Hello readers! How were all of your summers? I’m back in Orlando getting ready for another year of school, and will return to regularly updating my blog. So, I am excited to share the second part of the 3 week family trip; I covered Bangkok a while ago and now it’s Bali time! There will also be a post about the recent trip to Peru, so stay tuned for that.
After four days in Bangkok, my family and I headed off to Bali, Indonesia. We flew Air Singapore, which I came to find out is an insanely nice airline with the best economy class I’ve been in (besides Qatar). We had a layover in Singapore and the two hours we spent in the airport were the best two hours ever spent in an airport. The place was incredible; they had a movie theater, which we didn’t have time to check out, a sunflower garden on the roof, a multitude of shops and the cleanest facilities I’ve seen. It was the only time in my history of traveling that I wished the layover was longer.
Once we got into Bali, we were driven to Rumah Cahaya, our villa located in a small local village named Penestanan, outside of the main town called Ubud, and situated in the highlands. It was about a two hour drive from the beach area to the highlands, where the environment is comprised of rain forest and rice fields. The villa we rented belongs to a guy from L.A, Bruce, who built the place for his future retirement; it is situated on a compound in a rice field. The Balinese family who lives on the compound owns the land, working in the rice fields, and in exchange for permission to build the villa, Bruce offered them employment. So, the house is essentially run by the people living there. A man named Bapak is the caretaker, his son Juli is essentially the host and provides tourist info, rides, etc. Maya is Juli’s cousin and the housekeeper; she cooked amazing breakfasts.
*left to right (top, bottom): The rice fields where the villa was situated, Bapak, the breakfast- banana pancakes
Travel tip #1: White skin causes curiosity among the locals. My family and I would get some curious stares around Penestanan, as we walked by locals. The kids are usually the ones to stare the most. This is mostly the case in smaller villages where tourism is less common. And people will be eager to try out their english with you and ask multiple questions about where you’re from, your name, etc. It was a little off putting at first, but we quickly got used to it.
We spent nine days in Ubud, mostly relaxing and strolling around the town. Penestanan was beautiful, with winding walkways and amazing local restaurants, called Warungs in Indonesian. One of the places, Mades, was our favorite. Meals for me, throughout the trip, were copious amounts of tofu, peanut sauce, different types of rice and fruit. And everything is so cheap there; the most a meal for the four of us cost in total, was around 15 dollars. Crazy.
*Left to right (top, bottom): Coconuts, a smoothie bowl, lunch at the Karsa cafe
Travel tip #2: Places like Bali are actually a viable option for someone not looking to break the bank but wanting an exotic/foreign vacation. The most expensive thing would be the plane ticket. Lodging, food and basic sightseeing fun is incredibly affordable. Hotels are rare because of how family oriented the community is; families live together on compounds and typically open their space up to guests. Guesthouses and hostels in Ubud and Penestanan are everywhere, many are nice and within a good price range.
One of the days, we went to the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud. Picture a zoo for monkeys, but with no encounters and open forest. I don’t care for zoos, as they make me a little sad and angry, but this place wasn’t exactly a zoo; more of a sanctuary. The monkeys were just chilling wherever, passed out on pathways, playing in the trees. One jumped on a woman’s head, and started playing withe her hair. The scenery was beautiful and it didn’t feel like we were still in a town.
*The monkey forest
Being in Ubud, it would have been a shame to skip out on yoga, since it’s a passion of mine and the area is known for their yoga and spiritual atmosphere. There was a yoga studio in Penestanan, called Intuitive Flow, in walking distance of the villa. I tried it out and really loved the instructor, Nina, and the studio, so I went back once more for a class with Nina. The first class was “Basic Yoga” and open to all levels. The second one was “Vinyasa flow”, which almost killed me but I loved it. Next door to the studio, was The Yellow Flower Cafe, which I ate at after my practice. I had tofu nuggets with a spicy Balinese sauce, and a coconut cashew date smoothie;it was all delicious and I got to know some of the staff.
*Left to right: The Yellow Flower Cafe food, the studio, a woman preparing coconuts at the cafe
The last main excursion we took was the Campuhan Ridge Walk in Ubud, a hike along rice fields and through a little village. We stopped at this place called the Karsa Cafe, to eat lunch and rest. The views all along the way were beautiful and the cafe itself was very serene.
*The ridge walk and the Karsa cafe
Travel tip #3: There are enormous amounts of creepy crawlies; giant geckos, spiders, ants, slugs, etc. There are bats as well. If you are adverse to the outdoor elements and planning a trip to Ubud, just understand this: The traditional Balinese style home is very open and outdoorsy, so be prepared to sleep, shower and pee with these creatures.
By the time we had to pack up and leave, I was utterly in love with the area; I could have stayed there for another week. Bali was beautiful, with wonderful people and great food. I enjoyed the artsy, hippie feel of Ubud and I loved the villa. Safety was never an issue, and I walked around the town by myself quite a bit, doing a lot of photography. Leaving was painful but alas everything ends eventually, and at least I came back home with another place to go next.
*Street photos (Motorbikes are EVERYWHERE in Ubud, literally everyone rides one. And there are just as many stray dogs, as well)