Bali is a small island with an absolutely magnificent volcanic landscape. Fine white sandy or black volcanic beaches, rice paddies, waterfalls, temples with lively hinduists traditions always... The sweetness of life, the unique kindness of the Balinese and refinement give Bali the status of a real paradise. Gays come to laze around and party almost all night long with drags queens and go-go dancers in the south. They are also very well received in the small guesthouses along the rice fields in the centre of the island. And then there are the soft massages and Tantric inspirations, with sex as a means to connect to the gods, at the heart of the local culture. A real gay paradise to discover.
A big thank you in San, founder of Bali Pride, for his precious advice.
When to go?
Bali has a tropical climate with 22 to 32° C degrees all year round. The dry season that spreads from April to October is most suitable to travel there while the monsoon which is intense in January / February does not allow much to enjoy Bali. High season is therefore from June to September with a peak of visitors in August. Mid-seasons from March to June or October to December are a good compromise between the tropical rains and less crow. A gay pride took place in February 2014 gathering about twenty people on the beach. Feel the Love feel replaced it in February 2015 in Petitenget on the Batu Belig beach. The date of a next gay pride is not yet confirmed.
The Balinese new year or celebration of Nyepi is a day of silence without any activity even for tourists. In fact, the bad spirits not seeing anyone are supposed to leave the island and in the evening of processions paper monsters (ogoh-ogog) parade in the streets. In 2015, it will be on March 21st and Bali will celebrate the year 1937 of the saka calendar. The rest of the year, there is also religious festivals daily and you are sure to see processions if you get a little into the island.
What you need to see
You will land at the international airport in the southern part of the island. It is close to the paradise fine golden sand beaches, coconut trees under which drink and food stalls are installed. Rows of parasols, lounge chairs and beautiful waves. Here is the main asset of the southern part of the island: Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Sanur. Further south, the Bukit peninsula is famous for its world-class surfing spots and luxury atmosphere in Nusa Dua.
In the centre of the island, Ubud is a real paradise in the middle of the rice paddies cultivated in terraces. It is also the cultural capital where painting, sculpting and live performances traditions were most developed. At the heart of the city, the monkey forest consists of old banyan trees with vines from where the macaques spot tourists with bananas. From Ubud you will get to many temples like Peliatan or Klungkung. Balinese people are very religious and their offerings are daily in temples which are very lively places.
The west is less touristy and has the famous temple Pura Tanah Lot, which being by the sea is one of the island's most beautiful temples, especially at sunset. The north is quiet, very authentic and very mountainous especially around mount Batur, whose crater peaks at 1777 metres. Lovina is a haven by the sea. In the east, mount Agung, the most sacred volcano of the island and rises to 3142 metres culminating over the region. A lot of diving and snorkelling spots towards Amed with black volcanic beaches and beautiful water gardens in Water Palaces.
What to do
Indonesian cuisine is honoured with much Chinese, Indian or Malaysian influence but there is also a specific Balinese cuisine. It is delicious and so spicy if that restaurants offer a soft version adapted to tourists. You will eat chicken soup, nasi campur (white rice with sautéed vegetables, fish or meat, tofu and hot sauce), nasi goreng (fried rice with small pieces of sautéed meat, vegetables, soy sauce and fried egg), babi guling (roast suckling pig) or bebek tutu (smoked duck). The buffets allow you to taste all these very local flavours, but you will also find international cuisine in many restaurants and a lot of small stands to eat on the go. On drinks’ side, Bintang beer is the most widespread Indonesian beer and a Balinese rosé wine, Hatten, has been expanding and is nice to drink. The tropical fruit juices are however excellent and very little cheap.
On the very friendly side, let us mention Café des Artistes (Jalan Bisma 9 X) in Ubud with excellent dishes to enjoy on the terrace in a lodge atmosphere. In the south in Seminyak, 66 Corner is a gay friendly restaurant near the gay beach. The bar/restaurant Bali Beach Shack (Jln Sahadewa 7), run by a gay Australian, has a drag show at 9:30 pm and 10:30 pm. Café Local (Jln Benesari next to Suka Beach Inn) belongs to a gay Balinese-Belgian coupe, Gert and Pande. A mix of fine Asian and European cuisine. And then, there is the huge terrace under the trees by the beach of Gado Gado Restaurant and Coffee (99 Jln Champlung Tanduk) whose cuisine is very famous. La Lucciola (Jln Kayu Aya Beach Oberoi), run by a gay Australian couple also on beachfront is crowded at lunch. Finally, the garden restaurant Waroeng Bonita (Jln Petitenget 2000X) is run by gays and offers a romantic outdoor atmosphere and a delicious Indonesian buffet.
In the south of the island, the gay scene is concentrated in the Seminyak area especially on Jalan Champlung Tanduk (Dhyana Pura) nicknamed Gay Street. It is very busy from 10:00 pm at 3:00 am and quite packed on week ends. You will find bars with very glamorous and often very funny drags giving their shows, ultra sexy gogodancers, locals happy to chat with tourists and moneyboys doing their job.
Bali Joe is one of the most famous gay bars with a very sexy crowd, drags and dancers who give a not stop show. It is open from 03:00 pm. Bottoms Up is a little less crowded but shows are just as glamourous. At Face Bar drags and gogo boys come alive at 11:00 pm then you’ll move upstairs around 1:00 am for live under the shower shows. Many young students. The terrace of Mixwell Bar (open to 09:00pm) is also very crowded with shows every evening. Really friendly. Go and see also the traditional Balinese dancing Baliwood Extravaganza every Friday evening at Waroeng Bonita (Jln Petitenget 2000X).
In Ubud, not specifically gay and a little too touristy, the group of men dancing Kekak dances yield a particularly captivating male energy. Watch the video : it will convince you to visit them. Other dances such as Legong which is close to classical Indian dances or Barong with its giant dog-lion is more in the floklore tradition.
You will have no problem finding beautiful accommodations with good value for money. Some establishments are gay-only and clothing-optional. Others run by gays are ultra gay friendly. Balinese tolerance means that whatever your choice of hotel, you will be very weel received there.
While you can easily manage your hotel reservations, once on the island, it is preferable to let an agency or a driver deal with transportation and tours. Bali Discovery in Denpasar is one of the gay friendly references of the island with towers off the beaten track. There is also Bali Friendly, Bali Traditional Tours, Bali Driver, Gede Transport & Towers or Hanafi Bali. In Ubud, Balispirit (44 Jln Hanoman) specialises in spiritual stays and yoga courses. In Kerobokan, Unseen Bali (Jln Umaalas 2) is the representative of 4 exclusively gay and clothing optional hotels and offer tours of the island with Balinese massage but also diving and visits. Finally, if you want to organize your gay marriage on a beach, a Dutch guy has created Bali Gay Dream Weddings, to arrange an unforgettable day for you.