Bali serves up dish for every taste

THE man selling "designer" handbags has a brash smile.

"Hooneymoon?" he says winking at my partner and I as we stroll past his makeshift market at Kuta Beach in Bali.

"I give you good honeymoon price. Good price for lovers. What you like Guess, Prada, Gucci?"

Before we can correct his assumption on our marital status, he has pulled half a dozen bags from their plastic protection.

"I have white, orange or brown, which you like?" he says now matching our stride step for step.

When he falls behind tired of our "no thank yous", an elderly woman carrying a tower of sarongs takes his place.

"How many you want? I give you evening price. Good deal for Aussie nice couple," she promises.

She is fast joined by a teenage boy selling DVDs and his young friend carrying a backpack of hand-crafted kites.

A quick side step down a laneway and we stumble across hundreds of locals embarking on a religious procession complete with gamelan, an orchestra.

Despite its famed commercial exterior, the Indonesian island of Bali can offer tourists a relaxing place to unwind and immerse themselves in a foreign culture.

The procession is a mesmerising affair that stops tourists in their tracks.

Lines of men and women, young and old, are proudly wearing their best batik cloth.

Offerings and woven fruit baskets are balanced on almost every head, while white umbrellas and banners are scattered throughout the crowd.

As the parade moves along mobile temples, giant horses and dragons hoisted up onto bamboo poles sway dangerously close to power lines.

A few brave folk run ahead with a two-pronged fork, pushing up the mess of hopefully turned-off lines as the procession passes.

We duck into a cafe, grab a seat out front and drink as the traditional celebrations extend into the afternoon.

That is great thing about Bali, you can stay "relatively comfortable" out of your comfort zone.

Jetstar, Virgin Blue, Air Asia, Garuda Indonesia and Qantas all offer sale flights for less than $1000 return during the shoulder season.

Depending on your budget, you can spend $80 a night for decent accommodation to upwards of $200 to live like the royal family.

The beach-front Holiday Inn at Tuban is a great middle of the road option and a central base .

It is only one kilometre from all the hustle and bustle of Kuta Square but it feels like your own tropical paradise.

The 194 rooms are set across three levels. Each have iPod docks, wireless internet, flat screen TVs and mini fridges you can stock with your own choice of goodies.

The buffet breakfast offers everything from fresh fruit and gluten free muffins to waffles with chocolate sauce. The slogans for "juice of the day" will make you giggle. There is a "hi-calorie" juice which apparently helps "stack on those kilograms".

Highlights of our stay included the two-for-one happy hour cocktails for $4 at the swim-up bar and a one hour long traditional massage in the Tea Tree Spa for $40.

Bali's popularity with tourists also stems from the fact, that despite the small size of the island you can tailor your holiday experience to suit.

Those who want a cultural experience can head to Ubud where "Eat, Pray, Love" fever has hit.

Just like Julia Roberts did as Elizabeth Gilbert, you can get in touch with your spiritual side by visiting temple ceremonies.

It is also the perfect place to hire a bicycle and ride alongside the virescent rice terraces.

At the Kuta and Ubud art markets, you can haggle for handicrafts, leather goods, sarongs and jewellery.

In Kuta the nearby Discovery Mall has Gucci, Prada and Ralph Lauren Polo in varying knocked-off qualities.

Party animals will love the non-stop pulse of Kuta's nightlife where a Bintang beer at happy hour will set you back $1.

Hipsters will fall in love with the Kerobokan and Seminyak district.

Here you have a romantic dinner at the French inspired Living Room, dine with cool kids at Rumours or indulge in seafood overlooking a rice paddock at Sardine.

Adventure-seeking souls can ride big waves at Uluwatu, climb a volcano in the Central Mountains and parasail over the Indian Ocean.

Most hassles in Bali come from ever-persistent street hawkers and a few shonky transport operators.

The best policy is to smile, keep your eyes ahead and keep walking or duck down a side street, you never know what you might find.


Look out for the Blue Bird taxis, the most reliable. They have "Blue Bird Group" written across windshield. Before you set off, always check the driver has the meter turned on and running.

Always change money at an authorised money changer. Don't be tempted by the higher no commission deals as they often come with trouble. Count your money twice before leaving the store.

Have fun haggling and remember to keep it in perspective. You might find yourself arguing over 9000 rupiah which is about one Australian dollar. The general rule is offer half their first price and then find a happy middle ground.

Carry an antiseptic hand gel with you and use it before you eat. Also, for happy travels make sure to stick by the rule "Boil it, peel it, cook it, or forget it!"

Watch the pavements when while you're walking, one wrong step and you could seriously sprain an ankle.

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