorkelling excellent. Restaurant selection was somewhat lacking, but we were able to get some basic local food for more reasonable prices on our final night.
Our last three nights were in Ubud, where we arrived after a detour to see Pura Besakih and the Danau Batur area. The first night was spent “downtown,” off of Monkey Forest Road, and the last two nights in Sayan. Looking around for hotels the first night, we found that centrally located, comfortable rooms with basic conveniences set in beautifully landscaped gardens could be had for less than USD 10. At first we questioned the value of our hotel in Sayan, Sayan Terrace, for its relatively simple though spacious rooms, but the view remains with us. Tourist dance performances in Ubud were far better than expected, although the shopping was much worse than expected. Spa services are not to be missed.
Before we our flight, we saw the sun set on an odalan celebration at Pura Masceti on the beach north of Seminyak.