Don’t feel like reading the rest of this blog? Then check out our video HERE to see our trip to Bali!
How to get to Bali……
Air Asia and Malindo Air have crazy cheap flights to Bali from Bangkok! If you are coming from Southern Thailand however, it may be cheaper to fly out of Hat Yai or Krabi and make a stop in Kuala Lumpur first (or travel first to Langkawi or Penang, Malaysia and then take the train down to KL). The flight from Bangkok is an easy four hours from DMK airport, but the cheapest one is at 6am! Being on a tight budget we took the 6am flight. You can either catch a cab around 2am to get to the airport or sleep in the airport the night before (head to the observation deck and you will find plenty of others doing the same thing). If you head there the night before you can take the BTS system to Victory Monument and catch a cheap van to the airport for 30baht! Either way make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and check in…there are MANY MANY tour groups catching 6am flights and if you fly Air Asia they are not adequately staffed that early to handle everyone.
Day 1 Bali:
We arrived in Bali early in the morning and were immediately in awe of the area as the airport is absolutely BEAUTIFUL. We previously had read about catching public Bemos ( minivans) to Ubud for cheap. However, this was not the case as we searched much of the area to no avail until we finally gave up and were able to talk down a taxi driver to 150,000 rupiah. The drive to Ubud was easy, but when we arrived our driver was not able to find our hotel and spent a good 30 minutes pulling over and asking people. Eventually we made it to the Ramaniya House (be sure to read our review below). We were greeted by the friendly staff and taken up to our lovely room overlooking the football field across the street. After settling in for a bit we headed out to find food. We walked down the main road heading to the Royal Palace and saw so many wonderful looking restaurants. Many were a bit pricier than we are used to, but we finally agreed on a beautiful place for lunch. Food was around 30-50 rupiah and they even had a grilled chicken and avocado salad. As these are two things I miss a lot in Thailand I had to get it while Mike enjoyed a tofu dish. Our meals were great and washed down with delicious sugar cane tea and Balinese coffee.
Next we headed out to Monkey Forest. Yes, its exactly what it sounds like…a beautiful forest with several temples and overrun by monkeys. It cost 40,000 rupiah and is a very nice place to stroll around, well if you don’t mind being bothered by monkeys. Make sure you do NOT have any open bags and have something to put your water bottle in as the monkeys will come and try to take anything they can. We were not bothered by too many monkeys although a few did have fun pulling at my shirt, skirt, and hair, and a couple did reach quickly into my bag to steal something out of my camera case. This is not a place for people afraid of monkeys, but as long as you do not make eye contact or freak out, you will be okay.
Following Monkey forest we decided to just walk around town a bit. We spent quite a bit of time checking out different tours we could do to see more of the area and to book a cheaper Mt. Batur sunrise trek tour. Lastly, we went to Jl Goutama street to find a cheaper dinner and stumbled upon Warung Biah Biah. It was filled with fellow tourists and set up in a community style where everyone shared larger tables. The menu was quite amazing as it was filled with tons of great foods, cheap prices (be aware that most places add an additional 10% to your bill for tax), and had items like tofu, Tempe, and avocado! The service is extremely SLOW, but worth the wait if you have time. We ordered chicken satay and Nasi Campur. The chicken satay was surprisingly a large portion and one of the best I have had. The peanut sauce was basically peanut butter and so delicious. The Nasi Campur consisted of: rice, a chicken wing, tempe with tomatoes, tofu, greens and coconut, and tempe satay. It was GREAT! The flavors and spices were so good and the gateway to our love for Indonesian food. We spent the rest of the night keeping it chill, after all we did sleep in the airport the night before.
We were greeted at 8am by the hotel staff delivering us breakfast in bed, well to our door. It consisted of a fruit platter, toast, an egg, and tea/white coffee. This was such a treat especially having my FAVORITE white coffee once again. Shortly after breakfast we were picked up for a tour around the area and were not really sure to to expect for most of the day. Our tour included us and 5 other people crammed into a car.
Our fist stop was the Elephant Cave Goa Gaja. The cave received its name from its famed carving of an Elephant at the entrance. It’s a beautiful, but small place to stop. I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to see it. Cost: 15,000 rupiah includes sarong and sash.
Next stop was a Batik Hand Weaving factory in Gianyar. I was previously very excited about this part of the tour. Batik is a common style pattern of fabric that can be found across Indonesia, Malaysia, and southern Thailand. I personally own a skirt that I am completely in love with, and everyone in our old town has many pieces of Batik fabric. However, our visit was a big fail. We had about 15 minutes to watch someone weave and see a very expensive gift shop. Nobody was able to give us much information or anything about the process or history. If you are curious in learning a bit more, ask a local or visit the Fabric Museum at the Royal Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. Cost: Free
Our next place on the tour was the Kehen Temple, which is the second largest in Bali. It cost about 30,000 rupiah to get in and comes with a sarang and sash. The temple itself was absolutely stunning and quite different from the Thai temples that we are used to. I really enjoyed our visit here, although I am not sure I would drive all the way out of my way just to see it if we had not been on a tour. Cost:30,000 rupiah
After touring around for a bit we headed off to the Coffee Garden , Spice,& Salak Fruit Plantation in Menange.
Dewa Warung. There we learned about Luwak Coffee in which Bali in famous for. Luwak coffee is one of the most expensive coffee’s in the world. *The beans are fed to a civit who digest it before the coffee is made. Recently, there have been many concerns at how ethical the coffee is as some of the animals may be force fed and then kept awake during the day for tourists to see even though they are nocturnal. After a quick tour and lesson on how the coffee is made we all sat down for a coffee and tea tasting. There we tried SOO many drinks. However, you did have to pay ( The tour and regular tastings is free) to try the Luwak coffee. Some of the amazing drinks we tried were: coconut, vanilla, sweet potato and ginseng coffee/ Lemongrass, mangosteen, roselle, and ginger tea. I really wish we had bought more of all of the drinks to take back with us as they were just absolutely amazing. Cost: Free
Full from tea and coffee we next went to the Besikah Temple, the largest temple in Bali. It was just WOW. We had just over an hour and that was nowhere enough time to explore and take everything in. When you do arrive the ticket counter will try and have you book a tour through them to enter. You DO NOT need to do this as you can walk freely throughout the complex without any problem. Even though we have plenty of pictures that do not even come close to showing how beautiful the temple was. Cost 15,000 rupiah does not include a sarong so be sure to bring one with you ladies. We did hear mixed things about if males were required, but Mike walked in without one and no problems occurred.
Last two stops……Finally, hungry as ever we were taken to a resort at the Bukit Jambul rice fields.Luckily I had purchased several cheap passion fruits and mangosteens at the previous temple as we did not want to spend a fortune on food. These two fruits are typically quite expensive, but for some reason were crazy cheap here. We were able to sit back, eat our fruit and enjoy viewing some amazing rice fields. At times depending on the clouds we were also able to see the nearby Mt Agun standing tall in all of its beauty. Cost: Free (if you decide not to eat lunch)
Finally, we headed out for our last stop to the Old Court Justice aka Kertagosa. It was a lovely place to end the tour, especially as it didn’t require climbing anymore steps. It was a beautiful place to see, but once again not a place I would visit if I was not on a tour. Cost: 10-15,000 rupiah
Overall, it was a nice tour and we are glad we went on it as it was a great way to see part of Bali. However, we are not sure that we would recommend it as our driver was not the friendliest and we felt rushed most times. Usually we prefer to do stuff on our own, but we really just wanted to relax and not have to worry about driving or anything else.
The rest of the night was spent walking around and grabbing dinner at Warung Biah Biah.
Different types of Nasi Campur: Tofu, Tempe, Chicken, Vegetables! A MUST try!
Around 1:30am our first alarm went off! Mike and I needed to be out of the door by 2am to await for our ride to Mt. Batur. That’s right, us and many other tourists were on our way to hike an active volcano! Not having many warm clothes with us since we live in southern Thailand we proceeded to layer up with several clothes as we heard the hike could be a bit chilly, especially at the top. We spent quite a bit of the morning driving around picking up other passengers and stopping for tea and banana pancakes! When we go to the mountain we were split up into a group of 8 and each handed flashlights as it was pitch black! Really wish I had two since I have become pretty night blind making the trek up quite the challenge. Around 3:45 we started our journey up. At first the hike seemed pretty simple not so steep, but our guides were basically running exhausting me and several others out quickly. However, this ended up just being the walk to the mountain. EEEk. Finally, we started our climb up…and it was a bit difficult. Mike soared straight up along the steep path while I struggled a bit more, after all I have two horrible knees (with 2 great braces on). At times the path became quite crowded and there was definitely quite a bit of slipping and falling down between me and a couple others from a different group. Eventually, we made it to the half way point, summit, and then the peak! At times I was not sure if I was going to make it or just slide down the whole mountain. The top half was the worst to hike as it was all sandy (it is a volcano) and super slippery to climb up. Yet, WE DID IT! Being that high in the sky was amazing! The sun had still not risen so we found ourselves in a large amount of clouds waiting to see a peak of something in the distance. While we waited we were able to walk by some plumes aka tiny hot holes to warm up and eat our packed breakfast of toast, egg, and a banana. Unfortunately, I watched my egg slip out of my hands and roll down the volcano. After sometime, we finally were able to see a beautiful sunrise, the town below, rice terraces, and the nearby volcano Mt Agur. This was truly was one of the most amazing things we have done while traveling, and I DO highly recommend hiking Mt. Batur or another nearby volcano if you are ever in Bali. Finally, the time came for our decent down. It was beautiful to see everything that we had climbed up in the night and of course we came across several monkeys. The climb for me consisted of consistently sliding down on my butt through the sand ( goodbye my white jacket), but we finally made it to the bottom! What an accomplishment!
After our climb exhausted as we still had two more stops to go before we could go home and sleep. First we briefly stopped by a coffee tasting , where we were able to sample some, but nothing compared to the day before. Most of the group just stayed by the van and slept, but we were not going to pass up any opportunity to try some of Bali’s amazing drinks.
Lastly for the morning, we made a pit stop at the famous Tegalalang Rice Terrace. Well, these were famous to us as they have been consistently pictured in our previous geography books in both undergrad and graduate school. The terraces were just stunning! I really hope we can go back one day and explore through them when we have more time and also more awake to take everything in.
The rest of the day we spent resting up, exploring the town and meeting a friend we had made in Thailand for dinner and drinks. Surprisingly we found a bar with an Indonesian band playing cover songs for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers!!!!!!!!!!!!
Today we decided that we didn’t hike enough yesterday so we embarked on the Campuhan Ridge Walk followed by 8 more kilometers around Ubud. For those of you who want to continue on after the Campuahan Ridge Walk grab a copy of Lonley Planet. The ridge walk was BEAUTIFUL and a great way to see Ubud without all of the tourists. The walk takes you through lush green fields and rice terraces. There are several artists along the way painting and happy to talk and a couple resorts to stop for a bite to eat. We stopped at the Karsa Cafe. They have plenty of advertisements so you won’t miss it. There you can sit overlooking a beautiful lotus pond (come early to see them bloom) and some rice terraces. The prices were surprisingly not outrageous as dishes cost as low as 20,000 rupiah. We enjoyed a nice large coconut to drink and a black sticky rice pudding with coconut milk and palm sugar. Sounds a bit strange, but it was absolutely delicious!! I have seen it on several other menus for breakfast and dessert if you want to try it a different time. After the cafe you can continue on around small towns and more rice terraces for another couple hours or return back to the center. If you do continue on be prepared for 1 very steep hill, but the rest is flat.
Lunch: Dewa Warung ( Pretty much we ate here or Warung Bia Biah for most every meal)
Later in the day we ventured off to the Ubud Market. Its located across from the Royal Palace and covers a decent size area. The market has many touristy items, clothes, plenty of beautiful batik fabric, and some tea/coffee that you may have tasted on an excursion in Ubud. My number one tip for anyone here (or any market) is to go at closing time, which is around 6pm. Then you can bargain for the best deal as sellers are desperate to get rid of items. In addition, check out the top floors for better deals. My last tip is when bargaining, slice the price in half and then work your way up from there. We had some great luck here including some tea, and two beautiful pieces of fabric that I can’t wait to have made into a skirt!
Lastly, today we saw our first Balinese traditional dance. If you go to the tourists center in front of the Royal Palace the guys there can show you a list of all the dances, times, and prices going on for the week. You can either buy a ticket there or from one of the people selling it on the streets for the same exact price. There are so many options, but the one that was recommended to us which we saw was the Lagong and Barong Dance at the Royal Palace. This is a MUST SEE! Originally, we wanted to see the chanting dance that Anthony Bourdain saw on his trip here, but that is mainly done out in Uluwatu. The show cost 80,000 rupiah and starts around 7:30, but come by 7 to get a good seat! *you can even sit on the floor in front of the chairs if you would like. On the night we saw it the place was pretty packed, but luckily we had front row seats (thank goodness as I did not have my glasses). The show was absolutely AMAZING. I have truly never seen anything like this and the dancers were so on point and great with every single crazy movement including the strange finger bending and sharp eye movements. Unfortunately, we came during the end of rainy season and after not getting hit with any it started to drizzle 20 minutes in. Since the place was not covered we all quickly ran across the street to a new area to finish the show. One of my biggest regrets coming to Bali was not seeing more performances…but hey, guess we have to come back!
After enjoying our morning breakfast in bed of fresh fruit banana pancakes, and white coffee we boarded a van to take us half way to our next destination of Seminyak. We booked the van just down the street from our hotel for 60,000 each person. There are vans that will take you there, but you need to book them more than a day in advance (whoops) or you can splurge a bit and take a taxi. Another great option to get around is to use the app Grab Taxi which is very similar to Uber, but you need to activate it before you arrive or have an Indonesian sim card to use it. The van we took dropped us just outside of Seminyak in the tourist town of Kuta. Before arriving we did some research ahead of time to figure out how much a taxi to Seminyak should be, after all its super close by. We read it was supposed to be 30,000, but after asking MANY drivers we were only able to find someone to take us for 40,000…not too horrible of a price. When we arrived in Seminyak once again our driver could not find our hotel. He refused to call at first, but eventually gave in. By then he was super frustrated and just wanted out, he pulled over made us get out and pointed in the direction of our hostel ( he had to drive that direction anyways). Having no idea where to go we started walking and after asking some other hotels we eventually stumbled upon the ICH hostel. The main reason we were staying here is because a fellow teacher from Thailand had been working there, but was unable to be there during our visit. The hostel itself is very nice and has the friendliest staff.
After settling in and figuring out some stuff we headed down the street for a Balinese buffet style lunch and to the beach, after all that is why we came to this area. We were about a ten minute walk away, even though it felt like forever as it was a billion degrees outside. Eventually, we reached the beach. It was…uhhh…well great for surfers. There were red flags in the waters and signs warning against swimming, absolutely no shade, and chairs you could pay to lay down on. This would have been great if we were surfers or even wanted a tan, but we are not surfers and all we wanted was some shade if we could not cool off in the water. After being a bit disappointed ( Thailand beaches aka Koh Lipe has pretty much ruined all other beaches for us) we headed to just walk around town for the night and return back to watch a beautiful sunset.
Our last day in Bali! Originally, we wanted to head to Uluwatu or another sea temple, but we decided to just save the money and just relax. The day was spent eating amazing frozen yogurt at Frozen yogi ( if you visit the location in Ubud fist you can get a 10% off card), relaxing, and doing a bit of last minute shopping. There are several hotels with pools that you can pay fee to go and use like Ku De Ta or Potato bar, but we just felt like exploring the city.
Since it was the first night of Passover I had googled around to see if anything was going on and stumbled upon Shana Tovah the local Chabad who was hosting a sedar right next door to our hostel! We decided to attend, I mean when else are we going to go to a Sephardic sedar in BALI! We were immediately greeted by a friendly Israeli and several yeshiva students when we arrived. For the service the men and women did have to sit separate. This was a bit strange for Mike and a few others who were not 100% sure to do during the service as it was Shabbat. Services lasted about an hour, we all had only Hebrew books, and it was kind of a shit show since there were people from all different backgrounds doing different tunes to songs. Majority of the people there though were Israeli or from Australia. For the actual sedar itself we found ourselves sitting with a British couple around our age who had been backpacking South East Asia. The sedar was a bit like services as everyone kept switching from English to Hebrew and just overall talking a lot. The sedar plate was a bit different than the traditional Ashkenazi one and consisted of lettuce and celery for bitter herbs. Dinner itself was surprisingly quite amazing. They hired chefs from a local resort to cook a variety of chicken, fish, veggies, avocado rolls, and more! We quickly shoved food down our throats as it was already quite late in the night and we had to make it to the airport for our 6am flight. Yes, we spent the night our 3 hours in the airport instead of trying to find a cab and pay for a second night at the hostel.
We woke up SUPER CRAZY EARLY and headed off to Kuala Lumpur for the day! For those of you trying to save some cash it may be cheaper to fly in and out of there, especially if you are heading to southern Thailand.
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