Table of Contents
BALI Travel Guide
I started off with picking and choosing a variety of places I’d always wanted to see. Actually, I let Airbnb guide my way. Oddly enough, I started looking at places I’d love to stay as it was way cheaper than traditional hotels.
Malaysia came up first, with many pretty places to stay, and then, the world tour logic began. Started from the bottom of the map–and as far away from home as I could get, and bam, work my way back. One seriously painfully long plane ride, and I could then slowly roll it back towards the States for the important dates for when I knew I’d needed to be back.
Now, I didn’t know Bali from any other island with the exception of “Eat, Pray, Love,” and that I hadn’t watched for years either. So, surprise, surprise, when I got to Bali, it was not what I expected. More to come on that.
Do you know: Most Beautiful Place in Canada | Five Canada’s Hidden Gems
So, I picked Bali and am working my way north with very little plan in sight other than… hey, I’d like to see… THAT…. or do THAT and THAT. I’m not a big temple kind of girl, but I passed a few.
Balinese dance is totally an option; people in dragon, frog, lizard, and other animal masks performing is an interesting site to see. It wasn’t quite my deal at the time, but if I go back, I’d probably check into it. Yoga, I thought about it, so I would have done it if I wasn’t so busy with the massages and my time at the pool.
The part I really would love to go back and see would be the Yoga Barn. The healing and the spiritual side of things. Hearing people talk about the body and the mind and the health consciousness of it all made me realize my personal training and health coach certifications had nothing on these people.
I was astounded at just how much people know about healing and about how the mind works to do so. They also had a variety of rituals and spiritual forums, including the Cacao Ritual, to cleanse your soul.
GETTING AROUND Bali
Cars and scooters: While renting a car may seem like a good idea at the time, I can assure you that if you’ve never driven in an environment that is like New York on crack and on the opposite side of the road, just rent a driver with a car. It costs about 300,000 IDR ($27 USD) to get to UBUD, and then you can walk or choose whichever mode of transportation you so desire. It’s chaos. Pure and utter chaos.
Cars merge, scooters merge, and scooters have the right of way (not even pedestrians outrank scooters), and there is a method to the madness.
it’s just not one I’d really enjoy figuring out. A few tourists from the UK I took a tour with were rear-ended on the first day they got here. So yeah, hire somebody, it’s cheap, there is less drama, and you can enjoy your time.
Taxis and Uber do exist: Taxis, 9 times out of 10, are scooters. You get on the back and roll; even as intimidating as this may seem in this type of environment, it seems to work. I never asked how many people could fit on one scooter, but the locals I’ve seen up to 5, with 3 of those being really young kids. It’s a skill the locals have mastered, that’s for sure.
Walking: Totally an option, but you have to watch the sidewalks. They are broken and, well, royally jacked up. I twisted my ankle twice and once went down so hard that it made me see stars.
There was a guy sitting on the side of the street who was offering a taxi service on his moped, which is quite normal. As I turned my head to look at him, smiled, and politely declined, I stepped onto one of the many cracks in the sidewalk. What a terrible idea that was.
As soon as I stepped down, the world turned black and white, and I could see and hear the tweet tweet tweet from the little birds that circled my head. I thought my ankle was broken, and let’s just say my trip to the post office was no more.
The guy with the moped felt so bad for distracting me as I said, trying to stay conscious on the sidewalk. He asked the lady inside the restaurant that he sat in front of for a bit of magic potion that he wanted to rub on it, or at least that’s what he called it.
I thought, by all means… with all the little birdies floating around my head, a magic potion for my ankle wouldn’t be the worst thing. This random taxi driver took to rubbing my ankle with it for the next 10 minutes and then took me home.
So, while you can walk the streets of Ubud, definitely wear sturdier shoes than flip-flops or sandals if you are going any distance! You don’t want to have to try to find your own magic potion.
THE ANIMALS IN BALI
Bali Dogs: Extremely prevalent throughout the towns, the beaches, etc. They even get it. This place seems to work in such a harmony that even the dogs know that when they step out into the streets, they move if a car or scooter is coming. Most of them are tagged and have their shots, and many are fixed and friendly.
Roosters: Crow at all hours (they did not get the memo). Jerks. I’m napping man. Go crow somewhere else.
Geckos: These little suckers, LOVE THEM. They are all over, and mainly come out towards the evening. One ran across my toothpaste and the other my ceiling, which momentarily made me squeak like a little girl. They also make one heck of a loud and obnoxious noise when they choose to speak. It’s odd out of such a little being; that’s all I have to say.
Birds: There’s a variety of little guys. Very cute. Herrings (which are sacred, and you cannot kill nor eat), are prevalent, as well as these cool little wingless ducks that cannot fly. The old adage. If it quacks like a duck and looks like a duck.
what the hell, in this scenario… It’s not a duck. but it is a duck. I got nothing Lol. The wingless creatures tend to hang out in the rice patties and run like the dickens. They are cute, they do quack, but they do not fly.
Monkeys: You will find them in Monkey Forest amongst other places. There’s a tour if you choose to go there, but if you drive through, wa-la, there you saw them.
That and if you take a day hiking trip up to Mt. Batur, you will see all the monkeys your little heart can stand. They will steal your food if you aren’t careful, and I wouldn’t leave my things just sitting around them. You may find your belongings have moved and may or may not get them back.
Kitties: I’ve only seen a few. Really surprised about that, but they do exist.
Mosquitos: Yep. They are going in the animal category. They come out at night and love perfume or sweat, or really anything. They weren’t horrible, but I did notice that they did come out every so often, but they weren’t small.
(local town to get to the islands of Komodo, Padar, and Pink Beach)
So, there are a variety of ways to get to the dragons. One, of course, can drive (or take a driver) for a price of $190 and 23 hours later. I’m sure it’s a great idea, but I’m gonna pass.
Take a boat
These fun-loving boats will leave from Bali and head to Labuan Bajo. From everything I’ve read, it’s pretty, but it can be quite a challenge. A ferry (where you have no real bed/place to sleep). The route is a bit treacherous, and well, I’d really quite prefer to check out in another way than on a long ferry trip that runs aground.
You can fly, yep, sure can. Planes with wings and all. There are quite a few local/regional airlines that fly in this direction. I paid a whole 1.2M IDR ($78), and I think that was even a bit high. I bought it last minute, but still. I can’t complain. So far, Skyscanner is already a Godsend for how many tickets I’ve booked in the last week. I’ve tried Expedia, Kayak, and several other sites stateside, but so far, it’s awesome, and the prices always seem to be less.
I’ll keep an eye out for anything with better rates, and if anyone has additional ideas, please comment. It took a total of 55 minutes, and it was a gorgeous flight. The islands were amazing, and the views were stunning. When I flew in, I was stuck in a middle-section seat, so the island was hidden from me. This was well worth it.
Oh, now, let me mention. before I left, I picked up one of these pillow thingies from Amazon. I had a 29-hour travel plan, and this thing was AWESOME! The people next to me did a head nod the entire time, and this pillow made me a happy girl. Everybody asked about it, so I figured I’d share. I sat in the exit row with no seats in front of me and was able to put it on the little side tray table, and it worked out perfectly.
Then, on the second 5-hour flight, I blew it up and rested it against the seat in front of me, and I was actually able to sleep without my neck hurting or constantly waking myself up. When I got here, I didn’t feel half bad. So, I am now an all-out supporter.
Domestic or International?
This is also considered a “Domestic” flight from Bali. When my driver asked if it was International, I was like, “Ummm… dude, I have no idea”. With a bit of research and a bit of logic, yes, all of these islands are domestic. Check.
Taking your water, juice, whatever, through security is totally okay. You can leave your shoes on and your laptop in your bag. No problem. I didn’t even have to take the sunglasses off my head. Also, there is no customs check if you are flying in from another island in Indonesia as it’s a domestic flight.
You can still do that in public places and restaurants. Since they are mainly open-air, it’s pretty normal to see.
MONEY/CASH/DOLLA’S DOLLA’S BILLS YO
So here, credit cards are a bit less acceptable and harder to use. Cash is king. There are many ATMs, so getting money is doable. The maximum amount to take out at one time is 2,500,000 IDR, which is approximately $180 USD.
When I first got here, the money exchange rate was 100,000 IDR, equating to around $7 USD. It fluctuated over time to around $7.50. Bonus.
But my confusion wasn’t so much in the 100K equals $7 part, but in what that meant in regard to value. Things like a bottle of water were 75 cents, or a tall container of Pringles $3. A small container of peanut butter, however, ranged around $5.00, and to mail a postcard to the US was around $1 each.
My meals ranged around $6 to $15. I liked my restaurants and always bought several things. I wanted to try it all. You could get meals from the street vendors for around $3, but I’m so not there.
I take chances, but at the same time, I’m not sure food poisoning from street vendors is something I’m willing to do.
VALUE OF GOODS/SERVICES
Now, on the money side. When a massage costs $10 USD, but a Jack and Coke costs the same, it does throw me off a bit. An hour’s drive to the airport ranges at $21-$27 dollars, but you can hire a driver full-time for the better part of a day for $35 USD to take you anywhere, it gets confusing.
So, to help you put a bit of a value on what you can get there with this analogy: A 1–hour massage where they work their tails off of massage you is equal to the cost of one Jack and Coke (a short at that), makes me shake my head a bit. It’s a beautiful thought for us, not so much, for them. So always tip the ladies well! They work very hard for just a little bit.
Ice in the restaurants is safe, relatively speaking, as they make it from filtered/potable water. I still highly recommend bottled water to drink, but the filter seems to be fine (according to my tummy).
The food is no less than amazing. Everything is fresh, and the flavors pop in your mouth. I tried to find a bad dish. It did not exist. There were a few that were so hot, you could grow hair on your tongue, but they also asked, do you want “medium” or “Bali” hot? Bali hot, as explained, would make you cry. Noted. Take a habanero and start yourself on fire, then eat the habanero, and you may get close. Lol.
Here, I’m still trying to figure this out. Tipping is definitely not what it is Stateside. My new friend tells me I’ve far outdone the tipping and need to alter my strategy a bit on that.
So here is what appears to be more acceptable:
- Restaurants: 5-15% of the bill
- Airport Porters: 30,000-50,000 IDR per bag
- Bellhops: 30,000 IDR per bag
- Taxis: Round up to 270,000 IDR, round to 300,000 IDR
The primary religion in Bali is Hindu.
Two Main Areas: Canggu and Kutu
These areas were interesting. Canggu is a surf beach that you can find about 20 minutes from Denpasar and 45ish from Ubud, depending on traffic. They say it’s the party place. You definitely saw places that catered more towards the tourists, music, beers, and all.
They were more modern and more of what one would expect on a traditional vacation. These areas were more commercialized and boasted quite a few more people.
If you are looking to do some partying while you are there, I’d definitely take a minute and drop by Finn’s Beach Club.
I ate my first steak while in the country at Finns, which was imported from the US, so you know it was tasty! I truly enjoyed a taste of home while I enjoyed the heck out of my view. The ocean views were stunning, but to catch the surfers, you have to go early in the morning.
The afternoon crowd at Finns consisted of tourists from all over enjoying the pool and a ton of debauchery as the day turned into evening. The sunsets there were beautiful, and the crowd there was a mix of 20 to 50-somethings, in case you’re looking for a good time.
Sunrise trekking to Mt. Batur was amazing, but be prepared, you have to leave around 1:30 am to get there from Ubud. A driver will pick you up at your hotel or villa, and you’ll meet with several others.
I was lucky enough to meet up with some amazing people from the UK and France. We took off to have breakfast at the tour company’s hotel, which consisted of a type of cold banana pancake (which was yummy) and coffee (so necessary). Then, we headed on for another hour/hour and a half drive to the start of the mountain.
Upon arrival, we were handed flashlights and a boxed lunch. All of the other tour companies were arriving as well for a rather large 50-75-person group.
Our guide supported only the five of us and chatted about the mountain on our way up, which was so much better as we received a lot of personal attention and were able to ask a lot of questions.
You won’t need a coat to begin with, but once you stop at the top, a jacket is definitely a good accessory. It isn’t an easy hike by any means. 2 hours up (in the dark), 1 hour to rest and watch the sunrise, and 1 ½ back down.
The trail is treacherous, hiking boots are recommended to keep from turning ankles.
Almost everyone on the trip fell around 5-10 times. Some fell harder than others. The lava rock is loose and doesn’t allow you to catch a grip. It’s like sandboarding on the way down. I consider myself to be in pretty decent shape, and this trail whooped up on me.
You will get a workout in and be sore for a few days after. I think every one of us was just “D.U.N.” by the time we finished. Sticking a fork in us is all we could stay when we finished. The road that shortened the trail on the way down wasn’t forgiving either.
The slope on the way down was a bit hard on the knees, so just a heads up. There were scooters on the road that you could have hopped on to take you back to the parking lot if you chose that route.
With all of this in mind, you ask, was it worth it? That answer was YES, it was! The view of the sunrise from that vantage point was amazing. It was like being in an entirely new world, and the majestic view was phenomenal.
After watching the vivid show of nature, another show began. The monkeys found us. They were all about having breakfast themselves. The boxes that we were given had bread and an egg in them and could be given to the little guys. There were a lot of them, and they were everywhere.
Of course, there’s always that one white woman who wants the monkey on her shoulder, and she gets attacked. I just sat back and watched, as I’m always up for a good show. So, do I recommend this trip up to Mt. Batur? Yes, indeed.. 100%. It is an awesome time, an extraordinary workout, and a phenomenal view that you will love.
Can you say yum? I spent a day learning to cook with a variety of spices and ingredients that created some of the tastiest dishes ever. The first question I was asked was, “Do you want medium spicy or Bali spicy?” As I wasn’t sure how hot was hot, the lead cook told me, “Bali hot will make you cry.”
Noted. Chilies are used quite often in Indonesian food, and they are tasty!
Matching them up with peanuts, soy sauce, a bit of sweet and sour, turmeric, garlic, and onion, and we were getting somewhere. The tour started with a quick trip to the local market, where my guide showed me the different fruits and vegetables that were different than what I’d ever seen.
While passion fruit is added to a ton of healthy drinks at home, seeing them in their raw state was enlightening and very creepy at the same time. We tried the foods, met the local farmers, and the open-air area where the chicken was butchered and laid ready for purchase, and the fish sat out collecting whatever settled on it for the day. Yummm… lol
From there, my knowledgeable guide took me back to his family’s compound, where his cousins showed me the traditional way of cooking that is still used today.
A little wood stove that takes hours to cook in, or something as simple as this little metal type of BBQ with burning coconut shells as the tinder, makes a meal that will make your mouth water.
The most fun was getting the beat the daylights out of the chicken or concoction that needed to be mixed together prior to adding them to the kabobs. Using a huge wooden post that resembled a jousting stick allowed a little extra fun for the trip.
If you are a chef at heart, you definitely need to check out Jambangan Bali Cooking Class. For about $35 USD for a 5-hour trip, it’s well worth the trip!
First Thoughts-Labuan Bajo
OMG, it’s hot here! The change from Bali is craziness. About 10 degrees and 1000% more humidity. But, the view is ever so worth it. Sitting at a portside bar and hostel by the name of the Treehouse, the view is gorgeous. Now, my extra ginormous Bintang has arrived, and it’s game on.
Initially, my perceptions of the town as I walked around a bit showed me that it’s certainly a port town that only partially relies on tourism. The number of tourists I’ve come across is low, and those I do see are the ones coming off of the tours.
There are quite a few shacks for homes, and the streets are a bit dirtier. The people are friendly, but nothing like those in Ubud. Could it be the lack of being used to tourists, or could it be the fact that it’s so damn hot? Ha. Also, the sidewalks are worse. Didn’t think that was possible, but yep, it sure is. Ah, and less English appears to be spoken here. Not the end of the world, but something to note.
So, step one here was to determine how I could get around this area and what there is to do here. It appears I needed to read a few more blogs before I got here. The main tours are those that I will be headed out on tomorrow.
Komodo Island, Pink Beach, and Padar Island. The fun part is, I know one has dragons (will check for the breathing of fire), Pink Beach, one of the 7 wonders of the world, and Padar, uhh, I got nothing. It’s, uhh, an island that you hike up? Ok then.
Labuan Bajo-A few days later
After a few days of being in the port town and being around the noise, I’m definitely ready to. A lot of traffic near the port, scooters, and beeping horns, and boats with diesel motors and I’m ready for my next stop. The port is pretty, but to get to the beaches, you’ll have to take a tour.
There’s not much for nightlife, so my recommendation is to get here and take a few days to see the dragons and find a dive or snorkel trip to take you off the main island.
The other option includes taking the 2 or 3-day liveaboard tours, so you’re out and away from it all. They also have a few other tours, such as the stone cave tour and waterfall tours, which take you inland for a few hours, so there are a few other aspects to the island that can keep you readily entertained.
Overall, it is not a place for peace and quiet but a good place to jump off to the places you wish to go from here.
Stop 1: Padar
Padar is a little island in itself. It boasts high vantage points to see the beauty of the surrounding area. The only thing on it is a partial walkway (they are building) and a bathroom. structure (that they are building). Otherwise, you take the boat ride to the island, get off on the
dock, and trek your way up the trail. The views are phenomenal from every point on the hike. You could say that it was postcard-like. This is an area where you’ll love to just stop and look out to the waters for hours. We, well, had one Hour, that is.
We hiked to the highest point we could see and made it back down. It turned into an hour and a half by the time our group made it back down, and our skippers weren’t overly pleased. What had happened was…
Stop 2: Komodo Island
I’m sure you all are wondering if dragons actually breathe fire. Well, I am sorry to say that, nope, they sure don’t. These ferocious dragon creatures are as fast as lightning and have the ability to dance on their tippy toes and shake the earth with their roar.
Or maybe that was just something I read in a book once. Let’s just say these creatures, while guarded by our guides with big sticks, were about as
docile as kittens. They didn’t move much while we were there, but I figured they must be fast if they eat deer whole, wild boars, and other large animals. Although, it made a bit more sense when we saw the deer.
The deer we came across were about as energetic as a limp rag. They certainly weren’t scared and had no desire to run and hide. We were able to get quite close before they even perked an ear up. So, really, all the dragons have to do is walk up, take a quick bite, and wait for the venom to kick in. The venom the Komodos put out is some potent stuff, and I’d prefer not to see how well it works on humans.
They were, however, very cool to look at. Their claws and the muscles in their legs are impressive. The baby dragons can climb trees (very reassuring to me), and I’ve heard they can stand. Really, is that necessary?
Now, back to the logistics. Arriving here from Labuan Bajo takes several hours by boat. Once you arrive, there’s that getting out of the boat part. We had to climb onto a concrete post that was about 8 inches wide, maintain balance, and step down about 4 feet to climb back up (hands and feet) onto the dock, which had several missing boards to step over.
Definitely not a place with much accessibility. It is not Disney World by any means. The island itself is covered in a variety of trees and plants (and plenty of beautiful orchids).
We did see a few roosters (still crowing at all hours) and a few other random birds while we were there. So, overall, it’s a neat trip to see something a bit out of the ordinary, but with a few hours here, and you’ll see pretty much everything you need to see.
Stop 3: Pink Beach
Pink Beach was cool. The hues of pink could be seen as the water pulled back out to the sea. The overall beach itself was tan, but in those instances when the water regressed, the sun highlighted the sand to highlight the pink tones.
The pink comes from the various coral bits that create parts of the sand. While the beach itself wasn’t overall impressive, the snorkeling to the boat was! Oh my gosh, it was like being in an aquarium.
All along the beach, the coral reef housed so many amazing fish, including my favorite, the rainbow-colored ones, and a ton of anemones (so many Nemos hiding in there, I couldn’t figure out which one was the real one), and fluorescent coral. I could have stayed out there all day and floated from one point to another. Needless to say, I must invest in a GoPro. Definitely worth the stop.
Stop 4: Manta Point
Manta Rays are primarily in season from mid-October to mid-May. Let’s just say, I’m glad we got lucky with the Komodos, as the rays were napping in a far-off distant land.
The waters in this area were gorgeous. Green and turquoise hues, and a small island with the whitest of sands in the middle of it all.
A significantly larger Muslim population. The chants are heard on the loudspeakers throughout the day. Since I’m here at the beginning of Ramadan, there are considerable explosions happening, and while I would assume they were fireworks, although I didn’t see the sparkle.
Next Stop: Jakarta
Jakarta is one of the northernmost islands in Indonesia and is the capital. As with any location, you will find points that you really love, and others you may really not like at all. As I landed in
Jakarta and began traveling around, I had an image of this place in my head, which was far from the actuality of the location.
A majority of the city that I toured was dirty, full of trash, and traffic. The waterways were full of plastic, were brown, and full of well, ick. I stayed outside of the main part of the city as I wanted to be on the beach. Come to find out, there is
no real beach there either. It’s an island, what the hell? Lol.
Also, in Jakarta, I found that English was not readily spoken, so it did make the trip a bit more complicated. Additionally, the smog from the city created a haze, almost as bad as LA was a few yaears ago.
The people weren’t nearly as friendly, and well, I did get really tired of saying hi or acknowledging others when my only response was people staring or just frowning. This definitely was not the island experience I was hoping for.
Now, what I did enjoy was my day trip out to Sepa Island, one of the Thousand Islands. The boat ride to get out to the island was about a two-hour trip, but it was worth it- you can book it from any of the tour companies on the water.
There were what seemed to be a million small islands on the way (ok, maybe only a thousand). A few of the islands were boulder-sized, with one little tree sitting on top, and the others were perfectly sized for an afternoon picnic and kayaking. Definitely take the time to get out of the city, you won’t regret it.
So, I’d say, that the trip to Bali, Pink Beach, and Komodo Island were well worth the trip. Jakarta- you can keep it. But no matter which island you choose or where you go, always remember to Travel Till You Drop!
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