After the emotional rollercoaster of Phnom Penh in Cambodia, my original plan was to visit Malaysia to dive in the Sipadan, but ridiculous Malaysian visa restrictions required me to apply for a visa from India / Thailand / Singapore only, which was cost prohibitive to do. So after $400 lost in flights in and out of Malaysia + internal flights to the Sipadan + non refundable Hostelworld booking advances (should have paid the $1 for flexible bookings!), I decided to make my way to Bali.
Now, Bali is, undisputedly, Indonesia’s most famous island destination. What the map doesn’t tell you though is how huge that island is. I spent close to a month on the island, and I couldn’t even visit the major areas of the island. I remember when I was still home and planning my trip, I had decided to give Indonesia 1 month where I would start in Jakarta, and then visit Yogyakarta, Bali, the Gilis, Lombok, Komodo, Florence, the Java islands, Sumatra, and maybe a few other places I can’t recollect. It all seemed doable looking at the map, but the truth is far from it. Indonesia is an archipelago of over 17,000 islands – and it would take a lifetime to visit them all. What’s more, the islands are spread out, like really really spread out, and though Indonesia has good and cheap internal flight connectivity, trying to visit Indonesia’s top spots in 30 days would be a ludicrous idea.
I started off time on the island at the luxury tourist spot of Seminyak. I stayed at a hostel that had capsule beds (my favourite kind of dorm), and although the hostel had a party vibe that’s usually not my drift, I had a pretty good time in Seminyak. There’s the famous Potato Head Beach Club, my personal favourite: La Favella, and a bunch of other nice (and expensive) clubs and pubs. My friend Jack, who I also ran into at the start of my trip in Bangkok, was also in Bali for most of my time there, and with him, it’s always a party. We visited a few gay clubs in Seminyak as well, and I even had a Balinese Beyonce try really hard to make out with me, in spite of my resistance and polite refusals. One of they days, I even made my way down to the Single Fin sundown party all the way in Uluwatu (2 hours drive south of Seminyak), which was really nice overall.
After Seminyak, I went slightly south and stayed at the most touristy beach in Bali – Kuta Beach. While I did spend a few nights there, they were mainly to rest at night after my advanced open water qualifications dives in Nusa Penida (for manta rays!) and Tulamben (for the USS Liberty Wreck dive – a ship that was hit by a Japanese torpedo and beached near Tulamben during WWII). The dives were spectacular and definitely one of the highlights of my time in Bali.
From there I met up with Jack again and made my way to Ubud – the hippy town in the middle of Bali. Eat, Pray, Love is based in Ubud, and besides the acres and acres of rice fields (no beaches here), there are oodles of yoga centres and vegan restaurants. There’s a monkey sanctuary that I didn’t go to, but it’s probably pretty fun on the inside. I also attended my first ever yoga class (you read that right) in Ubud, and it was pretty calming and relaxing.
On to the Gilis from there, where we spent a few nights in Gili Trawangan – the party island of the Gilis: super trashy, followed by a few nights in Gili Air – the relaxing island of the Gilis: super nice. I also did a few fun dives while I was in the Gilis – I saw sooo many turtles – and also managed to catch a few good sunsets.
I went back to Kuta from there where I met up with my friend Niharika who flew down for her birthday weekend. I did another couple of fun dives, went to surf school, and even visited the most famous bar / pub / club in Bali – Sky Garden!
After Niharika left, I went to Canggu Beach, the surfer beach of Bali, and after perhaps Gili Air, this would be my favourite spot. The beaches were far less crowded and the waters were perfect for surfing.
Overall, I really liked my time in Bali (and the Gilis). The beaches are beautiful, the food is delicious, and the people, like most of Southeast Asia, are super friendly. I hope to return some day.
Honorary mention: AVOCADO. Bali (and I think Indonesia in general) is really big on avocado… and it’s cheap! If you love avocado, and pay a mini fortune for below average avocados where you live (like I do), that’s probably added incentive to make that trip to Bali.
PS – I realise that this post was quite drab, and that’s mainly because so much happened in that 1 month in Bali, and I’m writing about it a whole month after I left, so the stories aren’t that fresh in my mind, and it’s hard to condense it all in one post anyway. Bottom line, need to post more often.