There is something magical about Bali. Never even having gone, I didn’t have any specific expectations but I was ready to be cast under a spell of the Bali Experience.
Ally and I had just finished our teaching contract the day before, packed up our lives, said our goodbyes, moved out of our apartments and were on our way to the airport at 3:30AM the next morning. On an hour of sleep, I didn’t get to fully relish in the moment of leaving where I had called ‘home’ for the past 10 months as we were walking to find a taxi. With no time for reflection or an opportunity to feel nostalgic, we were walking/sweating towards our next adventure!
Our trip was 10 days long, 3 full days in Seminyak, 3 full days in Gili T and then 4 travel days (Bangkok -> Bali, Bali -> Gili T, Gili T -> Bali, Bali -> Bangkok).
After landing, immigration, customs, exchanging money & getting our taxi, we got to our hotel around 1:00PM on the 24th. We stayed at Destiny Boutique Hotel which was such a perfect little oasis for us. Comfortable beds, breakfast, a pool, easy walk to the beach and food, the friendliest staff…I would definitely recommend staying here! After being welcomed with a refreshing beverage and cold towel and checking in, we were shown to our room.
While Ally napped, I unpacked and rested for a bit before heading to eat lunch (PIZZA) and going to the beach! Ally woke up just in time to meet me for sunset so after casually witnessing magic, we headed to dinner (Mexican!).
We had been forewarned and now I am warning you, Bali will take your money. More like, you will willingly be throwing your money at Bali. Seminyak is boutique after boutique with everything from jewelry, bags and handmade leather shoes to everything you could ever need to become a surfer (or just look like one).
My travel partner, Ally, is more of a planner than I am (shocking…) and she follows the religion of Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor, so she had shops and restaurants to check out in Seminyak. We stopped by some stores on our way to our brunch spot: Sisterfields. We then, went to Revolver, to have coffee and eat – our vacations are pretty much planned around eating. We spent the rest of our day shopping before we went to eat dinner at Fat Gajah.
We began our day at a coffee shop close by, The Koop, where we ate breakfast before going back to the hotel to sit by the pool. We made the 10 minute walk down to the beach to watch the sunset before going to dinner at Ginger Moon (the #1 restaurant) and heading to La Favela to get our boogie on. If this seems like a short day to you, it’s probably because we slept in and didn’t leave until noon.
La Favela is like a little hidden leafy oasis. At 10:00pm they remove all the seating and tables and the jams are just on point all night long. Oldies to hip hop to latin to r&b…it was really fun! While this was the only night we went out the entire trip, La Favela was worth putting our grandmother status aside for a few hours.
We both had wanted to see some rice fields and a water fall so we set up a day tour with our hotel for 350,000 ($26). We first went to a temple on the lake, Pura Bratan , which was nice to see because it was so different from the temples in Thailand. I think I will always remember the feeling of the fresh, cool air whipping past me while I sat looking at the views of the mountain and temple over the water. You know when you go to Alki on a spring day and a gust of cold air just flies into you? And you feel clearer and more awake and also more present and alive? Well thats what I will remember about this temple.
Next, we went to see a waterfall and rice field. Now this is where our day gets interesting. Rewind a little bit, Ally is wearing flip flop sandals, shorts, a t-shirt & her new beach bag while I am wearing berkinstocks, a skirt, a t-shirt and a tote. Neither of us look like we’re at all ready to anything even resembling athletics. With basically no warning, we were dropped off at a village and off we went on our adventure.
We had two tour guides, one each, who flanked the ends of our little parade. They held our purses and our shoes when we went barefoot, held our hands when the trail was rocky/slippery/dangerous and kept an eye on our overall well being. At the end when we were walking up from the waterfalls and I was dying, Ketut even played some EDM to keep me pumped up.
Probably 30 minutes in to our walk I had already fallen once so I’m pretty sure Ketut knew he had to keep an eye on me. It wasn’t until the third fall, when my foot slipped into knee deep mud and he washed my foot off (that angel), that he started to hold onto my arm/hand almost the entire time. I think he caught on that I was not the most balanced person and I think he was worried that I wouldn’t make it back in one piece.
Despite the surprising exercise and mistaken falls, the rice fields will stay in my top 5 favorite moments of SE Asia. They are just so…beautiful. Beautiful is an inadequate word to describe being surrounded by such beauty but wow. I am pretty sure I said “wow” at least 50 times. In between all of our adventuring, we also drank a fresh coconut, slid down a rock slide & had lunch with a pretty sweet view.
Honestly, I would have been happy going home then. But after eating lunch/our first meal of the day, Ketut informed us we still had 2+ hours left of our adventure. So, off we went! An hour (and 1 fall) later, we were in front of these ginormous waterfalls. The sun had set so after seeing the second waterfall, we headed back up to where motorcycles were waiting to take us back to the beginning (thank God!).
I was feeling pretty dead at this point so I was completely unprepared for the incredible moto ride back. Almost a half hour of riding through the mountain in the dark, staring up at the most breathtaking starry sky I have seen in a long time.
After probably the most embarrassing fall (while getting off the motorbike), we were on our way back to the hotel. Our transfer to the Gili T ferry was coming at 6:30AM the next morning so we ordered pizza, watched tv and packed our bags for the next half of our trip!
Unless you’ve done it, you probably wouldn’t understand the schlep of island transfer in SE Asia. I’m not complaining because by now, I’m pretty used to it. 6:30AM pick up, drive in an uncomfortable, hot van for 2+ hours, standing around for an hour with other tourists with big backpacks while sweet women try to sell you things, boarding the ferry while a hundred other tourists are pushing you out of the way to try and get a good seat, a 2 hour rocky, hot ferry ride and then exiting, another ‘survival of the fittest’ moment of pushing and elbowing to the front.
There obviously aren’t my favorite days of vacation but I also don’t let them bother me anymore. Over here, transportation almost always takes longer than you think it will and you will most likely be sweaty and uncomfortable. It’s all worth it, especially when you’re going to an island!
Gili Trawangan is a little tourist oasis without the resort-y tourist vibes. It has a party island rep and maybe if you aren’t a grandmother like Ally and I, you would see that side of the island.
The water is a stunning ombre of blues and there are no vehicles or motorized transportation of any kind. You can walk around the entire island in two hours and stop at the cute shops along the way. If you’re not a walker, there are also many places to rent bicycles and if you aren’t a biker either, you can get on a horse drawn buggy (although I personally feel very bad for the pretty horsies).
There was something about the Gili T vibes and air that made Ally and I sleep until noon almost every day. This made our days quite a bit shorter than if we had waken up at a normal person time. The owner of the hotel Gili Nyepi, Denise, was such a sweet woman and gave us all the information we could ever need about the island.
After lunch, we headed off to the sun set side of the island to lay and tan until sunset. We weren’t sure the right way to get there so we followed Google Maps which led us through (instead of around) the island. I had forgotten that Eid al-Adha was at the end of the week, which explained the plethora of cows and sheep that were roaming the island. After a 20 minute walk, we emerged from the bush looking like Survivor rejects and made our way to Gili Teak, where Denise said there was a pool we could hang out at in exchange for the purchase of a coke or snack from the bar.
After a few hours, we made our way about 15 feet to Casa Vintage Beach, an amazing place to watch the sunset. We also enjoyed a vegan Jamaican dinner which was delicious. The sunset was amazing and after it ended, we made our way back home (around the island).
We began our day about the same time, noon, and headed to Pearl for lunch. We planned to check out the beach vibes and lay there for a few hours. Since we woke up pretty late, the sun moved to the other side of the island after a couple of hours. After, we headed back to the guest house for a little bit before going to Regina Pizzeria, which was claimed to be the best pizza in Bali! And while I’m no Bali pizza expert, it is definitely better than any pizza I have had in SE Asia. Next, we went over to the beach cinema to watch Logan. Tickets are 100,000 and come with either popcorn or french fries. It was really relaxing to watch a movie on the beach and it was a fun way to ‘go out’ without ‘going out’.
Last day in Gili T! We ate lunch at The Roast House and then went over to the sun set of the island. We sat at The Exile for pretty much the whole day. We then lined up like good tourists to take a photo on the swing when the sun was setting. The whole set up really is dream like, with the swing and hammock over the water in front of this just stunning colorful sky. It was even more beautiful when I fell off the swing, backwards, and found myself staring up at the sky with a little different perspective. (That marks the 6th fall of the trip!)
For our last dinner, we went all out and ate at Scallywags. Probably one of the nicest meals I’ve had over here, it was a perfect way to cumulate the day and trip.
Almost exactly like day 5 except that, since it was September 1st, I got to eat meat! I gave up meat for August and so when Ally said she wanted to go to the #1 burger place in Seminyak, I asked her to wait until our last night so I could partake with her. It was delicious and meaty and satisfied my craving.
Our flight was ugly early so we had to leave the hotel at 5:30AM. I was sad to leave Bali but my wallet was happy and I was also looking forward to being in one place for an extended period of time.
In the beginning of coming over to this side of the world, I felt immense pressure to see everything I wanted to see in this year. As the year has gone on, I have fallen in love with SE Asia and I know that I will be back. Maybe not this year or next, but with that knowledge that I will be coming back, that pressure to see and do everything fell away. So while there are many many many things I didn’t see in Bali, that just makes me more excited to go back and see them!
Bali deserves the hype it gets and until I make it back, I will be envious of everyone I see that’s there.