We spent ten days in Bali, Indonesia at the end of September, and it was the first place we’ve visited where we’ve truly fallen into vacation mode. We arrived after five long days of scuba diving in Australia, and we spent the first two days in full relaxation mode – not planning our days, thinking about future travel logistics, or checking in on email and social media. Bali proved to be an easy place to relax, but it also provided opportunities for outdoor adventure and cultural experiences. For this reason, as well as the fact that it’s incredibly beautiful, Bali quickly rose to the top of our list of favorite places.
We split our time between two cities: Seminyak and Ubud. Both were very interesting and pretty (and incredibly hot and humid!). In Seminyak we fell into the slow pace of the beach town. We slept late in the morning, stumbled onto the beach to swim and surf in the afternoon, and sipped mojitos while listening to live music in the evening. In Ubud, we were immersed in Balinese culture, food and art. We woke up to the sound of roosters, toured temples, met artisans, and sampled traditional dishes in the day, and walked through rice fields into town at night. (Also, in Ubud we experienced our first less-than-ideal accommodation: we fell asleep to the sound of bats squeaking in the ceiling, slept with ants in our bed, woke up to bat poop in our sink, and showered with geckos at our feet. However, even these encounters with creatures did not put a damper on our time in this lovely city.)
Below are the highlights of our time in each place.
– Surfing – We took surfing lessons on the beach, where the water was warm and clean, the waves were big, and the current was manageable. Our instructor, Alex, was helpful and humorous, leading to a fun and successful day of catching waves.
– Pool time – We used leftover hotel points to stay at the Courtyard Marriott. The hotel had a wonderful pool where we spent way too much time swimming and lounging.
– Strolling the beach – The beach in Seminyak is nice and hopping in the warm sea water is a great way to cool off. It’s also a nice place to catch the sunset while taking a walk or having a drink at one of the many beach bars.
– Food & Drink – It’s no surprise that this was a highlight for us. Bali has many options for light and healthy food, and one of our favorites was Zula. We had fresh juice, smoothies, and salads for lunch.
– Staying in Penestanan – We booked an Airbnb in this quiet area of town, and we’re so glad we did. It’s located up on a hill, accessible only by foot or bike, and filled with winding walkways, rice fields, and friendly locals.
– Balinese Cooking Class – We booked a full day experience with Lobong Cooking Class, and this was the highlight of our time in Bali! In the morning we visited the local market to learn about and pick up ingredients and then we went to the family’s home to cook. While there, we learned about many traditional Balinese family customs and tried our hand at some delicious dishes.
– White Water Rafting – On the day we arrived in Bali Jeff saw a tweet from a former co-worker saying that she and a friend were going to be in Ubud at the same time as us. We met up with them for a rafting excursion on the Ayung River, which was wet, fun, and adventurous (but not too crazy!).
– Campuhan Ridge Walk – This four mile walk through the Campuhan Ridge just outside of the main town is beautiful and serene. It also led us to the art studio of a talented man named Surana, a science teacher and an artist, selling paintings and woodworkings.
– Tegallalang Rice Terraces – We spent one morning walking up and down these rice paddies. Known for their use of subak, a traditional Balinese irrigation system, the terraces are lush, green, and often a bit muddy due to daily afternoon rain showers. We could not stop snapping pictures of the picturesque scene!
– Temples – The temple we found most interesting (and easiest to access – no stairs!) was Tirta Empul. Located in Tampak Siring, this temple has spring water that is used for spiritual cleansing for Hindu people.
– Coffee Plantation – We visited a coffee plantation where the coffee beans are eaten by luwaks, animals that are similar to possums. After they pass through the luwaks the beans are cleaned, roasted and used to make coffee, which is quite delicious! The plantation itself is beautiful as well, and we enjoyed tasting many different types of tea and coffee while taking in the views.
– Food & Drink – Again, this made the list! In Ubud we enjoyed the Yellow Flower Cafe in Penestanan, where we went several times for iced coffee, green smoothies, fresh salads, and a few common Balinese dishes.
We wish we could have spent at least two more days in Ubud, and would have loved to visit the Gili Islands as well. But those are just reasons to come back some day!