I’m so excited to finally share the first post from our incredible trip to Bali. This Indonesian island has been on my bucket list of places to travel since I was little, capturing my imagination with its insane blue water, lush tropical jungle, and don’t even get me started on the orangutans! My imagination wasn’t wrong — it was by far one of the most gorgeous, exotic locations either Reid or I have experienced, and I’m already scheming ways I can get back there ASAP!
Getting there was simple, relatively speaking. We flew Cathay Pacific the entire way, with a quick 3 hour layover in Hong Kong. The flights ended up being 14 hours from YVR-HKG and another 6 hours from HKG-DPS. Denpasar Airport recently underwent a renovation and is now a stunning, modern open air building with free Wi-Fi. As a heads up, I read in every tour book that it was $35 USD per person to get a tourist visa on arrival but that must have changed since my Lonely Planet book was printed. You don’t need to pay at immigration; if you have a Canadian passport, you just get a stamped visa on arrival. Win!
We got picked up at the airport by our representative, Kadek, from Buffalo Tours. We could have taken a courtesy shuttle from our hotel but I figured a private car would be nice given that we’d be tired, sweaty and jet lagged. If you want to know more about Buffalo Tours and why we used a travel agency for this trip, find out here.
The cities/towns we visited were Ubud, Canggu, Seminyak and Gili Meno, in that order. Ubud was our first location and was a short 2 hour drive from the airport +/- 1 hour with traffic (side note: traffic is crazy coming from Vancouver, but is nothing compared to Jakarta!). Despite it being inland a couple hours we decided on Ubud first because it’s much quieter than Seminyak or Canggu, and I knew we’d want to relax and recover from the 18 hour time difference. The hotel we stayed at, Puri Sunia Resort, was also a bit out of the way, about a 30 minute drive from “downtown” Ubud. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for peace and quiet; if I stayed again, I’d definitely book the private villa (we stayed in a Deluxe Suite). They had two pools, a restaurant, spa and outdoor/covered yoga space with complimentary lessons every morning. The breakfast was amazing – I still dream of it – and the staff were SO kind and accommodating.
Day 1: Spa Day. At the recco of a friend, I booked the Saraswati Package for the two of us at the Karsa Spa. Trust me, you want to go here. Not only is it the highest rated spa in Ubud on Trip Advisor, but it’s incredibly well-priced AND in the most stunning location — think luxurious spa treatments overlooking the lush green terraced rice fields. A word to the wise, their reservations book up months in advance so do yourself a favour and book your appointment ASAP. To get there, we walked along Campuhan Ridge – a stunning, must-see walk surrounded by lush fields and towering palm trees. It took us about 2 hours and we went in the middle of the day, NOT recommended when it’s 33 degrees and 100% humidity. Instead, go for sunrise or sunset, and I guarantee you’ll get top notch views. Bring water and FYI there are no washrooms along the 2km walk, just sayin’.
Day 2: Hike up Mount Batur. Knowing we’d be jet lagged, I strategically planned this for our second full day in Ubud. Our pickup from Ubud was at 2:30am but if you’re staying anywhere on the coast (Kuta, Seminyak, Jimbaran, etc.), you’ll have to wake up around midnight or 1am. You have to make the trek with a government-sanctioned guide, which can only be arranged by local tour companies. There are lots, specializing in private to small and large groups. We went with Bali Trekking Tour and our guide was fantastic, knowledgeable and prepared with supplies for any conceivable situation. The hike itself is not very difficult – what’s hard about it is hiking in the pitch black up slippery volcanic rock. We brought headlamps and Reid had hiking poles, plus proper hiking boots, all of which helped us up. A quick 2 hours later and we were watching the most unreal sunrise as we ate our well-deserved breakfast. On the way back home, we stopped by the Tegallalang Rice Terraces but were too tired to fully explore. If you don’t want to pay the entrance fee (around $2 CAD) and want to avoid the hordes of tourists, make sure you arrive before 9am.
Day 3: Cooking class. The only caveat Reid had for this trip was that he had to eat as much chicken satay as humanly possible. As it turns out, the satay that we are used to here with the peanut sauce is actually an Indonesian delicacy, whereas Bali has their own, slightly different peanut sauce-less version. Still amazing and delicious, and a treat to learn. We decided on Jambangan Bali Cooking Class, just a hop, skip and a jump from our hotel. The 4 hour class started with a trip to the local market, to learn more about the fruits, veggies and local delicacies that can only be found in its purest form. Then we were taken to the family’s private compound, where we were taught by the matriarch of the family, and her family members, in all things food, finesse, and culture.
Day 4: Temple tour. We set out to visit a lofty four temples in one day: Elephant Cave, Pura Tirta Empul, Pura Gunung Kawi, and Besakih, which actually is a temple complex consisting of 23 smaller temples. While Indonesia is a Muslim country, the island of Bali is Hindu, which is reflected in the temples. All of them were amazing to see, but my favourite one by far was Gunung Kawi — much to the dissatisfaction of Reid, as there were around 100+ steps to walk down. While it was certainly hot that day, the experience itself was so unique and unreal, that even if it had been a few degrees warmer (which is a lot in Bali!), I still would have gone. Afterwards our private tour guide and driver dropped us off at our second hotel in Canggu.
Days 5 & 6: Catch up on R&R. I wanted to experience villa life and Aradhana Villas provided just that. It honestly felt like one of those places on MTV’s Cribs back in the day because it was so luxurious and so out of the norm of where we’d typically stay. It may have been due to the fact that we got upgraded on arrival to the 4+ person villa located at the very back, overlooking the water, just maybe! Unfortunately Reid got food poisoning so he was out of commission for most of our time there. But if you’re looking for some chill surfer vibes and a sleepy town with lots of hip cafes and restaurants, Canggu is your best bet! It’s a bit harder to get around as it’s quite spread out, but there are taxis everywhere and most trips will be under $5-$7 CAD. FYI, while it may be tempting don’t use an Uber or Grab… sadly, they’ve been banned to protect the local taxi companies.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our adventure…