Bali, Indonesia ... The Connection With the Inner Self!
When I first thought about doing a South East Asia trip, the first place that popped in my mind was Indonesia. I had always dreamed of visiting this country, the island of Bali to be specific. This idea couldn't have come at a better time in my life. I needed a getaway from my current day to day life. I needed to reconnect with myself and Bali was calling my name.
So how did I get to travel to Bali for less than $1,200?
Let me share with you a quick tip on how to fly to Bali for less than $500 USD from the US west coast. First of all, you have to plan ahead. I booked my flights in June and my planned travel date was October. High season in Indonesia begins in October and ends in May due to monsoon season. I booked a flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with United Airlines (Air China is also a good one) and from there I headed to Singapore; however, once you are in KL, you can easily find a local flight with AirAsia.com - AirAsia Online Booking for instance for less than $100 US. My total flight from LA to KL was $390 (one way) but you can find round-trip flights for as low as $450. The main hubs in Asia are KL, Bangkok, or Hong Kong so make sure you fly through one of these destinations to get the best deals.
My adventure began in Yogyakarta, Indonesia (I will write a post about this adventure as well). I took a flight from Yogyakarta to Bali and remember being mind blown the moment I exited the plane. Bali has one of the most beautiful airports that I've ever visited. I had booked my accommodation in Ubud, which is about 1.5 hours away from the airport; therefore, I had to take a taxi. I really suggest that you take a shared taxi if you meet someone at the airport or you are in a group. It is very expensive for SEA standards ($30 USD one way). Take the blue taxi if there are any around, they are more reasonable than the taxi companies inside the airport. If you are staying in the nearby city of Kuta Beach, you may be looking at a $15 or $20 taxi ride instead.
Once I arrived to my hotel Ubud Bungalow, which cost me $32 USD/night I took the rest of the day to relax and enjoy the pool, a nice dinner, and book my tours for the next few days... oh yes.. let's not forget! I also rented a motorcycle for 3 days so that I could travel freely throughout Ubud and the island. I will say this much, IF you are a responsible driver please rent a motorcycle. It is part of the Balinese experience! Just make sure you know how to drive on the left (as in the UK, Japan, etc.). I decided to take a quick ride across the city, the monkey forest, and the nearby rice fields.... I felt so free and so happy and it was just day one.
I returned to the hotel after the sun was setting and spent the rest of the day at the hotel pool. This is where I met one of the local girls, Wayan, she showed me how to make Canang sari (the daily Balinese flower offerings). We made 62 of them and had a great chat. I learned a lot about Balinese culture and about her family. This is one of the reasons why I love staying at small hotels or guest houses. I really recommend Ubud Bungalows because it is not only in a great location and offer great prices (under $40 per night), but also because it offers outstanding service and a luxurious comfortable atmosphere.
So ... let's sum this up before we move on... Flight from LA, San Francisco, or Seattle will cost about $450 round trip. Hotel in Ubud or on average in Bali will cost $35/night (6 nights x $35 = $210). Ubud Bungalows included breakfast and meals really depend on your preference but on average a regular dinner at a local restaurant will cost you no more than $10 USD per person, $20 if you have an expensive taste. On average, you'll spend about $20 per day in food (7 x $20 = $140 USD). Tours really depend on what you are looking for. If you want to visit the main temples like I did and rent a motorcycle to explore the rest of the island on your own it will cost about ($50 US for the rental and $200 for 4 days of tours). Just one tip on the tours, DO NOT book them online prior to your arrival in Bali, it is much more expensive that way. Go to Bali and arrange your tours with one the of the hundreds of local small agencies on the first day and it will save you lots of cash. Now, let's do the math... $450 (international flight) + $100 (local flight) + $210 (hotel) + $140 (food) + $200 (tours) + $50 (bike rental) + $30 (taxi) = $1,180. If you are splitting a hotel room with at least one more person, even greater savings.
Now... I could tell you everything I did step by step in Bali, but honestly that would be very lengthy and pointless... You must experience Bali on your own! There is not really one guide on how to travel Bali. I can share with you some of my favorite places such as: the monkey forest, Uluwatu Temple, Tanah Lot, Pura Ulun Danu, Trita Empul, and Gunung Kawi, but you must really experience this place on your own. I have never been to a place where I must hold my camera 24/7 because there is just so so much to photograph. Bali is one of the most picturesque places I've ever visited and definitely the place with the most personality. I am not trying to up-sell you on this place, but trust me... I've traveled to more than 60 countries and this place is simply magical! For this reason, I would like to share with you only the most important points in my opinion.
Read below for the: three things I loved the most about Bali, three things I learned in Bali, three things you cannot miss while visiting Bali, and three pieces of advice for your Balinese trip. Enjoy the pictures while you scroll down!
Three things I loved about Bali:
1. The scenery and the views. In order to experience Bali, you must go out there and see what the island is all about. Staying in the city center and doing day tours won't give you the full experience. I really recommend renting a motorcycle or a bicycle and take a few hours to explore. This will allow you to stop anywhere along the way to take picture or even better, to take a moment to yourself and enjoy the views. I have never seen such a green place in my life and I grew up in Guatemala! This place must be appreciated and if you are a nature lover you will find yourself at home... this is paradise!
2. The people and the culture. This really depends on your personality but when I travel I really enjoy making new friends and most importantly, interacting with the locals. The beauty about meeting the locals anywhere is that they show you around and they tell you the best spots to visit. In Bali, it was more than that, it was understanding a lifestyle, the Balinese culture and beliefs and making me part of their world. Living as a Balinese local even if it was only for a few days. I felt that I belonged. People are so welcoming and the Balinese culture is beautiful.
3. The connection with the inner self. I mean... what better place to connect with one's self that in the heart of nature. If you are looking for a place to disconnect from the world, think no more, Bali is that place. Regardless of your religious or non-religious beliefs, there's something special about Ubud to me, something unexplainable. This is a place where a felt reconnected with nature, with myself, and with God.
Three things I learned in Bali:
1. Drive a motorcycle (on the left) - haha! This can be tricky if you have never done it. I really recommend that you don't do it unless you are comfortable handling a motorcycle. It is part of the Balinese experience though and it's so fun.
2. Children are named in chronological order - Interesting fact that I learned was that children are named as: Wayan (First), Kadek (second), Nyoman (third), and Ketut (fourth). So... what if you have a fifth and sixth child? Well.. simple! You just start all over again. Your fifth child will be Wayan once again, sixth will be Kadek, etc. I found this very interesting and unique. See... life in Bali is very simple, just like this tradition, and that is exactly what I love about this culture. Simple yet beautiful.
3. To let go of the past and embrace life! There is not much to say to do this other than the fact that life moves on. Whatever happened in your life is just molding you for the beautiful things that lie ahead. Always stay positive. Bali is the perfect place to embrace life!
Three things you cannot miss in Bali:
1. Cruising the monkey forest and the rice fields - (already talked about this). The only thing to emphasize is the monkey forest. In order to enter you must pay an entrance fee, it's worth it though. It is a green escape where you will be surrounded by hundreds of monkeys, beautiful waterfalls, temples, and nature. I recommend you go either early morning or late afternoon so you can avoid the crowds. Also, you must be careful and not hold or touch the baby monkeys because the mothers will attack, they are wild animals after all.
2. A Balinese dance show - these shows are offered everywhere throughout the island. In Ubud, there was one or two shows almost every night. I will cost between IDR 50,000-200,000 ($4-$15 USD) depending on what type of dance you want to see. These dances are very interactive, they are almost like plays. They portray the Balinese life and culture.
3. Morning prayer at a local Balinese Temple - Whether or not you are a spiritual person. This is a great experience. Every morning around 6-7am the locals participate in morning prayer. One interesting thing to see is that every single house or business have a place or worship, an altar. There are thousands of temples throughout the island and possibly more than one thousand just in Ubud. I enjoyed morning prayer at a temple once as the sun was rising and it was beautiful. It is a great way to start your morning, plus you get to interact with the locals.
BONUS!!! Have a cup of Luwak coffee! - Kopi luwak is the world's most expensive coffee. The main factor of it's high price is the uncommon method of producing such a coffee. It has been produced from the coffee beans which have been digested and discharged (pooped out) by a certain Indonesian cat-like animal called then palm civet or also civet cat. It is considered a delicacy an it is very smooth in taste.
Three pieces of advice for your Balinese trip:
1. Stay away from the west - If you are looking for serenity and relaxation avoid Kuta/Kuta Beach. It is flooded by tourists, surfers specifically. there are large hotel and restaurant chains. It is very westernized and it is quite expensive also.
2. Avoid tourist trap attractions - Although Basakih (Mother Temple) is a must see when in Bali, be careful with "thieves". This temple is flooded with tourists and unfortunately will not let you in without a tour guide. These guides know this so they upcharge their prices so much and they harass tourists at the entrance.
3. Plan your trip well, time is everything - I tend to be a quick traveler so I booked only 5 days in the island. Let me tell you, 5 days is not enough even for Ubud. This island must be truly experienced. I missed out on places such as Lombok and the Gili Islands. I heard from fellow travelers that these are must see places while in Bali; therefore, I suggest you add those to your itinerary as well. Lastly, if you're already flying all the way to Bali and you are adventurous, take a trip to Comodo Island, which is about 3 hours ferry from the east side of Bali or climb Kawah Ijen, the "blue lava" volcano. It is a challenging climb but possibly a once in a lifetime experience. I know that this will definitely be in my itinerary for my next trip to Bali.
I hope that you have enjoyed this blog post and helps you plan your Balinese adventure. Please share on social media with your friends and feel free to message me for any further questions/comments.