If you’ve never been to Bali, Indonesia, there are a few things that you should know before arriving. You’re no where NEAR Kansas anymore; you should never pay asking price; be prepared to hear a litany of “taxi?”, “massage?”; if you’re looking to party, you’re in the right place; if you’re looking to relax, you’re in the right place; and the Balinese are the nicest people you could hope to meet!
I landed in Bali just before 2AM and thought I was prepared to walk to my one night hotel with map in hand. I soon realized that street signs were only obvious on major streets so I ended up walking probably 3 times farther than I should have, carrying ALL of my heavy bags. As if that wasn’t bad enough, even at that hour, the heat and humidity was like nothing I had ever experienced!! I eventually realized that I had missed my turn (way back there!) so turned around and started asking people for directions. During this journey, I was asked probably 50 times if I needed a ride by taxi’s and scooters. Oddly, I felt perfectly safe on the dark streets at 3 in the morning! Yes, I finally arrived at my hotel completely soaked in sweat!
A few hours later, my driver arrived to transport me to my bungalow in Ubud, Bali. I had no idea that Ubud was actually where the bulk of the “Love” part of the movie, “Eat, Pray, Love”, was filmed! I can believe it though! I fell head over heels in love with Ubud!
My bungalow was 2 story with a front porch. My double bed boasted a canopy with mosquito netting. Every morning, there was a thermos of hot water waiting on my patio table along with coffee, tea, sugar, cream, and the necessary cup, saucer, and spoon. As soon as I had made my coffee and sat back to enjoy, the caretaker materialized to converse (I honestly never understood much of what he said) and to ask me what I wanted for breakfast. Always, there was a plate of various fresh fruit and I invariably ordered the banana pancakes as they ROCKED! Please note that all of this and more was for a mere $15 USD a night!! I completely recommend Pondok Bambu Homestay to anyone looking for a true Bali experience. Just be prepared to be woken every morning just after 5AM by the neighbors rooster and chickens.
The owner of Pondok Bambu loaned me one of his wife’s sarongs so that I could attend the ceremony across the street at the Hindu temple. It was nearing the end of a week long celebration and, my last night there, they had the traditional Balinese dance. With hair down and/or no sarong, I was not allowed in the temple so I was grateful!
Anyway, from my bungalow, I could walk down the stairs at the back of the complex and wind my way to the rice paddies. Quite a sight to see! During my rice paddy wanderings, I met a Balinese man, Wayan, who offered to take me wherever I wanted for a mere $15 a day on the back of his scooter. I accepted. We spent 2 days riding all over Bali through rain and sun and my sore behind! We stopped at a coffee plantation, the Tegalalang Rice Terraces, Tirta Empul, Lake Batur and Hot Springs, and Kitamani, which provided an amazing view of Mount Batur. We visited Goa Gajah (Elephant Temple), Batuan Temple, a jewelry factory, Lake Bratan, and the Botanical Garden. Yes!! I was exhausted and enjoyed doing nothing pretty much the next couple of days!! I did get a pedicure on my way to get wine, though! With tip, it cost me about $5 USD.
I did also find, thanks to my neighbor, that I could take those same stairs and head off in the other direction to cheap but fantastic restaurants! The path eventually led to town as well and to the one nearby shop where I could buy wine! The night I learned of the direction and offerings that it led to, my neighbor and I ambled down it to a little place, Bali Yoga, where we ate and drank and became very merry! I now have another new, fun friend!
Ubud is fantastic for just wandering. You will pass through hundreds of little shops of local vendors, boutiques, temples, spas, art galleries, restaurants, bars, and accommodations. Turn a corner and you’re in quiet rice paddies or a monkey forest. Ubud is a great jumping off point for seeing the rest of the island as well. I had only booked 4 nights at Pondok Bambu but extended 2 more nights. I really wish I had stayed even longer!
My 8th day in Bali, I snagged a “taxi”, negotiated a price, and was driven to my new residence, Matahari Bungalow, in Legian, Bali. This was a much larger hotel complex which included a pool, swim up bar, and restaurant. The staff was, again, awesome! I booked Legian instead of Kuta as I was told it wasn’t as much of a party town. Well, I think “they” meant to say that it wasn’t as much the 20-something scene as the older party crowd. After all, you can’t tell where Legian ends and Kuta begins.
My first day, I decided to walk to the beach. It wasn’t far and I found it easily. I paid for an hour for a lounge chair under an umbrella then was completely inundated by vendors!! The vendors refused to leave until I bought a few items so, 45 minutes later, and completely stressed and angry, they left me a few dollars poorer. After that, I pretty well stayed away from the nearby beach.
One night, I took a taxi to a seafood restaurant on the beach in Jimbaran, Jukung Bali Seafood, and had a somewhat expensive but memorable meal with fantastic sunset views. After arriving back at my hotel, I decided I wanted to dance so I walked down to the bars. I met a local man and, a bit later, an Australian woman and we ended up having a fantastic time bar hopping and dancing!
A couple of days later, at the hotel pool, I met a British man who completely cracked me up! He invited me to dinner, so we went. We wandered back streets and found local bands playing to surfer dudes in dive bars and would stop to have a drink and enjoy. We went to a favorite locale of his, Alley Cats, where we had a tray of drinks and met several expats! Then it was time to hit the dance clubs! I ran into the local guy from 2 nights before and he joined us. All I can say is, it takes me way too long to recuperate from these fantastically FUN nights!! I saw the Brit 2 days later and he was still recuperating himself! It seems he went back out after seeing me safely home around 4AM!!
One of my days in Legian, I hired a taxi to drive me to Tanah Lot, as it was one location Wayan had not managed to get me to. It’s one of those places that you see pictures of anytime Bali is mentioned. It is a beautiful place to walk, snap pictures, and reflect.
I had posted an invitation on the Bali Couchsurfing group for anyone who wanted to go to Lovina to see the wild dolphins and ended up finding a ride as well as a new friend! Two days after my night out, we departed Legian at 2:45AM in order to arrive before sunrise and rented a fishing boat to go out to see the dolphins as the sun rose. It was amazing and exhausting but the sunrise was awesome and we saw dolphins!! Upon returning to my hotel, I went to a spa for a 1 hour massage which, with tip, cost me just under $5 USD. My new friend met me at my hotel pool that night where we enjoyed drinks, laughs, and wonderful new memories!
That was my last day in Bali. The next morning, my new friend drove me to the airport on her scooter (Yes! It was quite a sight!) and we said goodbye for now. I REALLY hope to make it back to Bali again SOON!!!