I took a trip to Bali (an island in Indonesia) last June/July with two of my closest friends and we had the most amazing, relaxing and fun vacation. You may have heard of Bali as a destination for yoga retreats, Instagram personalities, or the book & movie Eat, Pray, Love. The island was a complete creative paradise, a blend of natural beauty from the island, the warm and welcoming spirit of the people, and the care and creativity everyone put into their businesses.
I have to start out with: Bali exceeded my expectations.
To make sure we got the best of the best experience we did do our research. And we avoided as many cliche spots as we could (avoiding Kuta for example).
Many people asked me, why not go to Hawaii instead of an island halfway around the world? It was about adventure and experiencing a whole new world and mainly the spirit of the people. Bali was a taste of utopia for me - a place where people we're raised with a mindset valuing nature, happiness, gratitude, and a respect for the divine. The beauty and awe-ness of it all was because they put those values first.
I could go on a soapbox on this topic, but our culture does not. We value "hard work," getting deals, efficiency, busyness, and we haven't integrated spirituality with our culture. And it makes a difference. We don't make beauty and pleasure a priority first, and it's evident in the design of our new condos, fast casual restaurants, Starbucks etc.
Being in a world that operates the opposite was a freeing effect. Yes I'm a bit of a hippie.
But anyway, you came here for recommendations:
We spent 12 days in Bali to really get comfortable in one place and understand their world. Some itineraries we looked at suggested to go to Thailand or other islands, but we stuck to two major cities so we really knew them instead of checking off our list saying we went somewhere instead of knowing somewhere.
Day 1-4: Ubud
Ubud (pronounced OOOH-BOOD) is a town in central Bali northeast of the airport in Depensar, so we decided to start there and then make our way to the towns on the West Coast (Canggu, Seminyak & Uluwatu).
We started there to start the trip on the right path by spiritually aligning, doing yoga, relaxing, and seeing some of the classic Bali attractions.
Landed in Depensar airport and exchanged $500 for rupiah at the airport - used Money Changer closest to the driver pickup area where people are holding signs
Our Airbnb host's nephew Aka picked us up from the Ariport to our Aibnb
Checked into the Airbnb - HIGHLY recommend this place as there's two big beds and one little bed, your own private pool, a view of the rice patties from the "meditation deck," and breakfast every morning - the homemade banana pancakes and tomato egg sandwich were YUMMY. $88/night ($29/person between 3) was super affordable and we had our own villa
Walked around town down X street and bought a pair of fake Birkenstocks (Bali birks as I call em)
Campuhan Ridge Walk - beautiful path we walked past outside our Airbnb, if you don't stay there I recommend you walk around the "backroads" by Yellow Flower and Intuitive Yoga as you get the feel of living in a village
Yellow Flower Cafe - a MUST as the vibe looking across the jungle from the restaurant was breathtaking, the food was organic and delicious, decor was macrame & artistically chic, and there's a cool bed table you can hang out at - get the euphoric flower water
Intuitive Flow Yoga in the morning - intimate sized class and beautiful view of the jungle during class
Healer - We chose Cokorda Rai who's signature method of pinpointing your problems is to poke your toes with his stick and the trigger points indicate what needs healing in your life and does a healing prayer to aid in the process. We found a driver, Gede Sadarta, to drive us to his location with no promises he'd be able to help us as he takes clients on a "how he's feeling today" basis. Highly recommend this experience as it's very traditional for the Balinese.
Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary - a touristy activity where you enter a gorgeous forest filled with monkeys, and you can buy a bundle of bananas to feed them as they jump on you, beautiful but not a 100% must
Ubud Palace - beautiful palace open to the public, where you are given a sarong to wear while touring the palace - I'd opt for this one with the lily pads, we didn't have time to make it that far
Night Market - found amazing vintage jackets and shirts, ask Gede where the location of this one is - locals only :)
Mount Batur Hike - My friends Lisa and Quinn went on this hike and loved waking up the the sunrise and cooking local food with the tour guide, I opted to sleep in and explore the town on foot and save extra $$$ since it was about $80USD.
Alchemy Cafe - possibly our #1 meal in Bali!!! We feasted on two raw pizzas (UNREAL - aloha and spinach & mushroom), Mexican burger, a dragonfruit smoothie bowl (CUSTOM MADE AT THE BOWL BAR), raw sushi, and Banoffee pie (menu here). Also tons of beautiful people watching
River Rafting - X company - definitely a fun activity and took a gorgeous path through a jungle river - though not too scary, fun to meet other tourists and came with a meal
Bebek Tepi Sawah - our driver Gede recommended this place for local cuisine and the famous Bali duck (bebek) - the roasted duck and all the dishes did not disappoint! This place felt very authenic and overlooks a rice patty
Yoga Barn - the most famous yoga studio in Bali, this place is basically a yoga compound filled with multiple studios, a cafe, and a performance area. We did the morning flow class (I'd recommend you try the Tibetan bowl meditation class or Vinyasa Flow L2) and got smoothies and energy balls at the cafe there. We also tried to sign up for the Cacao ceremony a few days out but it was full, if you've been let me know how it is !! - events calendar here
Ubud Art Market - packed with crochet tops, sarongs, the coveted woven circle bag, woven bowls and baskets, figurines, and all the souvenirs you could want for friends and family. Definitely a must to go to the main market and make sure to haggle with the locals to get the best price - start at 30% of the original price and apparently there's a morning price if you get there at the crack of dawn! Definitely plan half a day to shop here and the cute boutiques in the area - you'll feel like you're missing out if you don't give yourself time
Tegenungan Waterfall - the most popular waterfall in Bali, it's definitely worth going underneath the waterfall and feeling the earth though if you have the time I'd opt for the Aling Aling waterfall as it has a natural slide and is less touristy.
Then we were off to Canggu - more coming in the next post !