I hope I didn’t give you all the impression in my intro post that I didn’t enjoy Bali. Because I had a great time. Such a good time, in fact, that I can’t wait to go back to Indonesia. It was just more touristy than I expected.
I only gave a glimpse of Bali in the first post, so now I’m going to detail the trip. But not too detailed, ’cause well, you know…
So as I mentioned before, I went to Bali with my friends Lisa, Jess and Sian from Brisbane. Our first couple days we stayed at Sun Island Villas in Seminyak. We mostly shopped around and enjoyed our villa’s pool during the days. Although Lisa and I did take time out of that strenuous schedule to get messages, Which I somewhat later regretted (I have NEVER said that about a massage before). At night we zipped around on motorbikes to find local Indonesian food or to head out to the variety of restaurants that are on offer. One night we went to a place called Motel Mexicola where we sipped on margs and danced around the restaurant in a conga line. Then to a fault we headed out to Skygarden in Kuta every night.
We all woke up a bit hurting on Australia Day (January 26) and got a pretty slow start that morning. We sat for a while by the pool listening to Triple J’s Hottest 100 countdown before motivating ourselves and headed to Finn’s Beach Club to celebrate. After the hour-long cab ride, we show up only to be told there was a wait list. Thankfully, we were called down pretty quickly and we lounged on bean bag chairs while we watched the sun set and I floated on a giant Haviana’s blow up thong (the sandal).
Our last day in Seminyak we hired a driver, who is the uncle of a friend of a colleague of Sian’s… Did you get all that? One of Sian’s colleagues met Penpen, who works in a shop, on a previous trip to Bali and his uncle Wayan works as a hire driver. They showed us around the Ubud area, although Penpen said it was his first time in many of the spots we went to as well. We stopped at a silver making shop, Luwak coffee plantation (which is coffee made from poo) a monkey forest and the Ubud markets. They then took us to a true local food market (we were the only non-Indonesians) and enjoyed some kick @ss pork satay and mie goreng.
Wednesday morning we caught the ferry to go to Gili Trawangan, the biggest of the Gili islands located off of Lombok. We sat on the roof on the ride over, and to get up there we had to step out on the ledge that was maybe a foot wide and shimmy over to climb up the ladder- on the side of a moving boat with no support rungs. Ahh, Asia. We arrived on the island mid-day, and for the second time on our trip were bombarded with locals shoving cards in our faces to offer accommodation. We set off down the one main road, filled with tourists on bikes and locals driving horse buggies.
No cars, no dogs, no problem is the island mantra. There’s no police either; matters are handled by a village council and if you cause trouble they will send you on the first boat back. Gili is a charming little island outlined by pristine beaches and turquoise waters that you won’t find on Bali. Nights are spent watching the sunset, dining on cheap but amazing local food and then partying til the sun comes up, which is essentially what we did. We hired bikes from our accommodation, Tir Na Nog and rode north around the island, stopping at the north side of the island to watch the sunset. The next day, we got too late of a start to go on a group snorkel, so we ended up hiring a private one for $20 per person. While that is expensive for Gili, it is much less than I have paid in other locations and the snorkeling was some of the best I’ve experienced. The coral was beautiful and we saw three turtles and an array of colorful fish. We stopped on Gili Air for lunch and were surrounded by kittens as we ate. It wasn’t a cat cafe – at least not officially – just island life. Later Lisa and I took off on our bikes for another cruise around the island before dinner and then heading to a silent disco.
Our time on Gili ended all too quickly and the next day we were up early for the morning ferry, which ended up being over 30 minutes late. Of course the ferry arrived as soon as Sian and I went to look for food and had to sprint back after buying the worst overpriced sandwiches (seriously just bread slapped together with tomato and cheese). Once back on Bali we headed to Ayana Resort where we stayed for the night. And thank god it was just one night because that place was expeeeeensive. But the resort was amazing. Twice we hit up their oceanfront infinity pool to soak up some rays while lounging in the cabanas. We had drinks and appetizers at the renowned Rock Bar which, as you may have guessed, is built into the rock face overlooking the ocean with a great view of the sunset. The next morning I had the best buffet breakfast of my life (included!). They seriously had everything, including sushi. For breakfast. We ventured to Kuta for our last night and stayed in bungalows right near the action. It was Jess’ birthday so we had birthday drinks by the ocean then headed to dinner at an Italian place that was recommended to us. And then went out our usual digs, Skygarden.
The next day we decided to do another tour with Penpen and his uncle, this time heading off to Nusa Dua, a traditional Balinese buffet lunch, Dreamland beach and Uluwatu Temple. I didn’t have a great impression of Nusa Dua, or at least the area we saw. It was extremely touristy and essentially just a place to do overpriced watersports. We settled on a glassbottom boat trip out to Turtle Island, which was one of the more depressing things I’ve seen. Upon entry a sea turtle is thrust into your hands to take a photo and promptly replaced in the 3′ x 5′ tub it was retrieved from. Larger turtles lazed about in puddles of lukewarm water looking overheated and parched. Among the other animals held in captivity were monkeys, bats, snakes, an eagle. Even the dogs looked depressed. I bought water and gave it to one of the dogs who looked like it was on the brink of dehydration. I do not recommend going here.
Dreamland was a very beautiful beach, but also extremely touristy. The remnants of a failed resort dominate the shoreline. Up top apparently there is a newer resort that looks out over the ocean and conveniently masks all the tourists from your precious view. The new owner has decided to rename the beach New Kuta Beach. Down below you’re just among the masses trying not to get swept up in the strong current. Our last stop was at Uluwatu Temple and it was breathtaking; perched on a cliff above the roaring sea. Be careful of the monkeys! Lisa was wearing sunglasses on her head and a monkey still managed to pry them away from her. She had to give money to a woman who then gave the monkey food in exchange for the glasses. It’s a conspiracy! After Uluwatu we headed straight to the airport to catch our flight. None of us wanted to leave.
While I had a great time on the trip, I don’t think I will return to the same area of Bali. The south is quite resort-y and tourist, but I would like to explore the west, north and east areas of the island. Or stick to the smaller islands that are (for now) less developed, like Gili for example.
Has anyone else been to Bali? What did you think? Tell me in the comments below!