Finally, after 24 hours of non-stop travel, I found myself cozied up in the comfort of my own bed (sans luggage). We were forced to abandon our luggage in Vancouver in order to make our connecting flight to Toronto. Thankfully, West Jet shipped it to us the same day we got home, so it wasn’t a huge ordeal, though I was pretty convinced the world was ending at the time.
Now, on to what’s really important.
Bali is one of those places that is made up of so many different cultures, people, and environments, which gives different parts of the island their own unique ‘vibe.’ We stayed in three different locations while we were there and I’ve broken down my thoughts on each. Let’s get started!
Kuta is in the south of Bali. If you’re into partying, night life, tourists, and Westernized culture, you may consider staying in Kuta. Many Aussies come to this area for the surfing and (as we learned) because it’s only a 3 hour flight from Australia and you can get a flight and accommodations for around $400. Not to shabby. In Kuta, there is Seminyak and Legian Beach, which was our ‘home base’ for the majority of our trip.
Legian Beach is an inaccurate representation of Balinese culture. We stayed at The One Legian, which had a gorgeous rooftop patio and pool.
There are plenty of shops, but the vendors are generally invasive and pushy. Legian is made up of people from surrounding islands, and there are very few authentic Balinese people who reside here. Because it’s such a touristy destination, many of the religious norms you’d find in the rural parts of Bali and Indonesia aren’t as common here. Pick-pocketers are common, and I wouldn’t feel safe leaving the hotel after dark if I wasn’t in a group. As we were told, the men here wouldn’t dare lay a hand on an Indonesian woman, but based on their interpretation of Western cultures and societal norms, they think it’s perfectly acceptable to grab at and cat-call the tourists. In addition to that, the traffic is quite congested and the fumes combined with the ability to smoke wherever you want and humidity make for a huge shock to the system. The beach in Legian (Kuta Beach) is crawling with ‘beach boys’ who are looking to make you their girlfriend or sell you a surf lesson. They’re incredibly persistent, making it really hard to relax. If you’re looking for an Eat, Pray, Love experience, I encourage you to avoid Legian, or only stay in this area for a short stint. It was my first impression of Bali, and it wasn’t an overly positive one.
A 10 minute drive from Legian can make a huge difference. Seminyak is a water-front town with a variety of shops, restaurants, and beach clubs. It’s on the higher-end in terms of shops and restaurants, and is actually pretty peaceful. There is less traffic, minimal vendors on the beach, and the locals are much friendlier. We took two day trips here. This is another good party place at night, without fearing you’ll be robbed (or worse).
Ubud was definitely one of my favourite locations and is also where Eat, Pray, Love was filmed. Ubud has a variety of markets and trendy shops with handmade silver, wooden carvings, beautiful dresses and sarongs and great food. The people are friendly and helpful and it is more of an authentic Balinese experience. We spent a day and a half in Ubud (about an hour and 20 minutes from Kuta) and stayed at the Hotel Tjampuhan Spa.
If you’re a nature lover, are looking for peace and quiet, and don’t mind being a bit isolated from other people, I would highly recommend this hotel. It was by far my favourite accommodation out of the three we stayed at. The winding paths and stairs and beautiful cottage-style rooms with French doors leading to a vast veranda and view of the jungle made for a breathtaking experience.
While in Ubud, we rode and fed elephants and had lunch at Bali Elephant Camp…
…toured the Monkey Forest…
…shopped the markets, and had our palms read by Ketut’s son. It was a pretty incredible and surreal experience.
I had first learned about the Gili Islands on Instagram. Gili Trawagan was a two hour boat ride from Bali and as I did more research, I knew I had to go. We took a fast boat there and I was instantly in ‘awe’ of the beauty of the island. The harbour was vibrant and full of various boats and the water was unbelievably clear and turquoise blue. It looked like a scene from a postcard.
Gili Trawagan is an incredibly environmentally-friendly island. They don’t use motorized vehicles, which made the stay so much more peaceful. In order to get from the harbour to our hotel on the other side of the island, we had to take either a bike or a horse and cart. We opted for the latter.
Religion plays a large part in the island, with guests being asked to remove their shoes before entering any of the shops. Gili Trawagan is a vibrant community with tourists, vendors, bars and restaurants, beach swings, and the friendliest people we encountered on our entire trip. Those at our hotel (Aston Sunset) made us feel at home and welcomed, and seemed genuinely sad to see us leave. We swung on the swings which were in the sea…
…and went on a beach trail ride.
We also experienced one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. I would go back to Trawagan in a heart beat.
Bali was an incredible experience and I feel so blessed to have experienced so many sides of it (good and bad). If you can weather a 24 hour travel time, love the heat (and can tolerate humidity), and are looking for your next cultural experience and adventure, promise yourself you will one day wake up in Bali.