Bali wove it’s special magic over us us all with its stunning scenery, its beautiful temples, beaches, people, incense and flowers. We did lots of exploring, had lots of fun and laughter, enjoyed the beaches and swimming pools, the spa treatments shopping and adventures. It worked out to be the perfect balance between doing “stuff” and just chilling out.
Read on to find out some of the highlights of what we did…….
Day 1: Arrival Day
Ahhhh….the perfume of Bali, the smell of incense, of flowers, of clove cigarettes wafting by in the warm sultry air…..It’s always the same and it always fills me with a feeling of pleasure and happiness. This feeling was soon to be tested though as 4 of us arrived without our bags…..due to the short transit time they didn’t get loaded onto the plane from Sydney to Bali. They arrived the next evening though so all was well and I’m happy to say it certainly didn’t detract from our excitement and pleasure at being in Bali.
Our drivers, Buda and Nyomen, met us at the airport. Full of smiles and warm polite greetings they efficiently helped us to their waiting vans. They were to prove to be excellent drivers and guides with lots of local information and with great senses of humour. Once we had sorted out our rooms in Sanur (a laid back beach town) we strolled down to the beach for dinner at one of the many little restaurants right on the beach, delighting in the warm evening air. Then it was a swim in the pool, so lovely and warm, before bed and a good night’s sleep.
Day 2: Sanur
We all awoke early and met up for a stroll along the beach to watch the sunrise, (the first of many we were to watch) chatting, taking photos, delighting in being over here. Then it was back for another swim, breakfast at a gorgeous little restaurant with a lovely big lotus pool right next to our accommodation and then some cycling.
We hired bikes and rode along the long promenade that runs the length of the beach, stopping for cool drinks and checking out some of the many clothing stalls along the way .
The afternoon was spent resting before leaving at 3.30pm to watch the sunset at Uluwatu. This is a not to be missed experience and we could certainly see that, as the road there was clogged with buses and cars all on their way out there.
It is an amazing location high up on the towering cliffs with the sea crashing below. Families of monkeys stalk the walls and while they are very interesting and amusing to watch you also have to be very careful around them and not wear or have anything they can snatch off you like sunglasses and water bottles. We saw a number of tourists get their belongings taken and have to get the warden to divert the monkeys attention to get the stuff back.
From there we went out to Jimbaran, known for it’s seafood restaurants on the beach. We had a lovely evening eating and being entertained by a Balinese theater group and musicians singing at our table……
Day 3: From Sanur to Ubud.
After another sunrise, early morning swim in the pool and breakfast, our drivers picked us up and took us up to Ubud – the cultural capital of Bali where we were to stay for 4 nights. There is so much to see and do around the area of Ubud and we had a full and exciting itinerary to look forward to.
Our accommodation was right in the heart of Ubud on Monkey Forest Rd, yet was such a quiet, tranquil and pretty place to be. We all took advantage of the Spa Treatments that were located there!
The afternoon was free time to explore, swim, rest, shop…..before meeting up for dinner and the Kecak performance at a local temple. This is a must see experience as it is very much part of Balinese culture. Although we didn’t really understand a lot of what was being enacted (despite the notes that we were given) we were still mesmerized by the performance and the setting . We were sitting outside in a temple courtyard with a huge banyon tree lit up from below. The finale was the fire dance where a dancer scattered burning hot embers around the courtyard with his bare feet! We were all off to bed relatively early as we needed to get a few hours sleep before getting up at 1.30am in time to be picked up for our sunrise walk up Mt Batur.
Day 4: Mt Batur Trek.
Although the sunrise wasn’t that great, the whole experience was just awesome! We joined literally hundreds of other trekkers in the dark with our headlamps and torches as we slowly made our way up the 2 hr climb to the top of Mt Batur. Each group had their own guides who were very helpful. Ours was a lovely young woman who just loved being our photographer and was forever wanting to take “just one more” photo of us in the various locations. Our other guide had stayed behind with one of our group who was not able to make it to the top. We definitely had our heads in the clouds once we got up there, it was quite foggy and cold.
Our guide looked after us though and brought us hot coffees and our breakfast of bananas, bread and hard boiled eggs, (boiled in the steam from under the ground – it is an active volcano.) We had to be quick though as the monkeys up there were pretty adept at stealing food! Once the sun came out it soon warmed up and we were shedding our layers. We then had a lovely trek around the top of the craters and down to a big cave before heading back down. From there we visited a lake temple and had another breakfast snack at a coffee plantation. By the time we got back to our accommodation it was almost lunchtime, it had been a long morning, so it was free time till the evening when we met up for dinner.
Day 5: Cooking Class
Today was a “free day” until our cooking class that was booked in for 4pm. So a group of us headed off exploring on a walk through the rice fields. We followed the Camphuan walk up onto the ridge. This is a lovely walk and very easy to follow. There is also a beautiful lotus pond cafe up there that makes delicious banana bread and smoothies. It pays to go early though as it gets very hot and sweaty. We then explored another pathway and though we did get slightly lost it is never difficult to find someone to ask. The area around Ubud is absolutely lovely with stunning views and homes set among the rice paddies.
Once we got back, had a swim and some lunch and a rest, we met the others (who had been busy shopping) and headed off to our cooking class. We had 3 chefs for our group of 10 (3 others were on the course) and we had a lot of fun making our way through creating a delicious 5 course meal. We then enjoyed the meal with a few glasses of wine. I finished the day off with a lovely massage before rolling into bed…..ahhhh……..
Day 6: Cycling Tour
Today we were picked up at 8.30am and taken by van up to Kintamani to the start of our downhill cycling trip. Before we got there though, we visited a coffee plantation and learnt all about the famous Luwak coffee and sampled all sorts of different coffees and teas.
We then set off riding gently downhill all the way through little villages, alongside rice fields and under tall towering palms that lined the roads. Children called out “hello, hello” as we cycled past. We watched a line of women each with a 50kg sack of rice of her head, gracefully making their way through the rice fields to the waiting truck. Our guide took us into a family compound and told us heaps of information on Balinese religion and culture. We were taken to a beautiful house for a really delicious lunch. Having done the cooking course the day before we were able to recognise the different foods and know how they were made. We all thoroughly enjoyed our easy cycling and very informative day.
Once we got back some of us went and visited the Monkey Forest and were even brave enough to have the monkeys climb on us.
Day 7: Ubud to Lovina
Our fantastic 4 days in Ubud had come to end and so we headed off to for our overnight trip to Lovina at the top of Bali, stopping off to explore historical sites along the way.
Our first stop was the World Heritage site of the Jatiluwih Rice Fields and they are pretty impressive. Layers upon layers of rice paddies that gently wind their way around the hills and up and down into the valleys. We had a stroll through, marvelling at it all.
From there we drove to the Bedugul Water Temple, a popular tourist spot and very beautiful, where we were enthusiastically interviewed by English students from Java. From here we continued up to the lookout for the 2 lakes before cruising downhill through many villages to the coast and Lovina. It definitely looked poorer over this side of the island with lots of rubbish in the villages and poorer looking dwellings.
We were just in time to see the sunset (Lovina is a great spot for sunsets) and we sat with our drinks listening to a group of local young men singing with their guitars…… (unfortunately they sounded pretty bad!) It was then a nice long swim in the pool then out for dinner at a beachside restaurant before turning in for the night. It had been a long day.
Day 8: Lovina to Sideman (snorkelling on the way.)
Today we headed off from Lovina down the East Coast road stopping off at a couple of snorkelling spots before we got to our accommodation at Sideman. The first snorkelling location was at Tulamben which is the where the WW2 Japanese boat went down. It is not far out from the shore and there are lots of fish to see here though the water is a little bit murky. Unfortunately the Balinese don’t seem to have the same concern for the environment that we are used to in NZ and there is a lot of rubbish on the beaches and in the sea. Things are slowly changing but I think it will take a long time to change the “chuck away” attitude.
From here we then stopped off at the lovely Ujung Water Palace and had lunch before heading off to the Blue Lagoon just over the hill from Padang Bai. This is a lovely snorkelling location. It’s just like snorkelling in a huge fish bowl. There are heaps of fish and the water is pretty clear.
By now it was late afternoon and we still had an hour or so to get to our accommodation at Sideman. The road there was pretty rough but it was well worth it.
Our accommodation and the location of Sideman is just lovely. We are staying in cute little pink and blue cottages with lovely open air bathrooms and little back porches with hammocks overlooking a babbling little stream all set in a beautiful forest.
Day 9: Rest day in Sideman
Even though it was actually a “rest day” we were all keen to explore this lovely area. We headed off straight after breakfast and soon found a little track beside the road that we decided to follow.
The track wound its way up and down through lots of little garden sites with narrow little waterways running through. It was a pretty rough track though, not as easy as we had first thought. We did manage to find our way out to the road and gratefully stopped at a roadside shop for a cold drink. A couple of the women continued on and found a temple at the top of a hill which they said was well worth seeing……it’ll have to wait till next time. The rest of us went back and lazed by the pool and waited for our massages we had booked. It was a lovely day and we all enjoyed the peacefulness and beauty of Sideman.
Day 10: From Sideman to Nusa Lembongan
I was awake early this morning and I set off with another one of the women, Ingrid, for an exploring walk.
We found a delightful little track that led up through the rice paddies along side a concreted water course.
Unfortunately we couldn’t keep going as we had to be back in time for breakfast and to leave Sideman. I’ll just have to check it out next time. It was definitely easier than the one we had done the day before!
Today we were off to Nusa Lembongan for 2 days. First we had to catch a fast boat from Sanur which was a 2hr drive from Sideman. The boat trip only took 30 min so we were there by lunchtime.
Once we had settled in, had the obligatory swim in the pool and something to eat, we were then ready to go off exploring. So we hired some bicycles and off we went. We cycled along the coast road, through sparse areas that had lots of rubbish, along pot holed roads and past little roadside stalls.
It doesn’t take long to cycle around the island so some of us headed over the bridge to the next island, Ceningan. Once over there we ended up on a road that took us up and over a very steep winding hill to the other side. It was hard work and pretty rough and tough going. Coming down the other side was almost just as bad! The road was so bumpy and pot holey with lots of loose stones and very steep. We were dripping with sweat and my hands were sore and cramped from gripping the brakes! We were pleased to get back to our accommodation, have a swim and head out for dinner.
We ended the day at a lovely little restaurant called Lemongrass, listening to and singing along with a band, sipping on our cocktails…..
Day 11: Nusa Lembongan – Snorkelling Trip
After a lovely warm early morning walk along the beach in the soft dusky pink haze, it was time to get ready for our day’s snorkelling trip.
We boarded the boat at 8am and headed off with a few others to 4 different snorkelling spots. The first spot really wowed us with this huge mantaray gently gliding beneath us as we snorkelled all around it. The other spots were amazing too, with lots of fish and coral (though the coral wasn’t that great.) One location even had this massive Buddha head and “attendants” around it and big bell shapes. It was amazing! All sitting on the ocean floor like part of the lost city of Atlantis.
Once we got back we headed out for lunch at one of the best cafes we’ve been to. It was the Bali Eco Deli and not only did it have amazing food but it is dedicated to ridding Bali of all the plastic rubbish, (which usually bugs every tourist to Bali) and has a great recycling project in place plus they will fill up your water bottles for free. Tick, tick, tick!
Our day finished with 2 for 1 cocktails on the beach watching the sunset, dinner at Lemongrass, a swim in the pool and bed.
Day 12: From Nusa Lembongan to Seminyak – Final full day
We caught the 9.30am boat back to Sanur where our drivers picked us up and took us to Seminyak for our last night in Bali. Seminyak is a busy, bustling place with lots of high end shops, restaurants and accommodation. Our accommodation was at the quieter end and only a short walk from the beach so we headed down there for lunch while we waited for our rooms to be ready. During the afternoon we either explored, shopped, swam in the pool or rested.
We met in the evening for our cocktails on the beach watching the sunset along with hordes of other locals who clogged up the road on our way there. It was a lovely way to spend our last night. The music was playing, the sun was setting, we were all feeling very relaxed and happy plus a little bit sad that it was all over.
Day 13: Going home day
Today started with my final sunrise walk along the beach I was feeling very happy and pleased with how this trip has been and giving myself a little mental pat on the back. Some of the others had gone for a long run, it’s a great beach for long walks and runs! Due to a muck up with our flights, some were leaving at 10pm and the rest of us were leaving at 3pm. Those who had longer time headed off with one of our drivers to Nusa Dua for the day. A couple of us headed off for a cycle ride all the way along the pathway almost to the airport. After a thoroughly invigorating swim in the pounding surf at Seminyak we sat and enjoyed our drinks on the beach. Then all too soon it was time to get a taxi to the airport for our flights home. If you missed out on this trip this time round, don’t worry, I’ll definitely be doing it again next year!