Updated: Nov 1
Bali was a trip I never expected to go on. Indonesia hadn't been on my radar as a destination, but my friend and travel buddy, Cody, suggested Bali and found a Groupon (my favorite travel deal finder) we couldn't pass up!
Where: Bali, Indonesia
How I got there: A few and very long flights
How much: Groupon deal for $1,500
Need a car: We didn't
Bali is sooooooo far away. I thought flying to South Africa was a haul...nooooooo. Almost 27 hours after departing we arrived in Bali, with a couple stops along the way. I am sure there is a more direct flight than the one we had, but alas, Groupon doesn't always provide the quickest route. Hey, that's part of the deal and I am fine with it. I always say long flights are like childbirth, painful during but you forget all about it when it's over.
So after departing Atlanta, a stop in Germany and a stop in Malaysia, we were wheels down in Kuta on an overcast Indonesian morning. Thankfully our booking came with transportation to our hotel from the airport, otherwise we would have taken a taxi. There is no Uber or Lyft in Indonesia, so ride sharing isn't an option. Our first few days were spent in Ubud, about 1 hour from the airport, in a lovely hotel, The Lokha Ubud Resort. The staff was amazing and the accommodations were superb. We found the hotel to be clean and offer every amenity we needed, including a lavish breakfast spread complete with local favorites and fresh, unique foods to start your day.
Now one thing you have to account for in Bali is traffic. At any given time, traffic is comparable to Atlanta rush hour traffic on steroids...it's a force. I recommend booking tours that provide transportation to make things easier. The last thing you want is to be stuck in a taxi or rental car for hours at a time, with no idea where you're going.
One of the things to do in Bali that I highly recommend is a tour of the rice fields. This was my first time visiting Asia and I certainly wanted to see something that is unique to that culture. We booked a day trip with our tour guide for around $50. ($1 gets you just over 350 Bali Rupiahs. A soda is around 8,500 Rupiahs). Here's a tip, most tour guides will give you their cell numbers and are available for personal tours if they have availability. We did that frequently and it is super affordable.
The rice fields are vast and impressive. The whole idea of rice fields has always fascinated me. The terraces, the flooding, the hard work...it's amazing to see. They are also quite lovely all spread out and manicured. An ancient tradition still in use today, relatively unchanged.
On a day with much better weather, we took a ride to an exclusive Bali experience...swings! Yes, Bali is known for it's famous swings that allow you to swoop over the picturesque landscape and get a once-in-a-lifetime photo-op. Since the original (The Bali Swing) made its debut, tons of copy cats have sprung up and have taken Instagram by storm. We chose to go with the original, The Bali Swing. For a few thousand Rupiahs you get access to tree swings, nests and swinging beds, complete with a personal photographer. It was a beautiful morning during the rainy season so we took advantage and sped off to the swings. I was a bit nervous about how safe the experience would be, but I am happy to say that they took a number of precautions, including lots of safety straps and nets.
Once there, you are greeted and walked down to your first stop, "the nest". Made of wood, it very much resembles a large, human sized bird nest with a view of the mountains and valley in front. Then, you go off to the swinging beds and traditional swings for an even more amazing experience. Now if you have a fear of heights, the swings will probably not be your thing. If you can stand it, however, you'll be strapped in and pushed out over a deep gorge with a gorgeous waterfall and river flowing through it. If you're a thrill-seeker you'll love this experience. It's a true adrenaline rush! We spent about an hour hopping from swing to swing and wrapped up with a review of the photos the venue took of us during our visit. It was nice to have the personal photographer to capture moments you'd otherwise not have. The staff were also very kind in that they would take special photos with your phone, too. The quality of photos was great and we left with a link to all our photos.
Later that day we decided to visit the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud. I love monkeys and was super excited for this visit to the sanctuary. We had been warned that the monkeys were very "friendly" and would have no issue jumping on you, taking food or snatching up your sunglasses. We made sure everything was packed up and nailed down and in we went. Within the first 5 minutes I had a monkey sitting on my head! The little rascal didn't get anything, but he sure made himself at home.
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, also known as the Ubud Monkey Forest, is a natural sanctuary located in the village of Padangtegal in Ubud, Bali. The forest covers approximately 12.5 hectares and is home to over 1200 long-tiled macaque monkeys.
Monkey Forest Ubud holds a significant history intertwined with Balinese culture. Dating back to the 14th century, it has been regarded as a sacred place, housing spiritual forces and guardian spirits. The monkeys, seen as sacred animals, symbolize both protection and mischief, fostering a unique connection between humans and wildlife.
It's worth your time to visit if you're in the area...but only if you don't mind a "hands on" experience!
I could go on for days about the many, many temples we visited in Bali. Bali, a part of Malaysia, is the only predominately Hindu province in the country. Interestingly, Malaysia is 90% Muslim, so Bali is definitely unique in its religious culture.
The temples are astonishing! They are all over the countryside, in the city, on every corner it seems. Lavish temples ornately decorated with lavish carvings, sculptures and shrines, each littered with flowers and gifts from worshippers. Some date back a thousand years. It's an unavoidable venture if you are in any region of Bali. The temples are a must see.
My only "nah" about Bali was the food. It is very, very similar to Indian food, and that's a type of cuisine I have never enjoyed. I was able to find food that I liked, but most restaurants serving traditional Balinese cuisine is essentially serving Indian cuisine.
Last to mention, but certainly not least, the spas! Oh the spas were incredible and so CHEAP! An hour massage followed up with a traditional flower bath came out to be roughly $25 USD. I mean...we took advantage every day. And these aren't sketchy spas, they are beautifully decorated with all the amenities. I'd go back just for one more massage.
I greatly enjoyed Bali. The people couldn't have been more friendly and welcoming, and the destination makes for a fun and relaxing trip. My main stressor was the traffic and, hey, that's almost everywhere. It's also a journey to get there but the memories I made were certainly worth the haul.