Exploring Bali

Kelsey and I were lucky enough to get to experience Bali a few weeks ago. Her friend, Cameron, who lives in Europe, LOVES surfing and goes to Bali at least once a year to hit the waves. One day, he told Kels he was going to Bali in a month and asked if she’d like to meet him there. So, we booked tickets, packed our bags and were heading to the airport only 4 short weeks later.

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MONEY

We arrived in Bali without having checked into the the money exchange rate but we needed to withdraw money for the taxi ride to our hotel. Kelsey inserts her card into the ATM and it gave her the option of withdrawing 50,000 – 2 Million IDR (Indonesian Rupiah). She asks me how much I thought we’d need and I said, “I have no idea. I don’t know how many US dollars that is and I don’t know how much the taxi ride is.” She decides that 50,000 IDR should be good and completes the transaction for, what we later found out, was only $3.75 USD and only 1/5 of the amount we needed for the taxi ride. Hahaha! Back to the ATM…

Tip #1. Always check into the exchange rate before you go. If you’re traveling to Bali in the near future, you can plan on 100,000 IDR being about $7.50 USD and then you can use that starting point to figure out everything else.

3,000,000 IDR = $225 USD

THE POINT

The first day, we weren’t really sure how to get to the swimming beach so we ended up at “The Point.” It’s where all the surfers go to catch the best waves. We did some swimming, but it wasn’t the greatest for casual swimming. It sure is pretty though and worth going just to see.

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THE SUN

The sun is closer and hotter than anything I’ve experienced before and I got sunburned the first day! For me, someone who HATES being sunburned and avoids it at all costs, this was very irritating. After that day, I applied sunscreen 50 million times per day and did pretty well for the rest of the trip. It is very hot and humid so I recommend taking clothing you’d be comfortable in on the hottest days of summer and even then be prepared to sweat 1000% of the time. It’s a fact of life for tourists in Bali.

Tip #2. Make sure you take lots of sunscreen and apply it at least as often as is recommended. Some days, I applied even more frequently.

PADANG PADANG BEACH

The next day we found the beach we wanted and it is here we spent the most time over the next 10 days. The weather and the water in Bali are so warm you can go swimming any time of the day or night. Every morning at 7:00 AM, we’d hop on our little motorbike and speed down the road to start the day off right with a swim. Where else can you swim at 7:00 AM in the morning?! That early in the morning, the ocean was ours alone as we watched the life guards setting up their stations on shore and the local women getting their goods ready to sell. Another group of locals start the morning with a religious ritual, lighting incense where sand meets water. Offering sacrifices to the gods in return for continued blessings of protection and prosperity.

It was also at this beach where we took surfing lessons and rode the waves! It wasn’t as hard as I was expecting, but there were definitely some waves that swallowed me whole. If you plan on learning to surf, make sure you use the gym to get your arms good and strong beforehand so that you don’t die while paddling. 🙂 I didn’t think 1 hour was going to be long enough, but my arms were SO tired at the end that I had to confess – they know what they’re doing with beginners. A 1 hour surf lesson was 300,000 IDR which is about $22 USD.

Padang Padang Beach is frequented by some little, furry friends who love to steal tourists belongings. There is a chance you can trade food for your stuff, but if you’re too slow to keep your belongings from them in the first place, you may never see them again.

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Eating

Traditional Balinese food is a lot of seafood, meat and rice, which I am not a fan of. Luckily, Uluwatu had plenty of other options for me. There were 2 restaurants in particular I was fond of. My most favorite was called Muz Kitchen. They have a menu full of options for raw, vegan, vegetarian, gluten free and organic. Everything, EVERYTHING, we ate here was delicious! Bali restaurants are interesting in that you never know exactly how your plate it going to arrive. You know the main ingredients but there are always additional components of the meal they leave out on the menu and at Muz, the presentation is some of the best I saw in Bali.

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Buckwheat pancakes with caramelized bananas and strawberry cardamom cream

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Muz Kitchen

My second favorite place to eat was Bukit Cafe. They have the best breakfast foods! The Harissa Tomatoes Baked Egg, Eggs Benedict, Bukit Burger and the Coconut Mango Chia Pudding (which isn’t always available) are SSSSOOOO good!

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Harissa Tomato Baked Egg

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Mango Coconut Chia Pudding

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Bukit Cafe

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Bukit Cafe

My meals in Bali averaged about 60,000-70,000 IDR which translates to about $4.55-$5.31 USD. Bukit Cafe is a little more because it’s geared towards tourists, but even then, their priciest meal is probably around 100,000 IDR which is only $7.50 USD. There are very few food stores in the Padang Padang/Uluwatu area and the ones you can find don’t have fresh produce so you will find yourself eating out most of the time, which can add up so just be sure to work it in your budget. Next time I do, I will be taking a lot more fruits with me in my luggage.

Tip #3. Tipping is not customary in Bali so the price of your meal is in fact the price of your meal.

Getting Around

Motorbikes are the mode of transportation in Bali. Most of the hotels have motorbikes to rent to their guest, so you don’t have to worry about knowing where to find a rental. Our motorbike rental was only 60,000 IDR per day ($4.55 USD) and then the only other thing you need is petrol which you’ll find at little stands all along the roads. The petrol is stored in glass bottles and when you pull up to a stand, the owner will come out and fill your bike with the bottle and a funnel. Each bottle of petrol is 10,000 IDR ($0.75 USD) and 4 bottles will fill your tank which should last you your whole vacation if you’re staying right in the Padang Padang/Uluwatu area.

Families use one motorbike to transport the whole family. Dad will be driving with one child in between his legs while mom is riding side saddle with a baby strapped to her chest or a mom will drive with a child between her legs and her other child seated behind and tied to her so the child doesn’t fall off. Kids as young as 8 or 10 drive the motorbikes to get to school and other places. Kelsey wondered how they can even touch the ground with their feet, as she had a problem with it herself, but I imagine it’s as second nature to them as walking is. They used to ride bicycles for transportation but as technology advanced they’ve switched to cars and motorbikes, but some of the older men still ride bicycles to get around. It is truly incredible and so amazing to see the way other cultures live.

An International Drivers License is required in Bali, as is wearing your helmets. The police set up traffic stops to catch tourists who don’t have either of these and you have to bribe them to get past the stop. Typically, the fine for not having a license is 1 Million IDR ($75 USD) and if you’re not wearing helmets the fine goes up from there. Kelsey actually has an international drivers license she got for Italy last year, but she didn’t think about bringing it, so when we got stopped by the police, they asked for the 1 Million fine. We didn’t have that much money with us and gave him the 400,000 we did have. He said we were nice and he really liked us so he gave us 100,000 back so we could get something to eat as we told him we were on our way to lunch. After we got stopped, we would only keep a little money in our wallet and hide the bulk of it somewhere else so if we got stopped again we could say we only had X amount of money.

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Tip #4. Get an international drivers license before heading to Bali. It only costs about $15 USD so it will save you the bribe money and the hassle of dealing with the police.

Sites to See

Kelsey and I wanted to go to Ubud to see some Hindu temples and the rice fields so we hired a driver through Bali Bliss Tours for two days and went exploring. The driver spent 9 hours each day with us and the total for the 2 days was only 1,750,000 IDR ($135 USD) – definitely affordable.

The first day we went to Tanah Lot Temple, Mengwi Temple, the Monkey Forest and a Luwak Coffee plant. In my opinion, if you’ve seen one Hindu Temple, you’ve seen them all so I’m not too keen on these two temples, as the ones I preferred to see are the Uluwatu and Beratan temples because of the views that come along with them. The monkey forest was fine, but not necessary because you can see monkeys at Padang Padang Beach and Uluwatu temple. The Luwak Coffee plant, however, was well worth the 2 hour trip!

Luwak Coffee aka “Cat Poop Coffee” is one of the most expensive coffees in the world because the way it is produced. An animal called the Asian Palm Civet eats coffee cherries which then become fermented in the digestion process and are then pooped out. The poop is collected, the beans separated and the coffee is made. The say the fermentation process may enhance the flavor profile of the coffee. At the end of the informative tour, you get to sit at a table and they bring you samples of 13 different kinds of coffees and teas. It’s free unless you’d like to sample the Luwak coffee and that will only cost you 50,000 IDR. The lemon tea was good and the coconut coffee was tasty because it didn’t taste anything like coffee. Ha! Kelsey liked a lot of the teas and some of the coffees, but coffee and tea just aren’t my thing.

A four month old Luwak is tempted by some red coffee beans at the BAS Coffee plantation January 20, 2011 in Tapaksiring, Bali, Indonesia. The Luwak coffee is known as the most expensive coffee in the world because of the way the beans are processed and the limited supply. The Luwak is an Asian palm civet, which looks like a cross between a cat and a ferret. The civet climbs the coffee trees to find the best berries, eats them, and eventually the coffee beans come out in its stools as a complete bean. Coffee farmers then harvest the civet droppings and take the beans to a processing plant. Luwak coffee is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago, and also in the Philippines.
A four month old Luwak is tempted by some red coffee beans at the BAS Coffee plantation January 20, 2011 in Tapaksiring, Bali, Indonesia. The Luwak coffee is known as the most expensive coffee in the world because of the way the beans are processed and the limited supply. The Luwak is an Asian palm civet, which looks like a cross between a cat and a ferret. The civet climbs the coffee trees to find the best berries, eats them, and eventually the coffee beans come out in its stools as a complete bean. Coffee farmers then harvest the civet droppings and take the beans to a processing plant. Luwak coffee is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago, and also in the Philippines.

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The second day with our driver, we went to Beratan temple which is located high up in the mountains surrounded by a lake. It is so peaceful and beautiful, I probably could have stayed here all day! In fact, I wished I would have known how amazing it was beforehand so I could have planned at least half a day here. You can rent an Indonesian boat and go out on the lake for about $14 USD, if I remember correctly.


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Next we went to a fruit market and got some FRESH FRUIT! It was sent from heaven just for me. 🙂 We got some passion fruit and some mangostein and snacked on those the next couple of days.

We ended our day at the rice fields in Ubud. These rice fields are indescribably green! We loved the rice fields and spent a couple hours wandering through them. There are different trails throughout the fields ranging from 45 minutes to 4 hours.

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Uluwatu temple has INCREDIBLE views! This temple was only about 15 minutes away from where we were staying and we went visited 3 times just to see the views and sunset. This is where we spent our last evening in Bali taking in one last Indonesian sunset and saying goodbye to the ocean.

Every night the temple has a Fire Dance which is a traditional dance performance that tells a story. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t Kelsey’s favorite thing. The ticket booth opens at 5:00 PM and the show starts at 6:00 PM. To get the best seating, you’ll want to enter the amphitheater right after buying your tickets. Just be aware you’ll be waiting for an hour in the hot sun you’ll want some water as well as umbrella to keep cool.

Tip #4. Take a small umbrella to keep the sun away. Both Kelsey and I had umbrellas and we used them a few times while in Bali.

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Finn’s Beach Club

Our last day, Kelsey’s friend Cameron took us to Finn’s Beach Club, a private beach at a resort. Even if you aren’t a guest, you can pay to spend the day at the beach and it is well worth it. They have a restaurant, bar, bean bags and fire pits on the sand and live music. It cost 300,000 IDR per person and that includes a 150,000 IDR voucher for food and drink. The food here is the most expensive (as if you could even use that word when describing something in Bali) I saw on the island with meals starting around 100,000 and going up from there. The atmosphere is so fun and it was nice to have a night out on the town after such a relaxing vacation.

While we were standing in line for the tram to get down to the beach, Cameron noticed the two girls in front of us had South African accents and since this is where he is from, we all struck up a conversation and spent the evening together. The girls, Nikita and Charne (pronounced Shaw-nae) were amazing people and there wasn’t a single lull in conversation for 5 hours. We all exchanged numbers and hope to visit each other in the different countries we live.

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Tip #5. Be outgoing and talk to new people on vacation. Who knows what kind of friends you may pick up.

Hong Kong

On our way home, we had a 19 hour layover in Hong Kong so we booked a hotel and got to see downtown and Victoria Peak, the highest point in Hong Kong. Downtown Hong Kong at night looks like Times Square – everything is lit up and it has the same energy although there aren’t as many people. In the morning, we went out and explored and the description I came up with for Hong Kong, which I think is PERFECT, is that it is a mix of New York City and Hawaii. NYC because of the city aspect and Hawaii because of the Asian twist, the run down buildings and pastel colors. If you’ve been to both NYC and Hawaii, you should be able to adequately picture Hong Kong in your mind. 🙂

 

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Home, Sweet Home

The world is a beautiful place with amazing people and different cultures that I am so glad I get to experience. But at the end of the day, it is so nice to get back home. To see family and friends, to get back to a routine and realize that real life is just as good as a dream vacation. The whole world is a beautiful place…including the place you call home.

 

Most photos taken by Kelsey Roberts

 

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