Bali – I thought I knew what to expect. I mean, I spent hours (way more than I care to admit) researching, planning and dreaming of our week-long vacation on the Indonesia island. Turns out, I was wrong! Keep reading to see how Bali surprised us for seven straight days in a row!
Rest and Re-cooperate – After almost 48 hours of travel and 5 hours of sleep between the two of us (Michael slept for 4 1/2 hours. You do the math!), we needed to sit and do nothing. We lounged by the pool of our amazing hotel and sipped cold drinks adorned with flowers. It was everything I expected. Much unlike our first 15 hours on the island! Keep reading …
Surprise of the Day – Driving in Bali is out of this world crazy. Very few visitors drive on the island – we did. We were not smart. It was hell! Our supposed 3 hour drive turned into 7 and we had to sleep in a random hotel because it was getting too late. I got dehydrated (and sick) and we forfeited the first night at our hotel that we booked. Long story short – do NOT drive; hire a car/taxi and pay their price because no matter how high it is, it will be worth your peace of mind.
Snorkeling Menjangan Island – After some much-needed R&R on Day 1, we set sail for Menjangan Island on Day 2. We booked our half day trip with Sea Rovers, the company whose dive shop is at Adi Assri, the hotel we stayed at. The choice was a no-brainer as the tour included three snorkel sights, lunch on a small white sandy beach, plenty of beverages and snorkel gear. We were happy!
Surprise of the Day – There are blue starfish in the ocean! We’ve snorkeled in Belize, the Florida Keys and in Exuma and have never seen such a sight. Starfish are my favorite sea creature and to see this beauty was mesmerizing. I was prepared for pretty coral and colorful fish, but these bright-blue starfish made my day!
Hiking in Bali – From our hotel in Pemuteran, West Bali National Park is a 20 minute drive. With a guide, we traipsed through tall grass, navigated barely-there paths, scaled fall trees and followed dried river beds through dense jungle. We spotted monkeys on the ground and high in the trees. We did not expect to meet “friendly” monkeys.
Surprise of the Day – If you go to the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud you expect, and even hope to pet and feed monkeys. There, monkeys are scavengers and beggars. They’ve been known to bite, steal and scare travelers. We chose not to visit; nothing about a monkey crawling on me sounds appealing. So, when monkeys did not scurry away from us when we hiked through West Bali National Park, I got a bit freaked out. Then, when a particularly nasty little booger bared its teeth, I clamped on to Michael’s arm a little tighter. Luckily, our guide did not condone feeding the wild animals and we never had any actual encounters.
Dreaded Driving Day – We stayed in Pemuteran for 3 nights. On the fourth day we moved to a bed and breakfast in Ubud. This meant driving was a necessary evil. However, we (OK, Michael) worked a deal out with a taxi driver that allowed us to follow him back to the airport. No sense in getting lost again! Between driving to the airport and then hiring a driver to take us back to Ubud, our day was kind of spent. But, we ditched the car and our perspective on Bali immediately improved. Having the car was stressful.
Surprise of the Day – The fact that having a car added stress to our vacation is surprising! Mike and I LOVE road trips. We love the independence that having a car affords you. We love moving at our own pace; stopping and going when we want. This was not the case in Bali, but, you live and learn!
Coffee and Temples – Our first day without a car and we hired a driver to take us all over the Bali Countryside. It was so nice to be ushered around and not have to worry about reading a map or getting lost. We stopped at a coffee plantation and learned about the coffee harvesting process and sampled a variety of coffees and teas. We ate lunch over looking large rice terraces and stopped at two very different and very impressive temples. The first was Taman Ayun Temple and the second was Ulun Danu Beratan. Ulun Danu Beratan is actually the reason I started dreaming of Bali in the first place. Once glance at a picture of this place on a credit card solicitation and I wanted to go. Both temples were surprisingly inspirational, but also way more crowded than I expected too.
Surprise of the Day – You would think a place of worship would be serene, peaceful and quiet. I was surprised at how “touristy” they were. But, then again, St. Patrick’s cathedral in New York City is more than a place of worship too. Needless to say, I was happy we visited these temples, but do wish others would consider being quiet and more respectful of places of worhsip; regardless of their religious preferences.
Walking in the Rice Fields – We explored the rice fields and terraces around Ubud on our last full day in Bali. We wandered the streets of Ubud, window shopping and grabbing lunch, but the majority of our day was spent walking skinny paths through soggy fields. The architecture of rice fields is impressive and walking the miles and miles of paths allows you to catch a glimpse into a local’s livelihood and everyday life.
Surprise of the Day – There are days that I am tired after work, but after watching the men, women and children tend the rice, I have realized I am one spoiled and lazy girl! I was shocked to see that there are little, to no, machines used to plant, cultivate and harvest rice. Those itty-bitty small white kernels are planted by hand and picked that way as well! Ox are used to plow water logged fields. The small rice terraces around Ubud are home to a hearty people who use blood, sweat and sheer muscle to make a living. Note to self: do not complain about the “long” walk from the parking lot to your air conditioned cubicle again.
Early Morning Ride in a Taxi Cab – We left Ubud just after breakfast to make it in time for our mid-day flight. Roosters woke us up, we snapped a few more pictures of the surrounding rice fields and then climbed in the car. We were both relieved to not be driving, but nervous about the impending chaos that is Bali driving.
Surprise of the Day – Locals can drive in the midst of all the mayhem. I had my doubts. I thought for sure we would see accidents, or be in one ourselves. However, on the contrary, our taxi driver had the radio on, talked to us and drove without causing damage to his car or anyone else. We did see an accident with two scooters, but surprise, surprise! One of the drivers looked like a tourist.
Our vacations always make me tired. Seriously, we just go, go go! But we like it that way. Bali kept us guessing and on our toes – which was even more exhausting. But, it was the best kind of exhaustion! I know of travelers who stay on the island for two weeks, but one week was all I needed; I think we got a great “taste” of the island. So, if all you have is 7 days, book your trip to Bali now. You can definitely get a great sense of the island – her people, her nature and her food and her culture.