Bali…why did we ever leave?
We were drawn in by the allure of beaches and sunbathing and left with stories of adventure and culture. If you are going to take one trip this year, make it to Bali. David and I divided our time between two areas – Seminyak and Ubud. They were both amazing and filled with a variety of options to satisfy any travelers desires.
The resorts are amazing and come at a small price tag. There are great options starting at only $30 USD per night – think gorgeous pool with swim up bar and breakfast included. You can’t beat the price and hospitality – we stayed at Hotel Vila Lumbung. (Fun fact: this is a popular vacation destination for Australians, kind of like Hawaii for Americans)
This town is lined with good western food options, which was a nice break for our stomachs but not are wallets. With dinners costing upwards of $70 USD for two, you may want to look for more local spots if you are traveling on a budget, or just prefer that vibe.
One food spot not to miss is Mexicola. The restaurant looks small from the street but once inside, you enter a huge room with banquet style seating and a dance floor. No need to make any choices here, order the house margarita and the banquet style dinner (3 courses) and let the food come to you. The high energy of the staff and great music will have you dancing in your seat, or the dance floor if you have more guts then me.
I’m often searching for the perfect cafe to grab a coffee or relax for the afternoon to work on the blog. I was tipped off by a fellow traveler on some great places to check out in the area. Organic Cafe has a menu that will satisfy any western diet restriction and is a health foodies dream. Enjoy an amazing sandwich, fruit smoothie, or refreshing salad. If you are in the mood for a great acia bowl don’t miss Nalu Bowls, a smoothie shack located about a mile south from Organic Cafe – worth the journey.
Take time to walk around the Jalan Petitenget and Jalan Kayu Aya streets. They are a gold mine for great clothing and jewelry, think Free People inspired dresses for $3 USD! Mala beads are also very popular in Bali. If you are heading to Ubud I would wait to purchase them there. If I had the room in my luggage I would have bought everything in site. (Tip: Stay away from stores that have air conditioning, their prices are higher and typically bartering is not welcome.)
Being in a sunny paradise, we were in search for a great relaxing beach. This and so much more can be found at the Potato Head Beach Club. Live a life of luxury for a day in your own cabana and waitstaff. Come early (9am) to get a good day-bed spot, they fill up before 10am when the resort opens. This luxury requires a minimum food/drink order of $50 USD poolside and $100 USD beachside. With the purchase of lunch and a few drinks this will be fulfilled in no time. Lather up on sun screen and enjoy hanging out by the infinity pool overlooking the ocean – all day long!
Eastern Asia is a great place to kick back and enjoy the luxurious lifestyle on a budget. Spend a few hours or half a day at Spring Spa, a great place for a facial and a Balinese message (our preference over the intense Thai message). Call ahead to make appointments.
Day Trips from Seminyak
There are a few different ways you can get around Bali. Renting a scooter is an affordable option but we found a few attractions too far from the city to travel by scooter (and the roads were a little insane). You could also rent a car, they do drive on the left side of the road so do a mental check before jumping behind the wheel. We decided to taxi most places that were over a few miles. Several drivers will offer a set price for a day of driving – around $40 USD for 8 hours. We opted to do this for one day, which was a good alternative to renting a car, and a relaxing way to see more of the area.
We mapped out two spots to travel with the driver and agreed on the itinerary before hitting the road.
First stop: Tanah Lot Temple
This is a large temple formed from rock along the sea. Go during low tide and watch the waves come in, it is pretty amazing! Don’t forget your camera.
While at this temple take a break and enjoy some luwak coffee. This coffee has already been digested (yes you read that correctly) by a luwak (an animal that looks half monkey half cat) and pooped out for you to enjoy. It is surprisingly some of the most expensive coffee in the world. I must say it is delicious, with the proteins being stripped out through the digestion process, you are left with a really smooth cup of joe. Do your research before, some luwaks are treated inhumanly to try and keep up with the high demand for their poo. Know where it is coming from and drink responsibly.
To get to this cafe head back up the main set of stairs leaving the temple behind you and hang a right and walk up the steep incline for a few minutes. A bat will be there to greet you along with three friendly luwaks crawling around! The shirtless owner has these animals as pets coming to work with him each day and enjoying a life similar to a Silicon Valley dog (very spoiled and well fed)! Take time to chat with the barista and enjoy a cup made for you from one of his furry friends.
Second stop: Uluwatu Temple
This was a further drive (around two hours from Tanah Lot) with road conditions becoming more windy and bumpy as you near the Temple. Uluwatu is also set along the ocean and casts an amazing view. We visited this site with curiosity for their cultural fire and trance dance that are famous to Bali. These dances are used to pass on stories of tribes through human vocals, extravagant costumes, and fire tricks. The show is an interesting peek into their traditional form of dance. Arrive at 5pm to purchase your tickets ($7 USD) for the 6pm show. We recommend heading into the open air theater at 5:30pm to get good seats. The sun begins to set as you listen to the dancers rhythmic chants fill the theater. The show is about an hour and worth a visit if you are interested in seeing a Kecak dance, this one is said to be the best in Bali.
For a bit more culture, book a tour with Eco Bike Tours. With your day starting at 8am you get a great peek into the rural Balinese life before you are dropped off at your hotel. They will pick you up in a nice charter van from any hotel between Seminyak and Ubud. If you are staying in both areas during your time in Bali wait to do the tour from Ubud, this will save you time in the van.
The day starts out with breakfast over looking Mount Batur, the only active volcano in Bali (spectacular view, average breakfast). Load back into the bus to enjoy a quick trip to a coffee plantation where we discovered popular herbs used in Balinese food and watched the process of coffee beans roasting. Sip on great tea and coffee, and chat it up with your crew for the day (other travelers can also be a wealth of information).
We then hoped on our bikes and began touring the countryside. The ride was mostly downhill and was a fun way to see villages and rice fields. The children are so excited to say “hello” while you bike past their humble homesteads.
This was a great way to see the other side of Bali while being confident in our guide leading the way back to our van. This trip was quick, but perfect if you have limited time.
We cannot recommend Bali enough. Go, enjoy yourself, live like a king for a day and climb a volcano the next. If you are wanting a mix of culture, adventure, and relaxation nothing else compares.