Let me start by saying…brace yourselves for a long one guys!
Bali was the first “Eastern” city I visited. I had dreamed of visiting places like Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore. However, whenever it came time to book a big trip, I always settled for where I was comfortable: Western Europe or Mexico. Not only was the culture more familiar, but my working Spanish made me feel a little more safe. Fortunately, my friend chose to have her 30th birthday in Bali, and I couldn’t have been more excited when I found out!
Bali seems small. However, after being there for 10 days, I realized if I ever wanted to see the whole island, I’d have to make another trip back. Bali could probably be done in two couple week trips or one month long trip. What I thought was nothing more than a surfer island turned out to be one of the most culturally educational experiences filled with food, friends, and the best time!
Tips and Tricks:
*Plan to spend at least a week in Bali. The island seems small but traffic makes things take much longer than you would normally think*
*Rent a scooter! We were able to side step a lot of the traffic by driving a scooter*
*If you have a scooter, wear your helmet and make sure you have an International Drivers Permit*
*Learn the basics of Balinese. The already kind locals will want to do even more for you*
*Wear cool clothing. I thought I had experienced humidity, but there is nothing that compares to Bali humidity*
*Get vaccinated if you like to play it safe*
Vaccines, Vaccines, Vaccines…the great debate for some, and a completely obvious no-brainer for me. Everyone holds their own beliefs when it comes to vaccines. However, the way I see it, vaccines are my friend. In fact, they’re more than that. They are the basis of quality of life.
Now, even if you are a believer in vaccines, not all people are as vigilant about travel health as I am, and that’s ok. It’s your body, you choose how risky you’d like to be with it. I read a ton of conflicting information on vaccines for Bali when I was doing research. So, I figured I’d try to summarize my findings.
Necessary Vaccines: All childhood vaccines and vaccines for any illness outbreak at the time you visit Bali
Highly Recommended: Hepatitis A (spread by contaminated food) and Typhoid, Hepatitis B (spread my bodily fluids/syringes) for anyone who plans on meeting a lover or two on the island lol
CDC Recommended Vaccines: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/indonesia
Even though I knew I wouldn’t be engaging in any activities that could potentially lead to Hepatitis B, I found out Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B were both covered by my insurance as preventative, so I decided to get both. I decided on the Oral Typhoid Vaccine which is not covered by insurance and came out to about $70 at a Costco Pharmacy.
If you have insurance, I highly recommend checking with your insurance company to find out if any vaccines are covered. Many times, Hep A/B will be covered with your preventative yearly checkup. I’d also recommend shopping around for the best priced vaccines. My typhoid vaccine ranged from $70 to $150. *Pro Tip: Most vaccines need to be completed at least a couple weeks before your travels so your body has time to build up immunity. If you plan on getting vaccinated, don’t save it for the last minute! If you have further questions on vaccines or insurance, feel free to reach out to me via email (email@example.com) or via IG @behindthecarryon.
Our flight to Bali consisted of 24 hours of travel time comprised of a 15 hour leg (LAX to TPE), a 4 hour layover in Taipei, and a 5 hour leg (TPE to DPS). I had never been on a flight this long and was slightly nervous for how I would do. I have back problems so my boyfriend and I decided to book Premium Economy tickets on China Airlines. China Airlines Premium Economy is arranged in a 2-4-2 configuration with shell seats (meaning you don’t recline into the person in back of you). The flight retailed for about $1200, but we used Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book our tickets.
My entire life I’ve flown internationally in business and first class, thanks to my dads career, which allowed him to rack up a crazy amount of airline miles. Since paying for my own travels, I’ve had to sacrifice some of the luxury. I was nervous about my first flight over 12 hours also being my first international flight not in business or first class. I could not have been more pleased with the China Airlines Premium Economy product.
Overall, the crew was phenomenal. We were offered a snack, a meal, dessert, and a candy bar. When our flight attendant saw how excited we were for the Haagen-Dazs ice cream, he offered us an extra. The inflight entertainment was plentiful. In addition, we were flying with a group of about 10 people. The plane offered a “chat” where you could chat with people in different seats. The system kept crashing, but when the bugs are worked out, that will be a phenomenal feature.
China Airlines Premium Economy seat offers 39 inch seat pitch, and 19 inch seat width, which I found roughly equivalent to a domestic first class seat. The slightly extra leg room and width allowed me get a good sleep in over the ocean, and I woke up with zero pain in my back. Premium Economy was not offered on the second leg of the flight so we flew China Airlines Economy. Believe it or not, the 15 hour flight in Premium Economy was much more bearable than the 5 hour flight in Economy. By the time we landed, my back was killing me, and I was validated that Premium Economy is the way to fly long distance if you don’t have the points or don’t want to spend the money to splurge for business or first class.
The villa, aka Villa Lhashana, was absolutely amazing! The birthday girl chose to stay in Seminyak (think beachy/ritzy/party part of the island) which was absolutely perfect for the kind of trip we were looking to have. Our villa Airbnb listing (be sure to book using my Airbnb link to get a discount: www.airbnb.com/c/jillianm825) looked beautiful, but the pictures did not do the villa justice. The villa was actually two villas joined together, to fit our large group. We had two pools, two kitchens, and way more room than we needed. My boyfriend and I lucked out and ended up having the separate “house” containing two bedrooms all to ourselves. We loved the ability to walk upstairs and watch the sunrise over the city.
One of my favorite parts of the villa was the people working. They cleaned the rooms every day, would not enter the rooms unless our belongings were locked in the safe (which made me feel comfortable), and made breakfast for us every single day. In addition, when my boyfriend and I expressed an interest in renting a scooter, the workers not only found a cheaper place than we were planning on renting from, but they picked up the scooter for us, and returned it for us at the end of our trip when we were done. Talk about top of the line service!
Our villa was centrally located to all major places we wanted to visit in Seminyak. In addition, the Straw Hut Cafe was a little restaurant, walking distance from our villa, that I’m embarrassed to say we visited more times than I’d like to admit. It was easy, quick, and the perfect meal after a long day out on the town. To be honest, I could have been happy spending the entire trip in our villa. We only visited the beach once. Between the phenomenal workers, having our own drinks and food readily available, and frolicking in a gorgeous pool, spending a decent amount of time at the villa left us all feeling relaxed and well rested.
Seminyak, aka “The Yak,” is more of the “ritzy and touristy” part of the island. Located in the southern part of Bali, Seminyak is where you want to be for 5 star restaurants and beach clubs. Seminyak was our home base while exploring Bali and it was absolutely perfect for the purpose of our trip: partying and celebrating a 30th birthday!
Let me just start by saying a 24 hour travel day is absolutely killer! Once we arrived in Bali, we were all feeling a little off, between the extreme humidity and time change. We ended up ordering food in from The Straw Hut while we had masseuses come to Villa Lhashana for $17/massage. It was the perfect way to start out our trip. By the time we were settled into the villa, the sun was setting and we were able to go to sleep relatively on Bali’s schedule. However, that didn’t stop us all from waking up before sunrise. *Pro Tip: Try to arrive in the afternoon/evening so you’re able to get on a sleep schedule easier and be sure to factor in a few days of feeling lousy during your adjustment period when you book your trip.
The next day, we got up and went to Junction House for brunch. The restaurant has a very “French” vibe and phenomenal food. We had a room all to ourselves and the overall dining experience felt almost private. Junction House was walking distance from our villa. However, by the time we got back we were drenched and decided to jump in the pool. I also stopped at The Straw Hut and got a fresh coconut on the way back, and it was just what the doctor ordered. After lounging in the pool all day, we finally got ourselves up and ready, and made our way to La Favela. There was an absolute downpour right when we arrived. Like walk from the car to the restaurant and you’re completely soaked kind of downpour. However, La Favela was the craziest mix of dinner and a party. Overlooking the partially inside/partially outside nightlife you’ll find a Christ the Redeemer statue, akin to the one in Rio de Janeiro. Amazing music and the party atmosphere had us partying all night, despite our severe jet lag.
Next, we had a “free day.” My boyfriend, Taylor, and I took this time to make use of our scooter and explore Seminyak. When we walked out to our scooter, we realized we had forgotten our helmets outside, and they were drenched. We saw people riding around everywhere with no helmets, so we decided to bring them, but not wear them. First, we stopped at Revolver Cafe, which was very American, but still very good. Next, we visited Masceti Temple. Legend has it that couples who visit are bound to break up. Taylor and I are still together…so the verdict is still out!
At the temple, we were required to rent sarongs. We were able to walk the grounds of the temple. However, certain areas were only accessible by those praying. It was a really unique feeling to walk through an active temple, overlooking the water. After Masceti, we headed off to Pura Petitenget temple. Again, riding without our helmets as so many others did, we ended up getting pulled over by the cops. They stand under a little cover on the sidewalk and blow their whistle at people they wish to pull over. While I still believe we could have easily kept on going, we didn’t want to get into any real trouble, and pulled over as instructed.
I decided now was the perfect time to pull out what little Balinese I knew. I asked the cop how he was doing (“apa kabar”) and he instantly took a liking to us. He asked for our International Drivers Permit (you better believe my boyfriend was happy I read up on that), and we happily handed it over. The cop was happy to see we had the permit, but still said he’d need to write us a ticket for riding without helmets. Considering all the people riding without helmets, I think this was more a case of “ticketed for being a tourist” as opposed to a truly enforced rule. Like everything else in Bali, everything is a hustle. When we asked how we could get out of going to the capital, Denpasar, and just pay our ticket now, the cop responded we could give him $1,000,000 rupiah, and he’d let us go. Taylor showed him his wallet, which only held $850,000,000 rupiah (fortunately USD were kept in another section) and the cop let us go, claiming he was giving us a “first time in Bali discount.” We both look back at the situation now and laugh, knowing it was one of the kindest “hold ups” to ever take place. But moral of the story is, “always wear your helmet.”
That afternoon we went to Metis and did a girls tea while the guys grabbed lunch and smoked cigars. Tea for two was only $25 and included tea and a crumpet tower. This was a very nice restaurant, with tea akin to tea at The Plaza in New York, and it was well worth the price. The only downside was the crazy humidity. You are seated outside, so dress cool and prepare to be pretty hot the entire time. Fortunately, they do let you order cold tea if you wish.
That night, we had dinner reservations at Mamasan. This was probably one of my favorite meals. I had a vermicelli noodle soup with short rib, and let me just say, this was a whole new level of spice. My mouth was on FIRE! But, somehow, the spice still had so much phenomenal flavor. Another girl in our group got the same meal and it was too spicy for her to eat. *Pro Tip: ALWAYS ask if the dish is spicy, especially if you don’t like spicy food.
The next day, we had another “free day.” We started with breakfast at Kynd, which is the cutest little vegan restaurant you’ll ever see. Everything is pink, and fun colors, and the ice cream is to die for! This is another day where we decided to ride our scooter around versus taking a taxi with the rest of the group. It took us less than 10 minutes to get to Kynd from our villa, while it took everyone else about 20 minutes. After Kynd, we decided to go to Potato Head Beach Club!
Potato Head is one of the most famous beach clubs in Bali! We got lucky and were able to find a couple tables next to each other even though we arrived later in the day. It would have been nice to have day beds. However, Potato Head told us they couldn’t take call ahead reservations, and we didn’t want to get there super early. Some of my absolute favorite drinks came from Potato Head, and the pool water was absolutely perfect! The only downside was the music. It was a little too “lowkey” and some more upbeat music would have been nice to keep the party vibe going.
At night, we went to Motel Mexicola which is an absolute must in Bali! Motel Mexicola is a huge restaurant, with a dance floor in the middle. A group our size was required to order a fixed menu. The food and drinks were phenomenal, but it was almost too hot to fully enjoy. We got lucky and had a table right by a big fan. But, the second you stepped away from the fan, you were drenched in sweat. The music was 2000s throwback and all I wanted to do was dance, but I couldn’t dance without sweating. If there’s a “cooler” night while you’re in Bali, make sure you save Motel Mexicola for that night! The humidity is an absolute killer!
For the birthday girl’s actual birthday, we had a day of relaxation, and a nice dinner. During the day, we lounged by the pool, and booked a couples massage at Sundari Day Spa. Sundari was one of the nicest spas I’ve been to, and also one of the cheapest. We arrived a bit early and were offered a juice and a warm towel. Next, we were taken to a room where they did a full foot and leg massage. Then, we were taken to our couples room. I requested a hard massage, and wow! My masseuse had VERY strong hands. Next came a complete body scrub, then body mask. Lastly, we were left alone to enjoy the rose petal bath. I walked out feeling completely refreshed, loose, and soft. The couples massage came out to about $120 USD for the both of us which is an absolute steal compared to the States.
For dinner, we got to experience the beauty of Merah Putih. Again, for a group our size we were required to do a set menu. Merah Putih is an Indonesian restaurant, and everything I ate was phenomenal. The restaurant is very open and luxe, and the service was phenomenal. Of all the restaurants we ate at, Merah Putih was one of my favorites!
Our last day in Bali was filled with all the last minute things we hadn’t gotten a chance to do yet. We went to lunch at Warung Babi Guling Pak Malen which was recommended to me by a friend who grew up in Bali. One of the interesting things I found about some of the more traditional Balinese restaurants is that they only serve one dish. Each “warung” (aka restaurant) specializes in a single dish. In this case, it was babi guling, or roasted pig. You can choose to have it spicy, or not spicy. *Pro Tip: Remember spicy in Indonesia is a whole different level of spice. I opted for spicy and it was phenomenal! I’m still in awe of how Balinese restaurants manage to get such a high level of spice, but still keep such phenomenal flavor! The best part, four babi guling dishes came out to $12 USD total! It is CRAZY how cheap everything is!
After our traditional Balinese meal, we went to the mall and did some shopping. We also walked along the street vendors for shopping as well. Bali street vendors are similar to those in every other place of the world, negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. I managed to walk away with two round purses (which I found out were very “in style” once I got back to the States), and a pair of sandals that looked similar to ones you’d find at Steve Madden or Sam Edelman, all for about $35 USD. Since being back in the states, I’ve found the round purses average about $60 and very similar shoes average about $85. I’m not sure if the vendors are constantly changing what they’re selling based on what is in style, but it’s definitely worth a look if you’re a fashionista who loves finding good deals!
Ubud was one of our two day trips. When I initially researched Ubud, I saw it was only about 20 miles away from Seminyak. I figured it would take us about an hour to get there and an hour to get back…but boy, did I underestimate the traffic and underdeveloped roads! Our trip ended up taking about 2.5 hours each way, and it was a MUCH longer day than I was prepared for. If you plan on doing a day trip, be ready for it to be a full, 8 AM to 8 PM kind of day at least!
Ubud is the jungle part of the island. On our way, we stopped at Sari Barista Coffee Luwak, a well known Indonesian coffee farm. I felt like I was walking through a jungle as we toured the property. I didn’t try the coffee because I’m not much of a coffee drinker. However, I did participate in the tea tasting. It was a little warm to fully enjoy hot tea. But, the lemongrass tea was some of the best tea I had ever tasted! Lemongrass seems to be used in quite a few Indonesian dishes and drinks, and it’s become one of my favorite flavors!
Now, while the people running the coffee farm were kind beyond words, and the location was beautiful, I felt horrible for the civet cats that were caged. In case you’re unaware, Luwak coffee is made by collecting coffee beans that have been ingested and excreted by civet cats. If seeing caged animals is bothersome to you, this would be something to skip.
Our next stop was Kebun Bistro, and after being stuck in a very hot bus for 2 hours, the amazing air conditioned restaurant felt like heaven! The food was phenomenal and so were the drinks. This was the perfect place for our large group to stop on the way to the Ubud Monkey Forest.
After lunch, we stopped by Aloha Ubud. I kept hearing my friend talk about “swings” and I kept thinking, “why do we need to make a special stop for swings?” Let me just say, that question was answered real quick once I got to Aloha Ubud. In short, there are a multitude of different swings off of a cliff overlooking the jungle. I went on both individual swings and a “couple’s swing” with my boyfriend. We went on one of the “main swings” you’ll know because these swings have a harness, and the workers got some of the most phenomenal videos and pictures. If you love a good photo, Aloha Ubud is a must do! We were super fortunate and were finishing up just as the downpour started up again.
Finally, we make it to the Monkey Forest. I saw a ton of warnings about not bringing loose items (hats, sunglasses, etc) into the park. While this was probably good warning, and I’m happy I didn’t bring any lose items, at the end of the day, the monkeys really don’t bother you unless you invade their space. We did see one person get bit on the head, but he was sitting in the middle of a ton of monkeys and pulling things away from them. The monkeys are A LOT bigger than I realized they would be. But one of the reasons I love the monkey forest is because you could see the monkeys run free, in a semi-natural habitat.
By the time we were done with the monkey forest, our entire group was completely blown out. It was another long 2.5-3 hour ride home due to the rain and construction. By the time we finally got home, all we wanted to do was grab a quick bite from The Straw Hut Cafe, and go to bed! Seeing part of Ubud is doable in a day trip from Seminyak, but beware…you will be absolutely EXHAUSTED by the end of it.
Uluwatu is home to my favorite place of the trip….OMNIA BALI! All I have to say is WOW! If you’ve ever been to the creative treasure that is Omnia Vegas, it doesn’t even come close to comparing to Omnia Bali! Another 1.5 hour trip from Seminyak, the trek to Omnia was so worth the drive!
You walk into the club and realize the entire day club sits atop a cliff, overlooking some of the most beautiful water I had ever seen. We had one of the biggest cabanas which was the perfect size for our group. The food was shockingly good (especially the poke), and the music had us dancing the entire day! I don’t even want to think about how many bottles of alcohol we went through.
My favorite part of the day was when it started pouring. In a lot of places, rain kills the vibe. However, at Omnia, the rain made the vibe. We all had the most phenomenal time dancing in the rain as if we were little kids again. The dance floor started with only a few people. But, when it started pouring, it’s like the whole day club came out to play. Omnia is a must if you have the time to make the trip. It 100% was worth the hype IMO and I can’t wait to go back some day!
Bali is synonymous with a lot of firsts for me: first time to an eastern country, first time in premium economy, first time on a 15+ hour flight, first big vacation with Taylor. Now, as amazing as Bali was with the five star restaurants and around the clock service, there were some difficulties as well. For example, trying to get 13 people who don’t know each other that well to mesh the entire time, building an itinerary that encompassed everyone’s interests, sitting in a bus in sweltering heat for hours at a time, jet lag, horrible traffic, flash floods, I could go on and on.
However, as I’m sure most of my fellow travelers know, it’s all the times that things go wrong that really make a trip. It’s the memories of working through the tough times, and coming out with a whole new group of friends. Moral of the story, be flexible! Any time you travel, especially with a big group in a lesser developed country, you will have both ups and downs. Embrace it! Be thankful for the good times, and let the bad ones remind you of why you love home so much.
Best Part: Dancing in the rain at Omnia Bali with a whole new group of friends.
Worst Part: The unbearable humidity.
Would I Visit Again: Absolutely! But, next time I’d love to stay in either Ubud or Uluwatu!
“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta