One of the things I enjoy most about this trip so far is the fact that I can be completely flexible with my time. I am used to travelling on my annual leave, which meant anything between two to four weeks per trip. When you are that short on time, you have to plan most of it in advance. At least if you want to make the most of your holiday.
This time, however, I have six months. And although I really do love to plan, research and organize (typical Virgo here :D) I tried not to. I left with a rough idea about the countries I wanted to see – Australia including Tasmania, New Zealand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia – but almost no bookings whatsoever. And it worked out well so far. In fact, it gave me the opportunity to squeeze in 1 1/2 weeks on Bali between AUS and NZ.
Bali – Island of Dreams
I’ve never been to Bali before but tbh who wouldn’t want to go there? From what I’ve heard and seen from friends it’s downright paradise. And it was definitely a nice breather for my wallet compared to Australia. I decided to break my trip up into four nights in the beachside area Seminyak and seven nights in Ubud surrounded by forests and rice fields.
I didn’t really mind Seminyak though. Yes it’s cheap, nightlife is pumping, the beaches are nice and judging by all the schools it’s probably a good place to surf but nothing, in particular, would make me come back here. I know, that might still sound like paradise for some of you but it’s just not what I’m after. Maybe I am biased though because I spent most of my time battling a nasty cold I had caught on the plane from Darwin to Denpasar.
Bali – Island of Spirituality
Ubud, on the other hand, couldn’t be more different. Bali’s spiritual and cultural centre is probably best known from Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat Pray Love’. And from the time I got out of the taxi, I felt right at home. Something just resonated deep within me. Or maybe I was just in need of some ‘me-time’ after all the action, who knows.
Whatever it was, it made me turn inwards. I got serious about meditation again and spent most of my time reading, writing and doing some work on myself. I don’t know when I have felt more balanced and aligned for the last time. And alive at that. It gave me a glimpse of what I need in my daily life once I am back home after this adventure. I try to incorporate it as much as possible when travelling but it’s hard. Not to jump ahead, but New Zealand threw me right off the wagon again.
So yes, I did enjoy Bali after all. And I can definitely see myself coming back in the future. Most likely for a meditation retreat or when I am in need of some introspection.
But since I know that not all of you are into these things, here is some inspiration on what else to do on Bali:
Sunrise trekking on Mt. Batur
Hands down the most exhausting yet rewarding thing I have ever done in my life. If you had to choose one thing only to do on Bali it’s this one! I did it together with another German girl I had met at the airport. We had to get up at 1 am, drive to the base of the mountain for two hours and then hike up there for another two hours in complete darkness. Obviously, don’t do this without a guide. The way to the top was cruel but once the sun started to rise all the pain was forgotten. You quite literally feel like you are on top of the world. And since you are on top of an active volcano, you get to have some fun in the steam, too. Even the eggs you get for breakfast are freshly boiled in it.
Discover the local craftsmanship
Bali is especially famous for batik, wood carvings, masks, statues, paintings and gold and silver handicrafts. The easiest way is to hire a private driver for the day and have him take you to all the places worth visiting. I did that and my driver suggested going to a butterfly park as well. Best suggestion ever. I absolutely loved the place! 🙂
Visit the monkey forest
One of the main tourist attractions just outside Ubud. Try to come early in the morning when they have just opened to explore the Ubud Monkey Forest without the crowds.
Explore the famous rice terraces
Rice fields are common all over Bali, you can see them along the roads everywhere. Still, the Tegallalang Rice Terraces are absolutely worth visiting. Lush green rice paddies involving the subak (traditional Balinese cooperative irrigation system) as far as the eye can see.
Go chasing waterfalls
Bali is overflowing with waterfalls, one more beautiful than the other. You could easily spend a whole day and probably still wouldn’t have seen all of them.
Learn about Bali’s religion in the numerous temples
The island is home to most of Indonesia’s Hindu minority, so you can find many colourful and interesting temples here. I only visited Goa Gajah – The Elephant Cave – myself, simply because I had seen so many temples in Thailand already and couldn’t be bothered.
Attend some yoga classes
Another thing Bali is famous for. I would have loved to attend a class myself but it just wasn’t possible with my cold. Bummer 🙁
Treat yourself to a spa day
You can easily spend a whole day being pampered without breaking the bank. I highly recommend taking advantage of that. Or try the natural hot pools (I hated it, but I hate bathing in hot water in general, so that’s no surprise :D).
Get up early and go to the market like a local
You want to be there when the sun rises to have a truly authentic experience. Because after all the locals have done their shopping the markets usually turn into bazaars completely for tourists. Don’t forget to bargain (starting prices are at least double the real price) and ask for ‘harga pagi’, the morning price. If you are the first customer to buy something, you can often see the seller walk around the stall and tap everything with the money, including you. It’s believed to be good luck for the rest of the day. 🙂
Enjoy the local cuisine
Fresh and colourful food is easily available and usually quite cheap. Try eating at local ‘warungs’ (food stands) or take a Balinese cooking class to dive deep. When it comes to beverages, definitely try ‘jamu‘, a turmeric and ginger health tonic. And – if you are up for it – ‘kopi luwak‘.
I didn’t go for a cooking class but rather a Balinese natural beauty and healing workshop. Another German girl at my hostel in Ubud recommended it and sounded too good not to try. I ended up being the only person for my workshop which made the whole thing even better. And the people working at the store are super nice, so make sure to spend a bit of time with them afterwards 🙂
Spend a couple of days on the smaller neighbouring islands
Notably, these are Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan.
I hope this post helps if you are planning on visiting Bali, too, and gave you some ideas. If any of you have been there already, what are your recommendations for the island? Which parts did you enjoy most?