I was confused by Bali’s different references such as how Denpasar airport didn’t match the actual airport name and why the real Denpasar city was located hours away from the airport, far from the tourist center. A few online guides suggested visiting Ubud to experience the real Bali, but I was hesitant about visiting a potential small town in the middle of the island. Instead, I opted to see the countryside and check out Denpasar, where my tour guide lived. We headed north, crossing much of the island to Bedugul, nearby Lake Bratan, stopping along numerous tourist attractions along the way while learning to distinguish typical shrines and temples from noteworthy ones. I learned that Bali is the island of over 10,000 temples because every house has it’s own temple, commensurate with the family’s wealth, so a big temple in itself may not be as significant as others. Similar principles applied to the Penjors adorning the streets outside each residence. After visiting Mengwi, Pura Alas Kedaton, Taman Rama Shinta, rice paddies, Batu Riti, with some backtracking, we made it to Tanah Lot temple to catch the sunset and an annual ceremony during low tide, so a procession of priests, dancers, musicians and worshipers crossed the water to an island temple for blessings. One staff member kindly allowed me to cross as well for a blessing. Then we headed to Sanur, via Denpasar to position for continuing the tour to east Bali. I was surprised to find the foreign tourist industry had crept to Sanur with similar intensity.
When booking tours where you are essentially paying for the price of a driver and car, a cost effective strategy is to ask another backpacker if they want to travel with you and to offer a deeply discounted price. Also, often you are only booking for a driver and not a real guide so make sure you get a guarantee of a “good driver.”