Bali: Balance, Bintang & Bikinis
When I speak to others who have been to Bali, I always hear the same response: Always positive, eyes light up, some say it was the best vacation and some say they knew people who never left, or who now go back every year as ritual. I spent two weeks on the island and I have to admit, I definitely thought about not coming back. Moving to Bali, teaching yoga and spending eternity in the jungle, at the beach and drinking fresh juice and cutting open my own coconuts might just be my version of heaven.
My friends and I rode on a vespas through the jungle, swam in the huge ocean waves, took yoga classes, bought gasoline from a goat, rode bikes through rice paddies, surfed in Canggu, drank Bintang and green smoothies until we couldn't, ate Nasi Gorang for every meal, and left the island feeling like bronzed goddesses.
Our experience of Bali started after we flew into the bustling city of Kuta and stayed in an area called Seminyak. We were there for about three days and explored beaches, had too many massages, and drank a lot of Bintang on the beach. Known as the party area of the island we spent some time at beachfront pool clubs such as Potatohead and had ocean side drinks at Ku De Ta. Our favorite place for a green smoothie and some down time was Drifter, a surfer shop and smoothie bar.
We then headed South to the surfing mecca of Uluwatu. To get down to the beach you have to navigate your way through cliffside cafes, shops, and homes, continue down steep wooden stairs and come out under overhanging cliffs into the shaded narrow path that leads out to the ocean. My friend and I took a swim, but the tide was very strong and the waves quite big so we didn't venture out all the way to the surfers. From cliff hanging cafes above you can watch surfers with a tropical drink in hand. At the very top of the cliffs above the cafes and shops is an awesome bar called Single Fin. It gets quite crazy at night and fills up with wild Aussies, which always makes for a great time. Another beach I recommend checking out is Padang Padang beach. Again you have to access the family friendly beach through a narrow passageway through the cliffs, and when you come out to the quiet beach you can buy a sarong, get a fresh coconut and watch the monkeys play in the trees above while swimming out into the warm waves. One of the most interesting things we did in Uluwatu was attend the ceremony at Uluwatu temple. The views are spectacular and allows you a glimpse into the island's Hindu religion.
Next up was Ubud, the laid back, magical capital of Bali and the cultural center of the island. An interesting thing about Bali is that every village on the island has a specific trade or talent that they produce and their exotic goods are all sold in Ubud. While in Ubud definitely check out the markets and some great little shops along Monkey Forest road and Hanoman road, if you feel like picking up some local goodies. In Ubud, we stayed in an adorable villa at Devi's Place and we truly thought we were in heaven. We had our own pool that overlooked rice paddies, outdoor showers and we rented our own vespas to romp around the jungle. We ate fresh fruit and pancakes every morning and drank too many smoothies. When in Ubud you can't miss the Monkey Forest. Those little guys are so crazy! Beware of jewelry because they will try and pull it off. The temples within the forest look almost as if they exist as one with the surrounding jungle that has grown in and around the stone structures over time. Healthy, fresh cafes are one of Ubud's strong suits and paired with amazing yoga centers, it's a wellness paradise.
One of my favorite things about the island was the food. Traditional balinese cuisine is so delicious and abundant with one of my favorite things: RICE! Some traditional dishes to try are Nasi Gorang for a little bit of everything, Babi Gulung if you're a meat lover, and Lawar. Make sure to eat at a well known warung (restaurant) for a traditional dining experience.
For the active traveller Ubud is amazing. You can get your yoga teacher training, take meditation seminars, or join a health and wellness retreat. A bike tour through rice paddies fields is definitely wonderful, you can take a tour of coffee plantations and I would definitely check out the cooking classes at Casa Luna. There is also great surfing in the south, and amazing scuba diving and snorkeling in the north part of Bali, which is apparently a bit quieter.
After Ubud we headed back down south to Canggu, a popular area for expats. We stayed at the magical United Colors of Bali. Throughout our last days on the island we explored Tana Lot, Bali's most well known temple, surfed at Old Man's Beach and laid out in the sun at Echo Beach. We found adorable healthy cafes and drank beers at Deux Machina.
One of the reasons I personally love Bali is because of it's unique and beautiful culture. It has been preserved so well, even throughout the development of it's tourist industry. While still catering to tourists, the locals are alway willing to educate anyone about their culture. Western hotel chains have integrated local architecture and tradition, while locally owned accomodations do the same. The pride for Balinese culture is present throughout western and eastern establishments on the island. On the other hand, tourists have accepted this model and now revel in the fact they can still have a comfortable yet authentic experience of Balinese life.
Since I have left Bali I long to go back. I crave the lifestyle, the healthy cafes, the meditative peacefulness of the jungle and the surrounding open ocean and big waves. The culture, the massages, the juicy pineapple, the passionfruit, the food, and the locals. Everything is unique, original, and different than anywhere I have ever been. It was so easy and natural, like we just all belonged there living simply and incredibly happy.