I was struggling to title this post, as I wasn’t entirely sure it was necessary to use the word “bad” in a heading which recalls my twelve day journey (with eleven best friends) through Bali. But then I thought of Justin’s missing toenails, our boating cluster-cuss in Lombok, and glanced at the water-damage markings on my laptop case. Sure, we experienced a small dose of Bali foul-play, but nothing a bit of Bintang couldn’t fix… and it should probably be noted that most of our “bad” Bali moments were most likely Bintang induced. (Now would seem the appropriate moment to mention that Bintang is a Balinese, green-bottled beer that is caught somewhere between a Heinekin and fermented piss. I find it delightfully underwhelming, yet shockingly desirable.)
So my first bit of advice in traveling Bali is, embrace the Bintang. It will only guide you to the inevitable moments of occasional holiday misfortune, and you can bet your sun-kissed right arm that it’ll be waiting for you, barely chilled, at the end of that bad day. And how much can one complain about a few missing toenails, a water-logged laptop or phantom boat tickets when, that evening, you’re sitting on a beanbag facing the Indian Ocean, sipping a Bintang? There you have it… the bad and the Bintang. Now, on to the good.
We booked a total of twelve nights in four different locations. Each stop was entirely different from the one before, and I honestly feel we got a whirlwind smack in the face of Bali by the end of the trip.
We started in Legian (Kuta).
If you’ve heard tales of Bali from twenty-something year-old backpackers, you’ve probably heard tales of the beer-soaked chaos that is Kuta, a land flowing of professional fun-havers and abandoned inhibitions. If you’re the parent of one of these backpackers, you’ve probably stayed up long hours googling terrifying accounts of methanol poisoning and street clubs that look like a second-hand Las Vegas postcard (Sorry Ma and Pop). But to me, Kuta was neither. We found a fairly fantastic Bungalow resort for roughly twenty Australian dollars per night, a fee that appropriately addressed the damp rooms and mosquito swarms, but also included a swim-up bar. I can deal with bugs and moist air if I can order a tini from the comfort of my pool stool any day.
After three days of haggled shopping, mediocre to fantastic massages, and one rowdy night out, we packed up and missioned to Gili Trawangan Island.
Our trip to the Gili Islands was a lesson in Bali time… a lesson that must be learned before you can formulate reasonably prepared travel plans in this area. Bali time works something like following the north star to get home. The general idea is there, and intentions are good, but it’s really just a guessing game masked beneath nods of reassuring watch-tapping and subtle reminders of “no guarantee.” Basically, if you ask, “How long will it take us to reach the island?” In Bali time, the correct answer is, “Oh, around two hour half…not guarantee but yes.” Translation: two hours, plus maybe five. I did say, no guarantee.
But despite the illusion of a two hour boat ride turning into a six hour mission, we did manage find our paradise that is Gili Trawangan Island.
And that was the day my laptop and entire backpack went free-diving in my hostel room of rainwater. I allowed myself eleven minutes of wallowing, arm-flailing and cloud-cursing. I took on the face of a second runner-up four-year-old pageant queen, forcing a calm and collected expression whilst fighting the eye twitch of melodramatic despair. Then I paid 75,000 Rupiah for a bag of rice to make a cozy new home for my Macbook, and took my laundry to the cleaners. Sanity is, yet again, restored. (More from this amazing island later: look for Pub-Crawl Gili style, coming soon).
Next stop, Uluwatu.
I suppose we pleased the gods of travel by fighting the urge to complain about swamp-trekking in Gili and losing toenails under bike pedals, because our next stop was the epitome of Bali luxury. At a whopping rate of $500 AUD per night I might add (for a private 6 bedroom villa complete with an infinity pool, you do the math. Hashtaghellyes).
To say this place was unreal would be an offensive understatement. The rooms were better than master suites in a Four Seasons Resort, and the grounds were composed of winding stone paths which lead to a dining table island in a coy pond, and personal massage tables situated in a yoga garden.
If you find yourself venturing through Bali with a friend group the size of a soccer team, book this little gem. It will probably be one of the grandest places you’ve stayed in for the same price as a Ruth’s Chris Ribeye.
We ended our Balinese odyssey in Ubud, the mountainous world of rice fields, monkeys and delicious organic fare. In my personal opinion, Ubud was the perfect ending to an incredible two-week voyage through one of the most beautiful countries I’ve seen. The scenery is lush, the people are the embodiment of humble, and the food is a health-nut’s dream, and deceitfully tasty.
I’ll be writing many more accounts of Bali, when I find the time between plane hopping and boat cruising through the rest of SE Asia. My budget is about the equivalent of the contents of a kindergartner’s piggy bank, so I’ll likely find more time to write on discount local buses and excessive layovers. Until then, I’ll leave with my favorite photo of the trip.
It’s not just about the oceans we swim in, the cliffs we stand on or the food we search for… it’s about the friends we meet on these various continents and the belly laughs we’ll never forget. I can’t thank the universe enough for these people, the adventures we’ve embraced and this overwhelmingly incredible life.