We Make a Beeline for Bali
Last we informed you we were taking off from Auckland, New Zealand a little earlier than originally planned. So where did we decide to make our next stop? If you read our last post, we had a little hidden easter egg when we mentioned our favorite place for dinner in Auckland: Bali Nights.
A longtime place on my travel short-list and with a new excitement to eat as much Balinese cuisine as possible we caught a last-minute flight to Bali, Indonesia.
Day 1: Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia
Bali is a small island in the Greater Sunda Islands to the Northeast of Perth, Australia. It is one of thousands of islands that make up the country of Indonesia. It is far, far, away. We traveled for 24 hours straight from the time we woke up at 5:00 a.m. until we finally crashed in our hotel room at what would be 5:00 a.m. the next day.
Exactly a 12-hour time difference from our old home in Florida, USA, the jet lag was very real. 5:00 a.m. is a very different time mentally than 5:00 p.m. Luckily Bali has the luxury of being one of the most relaxing and spiritually uplifting places on the face of the planet, melting all our stresses away.
Day 2: Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia
We arose early feeling wide-awake thanks to the jetlag. First, we took to the streets of Denpasar. We stopped near our hotel for some Balinese coffee, where we made a furry friend. We had lunch at a cute little café that was targeted towards Westerners (it’s okay to be comfortable and familiar sometimes), and stopped to get some Indonesian Rupiah from an ATM all before noon!
Next, we headed to the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park 20 minutes south of Denpasar. This park is being opened in phases as they complete each area, and they have neat maps and drawings of each step of the plan. Although it is still in its earliest stages, the park has no problem drawing a crowd, and is able to bring in money to fund its various projects.
The most stunning aspect of the Cultural Park are the ginormous statues that adorn the grounds. As you journey through the winding hills and man-made passages through the rock, you’ll find two large statues of the gods Garuda and Wisnu on their own. I couldn’t find any information on the heights of these two “smaller” statues so here’s a picture with me standing in front of it for scale.
They seem to be test pieces that are to-scale versions of the larger statue.
You’ll find the main point of interest at the furthest point into the park. This massive structure of Garuda and Wisnu together sits at over 400 feet high. It’s incomprehensible just how large it is. It’s closer to a skyscraper than it is to a work of art.
This statue is telling the Hindu story of the god Wisnu riding god Garuda in search of the elixir of life. Inside the sculpture you can find more information on the future concepts for the parks completed designs. We skipped taking a ride up the elevators even higher into the sculpture as it was an additional price to admission.
Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park also offers a fantastic cultural performance. The stories of Hindu mythology are told through traditional dance accompanied by live musicians. The dancers adorned in beautiful vibrant costumes, their makeup done dramatically, almost in a cartoonish way, to highlight the sharp shifts of their eyes and slights of their smiles, told the tales through their faces and bodies.
Later, an elaborately jeweled, two-person puppet emerged to depict an ancient beast and his battle with a charming monkey. I personally found the fluid, expressive dance styles along with the ancient sounds of bells, drums, and flutes mesmerizing. However, Lawrence said the music made his ears bleed. So, I guess it’s kind of a toss-up depending on your personal tastes.
Lastly, we took a quick stroll through the Living Art Gallery. This art exhibit has sets staged in traditional Indonesian styles for you to walk through and admire. You can also dress in sarongs and pose yourself inside each set. The gallery provides professional photographers who will capture the moment, and you can purchase the prints for an additional price. If you’d just like to look around and snap a few of your own photos in your 21st century outfits, it’s all included in your entrance ticket price!
From the Cultural Park we took a nausea inducing cab ride back towards Denpasar. Traffic can be wild in Indonesia so make sure you pack your motion-sickness medicine. We followed up with a nice dinner on a strip close to Kuta beach then took to the sand to watch the sunset on the west coast. As the sun began to lower, we couldn’t resist taking a quick dip and racing the waves in the pleasantly cool, refreshing water.
To dry off we walked the boardwalk along Kuta beach. This is where you can find all the high-luxury beach resorts and hotels. They were fun to look at, and maybe someday we’ll be wealthy enough to afford one! Still a little shaken from our cab ride, we ended up walking the 2 kilometers back to the hotel. I was out like a light by 9:30 p.m.!
Day 3: Denpasar to Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
This day was much less hectic than everything done the day prior. We packed up our bags, got some lunch, then headed to the bus stop to take the 2-hour journey north to Ubud.
Ubud is known as the spirituality capital of Bali. It is the hub for yoga, meditation, and any other forms of spiritual practices. The city is also a favorite amongst Westerners for its tourist-friendly finds. In Ubud it is plenty possible to find allergy and diet appropriate food, warm hospitality, and English-speaking staff. You can find yourself in the exciting environment of a new culture without completely submerging yourself in an all-encompassing Indonesian lifestyle. Bali as a whole is also very inexpensive! Most meals only cost $3.00-$5.00 USD, you can find clothing $1.00-$10.00, and transportation by bus for about $0.31. Being a tourism hot-spot Ubud tends to be a bit overpriced. Even still, things tend to be a quarter of what you might spend in the U.S.
Around midday we checked into our AirBnb which we referred to our “Jungle Bungalow.” It wasn’t the cleanest or most comfortable stay in the world, but it definitely had the Bali vibe. The walls were made up of bamboo frames and wicker, and the floors laid with cool tile. My favorite area was the little front porch where we could sit and have breakfast in the morning.
For dinner we walked to a small local restaurant for some delicious gado-gado and chicken satay, both traditional Balinese cuisines. Afterwards, we took to the markets to explore around and look for some souvenirs! Lawrence got a few shirts and a bracelet, and I got some flowy pants and a new ring for my travel collection.
Day 4: Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
We awoke in our Jungle Bungalow to the sounds of roosters crowing and birds chirping. The host of our AirBnb treated us to fresh-cut fruit and Balinese coffee for breakfast. Then we dressed in our new Indonesian outfits and took to the streets for some site-seeing.
Our first stop of the day was to get an early lunch at another local spot on our street. We got a vegetarian and chicken Nasi Goreng, another traditional Indonesian meal.
Next it was off to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary! This park is a place where you can get up close and personal with hundreds of monkeys. The forest is taken care of by the local village, making sure the monkeys have plenty to eat and proper care. However, it is much different than a zoo. The monkeys are free to roam, and that they do. We saw one walking the sidewalks in the city near the forest in search of some of the market’s treasures. Since they receive more than enough to eat, they never stray too far from their home.
Even though you could get within inches of the monkeys if you want to, it is advised to give them some space. Monkeys are not naturally aggressive, but they will bare their teeth if they feel threatened. They are plenty used to people, but it is advised to give them a few feet of space even so. I got too close to one while taking a picture and nearly lost my fanny pack!
After the monkey forest we headed back to the city center to walk through the Ubud Palace and Saraswati Temple. They were only about a block away, and very similar in design to each other, but like their titles suggest, one was a palace for Indonesian royalty and the other a temple for people to come in prayer.
We ended our night with some delicious dinner, once again Balinese cuisine. This time I tried the Mei Goreng. And then it was back to our Jungle Bungalow for some rest.
Day 5-Day 7: The Yoga Barn in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
The next three-days were spent at The Yoga Barn for our yoga and meditation retreat. My package lasted all three-days while Lawrence opted for a one-day only experience. This place was so blissful! Included in the package was our choice of five different classes, three spa options, and three meals. On day one Lawrence and I took Beginners Yoga and Yin Yoga Healing. Day two, when it was just myself, I took Beginners Meditation and Sound Bath Meditation. And day three, just me again, took a “Yinnergy” class.
After all those classes, fresh, healthy meals, a head and shoulder, full body, and reflexology foot massage I was in a Bali state of mind! I enjoyed the atmosphere of The Yoga Barn so much that we returned the next day as well to do some work at the café.
Day 7: Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Since I only had one class on the third day of my retreat Lawrence picked me up earlier than usual and: surprise! He rented a motorbike! Now able to ride in style we spent the afternoon riding out into the country a bit to see the famous Tegenungan Waterfall and Tegalalang Rice Terrace.
The waterfall was beautiful and refreshing to swim under after a hot day in the sun. We also walked right past two of the Dutch girls we had met back on the Kiwi Experience tour in New Zealand. What a small world!
Both the rice terrace and waterfall were beautiful to see. Something no one seems to mention though is that they both include a set of long, steep stairs. What goes down must come back up! Just something to keep in mind if ever you plan to travel but are prone to bad knees or a stiff back.
After dinner and showers, we started getting ready for bed when our Jungle Bungalow betrayed us. The power went out! It seemed the breaker was overloaded once the room akin to ours was filled. This unfortunately meant a hot, humid night spent without even a fan. In an effort to get some airflow we opened all the windows and doors and slept under our bug nets. It was a bit futile, and our sleep was practically non-existent. At least I can say I’ve slept under a bug net now. I’m sure the story will be more fun to tell a couple years down the road.
Day 8: Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Since we hadn’t gotten much sleep the previous night, we opted to scratch our original plans for a quiet workday instead. We had (probably too much) coffee, and some food before returning to our now electricity-filled Jungle Bungalow.
Sightseeing is cool, but rest days are always necessary!
Stay tuned for our final two days in Bali, Indonesia and for where we are headed next! For more articles checkout our Travel page now.