Beautiful beaches, delicious food and spiritual healing. These were only a few of the many reasons my partner and I wanted to visit the beautiful Bali. I was looking forward to our first holiday together without any hangovers. After much research we decided the best time to go would be June- July 2018. This would be a great way to celebrate our 31st birthdays. We put aside two weeks to go and started planning.
As Bali is over 18 hours away, it was important for us to experience as much as we could of what Bali has to offer in the short time frame and include a visit to the idyllic Gilli islands.
After a very long flight that included lots of movies and tea as I could not put myself to sleep with wine, we landed in Seminyak in the south of Bali. Seminyak is one of the most touristy places in Bali packed with cafes, Bars, boutique shops and swanky hotels, offering the perfect start to our holiday. We stayed there for two nights as we were meeting friend from Australia.
Day one in Seminyak started with a delicious brunch at Sisterfields http://sisterfieldsbali.com/
where we tucked in to a Raw Cacao & Frozen Banana Smoothie Bowl, Kale poached eggs and coconut and goji berry muesli. As expected, the food was incredible and really set us up for a full day of exploring. After meeting with our friends, we made our way to Seminyak beach stopping at all of the boutiques along the way. The shops were fabulous and I was in retail heaven. We’re talking the finest resort wear stores in the world. Think lace slip dresses, embellished romper shorts, beaded jumpsuits, printed evening dresses and cute camis not to mention all of the handmade accessories. Before reaching the beach, I had already treated myself to some embellished sating paisley shorts and matching camisole.
The four of us strolled along the beach and made our way to cocoon beach club for an early afternoon cocktail (well mocktail for me). We then headed to the famous Potato Head Beach Club https://www.ptthead.com/bali/ to watch the sunset. This is a must for those staying in Seminyak. The ambience is great and music from live DJ’s puts you in the moody for a party. A great way to spend the first night and set the tone for the rest of the trip.
Day two was more of the same. Lots of shopping, a great foot massage and yummy food. As I wanted to try as many of the famous cafes as I could we decided to make lots of little snack stops throughout the day. Some of my favourites were Mama San https://mamasanbali.com/, Frestro http://frestro.co.id/, Ling lings http://www.linglingsbali.com/ and Metis http://www.metisbali.com/. After another day of shopping and eating everything, we could see we headed back to our villa for a dip in the pool before bed.
Waking up fully rested and ready to explore we grabbed some breakfast at shelter http://www.sheltercafebali.com/ and then hired a taxi to Ubud. We did this via our hotel, as they were able to offer quite a good rate. However if you cannot do this there are a lot of blue taxis driving around which are the best most reliable ones to use. We arrived at our hotel around lunchtime dumped our stuff and headed out in to the town. Ubud was exactly what I had dreamed, the cultural heart of Bali Set in the green terraced hills. There was a real bustle in the town with lots of people riding on mopeds, giving the place a real energy yet there was a sense of tranquillity and Zen in the air. Our first stop was the famous Monkey forest which was within the village of Padangtegal. It is one of Ubud’s most famous attractions. A natural monkey sanctuary set inside a beautiful forest filled with temples and canopies for the monkeys to roam around in.
The monkey forest was quite an experience. It was so lovely to see the families of monkeys gathering in groups and playing with each other. Our experience however turned slightly sour when one of the smaller monkeys tried to steal my partner’s wallet from his pocket. The monkey looked angry when pushed away so we decided to get the hell out of there and grab some late lunch.
Walking back to the hotel we stumbled upon a great little cafe/ restaurant called watercress http://www.watercressubud.com/. I had a chicken cashew and avocado salad which was stunning and my partner went for roast chicken sourdough open sandwich what he assured me was also delicious.
We made our way back to our hotel http://www.pertiwibisma.com/ for a dip in our infinity pool. The hotel was set in the middle of the jungle offering stunning views of the trees and rice fields. Before dinner we treated ourselves to a Balinese foot massage. This was something that became a regular occurrence for us. the massages in Bali are wonderful and extremely cheap in comparison to England.
During our exploration we stumbled across and incredible little jazz bar http://laughingbuddhabali.com/ where we grabbed some dinner. A delicious selection of tapas, cocktails and the added bonus of some dancing. This ended up being one of our favourite evenings in Ubud. The bar was so much fun and I would advise anyone to pay it a visit even if just for one drink.
We started the following morning with a dip in our hotel pool. Another infinity pool that looked over a different area of the jungle. It was surreal to be surrounded by so much nature. Watching monkeys swing from the trees and seeing all of the tropical birds above you. We decided to have a relaxing morning using the hotels facilities and attending a yoga class at the infamous Yoga Barn http://www.theyogabarn.com/. After a lunch at the garden cafe, we made our way to the art market. Although interesting and fun, expect a lot of touristy souvenirs. That evening we went back to watercress, as we loved it so much. Both of us had some incredible salads before getting back to bed for a cup of tea and chocolate, our English ways crept up on us.
The next day our hotel arranged a car for us to have at our disposal. This sounds very diva of us but is in fact very cheap and meant that we could fit some of Ubud’s main attractions all in to one day. He took us straight to the rice terraces of Tegallalang. They were magnificent, I have never seen something so extraordinary. We walked the entire thing which took around 1 ½ hours and was great exercise. During our time at the rice paddies I also came face to face with one of my biggest fears, a huge (medium sized) green snake. After screaming and running through the rice paddies pushing my partner out the way and terrifying all of the tourists we hiked back to the car. Our driver suggested we visit the Bali swing, a very famous tourist landmark where lots of bloggers go to capture the perfect action shot. I was absolutely bricking it and tried to get out of doing it many time but after a lot of persuasion by partner and I did the double swing. It actually was a lot of fun and not as scary as I thought.
On the way back to central Ubud our driver stopped at the famous Seriswati water temple. It was really lovely and tranquil. The pathway to the temple was set over scenic lotus ponds. Late afternoon / early evening, I treated myself a 3-hour treatment at Karsa spa https://www.karsaspa.com. The treatment started with a full body coffee bean scrub to remove all of my dead skin. A full body Balinese massage for over an hour and a half with a beautifully scented jasmine oil followed this. By far one of the best massages I have ever had. The therapist then ran me a bath in the stunning deep tub that was in room. She filled the bath filled with rose petals and a nourishing bath milk. For the next hour I had the relaxing bath and drank a refreshing ginger and lemongrass tea. I left feeling the spa light as a feather and completely relaxed. This was one of my favourite afternoons in Bali. The treatment only set me back the equivalent of £30. To have a treatment to even half of that standard in the UK would cost around ten times that amount. After getting back to the hotel at 8:00am we decided to grab a quick bite in town and have an early night as we had booked to go and see Mount Anung the following morning which meant a 4am start.
A volcano on the Indonesian island of Bali has erupted, sending a 2,000-metre high column of thick ash spewing into the air and chunks of lava tumbling down its slopes. This was the headline late that evening. We were unable to go and visit the volcano the next morning, which was a shame as the views are supposed to be incredible. Instead, we decided to have one last day exploring the town and as a one final treat, we would make the most of the incredible spas and get another full body massage. During our exploration, we discovered an incredible cafe https:clearcafebali.com. From the street, the cafe is hard to find there is a concrete wall with large circular carved door. When you enter, the place is beautifully decorated with multiple dining areas and a stream running through the centre with lots of gold fish. They offer a selection of healthy meals and juices. I enjoyed the food here the most in Bali and was exactly what I was looking for. Our evening ended back in the jazz bar we had been to on our first night, which was the best way to end our visit to Ubud.
It was time to catch our boat to the Gili islands. Ubud is around a 50-minute drive from Padang Bai where you catch the Bluewater express boat to the Gili islands. The Port is very hectic so allow plenty of time. We had to run to the boat through the clouds and caught the boat just in time. Luckily, we managed to grab a seat on the upper deck so we could get a great view and enjoy catching same sun out at sea. Bear in mind if you plan to do this you are going to be soaked with waves for approximately 1 hour. After Avery choppy boat ride we arrive at Gili T. The clear blue water and white sand beaches took our breath away. It was exactly as we imagined if not better. We immediately transformed in to island bums. For three days, I wore only a bikini in the day and threw on shorts and a vest for the evening. The island is full of cafes, bars and water sports so expect a flip and flop holiday where you will completely unwind. There is no transport on the island except a horse and cart so you will walk a lot.
Most of the restaurants have BBQ buffets in the evening, which serve fresh seafood, meats and array of salads and vegetables. Our favourites from the trip were https://scallywagsresort.com/, https://kokomogilit.com/ and https://www.pearloftrawangan.com. Sunsets on the island at 6pm so make your way to The Deck beach bar for a sunset cocktail with great music and fire pits.
Gili T is full of company offering boat trips around the island. We decided to go with the company that also manages the turtle sanctuary as they were extremely passionate and friendly. During this trip you are taken to some fantastic spots which are great for some underwater shots. You will visit the famous underwater statue, a shipwreck and the best place for spotting sea turtles. Be mindful of the tiny jellyfish. You will get stung and although not very painful you may freak out and almost drown your partner jumping on his back like I did.
Three days after we touched down on Gili T we grabbed a ferry ride to Gili Meno a neighbouring island 5 mins away also known as Honeymoon Island. The place lived up to the name. The small island with powdery white sand surrounded by clear turquoise water will make you feel like you have died and gone to heaven. Ahead of us, we had three days of absolute bliss with nothing to do but read our books and snorkel. The snorkelling on this island was incredible with a huge reef only a couple of meters off shore there are plenty of pretty fish and turtles to spot. Unlike Gili T with its huge selection of Bars and cafes, Meno was much less touristy with only a couple of restaurants to choose from which actually suited us well. We spent most evenings at a small shack on the beach where we would have some drinks and watch the sunset closely followed by a seafood BBQ right on the beach.
Gili Meno was the cleanest island I have ever seen and there is absolutely no plastic to washed up on the shoreline. After speaking with our hotel staff we realised this is due to an inspiring island clean-up programme that all of the locals follow. Something I hope the other neighbouring islands will decide to do in the near future. For those who wish to visit this paradise I would recommend you stay at the same hotel, as it was lovely united-colors-of-gili.com/en/welcome-united-colors-gili.
My first sober holiday in Bali did not disappoint. At no point throughout was I even tempted to have a drink. There is so much on offer here and the lifestyle is very healthy which makes not drinking a lot easier than some of the other places I have been. If you are looking for a once in a lifetime holiday filled with adventure, culture, art and relaxation then Bali is just the place for you.