This blog is a long time coming, but you all are going to love and appreciate the heart and soul that I have poured into this once it is all finished. There is a special something about Bali, Indonesia; and it is not what you expect. It is not the cheap alcohol, crazy parties and luxurious resorts that draw me in (although some of those resorts are literally to die for!). It is not the tourist infested areas which 9/10 people in Australia have already visited, that I am drawn to. Just like any place I have visited in my lifetime of travel, I am more captivated by the "less trod" or the "non-touristy" locations. This comes with a few things to consider, however, and maybe less comforts than you are used to at home. But any trip that brings you out of your comfort zone, is a trip worth doing.
Although my time DID consist of visiting those places you've heard your friends talk about, or that you've seen advertised constantly in travel agents, I want to prove to you that there is so much more to the overcrowded, tourist destination we call Bali. You can experience a culture that is completely unique to any other place you have visited. You can experience a healthy, meditational and spiritual awakening, just by gracing the streets and taking part in traditional rituals. Let me begin.
Just a quick taxi or motorbike ride away from bustling Seminyak, is a small little village called Canggu (pronounced CHANGU).
This little gem is the new up-and-coming "place to be" when visiting Bali. It's definitely more popular to the tastes of seasoned backpackers rather than the "all-inclusive" once off holidayers.
Canggu is jam-packed full of trendy cafes, catering for the most healthy vegan eater. My favourite places to indulge were Cafe Organic, The Avocado Cafe and Nalu Bowls. Complete with gorgeous friendly staff who are ready to serve with a smile, your culinary experience at these treasures will be immaculate.
If you like shopping, you have come to the right place. There are handfuls of boutique stores with a plethora of island-wear fashion choices. @theoffering_canggu is where I found a lot of cute playsuits and dresses, and the label is completely Australian owned.
As far as activities go, Canggu is home to one of the best surf beaches in Bali, Echo Beach. Situated just parallel to a lively bar called Finns, you can make an appearance at happy hour, watch the infamous Canggu sunset, and meet a fellow traveller or two!
I stayed at a hostel called The Farm Hostel. This was one of the best and most welcoming hostels I've ever stayed at. With an outdoor common area, jungle surrounded pool, outdoor 'forest' inspired bathroom and puppies! (who doesn't want a puppy at their hostel, although he was too energetic to stay still for long enough for a photo!) I found the staff at The Farm extremely friendly, giving me insider tips that only the locals knew!
The best part about Canggu for me, was the Balinese street life. I met so many interesting people, like the fellow above, who made my camera ecstatic and my heart full.
This man spoke no english whatsoever, but was completely chuffed when he realised how good he looked on camera and signalled for me to take more snaps!
There were many amazing exchanges of thoughts, feelings, smiles and hugs when in Canggu. Bountiful high fives with children and many staring matches with the local dogs.
In amongst the shops, cafe's and bars there is a life lived by Balinese people who have always been there. If you decide to open your eyes to it, you will suddenly become apart of it. You then cannot leave without taking the time to notice, and rip your eyes away from what a westernised mind desires.
Woman out the front of The Farm Hostel working on the rice terrace. She was in such a good mood, and couldn't stop smiling and saying hello.
Met these school kids whilst exploring Tanah Lot temple near Canggu. They wanted to interview us for their school project, which had to do with them practising their english and improving their confidence while conversing with westerners. They wanted to find out what we did for work and why we came to Bali, which we very happily shared whilst being filmed and giggled at shyly.
Street cats a-plenty!
A tranquil and spiritual haven for the yogi at heart, Ubud will capture you into a world of spirituality, adventure and jungle-life. I have never felt so in touch with nature as I wandered through some of the most beautiful and alluring settings; on the top of mountains, drinking the sunrise with my eyes, perched in prayer whilst overlooking a serene jungle and engulfed with laughing children down a village street. Ubud has a magic touch to it, I could feel it, sense it within the local people and experience it with everything I did.
Sacred Monkey Forest
Located in the heart of Ubud village, the famous Sacred Monkey Forest is a charm in itself. If you love animals and would like to come face to face with these, maybe TOO tame, creatures then you must pay a visit. Costing only 50,000 rupiah to enter, you can also purchase a few bananas off a little stall, and from that moment on you have volunteered yourself to be the monkey's personal feeder. If you are too shy to approach the monkey, not to worry, because the monkey WILL approach you. Sometimes with a little too much excitement, so be prepared to get a shock or two. Monkeys are very energetic creatures, and in this protected area, they are known to jump onto your shoulders, pull on your hair, steal your water bottles and even give you a friendly little nip. If you want to know my secret, I was a victim of the monkey, and got bitten quite hard on two areas of my body. I triple checked and I was told by trustworthy Balinese locals and medics, that the monkeys are safe from any disease. If this happens to you, however, and you do not feel so at peace, I advise you to get medical treatment pronto.
After my "too close for comfort" encounter with the hungry monkey, this photo was snapped. For me, as a passionate animal lover and enthusiast, the bite was not enough to keep me away for good.
Beautiful moss-covered surroundings, with tall majestic trees makes the monkey forest such a dreamy encounter.
Mt. Batur Sunrise Hike
What an experience! Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a night shift worker? Well you can take on a real life 24 hour trial of that by forcing yourself to wake up at 1.30am for a treacherous, but magnificent and unforgettable journey.
In a nutshell, your transport will pick you up from your accomodation as early as 1.30-2am, if it wasn't weird enough waking up at that time, they then encourage you to eat a breakfast of pancakes and Indonesian coffee around 3am. By 4am you are trekking up a steep, rough terrained, active volcano in the complete pitch black. Your guide gives you your own personal flashlight so you do not fall over and die on every step. (NB: please make sure you where good hiking shoes/runners for this adventure, otherwise you'll end up struggling like my friend, who accidentally wore her sandals. AKA complete wardrobe disaster).
The hike takes about enough time to make it up to the top for sunrise, the journey is long and tough, but if you stop to notice the small things, which is hard in the dark of course, you WILL see the teeny tiny flashes of light from the hikers in front of you, and they look like magical fireflies.
Once making it to the top, you can take a sigh of relief, and know the only thing you have left to do (apart from going down of course :P) is to enjoy the view, the serenity and the silence. You can also say hello to the groups of wild monkeys frolicking around, and eat a boiled egg or 2 (provided food by the guides).
This trip can be taken from anywhere in Ubud, and your hotel or hostel will have the best prices and information available to help you book.
Hot Springs - Toya Devasya
The panoramic beauty of the Toya Devasya hot springs is the perfect way to relax and rejuvenate your mind and body after successfully completing the challenging Mt Batur hike.
If you would like to experience the magic of the infinity hot spring extending out onto blissful views of the Batur lake, whilst sipping in some mountain fresh air, you can organise for your tour to drop you straight from the base of the mountain to the midst of the steaminess.
Complete with full bar and local produce menu, you can relax here for as many hours as you like, or at leat until you turn into a prune!
If you like purple elephants, you have come to the right place.
Tegalalang Rice Terrace
The rice terrace at Tegalalang will enchant you with its cascading beauty surrounding you for miles. You can meander in amongst paradisiacal looking trees and rice paddies for hours, appreciating the beauty. The stillness of the paddy water is so calm that you also start to appreciate your own beauty, whilst staring intently at your sunshiny reflection. I loved watching the farmers dotted throughout, wearing their traditional Balinese hat and working hard, this is an authentic Balinese experience you cannot miss.
Tegalalang is one of the largest and most photogenic rice terrace locations in Bali, a lot of tourists grace this spot; but rice terraces are a large part of Balinese culture, and there are 100's scattered all over. Rice is considered the most important crop and one of the most sought out ingredients for their cuisine. Families and villages rely on the faming of their rice fields to make a living and provide income for themselves. Although being a rice farmer is a hard-working life, and involves long hours of physical labour in the scorching sun, Balinese people put so much value on this profession that they create shrines that are devoted to the fields.
At Tegalalang rice terrace you will come across many beautiful and traditional Balinese people. Some so cute you cannot help but get snap-happy around them. The catch is that if you take one picture, they will follow you and demand a tip. It can seem slightly misleading if you weren't expecting it. Realistically, however, working on a rice field in Bali will never earn the local people enough money to live comfortably. They will barely scrape through to pay their bills and basic living expenses. Tourism for them is an extra way to earn a little more cash for their families, and also encourage the maintenance of these beautiful rice terraces.
Staying at the Padma resort was like all my imaginative desires coming true. Imagine this. Waking up to the sweet sound of birds gently chirping in the sunrise air. Mystical and quietly peaceful views enveloping your eyesight as you step outside onto your balcony, sipping in the still summer air. A leisurely walk down a winding path, takes you straight to your own yoga and meditation practise. A perfect way to start your day and clear your mind of any preconceived hangups, and come away feeling zen and relaxed. Suddenly there's a quaint and distant sound; as you edge closer, you step right into a gamelan musical production, inviting you to join them in indulging in a sumptuous buffet breakfast, whilst overlooking spectacular views of the Padma's very own infinity pool and miles of luscious jungle.
@padmaubud - feeling extremely meditational in my cross-legged stance.
@padmaubud - the luscious infinity pool will forever in my dreams!
Staying at the Padma resort, Ubud, means you are slightly out of the hearts centre of Ubud village. However, not to worry, as the resort offers scheduled shuttle bus trips at many different times during the day, so you can not only enjoy an oasis escape, but also experience Ubud culture and lifestyle.
GILI ISLANDS / LOMBOK
A cluster of tropical islands lay just a short boat ride off the main land of Bali and just northwest off the coast of Lombok. Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air are loved by many for their sandy beaches, alluring palm trees, and peaceful 'hippie' vibe. If you're anything like me, escaping from the bustling mainland to 'island life' is like a breath of fresh air. Literally.
Gili Trawangan, or more famously shortened to 'Gili T', prides itself on being an island that is as organic and natural as possible. In a nutshell, you are completely free from the pollutive and chaotic messes caused by cars and motorbikes, and instead graced by bicycles and horses (with carriages) to get from A to B, or of course, the exploration can be carried out on foot, which is by far my favourite mode of transportation to date.
Note: although it seemed to me that the horses were not treated in an unethical way, I do think it is always good to stay wary. I am a strong believer of not using animals for tourist satisfaction or labour, unless the work is naturally inclined.
11 photos to get you dreamin' of the island life...
Hammocks... everywhere. On the beach, in your hostel/hostel, in the bars, even in the middle of the ocean. If having a day of slumber in a hammock isn't your idea of total paradisiacal relaxation, maybe I can win you over with...
Swings. In the the middle of the ocean. Can't get any better than that, can it?
Maybe it can with markets galore. I LOVE shopping in markets. From bold, colourful dresses to quaint boho jewellery, to cute souvenirs for your friends and family; you can definitely find a treasure or 2 whilst on Gili T. And if this isn't enough for you...
Gorgeous fruit markets line the streets. If you think Australia has a lack of fruit this winter, feel at ease to know that the tropical fruits flourish all year round in Bali and the Gili islands, and are dirt cheap! Think multitudes of avocados, dragon fruit, pineapple and bananas. It is an island tropical fruity bliss!
If you are not a fan of Gili T's popular and reckless night life, not to worry because hiding in amongst the small corners of the island is a local, cultured and authentic acoustic life. I met some incredibly talented musicians and singers whilst exploring the island, and found myself gypsy-dancing around fires, singing Bob Marley, in no time. The island locals find happiness and zen in their music and love to share it with anyone who feels the vibe, and like to live by the motto; "Don't worry, be happy".
Do I even need to caption this photo? Not really. But I will say it anyway... baby goats.
In addition to the baby goats, the villagers of Gili T were beautiful and fascinating people. Even though some of their English was not easy to understand, I found the families very open and easy to talk to. This particular family lived in a small thatched roofed house, they have been on this island their whole life. They have their own animals and grow their own food out the back. Such a happy little family, and so open and welcoming to me.
Plethoras of beanbag relaxation options. Such little time, so much sleeping to do!
This is Casa Vintage. If you're looking for a home base on Gili T, then this is it. We made some life-long local friends here, hung out here, ate food here, and wallowed in the beautiful vintage aesthetics. With pineapples hanging from the sky, white benches, hammocks, swing chairs, complete with a kissing room (featured), Casa Vintage is your ultimate hippie hide out. If you visit, be sure to ask for these legends: Eril and Antos!
Another one from moments of leisure in amongst the vintage white sand (natural habitat of course).
This fabulously cute "pretty in pink", Spanish interior/exterior inspired hotel is where we stayed whilst on the island. The entire hotel is slathered in pink, even down to the bicycles that they rent out for guests. The rooms were extremely spacious, also with huge stone bathroom and balcony overlooking the majestic pool. The hotel is a little further away from the main area/nightlife of the island (only a 15 or so minute walk away), but totally worth it for the extra peace and quiet.
This incredible place is on my list to explore in more depth next time I happen to grace the Gili's and surrounds. Land of cascading waterfalls, far-away villages, thick jungles and beautiful people, Lombok is one for exploration and adventure. This island is actually quite huge in comparison to the Gili 3, so you need to make sure you arrive very early from Gili T, or you commit to spending a few days.
Scooters are the perfect way to see the island. You have the freedom to stop whenever you desire, which is great for me, because if i see something or someone on the side of the street, I have a heart-wrenching yearning to go back until I do. Usually going back is the best decision in the world. The four photos I have shared below are snippets of what I only experienced because I let my heart lead me.
A special moment between three best friends, shared on top of a home-made thatched platform, looking out into the jungle. I stopped to talk to a middle aged lady who was waiting patiently at her small stall of basic needs and food to sell. Behind her was this open hut, many chickens (see below), and her husband working. They were kind enough to let us stay and spend special time in their space.
This is my favourite little boy in Indonesia. Well, I love them all, but there was something extra special about this one. He had this laugh which echoed endlessly with pure joy, and his eyes smiled from within. I will never forget him.
The best part about travelling in a new country is taking time out of your day to interact with the locals. There’s something really satisfying about not making your entire trip about sipping cocktails and lathering yourself in luxury like a king or queen. The real unforgettable moments come from getting down and dirty, and out of your comfort zone. Stay tuned for my blog soon to be featured in “faces of the world”, for more of my thoughts on this topic.
So, you’ve probably heard of Seminyak before. That’s because it is the first, or second (after Kuta), most tourist infested area in Bali. I wouldn’t normally want to mention visiting a place so busy, BUT it has its own beauty and uniqueness that I fell in love with. The handfuls of colourful buildings, gorgeous fashion and healthy eating options stole my heart. Of course, the nightlife is pumping, especially at the renowned “Potato Head Beach Club”, so if you're looking for extravagant bars, to dress up and look fabulous, this is your place, and there's no turning back.
Basically, Seminyak is your perfect spot if you need a quick holiday getaway. There is no lack of pretty sunsets, cocktails by the pool, rowdy parties and a cheap massage or two.
Here are a few of my favourite places to hang out whilst in Seminyak:
Bali Boat Shed. The most beautiful clothing you will ever find, anywhere.
Sea Circus. If you like cute, colourful houses and healthy, delectable food, this is your place.
Motel Mexicola. Mexican food. Margaritas. Mexican music. Period.
Shelter restaurant and Nalu Bowls. The only place we graced every.. single.. day.
LacaLaca Cantina Mexicana. Awesome vibe. And make sure you say hello to the very extroverted waiter named Carlos while you’re there.
Day trips are also quite popular from Seminyak. You can almost go anywhere in one day, especially if you find the write mode of transportation. You can make friends with a taxi driver and form a great agreement of daily rate for day trips. You can also hire a scooter, if you feel up to braving the crazy city traffic.
(SECRET TIP: if you are getting an Indonesian SIM card, you can download an app called “GOJEK”, this will get you the cheapest local rates for motorbikes only. Uber also works, however can be a little sketchy within the popular areas. Make sure when taking any transportation that you double check how much money you are giving the driver, exploitation of tourists in this case is common.
We travelled to Uluwatu for a day trip. Probably the most breathtaking cliff edge views I saw whilst in Bali. Uluwatu is famous spot for professional surfers as well as some of the best and picturesque beaches in Bali. You can also visit the stunning Uluwatu temple, and enjoy an authentic Kecak Fire Dance show at sunset.
Stunning views from Uluwatu temple - also where I teetered on the edge of the cliff for exhilarations sake.
To conclude, I would like to share with you a production filmed and edited by a very talented Indonesian videographer, @rudolf_samuel. Rudolf was a blessing and I am so grateful for the amazing collaboration he provided me. Stay tuned for my next Bali blog out soon for more of his work. In the meantime, please check out Michelle and I frolicking around Seminyak.
Thanks for reading, beautiful friends, family and randoms from all over the world! I hope this blog post inspires you to visit Bali, but to open your eyes to the authenticity that I experienced and adored. If you have any comments, questions or anything you would like to say, please send me an email and I will respond to you ASAP.
Please share this blog if you felt inspired! And watch out for upcoming blogs on the "Faces of Bali" and my time spent with "Kajane Resort".
Celia Rose <3