Bali: My 9-Day Itinerary
I arrived mid-afternoon into Denpasar. After running the airport gauntlet, I took a cab to Bali Breez hotel in Jimbaran (about 15 minutes south of the airport), for which I paid a slightly overpriced $10K IDR. I found the hotel on Agoda.com, which is a great resource for Asian travel. Bali Breez has a pool, good air conditioning, and is a 5 minute walk from the beach ($32/night USD including breakfast). I walked down and caught the sunset at one of the many seafood restaurants on the beach. The view is spectacular. The view of the beach itself is… a little disheartening. Aside from the gorgeous sand is all the trash of Bali, washed up ashore. People, please be mindful of your waste. And conserve your use of plastic.
I had the morning to kill before my cab to Ubud arrived. I took a walk down the beach and snuck onto the grounds of the Intercontinental Jimbaran Bay to hang out in a hammock and use their ATM. I eventually took a cab up to Ubud 88 Apartments (about 400K IDR, 1.5 hrs), which would be my home during my three-day retreat at Blooming Lotus Yoga outside of Ubud (about $400 for a 4 night stay in a shared suite). That evening, we were taken into Ubud to see Kecak dancers do a retelling of a story from the Ramayana. It was a fun experience, but hardly one that I would go out of my way for. The story is difficult to follow without reading the program and it was a little slow-paced for me, to be honest.
Days 3 - 4
I can’t recommend the Blooming Lotus Yoga retreat enough. It does not matter your yoga skill level. They want you to connect with the spiritual aspects of yoga and meditation and to challenge yourself to improve upon where you personally are at. They have two yoga sessions a day, sunrise and evening, followed by delicious vegan meals. The top-notch apartments come with shared infinity pools, and the on-site spa was worthwhile to relax even further. Mid-afternoons there's a shuttle in and out of Ubud in case you'd like to view any of the sites or do some shopping.
One of the afternoons I went with a few others to the Monkey Forest in town. Everything I heard about it in advance was correct: It feels like you're Indiana Jones wandering around a jungle temple. The monkeys are adorable but can be aggressive. Do not wear jewelry, do not have a water bottle in your hand, do not openly carry a camera or food. They will jump on you and snatch it out of your hands! At the front there's an option to buy bananas so that you can get photo ops with the monkeys on you. I have a bit of a phobia about animals jumping on me, and the Monkey Forest was not helping with this. However, some of my more daring cohorts were happy to give this a try!!
Us yoga retreat-ers were dropped in Ubud and devoured a delicious and cheap meat-and-beer heavy lunch (our detox from 4 days of healthy vegan meals!) at Warung Biah Biah, which is along a street full of cheap, amazing restaurants. From there, I pulled my giant suitcase down an alleyway filled with mud and building supplies (questioning what I was getting into) to check into the Satya House in Ubud, which I had found online. It was serviceable, cheap, conveniently located, but a largely unremarkable homestay ($20/night USD with breakfast). Hopefully by now they've finished the construction, as it's pretty difficult to get a suitcase through that muddy alleyway.
That morning, I took a walk through the rice paddies of Ubud along Jl. Kajeng while it was still early. Campuhan Ridge Walk is the more well-known walk in the area, and I'd also recommend it. But to avoid the crowds, this is the hidden gem. Follow the instructions from the link, or look near the Starbucks for the small signs for the Rice Field. The first quarter mile or so you will think that you’re going the wrong way, as you’re walking behind buildings through dank alleyways. But keep going! Soon you’ll get to the quiet and open rice paddy fields. Definitely go early or late in the day to avoid the sun.
After breakfast and a shower, I had Satya House arrange a car and driver (about $40 USD for the day, plus tip) to take me out to Amed, with stops at Goa Gaja and Tirta Gangga en route. Goa Gajah, known as the Elephant Cave, I found a bit underwhelming, to be honest. It's close to Ubud so it has that convenience factor, but the site itself is fairly small compared to other temple complexes further afield. Tirta Gangga however, is absolutely worth a stop. The fountains and pools are amazingly gorgeous and impressive to explore. The drive with several stops was about a little under 5 hours. I checked in at the fantastic beachfront Bubu Racok homestay for the cost of $25/night USD, inclusive of a massive and delicious breakfast.
This day started with a bit of humiliation. I had planned to rent a moped from my homestay to go snorkeling along the coast of Amed. However, after a 1 minute tutorial, I didn't immediately grasp how to steer and brake, and was told by the daughter of the house that no, I would drive myself and their expensive bike off a cliff. She was undoubtedly right, but still, that stung. I ended up having the son of the owner drive me to a few locations, hanging out with the other locals under shade while I went out in the blazing sun to snorkel. I recommend the Japanese Wreck south of Amed if you’re nearby and are a snorkeler and not a SCUBA diver. Spent the afternoon lounging by the ocean (and tending to a nasty sunburn). Remember to reapply sunscreen often!
I woke up early and had the homestay drive me to Pura Lempuyang with a sarong in tow. 1700 steps and some new Balinese friends later (see the linked post for more info), I made it down. I was sweaty, but feeling accomplished and a little more centered. And my healthy fear of monkeys intact! Wayan, the owner of Bubu Racok, decided this night was a good one for a fresh fish roast on the beach. A perfect end to the trip.
The homestay helped me hire a car and driver from Amed to the airport (about $500K IDR, 2.5 hours) and used up my remaining IDR at the airport getting a well-needed massage thanks to Pura Lempuyang. Putting pants back on at the airport was a bit of a shock to the system after 9 days of heat and humidity!