21st December 2017 – 19th January 2018
We touched down in Bali with high expectations for this island of pure bliss after seeing so much hype of this destination on social media... Not too mention our excitement for the holiday season!
We traveled many different areas of Bali in our time there and would like to share with you our experience in each… Unfortunately Bali didn't quite meet our expectations which was a shame, but it taught us not to listen too much to others opinions on a place and make our own judgement once we experience a country for ourselves. We aren't saying we do not like Bali but there seems to be a 'hype' surrounding this place which we don't quite understand. We also stayed mainly south on the island only travelling as far north as Ubud. We were told by locals whilst there and by people we have met since we left Bali that the real unspoiled beauty of this island is in the far north.
We try not to have regrets whilst traveling so instead of regretting that we didn't spend more time in the north instead of the south we now look at it as a reason to return! Our favourite thing about Bali was all of the amazingly delicious food options they have. For me, Isabelle being vegetarian and gluten free I often struggle with food while travelling but in Bali there were endless choices for me and I couldn't get enough of it!
The best way to travel around in Bali would be by bike/ scooter of course! We found the roads quite busy and overwhelming so opted not to rent a bike. Not much in Bali is in walking distance meaning we had to get quite a bit of taxi service. If you can order a Grab (Grab is better than Uber here) that is the cheapest option. There are a lot of areas in Bali where Grab is banned but you can often walk 5-10 minutes out of the main street you may be on and order one via the app. Of course you need data or wifi to do so.
We were in Bali whilst Mount Agung was 'erupting', there might even still be a travel warning in place for this. Even though smoke was seen in the sky far away, the volcano is situated so far away from where anybody lives it would never affect you. Don't be afraid.
The first stop of our trip was Ubud, somewhere we had heard so much about and couldn’t wait to discover, especially with our love for yoga. This unique Balinese village is situated in the Northern part of the island in the jungle, around a 2 hour taxi ride from the airport (Denpasar). The taxi cost 300k (you will get used to the exchange rate) which we booked direct through our homestay. Ubud centre is one long road with little charming streets and alleyways coming off of it. As you walk down the street you will smell the incense burning, hear the chanting from the temples, see yoga classes in mid flow and dodge all the scooters whizzing past. Ubud has a very distinctive atmosphere that we loved as it is the home of Bali’s religion; Balinese Hinduism. The only way to describe this religion is an interesting combination of Buddism and Hinduism but at the same time it is completely unique. Every day you will see little baskets containing flowers, food and incense sticks outside every home and shop door. These are blessed by the locals throughout the day and they believe it will bring them good luck. The Balinese Hindus are very relaxed, warm and welcoming people.
We loved their religious dress
Everything in Ubud is within walking distance so there is no need to hire a scooter in our opinion but if you feel differently it was 60k to hire one through our homestay for 1 day.
Campuhan ridge walk Ubud
Things to do in Ubud:
Visit the main temple on the main road and wander down the side streets to see smaller temples. Each home in Bali has a temple so you won’t be short of seeing some here
Daily market on the main road runs from 10am-6pm. Some great little finds but watch them, go in at a 1/3 of the price
The Ridge Walk is a beautiful walk through some rice fields and takes 1hr from the centre
Practice some yoga. For beginners or experts there are such a range of classes. Yoga Barn is the most popular but classes are overcrowded. Try Yoga Saraswati; it is the cheapest option at 50k ph and the smallest class of just 6 people. Daily classes here at 9am and 5:30pm. The Vinyasa flow classes are great and were an enjoyable challenge for me
The Monkey Forest; there are a lot of monkeys hanging around the roads here. Be careful I am now scared of monkeys after one jumped on my back whilst I was walking past the forest. Inside the forest is a beautiful temple
Whilst in Ubud if you are not planning to travel further North, hire a car and see some of the attractions up in this part of Bali such as The Tegallalang Rice Terrace, The Holy Water Temple and The Elephant Temple. We paid 300k (3 people) through our homestay for the car for 4-5hours. You then have to pay 10-20k pp to get into each attraction
Something else to see whilst in Ubud is The Gates to Heaven as you have probably seen on Instagram! We didn’t get to visit as we ran out of time but have heard good things. This is a longer trip from Ubud around 1-2hr
Climb Mount Batur at sunrise (we couldn't do this due to Mount Agung)
Christmas was coming and we wanted to stay somewhere special for a few days. It was a strange feeling being away from home for the first time over the holidays, but we had each other and wanted to make it one to remember!
We checked into a nice hotel on Christmas eve and spent some time relaxing around the pool, doing a little Christmas shopping in the markets and eating lot’s of nice food! Our hotel package included evening meals so on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day we enjoyed delicious Balinese 3 course dinners and cocktails whilst experiencing some Balinese dancing. There are plenty of live music bars around where we celebrated with some drinks. Just have a wander and suss out the atmosphere, we particularly enjoyed Nomas above The Folk, LOL bar and The Buddah Lounge for a boggie. It is more than safe to be out late here. Christmas doesn’t really feel like ‘Christmas’ in Bali as it is just another day for them, but it was something different for us and we enjoyed it.
Places to stay:
Santana’s Homestay (B&B £18 pr/pn) – basic friendly family homestay, 5 mins walk to centre
Anumana Hotel (B&B + evening meal £75 pr/pn based on two people) – 4 star hotel with pool and good restaurant, 15 mins walk to centre
Places to eat:
The Legend Café – good for lunch and very cheap
Noma’s – nice on an evening and good value for money
Taco Casu – good Mexican food but a little more expensive
The Gluten Free Kitchen – a little expensive but really good GF options incl CAKE!
After Ubud we headed to Canggu, around a 1.5hr drive. We actually stayed with a friend in Brawa for a few days which is around a 15 minute scooter ride into central Canggu or a 20 minute taxi ride. Accommodation is cheaper here but you do need a bike otherwise you will spend a fortune on taxis. Especially if you stay out late! A taxi into the centre of Canggu from here cost around 30-40k in the day and then 100-120k after midnight. You can hire a bike in Brawa for 40k a day which is a really good deal.
Canggu has quite a big nightlife scene, it’s where all the ‘Instagram’ hipsters hang out so don’t be surprised if you find it a little pretentious at times. However it is where most of the Australian surfers hang out so there is a cool vibe. The lifestyle here is surf all day, eat healthy food and drink smoothies in cool cafes, then party into the early hours before waking up and doing it all again!
Don’t expect much from the beach, we were so disappointed to find water that was a mud colour and dull sand covered in rubbish. The dirty drain water running from the streets, down the beach and into the sea put us off swimming but many people still surf here and it is a good spot to sit and watch for a few hours.
There is a club circuit that everyone follows here Monday – Friday. We tried out a couple of the nights...
Wednesday – Old Mans – a beach bar with a nice vibe and cheap drinks. We also loved going here any day for happy hour 5-6pm and catching the sunset
Thursday – Pretty Poison – this place is cool with its main feature being a big skateboarding rink which everyone sits around and watches the skater dudes
Friday – The Lawn – a really nice beach club that is a bit more expensive
Places to stay:
Papillon hotel (£25 pr/pn) - lovely and peaceful 'villa' looking accommodation situated in the heart of Canggu with several pools
La Boheme Hostel (B&B £7 pp/pn) - a great laid back hostel offering clean 6 bed dorms with free pancakes in the morning and a fab little pool to cool off
Places to eat:
Poke Poke – on the main street, really good value for money and the cheapest restaurant we found with good healthy food. You can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner here
Matcha Cafe - a delicious menu of all things matcha. We loved breakfast and lunch here with great GF options
Rasa - such a great little find with really reasonable, beautiful and healthy local food
The Sunny Cafe - a unique place themed around the 'deep south' of America (bought back memories for us). Delicious healthy food at any time of day. We spent one evening here watching an amazing Johnny Cash band
Corn on the cob is always a cheap and good choice for lunch. You will find the locals cooking them at the beach for 15k each
Another cheap option for lunch or dinner is a grab and go burrito from a stand just up from Poke Poke
New year was approaching by this time and we planned to celebrate in Seminyak with friends visiting from home. We had heard that it was the place to party and that is what we planned to do! We stayed in Seminyak from 30th Dec 2017 until 2nd Jan 2018. Seminyak had to be the biggest disappointment of all in Bali, sorry for the negativity but we want to be honest with you. The traffic here was unbelievable with scooters even riding into pedestrians on the pavements to try and avoid it. The fumes as you walked around were too much at times. The beach here was even worse than Canggu with rubbish everywhere, we couldn't believe people were sitting on the beach in rubbish. There are lot's of beach clubs situated along here but they are not for a backpackers budget! Potato Head is the one we heard of most if it's something you wish to do here but don't expect too much of the 'beach view'.
It was quite hard to plan our New Years Eve not knowing where was good to go and still trying to keep within our backpacking budget. Some clubs were charging £50-100 just to get in! We ended up having a nice meal and heading to La Laguna Beach Club which was a short taxi ride from Seminyak. La Laguna was a cool spot that took us back to days in Glastonbury Festival UK. Some beers, fireworks and dancing under the disco ball helped us bring in the new year with big smiles on our faces. Looking back we wish we got some beers and danced under the stars on the beach watching the fireworks with each other and friends, but you can't look back right? Seminyak is one to miss when traveling Bali.
Places to stay:
Our final stop in Bali was Uluwatu and on the way we stopped in Jimbaran for a couple of nights rest at The Watermark Hotel and Spa. Jimbaran is not an area we would recommend to stay, the beach isn’t great and there isn’t really anything to do in the area. However, if you just want to escape The Watermark is beautiful. With a spa, two swimming pools, a fitness centre, a restaurant and stunning suites you do not need to leave.
Jimbaran to Uluwatu took around 30mins in a taxi. It was a little breath of fresh air arriving in Uluwatu as finally we saw some nice beaches and it was a lot quieter. Firstly, we stayed in Pedang Pedang beach area which was ok but you really need a scooter to get around. It is a 15min drive to Pedang Pedang beach which you had to pay to go on, so we didn't bother. It wasn't much but all of the monkeys there put us off! From the beach it's a 10min drive to Pedang temple (20k taxi). Again you have to pay and lots of monkeys so we ended up at Single Fins beach club inbetween the two, sipping a coconut water and watching the waves.
After one night we moved to Villa V situated on Bingin Beach. This was one of our favorite spots in Bali. After we climbed down the 300 steps to the beach, we smiled at each other as we saw white sand and blue ocean. It is a small beach that is not overcrowded, with just a few restaurants and home stays set into the cliffs. Each night locals would set up candle lit BBQ's on the beach with fresh sea food. It was a lovely atmosphere. The gorgeous Villa V made our time here pretty special. This beautifully designed villa is set into the cliffs with the most breathtaking views of the ocean. You are that close you can sit and watch the surfers in the sunset and fall asleep to the sound of the waves.
Villa V Bingin Beach Uluwatu
Places to stay:
Places to eat:
Bukit cafe - delicious healthy food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A bit pricey but good GF options
Organic Buddah Soul - delicious healthy food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A little less pricey but good GF options
It really saddened us to see the beaches in Bali so overcome with rubbish which was being washed out to sea. Our oceans all over the world are becoming full of our waste and it's time we did something about it! This cannot continue... clean up the ocean.
Do not travel to Bali during December / January as it is their rainy season and it certainly lives up to the name! It is also a very humid time of year. From March on we were told the sun shines and there is a light breeze
Head North! Get out of the tourist trap and head up to see the real beautiful part of Bali
Watch out for ‘Bali Belly’. This is still a pretty undeveloped country with a very dirty water system so salads and ice are often a no go. We both suffered from this bug which will leave you with a very upset stomach and flu like symptons often lasting 48hrs. Keep hydrated if it gets you! And drink lemon tea with honey a couple of times a day
Wear a helmet if you hire a bike
With love from the globe,
Isabelle & George x
Currently in Vietnam.