This was originally posted to Polarsteps where it's shown as a place-by-place recount. Here I've condensed it into my recommendations and highlights.
The adventure begins! My travel buddy, Ryan and I got off the plane to be absolutely blasted in the face by an oven of sweltering heat at Ngurah Rai Airport.
Seminyak (3 nights)
Known for: just being fairly central, previous hub before Canggu, near airport
I would recommend stopping off here for a couple of nights just to get your bearings of Bali and learn the ways. Just walking the streets, checking out the beaches, meeting the locals - it's all a fantastic way to get initially engulfed in the culture.
Motel Mexicola is a fantastic bar and eatery just north of Seminyak. Some of the best quesadillas I've ever had, I swear. Try and guess the theme of it...
Make sure you wear sunscreen. I unfortunately learned this the hard way on the back of a scooter ride.
Canggu (2 nights)
Known for: partying, nightlife, the hub of activity post-COVID
We stopped off at Clandestino Canggu (my first ever hostel) and soon had a spontaneous wild night out. We went to The Vault - a very cool-concept underground bar, complete with red lasers but the music wasn't incredible when we went (more lyrics please).
Going to Sand Bar though was much better where they played all the bangers and is located literally on the beach - people are even getting tattoos done! It's very hot though when you're vibin'. Old Man's is a great bar right next to it before Sand Bar goes off after midnight.
Machinery Cafe is a delightful place on the main street for a cafe snack, and we heard good things about Luigi's, an Italian bar that apparently also goes off at night.
Crate Cafe is also a must-do which we did on the last day, just off the main road. It is busy though and waiting for a table to free up is not fun in the baking sun (fantastic rhyme Alex).
Ubud (4 nights)
Known for: meditation, yoga, culture, activities, more laid-back
Ubud was a personal favourite - it's got a lot of heart to it and a gentle vibe.
Obviously the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is worthwhile, just don't look those monkeys in the eye! Some kids and tourists learned this the hard way too much to my amusement. We got a selfie with them at my insistence (the monkeys, not the kids that is).
The Ubud Art Market was sick - that's where they have this street full of very Instagrammable umbrellas if that floats your boat.
Mount Batur is an absolute must-see. It's a brutal wake-up call at around 3am and a decent 1-hour hike up there, but so worth it (as long as the weather's okay). Be prepared for the best sunrise of your life.
Alas Harum Bali was our pick for these incredible infinity pools and rice fields. We had our first dose of rain here and it was actually a good spot for it.
We also did a yoga session at Puri Garden Hotel and Hostel which was pricey but very worth it. I was naturally awful amongst everyone else's elegance, but I managed to do a headstand. At no extra cost from the hostel too.
Gili T Island (4 nights)
Known for: a Bali getaway, good for couples, but a great party hostel there too.
Snorkelling with sea turtles is an obvious must-do here alongside schools of colourful fish. We saw heaps of both and there's plenty of guides who will take you out on their boat for a reasonable price.
We also did a party ship out one afternoon through My Mate's Place - our hostel, also free! This was a lot of fun though I don't remember much from it other than myself and a fellow traveller rapping to Macklemore's Can't Hold Us without fail. The hostel had a fantastic vibe for meeting people.
Cycling round the west side of the island, it was absolutely derelict when we went. I don't know if this is a result of COVID and no visitors, but it was a haunting reminder of what places that depended on tourists went through.
NB: It takes about 3 hours to boat to Gili T and an hour's drive to Padangbai (ferry stop) but is so worthwhile.
Uluwatu (2 nights)
Known for: bit of serenity, and the temple, not much else but decent
Padang Padang Beach is a great wee beach here, nothing too revolutionary but great for expert surfers (there are other places for beginners don't worry).
Finally, Uluwatu Temple was a blast. The views over the ocean are stunning given how high up it is. They do a fire ceremony there too which has a baffling storyline (even when there's a paper that tells you what's happening) but is nonetheless entertaining.
In summary, I had an absolute blast in Bali. For an island so small, it sure as hell packs a lot of different adventures, activities and styles into one destination. I feel like you can have any kind of holiday there, whether that's party central or laid-back and chilled on the beach.
I will definitely be back.