I am very fortunate to live in a country with many holidays and to work for a company like Super English that allows it’s employees to take full advantage of those times off. My school was closed for Christmas break, so my fellow teachers/friends and I decided to take advantage of the super cheap promotion on Air Asia. We scored round-trip tickets from Phuket to Bali for $120. Thailand is such a strategic location for cheap holiday trips! Other schools in Surat Thani were not closed for the entire Christmas break, so I felt very lucky that we had that time off. Christmas and New Year’s are my favorite holidays, so I was excited to be able to spend them with close friends! Janet, John, Chris and I left December 27th, early in the morning, so early that we decided to sleep in the airport that night. Needless to say, we are budget travelers.
Bali is an island in Indonesia. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population than any other country in the world, with approximately 202.9 million. However, Bali is a Hindu island. So, it’s totally different than it’s neighboring islands. Bali is kind of like it’s own country. They have their own language and religion. Even the archicture is very different than other Indonesian islands. It’s a truly fascinating, beautiful, charming, spiritual place. The people are incredibly friendly, warm, English speaking Hindus. You can hardly pass a Balinese person without them giving you some sort of greeting or asking you a question. They are genuinely interested in knowing you.
As soon as we arrived we had some errands to run in Denpensar, the capital of Bali. Then we headed north to Ubud. I’m sure you’ve heard of Ubud by now. It got put on the map due to the best selling book and now movie starring Julia Roberts, “Eat, Pray, Love.” It’s kind of a shame that it has become such a popular tourist destination. I was in Ubud one year ago, and although it was still touristy and crowded due to the high season, it wasn’t nearly as crowded as it was this year. However, Ubud still has tons of charm and uniqueness.
As soon as we booked our homestay, being the budget travelers that we are, we began the search for some cheap, local food for our first meal. I had been raving about how good the food was to the others. They had high expectations. And I must say, the Balinese food did not disappoint them. We ate local, cheap food the entire time we were there. We could have decided to treat ourselves to an expensive, nice, western meal, but we liked the local food too much. The local dish is called Nasi Campur. It’s different each time. It consists of rice, vegetables, beans, tofu, tempe, chicken, fish, pork, nuts, coconut, spicy or peanut sauce, etc. You get to pick what you want inside. Then they wrap it up in a banana leaf. All of that for about $1. There’s such a variety that you never get tired of it because you get different fillings each time.
So, we spent the evening walking around town, eating Nasi Campur on our balcony by candlelight and washing it down with some Balinese beer. Then we went for some tea and shisha. The next morning we woke up to a delightful breakfast of Balinese coffee, banana pancakes, Jaffles and fresh fruit salad. We then got a taxi and headed up to the northern coast to Lovina. Some local people told us it was a really beautiful black sand beach town. The 3 hour drive was a beautiful ride through the central part of the country.
We got a good deal on accommodation. That night we walked along the black sand beach and had a couple local beers and local dinner. We ate and drank on the beach. Lovina was nice, but we decided later that we would have rather of stayed another night in charming Ubud. We decided to leave super early the next day (5am) to start the journey out to the Gili Islands. The Gili Islands are not part of Bali, but are part of Indonesia. They are tiny islands off of Lombok. We ended up having an incredible New Years on the Gilis!
After the Gilis we returned to Bali one day before our flight. We all agreed that we would like to spend our last night in Ubud. We couldn’t get enough of it! We got in early evening and found a decent homestay. Most of the homestays in Ubud range from $10-$20, and they all include breakfast. They all have a huge garden with ancient statues of Hindu religious figures. All throughout the day, people are setting out their offerings of various flowers, food, and insence in a bamboo basket. You can’t go very far without seeing a temple. Ubud is filled with art galleries, designer boutiques, bookstores, coffee shops, local and western restaurants, stores with handcrafted items, markets, etc.
Our last morning, we woke up early to observe the morning market scene. People were busy selling breakfast and Hindu offering items. We grabbed our last Indonesian food to go to have later on the airplane (since Air Asia doesn’t serve food or drinks on any flights).
We spent one week in Indonesia and had an remarkable trip. I was just as impressed the second time around to Bali as I was the first time, one year ago. Even though we were on the go quite a bit because we wanted to see so much, it was still a relaxing holiday. It’s the Balinese way of life. There’s no rush. They take time to talk to people. I’m sure I will find myself in Bali again. And I look forward to it.