I’ve had an amazing past three weeks! My time has been full of sightseeing, swimming in the ocean, and taking in all Southeast Asia has to offer. I was lucky enough to travel with not just one, but two of my very close friends from home. My first week was spent in the Philippines, and then I flew from Manila to Bali. After that, I spent two weeks in Bali. I visited Kuta, Ubud, and the Gili Islands. Here are some of the highlights from my trip!
Note: Although they look close on the map, direct flights from Manila to Bali are quite expensive! My broke self ended up doing a 12 hour travel day while stopping over in Singapore.
Ah well, so worth it.
I landed in Bali and my friend and I were less than impressed with Kuta. Kuta is like Cancun for Americans. The area is filled with drunk people, vendors touting shit you don’t need (like wooden phalluses), and taxi drivers harassing you. I thought that maybe we would see what the party scene was like in Kuta, but we opted out. My friend and I ended up hiring a driver for the four days we were there. We visited various different spots located around Bali. Hiring a driver is very easy to arrange, and most hotels will help you (or you can negotiate with drivers on your own.)
Tanah Lot is a rock formation located about twenty miles from Densapar. On top of the rock sits a temple which has been shaped continuously over the years by the tide. The temple area is very crowded during sunset, and there is a fee to enter. If you want to avoid the crowds, visit early in the morning.
Uluwatu is home to a stunning cliff with great views and is located about 200 feet above the sea. Beware, the temple and cliff is surrounded by monkeys. Watch your belongings carefully!
After we visited the temple area, the driver took us to Uluwatu Beach for sunset. This is such a pretty area, and I would highly recommend it. The beach is a great place to chill out with a beer and watch the surfers (and the sunset of course).
Sea Circus Café
Sea Circus Cafe is an honorable mention, because it’s one of my favorite cafes I’ve eaten at in a while. The restaurant has homemade kombucha, healthy sandwiches and salads, and plenty of veg-friendly options! The decor is funky and very artsy, and it’s a great place for breakfast!
After our exploring in Kuta was finished, it was time to head to Ubud via driver as well. Although I didn’t quite get an Eat, Pray, Love experience, I still really liked Ubud. I know it has gotten a lot more touristy over the years. Of course, some parts of Ubud certainly aren’t ‘authentic’, but I think it still maintains a distinct charm. Plus, my vegetarian self was dying at all the menu options. Absolute paradise.
My friend and I decided to treat ourselves to two nights at the luxury hotel, Bisma Eight. This place is absolutely incredible and I would highly recommend it if you have some extra cash to spend. There is an infinity pool, yoga and cultural classes, and a to-die-for breakfast.
From Ubud, we hired a driver as well and did more sightseeing (and lots of yoga!) Ubud is a great place to work on your practice, and there are lots of courses and retreats offered.
Okay, we mainly visited this waterfall for the sign. The water is a bit dirty, but you can swim in it. The views from the top are amazing as well, but you have to pay an additional entrance fee to hike to the top of the waterfall.
The rice terraces in Ubud are breathtaking, and are a must-see for any Bali itinerary. Unfortunately, most of the rice had been harvested when we visited, but it was still very beautiful. I would recommend wearing rubber shoes, as I wore my Keds and stepped in a giant puddle of mud. The slopes are quite slippery as well.
If you hire a driver, they will probably offer to take you to one of the many coffee plantations in Bali. These places are quite touristy, but as a coffee addict, I had to try. Most of the coffee plantations are ‘Kopi Luwak’ plantations. Which, much to my travel companions dismay, is a type of coffee that comes from animal dung. The civet cat eats the coffee berries, and then workers collect it, wash it, and dry the dung.
If you aren’t interested in trying the dung coffee, many places let you taste-test the other (dung-free) flavors.
Tirta Empul Temple
After seeing the beautiful pictures, I was very excited to visit Tirta Empul Temple. This temple is famous for being a place to wash away misdeeds. Locals come here to cleanse their body and spirits, as well as giving thanks to the Gods for their health and prosperity. Tourists can enter the water as well, but they have to wear special sarongs for bathing.
When we had finished our two days at Bisma Eight, we decided to change hotels but stay in Ubud.
Well, our budgets decided, that is.
I didn’t do much research beforehand and booked Villa Kemuning on Agoda. This hotel is about 40 minutes from Ubud Center. Some would say in the middle of nowhere, but we had a very relaxing few days laying by the pool and renting bikes. It was quite a change of pace to cycle through the local villages and explore little hidden temples.
After Ubud, we arranged a speedboat to Gili Trawangan. After a sweaty day of waiting around for the boat at the harbor and then more waiting on the sweaty boat, we arrived.
In Gili Trawangan, we stayed at Kia Yazo Homestay. It wasn’t the nicest of places and it’s a bit out-of-the-way, but the owners are really lovely and it definitely got the job done for a simple place to sleep. They offer outdoor (cold) showers, and very basic accommodation.
I’ll be honest, Gili Trawangan was a bit of a blur and I definitely wasted one of the days there by staying in bed and nursing my hangover.
Was it worth it, though? Yeah, probably.
Check out my guide on the best places to party in SE Asia here.
As I’ve stated previously, the nightlife in Southeast Asia is quite fun and it’s easy after a few beers and some shisha to forget that you wanted to wake up early to go biking.
So yeah, the nights on Gili T were a blur of techno, dancing barefoot on the beach, and making questionable decicisions. However, on our last day we did rally and make it to the famous Gili swing for some sunset pictures. Contrary to prior belief, there is more than one swing on the island so you don’t need to cue in line for sunset photos if you look around for the less popular ones.
Finally, it’s on to Bangkok for me now, where I’ll be heading up North for some detoxing and yoga in Pai.
Let me know if I missed anything in Bali, and what I should do when I come back!