In between semesters I usually get a few days vacation. This past semester I had a total of 2 weeks off, including the Chuseok holiday (see my summer 2011 blog for that story). Once I had all my visa issues squared away, I realized I would be free to actually do some leisure travel during this time off, rather than try to go back to the States and sort out paperwork as I thought may have been required. Destination: BALI, Indonesia.
As you may recall, I had planned to visit the Indonesian islands when I did my Southeast Asia trip back in March, but that didn’t happen. Honestly, the tickets were more than I would’ve liked to spend, but I knew any tickets would be a bit pricey due to lack of advanced purchase. Anyway, I arrived in Bali mid-afternoon on the 15th of September. That day in particular, begins the low season for travel in Bali. Good news there! I made my way to Sanur, where I would couchsurf for 3 nights with Ginny, a well-traveled British woman who works from her home in Bali and was able to show me around the entire time. We ate at street restaurants which serve AMAZINGLY delicious food for around $1.50 US per person. What!?!? She also introduced me to some of her friends. They were all interesting people who, despite having a decade or so on me, were very friendly and welcoming. I visited the beach, took in a couple $6 (for an hour) massages each day, walked around Sanur and booked transportation to the islands as a mid-way stop between my only other set plans- to end up in Ubud on the 21st.
The main objectives for this trip were to: relax, snorkel, lay on the beach, and try to make new friends. I was starting off well… Next up, I made my way, by speedboat (Scoot is the only responsible way to go, by the way.) to Nusa Lembongan. Now, because of my itinerary, I didn’t book transportation back. BUT I highly recommend doing so, mainland, as the prices are considerably higher once you’re on the islands– that’s just economics for ya though. I went to this island based on a recommendation from a friend. She also did a solo trip to Bali and most of the photos I “liked” on her Facebook photo album were on this island. When you arrive, plan to get wet– no boats actually doc to dry land.. you must do a short wade/walk to the beach. This company will take one bag per person for you, included in the price– pack light!! I found accommodations after landing on the island. I literally got on the back of a guy’s motorcycle, backpack in tow, and he drove me to a nearby hotel where he checked me in, showed me the room and took my payment. No prices for the rooms are posted and you can negotiate a bit, so be sure to check out prices before you go (LonelyPlanet has nice references). Since I had a set price in mind, I told him that price and he said I could pay that much. I was satisfied with paying the 210,000 Rupiah (approximately $25 US) only because of convenience in location, an inexpensive restaurant, and nice courtyard. The cleanliness left a bit to be desired. [I had two cockroaches in my bathroom and some dirty pillowcases.] This island is well known for its seaweed farming community and its sunsets. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the energy to explore the island but enjoyed a relaxing time on the beach, in my hotel room and around the docking area. If I had an opportunity to do it again, I would’ve stayed another night. Time just didn’t allow for it this trip, though.
The next morning, I made my way, by speedboat (booked in Sanur through Scoot), to the Gili Islands. These islands had been calling my name ever since I began looking into the Indonesian islands. They take some planning to get to, so make sure to plan it into your trip. Boats only leave in the morning, and even by fastboat, take a couple hours to get to. I stayed on the largest, and I guess the biggest party island, Gili Trawangan. Next time, I will stay on Gili Air. I liked Gili T, but traveling alone, I could have done without the frequent attempts the men made at grabbing me, while spitting lines like, “Hey baby, can I love you tonight?” SERIOUSLY, dude! PLEASE tell me that hasn’t worked for you in the past! Not to mention that there are no police on this island and apparently, getting high– in the form of marijuana and/or mushroom juice– is acceptable. Not my thing. I felt reasonably safe, but I wouldn’t recommend traveling her alone as a single woman. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM on Gili T! On many positive notes, though, the hotel/hostel scene is quite nice. Owners were friendly and laid back, in true island form, and it was fairly easy to score good accommodations for a nice price. Now, you should also keep in mind that Gili T has two (weekday) party nights and it WILL be noisey until around 4 or 5am.
It didn’t bother me too much though, I was able to get a good night’s rest and make it out to the sunrise (just a couple minutes’ walk from my hotel). I think only 3 people (me and two others) on the whole island made it up for the sunrise. It was worth it though. I think the sunsets on this island were better than the sunrise, but both were pretty cool.
That same day, I booked a snorkeling tour. About 13 of us (yes, the others were all in pairs) went by boat, island hopping and snorkeling in prescribed places. There were amazing coral reefs and we even got to swim with sea turtles! That was the highlight for me. I have never seen a sea turtle in the wild before and it was really cool that I got to see 4 or 5 of them in various places. I love that my camera can go underwater… makes for some great snorkeling photos. We stopped for lunch on Gili Air. It seems to be a much more laid back island (which is also what I read prior to going to Indonesia) which is why I will give it a go next time. Oh, one more thing worth mentioning about Gili T: there are no cars on the island. It gives a cool vibe, but be prepared to walk or rent a bicycle. There are horse/carriages there but they are a bit pricey for the size of the island. Also, like all the islands (off the mainland of Bali), credit cards, when accepted, are charged a standard 3-5% fee from the vendor.
On to the fastboat of near-death… I shopped around and ended up booking a fastboat through my hotel, to Padangbai because I would then go on to Ubud. I would NOT recommend Wahana Speedboat… I’ll let the video speak for itself. I would recommend Gili Cat. I met a few couples who took Gili Cat into the island and describe much safer, cleaner, organized and overall better service/facilities with them. Transportation onto Ubud is standard service for all reputable fast boats as well. Thus, I was able to make it to Ubud to meet Tineke, my second (for this trip) couchsurfing host.
Tineke is a woman, around my age, who has a generous heart and was a wonderful host. She works with, rescues and educates the general public about street dogs in Bali. Ubud is a rice farming community rich in culture. Tineke showed me around, and when she was busy, made every effort to see to it that I was taken care of. For example, she would call a driver to meet me and take me to where I wanted to go. This was an enormous help because I didn’t have to deal with the hassle of trying to explain where I wanted to go, not getting taken advantage of, etc. She was a huge help! She had two rescued dogs and they all treated me like family while I stayed in their traditional Balinese village home. What an experience!
While in Ubud, I visited a monkey forest, watched a traditional dance performance, visited a temple, ate some amazing food, and had a luxurious experience at Nur Salon. I got a 90 min massage, followed by a papaya exfoliating scrub, a rinse, a yogurt rub down, then concluded with a 20 minute soak in a warm bath of water and flower pedals.
All for only 396,000 Rupiah ($50 US) A-MAZ-ING!
After some hardcore shopping and negotiations, it was time to say “see ya later” to Tineke, the dogs and Bali. I had a bit of an adventure in the airport but I will make it a short story. I Arrived at the International section, needed to go to the Domestic section because a connecting flight to Jakarta. That connector also caused an extra tax at the airport (you pay a departure tax at both the domestic and the international levels, not included in your ticket price). The short of it is that the flight to Jakarta was delayed by 75 minutes, but due to so many people catching connecting flights on that plane, the connecting flights held the planes for us and I made it to Seoul only 1 hr later than scheduled. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to do any Duty Free shopping, but was happy to exchange that for not having to hangout in an airport for a night.
Please check out my youtube page as there are multiple videos not posted in this blog from my Bali trip! Thanks for reading and thanks for watching!!
Bali was great! I was very satisfied with my 9 day trip! I will say this, though. PACK LIGHT– you can buy almost everything you need when you get there and with all the “wading in the water” you’ll be doing, you’ll be happy you did! 🙂
~Budget breakdown: ~ (all prices are in estimated US $ based on exchange rate at the time of travel: $10 US = 75,000 Indonesian Rupiah) $1,850
Airfare: $1,198 Transportation: $210 Food: $155 Activities: $115 Shopping: $77 Accommodations: $95 (5 nights- couchsurfing; 3 nights- hotel)