Traveler: Breonne Eberhart
When: April 2017
Overall experience: Be prepared to fall in love with the spirit of Bali. Maybe you will get lost in the vivid green rice terraces, ride a motorbike through the maze of windy, dirt roads in the countryside, be an elephant caretaker for the day, indulge in the local fresh fare, immerse yourself in the culture of the local people, visit a Balinese artist, or get your eat, pray, love action on. Whatever your reason for coming to Bali, you are bound to experience the magical aura that emanates from this lush island paradise.
When I hear Bali I think of this picturesque, exotic island with beautiful beaches. I was debating on my next adventure and Bali has been on my bucket list for some time. So I decided to grab my backpack and head out on a solo trip.
Logistics: I use Sky scanner to book most of my flights, which is usually a little cheaper than Expedia and other booking engines. My flight was $1,000 and went from Honolulu to Bali with a layover in Taipei. Once getting to Denpasar, I got a taxi at the airport to my first hotel, which was about $10 USD. You can haggle with them but it was late and I was tired so it seemed to be a fair price for the distance. Renting a car or scooter in Bali is not for the faint of heart. If narrow alleys, tons of people on scooters, and bumper to bumper traffic doesn’t sound like a fun driving experience I recommend getting a driver.
A personal driver will run you about $30-$50 per day. But I will assure you it’s the best way to get around and totally worth the money. Public transport isn’t really a thing in Bali. There is a bus but can take hours to get where you are going. I randomly found my driver Madé Sudana and couldn’t have been more pleased. He was very knowledgable about his country, translated for me, explained their religious practices, introduced me to his friends/family, got me the best prices, took me to local artists to get hand-made silver and art, and became a good friend during my journey. He also knew the best spots for local food! I can’t recommend him enough! You can contact him at:
Accommodations: Bali has a variety of accommodations for every price range. Initially I wanted a budget place since I never really spend much time in a hotel. But pretty much everything is budget in Bali and after some research I figured since I never stay in 5 star places this was probably the time to do it! There of course are hostels and budget hotels for $10-$100 but why not get a private villa for $120 which would cost up towards $500-$1500 in the states. So needless to say I treated myself this trip! I started in Legian/Kuta and headed to Uluwatu, Sukawati, Ubud, Tabanan, Banjar, and down to Nusa Dua.
-Legian– I stayed at the Ossotel Legian. It was in a great location outside the craziness of Kuta, was clean, opened up directly to the pool, provided fresh fruit, water, and even nightly chocolate (just that made me happy).
-Saraswati- I stayed at the Santi Mandala Resort and Spa. This place was absolutely beautiful. They have private villas as well as single rooms. And both are incredible! It is tucked in the hills of Saraswati, very quiet, and peaceful.
-Puri Wulundari- Perfection! I mean there really is no other word for it. I could live at this place, never leave and be happy. I came to Bali during the Balinese new year and if you don’t know anything about Nyepi day it is a day of silence!! You aren’t allowed to go out of your hotel or home. I didn’t know how I was going to handle that and for those who know me I have a very hard time staying indoors for an entire day! So I figured if I had to be trapped inside I was going to do it in style. This was by far the nicest place I have ever stayed in my life and treated myself to an entire day of spa services which were fantastic!
–Nusa Dua– I stayed at Bali Tropic Resort and Spa which is right on the beach and very close to town. I didn’t spend much time here but from what I did see the grounds were beautiful.
-Ubud– I stayed at Villa Padma which was in a great location just a few streets outside the center of Ubud. It was a private villa with a pool, AC, and they even serve you breakfast in bed!
Activities: Bali has no shortage of things to do or see! As a solo traveler I would recommend exploring Kuta your first day since it is right by the airport and does have a lot going on. It is a touristy city but gets your feet wet in terms of seeing how things work in Bali. I roamed around, ate some local food, and had a few drinks with the locals to get ideas on what to do.
The Bali Zoo
This zoo is known for its conservation efforts and was awarded best conservation institution for 2017 in Indonesia. They have a rehab and release program for endangered species and focus on educating the public. This made me happy to see they were concerned about the well-being of the animals and not just tourism. I got the package called “mahout for a day” which means I got my very own elephant friend to hang out with! Her name was Adele and she was the sweetest. You get to feed, bathe, and take a stroll with your new friend. This package is pricey at about $500 USD but it was totally worth it to have a once in a lifetime private interaction with these beautiful animals. Did I mention you also get to play with monkeys, have access to the entire zoo, breakfast, lunch, and an hour massage at the end of the day? Definitely a wonderful experience.
Tegalalang Rice Paddy
The Tegalalang rice paddy is incredible. I was lucky enough to see it during the rainy season and the layers of green were mesmerizing! It is right outside of Ubud so very easy to get to if you have a driver. The Balinese believe rice is very sacred and is considered to be a symbol of life. My driver Madé explained the process of cultivation and the specific seasons. Come to find out majority of the farmers do this all by hand without the use of machines! I thought this process was pretty phenomenal considering they continue their traditions and hard work even though some do have access to make it “easier”. Rice connects the farmers to their land, families, and spiritual life. In fact the Balinese irrigation system called “Subak” has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Cultural Landscape site.
I am not a big coffee drinker but I have heard of Luwak or Civet coffee being the most expensive coffee in the world. It is produced in Indonesia so I of course had to try it. This coffee is literally the shit! It comes from little creatures called Luwaks who apparently eat the coffee beans then excrete them. During digestion some kind of unique fermentation takes place and gives the coffee a very distinct taste. It was pretty good and can honestly say that it didn’t taste like “shit”.
There are many healers in Bali which have become quite popular since the movie eat, pray, love. Many of them are not the real deal and just cater to tourism. I really wanted to experience a healer and came across the name of Cokodra Rai. I read a lot about him and what he has done for the local people over the years both physically and emotionally. There is no such thing as making an appointment with this man. You have to know a local person to bring you to his house and wait until it is your turn on a first come basis. I got there very early at about 7:30am and was the first one in line. Out came this tall man with a big smile. He asked me where I was from and that was all I told him. He began to touch my face and push on certain areas of my body with what looked like a chopstick. He told me I have many allergies which is correct, and I was worried about something which was also true. He went on to “test” all of my organs with his stick by pressing on each of my toes. If you feel pain when he pushes on your toe it means there is a problem with that specific organ.
I felt nothing until he got to my pinky toe and it was excruciating! I actually screamed in pain. He told me there was something wrong with my blood. I was like how? I am 32 years old and healthy! But he was every adamant that I needed to get my blood checked. I returned home and got my blood-work checked just for piece of mind and my cholesterol was incredibly high! Like super super high! I’m a nurse and it even scared me! So he was right. Since then I have stopped eating meat and changed my entire diet/lifestyle. I recently rechecked my levels and my numbers are now almost normal! Had I not saw him I may have never known I had dangerously high cholesterol which may have led to many complications in the future. I left his house with a sense of peace and balance.
I always knew monkeys loved bananas but damn you don’t stand a chance in this forest if you have some! The forest is located in Ubud and I relished walking around and interacting with these cute little critters. I spent nearly three hours there and honestly could have stayed all day. There is a small entrance fee and you have to buy the bananas but absolutely worth it. They are cute but extremely aggressive. They will jump on you, pick through your hair, crawl up your skirt, and literally go anywhere they think you’re hiding food!
Also known as the “Elephant Cave”, it was originally built as a meditation cave in the 11th century. As you walk through you will see indentations in the stone where meditating priests once sat. And it appears for a very long time! This is located about 20 minutes outside Ubud and charges 15,000 rupiah. In the courtyard prior to entering the cave there is an ancient source of holy water called the sacred water of the seven rivers. They say if you wash your face three times with the water you will be cleansed of any negativity.
Tirta Empul Temple
This temple is known for its holy spring water. The Balinese line up to bathe themselves under the spouts for ritual purification called “melukat”. They start on the left side and continue down the line of spouts until they have cleansed themselves under each spout. This is about a 30 minute drive from Ubud and once you arrive you can rent a sarong if you don’t have one for a small donation. I was there during the new year so it was very busy. During this time people are washing away the previous year in preparation for a fresh new year.
I wanted to dive while in Bali and ran out of time so this was the closest place I could go before heading back home. I managed to find a dive company and ended up being the only person on the dive. The gear was a bit old, the boat was a little sketchy, and there was also a language barrier. But sign language is what you use while diving anyway so it worked out. However, had this been a deep dive I wouldn’t have gone, considering it was pretty shallow I felt more comfortable. During the dive I saw a lot of tropical fish, anemones, and the coral was teaming with life! When I return to Bali I plan to head to Menjangen Island, Nusa Penida, and Tulamben where the diving is said to be phenomenal.
What to eat: In Bali, rice is so sacred that they actually put a few grains on their forehead or chest. This ritual signifies that they have prayed that morning. In many of their dishes rice is the main ingredient. The Nasi Goreng is quite delightful. Nasi is the name for rice in Balinese so you will notice many dishes with that name. Babi Guling is another local delicacy. Ibu Oka’s in Ubud is known as the best. It is pig on a spit, but please make sure you eat it at a reasonable hour and know where you are getting it from because Bali Belly is no joke…I learned the hard way. The pork ribs are incredible, as well as the Bebek betutu (slow cooked duck). I had so much good food but the places that stood out to me are Potato Head Beach Blub, Bali Buddha (Ubud), and the local warungs (restaurants).
-Bring an unlocked phone to put a sim card in. I asked the taxi driver to stop for a sim card on my way from the airport and we stopped at what appeared to be a very shady place but again the Balinese people are super nice and trusting. It worked out just fine.
-I only had a backpacking pack and still overpacked, It is incredibly hot in Bali so I wore flip-flops, dresses, shorts, and tanks, and a rain jacket (if it’s rainy season).
-Imodium!!! And other medications that you would need in the event of getting hit with the infamous “Bali belly”. I was going to bring antibiotics just in case and was thought “ohh my stomach can handle anything (well that wasn’t the case lol)”. Take probiotics prior to going and they say charcoal tablets work too. I ended up on a 17 hour flight home with Bali Belly….not cool.
– Always have bottled water, and even brush your teeth with it. TRUST ME.
-Sunscreen- It is very hot most of the time and if you are pale like me the sun likes to kiss your skin a little extra ☺
-Credit cards are pretty much accepted everywhere and there are tons of atms to get cash out. I always had cash because there are some little villages that are cash only.
-I always felt safe in Bali and as solo American woman traveler never felt any type of threat, but of course always use street smarts.
-Feminine products are difficult to find and when you do they are very expensive.
-Temple manners, cover shoulders and legs (they typically have sarongs you can borrow)
-During Jan-March a large amount of trash makes its way to the shorelines of Bali, the amount is overwhelming so if you are going to surf or do water activities I would suggest going at a different time.
-Have fun, enjoy the people, grab a few Bintangs and watch the beautiful sunsets of Bali!