Following our time in Yogykarta, my mom and I headed to the island of Bali.
For as long as I can remember, Bali has called out to me. My mom also had a life-long yearning to come here, so it was very special that I got to take her here.
As soon as you exit the airport, you are greeted by a sign that says “Welcome to the Last Paradise in the World.” It sets the mood for what you are about to experience here.
Our hotel was located in the Seminyak area of the island, which was about 30 minutes (without traffic) from the airport. At the taxi stand, you are given the option of using a set rate of 170,000 rupiah (approximately $12.00) or by going by the meter.
The agent at the desk kept pressing me to go with the set rate, but my instincts kicked in. I decided to go by the meter (more for curiosity than anything). Our trip ended up only being 105,000 ($7.50). This was my first introduction to the taxis on the island. Their reputation for overcharging seemed to be true.
On that afternoon we explored the local area, which is mostly beaches and touristy shops. It was fun to walk around for an hour or two, but after that, I knew it wasn’t where we would spend much of our time. I also learned here that Seminyak is known as a major party spot for the island. Oops - sorry Mom!
At dinner, I ended up finding something I had desperately been missing on this trip - salads. Salads were either hard to find, too expensive ($20.00+ for lettuce and carrots), or I was not sure if they were edible. While a minor luxury, I ended up having a salad at every meal in Bali.
That next morning, our first stop was the Pura Besakih Temple. This temple is over 1,000 years old, and known as Bali’s ‘mother temple’.
While walking around the temple, I noticed the vibe seemed subdued. I also noticed hundreds of locals in the temple. When I asked our guide, he said that many families come here for Hindu cremation and funeral ceremonies.
Our guide offered to let us “take a picture of the ceremony.” However, I declined. I can only imagine how I would feel if I were one of those families, and the place where I come for comfort during tragedy, was filled with tourists on tours.
With that said, the Pura Besakih temple is absolutely stunning and definitely something I recommend to visit if you are in Bali! It also offered a glimpse into the traditional architecture on the island.
Pictures of me at the temple and the view from the top of the temple.
Next, we headed to Tirta Empul (known as the ‘water temple’). This temple allows both locals and tourists to participate in a cleansing ritual, which allowed me to better understand the Balinese way of life.
For the ritual, each person wears a green sarong and gets into the water. In the water, there are a series of formations where you pray to be cleansed and get rid of the bad energy of the past. As I went under each water spout, I explored different thoughts and feelings under each gush. This was an incredible experience for me, and a major highlight of my time in Bali.
Sang (my guide who I met a few days later, shared that he goes to the temple every 15 days to cleanse himself)! If I lived in Bali, I would probably consider doing this myself as well! I would recommend participating in this ceremony as it helps you understand the culture, and also gives time for personal reflection.
Below are some pictures of the temple and our time here.
We spent the rest of that afternoon in Ubud (the cultural heart of Bali) by the Tegalalang rice fields. We had lunch here, which overlooked the fields which are terraced and very beautiful. If I had more time, I could of easily sat by these terraces for hours and been perfectly content.
We ended our afternoon at the Ubud Monkey Forest. This is a sanctuary in the heart of the city and currently houses over 700 monkeys! While the monkeys are beyond cute, they can also be ruthless and efficient in taking items from you. At the entrance, they list rules for your visit to the monkeys (my personal favorite is one that says “Do not Look Monkey’s in the eye").
After our long day, we spent our next morning lounging by the pool at our hotel. When we finished, we ventured off to Uluwatu, which is a sea temple on the East of Bali.
It was a long walk up to the top of the cliff, but the view was incredible. While it was around 90 degrees outside, we still felt comfortable due to the ocean breeze. It was so enjoyable up there that we stayed for a couple of hours just looking into the water and enjoying stunning views of the Bali Coast.
That Wednesday, I had booked two spa appointments at the Karsa Spa for my mom and I. While neither of us are big on spas, I knew if we were going to get a treatment, it would be in Bali, and at the end of our trip together.
We both had 2 hour long treatments, which consisted of a traditional Balinese massage. Every inch of this spa was pure luxury - including the fact that it was located in the middle of rice fields. The cost for both of us including tips was just $50.00!
Below are some pictures of the Karsa Spa. I highly recommend this if you are looking for rejuvenation in Bali.
While I was in Bali, I wanted to experience something truly local. So, I reached out to my friend Kayla, who had lived in Bali, and she introduced me to a man named Sang, who had helped her when she lived there.
Sang and I met that afternoon, and I asked him to introduce me to a traditional Balinese medicine man. He took me to a gentle old man - I later learned he is 96 years old! Sang acted as translator during my 15 minute visit. The healer told me he did not see any physical problems, but that my issues were mostly “worry worry” which leads to “anxiety and nervousness.”
He then had me lie down, and touched my middle toe. I felt intense pain throughout my body. The healer told me that “that is your worry - it is not doing you any good.” After this, he said a prayer, and touched my toe again. I still felt the pain, but it was much less so. He said “ good, good. Now be happy, happy and smile, smile!”
It could be just a placebo effect, but afterwards I did feel very light-hearted. My mom and Kayla had similar experiences. If you are open to this, I would recommend it. If nothing else, it makes for a great story!
After meeting Sang that day, my mom and I knew we wanted more time with him. He was knowledgeable, kind, and had a hospitable heart.
So, the next day, Sang picked us up from our hotel, and took us to find more traditional experiences. We started off by visiting with Sang’s local priest to participate in a Balinese religious prayer ceremony.
The process takes about 5 minutes, and involves getting very wet as the priest sprays holy water on you while saying prayers. This was the traditional ceremony I had hoped to witness, but instead, I actually got to be part of it!
Later that afternoon, we ate at a vegan restaurant called Moksa, which offered one of the best meals I have ever had. I even had a ‘vegan cheese’ which tasted like goat’s cheese (I know you won’t believe me, but it is true)! I couldn’t help but smile when I heard the girl at the table beside me say “Have you ever wanted to cry because of how good something tastes? Well, I haven’t. Not until now.”
My advice - come here if you are in Bali.
After lunch, Sang brought us to his home. His house was beautiful and I was very grateful that he gave us an intimate look at his everyday life!
Picture of Sang and I at his home and village.
That evening, Sang brought us to his local temple. Here, we witnessed about 40 people from the village doing the same ceremony my mom and I had previously participated in. Again, I felt very thankful to be allowed in the temple with a ceremony taking place and being the tourists there.
If you are headed here, I highly recommend reaching out to Sang! He is personable and truly wants to show off the glory that is Bali. His website with more information is at www.theauthenticbali.com.
On Friday, which was the last day of my mom’s trip, we went to the Tanah Lot temple - which due to natural erosion, is almost its own island. The beaches and cliffs around Tanah Lot are magnificent, and while everyone else was drawn to the local temple, it allowed us time to explore the beaches alone.
In the afternoon, we relaxed in cafes (Bali has incredible and unique cafes, by the way) before her flight. We celebrated the three incredible weeks we had together and I am so thankful I had the mother-daughter trip of a lifetime!
On Saturday, on my own now in Bali, I headed to Canggu, a famous resort village located on the South coast of the island. Here, I met up with Sol, a digital marketer, who travels the world while working remotely. She has started her own business and picks a new country to live in every few weeks!
Going back, Sol and I both attended the University of South Florida, but did not meet until we both were in Bali. She is a bright and beautiful person, and I was happy to meet a fellow travel lover.
That day, Sol suggested we meet at La Brisa, a beach restaurant. It offers views and an ambiance that puts other beach resorts I have been to, to shame. Here, we sat in a tree-house that overlooked the water, and gazed at surfers.
Sol demonstrates how it is possible to travel and work at the same time. As an example, in Canggu, there is a large population of digital nomads. Many of them start their own businesses, or do freelance work, to fund their travels. They also have what is known as a “co-working space” that allows for each person to work in comfort, and if they are lucky, connect with other like-minded people. In my opinion, it is a genius idea, and offers a great way to find both personal and professional support.
I found Sol to be a great inspiration and you can learn more about her amazing journey, and her expertise at her website: www.solspier.com.
When I left Sol’s house to head back to Seminyak that night, I found out more about the taxi system in Bali. I had been using an application known as “Grab” (the equivalent of Uber) to get around the island when I was by myself. That night, to get a ride back, I discovered what was called the “taxi mafia.”
In Bali, there is a big disagreement over the taxi trade here. I did not know it at the time, but the area that I was in, was a big part of it. So, while my Grab would only cost me $4.00 to go 30 minutes, a taxi would cost me approximately $30.00 for the same journey.
When I called my Grab, I was disturbed when a man accepted my ride, but then I got a message on my WhatsApp from a stranger telling me “it was forbidden to take a Grab.”
It honestly startled me that a man (not my Grab driver) somehow had my WhatsApp name and number, without me sharing it.
I ended up finding another driver, but below is a glimpse into my shared exchange with him. This is just to add light to be conscious of getting taxis and Grabs while in Bali, as I found it to be a bit off-putting while traveling on my own, even if those who messaged me did not mean anything by it.
The next day, I had the morning free before my flight to Kuala Lumpur. I decided to meet up with a new friend, Kleist, while he was on vacation in Bali. Kleist is a professional Brazilian volleyball player who is currently living in Saudi Arabia. I know many expats live in Saudi Arabia, but I think he is the first one I have met, and it really interested me to learn about modern day life there.
Our time together that morning was awesome, and I enjoyed learning about his life, and how he got to be where he is now. We both were astounded by how two people from such different backgrounds still had so much in common. One great lesson that I am learning from my travels, is that regardless of where people are from, people are the same everywhere.
Before leaving for my trip, and knowing I would be solo (after my family left) I got asked quite a bit, “won’t you be scared to be alone?” And my answer was always confidently to say “no”. To me, a smile is a universal language that everyone can understand and speak. My time with Kleist further emphasized this, which is why I am making note of it.
Below is a picture of us together, before I left for my next adventure in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
To conclude - Bali is an absolutely magical place. All the words and pictures cannot do justice to this place. I feel I could easily spend a lifetime here, and still would not get tired of its beauty.