Why holiday in Bali?
It seemed like the world and their pet dog has gone to at least some part of Indonesia, and after getting a couple of strong recommendations from friends I did some googling and booked myself a place on the Bali & Lombok tour run by Wanderlands Travel. The Lombok part is an extra 5 days add-on holiday deal or holiday extension, you can add on to the Bali 8 day tour, and as it wasn’t that much extra I went for it!
That and the fact I was dying for an amazing sunny Beach holiday!
I’ve done a single traveller/group tour before with Trek America (a possible other post upcoming) so had an idea of what to expect, but it is still scary travelling a long distance on your own, even if you’re going to be meeting up with other people when you arrive.
When to go:
I went in May; rainy season has just finished, it’s not yet peak time for tourists and the heat is merely sweltering, rather than the surface of the sun (based on your heat tolerance, mine isn’t too great). Obviously the summer months will be the hottest and most crowded and some places increase their prices to make the most of the busy time. October – April is rainy season. So in my opinion May – June is best. Check out the TripAdvisor site to help plan for when you want to go.
When you arrive:
Helpfully, the tour leader greets you, along with the driver, right at the Arrivals hall, you just have to spot them among the wall of people shouting “Taxi?!” and flapping name cards in your face.
After this, you’re in the tour leader’s hands, and mine, Addy, was amazing. Always keen and full of an unnaturally happy attitude and energy. He also gave me lots of good tips for getting by in Bali (which I will list at the bottom of the post).
The hotels were really good; great quality, good service, good food and well located…except for one on Gili T. It wasn’t awful but compared to the other hotels it was a definite downgrade. I believe that Wanderlands is looking to change to a different hotel for that location now though.
The first hotel Grand La Walon is a convenient 5 minute walk from the beach and has plenty of nearby warongs (restaurants), bars, cafes, shops and convenience stores. Just be careful walking on the tiny streets around it, there were many scooters, bikes and taxis nipping around regardless of most traffic rules.
The next hotel in Ubud, also my favourite, was Puri Gardens in Ubud – beautiful! The decor, the layout, the staff and the guests, it was like chill central! There was such a relaxed and happy vibe at this place and the food was mwah (imagine me doing the kissing the hand and flicking it out motion).
Ideally located centrally in Ubud, so there’s plenty of places to eat, drink, shop and stock up on nearby and only about a 20 minute walk from the monkey forest.
Then there was the Gili Trawangan hotel…..I won’t go too much into this as I believe Wanderlands are soon (at the time of writing this) changing the hotel they are using as, er, let’s just say this hotel was a bit of a downgrade from the other places we had previously stayed. It was in a very good location, pretty much on the beach and had a lovely pool area, but, well, we’ll leave it there.
Luckily, it was back to the high standard when we got to Lombok, Koeta. The Kuta Baru Hotel was the next stop with a look and layout akin to Puri Gardens but more muted in colour and laid back (and with an inflatable Swan in the pool).
Again, in a great location; many very funky and intriguing looking places to eat nearby, lots of surf supply stalls as well as more opportunities to bag yourself some bargain clothes (got some shorts for just under £3!)
We then headed back to Bali, and after a long day of travelling, and a stop off to feed some monkeys, we arrived in Lovina and the last hotel of the trip; Padma Sari Hotel
This hotel felt the most luxurious and upscale. The decor was minimal but beautiful, a cream and dark wood theme. The hotel was right on the beach front and had an infinity pool (I’ve always wanted to swim in one of those!)
We were also able to take a dolphin tour from right behind the hotel – so another plus for this hotel.
The location wasn’t quite as great for shops, restaurants etc. Most of these places require a short drive, to get to, but this did feel like the most upscale place that we stayed in.
Bali / Lombok Activities:
There were plenty of planned activities to do at each location which offers different experiences, so as to please all tastes, and you are given a good amount of free time to go off and explore by yourself.
If you can, get a sari before you visit. These are offered at the temple (they are mandatory for all visitors) but from what I heard from other people on the tour they were not very breathable. I had, by chance, bought a nice one from the Beachside shopping centre in Kuta a few days earlier, which was very nice and light so there’s a bonus tip from me!
The temple and surrounding area were one of the quieter places we visited on the trip, but this place is definitely worth your time. There is lots of beautiful architecture and natural landscape around the temple and is a great place for photos. There were also many monkeys around, so make sure to hide away any loose accessories. I did see a monkey sporting a rather fetching pair of sunglasses ?
There are some steep steps here but the climb is worth it if you’re looking to visit a place that truly shows off the Indonesian culture.
This temple is a lot more crowded compared to Uluwatu, but when you get there you’ll see why.
The Temple itself is situated on a tiny island metres from the beach and has a lot more of the decorative architecture surrounding it.
Unfortunately when I went the tide was in so we couldn’t get to the temple itself but the sight was something that was quite breathtaking and beautiful. Plus I got to handle a snake. Yes, there are guys who, for 10,000 rupiah (less than £1) you can hold and have your picture taken with a snake.
We went to a few waterfalls, Tegenungan was the more busy and popular. There is a lovely small market situated nearby with a couple of small cafes selling very tempting gelato. You then walk down some (yep you guessed it) steep steps (they love these in Bali!) and make your way to the famous waterfall. It is quite rocky should you choose to go in to the pool at the bottom but well worth it for those killer photos.
Also, worth a visit is Gitgit Waterfall (where the main image of the post was taken) a smaller and much less busy waterfall, but no less impressive. You cannot enter the pool at the bottom of the fall as it’s too dangerous but it has more of a natural, hidden away feel to it.
A traditional Lombok village which boasts a family line pre-dates most other native people to Lombok, and also where the iconic imagery of the Lombok rice paddy comes from. The village consists of people who are all related to each other and know each other and only these native people live within it.
We had our own guide around the village and got to see how they make their own food, clothing and materials as well as how they build and live in their homes. They sell traditional jewellery and clothing, as well as fridge magnets and fizzy drinks. This village is a must see. The people were very friendly and accommodating and it’s a real eye-opener to a completely different way of life.
It’s a 2am pick up from the hotel (if you’re at Puri Gardens) and you get driven to the base of the volcano where you will be given sandwiches, coffee, a boiled egg and a torch.
Not gonna lie – It’s quite a tough trek. Being asthmatic I was often asking if our group could make stops but theguides were very friendly, helpful and motivating and one even let me use her as a crutch to get up the volcano.
The tough hike pays off though as the views are simply incredible!
You must go here! It’s amazing. I felt like it was a location you could see in an Indian Jones film. A lush, humid place full of temples and architecture covered in plant life and of course home to around 600 monkeys. Once again, keep hold of/secure all accessories and valuables. Theseguys are curious and not shy.
You can feed the monkeys with bananas from the sellers in the forest should you wish, just make sure to treat the monkeys with respect; the locals see these animals as spiritual guardians of the temples and it’s just common sense to treat animals well.
Because there are so many monkeys “squabbling” may occur during your visit, just keep your wits about you and stay out of their way, you’ll be fine.
A Bali must-see and probably one of the most famous landmarks of the island, the rice terrace is beautifully unique and a walk around is highly recommended. Depending on where you walk, some of the steps are a bit steep, but you could also bump into a local farmer who you can buy a coconut to drink from whilst he serendes you with his flute (true story!) And there are swings!
OK, so I’m a tea drinker through and through and find coffee vile and I completely didn’t understand how people drank the bitter swill, so I was fully prepared to think that the plantation visit would be wasted on me. Oh, how wrong I was!
First off they did serve teas as well, the Lemongrass tea was divine! But then I tried the coffee. I tried the strong Luwak coffee first (the one made from the beans the Luwak cat poops out) nuh-uh, nope!
But then I tried the coconut coffee and woah! What was this amazing liquid I was consuming. It was lovely! There were several nice coffees, vanilla, ginseng, sweet potato etc, but that coconut coffee was something else. I brought back a few packs for myself, mum and friends and we were all hooked and the very sad when it ran out. So, if anyone goes there and fancies getting me a few packs that’d be great 😀 Also, there’s amazing views looking out over another rice terrace. Perfect setting for several cuppas.
You won’t be caught short for dolphin tours in Bali. The one we took on our tour started right outside our Lovina hotel (Padma Sari). You’re out for a few hours, and the guides know where the dolphin hotspots are. Along with the calm, clear seas Lovina seems to be one of the best places to go dolphin watching.
Our boats caught up with quite a large pod and after following them for a while and getting mostly fart sounds from their blowholes, a few of the dolphins treated us to a few jumps and flips (which you can see in the video).
After this we went and did a spot of snorkelling and saw many colourful fishes in waters so clear and blue, it really was like being in a whole other world.
Food and Drink in Bali / Lombok
There are many amazing warungs (restaurants) to explore on your travels, I’m sure I only tried a small sample of amazing places in Bali and Lombok. I will say if you’re with a group, expect the food to come out intermittently, they tend to bring out food when it is ready rather than serving everyone at the same time. Having said that, I never had a disappointing meal the whole time I was there. Always tasty, cooked well and I have been trying to replicate some of these dishes since I got home!
No worries if you’re vegetarian, such as myself, many places offer great veggie options and Ubud is a haven for vegetarian / vegans, with many, MANY beautifully decorated restaurants to choose from, with enough sumptuous dishes to please plese any plant eater.
Here are some of my favourite taste discoveries:
Pancakes, Pancakes, Pancakes – especially banana
Nasi / Mie Goreng – fried rice (or noodles) with a few veg (and sometimes a fried egg)
Gado Gado – an Indonesian salad consisting of steamed vegetables and hard-boiled eggs, fried tofu and tempeh, served with a peanut sauce dressing
Tempeh / Tofu – made from soy beans
Rolled Ice cream
Mangosteen – Friggin delicious, small but sweet fruit.
- Buy sunscreen! I highly recommend Factor 50. Another tour member had factor 20 and she was the most burnt out of everyone. The sun is intense and you will need this! Also, buy before you go. You can get it in Bali but it will cost a fair bit.
- Wear Flip flops / sliders. Basically, wear a decent slip on and off-able shoe which will also give your feet plenty of air. A fair amount of places require their visitors to take off their shoes, whether it’s a spa, shop or a restaurant. I did actually buy my flip flops over In Ubud at Fipper for 60,000 rupiah – bargain!
- Buy local. Most places in Bali that you go there are western shops (or a Balinese version) and, whilst they are still cheaper than they are in the west, the prices of the products are more expensive than local alternatives. I bought a Nasi Goreng at a local Warong for around 11,000 rupiah (less than £1), whereas Starbucks had chai lattes for 35,000 rupiah (less than £2 but you see where I’m going).
- Bring a fan. It’s hot!
- Don’t drink the tap water. It’s not safe. Always drink bottled. All the hotels we went to gave us a bottle or two daily. Most shops sell many varieties of water for not much money as well. Also, maybe don’t have ice in your drinks.
- Barter / haggle / bargain. Most vendors do up the prices for tourists. Our tour leader told us to ask for the price and then barter with them starting at a third of what they offered.
- Pack light! Believe me! There are many, MANY, shops, stalls, markets everywhere, and as the prices are quite cheap you’re gonna be buying a lot. You’ll need the space to bring home your goodies.
- The People Don’t get me wrong, the people of Bali and Lombok are friendly, happy and very accommodating, but there will constantly be asking if you want a taxi or a drink, or want to buy something, or ride on their bike, or want some drugs…yes, they were constantly offering mushrooms. Just be polite, smile and walk away when this happens.
- Get a massage! I had a foot massage in Ubud, at Spa Bali, for 60,000 rupiah (just over £3) and a facial and back massage on Gili T, at Azure Spa, for around 450,000 (about £15). They used products which felt so fresh; actually scrubbed my feet with sugar granules and fruit juice. The facial was amazing – everything rubbed into/on my face felt so light and fresh and smelt gorgeous and when I rejoined my group was repeatedly told that I was “glowing”.
What to Pack:
- Converted cash
- Cooling air mist / fan
- Insect Repellant (though the local repellant in Bali *may* be better)
- First Aid Kit (plasters,
- Electrolyte rehydration tablets / powder ( in case you get the dreadded Bali belly!!)
- T-shirts / vest tops
- Raincoat (just in case)
- If you’re doing a hike you will need hiking trainers/boots
- Hat / head scarf
Check out the video of the trip here You’ll be able to see more of the places and activities I’ve talked about as well as some I haven’t.
All in all Bali was life-changing! There was something for everyone in this trip; whether you want to go out partying, having lots of drinks on the beach and hitting the clubs, or want to experience local culture and find out about the history and the people.
Activities and places we visited were very varied and of differing levels of exertion, so you can challenge yourself with some surfing lessons (which I sucked at) or climb a volcano, or just paddle about at the beach, treat yourself at a spa or take part in a yoga class – there are so many places that offer yoga in Bali which I loved!!
This trip has truly ticked off a lot on my bucket list! I’m so happy I finally got to experience Asian culture and go snorkeling! The people are so friendly, the culture, though a bit of a shock initially, is so different and incredible to experience. Plus, it’s quite a cheap holiday when you’re out there, prices are good for westerners.
If you can stand the heat I highly recommend you get yourself a trip over to Bali!