For those who haven’t read my Tokyo blog post, this next post is a continuation of that story. The second destination Cruise and I went to in Southeast Asia was the island of Bali! We could not WAIT to get here either! Tokyo was so freezing, and neither of us had heavy jackets, so I swear the words “I can’t wait to get to the warm weather in Bali” must have been said by us a million times!
I believe it was a 16 hour journey to get there from Tokyo. First we had a connecting flight to Bangkok, Thailand. A layover there from 1am to 5am – and finally another 6 hour flight to Bali. As we hopped around Asia on this trip we actually ended up having many layovers in Bangkok (all in the wee hours of the morning). Needless to say me and the the Bangkok airport benches got very well acquainted with each other! Cruise was able to sleep on them fairly well, but I struggled to get comfortable every time. As our plane took off I did manage to get a really nice picture of the sunrise over the city though!
Once we landed we got on the airport WiFi and searched for a hostel. For some people, flying to a destination without having a place to stay may be a little scary, but it boosted the sense of adventure for me! We were lucky enough to find a place within walking distance of the airport, so we booked it and headed out. The hostel itself was nice on the outside (though both of us would come to find it was reeeeaally dirty on the inside). It did have these cool huts right outside of it for lounging outside, so that was nice. Location-wise it seemed to be on a street with a lot of resorts, so unfortunately the surrounding area seemed a bit “touristy” as far as shops went, but on the plus side it was only a 5 minute walk to the beach from there! After checking in we headed to the beach (Kuta beach on the southern part of the island) and finally got to soak up some sun.
After a little bit of beach time we got something to eat and headed back to the hostel. Both of us were pretty tired from flying still, so we decided to turn in early that night. We went to a little Greek restaurant called El Greco and got fresh fruit juices. They were sooo refreshing, and there were tons of flavors! Fresh mango juice, fresh papaya juice, bananas, strawberries, kiwis, passion fruit, pineapple, watermelon, etc. It was also insanely cheap. Now that we were in Bali we were dealing in Rupiah. 13,427 Rupiah equals $1 USD, and these fruit juices were about 15,000 Rupiah each. Needless to say, we both got a ton of fresh fruit juice!
The next day we slept in a bit and then headed back to Kuta beach. The day before we saw a bunch of dudes on the beach advertising surfing lessons and we knew we wanted to come back and try it. Luckily these guys were everywhere, so we did not have to go far before we found someone willing to give us a great deal. We even haggled the price down a bit. 🙂
Our instructor Mari first taught us how to properly stand up on the board while we were on the beach. It’s a 3-step process to get up on the board. While laying on your stomach first you push yourself upright (into a push-up position), step 2 you bring your left foot forward, step 3 you rise up and bring your right foot forward (while maintaining a low crouch). After Mari was confident we had this down we went into the water.
Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of us in the water riding waves. We both kept our cameras on the beach during the lesson. Cruise and I both stood up and rode MANY waves though! At first our instructor Mari pushed us into the waves, and told us when to stand. After awhile both Cruise and I were able to paddle into our own waves, do the 3-step process to stand up and ride a wave all the way back to the beach! It was SO much fun! Both Cruise and I felt confident enough at the end of the lesson to say we could probably just rent boards next time and head into the water ourselves (without an instructor). We both got the hang of it pretty fast, and had a blast surfing for 2.5 hours.
We headed back to the hostel to rest for awhile, and it wasn’t until then both of us realized we had surf-board rash all over our legs and arms! Mari gave us both a shirt to wear while we were on the boards to protect our stomach, but my thighs and forearms got a good rash for sure. I can’t say I regretted it though! After a nap we decided to head back to El Greco for some dinner. We wanted more fruit juice, but also everything on the menu looked really good! Also, I’m pretty addicted to hummus, and Mediterranean food proved to be the ONE type of cuisine that was especially hard to find in Asia! So when we stumbled across this place in Bali I knew I wanted to eat there and get some pita and hummus. We ended up loving this place, and we came back 3 more times while in Bali!
The owner was there at night (definitely Greek himself), and when he came around to our table we told him how much we liked this place, and that we even came back a second time. He was so appreciative that he came back to our table later with two free shots of his homemade lemon liquor and these dough balls with cinnamon and syrup. Both were delicious!
The next day we finally got to do some hiking! If there was one thing in Bali I really wanted to do, it was hiking on the Northern part of the island. Cruise and I initially had intentions to hike Mt. Rinjani on the next island over but we realized with our tight schedule it might be hard to get over there. So instead, we climbed a different volcano on Bali called Mt. Batur!
It took us about 2 hours by bus to get to the northern part of the island. We got to experience just how NUTS drivers are there. Imagine driving among a sea of scooters where rules of the road don’t apply. Lanes? Eh, just drive wherever you feel like it! Besides being scared for my life a few times, we also got to see some really pretty countryside along the way, which was nice.
Once we got to the base of the volcano we quickly met up with our guide and set off to the trails. Cruise and I both came prepared with our backpacks, lots of water, nuts for a snack, and sturdy hiking shoes/gear. Our guide on the other hand, was going up at a faster pace than both of us in just track pants and flip flops. I was impressed!
The first 10-15 minutes were really nice. We were in a heavily wooded area, and passed by a very cool set of ruins. Everything in the forest was so peaceful and beautiful.
Now, I consider myself to be in very good physical shape. I exercise a lot, and eat well in my day-to-day life. So naturally I thought this hike would be a breeze for me. Well, our hike quickly went from flat to severe incline sooner than I thought. That, combined with the fact my backpack was weighed down with a serious amount of water I brought with me, I was soon huffing and puffing quite a bit! The incline got so steep at some points we were going up the face of the mountain with our feet and our hands – almost clawing our way up there. It was intense!
What could possibly make it more intense you ask? Oh, how about TORRENTIAL DOWNPOUR. In the blink of an eye it suddenly starts pouring on us. It was some of the hardest rain I’ve ever been in! Our guide tentatively asked us if we wanted to turn around, but I’m glad to say Cruise and I were on the same page – no way! It actually made the hike that much more memorable. It took us awhile to reach the top due to the hurricane weather coming down on us, along with our half climb/crawl way of hiking. The face of the mountain started to flood around us, and as we climbed it looked like mudslides and parts of the mountain were just rushing past us. At one point I even lost my glasses and our guide went back down the mountain to look for them (incredibly nice of him, and luckily he found them!). Through perseverance and sheer will power we finally reached the top though.
And we were rewarded with this amazing view at the top!….
…Yeah, we really couldn’t see much because of the mist and downpour, hahaha. Worth it though? Definitely! It’s a good thing my phone is waterproof, because I was able to take a few photos at the top.
The top had a few little benches and a small hut for us to take shelter. Our guide also brought us to the other side of the mountain to show us a small alcove – it was a natural sauna created by little holes in the ground where steam/heat from the volcano could escape. Cruise and I were completely soaked, every layer we were wearing, and as soon as we stepped into the sauna alcove we began to warm up. It was soooo nice! Our guide let us wait there in the warmth while he went back to the hut to make us tea.
Sitting there in the natural sauna, looking out at a misty valley, sipping on tea, it was so relaxing. Cruise and I kept commenting about how the steam coming from the holes in the ground smelled so good too. It smelled like corn, and I realize that is a really weird description for the smell of this steam, but it smelled so good! Sitting in our corn steam sauna drinking tea 🙂
When our guide came back down he began preparing a snack for us. He brought some eggs and bananas with him up the mountain, and started stuffing them into one of the holes in the ground. He covered them with some straw and let them cook right there from the heat of the volcano steam. I thought this was so cool! After they were done he cut them up and put them into sandwiches. He also gave us some tiny oranges to eat. Cruise ate the egg sandwiches and I ate the banana ones. They were warm and delicious. We joked that sandwiches will never be the same for either of us, now that we’ve tasted corn-steamed bananas cooked on the rim of a volcano! They were made extra delicious because of the crazy hike we had to get through as well.
The valley below us was still very misty, and hard to see through. It was slightly disappointing, because I could tell on a clear day it would have been breath-taking. That didn’t stop us from enjoying our break at the top though, and getting a few pictures.
I was not looking forward to leaving our little pocket of warmth, but it was time to start our descent. We went down a different face of the volcano than the one we climbed, so we got to see some new scenery along the way. The terrain was very loose and ashy. Our shoes and socks both became black and dirty as our feet sank into the soft soot beneath us. It was hard to keep your balance, and all of us almost bit it a few times!
The rain had stopped at this point, and all of a sudden the clouds parted before us and we were able to see this amazing view!
I hope the picture does it justice, because it honestly took my breath away. I was so happy – I finally got to see an amazing view of a valley from the top of our climb! There was a small village below us, with rice patty fields and little houses that we could see. Then there was a huge lake right at the foot of the tallest peak on the island of Bali. It was a perfect view.
Now that the rain had stopped I was able to look back and appreciate some of the cool details of the mountain behind us as well. Everywhere I turned I couldn’t stop thinking how beautiful this place was.
Our climb down went a lot faster than the climb up, and so we soon found ourselves back at the bus and on our way to Kuta (southern part of the island, where our hostel was).
We were both completely exhausted from our adventure that day, so we took it easy the rest of the day. We went out to get some food at some point (El Greco, AGAIN), and got more fresh fruit juice of course. The next day we packed up our things and walked back to the airport – our time on Bali was up.
I think both Cruise and I got to do everything on Bali we wanted to. He really wanted some quality beach time and the chance to go surfing. I really wanted to make it to the northern part of the island and go hiking in the mountains. It was a relaxing four days, and a perfect breather after the go-go-go mentality we had while in Tokyo.
After the chill time we had in Bali, we were both ready to ramp things up again though, which is why our next destination was Bangkok, Thailand! Stay tuned for my next post as my stories in Asia continue. 🙂
Closing thoughts about Bali:
- Everything was SO cheap – this especially made eating out fun because Cruise and I are both big eaters, so we got a lot of food for next to nothing!
- Fresh fruit and fruit juices/smoothies are everywhere. Fruit is especially cheap there, and so every restaurant had so many amazing drinks to try.
- Weather on Bali is very unpredictable – they say one day it will be sunny and the next day it will be a downpour. We found this to be very true!
- I completely forgot to mention this, but if you go to Bali you NEED to go to Skybar!!! For dinner twice while in Bali we went to this place with people from our hostel. It is an all you can eat, all you can drink (including alcoholic drinks) restaurant/bar at the top of a tall building for like, $10 USD. Yeah, this place was VERY well known among the backpackers for good reason! The food and drinks were really good quality too.
- Merchants and street vendors are extremely pushy. Taxi drivers as well. They will honk at you incessantly to try and get you to take a ride from them. The store owners along the streets will call out for you non-stop as well. It was actually pretty off-putting. “Yes? Shopping, yes? Hello? My friend?” – Their English was not always the best, so they would repeat these phrases. You kind of had to get used to walking with your eyes down and not making eye contact after awhile unfortunately.
- If I visited Bali again I do not think I would stay in the southern part of the island again. The tourist traffic from the resorts there were overwhelming at times, and unfortunately I found the main beach there to be dirty because of it as well.
- The northern part of the island is gorgeous, and a must-see place if you visit Bali! There are many places to hike, besides Mt. Batur, and I would love to go back to climb some other peaks.
- Meat was everywhere (which was really off-putting to me, especially when you see a whole pig carcass right outside the entrance of a restaurant over a flame making me want to gag from the smell) but it was super easy to be a Vegan in Bali overall. Fresh fruit and fresh vegetables could be found everywhere.
- Scooters are everywhere. It seemed like it was the main method of transportation for sure. Cruise and I actually tried to rent a scooter, as a potential way for us to get to the northern part of the island, but found the bus to be easier.
- Another note on driving, drivers are crazy here! Rules of the road? There are none!
- Native people (away from the touristy areas) were incredibly friendly. I felt very welcome whenever I talked to one.
- I was surprised by the amount of poverty I saw once we were outside the touristy areas. I definitely wouldn’t consider the place we were first-world. It was eye-opening to see this different standard of living, and to really be immersed in it for the first time.
- The palm offerings! Cruise and I saw these tiny palm leaf boxes outside stores and businesses everywhere we went! They were these little 5″x5″ boxes made from palm leaves, and they would have crackers and flowers inside them. Sometimes they would be in the ground outside a store, or inside these little shrines next to the opening of a store/home. And when I say they were everywhere, I mean EVERYWHERE. I became so curious about them, that I asked our guide from Mt. Batur what they signified. Apparently they are some kind of good luck offering. I didn’t get the impression that the meaning of them was religious per-se, but he described it more as “you do it so that your day tomorrow can be better than the day you had today.” Either way, I was very interested by them! Here is a picture of what one of the shrine/boxes looked like that you put the tiny palm/cracker/flower boxes inside. Sometimes they would be smoking with incense too.
I frequently saw these cool old looking walls too. Their design and structure was so cool to me! Very ornate and detailed.