A popular destination for all style of travellers; surfers, yogis, beach bums, party animals, foodies and scuba diving addicts; Bali, Indonesia has been on my bucket list since the travel bug bit.
Bali is easily accessible from Australia; 6 hours by plane from Melbourne & Sydney, 3 Â½ hour from Perth & 2 Â½ hours from Darwin â€“ due to that it is quite common for travellers to find themselves spontaneously booking flights to this tropical state of mind.
With all my bikinis packed (one for each day of course), my GoPro and a sense of adventure I was ready to explore Bali myself!
Uluwatu – Surf’s Up and Single FinÂ
When we landed in Denpasar (Baliâ€™s International Airport), our driver who was bringing us back to our accommodation in Uluwatu pleasantly greeted us. The 45-minute drive from the airport to our accommodation cost us 300,000 IDR, which equates to roughly $30 AUD. We chose to stay at a little homestay close to the famous Padang Padang beach named Bali Bule Homestay. The homestay has a prime location for us as we only had a short stay in Uluwatu. It was only a 5-minute walk from the beach, and a short 5-minute drive to Uluwatu Temple; both of which we wanted to see during our stay.
Bali Bule Homestay, Uluwatu.Â
â€œPura Luhur Uluwatu or Uluwatu Temple is a famous Balinese sea temple in Bali. It is one of the nine directional temples of Bali meant to protect it from evil spirits. This spectacular temple is one to marvel with as it perched at the edge of the rock overlooking the sea as if on guard.â€Â
We decided to walk from our accommodation to the entrance of Uluwatu Temple. Just before we arrived we stopped by a little market stall offering sarongs, handmade bracelets and souvenir shirts. As it was our first day in Bali we figured a couple sarongs would come in handy throughout our week so we (Ben) bartered for a cheaper deal and purchased our first souvenirs!
Ben’s new sarong!Â
As you enter the sacred land you are warned over the intercom about the resident monkeys who donâ€™t hesitate in taking your belongingsâ€¦ food, sunglasses, cameras and even selfies sticks! Balinese long-tailed monkeys can be found all throughout Bali. They sure do make for some hilarious photos and videos! One of them even tried to snatch my camera case while I was holding it!
We spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring the temple and wandering the walkways; whilst taking in the spectacular views from the cliff-edge.
Single FinÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â http://singlefinbali.com/
Before even arriving in Bali, I was informed that we HAD to go check out Single Fin for dinner & drinks while staying in Uluwatu. Letâ€™s just say that the night let for an experience I could never forget!
Our balcony, the biggest in the archipelago, boasts stunning views of one of surfingâ€™s spiritual homes, and comes alive as the sun sinks into the Indian Ocean.
We arrived at Single Fin and was pleasantly greeted by their bar staff who showed us to our table. Like any night out in Bali, a couple Bintangs were ordered to start us off.
Two Bintangs Please!Â
Due to a not so friendly couple that ended up squeezing their way into a table beside us; the lovely manager at Single Fin upgraded us into one of the epic booths! We had a whole 10-person booth to ourselves to watch the sunset.
The cocktails were delicious, the food was divine and the whole Single Fin experience exceeded our expectations and need to be put on any Bali Bucket List!
Gili Trawangan â€“ Turtle Capital of the World
Our next destination in Bali was to the popular tropical destination of the Gili Islands. The Gili Islands are a group of 3 tiny islands; Gili Air, Gili Meno and the most visited; Gili Trawangan. They are all known for their sandy beaches, lined by palm trees and exotic coral reefs offshore.
Main Beach, Gili Trawangan.
For the short amount of time in Bali, we decided to spend the majority of it at Gili Trawangan; the largest of the three islands. Gili Trawangan is easily accessible from the mainland of Bali through fast-boats and air.
Denpasar (Bali) to Lombok Flight Companies: Lion Air, Wings Air & Garuda Indonesia.
Bluewater Express Fast Boat
When we arrived off the Bluewater Express fast boat, â€œtaxi driversâ€ wanting to transport us to our accommodation overwhelmed us at the terminal. When I say taxi drivers, I donâ€™t mean the typical taxi drivers you would expect to see in yellow cars in busy citiesâ€¦ but taxi drivers riding horses in carriages.
This is very unique to Gili T and makes it a very bustling place to visit as there are absolutely no motorized vehicles on the island; with everyone getting around on horse or push bike! If you arenâ€™t careful you might get run over by a horse as these guys move fast down the tiny Gili streets!
We decided to make our own way to our accommodation, which was a short walk from the fast boat terminal. We chose to stay at a stunning little spot called Villa Nero, which was just off the main drag. From the minute we arrived on Villa Neroâ€™s property we know we chose somewhere special. From the stunning minimalistic design of the villas, the sparking welcome drink on arrival, to most importantly the service from all staff on property â€“ it was an absolute treat to stay there.
Villa Nero, Gili Trawangan.Â
With Gili boasting the reputation of being the Turtle capital of the world, Ben and I were both keen to see these majestic creatures ourselves.
Gili T TURTLE!Â
As a certified diver; Ben went out on a ‘fun dive’ with Manta Dive Gili Trawangan to a dive spot called Celo Turbo. Celo TerboÂ was onlyÂ a short boat trip away from the Gili T’s main beach. When he resurfaced he reported to me when he got back that he spotted: a massive turtle, lion fish, puffer-fish, mantis shrimp and reef stone fish! I was so jealous that within weeks of getting back to Australia I have booked into getting my PADI Open Water Dive Certification!
As I was not certified at the time, I chose to snorkel a few times in Gili and was able to see the stunning colourful reef a few steps off the shore. I also managed to sneak in a stand up paddleboard session as well!
Though it was rainy season in Bali, we still managed to find some time to kick back and enjoy the sunshine on the beach. All we needed here… was a Bintang Radler!
Ubud – Peace, Love, Yoga & Rice Paddies!Â
Our last stop on trip to Bali was Ubud. Ubud is commonly known for being Bali’s cultural and spiritual heart. Featured in the famous movie; Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts – Ubud situates itselfÂ in the cool mountains, surrounded amongst various rice paddies. Popular activities in Ubud include (but are not limited to): spa & yoga retreats, hiking up Mt Batur, gazing at local artisans work at the Ubud Markets, enjoying delicious cuisines in the various restaurants and cafes and monkeying around in the Sacred Monkey Forest.Â There is plenty to do for all types of travellers, and many find Ubud easy to stay and hard to leave.
Anusara Luxury Villas -Â Ben’s Review
‘Ubud was a one of those must go and see places and to say that Anusara Luxury Villas sits in the heart of it, well it left me and my partner speechless.Â In a little world of it’s own and what many would say a ‘honeymoon’ destination, it was actually worth it’s weight in gold.Â Sitting on one of the most amazing views of rice paddies you can imagine and what is real Indonesia, Bali, it’s safe to say that you don’t need much else.
Private pool overlooking the Rice Paddies, Anusara Luxury Villas.Â
Although segregated and about a 5 minute drive from town, it has multiple opportunities for a ‘free’ shuttle into town and also back, allowing you to experience what Ubud is like in the evening.Â The original complex we stayed in was impeccable, needless to stay when my partner (me) accidentally got the key stuck in the door, they had the generosity to UPGRADE us to the presidential suite, which they certainly didn’t have to do… (Certainly do not try this for good measure haha).
Presidential Suite Upgrade, Anusara Luxury Villas.Â
Gusti (the chauffeur) was second to none in the customer service he offered with not only the way he was, but also the fun he made us have, singing along to Balinese music – if only you could imagine.Â We would like to take the time to thank the whole team at Anusara and we hope to be back in the future.’Â
– Benjamin Wootton (Trip Advisor, Feb 2017)
Sacred Monkey Forest
One of the top tourist destinations in Ubud is the Sacred Monkey Forest. Located only a short walk from the Ubud centre; itâ€™s easily accessible from anywhere in Ubud. When we arrived at the monkey forest we purchased some bananas from the vendors; and started to explore through the forest.
Going Bananas in the Sacred Monkey Forest!
As you can see from the photos â€“ these monkeys are absolutely hilarious! They donâ€™t hesitate to crawl all the way up you to reach for a banana held above your head. Also if you have loose electronics (phones, cameras, etc) in your hands you need to be sure to hold onto them tightly! You can easily spend hours here enjoying the antics of these funny animals.
Located in the heart of Ubud is the Ubud markets. There is no complete trip to South East Asia without a visit to the local markets â€“ discovering all the local artisans work, crafts, jewelry, and plenty more. You can easily get lost in a maze of market stalls with eager sellers showcasing their products. Half the fun of visiting the markets is bartering â€œyour priceâ€ vs â€œtheir price.â€ Ben managed to barter himself a NBA basketball jersey and hat from over 400,000 IDR ($40 AUD) down to only 204,000 IDR ($20 AUD). Cheeky, cheeky!
When we were at Single Fin in UluwatuÂ we were recommended by friendsÂ to check out a place in Ubud named Pod Chocolate. I had never heard of this place before and had no idea what to expect or what we were going to see.
I spy with my little eye…Â
Pod Chocolate is a chocolate factory situated on the grounds of an Elephant Camp just north of Ubud. With the chocolate made on location – you can participate in chocolate tours, chocolate making classes or chocolate tastings.
Complimentary Chocolate shot on arrival! Yummy!Â
On top of just the delicious variety of chocolates made on site, you will also find a herd of Sumatran Elephants on property. Ranging from fully-grown (~3 metre high) adult elephants to only 6-day old baby elephant calfs – it was definitely the highlight ofÂ my visit.
The sweetest little Dumbo!Â
Ben has made a new friend!
After spending some time playing with the elephants we headed over to where the sun bears were located. The sun bears were all rescued and brought to Pod Chocolate; where they now allÂ live happilyÂ amongst each other and their bear trainer. Occasionally when the bears are in a good mood – tourists are able to get a ‘bear hug’ photo while the bear is feeding.
Note: The bear is in no way sedated, drugged or mistreated for these photos to happen – they have just been brought up in this environment after being rescued and they have been trained toÂ be tameÂ around humans.
Pod Chocolate is definitely somewhere I would recommend visiting while staying in Ubud. It is only a 1 hour drive from the city centre; and has a reasonably priced entry fee of only 95,000 IDR ($10 AUD).
I absolutely loved my time at Pod Chocolate and I am looking forward to visiting again in the future.
Bali Zoo â€“ Breakfast with Orangutans
On our final day in Ubud, we checked out of our villa bright and early and were taken to the Bali Zoo. One of their most popular exclusive attractions they have at the Bali Zoo is theÂ Breakfast with Orangutans. Included in this experience was: Full buffet breakfast, entrance into the Zoo & personal souvenir photos with the Orangutans.
This was a big highlight of my time in Ubud as I had never been so close to these creatures before. It’s incredible to see how human-like they are as well – they show expression and emotion on their faces as blatantly as we do! One of the orang-utans you could tell was in a mood as he would sulk… then be happy… then sulk again! It was bloody hilarious to watch and made for such an enjoyable experience. Ben even tried to give him his hat and the little fellow couldn’t be bothered.
Holding me with his feet!Â
I would highly suggest this experienceÂ for anyone visiting Ubud. The Bali Zoo is only a short 30 minute drive from the main centre, and only requires a morning from start to finish!
Until next time Bali…Â
Bali completely took Ben and I for a surprise. We had heard from others that Bali was just a crazy party place that Aussies enjoy going for spring-break; but we never expected to be blown away by the beauty, culture and nature found within the various places we visited. Each place we went (Uluwatu, Gili T & Ubud) left us wanting more – feeling like we only had a small taster of how unique each destination was. This is my favourite way to leave a place though – so I have a reason to come back!
I haven’t stopped checking flights to Bali since being back… so I will be back soon!
Until next adventure…