September 2, 2019 – September 12, 2019
Our last adventure before moving back to America was a trip halfway around the world to Bali. We had this grand plan of traveling all throughout Southeast Asia on our way back from Amsterdam, but things just don’t work out how you want them to sometimes. BUT, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Bali. Our itinerary was: Ubud (4 nights) -> Gili Air (1 night) -> Seminyak (3 nights). I had journal fatigue on this trip and only wrote about some of our stops, so this post may be more about pictures than details, especially since it’s taken me almost a year to write this one. I’ve really enjoyed doing this blog for all of our adventures while living abroad.
Even though it was technically a nonstop flight from Amsterdam to Bali, it took a long time to get there. We had to deplane in Singapore to refuel and then hopped back on the same plane for the rest of the journey. I didn’t get much sleep at all. We left on a Monday evening and arrived on Tuesday night. Luckily, our hotel the Kama Bisma had a car waiting for us at the airport. The drive to Ubud was chaotic. Even that late at night, there were so many cars on the road. We checked into our hotel and passed out immediately, not even noticing the beautiful rice fields.
There were so many cute boutique hotels to choose from in Ubud, most of which were relatively inexpensive. We chose Kama Bisma because the pictures were beautiful, and it was centrally located. The hotel overlooked rice fields and had a great pool. We also had some incredible breakfasts here with the freshest exotic fruits and fluffy pancakes. We sat eating our breakfast overlooking the rice fields every morning and I thought it was a great way to start the day.
We met with the concierge and he set up a big tour of the island on our second day, so on the first day we decided to explore Ubud. Our first stop was the Monkey Forest. At our hotel, they warned us to not bring anything with us, and I’m glad we didn’t! There are over 1,000 monkeys living in the sanctuary and there are really strict rules like Don’t look a monkey in the eye; Don’t feed monkeys; Don’t run away screaming; If a monkey jumps on you remain calm. After putting one foot in the door, we saw our first monkey.
They were EVERYWHERE, ranging from tiny babies being carried by the mom, to aggressive males.
As we walked around to different parts of the sanctuary, I just couldn’t believe how many there were. We walked down some stairs and saw monkeys in a temple. They were jumping around, playing, and eating corn and potatoes. The workers would feed the monkeys corn and the monkeys would do tricks. Sometimes the monkeys would sit on top of monkey statues like monkey inception.
I just liked watching them groom each other and do monkey shenanigans. On three separate occasions, we saw monkeys jump on tourists. All three people were wearing backpacks. The people usually freaked out and a worker came over to get the monkey off of the person.
We also saw monkeys getting it on a few times. First, they would groom each other and then the male would jump on the female.
When it was feeding time, the monkeys knew and they ran to the potatoes and corn.
We did a full loop and ended up by this little pool. The monkeys loved it. One monkey had control over the hose and kept spraying his friends with it. One other guy kept jumping in the water and splashing around. One monkey stole hand sanitizer from someone’s backpack and started drinking it. I probably could’ve spent all day here, but after 2 hours we were hungry.
The lunch spot we picked, Sweet Orange, was nestled in the rice fields. As a bonus, we walked through some amazing scenery to get there. There was a small little path through villagers’ houses to start off with, but we saw a sign for the restaurant and pressed on. Everything was super green and lush, and the rice fields sit in water. The sprouts were only about 6 inches tall and we later learned they had just been planted a few weeks ago. It was so peaceful on the trail and we hardly saw another person, but we did see cats and chickens.
We arrived and ate our gado gado and chicken fried rice in the rice field. Super delicious and cheap. Indonesian food is one of my favorite cuisines. We continued the loop and headed back towards town after our meal. It felt like such a quaint little village.
When we got back to the town, we headed to the Saraswait Temple which had an interesting lotus pond out in front. The temple was huge, but we didn’t go inside.
One thing to note about Ubud and Bali in general is that the streets are chaotic. Everyone gets around by scooters and there are no rules of the road. There are stray dogs everywhere. I also thought the offerings that were outside of literally every shop and home to ward off evil spirits were really interesting. The small baskets woven out of palm or banana leaves hold flowers, oils, salts, money and cookies.
Nearby the temple was the Ubud market. There were lots of shops selling religious relics and trinkets. We got a few Hindu statues. It was really crowded, and Tyler got to test out his haggling skills.
We wandered some more around the little town before deciding we wanted to relax at our pool for a bit before dinner. I loved the views.
We went to a hotel nearby for dinner called Goya. The hotel was insanely nice and the views were worth it, even though the drinks were just OK. At first, we were the only ones there for dinner and we were a bit skeptical, but then a huge group of Aussies joined. The food was fine, but the highlight of dinner was seeing a huge gecko on the ceiling. It was so big that we thought it had to be fake, until it moved. To end the night, we found a bar with live music called the Golden Mofo’s. Everyone there was a lot drunker than we were, but it was fun to watch them dance.
On our second day in Bali, we did a 10 hour tour and saw the whole island, basically every popular spot made famous by Instagram. But first, we fueled up with a very early breakfast of champions. The breakfasts at Kama Busma were seriously incredible. From the exotic fruits to the coconut pancakes I was hooked. It was made even better by the views of rice fields. Simply amazing.
Our guide for the day was named Ella and he took his tour guide duties very seriously. He provided quite colorful commentary throughout the whole trip. Our first stop was at the Bali swings. Luckily we were here early and were the first ones in the park. There was a series of swings you could choose from overlooking the rice fields. They ranged from couples swings, to bird nest swings, to swings so big you have to wear a harness. A great way to see the rice fields, but also a bit extra.
Stop two was the Tegalalang Rice Terraces where everything was intensely green. The rice had just been planted so the shoots were really short. Everywhere you looked was super lush.
The drive between places was almost as interesting as the destinations themselves, as we wound through small villages to the Gianyar Water Temple. Ella donned us in sarongs (tied the right way) and showed us around the temple. In the middle, people were bathing. There were several spouts and the ritual is to wash yourself in each one as they all represent different gods.
One statue had an ugly/scary looking face. It was of an old king who wanted followers to worship him instead of the water gods. After a big drought, a missionary came to the people and led them back to the god.
The water temple was very serene.
Up next, we went to a coffee plantation. It was great timing because I was getting sleepy. We toured the gardens and saw cacao trees, coffee trees, pineapple bushes, vanilla beans, and jackfruit trees, but the main event was definitely a luwak. This animal kind of looks like a cat, but it eats these specific coffee beans and then people collect their poop, clean it, and use the bean in coffee. This way, the bean is already digested and the coffee tastes better (supposedly). The plantation had a luwak on display, caught in a cage. They said that they catch one every morning to display and then let them out at night since they are nocturnal. We saw how the beans are collected, washed, roasted, and ground into coffee. The best part was sampling a dozen different coffees and teas along with various chocolates. All while in the jungle!
The next stop took us again through small towns, where we saw several chickens, cats, dogs, and temples. In the villages, families live in compounds and each family has their own temple. The extended family all lives together. When a son gets married, his wife moves in and maybe the family builds another room. Daughters go to live with their husbands. Ella told us that he has 9 family members in his compound and as the oldest brother, he is in charge. Family is very important.
We arrived at Tukad Cepung waterfall along with all of the crowds. There are several waterfalls in Bali, and it is popular to go take your pictures under them. The hike down to this one wasn’t bad, until we got to the bottom and had to walk barefoot through a stream with sharp rocks. We made it to the waterfall and saw a line of about 50 people, all waiting to have their picture made. People were getting in fights left and right as other people cut the line. I had no interest in waiting an hour in line to get my picture made, so we walked around the stream and found a smaller waterfall to hang out by.
After so many activities, we were really ready for lunch. Ella assured us that the views at the lunch spot would be amazing. He was right, but the food was really disappointing.
We headed to the east side of the island after lunch and made our way up a huge mountain to the Gates of Heaven. All of the temples in Bali have gates leading up to them to keep out the evil spirits. Here we waited an hour and a half to have our picture made. Upon arrival, we took a number and got #472. They were on #373. Once your number is called, you get 3 poses as an individual and 3 group poses. It was actually good that we had some time to coordinate our poses because people were doing some pretty cool stuff and we didn’t want to be lame. While we were waiting, this couple got in trouble for trying to cheat the number system and got kicked out. It was serious.
Would I spend another 1.5 hours waiting in line to take this picture? You decide.
Even with all of the waiting, we were still able to make it to one last stop, Taman Tirtaganga, another water temple. Since we were so late, we had it basically to ourselves, and it was such a cool place to see. I definitely recommend.
We walked through the grounds around the various ponds with ornate bridges. I really enjoyed going through the stepping stones and statues in one of the ponds.
Inside of the ponds there were massive koi fish. How do they get so big?
On our 2 hour trip back, Ella told us about his life as we fought away sleep. I was very interested in his story about his first career as a healer. He would meditate for several hours a day, and then would go into people’s houses to heal them. He had to stop because some of his enemies put black magic on his family since they were jealous of his healing abilities. It’s amazing the stories you hear and people you meet while traveling.
Even though we’d had such a long day, the night was young, so we went to dinner at a really hip place called Ibu Susu, a kind of contemporary Indonesian joint. The drinks were amazing.
One thing that might come to your mind when you think of Bali is yoga. Bali is definitely a very spiritual place and I knew I had to take a class or two while visiting. I woke up really early to get a class in before Tyler could complain. As I walked through sketchy little roads before the sun rose, I was a bit nervous. Especially as I walked past the monkey forest and saw several monkeys out of the forest on the sidewalks and roads, just up to no good. They left me alone.
I chose the Yoga Barn as the place to practice, since it is very well known. The campus was beautiful – in the midst of lush trees and flowers is a tree house where yogis unite. I knew the lesson would be basic, but I was hoping for some great Balinese wisdom and philosophy throughout the practice. Instead it was pretty dry and rote. Oh well, it still felt good to stretch my muscles.
Tyler wasn’t even awake by the time I made it back from yoga, so I dragged him out of bed for a delicious breakfast of papaya, mango, dragon fruit, pancakes, yogurt, and a tomato avocado sandwich, overlooking the rice fields.
Post breakfast, we went for a hike through the ridge, a popular thing to do in Ubud. The first part of the hike is up a big incline as you make your way to the top of the ridge where you see all the greenery and the deep canyon. It was HOT with no shade. The ridge walk was around 2km to a small town at the top. The town didn’t have much to offer but hotels and some cool artwork. When we got to the end of the town, we should’ve turned around. But being the adventurers that we are, we walked down a dangerous road with cars zipping by us that added an extra 45 minutes to our walk. I was not having it.
Finally, we made it to the Elephant, a vegetarian restaurant, where I ate a delicious meal and filled my belly with some greens. Tyler was not as excited. The rest of the day was spent by the hotel pool, which was beautiful.
To end the relaxing day, we had massages that were only EUR 10 for 60 minutes. The special Balinese technique was very effective and amazing. I was glad we took advantage of the cheap massages that we had seen advertised everywhere.
Our last dinner in Ubud was a dinner I had booked months in advance at a place called Locavore. When Chrissy Teigen and John Legend went to Ubud they dined there and I knew I had to as well. We sat at a bar in front of the kitchen and got to see all of the chefs in action.
The 9 course meal of local foods was amazing and unforgettable.
On this day we relocated to Gili Air. If I would’ve realized how much of a hassle it was to get there, I definitely would have booked more time on this amazing island. Our transport was late to pick us up, and there was traffic on the way to the ferry. The boat was still waiting for us, but it was completely full. We went to the top and had to ask people if we could sit in various middle seats. Nobody was very friendly because it was so hot. Tyler gave up and went to sit on the ground on the deck, which was also deep with people. I’m not so sure this was legal.
Apparently, Tyler had the right idea, because the deck turned into a party. He made some friends with a couple from Chicago who started passing around a few bottles of Patron. Everyone was having the times of their lives when I made it out to the party deck. There are 3 Gili islands, Gili Trawagan, the biggest island is the party island, Gili Meno is the least developed island, and Gili Air is the romantic island. I think Tyler wishes he had gotten off the boat with the party people at Gili Trawagan where an epic full moon party was slated to happen, but we stayed on the boat to Gili Air.
Gili Air does not have cars. There are only dirt roads, and people get around by bicycle, foot, or donkey with cart. The middle of the island is pretty much rural, with the shores developed more into hotels and restaurants. You can walk around the whole island within an hour or two. There are also tons of kitties, most of whom have a weird tail defect that makes it short.
For lunch, we went to this really tiny restaurant that was basically just someone’s home kitchen and I was really worried about getting some kind of food poisoning, but the noodles were actually delicious.
One of the best things to do in Gili Air is snorkel or scuba dive. Since I’m not for scuba we decided to snorkel. Our hotel gave us all the gear and we went to the beach club to get a drink and have a spot to leave our stuff while we floated in the water. We walked down to the Turtle Bay Beach and let the current carry us back down to our chairs while we fish gazed.
Since the tide was pretty far out, so we had to walk about 100 meters in shallow water over coral before we could start swimming. With the water so low, we saw so many fish in the coral. Lots of little guys – bright blue, clown fish, zebra striped, rainbow, SO many different vibrant varieties. As we moved a bit deeper, the fish grew in size. We saw huge schools of them. At one point, we were just floating in the middle of a school, and everywhere you looked there were more fish. We also got stung by a few small jellyfish, but it only burned for a few minutes. The jellyfish were glowing orange bodies with jellylike outer parts. This was one of my favorite activities ever!
The sunsets on Gili Air are supposed to be spectacular, so after snorkel, we walked to the north side of the island to take in the views. We found a cute little tiki bar for margs and sunsets. The sky turned a beautiful shade of pink as the sun descended.
Since the sun sets to early, we meandered along the beach taking in the different areas of wilderness and then beach clubs until we made it to our dinner destination – Chill Out. Here we got to pick our fish and they BBQ it for you. We picked out a massive blue parrot fish. Entirely too much for the two of us, but the fish was amazing. Super fresh, just caught a few hours before and so flavorful.
We kind of bar hopped for a bit afterwards in search of live music, but most of the places on the island were dead, so we headed back to bed. At 3am I awoke to the sound of a gecko on our roof. I am unreasonably terrified of lizards and was so upset. At 5am the prayers from the mosque started. We did not get much sleep.
We booked an afternoon ferry so that we had a full day to enjoy the island. First on the agenda was more snorkeling. Our hotel owner hooked us up with her friend who had a boat and two teenagers took us out in search of turtles. We first stopped by these big underground statues to snorkel. The fish weren’t as exciting here, but it was cool to see some statues.
Next we went and docked in the middle of the ocean. The younger of the boys jumped out of the boat with his flippers and snorkel mask and swam around to find some turtles. We saw so many fish and so many turtles. It’s such a tropical place. I should’ve gotten an underwater camera to document all of the amazing things we saw.
The rest of our day was spent hanging around the beach and different bars and restaurants until the ferry arrived. It was such a great way to spend our day.
The ferry was hours late. The ferry ride was absolutely horrible. The waves were so high that the boat was almost going sideways. People were getting sea sick left and right. It was like 2 hours. Miserable. We got swindled once we got off the boat getting a cab to Seminyak. Not our best few hours.
We stayed at a beach resort in Seminyak which is a more established beach town. There were lots of shops and restaurants nearby. It’s also a lot more of a party atmosphere. After dinner we headed to the bars. Once again, everyone was really drunk and we just watched as a group of old women danced on tables.
Once again I started off my day with yoga. This class was at a cute little yoga shop and was so good. Very challenging, but super fun. Post yoga brunch at Koop roastery was where we once again had some luwak coffee and also acai bowls.
The beach was my favorite attraction in Seminyak, so we spent the whole day beachside. We walked down to one of the beach clubs called Potato Head to get some drinks, and it was definitely a happening spot. Sunsets on the beach every night were a must, and we had the perfect views.
We had an amazing dinner on the beach at Sea Salt, and I was so happy.
Post brunch at Shelter, a super cute and girly place, we hung by the pool and beach at the resort. There was a big monitor lizard that lived on the property that terrified me. I ran into it several times and Tyler never saw it. Figures.
Lots of long walks on the beach today. And always a coconut to drink out of while watching the sunset.
We had a good dinner at Sangsaka. It was a hike to get there, especially in heels, but the food was delish. After dinner, we went to Bar 68 and Tyler and I got boo’d off the pool table after neither of us made a shot for the first 10 minutes. We thought it was hilarious.
On our last day in Bali, we decided to do a cooking class. We had been wanting to do one the whole time, and this was just when it worked out that we could do it. First, we went to the market to pick out what we would be cooking. It ended up being a private class since we were the only ones who booked it!
We wandered down the rows of fish, spices, vegetables, and fruits grabbing a few things as we went. Everything was so colorful.
Chef Tyler and I loved learning how to make Indonesian food. On the menu was green papaya soup with fresh fish from the market, chicken satay on a bamboo stick, and fried bananas for dessert.
After the cooking class we packed up and headed back to Amsterdam for a few days before making our journey back to America.
It’s very bittersweet to finally finish my blog of all of our travels. We had such an amazing 3 year experience living abroad in Amsterdam. It’s amazing how the friendships you form while living abroad are some you know you will cherish forever. Since you’re away from family, these people become your family. You celebrate holidays with them, you go on vacations with them, you reminisce about the things you miss from back home. It’s such a tight knit community that really welcomes you with open arms on your arrival. Without making those great friendships, our time spent in Amsterdam wouldn’t have been nearly as rich. Amsterdam will always hold a very special place in my heart, and I hope to be able to visit again someday soon.