This is not your typical ‘where, when, how’ travel blog piece. This is where I tell you predominately how lazy I was, how much I ate and to let me gloat. Here I will also recommend places I liked, really good food, and accommodation I think is actually worth recommending. There will be sarcastic comments, realities, lessons learned, every dog I could find and no judgment from you about how many pancakes are included in this post; as well as the probable and significant lack of culture.
Also, I left Bali in December last year so this is a very, very overdue post that I started at the time and obviously didn’t finish, and therefore I can’t really remember what the names of things were, where they were or why I was even there; and it will ultimately sound like I didn’t do much when i actually did a lot.
So this should be fun/informative.
‘You would think, come to Bali, do some yoga, eat smoothie bowls in abundance, drink nothing but water from a coconut off a nearby tree and take no advice unless it is from a Yogi, someone called Ketut or gods divine message sent directly to you on a Balinese postcard.
I have eaten pancakes pretty much every day; once they were ‘matcha pancakes’ so the green colour, its well publicised natural components and entirely instagrammable nature, could satisfy my quest for euphoric health.
I have had French toast, I have had tacos, I have had a McDonalds; I also have had a Kit-Kat. Mostly I have been drinking Bintang (beer) in vast quantities compared to water, dancing in a club until 5am when I should have been doing salutes to the sun and learning to surf. The only time I’ve been in the sea was paddling my slightly drunken toes in the water after drinks at a beach bar, and once or twice more where I’ve only been in the shallows because the sea and also fish freak me out.
I’ve sweated my tits off, thereby loosing weight in my mind (right?) which condones the semi-westernized feast I have partaken in every single day. I’ve walked around every market you can possibly find, where I’ve decided shopping is a legitimate sport, particularly when every second person is shouting ‘sarong?!’ at you and you’re fully dodging their advances. I’ve bought a lot of tie-dye, I’ve made life long friends and I’ve met a lot of monkeys.
This is Bali.‘
Arriving at your first hostel can be daunting. In my case you don’t talk to anyone for three days, you do nothing cultural, and you question everything about why you came on this trip in the first place.
I was very lucky that a lovely fellow traveller Joske, and then Carmen took immense pity on my evident solo state and asked me on a friend date, and from then on I wasn’t really ever on my own except for some self-imposed seclusion with some mashed potato in a hotel room.
Seminyak’s main attractions; which mix with next door Kuta, are inclusive of beach clubs, coffee shops, restaurants, and shops in abundance. A backpacker paradise for those not wanting to drift too far from the holiday experience; it was so easy to be in that I extended by stay for an extra week, where I proceeded to accomplish absolutely nothing apart from feeding myself, and becoming close and everlasting friends with Bintang. I went to a club called La Favela, which was crowded and sweaty and brilliant, and involved waking up the hostel staff at 5am, to persuade them to order us a McDonalds.
Cafe Organic or Pison Coffee for food, Potato Head Beach Club for sunset, La Favela nightclub for dancing all night with other sweaty bodies, Double Six Beach for chilled drinks, M Boutique Hostel for accommodation.
Prebook your taxi from the airport with a private driver found on Facebook, or use a official Bluebird taxi.
(drunk pout much)
‘I walked to the boat, sailed across the sea. I walked off the boat, I got on a truck. I walked into the extraordinary beach hut. I lay. I walked to a restaurant. Where I had yogurt and fruit and a smoothie; much health. I went back to the beach hut. I walked to a restaurant. I had tacos. I went to bed. I walked to a restaurant. I had a smoothie bowl. I walked to the beach. I lay. I walked to the restaurant. I had grilled prawn satay (yummmm) I walked to the beach bar. I had ¼ litre of sangria, an exceptionally strong margarita and half a questionable cosmopolitan. I walked home.
So much exercise thus far.’
Getting to Nusa is a car journey and a boat, and brings you right back to your original plan of backpacking, namely because you have to start carrying all your possessions again and cursing everything around you. Whilst on Nusa we explored the island, going for long walks, getting a moped for a day and scooting around the island.
Nusa Lembongan is very different to the main land within its cultural living and values, the main focus of these being on making the island eco-friendly. There are no real cars on the island only mopeds, golf buggies and horse and carts. The school children on their way to and from school go along the streets picking up rubbish, and the majority if not all cafes supply you with free water refills if you buy something, so you do not keep buying plastic bottles. Along side these things there are multiple healthy living cafes and hostels encouraging a very different lifestyle to the one we had previously in Seminyak of great excess compared to the new cacao exposure. The people here were absolutely lovely, particularly the man who owned the accommodation; pretty much everyone in Bali is great to be honest.
We stayed at Sukanusa Luxury Huts, ate at Warung Bambu which is home to the worlds cutest dog beside my own, explored Dream beach/Devils Tears.
Rent a moped to have a look around the island.
Following Nusa, Joske and I ventured on to Lombok which we had been recommended by fellow travellers. Kuta Lombok particularly is well-known for its epic surf, so if you aren’t doing the surfing it can be quite hard work. It’s a place that given more time will rival other spots in Bali, but in my own opinion was harder to be in. Saying this, there were some of the best cafes, bars and food I have been to/had in my travels in this part of the world and met some really interesting people, but at times I did not feel particularly safe. We paid to use the 4-5* resorts pool and beach as we just wanted to relax and write, as well as renting a moped to have a look around, where we found and explored some incredible beaches; which Kuta Lombok is particularly famous for.
Also a small child called me a whore until I bought a bracelet from him. Charming.
Novotel Kuta Beach Resort for beach/pool days, Milk Espresso and Spa, El Bazar Cafe and Resturant, Bus Bar for the epic fresh pizza.
Three million kids will descend on you wherever you are/sit down/exist trying to get you to buy a colourful string bracelet from them, so just be aware that they will not leave you alone the entire time you are here, no matter what time of night you’re out.
From Lombok, Joske and I flew back to Denpasar, Bali. This time I had been recommended a personal driver whom I contacted and he picked us up from the airport, the fee being made even cheaper as a fellow backpacker we met at the airport jumped in with us, and we also ended up booking him for a day tour the following day.
Arrving in Ubud, which is known as the cultural capital of Bali, we wanted a slightly nicer place with no screaming people or large bugs (large beetle attack in our room in Lombok), so we booked into a hotel which was not far off the cost of a hostel, and included our very own double beds. From here we walked all over Ubud, the first visit of course being to the Monkey Forest.
The Monkey Forest though sacred is actually quite terrifying in the amount of monkeys running all over the joint who obviously have developed magpie-like senses for the things they want; which is everything. They’re in the forest, outside the forest, and West Side Story style clicking their way down the street. Anything you are holding they will try to grab, they also will definitely go for carrier bags; I saw this first hand, and they know you keep things in your back pack and pockets.
I saw a monkey unscrew a bottle and drink from it.
The evolutionary ties of monkeys and your every day 6-year-old being evident.
Whilst in Ubud we visited Tirta Empul Temple, which is a Hindu Temple around 45mins drive from the city. We found someone who worked in the temple who we gave a donation to take us around and he explained in detail the history and religious devotion of the temple. He then stayed with us, whilst we took part in the ritual ceremony talking us through each stage of devotion, and also acted as our unofficial photographer taking hundreds of photos and videos for us. It was a very enlightening place, and a good change from the backpacker drinking culture to experience something more meaningful.
Joske had to do a visa run, so whilst she was off in Singapore for a few days, I stayed on in the hotel on my own for two more nights. This sounds incredibly sad, but following weeks of being surrounded by people and doing things; I needed silence. So, if you have previously read my blog you will know I ordered mash potato to my room, and along with a bottle of red wine; and it was brilliant.
I also went to a cat cafe I had heard about. Now, I don’t really like cats that much, but dog cafes don’t tend to exist and I needed some animal interaction that wasn’t a monkey trying to steal my watch.
I then moved across the town to another capsule hostel; as it’s the most you can get away from people whilst being in the same room as them. Here, as well as filing up on smoothies and market trips, I met Katie and Flossie who became my next travel companions. I met them whilst doing the trek up Mount Batur, easily the best thing I did in Bali. The trek was one of the harder things this unfit writer has done, but the views were amazing, and the sense of pride was truly worth the struggle I wont go into detail as I have written about the climb in a previous post;
‘The Uncomfortable Risk Taker’.
Other activities in Ubud included A LOT of shopping, the markets here are great.
As a side note if you do go to Tirta Empul, there is a large market you have to walk through to leave, which is cheaper than those in Ubud town centre and the shops surrounding the tourist attractions such as the rice paddies. We also went to a traditional Balinese dance show and did a silver jewellery making course at ‘Chez Monique’ which was great.
100% Batur Mountain climb, Ubud Traditional Art Market, Habitat Cafe, Black Pearl Cafe and restaurant, Chez Monique silver jewellery course.
Haggle haggle haggle
Now a group of five, we organised travel to Gili T which is a drive and a boat away. Gili T is known as the party island of Bali, and even though we went in low season when it was a lot quieter than I have heard it normally is; there was a lot of drinking going on in our hostel, and some organised bar crawls. So there was some dancing on tables, tequila shots,and Flossie and I being body guards for each other against the token creepy males in the bar. We also just chilled on the beach and rented some snorkels and looked for turtles in the clear and calm sea.
I was invited to Australia for a weekend, so whilst the girls stayed put for some more beaching I ventured to Perth. They explored some more of the island on bikes, found that spot with the swing in the sea that is on every Gili T adventurers Instagram, and went to a night market where they had some amazing and cheap food.
I was off in Perth with a boy on a jet-ski so I wasn’t complaining!
Joining your hostels bar crawl, get to know some other backpackers with some drinking games! Snorkel for turtles or check out the conservation project info. We stayed at ‘My Mates Place’ hostel.
If a boy invites you to Perth for the weekend, let your friends convince you to go (providing you don’t get murdery vibes from him, which I did not)
Returning to Bali from Perth to meet up with some of the girls; which coincidently renewed my visa leaving and reentering the country, I met them in Candidasa which is in Eastern Bali and has a reputation of being a laid-back coastal village. Here we visited the Goa Lawah Temple and Bat Cave, Titra Gangga Water Temple and the Lotus Lagoon; and also did some sun bathing with the happiest dog in the world.
It was nice to see yet another side to Bali, culturally the temples we went to were nice and there was a shit ton of bats in this cave.
We ran into some trouble with a Uber driver when we left, so prebook a cab or sort one through your hostel
Canggu is one of the most frequented spots in Bali, known predominately for surf and bars. We went primarily as a base to go to Tanah Lot which is a temple on a rock formation in Western Bali and is the most photographed temple in Bali; it has massively overrated sunsets, though honestly I did get some good pics. We also ventured a bit around Canggu, feeding ourselves even more; the breakfasts throughout Bali are pretty epic whether its western poached eggs and avo, or traditional tiny pandan banana pancakes.
Theres a few beach bars and also clubs in Canggu but unfortunately I was sick whilst we were there so didn’t feel too much like venturing out, so I donated the litre of Grey Goose I had acquired to the drunken cause. Drunk zen master that I am.
The main reason I did not get along with Canggu is that during my stay, mine and also my friends bank cards got cloned and all our money stolen. I stupidly didn’t have another method of accessing any money so had to rely on my glorious friends to loan me some, and get some emergency funds sent to me through Western Union.
It was an actual ball-ache.
Tanah Lot is worth a look, Sprouts breakfasts were amazing, Finns Beach Club for drinks.
Have a bank account/card just for travelling as well as your normal one; but just get cash from legitimate building society established cash points, or you too will be calling Tanya in the call centre in Hull whilst she absent mindedly asks you for recommendations for her next holiday. Fuck off Tanya.
Whilst Floss went back to Seminyak, Katie and I ventured on to Jimbaran, which is a fishing village south of Kuta famous for its beach-front fresh seafood restaurants; which we were both still feeling slightly too ill for it turned out. We used Jimbaran as a base to visit Ulawatu Temple, and the well-known beaches around Ulawatu such as Bingin beach. We visited Padang-Padang beach, which you had to pay to go onto and when we arrived a couple of english people came out and told us not to bother. So we didn’t. Instead we walked up the road to a resort and paid to use their inifinity pool and sunloungers. Ballers.
We stayed at Jimbaran Beach hotel, went to Blue Heaven up the road from Padang Padang, red velvet Tim-Tams are the shit.
The beachfront restaurants are really overpriced and loads of coaches turn up full of tourists for dinner and sunset so it didn’t seem worth it to us.
Also, everyone in Bali hates Uber so don’t tell anyone you’re using it if you are and say a friend is coming to get you otherwise they will have MAJOR issues, our’s nearly got into a fight with a local taxi driver.
Katie and I then went and met Flossie in Kuta. Kuta is back near Seminyak and both are the more touristy/holidaycentric areas in Bali, predominately filled with booze, music, food and shops. Heaven. Here we gave up on hostels entirely and stayed in a hotel for our last part of the trip. In Kuta we went and spent the remainder of our money; the shops here are great and the ray bali’s (fake ray bans) are in overpriced abundance. I had been to majority of the shops there previously when in Seminyak, but I revisited just to make sure I hadn’t missed out on any major purchases, and also to add to my weird global espresso cup collection (hardest thing to collect in the world).
Here we just looked after ourselves, shopped, ate, drank, and generally had a holiday. As much as backpacking sounds like a blast, it can be knackering and you feel like you need a holiday from your holiday.
We walked all over Kuta, which has a lot of markets as well as a big shopping centre which held the holy grail; Zara. Purchases were made by some; Katie bought a scarf: what.
The best thing we did whilst in Kuta was to go to Waterbom water park, which is full of water slides and was brilliant, THEY HAVE SLIDES WHERE THE FLOOR DISAPPEARS. We had a blast being big kids.
On our last night, we were complete westerners and went for dinner in Jamie’s Italian where we all treated ourselves to a glass of wine before we sadly went our separate ways, Flossie back to the UK, and Katie and I off to Kuala Lumpur for more adventures it will take me months to remember the details of.
We stayed at Ozz hotel, definitely go to Waterbom Waterpark, Beachwalk Shopping Centre held the Zara, walk anywhere around Kuta and there are markets.
I heard it said alot of places in Bali (as with anywhere globally really) but pickpockets are about, and I had heard of friends of friends who got things stolen even whilst driving a moped, so be sensible.
That was Bali.
So, here are my main points of advice;
– Have a spare bank card and account, and only use confirmed bank cash machines
– Do not let anyone know you are using Uber, you cannot actually use it in most places (these places are signposted) otherwise download the Bluebird Taxi app or prebook a driver
– As with all travel, download and use the ‘Maps.me’ app
– Tiger Balm is a god-send
I feel like I have definitely missed huge chunks out, got information wrong, and downplayed how much I actually ate (it was a lot). Overall I would thoroughly recommend going there, its one of the easiest places I have travelled to, with the friendliest people. I made some wonderful mates, one of whom is now one of my closest friends (shout out to K-dog), I have eaten my weight in pancakes, I got called a whore by a 6 year old, I am now addicted to watermelon juice, I did not learn to surf but did climb a mountain, I tried luwak (poo) coffee, I started my blog, I bought enough clothes to start a market stall, I laughed, I cried, and I mimed bladder infection to a Balinese chemist like a medically induced game of charades.
It was fabulous.
Look out for the next thrilling instalment of ‘Melons Travels’, where I will discuss Kuala Lumpur;
probably in about a years time!