The Bali Bible
When I think of Bali, I can’t help but take a deep breathe in and exhale with a smile. It’s one of those places that had a profound impact on me. The Balienese culture is beautiful for many reasons. However, I think it greatly resonated with me due to where I was in my life at the moment. For you, Bali will probably be something completely different. For me, it was an experience of self-discovery, self-love and understanding. Yes, initially, I wanted to go there for the ‘Instagram photos’ of swings in the rice terraces etc., but the moment I got there, I said, screw it. I wanted to focus on the journey, not on ‘capturing my journey’ because what I felt, couldn’t ever be translated into photos, only feelings. And this was FOR ME. This wasn’t for showing the world every single aspect of my trip because I wanted to keep parts of it to myself. But, I do want to share with you the places that I visited and what I recommend if you’re there for even I week. I purposely stayed in Bali longer than any other place. I was there for a total of 3.5 weeks and honestly, that wasn’t enough for me. So here’s how I started journey:
Flew into Denpasar. Please be advised that the airport is OVERWHELMING. Usually I am fine with new cities, languages and culture, but the amount of taxi drivers that approach and borderline HARRASS you, is a bit too much. I was exhausted and the last thing I wanted was people in my face, literally walking alongside me and trying to coerce me into getting in their taxi. Before you leave the airport, make sure you get a Balinese SIM card for your phone. I highly recommend you purchase this at the airport because it’s much easier than trying to find a store in the city. I paid around $30 and the data lasted me all 3.5 weeks. Additionally, I would take out money at the airport (more on that later). Instead of taking a taxi, I ordered a ‘Grab’ which is equivalent to Uber. It’s much cheaper, however, Balinese taxi drivers HATE Grab so the driver had to text me specific and shady instructions on where to find him so the taxi drivers would not see (LOL). I had to walk to some random parking structure and go to a certain level and it wasn’t all that bad – and probably 60% cheaper than what taxi drivers were charging. But after about 30 minutes, I arrived at my hostel and instantly fell in love.
First city was CANGGU. I didn’t know what to expect. But the best way to describe it is, super Westernized with lots of Aussies and Kiwis. But I loved it. It was a good way to ease into another country with minimal culture shock. There were tons of digital nomads everywhere, so it was great to connect with likeminded individuals. Canggu is filled with lots of good foodie spots with acai bowls and pretty spaces. The food is amazing everywhere, the smoothies, bowls and salads are almost too pretty to eat. TBH – I was a bit hesitant to eat meat in SEA so I ate a lot of fruit and smoothies. I stayed in hostels throughout Canggu, however, one of them was more of a ‘guesthouse’ with a pool. Actually, both had pools and were super vibey – mix of people from all over the world. And here’s the kicker – they were both less than $20/night. At the end of the day, you just need a place to sleep and you’re not even there because you’re out exploring. I also collaborated with a 5 Star resort and admittedly, it was spectacular, but the traveler connection was NOT there. I didn’t meet a single person because it was all rich couples/families and no one really wants to converse. So if you’re solo dolo – hostel it up.
WHERE TO STAY
I stayed in two hostels the entire time. Both were amazing and included pools. Gypsy Moon was more of a guesthouse (smaller than Farm Hostel) but the vibe was more low-key than other hostels in the area:
P.S. I book all my hostels via hostelworld.com - I base all my decisions on the highest ratings.
WHERE TO EAT
Milk + Madu Café
Rise & Shine Café
WHERE TO PLAY
La Brisa Beach Club
Pretty Poison (super dope bar with a skate bowl)
Finns Beach Club
Luigi's Pizza (best spot on a Monday)
My life consisted of beach day clubs, cafes, yoga and jumping on random boys scooters. It also consisted of going on day trips: one that is a must is Nusa Peninda/Lombogdagan. It’s made up of 3 small islands – a lot of Crystal clear waters and secret beaches away from the bustle of Bali.
How do you get to Nusa Peninda
I recommend going through a tour company so they can set you up with the transportation and logistics. We were picked up by our tour operator from the hostel. It took about 40 minutes to get to Sanur. From there, it will require you to get on a boat to Lombogdagan. But forewarning, the boat ride isn't the most smooth sailing. Once you arrive, you can rent scooters to explore the island or book a tour. We explored places like Angel's Billabong and Kelingking (Dinosaur Island) which were mother nature at her finest. We spent the entire day exploring Nusa and even went snorkeling! This was all part of the tour operator - they semi-guide you throughout the day but mainly just for transportation. It is more of a self-guided tour of exploration so going with a group is definitely fun!
After exploring much of Canggu, I decided I wanted to experience the true spiritual culture of Bali, so I headed to Ubud.
*BONUS* There are a lot of great places to practice yoga near Canggu, my two favorite:
So how'd I get from Canggu to Ubud? I ordered a Grab because it's about a 40 minute ride. When I booked it, it said one price and when I got inside the vehicle, he asked for more money because it was further than most destinations so I paid him about 30% more. Still, I think I paid maybe $20 USD? But not much more. Initially, I wasn't too impressed with Ubud but it wasn't until I ventured out of the city to experience this magical place. I felt like Ubud was definitely a tourist trap for many reasons, so you have to avoid certain places. For one, avoid Monkey Forest. TBH - that place scared the shit out of me. Literally, monkeys running around everywhere trying to steal everything you own...not kidding LOL. And if you lock eyes with them, or try to take a photo AND YOU DON'T HAVE FOOD, be prepared to be attacked. They don't play. But overall, Ubud ended up being the most spiritual experience for me.
WHERE TO STAY
During my stay in Ubud, I decided to rent an Airbnb with a girlfriend. It was really neat because we were staying with the locals in their village. Our Airbnb host was THEE MOST helpful. He even offered to take me on his scooter (which I took him up on) to places throughout Ubud. Here's our stay: AIRBNB
After staying in an Airbnb, I had a collaboration with Maya Ubud Resort which was superb. From the flower bath, to the infinity pools, everything was but a dream. The premises were stunning but I didn't really experience the rich culture of Bali because everything was just focused on high standards/pampering.
P.S. Geicos are literally in every hostel, hotel, Airbnb - they are pretty loud but you just get used to them (they're harmless).
WHERE TO EAT
bridges (went there on a Bumble date; super romantic)
La Pacha Mama
Expat Roasters (amazing coffee + food)
WHERE TO PLAY
Let me preface this by saying that my focus in Ubud, was not to party or go to bars. It was primarily seeking self-development and connecting on a spiritual level so all the places I explored, were more aligned with Balinese culture.
Titra Empul (Bathing in Holy Water) - This was one of my favorite experiences because I felt like I was experiencing life as a local. During our visit, there was a Balinese ceremony occurring, so we had an opportunity to watch the locals perform with their traditional attire
Tegalalang Rice Terrace - The sights of the rice terraces is truly mesmerizing but be careful not to take photos with the workers or ask them to take photos because they will expect you to pay for it (lesson learned).
Tegenungan Waterfall - This wasn't the best waterfall that I've seen. It was very crowded when we went (and we walked a bunch of stairs!)
Coffee Tour - AVOID LEMUR COFFEE. Yes, it's a staple in Bali but I wish I would have known about it before I tried it. The lemurs are trapped in these tiny cages and forced to eat so they can poop out large amounts of feces that are in return used to make coffee. I knew about this prior to trying the coffee - it didn't gross me out. But afterwards, I found out about the inhumane treatment of these animals so I quickly regretted the experience.
All of the aforementioned experiences were completed in a 1-day trip. In our village, there was a tour group operator who was advertising various trips so we decided to book. Essentially, its just a private driver who takes you to all these destinations. We payed around $40 each for the entire day which was totally worth it. It would have been a hassle trying to get to all the places via scooter or Grab so I highly recommend getting a private driver to all the destinations.
*RED FLAG* Please be careful with your debit card in Ubud (Bali in general). I went to go pull money and out of nowhere the ATM machine gave me an error message (even though I typed the CORRECT pin) and proceeded to say, "Sorry, but we must now confiscate your card". So I was screwed, but luckily, I was able to borrow money and Venmo people back. So I recommend having two debit cards, or making sure that you have enough cash on you.
*BONUS* I fell in love with Yoga Barn. Initially, my plan was to take one class, but after experiencing the majestic energy, I ended up taking 4 classes, seeing a reiki healer and staying the night in the beautiful space. Oh and the food is delicious at the cafe
The last place on my Bali tour was Uluwatu. The best way to describe Uluwatu was a mix between Ubud and Canggu with lots of beautiful beaches and surf spots. Uluwatu definitely had many beach clubs with a laid back vibe. Most notably known for the Uluwatu Temple, I was mesmerized by the beautiful sunset but be careful, there are many monkeys running around the area as well.
WHERE TO STAY
I stayed in one hostel the entire time and although I highly recommend the one I stayed (because the host is amazing) I wouldn't say the location was the best because you couldn't really walk anywhere. Throughout my stay, I was taking Grab rides to all the beaches during the day and night. I would recommend staying at a beach resort or even a hostel thats near the beach!
WHERE TO EAT
Truth be told, I went super local in Uluwatu. I felt like all the places I ate at were my grandmother's house with very fresh ingredients. And mind you, they were all about $3-4 spots, which was super convenient, given that the ATM decided to eat my debit card in Ubud.
WHERE TO PLAY
Uluwatu has an abundance of beach clubs most notably known for their sunsets and chill vibes. Many of the beaches are packed during the day and at night, they turn into night time parties so it's an all day extravaganza!
The beaches I went to were:
Blue Point Beach
Padang Padang Beach
Beach clubs I recommend:
Omnia Beach Club
Sundays Beach Club
Karma Beach Club
I remember my senior year in college when the Dean of the business school asked me to give a presentation to the Board of Directors, highlighting my Scotland study abroad experience. To say the least, I was terrified. However, when it came to the presentation, my experiences and takeaways oozed out like liquid butter because travel is a part of my own Truth. Travel has evolved into a form of therapy for me - it's allowed me to learn about what connects humanity and how I connect into humanity. At the end of my presentation, one of the Directors said, "I tell my daughter to travel as far as she can, and to see as much as she can, and with every city or country she visits, to take one piece of their culture and incorporate it into your life, so she can live with a worldly purpose". That stuck with me to this day.
With Bali, I was mesmerized by the sensations of the local streets, especially in the early morning. The aroma of incense burning filled me with gratitude. In Balinese culture, each store front, restaurant and village has beautiful bamboo 'offerings' filed with flowers and different types of plants. The reason behind this is that the people of Bali want to thank their God for the gift of a new day. Their deep gratitude permeates the streets, homes and hearts. This traditional daily practice is something we can all incorporate into our lives each day. There is so much to be grateful for. Until next time, Bali.
If you have any specific questions, feel free to drop a comment below x