bali & gilis, indonesia

I’ve been to Bali 3 times now, and it took me 3 times to fall love with this “small” island. Like we say in Portugal – a terceira e de vez (“””it happens at the third time”””).

And exactly because of that, i thought it was about time to re-write properly my Bali post.

[ I’ve just noticed – 10 seconds ago, that i fall in love with places a LOT more often than with men… hummm… ]

My first visit was with my now-ex-boyfriend, my second was on a girls-only-trip, and the third with my auntie and my sis – two Asia lovers. So three distinct kind of trips, that gave me three completely different experiences of the island.

I’m also pretty sure that the reason why my third trip was epic was because i learned a lot from the previous two. And of course – because i had full control of the trip, since my auntie and my sis had never been in Bali before, they asked me to just decide everything.
And so did i!

(by the way — i am not a control freak, but my way is just better! lol)

If you want to become a millionaire on an instant, exchange your money into Indonesian Rupiahs! 1.000.000 IDR = 274 RM = 66€ = 83$US. Its quite a challenge to actually know how much everything costs, so make sure you download some app that works offline, and can do the maths for you. I have XE currency, as i find it to be the easiest and most accurate of all.

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It’s also important to know the size of Bali.
It’s not a tiny little place.
Bali is pretty big.
And because of its kinda “inverted number 8” shape, the volcano in the North, North to South rivers in the Center, and slim connection between the two sides of the island, the road system is not ideal, and usually you only have one possible way to go from point A to B.
The amount of motorbikes on the road is just insane! So i’m pretty sure the reason why the jam is a mess, is cos everyone is trying to stay alive and not kill anyone…
Although i have to say, this chaotic motorbike island makes us take the best photos ever!

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In order to spare time, we went straight from the airport to Ubud. I thought it would be a perfect start to our 10 days trip, deep inside the rural part of the island.
I booked two nights in Ubud, but in two different hotels. The first night was in Mandy Private Pool, a beautiful place, super quiet, in the middle of the rice fields…

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As we woke up for an early start of Day 1, we had breakfast in our own balcony,… just a perfect start of day!

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We went straight to the Monkey Temple, right in the middle of the centre of Ubud. This temple is filled, filled with monkeys, so if you are afraid of these super cute pre-human-creatures, skip the Monkey Temple. They will jump on you, steal your plastic bags, and literally will eat on top of your head if you give them bananas!
But thats not all you have there, the jungle surrounds the ancient temple, bridges, animal statues, pathways, and huge Komodo dragon statues. If you manage to go there when there aren’t that many tourists, it will be one of the most stunning places you will ever visit, i promise.

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After Monkey Temple, we went deep in Ubud town trying to find a driver for the rest of the day and the next. And we found the best, most amazing and sweet driver ever — Made ,spelled Madii (+62 (0) 817 4758734). The main goal of the day was Lake Bratan, and he gave us some more ideas where to stop, and it was just perfect.

We stopped by a Balinese Coffee Farm, were had a tasting of different kind of teas and coffees, and tried for the first time the Kopi Luwak!
Yeah yeah, thats the one that comes from poop!

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We drove through small roads, passing by beautiful typical villas with their own rice field, just breathtaking landscapes, that i can’t find any more adjectives to define them.

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Finally we reached the Pura Ulun Danu Temple, in the middle of Lake Bratan, in Bedugul… Stunning temple, in a gorgeous setting. The only problem with this temple is the amount of tourists. I would love to be able to be a lone tourist there, and experience its original state, in absolute silence. So try to check with your hotel, tour guide or local acquaintances when its the best time to visit.

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That night we spent at Y Resort Ubud, another beautiful yet more modern hotel in Ubud. Too bad we didn’t have time to enjoy the garden and the pool…. next time!!

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Early morning of Day 2 Made was waiting to pick us up, to take us to the centre of Ubud to get our tickets for Gili Islands, and for another day of road-tripping!
On the way to the tickets, we walked through this brilliant concrete street, that had been paid by the residents. And to remind us of this beautiful gesture, and their love for Ubud, each of them left behind a piece of them. Through words, drawings, hand or foot imprints, all on the concrete street they helped built.

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We also found a beautiful temple right next to Starbucks Cafe, that its a MUST see in Ubud. The coolest thing about it, is that you actually are not expecting to find it in that place. You literally have a small entrance to the building that holds Starbucks, and as walk in you can see a glimpse of a reflection in what seams like a “small” water pond. When you approach that small “pond” you will find a temple entrance, with two water features, and a slim passage between the two of them, leading you into a staircase, that will bring you closer to the Temple entrance.

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On this Day 2 we drove once more through Bali’s countryside, this time to go through the well known Telangalang Rice Fields. Again, we fell in love with the small villas, and the small rice fields, and by this time we were already planning with Made our strategy to buy a typical villa started and again: STUNNING. We stopped in a place by the road, had tea, and enjoyed the view!

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Next was the Tirta Empul Temple (Holy Spring Water Temple) in Gianyar, that Made told us we should visit…. And we will forever thank him for the suggestion.
This was most possibly the most impressive temple i’ve ever visited.
You immediately understand how important this temple is, because instead of being packed with tourists, its filled with locals. There are different levels in this temple, and you must follow some rituals to be allowed into the next areas of the temple.
The first level, has a series of stone carved water sprouts, each of them with its own purpose and meaning. But i don’t want to ruin your own experience, so i won’t tell you more than this: MUST VISIT.
I advise you to get a guide from the temple, i usually prefer to go by myself, but our guide made the whole experience unique. Putu, his name, not only guided us through the different stages of the temple, but also allowed us to go into the prayer area, where only the locals are usually allowed inside.
This single temple made our day, but we still had a long way to go.

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Our next stop was the outskirts of Bali’s active volcano – Gunung Batur (Mount Batur) and Danau Batur (Lake Batur), where we had lunch overlooking their stunning beauty.
There’s something incredible about being that close to an active volcano. As if you secretly wished that somehow you could see some actual “activeness” exploding from within that pre-historical peek.

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We continued through the hills and rice fields, but with a more southern destination this time: Padang Galak Beach. A black sanded beach, that is used for the local hindu rituals and offerings. We didn’t find any tourists here, so it was quite a peaceful place. The sand is strangely very heavy, as one of its components is metal. Its the what you would call a beautiful beach, but you can feel how meaningful it is for the local community, and that alone makes it beautiful.

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Next was Seminyak, off to our next hotel – Tony’s Villa, strategically located near Potato Head Beach Club.
We dropped our luggage, and off we went to watch the sunset at Seminyak beach. So far it was by far the best sunset i’ve ever seen in my life. The low tide at the time created this mirror effect, and duplicated the purple colored sky.

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And as the best things in life must be shared… we made a facetime video call to our dad and brother that were in the other side of the World playing a round of golf!
SELFIE TIME!!

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We finished the night with a super chilled dinner at the Colonial House, where we had most possible the best steak of our lives…

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Day three was chilling (yes, its still day three!) first by the pool of our AMAZING hotel! Tony’s Villa is just beautiful, calm and with the mood you always hope for in an hotel in Bali.

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Then by Seminyak beach, which by-the-way, was a bit of a disappointment, maybe cos it was April, but not it was not all type of beach you are used to see in Southeast Asia. Either way, it was a lovely day, and after lunch we just went over to Potato Head for afternoon cocktails and sunbathing by the grass, at the sound of great music. Followed by sunset and dinner.
This Beach-Club-Bar-Restaurant-with-great-design-and-mood-kinda-place has a kind of Beverly Hills meets Miami meets Gold Coast vibe.
Design wise is gorgeous, really tasteful and carefully maintained, staff is quite friendly, and well… the view is stunning! Make sure you go there for the sunset as we did (again), cos its worth it.
Seminyak and Kuta are pretty good areas for fancy shopping, beautiful and mid-to-high end restaurants and bars, and full of expats and tourists.

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Day four came really early, as we drove off to Padang Bay to get a boat to our final destination: Gili Islands.

It took me some convincing to add this destination to the trip, mostly because i was worried about the length of the boat trip, but also because i wasn’t comfortable with the fact that we didn’t had the tickets in advance. Which by the way, you can buy them before, but it costs wayyyyyy more than if you buy in Bali. As i said, Made took us to a travel agency, so we paid 500.000 IDR, with pick-up and drop off, so far i believe its the cheapest fee you can get.

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And there we were.. Padang Bay. In the midst of loads of backpackers, young couples, elder couples, families, friends,…. All looking forward to go to one of the three super small islands between Bali and Lombok.

As we started approaching the Gili Islands, you could already sense that they were pretty unique. Very small, no cars, no roads, no motorbikes, no pollution, and then clear light turquoise water. Perfect for a get-away.

Out of the three, I picked Gili Trawangan, the biggest and more happening of them all. Either way, you can always stay one night in each, as you just need a fast boat to go from island to island. Although Gili Trawangan is the biggest, its still a 2-per-3-kilometers sized island.

Arriving to our stop, we had to jump out of the boat into the sand, then wait till our bags were placed on the beach, and look for our “tuk-tuk-on-an-horse” transport to take us to the hotel. This means of transport has its twerks, so just make sure you follow the driver’s instructions clearly, and keep the tuk-tuk balanced.

In the roads you will find: tuk-tuks, bicycles and barefoot people. Period.
The whole vibe turns you automatically into a chilled-backpacker/hippie/hipster/nomad, it just makes you want to stay in that little bubble for a lot longer than you planned.

The hotel i booked was going to be the best of the 4, i tried to book all the hotels so that the next was better than the previous, and this was just the absolute best!
Its right in the middle of the island, away from everything (at least as much as you can in a 2×3 island). As the tuk-tuk reached Villas Otalia, it was already surpassing all expectations. The reception is this opened porch, in the middle of a perfectly curated garden, with dozens of city-like-bicycles free for the guests.
And by the time we arrived in our room, correction: bungalow, the ladies were WOWed! As images are worth a million words…

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The next days were spent in the main beach, overlooking the next Gili, as there are less corals in the beach (so you can walk into the water, instead of cutting your feet in the millions of bits and pieces of broken corals.

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In the same side of the island, its a pretty cool area to snorkel, i wouldn’t say the best, as we didn’t do any snorkeling tour, and this area is pretty busy.
Our main goal tough was to swim with Sea Turtles. And we did it! It was an absolutely amazing experience to be swimming around these beautiful creatures, and one of my most treasured moments of my life so far.

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There isn’t much to do in the island, but you can always “bike-around”. In one of those tours, we saw a local in the sea, playing around with his horse… Just magical to say the least.

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Our “life in the island” would shift to the West coast at around 4/5pm. We would cycle to the other side of the island, and pick a bar to watch the sunset.
Sunsets in the Gilis are almost a law, i would say around 80% of the two-legged creatures in the island, gathers around to watch the sun ending an perfect day.

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The rest of the days were spent in absolute chillness, in the same “”””boring”””” routine.
The weather was perfect every single day, and the clouds simply did not come to the Gilis once. They would hover over Lombok’s volcano instead, making the whole scenery even more stunning.

To finish these absolutely perfect trip, we were accompanied by dolphins on our way back to Bali…
Just perfect.

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Perfect.

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nusa dua & denpasar, bali, indonesia

My first visit to Bali, was not exactly my normal type of trip. I usually go on FULL tourism mode, most things super planned, where i make sure that all the best touristic destinations are covered.
This time i was going for a romantic getaway, so more chilling, less sightseeing.

We took an AirAsia flight to Denpasar’s International Airport, cost is subject to dates, starting at 400RM. And… It takes only 3h to Bali!! For many of us westerners this is like going to a city close to our home, but we are talking about BALI, not Paris, London, LA, or New York… B-A-L-I.

Going around Bali by taxi is a cheaper than in Malaysia, but traffic is crazy!! Specially if u stay in the South side of the island, and try to go to go up North.. We took about 1hour from Nusa Dua to Seminyak around 7pm (Saturday), and then 1hour from Nusa Dua to Kuta at 11am (Sunday).
From what i heard the best to go around the island is by scooter, but from the way i saw Indonesians driving… Its at your own risk!!

As this was a weekend-for-two, we stayed at The Bali Khama a Resort & Spa, in Nusa Dua, an idealic, quiet and romantic hotel. Perfectly cleaned and maintained, the hotel has a light Japanese vibe, mixed with a tasteful modern-Indonesian style.

Besides the beach side pool, bar, amazing breakfast, and two guest lounges with an iMac (yep! Thats right a big ass iMac), there is free wi-fi throughout the resort, including in the beach!
The staff was fantastic!! Friendly, efficient and friendly… Did i say that again!? I’ll re- phrase: friendly, efficient and super friendly! If i was a real millionaire i would absolutely hire Indonesians or Thais!!
Another great thing about The Khama, is that it costed 1.500.000 IDR = 415 RM (loooool), for two nights, breakfast included!

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I absolutely recommend it for a romantic getaway, a quiet and relaxing holiday, or a family with babies.
The only thing about The Khama, is that the beach is not the hoped for crystal water beach.
Theres lot of water activities, a lot!

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Wave-runners.
Banana thingy pulled by boat.
Big matress thats pulled by boat.
Parachute thats pulled by boat.
Other weird stuff pulled by boat…

So most of our activities were:
Chilling by the beach.
Chilling by the pool.
Chilling by the pool bar.

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There are three main streets that are quite trendy with many nice restaurants and bars. Also located in Seminyak the trendiest of street (as far as i know) are: Jalan Kayu Aya, Jalan Seminyak and Jalan Dhyana Pura. They’re filled with restaurants, bars, clubs and shops.
There’s a lot of variety there – italian, greek, japanese, french,… So if you’re not sure what to eat, this is the perfect place to go.
We dined an amazing burger at Soho (opened 365/24/7), i know, i know…
“You had Western food in Indonesia??!!”
Well… We’re living in Asia, so thats what we were craving for!

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We did managed to do a couple of hours of sightseeing in Denpasar, the capital of Bali. Not many foreigners visit the temples in Denpasar, so you make sure you dress up properly (long skirt or pants, and a shirt to cover your shoulders).
A Pura is a Balinese Hindu temple, you’ll find most of the Puras from Indonesia in Bali, as the main religion in the island in Hindu Dharma.
Balinese Hinduism is one of the most peaceful religions i’ve come to know.
It seeks balance between dharma (cosmos) and adharma (disorder).

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Even though the temples are open air, there is still a sense of peace and order, as you encounter the the three mandala zones in the temple’s plan.
Many of the temples have a split gate entrance, the kori agung, that is one of the most well known images of the temples in Bali.

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In the middle of Denpasar, we found a beautiful local market, selling thousands of flowers and fruits, many of them that will end up being an offering to the Gods.
One could say you may find the market from the amazing smell coming from the flowers, and the bright colors of everything that is displayed.

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As the usual cliche, i left the best for last:
Two words: POTATO HEAD. THE best spot in Bali.
We decided to spend our remaining hours in Bali in Potato Head, so we arrived around 4pm, after touring around Denpasar’s temples, we found it complicated to arrive there, but i think we were just unlucky with our driver.
Potato Head Beach Club, is located Seminyak, and its a Beach Club-Bar-Restaurant-with-great-design-and-mood-kinda-place. You have everything, from local expats, to american college students in a summer trip, with a kind of Beverly Hills/Miami vibe.
Design wise is gorgeous, really tasteful and carefully maintained, staff is quite friendly, and well… the view is stunning!
Almost everybody i know that went to Bali, loved it and always recommends it as a top thing to do and see in Bali.
And so do i..
Its a MUST SEE.

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… and make sure you go there for the sunset as we did, cos its worth it!

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