"Pfffft, Bali. Only bogans who want to start their personal collection of Bintang singlets go here," I hear someone say. "The islands are where it's at now," another mutters. "Tourists destroyed everything good about that place long ago and Kuta is the bastion of all that is wrong with Australia," a third derides.
Hush, people. If you'll just be quiet for one second, I'm going to tell you about a place on the southern-most tip of mainland Bali, a place that's still golden and gorgeous and blissfully peaceful. It's a slice of heaven called Bingin Beach, and I recommend you go there. ASAP.
- Book your accommodation and start getting excited. One of my favourite aspects of staying at Bingin Beach is the simplicity, effortlessness and authenticity of where you can choose to lay your head at night. Two of my favourites are Mick's Place (you can't beat this view) and Temple Lodge.
- Do a yoga class. For the early(ish) risers, you can catch a class at Mick's Place or the Temple Lodge at 8.00 am, or for those who are on holiday, in every sense of the word, Mu's 9.30 am class might suit a little better. If moving from your pool is simply not an option prior to midday, Morning Light Yoga Studios do classes later throughout the day as well.
- Relax on Bingin Beach itself. The ocean here is beautiful and good vibes emanate from every person lying on its coarse, white sand. Learn to catch a wave with a quick surf lesson, then relax in the shade at the famous Kelly's Warung (I'd tell you to order a mango vodka slushie but they aren't always available. Don't worry -- I know where else you can get one). Cruise over to Bingin Ombak Warung and order a tempeh wrap and a vegetable juice. Finally, wander down further to the Sun and Surf Stay for a wicked strawberry daiquiri. They'll even ask what strength you want it. (FYI -- if you don't want your head blown off, request medium. Trust me on this one!) Finally, eschew Jimbaran Bay's inflated prices and order a grilled seafood feast from the Lucky Fish for dinner, all without leaving the beautiful, white sand.
- While we're talking about food, head to The Cashew Tree -- it's a perfect lunch spot. The same people who own Kelly's Warung own The Cashew Tree, so maybe that's where all the vodka has disappeared to. Regardless, order a vodka slushie here. They serve healthy, wholesome, organic food at just the right serving size. We loved the burrito bowl, the tempeh rice paper rolls, and you definitely can't go wrong with the quesidiillas!
Insider Tip: Thursday nights go off here with a live band, but I'd recommend coming here a little later in the evening, around 8.00 pm, to avoid feeling like you got to the party awkwardly early and avoid a serious case of sunset FOMO. For all its strengths, The Cashew Tree doesn't have a great view of the sky and I feel like it's a crime to miss even a single Bali sunset.
- Go to Padang-Padang, another beautiful little beach just a short scooter ride from Bingin. It is significantly more touristy, with stalls, a warung and various water toys available for hire, but it's a beautiful swimming beach to submerge yourself in nonetheless. There are also sea caves to explore if you're feeling a little adventurous.
Insider Tip: Between the months of December to January, this beach might not look so appealing. Powerful currents bring waves of rubbish from Jakarta. However, the Indonesian government is making major inroads into cleaning up its coastline and hopefully this will be evident in 2016's 'trash season' -- or lack thereof.
- Following along with the water theme, your next port of call is to swim at Blue Point Beach. Here, you can jump in the more touristy beach directly at the base of the stairs, where the waves can be a little wild and watching them crash against the cliffs is great viewing. However, if you have an hour to two to kill on a hot day, I'd recommend you duck through the rock tunnel on your left, where you will find a much larger, calmer beach, absolutely perfect for a sunbake and a dip and completely devoid of anybody hassling you to buy a sarong, anklet or massage.
- Visit Single Fin, one of Uluwatu's most established bars. It is the first on your right as you head down the cliffs towards Blue Point Beach (or the last on your left as you struggle up the stairs from the beach). There has been some serious development at Single Fin over the past year. They now serve Revolver coffee, which in my opinion is the best on the island, and have added the Hawaiian-inspired Nalu Bowls smoothie stand to the entrance.
If breakfast isn't included where you're staying, Nalu bowls are where it's at -- generous smoothie bowls, loaded with life-giving toppings. But enough about that -- you're hanging out to hear about the cocktail list, am I right? Single Fin is notorious for its Sunday sessions. But if you'd rather avoid the crowds and lines at the bar, visit on a Wednesday for some acoustic music. Word to the wise: no matter what night you visit, get here by 4 pm at the latest to get a front row seat for a clifftop viewing of an Uluwatu sunset with a mojito in one hand and a slice of seafood pizza in the other -- otherwise it's standing room only.
- Treat yourself to a sunset at El Kabron. I say "treat" because El Kabron is significantly more expensive than other places in the area and for sunset (last booking at 4.30 pm) you pay 350,000 rupiah on arrival. What is left of 500, 000 rupiah goes toward your food and beverage bill, which to be honest doesn't go an overly long way. Despite the price, the only way to describe this venue is perfect. I'm not kidding, it's kind of my idea of nirvana. It's like the sexiest beach club you've ever seen, 50 metres above sea level, with flawless service, amazing food and tapas full of flavour. My recommendation: bring a hat and sunscreen as it can really heat up as the sun sets over the deck (if you burn easily ask for a table with shade) and wear your bathers under your clothes. Start with a dip and a jug of sangria. Thank me later.
- Go exploring for a day and find the pristine and utterly deserted Nyang-Nyang Beach, with endless white sand, marooned shipwrecks and beds of seaweed covered rocks that reveal themselves at low tide. Far too many photo ops! Here's my guide to getting there.
- Finally, for the sightseers salivating for their fix of culture, visit the Uluwatu Surf Temple, or Pura Luhur Uluwatu. It is quite impressive, especially if you have the time to explore the place. Make sure you fully walk the paths along the cliffs as the views are absolutely spectacular, even on a cloudy day. You can also view the kecap dance (fire dance) here as the sun sets, which is quite an experience in itself.
If you're in need of a holiday and some rest and relaxation, and the above still doesn't appeal to you, well, I'm sorry but I don't know if you and I can be friends. I don't think we'd get along.
You can read more from Bonny O'Shea on her blog.