Winter Vacation Part 7 – Bali

For those following along at home, Nicole and I visited Osaka, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore before moving on to beautiful Bali. Nicole found an awesome travel deal for a resort in Bali. For around $400 we got a week’s stay, a deluxe room with a hot tub on the balcony, free dinner one night, free breakfast everyday, and free airport drop off/pick up. It was an amazing deal and one of the cornerstones of the trip. It was one of the first things we booked and the basis of what we planned around. If you don’t want to read the whole post, watch the video below, courtesy of the GoPro Nicole bought me for Christmas.

Sleeping in the airport
Sleeping in the airport

If you remember, Nicole and I spent the last night in Singapore sleeping in the airport. I’ve never slept in an airport before but if I ever had to do it again, I would stay in the Singapore airport. We woke refreshed and since we’d already passed through security, our walk to the gate was only a few minutes. The flight wasn’t very crowded and everyone seemed in a good mood. After all, they were going to Bali.

Getting to Bali

We landed a few hours later and disembarked. Bali was hot, but tropical island hot, not city-in-summer hot. To get through Bali customs you need to pay around $30 for your visa. That equates to an absurd amount of money in Indonesian Rupee. We took out something like 400,000IDR each. Then I lost my debit card. The ATMs in Bali were really slow so I think I just walked away with my money and receipt and the machine ate my card. I’ve never lost a credit card or debit card before and already I’d lost it literally 15 minutes into our trip. No big deal though. I cancelled my card at the hotel and that was that.

As part of the Travelzoo deal that Nicole found, we got free airport pickup, a first for me as an adult. The driver was nice and the hotel was even nicer. It was one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed in. There was a pool with several waterfalls, a swim-up bar, a beautiful dining area that opened out into the pool. Our first day we just explored Sanur, the area we were staying in.

Yoga

The second day in Bali, Nicole and I took a cab to the Yoga Barn in Ubud. Nicole’s always wanted to visit the Yoga Barn and I like doing yoga sometimes so it was a good fit. We signed up for a relaxing type of yoga. Most of the hour we laid on the ground and squished a tennis ball into our kidneys using our body weight. It was not the best use of $5.  After yoga we ate at their vegan cafe. I had some sort of tempeh taco and a mint lime drink with a shot of honey. It was pretty good. I would definitely recommend the cafe.

A note about cabs. The blue cabs with a bird logo on them are the ones you want to use. The other ones are likely to scam you.

Massages

massages
massages

After yoga, Nicole and I got a couples massage and body scrub for an hour for nickels. Okay, not quite that low, it was around $10 a person. The massage was amazing and the scrub was….rejuvenating. I’m sure if you’re a lady without body hair it’s great but for me it just felt like someone with a handful of coarse sand was trying to scrub off my top layer of skin.

Monkey Forest

After being massaged and scrubbed within an inch of my life Nicole and I visited the Ubun Monkey Forest. It’s a preserve filled with semi-wild monkeys. They roam around and people feed them. Nicole was too afraid to get near them so we skipped the feeding part. The monkey forest is also filled with some incredible temples, waterfalls and bridges. Admission was something like $2 and included a free postcard.

Surfing

Surfing
Surfing

The following day Nicole and I visited Kuta and went surfing. Kuta is a bit more lively than Sanur. Sanur is a more laid back restaurant and quiet beach area. Kuta is where the backpackers go to buy neon tank tops, ray-bans, and tattoos. There are lots of hawkers on the street selling bracelets and bars blasting dubstep. All that aside, there’s a nice beach with great waves. Nicole and I rented a board to share and took turns surfing up and down the beach. Nicole had never surfed before so I taught her, and after a little practice, she was able to stand up and ride a wave.

That night we returned to Sanur and the hotel and went out for food there. We found a place right off the beach that had those giant drinks you see in movies about tropical islands. My drink came in a pineapple and Nicole got a drink inside a coconut. Both had umbrellas and fruit. We also got surf and turf for a few dollars each. We were only halfway through our time in Bali and already trying to find a time to come back again.

Snorkeling

Snorkel cafeOriginally we’d planned to get SCUBA certified in Bali. However, there was so much to do in Bali, it was impossibly to commit to three days of training and sitting in a classroom when we could be surfing and rafting. We decided to book a snorkel trip instead. Based on the time constraints of our week in Bali, it was definitely the right decision. A van picked us up from the hotel and took us to the dive center where we signed our lives away and met a nice guy from the UK. He was doing a dive that day and recommended a number of great dives for us the next time we’re in Bali.

The drive out to the boat was only an hour, like just about everything in Bali. It’s not that anything is particularly far, its just the roads are small and windy so the travel itself takes awhile. We dropped our things off at a little cafe on the beach and changed into our swimsuits. Our buddy from the UK took one boat and we took another. The trip out to the reef was only a few minutes and definitely worth it. We put on flippers and hopped overboard. The reef was incredible, and so close. It was right below us. At times I thought I might scrape myself against the coral it was so close. There were so many fish and different colored coral. It was even better than what I remember of the Great Barrier Reef.

Nicole and a traditional Balinese dancer
Nicole and a traditional Balinese dancer

We stayed an hour at that reef before boarding the boat again and visiting another coral reef 5 minutes away. It was inside of a small cove and just as vibrant as the previous spot. Our guide led us around the reef and showed us schools of fish as well as some giant brain coral.

At the end of our trip we took the boat back to the beachside cafe and had some lunch before heading back to the hotel. That night Nicole and I went out to eat in Sanur again. At the restaurant we went to they had traditional Balinese dancing and a live band performing. The performance was a sort of “best of” various Balinese plays. There was one lead female dancer and she invited Nicole up on stage to dance with her a few times. The food was really good as well. A little too good.

White water rafting

Nicole and I rafting
Nicole and I rafting

On our second to last day Nicole and I took a white water rafting trip. A van picked us up early in the morning and took us and an Arabic couple high into the mountains, seemingly to the top of Bali. We hopped in a raft with our guide and made our way down the rapids. Many years ago I went white-water rafting in Costa Rica and while the rapids there claimed to be level 3, they felt pretty tame. The rapids in Bali were a whole other story. We were tossed around and went over rocks, rapids, and even a waterfall. The rafting was fantastic and I highly recommend it if you get a chance to visit Bali. However, be careful when choosing your guide. Some of the guides out there are less experienced than others and you’ll spend more time on the rocks than actually going down the rapids.

At the end of our several hour rapid adventure, we hopped off the raft and climbed what felt like a thousand steps. Nicole and I have climbed many steps before like in Hong Kong and at the Cherry Blossom festival, but this was insane. I was fine to climb them, but Nicole was feeling a bit under the weather and had to take some breaks on the way up.

Leaving Bali

It’s with a heavy heart that I write about leaving Bali. We had a blast while we were there. We rafted, snorkeled, surfed, dined, relaxed. We did it all in only a few days and for a fraction of what it would cost to do just about anywhere else in the world. Of all the places I’ve ever traveled, Bali was one of my favorites.

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