10 days in Bali
Shaun and I had been so excited to visit Bali, it was one of the destinations on our list which we were both in immediate agreement about visiting.
We had just left Kuala Lumpur and we were about to head to Bali for 10 days, we joked that our time here would be a holiday from our holiday. However, as was always the case, we tried to balance this with our backpacking budget.
We flew into Denpasar airport just after 1am, and I must say I had the fright of my life as the plane was coming in to land, I hadn’t realised that the airport was so close to the sea. I was jerked awake by the movement of the plane lowering and as I looked out the window I could see the sea getting closer and closer, as it was the middle of the night everything else in my little aeroplane window was pitch black.
I looked around the plane and couldn’t understand why everyone else was so calm, surely we were about to crash into the ocean? Just as I was about to be overcome with fear – lights! We had reached the airport runway.
I’m really curious to know, was anyone else as surprised as me by how close the runway is to the sea?
We started our 10 days in Bali, in Uluwatu, staying for 2 nights and 1 day. As we were trying to keep costs down we hired a bike and spent the day exploring beaches accessible from our hostel in Uluwatu.
Dreamland beach is located on the Bukit Peninsular, upon arriving there were two things I noticed immediately. Firstly, the hoards of people on the beach and secondly the mammoth waves crashing onto the sand, I don’t think I had seen any that big in person before.
There is a beautiful soft sand all over the beach and this when contrasted against the rugged rocks surrounding the area makes for a very beautiful wave watching spot.
However, this was the most ‘touristy’ beach we visited, probably due to the resort and restaurant developments overlooking the beach, there were also buses of tourists arriving as we were there, so we decided to spend just half an hour here watching the waves and (advanced) surfers before moving on. I must admit the worst part about this beach was the sheer amount of people – I know, hypocritical coming from the tourist!
Bingin Beach is located just south of Dreamland beach, so that’s where we headed next. We parked the bike and made our way down a winding little alley, the alley is so small and unassuming that we thought we may have accidentally ventured on to private property.
However, further down the path it opened up and we could see a host of different restaurants and bars, and eventually the beach. We stopped off at one of the cafes for a smoothie which had the most picturesque view over the sea and then made our way down to the beach for some sunbathing. Whilst Bingin beach is a surfer hot spot, Shaun and I being surfing novices, stuck to dipping our toes in the sea and exploring the smaller secluded parts of the beach along the shoreline.
Thomas beach was our final stop of the day, and the most southern of the three beaches. We were pleased to find out there was free parking, and made the short 10 minute walk down the steps to the beach.
Here we were greeted with a long stretch of soft white sand, sunloungers and a selection of warungs’ selling local dishes. We had a cheap lunch and caught the rest of the daylight sun relaxing on loungers.
All in all, I would say our mini beach tour got progressively better throughout the day. All were beautiful, but we started at Dreamland which was far too busy and hectic, ending up in Thomas beach which was tranquil and relaxing.
If anyone is interested in planning their own beach tour, here is a great list of awesome beaches in Uluwatu!
We finished our first day in Bali by going to Uluwatu Temple to watch the Kecak Fire dance. We purchased our tickets around an hour before the show at the temple for 100,000 IDR or around £5 each (this will be much more expensive if you go through a tour operator).
We made our way to the amphitheatre where the show was taking place, it was a pretty tight squeeze and just as I thought no more people could possibly fit, we seemed to be able to accommodate another 50. Once we were all well acquainted and dripping sweat onto the stranger next to us, it was time for the show to begin.
Kecak is an ancient Balinese dance, it is performed by a group of men in traditional clothing who use only their voice and bodies to create the sounds of the performance. The dance depicts a short version of the Ramayana saga, when you purchase your ticket you also get a leaflet which explains each section of the story.
The performance was amazing, particularly the sound of all the Kecak dancers chanting in unison, it filled the amphitheatre and was quite magical to witness. However, the pièce de résistance which really tied the whole experience together, was the back drop. Here we were, sat in a temple, on the edge of a cliff, watching the sunset in Bali while the whole sky was lit up a candyfloss pink – bliss!
On the second of our 10 days in Bali we left Uluwatu and got a taxi to Ubud, the drive was quite long and busy but we did go over a motorway in the middle of the ocean which was pretty cool.
Our first afternoon was spent wandering around Ubud art market, it’s located in the middle of Ubud so pretty hard to miss and was literally just around the corner from our homestay.
The market is open from 8am but we didn’t arrive in Ubud until later in the day. Word on the street is it’s much quieter and you’re likely to get better deals if you head over early in the morning. So if you’re an avid shopper, set your alarm and get there before all the other tourists!
The market, as with many others in Asia does have it’s fair bit of tourist tat. However, there are also a range of different handcrafted pieces, many made in neighbouring villages especially for the market. As well as artwork, there are crochet pieces, basket bags, sarongs and jewellery – all were so beautiful and incredibly tempting. However, my luggage and budget didn’t allow for any purchases, but I enjoyed ogling at all the amazing items all the same.
Ubud Monkey Forest
Ubud Monkey Forest, also referred to as sacred monkey forest sanctuary is located in the village of Padangtegal and only a 5 minute drive from Ubud Art Market, so we headed there once we finished wandering around.
The Monkey forest is a conservation area which is home to around 700 monkeys, and is set in the most lush forest with over 100 different species of trees and 3 temples. So whilst the monkeys are obviously the main draw, the forest itself is beautiful and there is plenty to see. You can read all about the forest, it’s opening times and ticket prices on their website.
As we were driving to the forest, I was wondering if we would actually be able to see any monkeys whilst we were there. There had been a couple of places we had visited throughout SE Asia which claimed to have monkeys, but we never saw them. I needn’t have worried, they were everywhere and I would have had to walk around with my eyes closed to miss them.
Just as we were pulling up to the forest, we passed a small store on the side of the road, out of the corner of my eye I caught a monkey looting food from a shelf! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Please remember, that I come from the UK and our most exotic native animal is the deer, so driving down the road and watching a monkey shoplift was totally surreal.
We walked around the forest grounds which were absolutely beautiful and we saw hundreds of monkeys. They were hanging from the trees, relaxing on the walk ways, bathing in the pools, pretty much everywhere we turned we could see them.
My favourite was watching the mums carrying the babies, it was so cute! Shaun and I managed to get pretty close to them but made sure we maintained a safe distance and we definitely did not try to touch them!
Here’s the thing, this is their home and we are visiting to observe them in their natural habitat and that is amazing, but we shouldn’t be interfering. Before visiting I had read a lot of Do’s and Don’ts, here are the real important ones:
- Do not take Bananas to feed them – there are staff at the forest to do this and it can cause the monkeys to fight over food, or worse bite you.
- Be careful with your sunglasses, hats and phones -the monkeys can and will steal them off your body. I would suggest putting them in your bag and make sure your bag is zipped shut.
- Don’t come with food or snacks in your bag – the monkeys will smell them and climb you and try to get into the bag for the goods!
- It’s not just your food and Gucci sunglasses that need protecting – they will even try and nab the water from you hand. So make sure you keep your water hidden away in your bag and be careful when drinking.
In truth, these rules really aren’t difficult to follow and if you keep to them you’re likely to have an amazing time and get much more up close and personal with these beautiful creates than you ever have before. However, if you are one of those people who’s packing bananas to attract the monkeys purely for the gram pic, and you get scratched or bitten – I’m sorry but it’s your own fault.
Mount Batur Sunrise Walk
On our third day we did The Mount Batur Sunrise Walk, this was the only tour that we paid to go on whilst in Bali, everything else we organised ourselves as it’s much cheaper. However, when your climbing an active volcano we thought it best to go with someone who knows what they are doing.
We woke up at the ungodly time of 1.30am and were collected from our hotel by our tour operator, after picking up the rest of our group we stopped at a restaurant just before Mount Batur to have breakfast which was fried Banana and Coffee. Unsurprisingly, I had no appetite at 2 in the morning, but knew I would need the energy to climb the mountain.
As we approached the bottom and were looking up at the volcano, I thought we would be walking in a zig-zag pattern to wind our way up to the top. Oh no! we were walking straight up the side, it was quite a difficult ascent because the floor was loose with pumice and it was hard to find your foot placement in the dark with only the small light from the head torch.
The hike took around two hours and eventually we made it to the top of the mountain, Shaun and I found a spot to watch the sunrise and waited patiently for the sun to appear whilst eating our packed breakfast provided by the tour operators.
As with all things mother nature, they can be unpredictable, so when you are hauling yourself up the side of a mountain at 3am, you don’t actually know if you’re going to have a nice clear view at the top or if it’s going to be cloudy that day and therefore no views. We had a little bit of cloud on our trek but most of it had cleared enough that we could see the sunrise at the top which I was so pleased about, and was therefore thanking the universe under my breath as we reached the top.
We stayed at the top for a little while taking in the views as daylight broke, It had just turned 6am and I felt accomplished as hell! Once the sun was firmly in the sky we walked around at the summit for a while and our guide showed us where the pockets of steam from the volcano were located.
Then we made out descent down the mountain, I found this way trickier than coming up, because the floor was loose and the walk was pretty steep it was so slippery! Every single person in our group except our guide fell on their bums coming down. It became a fun game to try and guess who would be next to slip down, but we all made it down unharmed.
Before heading back to the hotel we stopped off at a coffee farm, Shaun and I had no idea this was part of the tour but we are both coffee lovers so this was a nice surprise. When we arrived we were given a tour of the farm and we found out they produce Luwak or Civet coffee, which is a speciality and the most expensive coffee in the world.
Luwaks are small mammals which look very similar to Lemurs, the Luwaks eat coffee cherries, which are supposedly fermented in the digestion process, pooped out, collected, cleaned and brewed!
The bizarre method, and supposedly superior taste has meant that Luwak coffee is somewhat of a phenomenon and comes with a hefty price tag – a 250g bag can set you back £60.
We were able to try a variety of different teas and coffees at the farm, including the Luwak coffee which was marketed as a ‘cat-poo-chino‘. I looooove coffee so I really enjoyed the tour of the farm and the opportunity to try the different coffees.
We were able to purchase some Luwak coffee at the store on our way out, but Shaun and I passed on this offer and i’m pretty glad we did, here’s why; Luwak coffee has created quite a bit of controversy over the past couple of years, for two main reasons. Firstly, many farming methods of this coffee are now industrialised, Luwaks are kept in small cages and aren’t treated ethically. Secondly, due to the higher demand for this coffee there are many places who are claiming to sell ‘Luwak coffee’ for extortionate prices when they are indeed just selling regular coffee.
As I mentioned, we had no idea that our tour was going to stop off at a coffee farm (lots of tours in Asia do this, you book to do the ‘main tour’ but the guides usually have an agreement with local businesses where they will bring tourists for extra income, this is never advertised when you book your tour).
Before visiting the coffee farm, I had never heard of Luwak coffee, if I had, I would have of course done my research before going so we could have made a decision about whether it was somewhere we wanted to to visit. Since returning home and reading more about Luwak coffee, I’m glad we made this decision to skip on purchasing the coffee.
This is not to say that there are not authentic and ethical companies selling Luwak Coffee, so if you are overcome with a desire to try it, just ensure you do your research first!
Warung Biah Biah
I couldn’t end this post without writing about Warung Biah Biah, we ate a lot of good food in Uluwatu and Ubud but this place was in a league of it’s own. We randomly stumbled across it whilst looking for somewhere to eat in Ubud and it was such a happy coincidence because the food was some of the nicest we had on our travels.
Warung Biah Biah serves traditional Balinese cuisine, we ordered 10 small plates to share which were served on banana leaf and were absolutely delicious along with two beers and the meal came to 196,900 IDR or roughly £10 – incredibly cheap for amazing, authentic Balinese food!
So this is how we spent the first few of our 10 days in Bali. This was the last leg of our trip so we were taking things at a much more leisurely pace, inline with the Bali vibes. However, we still managed to see and do a lot of great things, I think the sunrise trek was a highlight for the both of us and something we will never forget. Next stop – Canggu, Kuta and Seminyak for the rest of our 10 days in Bali.