When I thought of my trip to Bali, I envisioned riding a bicycle (with a basket) through town with a smile on my face, going to daily yoga classes, sitting in cafes to write in my journal and blog on the computer while I enjoyed Bali's beauty, and going to get a massage or spa treatment every few days. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? I've now been in Bali for a little over a week and the only time I got on a bicycle, it was during a torrential downpour, I haven't gone to a single yoga class, I've sat in cafes but I'm usually fanning myself before I turn into a puddle on the floor, and my journal has gotten some love but the blog has barely gotten a hug. I have, however, gone to the spa on four different occasions. As much as I wanted to (and could) unplug and unwind and relax, my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) was way too strong to allow for that.
Every day has felt like a week. I went on excursions, I switched hotels, I shopped, I wandered, I even met people! (FYI: I'm terribly afraid to initiate conversations with strangers. I'll engage in conversations, but starting a conversation with strangers by myself? No, thank you. But I'm working on it!) Ubud was more fast-paced than I thought, or maybe it felt that way because it was my first stop in Bali so I felt this pressure to go do stuff (and I was still in go-go-go-travel mode from India and Nepal). Whatever the case, I did a lot.
When I woke up on Saturday morning, mere hours after arriving in Bali, a million and one thoughts were running through my head. What am I doing here? What am I going to do? Am I doing all of the right things? Am I missing out on anything? How do I do that? Am I sure I want to do that? Is that the best way to do that? Fortunately, Uncle Google, Facebook posts, travel families like Nomadness Travel Tribe, and helpful friends are there to provide some guidance.
Thank you, internet. You've been so helpful so here I am, paying it back. (Note: There's more to do in Ubud. In fact, I didn't do quite everything that I wanted! This is just my take on the things that I did.)
Word to the wise: I walked into a shop to ask about some statues they had and ultimately got distracted by some of the brochures for excursions the owner had on display. I walked out without a statue, but with 3 bookings for 3 different excursions for under $85 USD total. You would think that you get a better price when you book a tour directly with the company--not the case here. Some of the excursions had their price listed as $45 USD on the brochure but by booking it through a counter when in Bali, it was ~$27USD. I'd think you could negotiate the price even more if you have a group interested in purchasing tickets. Tip: Have an idea of what you want to do/where you want to go/how much it is online, find a ticket counter when you get to your destination and work out pricing at that point. When I talked to people in the same group on the excursions I went on, I found that I paid about the same or less than they did.
Venezia Day Spa - A trip to Bali isn't complete without a spa treatment, or six in my case (in my defense, they were split up between two visits). This place was recommended to me by friends as a good place to get treatments for really cheap. We're talking $30 USD/390k IDR for 4 hours at the spa (an hour body massage, an hour body scrub/bath, an hour facial, and a hair conditioning treatment with head and arm massage). It was so lovely, that I went back a second time for a Four Hand massage (two people massaging you at the same time--loved it!) and another hair cream treatment. There are so many places to choose from in Bali that you can't really go wrong, just check reviews/the facilities before you agree to make sure it meets your standards. If not, go down the street and there are more spas to try.
White Water Rafting with Alam Amazing Adventures - Super fun! Paid 350k IDR for hotel pick up and drop off, rafting gear (you can rent shoes for a small fee--I wore my own sneakers), guide, and lunch. You can also buy photos at the end for a fee. There are two rivers that are raftable; I went with the Telaga Waja River. This river is supposed to be more adventurous than the other, Ayung. There are 4 people to a raft, plus your guide. I thought it was like more like an exciting water ride than white water rafting as the current (and guide) did most of the work and we were ducking and laying down (to avoid low hanging obstacles) more than actually paddling. The guides do a great job of showing you a good time (*splashes water on you* 'There was a crocodile!', with a smile on his face) and keeping you safe. We didn't see anyone fall out--and if you did, you can stand up and the water is up to your calves, maybe. You end the trip with a short walk up these steep steps (it's doable, but could see it being challenging if you have bad knees/troubles walking) to a paddy field where you can change and have lunch. Tip: if you're not going to rent shoes, wear a pair of flip flops to wear afterwards because squishy sneakers are no fun. I told the Australian family that I met the next day about this excursion--they went on it with their 3 children, ages 9-14 (I think), and they really enjoyed it as well! I also have to shoutout the awesome South African gals that I shared a raft with (4 to a raft)--I don't think we ever stopped laughing!
Green Bike Cycling Tour - So much fun! A friend recommended Greenbike (which the shop owner wholeheartedly supported). I went with Greenbike 450k IDR for hotel pick up and drop off, biking gear (bike, helmet, water), a stop at a scenic paddy field, a stop at a coffee plantation for a tour and coffee tasting (luwak coffee is extra--watch out for the gift shop, really overpriced but I fell for it because I saw something I really liked), a scenic stop by the volcanos, breakfast (drinks are extra), about 3 hours of downhill biking (you're mostly riding the brakes the whole time. You'll have the option to go off-road; do it! If you decide not to, one guide will go with the off-roading group and the other guide will lead the other group), a stop at a traditional Balinese compound where they'll explain how it all works, lunch and two guides. If it sounds like a lot, it's because it is, and it's really fun. I've gone on bike tours before but this one was my favourite. Our guide, Geta, was awesome and really took his time explaining stuff and answering our questions with a smile. I ate it while taking a corner and he was really good about cleaning and tending to my scraped knees. It started pouring about 15 minutes into our ride, which made it even more fun! I also met an incredibly sweet Australian family who adopted me for the day which made the experience even better!
Mount Batur Sunrise Trek - This was the most physically grueling activity I did so far, but it was also extremely rewarding. It cost 350k IDR and I went with Pineh Trekking. Don't expect luxury on this excursion, you're not going to get it. It's pretty basic. You are picked up at 2am from your hotel, taken to breakfast, and then off you go to hike Mount Batur, a volcano in Bali, in the pitch dark. It's mostly uphill. It's tough, but it's not impossible. The views from the top as the sun rises is incredible and totally worth it. They give you a flashlight but if you have a headlamp, you should use that to free up your hands for the hike. We had a group of 15 and 3 guides with one in the front, one in the middle and one at the back. Naturally, I was in the back and the group guide kind of became my own personal guide, holding my hand to lead me along some of the trickier and steeper parts. There are two places you can stop at the top; the sunrise view and the summit. The summit is about 20 minutes higher than the sunrise point, and it's steep and really slippery since you're basically hiking through sand. Go to the summit. It's worth it. At the top, they'll give you a snack of hardboiled eggs and banana sandwiches (white bread with bananas in the middle) and you can buy coffee or tea if you'd like. There are no toilets or outhouses at the summit, so be sure to go before you start your trek, otherwise it will be a long 4 hours (2 hours up, 2 hours down). You have the choice of going back down the way you came or going around the crater. Going around the crater has some really narrow parts with steep drops on either sides--it's exhilarating! We went around the crater and thought it was awesome. I believe you can also add on visiting some hot springs to your excursion (I didn't). Since you get back to your hotel around 10/11, I'd plan a delicious lunch followed by a spa afternoon if you're doing this hike. Depending on where you're flying in from, this might be a good excursion to do earlier in your trip if you're already going to be up early from jet lag.
Paon Bali Cooking Class - Some of the best travel advice I've received: take a cooking class wherever you go. It's an experience, it's a souvenir (that keeps giving when you return home) and food brings people together. A friend suggested Paon Bali and I couldn't agree more. For 350k IDR, you're in for a treat. I went for a morning tour as it included a visit to the market as well. The Ubud Market is a fruit and food market for locals from 5am - 9am, before it turns into a tourist market with clothes and trinkets. I was picked up from my hotel and then met some other people who were also taking the class at the market where our driver-turned-guide showed us around, explaining the different fruits and veggies and spices that Balinese people use. It was a cool way to get a feel for the local way of life. After the market, we drove to a rice paddy field where he told us about how they grow rice, how they use it, etc. Once we learned about the paddy fields and took some pictures, off we went to Wayan and Puspa's compound for our class. Wayan and Puspa are the kind of people you want to hug as soon as you meet them--they're always smiling, laughing and have this cheer that's contagious. You're greeted with an icy welcome drink before Wayan tells you about the set up of a Balinese compound, then it's off to the kitchen. They've outfitted their home with a large kitchen and cooking stations for the class. Over the course of a few hours, you'll make 5-6 different dishes with a partner and with assistance from the staff. In the end, you sit and enjoy your meal with your new friends before bidding the host goodbye and heading back to your hotel. My class was quite large, 24 people, which I was told was a mistake as they like to max them out at 20. I would think 12 would be more ideal as in a class this large, I didn't get a chance to chat with everyone though we had this common bonding experience. I'd recommend taking this class early on during your visit to Bali so you know what the different dishes are and how to eat them, should you choose to order them in a restaurant. I've already started plotting how to make some of the satays when I get back home!
Chez Monique - Jewelry Class - An American couple that I met the day before in the cooking class and I were swapping tips on things we had done; they took a jewelry making class where she made a cool bamboo ring and he made some cufflinks and highly recommended it, so I gave it a chance. So, so cool! For 450k (it could be more if you use more silver/make more things), you get to design, make and take home your own piece of jewelry! I didn't know what to expect, and I'm not that creative when it comes to design, but I thought, why not? The studio is located at the back of a home in an open area with desks. They have booklets of jewelry that you can use as inspiration to create the ring, earrings, necklace, bracelet or something else of your dreams. I thought you describe what you want and they draw it for you. Wrong. They give you paper and a pencil and some rulers and plastic shapes to help if you want and you're left to your own imagination. Wayan will come by and give you feedback on what's doable to help guide you, and also help you if you can't quite draw the design out yourself. I had no idea what I wanted to make and as I flipped through the pages, I landed on creating a travel themed necklace. I've always liked the infinity symbol and what it represented. I recently lost my favourite pair of earrings, small gold airplanes. And my friends in Mumbai introduced me to a new word, bindaas, that they thought described my state of mind well: independent, care-free, cool. Using those three concepts, I created this necklace (with some help from the staff at the class with the detailed bits) and I love it. You can make some beautiful stuff there and it's really cool to be able to say you made it yourself! I wanted to make some rings but ran out of time--might need to go back to Ubud!
Dance Show - There are TONS of cultural dance shows to pick from in Ubud, and there's one that happens every single day. A friend suggested I skip the show and wait until Uluwantu temple where they do a fire dance at sunset, so I wasn't too keen on going to a show in Ubud. But, I accidentally ended up going to one. Humor me, but I heard that the Starbucks in Ubud has a BEAUTIFUL view, so I decided to check it out. I went around 6:30pm and all the rants and raves were right--it was gorgeous. I sat on the terrace, overlooking the pond, and writing in my journal when at 7:30pm, a dance show started and I had a killer seat, by accident. To make this experience even cooler, it was an all female orchestra! I'm sure the show would have been better if you were sitting by the stage and could see the expressions, but for an accidental entertaining evening, it was awesome.
There you have it! That's how I spent 8 days in Ubud! I'd still like to go back for 2 days to make some rings, go to a different spa and eat at my fave place and try a restaurant that was fully booked. But if I don't get the chance this time, I have a feeling I'll come back to Bali one day.
Do you have anything to add to the list? Did you have a different experience with some of the excursions I went on than I did? I'd love to hear more! (My experience with eating and sleeping coming up soon!)
P.S. For more pictures, find me on Instagram (@smileysejalee)