Last May/June, Justin and I spent a solid two and a half weeks in Bali. We were coming off a high having just backpacked through southern Thailand for two weeks and I really didn't think Bali would top it. However, Bali was everything I expected and so much more.
So please, take a trip down memory lane with me and discover the magic of Bali in this post.
First stop: Kuta
I first just have to say that our timing in Bali was incredible. We went just before high season, which meant the weather was beautiful pretty much every single day and there were way less people. Oh yeah, and we booked unreal resorts for super cheap.
~ Our resort ~
The resort we stayed at in Kuta was called Matahari Bungalow and we had the absolute best time there. The best part about staying there (besides the off-season discount, amazing breakfast and swim up bar) were the people that we made friends with. We actually stayed here on two different occasions during our time in Bali, at the beginning and at the end of our trip. Breakfast was included and let me tell you, all of it was so good! My favourite was the Nutella toast with fresh fruit, Indonesian coffee and fresh juice. Most mornings we would eat breakfast while watching the Raptors dominate in the 2019 NBA playoffs.
The staff there were the sweetest and truly felt like good friends. And, that goes for most pretty much all Balinese people. I couldn't believe the kindness and hospitality that they showed us. They also thought Justin was the funniest person alive [for some reason 😉]. Although this resort is on the busiest street in Bali, it's so tucked away that it feels like a secluded jungle paradise. I 100% recommend this resort to anyone visiting Bali. It's a great spot to relax around the pool and is only a quick 5-10 minute walk to the beach.
~ The beach ~
The main reason we wanted to go to Kuta, was to learn how to surf! The beach in Kuta is meant for beginner surfers, as the waves are high but not too high. The pure beauty of this massive beach is amazing! It spans 2.5km and is full of good people and good vibes. Not to mention the most unreal sunsets.
We learned to surf from our pal Ronald, who teaches people from all over the world to surf on Kuta Beach. It was a lot of fun to learn a new skill in the sun, however we seriously needed to invest in some UV protective rash guards because that first day I got fried! It was bad...but it was (mostly) worth it. It didn't take long before we were standing up on our boards without help and the rest was history. It was so satisfying riding those waves and feeling the wind blow through our dry-ass salty hair 😂.
Dusk was probably my favourite time on Kuta Beach. It seemed that all of Denpasar (the city near the beach) came down to take in the low tide and breathtaking colours. Justin and I loved grabbing some Indonesian food and a towel and just sitting there people watching with the most beautiful back drop. Good vibes!
~ Our discovery of Nasi Goreng ~
While staying in Kuta, we discovered what is now my all time favourite rice dish (close second is the paella), Nasi Goreng.
Travel Tip: in Bali the food can get expensive in the main tourist areas. So, ask the locals where they like to eat or where you can find a good warung*.
*Warung: small family-owned restaurant or cafe.
We asked the workers at our resort where we could get cheap food. They directed us to directly behind the resort where there was a street full of family-owned restaurants and shops that the locals go to. We ended up stumbling upon the quaintest restaurant run by the friendliest man. We paid a total of $10 CAD total for two people to have dinner and drinks. It was fantastic and we went back every day after that 🙌.
I fell in love with Nasi Goreng and I think I had it every day in Bali. Nasi Goreng is fried rice with veggies, chicken or seafood, and a sunny side up egg on top. I think what makes it so good is the shrimp paste, shallots, soy sauce and garlic that is added.
Next up: Ubud
As soon as we booked our tickets to Bali, I knew I wanted to go to Ubud, possibly for the extremely cliché reason that it was in the movie Eat, Pray, Love 😂. Whatever the reason may be, Ubud was magical. Ubud is located in the middle of Bali, surround by rainforests, rice terraces and Hindu temples. It is known as the traditional centre of Bali.
~ Exploring the town ~
The town of Ubud is eccentric and unique. It has that boho vibe that you would expect it to have. The market was one of my favourite places and we were able to snag some pretty wonderful and unique souvenirs for ourselves and family. Justin was pretty good at negotiating prices too. There are countless cafes, restaurant and shops in Ubud that you can take your pick of, all of them being different from the next. This is what makes Ubud a wonderful destination.
Besides the shops and restaurants, you can wander the streets and come across temples upon temples to discover, while forever taking in the smell in incense. You can enjoy the culture and architecture and you can even watch traditional dancing at the Ubud Palace.
Close to the town is a great place to go for a hike and catch those beautiful Bali views. Campuhan Ridge Walk is a lush hiking trail through the hills and forests of Bali. On our walk we ended up passing a warung where we stopped for some fresh coconut. Yum! Just make sure you wear proper footwear! I was wearing sandals and I got the biggest blister on my pinky toe. It was under so much pressure that you could see the blood pumping through it... not joking. I won't tell you what happened when we popped it with a sterilized needle, but you can probably guess (TMI maybe? 🤷🏼♀️).
~ Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary ~
A sacred monkey forest sanctuary? Sounds like fun, right!? Nope. 😂 Okay it was a little fun but mostly terrifying. The monkey sanctuary in Ubud is an incredibly beautiful jungle where the monkeys are taken very good care of. However, the monkeys have gotten very used to humans and will climb on you and do anything to get that granola bar you forgot you had in your bag.
I was pretty scared of these teeny creatures the entire time we were there, but what's life without a little fear? If nothing else, it was a beautiful walk through the jungle and we got to see little baby monkeys! [Later that baby would be kidnapped by another evil monkey, but that's another story 😳]. Anyways, here are a few images I was able to take in the forest.
~ Murni's Warung + Cafe Pomegranate ~
If you've ever wanted to eat lunch or dinner with a view, look no further. These two restaurants were my absolute favourite in Ubud with the most incredible views ever. I could literally sit sipping tea or wine at either of these places all day long.
Murni's Warung is fairly priced with delicious Indonesian food. We went for lunch and got a table right by their lookout on to a river and jungle wall. It's such a soothing place to take a break and grab some tea in between exploring the town.
Cafe Pomegranate is a bit of a walk from the main area of Ubud, but it is worth it and the views on the way there are amazing (especially at sunset). This cafe is located right smack dab in the middle of a rice field. It was one of the most unique dining experiences I have had. Another positive to this place is that they have pretty good wine, which anyone who has travelled to Asia will tell you is difficult to find.
Mount Batur: sunrise hike
Mount Batur is an active volcano located in Kintamani, Bali. It has epic views of another volcano Mount Agung, which actually erupted days before we went on our hike up Mt. Batur! It is an active volcano but the last time Mt. Batur erupted was in 2000. And we climbed it! A driver picked us up at our hotel in Ubud at 2:30AM and drove us about 2 hours away to the foot hills of Mt. Batur. We then started hiking in the pitch black...
~ The ascent ~
Climbing the volcano was definitely a challenge but it was very much doable for the average active person. It took us a solid 3 hours (maybe a little less?) to climb. We started the hike with flashlights in basically what was the middle of the night taking breaks along the way. We were in a group of about 10 people but so many people do this hike, starting from different points. There was a sweet Indonesian woman who does this hike every single day that was helping me out at difficult points of the hike.
~ The summit ~
When we got to the 1,717m summit, we were offered a light breakfast of bread and hard boiled eggs that were *wait for it* cooked in the steam from the volcano!!!!!!! 😮 I was shook and they were sooooo tasty. We also had some delicious coffee that was probably the most rewarding coffee I've ever had.
We stayed on top of the mountain and watched the sun rise and the clouds transform. It was magical. Our hike leader then pointed out a few cool things on top of the volcano, including where you can stand to be warmed up by the steam of the volcano. That was needed, as it was pretty chilly up there. After many photos, we began our descent.
~ The descent ~
The descent was obviously a bit easier than the ascent, however it was a learning curve how to effectively walk down such a steep hill. I made a dog friend along the way who followed me all the way down. The views on the descent were magnificent, especially because we couldn't see anything going up.
After we arrived at the base we returned to Ubud, had a long nap and then a rejuvenating (and much needed) yin yoga session at a local yoga studio. I absolutely recommend this adventure to anyone who is up for the early wakeup call and slightly strenuous hike. It is unlike any experience I have had before. Pure magic!
Off to: Nusa Lembongan
Nusa Lembongan is a small island located southeast of Bali. It is popular amongst Bali travellers to take a short boat ride to other islands nearby such as Lembongan, Nusa Penida or the Gili Islands. Lembongan is a beautiful island, but the boat ride there was not so beautiful (to put it lightly). To get to Lembongan, they stuff a whole bunch of people into a boat with windows that are too high to see out of and throw this boat out into the choppiest water everrrrr. Safe to say that a few people were sick that day. Nonetheless we managed to get there without any casualties!
~ Biking around the island ~
There are tons of shops on Lembongan that rent out bikes and motor bikes. Our first day we opted for the bike to explore what was nearby. We discovered a beautiful beach that was full of coral! There didn't seem to be many people around and there was a hut on the beach where we got some fresh coconut. This made for a very relaxing afternoon. A few kids approached us when we were on the beach and sold us some bracelets. We offered them some of our coconut, which they thoroughly enjoyed and kept coming back for more.
~ Food and drinks ~
We discovered an amazing seafood restaurant where we got fresh seafood and had a few drinks while watching the tide go out. Lembongan has a unique landscape in that the coast is pretty rugged. It makes for great exploration with full bellies.
Just down the road from our hotel was the Bali Eco Deli serving healthy and fresh food! It's so important to eat some good food while travelling, at least once in awhile lol. And, near this cafe was our favourite morning bar (yes, you read that right) where we were the only customers at 9a.m. ready for french fries and cocktails. Why? Oh, Raptors championship run, ya know? This memory is definitely a highlight of our trip, even though in the moment we wished we were in the Six celebrating with everyone else.
~ Our first motor bike experience ~
On our second day here we caved and rented a motor bike and had a great idea to drive it up a winding mountain!!! Terrific thinking... I'm not exaggerating when I say Justin nearly drove us off a cliff. Like I actually saw my life flash before my eyes. But he got better 😉.
It was a great skill to learn because we were able to save money and be on our own schedule, scooting around the island any time we wanted to any place we wanted. Justin would drive me to yoga classes, practices his skills while I was there and then pick me up. It was amazing and it also came in handy later on when we were back in Thailand.
~Devil's Tear ~
Devil's Tear is such a beautiful piece of nature where land meets water. There's not so much to say about this place other than that it was beautiful, so see the photos below!
We ended our time in Bali with all the good vibes back in Kuta. More surfing, more sunshine, more drinking, more eating and more adventuring. Bali was a dream come true. Everything was easy and everyone was nice as heck. I never felt like I was getting ripped off or taken advantage of, which is sometimes the case when you are a foreigner. I think that's why I loved Bali so much. I felt safe, taken care of, and happy.
I hope to go back again one day soon.