“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.” ~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
***Note: this post contains links to outside sources.***
This post was originally started in 2016, it was intended to showcase the island of Bali and the many aspects I found quite beautiful during my first 3 months on the island to attend two yoga retreats, one in Canggu and the other in the mountains above Ubud. Since 2016 I have visited Bali 8 times with an average stay of at least 30 days per visit. Over the last three years, I have found that I have favorite places and not so favorite places. There are locations on the island that are still remote and you can find them with a little searching, I won’t put them in this article as I feel that these places should remain remote and free. The more “tourists” that visit these locations, the more chance that they will become spoiled by tourism and trashed by those who do not respect the environment.
I hope that this article portrays a small portion of the love that I have for this region, the people, and the abundant wildlife I have found here that keeps bringing me back to the island year after year.
In addition to the main island, I have visited the island of Gili Air in Lombok on my last trip here for another week-long Yoga Retreat at Flowers and Fire Yoga. Gili Air is a step back in time, there are horse-drawn carriages along with bicycles for transportation (there are a few scooters, but they are not used often, mostly by locals), this is because Gili Air is very small and can be walked around in less than two hours. The travel mode to get to the island is by Fast Boat. You can book this through Flowers and Fire, or you can book your trip to the island from any tourist location on the main island of Bali.
Be aware of rough seas during your transit on the fast boat, I don’t get seasick and it still made me sick. Ginger and Peppermint are your best friend when traveling on the island, smog, traffic, rough seas, etc will all impact your health if you aren’t careful and take the necessary precautions. Activated Charcoal is a wonder for “Bali Belly” as it absorbs all toxins in your system.
There is also Nusa Penida which is an island located to the south of the main island of Bali. Although I have yet to travel to the island, the photos from friends who have visited are truly amazing and even more remote than most of the places I have seen in Bali. Just recently I have also discovered the island of Sumba from a very special friend. When I looked at the islands IG feed, I was astonished that a place so wild exists so close to a major tourist destination. And although the costs of going to Sumba are very cheap, some of the hotels there are extremely expensive as they are rated #1 worldwide. Plan accordingly. However, from everything I have seen and read of the location, it is well worth the cost and time to go enjoy an island that still celebrates a tribal government. Plus, you would be helping bring money to the residents of the island who are in serious need of health care, clean water sources, and income. Please, if you do visit though, be mindful of your consumption and your use of plastics. These remote islands only have one way to dispose of trash and that is to burn it.
As always, please be mindful of every action, word, and deed that you do when you travel. You represent your country, yourself, your family and the human race and how you treat those you meet ultimately reflects how the locals treat tourists.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ~ Mark Twain
Now, on to the island and what I have found fascinating about the culture, history, and people of Bali.
The Island –
Bali is a truly stunning jewel in the largest island chain in the world, Indonesia. Nestled in between Java and Lombok, the island is very popular with tourists from all walks of life. With ticket prices to the island usually extremely cheap from anywhere within Southeast Asia and most West Coast US locations, a trip to Bali can be both affordable and enjoyable.
Bali is a major tourist destination for a large number of countries in the region. The United States, Australia, Russia, New Zealand, Singapore, China, and Japan all make up the tourist trade that allows Bali to grow as a tourist destination. Bali is extremely popular for surfing, Yoga (and Yoga retreats!), Food (Ranging from full-on meat-eaters to health-conscious Vegans), Rock Climbing, Parasailing, Scuba diving, Freediving, White water rafting, volcano hikes, waterfalls and so much more!
Bali has both a rainy season and a dry season. Which one you come during depends upon what you wish to see and accomplish. The rainy season has everything from light rain to torrential monsoons; however, it also has the benefit of some pretty peaceful surf spots along the beaches. The dry season can be quite warm and humid, still with potential for some serious rain during the afternoon, you are on a tropical island after all. The dry season also has a side effect, some intense swells due to offshore winds. This causes surfing spots to be dangerous as well as causing snorkeling and scuba to be non-existent in some parts of the island. Whatever you want to come for, hiking, waterfalls, surf, etc. plan your time according to the weather, as you will find you will have more time to enjoy it. Be aware as well that if you come during October, you will experience some of the most intense solar days as the sun is approaching the equinox above the equator. This means that more sunscreen and less time in the sun are highly advised.
I planned my trip to Bali almost a year in advance in 2016 and decided to come to the island as the rainy season was ending and the dry season was beginning. This decision offered me the best mix of rain, sun, waves, and mountain hikes. I arrived on the island in April and planned to leave by the end of June. I planned the trip to coincide with my very first Yoga retreats. Coming to the island that first time allowed me to learn a few lessons on travel, visas, money, cost of living, locations to stay, etc. Over the next few years, I have learned a great deal in regards to the economy, culture, beliefs, and way of life here on the island.
There is no way that I can convey everything in this post, and although I have a second post for the island on Family tourism, I cannot conceivably answer all questions in two blog posts. Please, as always, feel free to follow my journey on Facebook and Instagram and feel free to email me any questions regarding travel, Yoga, Nutrition, Vegan lifestyle, how I travel, etc. I would love to take those questions and put them into future posts for others to read. You never know, there may be a question that I answer for you that someone else was wondering about!
The more populated tourist areas are a haven for Vegan restaurants along with many unique Vegetarian restaurants that have Vegan options. You should still look at the menu very carefully and determine if they truly serve Vegan/Vegetarian or if it is some other version of the same, although most of the time the menus denote exactly what is in the food. The free version of Happy Cow can find almost every restaurant near you and give you up to date information on location, prices, and menu items, most of the time. As Happy Cow is dependent on data provided by Google, there are times when the restaurant’s information is outdated or incomplete. Be sure to check it before you go.
You will find more locations where there is a higher rate of tourism, i.e. Ubud (Oo-bood), Uluwatu (Oo-loo-wat-too), Denpasar (Den-pass-ar), Canggu (Chan-Goo) and it’s beaches, and Semyniak (Sim-min-yak). Canggu, in particular, has a very high rate of both kinds of restaurants. Do be careful where you eat though as some Warungs and food stalls still do not practice healthy preparation and safe food handling and you will get some form of “Bali Belly”, which can lead to days of upset stomach, etc and there are still some restaurants I refuse to eat at because of their food preparation and staff cleanliness.
Do not drink the tap water, which also means do not rinse your toothbrush in the sink or rinse your mouth in the shower. And although most sites will tell you whether they utilize filtered water, there is still a chance of contamination. During my time on the island, there was an app released called Refill Bali. It is a local initiative to provide fresh drinking water so that tourists can refill a water bottle instead of purchasing disposable water bottles, which are the main source of the trash around the island along with plastic bags and straws. You can find the app here for Google Play. Please bring your own water bottle and utilize these services. It is cheaper than purchasing a water bottle in any store.
Please don’t use the single-use bottled waters on the islands. Since 2018 the restaurants and business of the island have begun a strong initiative to stop single-use plastics, plastic straws, plastic containers, etc. There are a plethora of locations that offer tourists free water refills for anyone carrying their own water containers.
The growing season for most of the island’s fruits and products occurs year-round, so you are always able to find fresh fruits and vegetables. Stay away from the produce in the grocery stores as it is usually wrapped in plastics and instead buy produce from the locals or you can visit shops like Bali Buda, Alive, Earth Cafe Bali, etc. If you are on the island for a period of time, there are also farm-direct delivery services that are now available across the island. The top three are Island Organics and Bali Direct and Bali Organic. Utilizing these services provides you with the freshest produce that you can find and it will be a little less expensive than the markets.
In addition to the local markets, Ubud and Canggu (near Echo Beach at Samadi) host organic markets at least once a week. These markets feature locally grown, usually organic, produce and artisan products such as cheeses, bread, jams, etc. I have a post on my Facebook Page featuring a few of these local artists at Samadi. While you are there, would you mind liking and sharing the page? I would truly appreciate it!
Below is a list of just some of my absolute favorite restaurants and locations to purchase foods based on price/food quality/location. Please know that this list is not all-inclusive, it is just a variety of some of my absolute favorite spots located around the island.
|The Shady Shack||Canggu||High||$$|
|Bali Buda||Various (Canggu, Ubud, Semnyiak)||High||$$|
|Nalu Bowls||Various (Canggu, Semnyiak)||High||$|
|Plant Cartel||Canggu||Mid to High||$|
|Othree Beach Bar||Echo Beach||Mid to High||$|
|Gaya Gelato||Various (Canggu, Ubud, Semnyiak)||High||$|
|Muzz Kitchen Organic||Uluwatu||High||$$|
|Alchemy||Ubud||Mid to High||$$|
|Seniman Coffee Studio||Ubud||High||$$|
|Paradiso||Ubud||Mid to High||$$|
|Café du Monyet||Ubud||High||$$|
|Pachamama Organic||Gili Air||High||$-$$|
During my time on the island, I stayed everywhere from $1.50 US a night Hostels to $35 and up villas and suites. Some of these were quite beautiful and well worth the money spent. Others, well, you get what you pay for. Below is my list of the best places to stay ranked by price/staff/location; I hope it helps you in finding lodgings. I recommend booking through Agoda for Hostels and booking.com for hotels/homestays as they will often have the best pricing available and you will receive discounts for lodging through them each time you use them. You can also use Hostelworld, however, they often take a deposit that is not returned if you don’t complete your stay at the location. I had one hostel that was so awful, I had to leave halfway through the week and I didn’t receive a refund from Hostelworld, so just be careful and do your research on the location, their deposit, and cancellation policies and definitely read the reviews!
|Ecosfera Hotel||Echo Beach||Mid to High||$$$|
|Repag Wayan Hostel||Echo Beach||Mid||$-$$|
|Kecik Inn||Echo Beach||Mid to High||$$|
|Bima Sitka Hostel||Echo Beach||Mid||$|
|Bali Bule Homestay||Uluwatu||High||$$|
|Flowers and Fire Yoga||Gili Air||High||$-$$|
|Bali Backpackers Inn and Hostel||Ubud||Mid||$|
|Ubud Garden Villa||Ubud||Mid to High||$$|
Do not utilize the taxis at the airport, the guys that constantly look at you and say Taxi! They have a habit of overcharging you. You will be bombarded with people wanting to drive you once you step through the exit doors and these are just the companies that have permission to be in the airport. Recently the airport has pushed all drivers out of the main lobby of the airport to allow for a more welcoming experience to tourists. It is best to do some research about the place you intend to stay in. Bali has a driver organization that has set rates to travel to and from certain locations. It should cost no more than $250k IDR (Indonesian Rupiah), approximately $18 USD for a transfer from the airport to Canggu. There is no Uber on the island. Taksi (the local Taxi service) operates within the villages and surrounding areas as well as the airport. Most Hotels, Inns, and Homestays have their own driver they prefer to use and it is a good idea to utilize them for transfers. There is a shuttle that goes from the airport to Ubud 2-3 times a day for only 60,000 IDR per person in a shuttle van. A little research will help you with this.
Learn to ride one before you go to Bali, please! I cannot stress this enough, learn to ride a scooter, in traffic, around others, before you come to the island! I have seen numerous tourists hurt from non-familiarity with riding a scooter. And it is completely different in Bali. The traffic is horrendous in a lot of areas and a scooter is the only fast way to get around. Over 80% of the population drives a scooter and you will see everything from 10-year-olds to family of 6 riding on one scooter. Safety is paramount. You must have an International Drivers Permit in order to ride one and you MUST wear a helmet in the bigger cities and high tourist areas. Places like Uluwatu and Echo Beach, and Balian Beach you can get away without one. Some spots in Ubud you can as well, but the central area of Ubud around the Palace has a police stand set up and they will stop you and fine on the spot, most of the time. Sometimes they are polite and tell you to just put it on. But they will also ask for your permit and you will be fined if you do not have one. For Americans, you can purchase an International Drivers Permit (same day service) via your local AAA office. The fee is $20 US. For international drivers, you would go through your local equivalent of AAA to purchase yours.
With all of that said, a scooter is the cheapest, fastest, most fun way to get around Bali. I drove from Ubud to Balian Beach, Ubud to Denpasar, Ubud to Uluwatu, Ubud to Canggu, Canggu to Uluwatu, etc. and every time I was able to beat traffic and have an amazing drive. If you are sensitive to smoke and smog, they sell n95 masks in most stores that you can wear to filter out the pollution. There is one for sale currently at Bali Buda where if you purchase one, another will be gifted to a Balinese driver in need of one. A simple bandana or handkerchief will work as well, although I like my lungs and a bandanna will not filter out all of the garbage spewed into the atmosphere by the non-regulated vehicles on the island.
The Sites –
There are a number of beautiful places to visit that are free, or almost free, that provide you with a great deal of peace and relaxation. From waterfalls to palaces, temples to surfing, mountain climbing to scuba diving, Bali has it all. And you can do the majority of it from a centralized location or you can move to each location and spend a few days exploring.
Ah, the allure of the board, the water, the sun, and the waves! Be careful if you are new to this sport, the waters around Bali are quite dangerous in some locations with strong rivers that run parallel to the shore and extremely strong riptides and currents, especially near estuaries where rivers dump into the ocean. In addition, be aware that Bali is a volcanic island with many offshore rocky areas near the beach as well as coral reefs on the Northside of the island and around the Gili Islands.
With that said, there are a great many locations to not only surf but learn to surf from locals who will take you to the safest spots for learning this amazing and beautiful sport! For anyone that has never tried it, I highly recommend at least attempting to surf, once you do, you will never be the same.
Some of the best spots for surfing are along the beaches near Canggu. These spots are known by both locals and returning surfers for beautiful breaks, clean surf conditions, and during certain parts of the day, breaks that last all day long.
There are also amazing surf breaks on the southwest side of the island at Uluwatu. I sat there for hours one-afternoon watching swell after swell come in and break on the shoreline. The beaches here can be a little hard to access due to the rocky conditions and cliffs, and the ocean can be very powerful along the shore due to the currents that run around the Southern side of the island, so either utilizes a local guide or have the experience necessary to ride in these spots.
All of the tourist guide spots in Bali offer hiking in their itineraries. Mount Batur Sunrise hikes, Mount Agung hikes, Waterfall tours, rice field tours, etc. In Ubud and the surrounding area, there are at least 6 different locations for hiking ranging from 10-minute hikes to over an hour. If you would like to know of a few of these locations, don’t hesitate to write to me.
Bali is a haven for Yoga! From new students coming to just practice at the studios to retreats all the way up to 300-hour, YTT courses offered year-round. Bali has multiple, beautiful spaces for practicing Yogi and Yogini (Man or Woman). I have included a small list of my absolute favorite spaces below along with their locations and websites.
|Flowers and Fire Yoga||www.flowersandfire.yoga||Gili Air||$$|
|Radiantly Alive Yoga||www.radiantlyalive.com||Ubud||$$|
Scuba and Free Diving –
The Northside of Bali along the coast offers multiple locations for those interested in scuba, snorkeling, and Free Diving sports. In addition, there are multiple, world-class, schools that teach both Scuba and Snorkeling sports to tourists for extremely reasonable costs. One that I wish I had a chance to go through when I was in Gili is Freedive Flow. You can find out more about this school on their website, http://www.freediveflow.com. For anyone wanting to undertake either the free dive or scuba sports, I highly recommend you get a check out from a qualified doctor to ensure you do not have any inner ear problems or lung issues prior to booking these courses.
I try my best to make it to the island at least once a year. The atmosphere, the beaches, the ocean, the food, the people, the Yoga, it all draws me back year after year. And the local government is doing better at regulating traffic, tourism, waste disposal, water quality, food quality, etc. In addition, they are dedicating resources to prevent tourists from being taken advantage of monetarily. Building new and improved roads and infrastructures as well as bringing outside investors to build world-class hotels and restaurants. All of this is making an impact on the quality of life for the locals, but it is also making an impact on the environment of Bali. Being Mindful of every action that you take, picking up trash on the beaches, putting your own trash in the proper bins (they are marked for organic, recycle and burnable trash!) along with being mindful of your eating habits will greatly impact and help the environment and extremely delicate ecosystem that is the beautiful island of Bali.
If you are ever on the island and wish to have some company to explore, and I am here, feel free to contact me! Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook or email can all be found on the home page, or simply utilize the contact form to send me an email. I promise I do respond to each one!
For now, Safe Travels!
“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” ~ Anais Nin