An adventure of a lifetime. Visiting Bali had been my dream for the past couple years. I was initially drawn to it after I watched Eat, Pray, Love. I know, I know. Sounds totally cliche. There was definitely a huge flood to Bali after that movie came out, as people tried to recreate Julia Robert’s idyllic getaway in the lush jungles of Bali. But something about that peaceful yet perfectly tropical setting tucked back in the jungle really resonated with me. The more I looked into Bali, the more I fell in love. Breathtaking pictures aside, there was something else that drew me in, time and time again. (And this was before I moved to Hawaii, which by the way has some striking parallels, so I was obviously longing for that laid back island dwelling lifestyle.) The love for health and wellness, the rich appreciation for yoga, and the deep sense of spirituality there all were enough to have me hooked. But, being a twenty-something, four-job-working, college-debt owing, Hawaii-dwelling young adult, I really didn’t think I could make this dream a reality. Yet, after I realized the biggest limitations I had were the ones I was putting on myself, I decided it was time to put my dreaming into action.
Luckily I found an amazing travel buddy, Lauren, who shared my same passion for Bali (& Moana, might I add) and was more than ready for an adventure! She also happened to be VERY well versed in traveling out of the country (& well versed in the Moana soundtrack), so that was such a blessing in more ways than one! So, we made it happen. And as we like to say, “we crushed it”. We laughed, we ate, we hiked, we laughed some more, ate some more, scootered into ditches, and fell in love with everything about it. Bali was NOT ready for us.
But if any of you out there are interested in traveling to Bali, here is my little guide to Bali, of sorts. Not that I am an expert by ANY means, but here are the places that we saw, [the monkeys that we encountered], and the BEYOND DELICIOUS (OMG) food that we got to eat. If you are a yoga-loving, adventure seeking, health freak like I am, then Bali is a paradise MADE for you.
Day 1: ARRIVAL!
The first place we stayed, Villa La Mar, was an absolute dream. We stayed in a town called Canggu, which was a sweet little beach town with lots of trendy shops and incredible places to eat. Upon arrival, we immediately jumped in the pool to cool off and then walked into town to a little cafe called Shady Shack, which was a super cutesy, plant based restaurant that delivered the most aesthetically pleasing (and absolutely delicious) food ever! Because we were TERRIFIED to rent scooters, we ended up walking, which meant we had to venture back. This was an adventure in and of itself because we definitely got lost on the way back. And let me tell you, when it’s pitch black, you’re in a foreign country where they do not speak your language, and there are creepy wild dogs who look like they are ready to attack you, it is not fun. Not fun. But luckily, we made it back and tucked in for an early bed time. I would like to say it was because we were exhausted from the travel, but we literally went to bed early every night. But it was totally necessary because we were always up at the crack of dawn!
@shadyshack LOVE. Behind the scenes view of me being an obsessive food photographer. CLASSIC.
DAY 2: NUSA PENIDA
The second day, we headed out to the east side of Bali, to explore the island of Nusa Penida. The day was a continuous adventure, to say the least. We arrived at the boating dock early and really had zero ideas or expectations of what the day was going to be like. And that was the fun thing about this vacation: we went into it with no expectations, and no preconceived notions of what we wanted the trip to be like. Every day was an unexpected and unplanned adventure.
After boarding the boat, which was a HILARIOUS adventure in and of itself (imagine 40 people running through the water to a boat that was anchored beyond the waves, getting soaked and splashed), we headed to the island to meet our driver! After getting picked up, we experienced the absolute bumpiest road (literally hit my head on the window multiple times) that led us to our first destination, about an hour or so later! We hit up four different locations on the island, and got to see some pretty incredible sights.
Angel’s Billabong, Broken Beach, Kelingking Beach, and Crystal Bay Beach.
GUYS. We did it. WE RENTED SCOOTERS. As unashamedly terrified as we were (if anyone has traveled in China or somewhere similar, you understand why it was terrifying), we threw our motto in the air, “When in Bali” & got scooters! And it was the best decision. It ended up being one of my favorite parts of our vacation (especially watching Lauren’s adventures on her scooter which could be a post in and of itself)!
Day 3: TRANSFER DAY!
So day 3 was the day we traveled to our new Airbnb out in Ubud, an amazing jungle oasis tucked back in the lush greenery of the mountainous area of Bali. In the morning, we wanted to soak up our last minutes in Canggu, the beach town we were staying in, so we woke up nice and early! We headed to an amazing cafe called Organic Cafe for some delicious drinks to start our day (almond milk matcha latte & taro latte)! Then we headed to Nalu Bowls (drool) for some tasty smoothie bowls (& some competitive Jenga). After our bellies were full, we headed to the famous surf beach in Canggu. After a leisurely stroll down the beach, we headed into town for some traditional Balinese massages. Okay. What? I would seriously go back to Bali just to experience these massages again. And do you want to know the best part? They were seriously less than $5 each. Kayyyy…
After we were significantly relaxed, we got some delicious food (are you seeing a pattern here?), biked to a local kombucha brewery, then headed back to pack up our stuff and move on the the next location! After an hour or so car ride we arrived at our jungle oasis, only to be met by two men on motorbikes insisting we join them on the back. After my initial statement of, “this is a joke, right?” we hopped on and drove through the lush rice paddies and found our new oasis. It was incredible.
We immediately ordered two bikes (we were freakin pro by now), and headed into town to check it out. Managing to arrive downtown without neither hitting someone (or something) nor being hit, we counted it a success! I don’t think there was an inch of road not covered by bodies or vehicles. After exploring downtown, we found a place that served the food of the country: Balinese food. Not really knowing what to expect we both ordered a little sampler plate. Being heavily focused on meat, it wasn’t my favorite thing, but the spices and flavors were exceptional! We then headed back, made a game plan for the next day, and got our 8 hours of sleep in!
Day 4: NORTH BALI!
The next day, we arranged a tour of the north side of Bali which we had read was noted for being very beautiful with lots of scenic destinations and tiny hikes. After our driver picked us up, we headed to a coffee plantation because we were dying to try some of the local coffee. (Side note: our driver was beyond awesome. He put up with our obnoxious picture taking and even allowed us to introduce him to Moana as the soundtrack to our adventure. Bless his soul!) So many people asked about the local coffee in Bali. The most famous kind, the Luwak Coffee, is made from the poop of a Luwak (think possum) and is a delicacy in their region. Uhm… Okay?!
But we knew we would have to try it! So. We did. We went to a plantation and got to not only see how it was made, but sample tons of coffee. To be honest, the coffee in Bali is nothing to write home about (which is ironic, because here I am… writing about it). It is reminiscent of instant coffee, as they dissolve the grinds in hot water, which leaves a sludgy residue once you finish. Eh.
After our coffee experience, we stopped at our first destination which was one of Bali’s most famous temples. When we arrived, there was a ceremony happening so we got to see some traditional Balinese rituals happening. The temple was stunning and the backdrop was equally gorgeous, as it was situated on a vast lake framed by mountains. While we were there, I asked Lauren to pose in all the random concrete fruits and veggies that were located around the grounds. Like a champ, she did. And we laughed endlessly (again, our guide was a GEM).
Our next stop was the Gitgit waterfall. After a short hike into the jungle, we came to the 115′ waterfall that had natural swimming pools and beautiful streams surrounding it. This was a stunning sight. Afterwards we went to a very famous beach called Lovina Beach. We jumped in and cooled off and then did some bartering with some locals to buy some traditional Balinese sarongs. (Okay, I should clarify that Lauren did the bartering… I was not very gifted at this.) We then ate lunch at a beachside restaurant while sporting our new fabulous outfits. We then ventured to some natural hot springs at Air Panas Banjar. The water was incredible, and we spent our time swimming around and lounging under the natural fountains.
And onwards we trekked. The next couple stops were sightseeing destinations, and we did a lot more driving to get there. We drove up up up & up to a breathtaking overview of the twin lakes. Here we got to jump on a swing and swing over the jungles and gaze at the lakes below that were slightly clouded in fog which created a very mysterious illusion. And then we headed back for the evening.
This adventure day was one of my favorites. We got to see so many incredible things and got the insight of a local (who actually spoke English, which is hard to come by). Finding good companies online is key to your stay in Bali, seeing as you can’t really get around on your own.
Day 5: Sunrise Hike at Mount Batur!
1:30am wake up call! This was brutal, but SO WORTH IT. We scheduled a sunrise hike at Mount Batur, an active volcano that promised stunning view of the sun rising over the ocean. Although it was an incredibly early morning and there were TONS of people on this trail, it was an unforgettable experience. When we got to the top, we were provided with a small breakfast (mine was unfortunately stolen by a monkey), and we watched the sun peek its head through the clouds and light up the new day before us! It turned out to be pretty foggy/cloudy, but the sunrise was stunning, regardless. At the top, we were greeted by a group of wild monkeys, which I was BEYOND thrilled about. They were so so cute, and shockingly smart. One of them cracked and peeled an egg, while another was unscrewing the cap of a water bottle and drinking out of it! My one wish was to have a monkey sit on my shoulder, and my guide made sure I got to live out that dream! Did I mention how cute they were?!
We then descended the mountain with our guide who, to our delight, ended up running down with us and passing all the struggling tourists. It was exhilarating. After we got back around noon-1pm, we were obviously very tired. So we ended up heading downtown where we visited a spa. I literally got a 90 minute massage, a 30 minute scalp massage, and a pedicure (all under $9). We were thoroughly relaxed, let me tell you. We then filled our bellies with delicious vegan food and took an evening yoga class. Very successful and productive day, indeed.
Day 6: Last day in Bali!
Sadly, our time had to come to an end. With less than a half day left, we only had so little time to get out and about before we had to head back to our villa, say our goodbyes, and head to the airport. Like any good Bali travelers, we started the day with some yoga. We had read online about a very popular yoga center, the Yoga Barn, and knew we had to see what the hype was about. So, we hopped on our mopeds, drove downtown, and walked over a mile to find this AMAZING hidden sanctuary tucked off the beaten path. And let me tell you, we were not disappointed. It is one of my favorite yoga experiences I have ever had. The studio where we practiced was located up a spiral set of stairs that led to a beautiful outdoor studio made from a beautifully rich wood and carried the fresh smells and sounds of the nature around us. The class was incredible.
Afterwards, we ate breakfast at the amazing plant based cafe and juice bar conveniently located five steps away in the yoga center. When we had finished our delicious meal filled with fresh fruits, raw granola, and a tasty veggie bowl, we headed back into town to pick up some last minute goodies. We took our mopeds back up to the rice paddies and wandered around them for some time. On our walk we met an amazing, beautiful women who was working out in the rice paddies. She spoke not a single word to us but wore the biggest smile and insisted on taking our picture. This was one of my favorite moments, so sweet and simple and just gave us a brief snapshot into the lives of the kindhearted people there.
As we headed back to the airport, boarded our plane, and flew away from our amazing adventure, I was overcome with gratitude for the six days that we got to spend there. Like any place, you really have no idea the magic it holds until you go and experience the culture and the richness for yourself. And if a “twenty-something, four-job-working, college-debt owing, Hawaii-dwelling young adult” can make it happen… then there is hope for you too. Food/sightseeing guide available if you want! Contact me!
xoxo, tessa jean