The idea to go to Bali was planted in April so by the time it was actually time to go in October, I had 6 months to prepare, plan, and get ready for what I thought would be the best trip of my life. Somehow even all of the images and videos of Bali hadn’t prepared me for how incredible and special that small island in Indonesia was.
It all began with a flight deal I saw through Eva airways with flights to Bali out of Chicago for $600 round-trip. I was able to convince two friends to go and it spiraled from there with our final group size being nine people.
All of our pinning and research convinced us to start our trip in Ubud, which is extremely cultural and located part in the jungle and part in the rice terraces of the central part of the island. Then we would end our trip in Seminyak, which is a trendy, beach town with lots of hip shops, restaurants, and beach clubs and is also closer to the airport.
Day 1: Arriving in Ubud & Personal Chef
We landed at the airport in Bali around 4pm but we didn’t make it to our AirBnb in Ubud until almost 7:30pm due to traffic and how hard it was to get to our villa. The place we stayed was really beautiful and set in the most tranquil environment but it was far away from town* and hard to find for most of the drivers who navigate the complicated roads often.
We had arranged a private chef through a company called Gastro Valet to come and cook at our villa the first night we arrived and we were all so glad we did because after that long journey and arriving in a foreign place, it was super comforting to know we didn’t have to search for dinner on our first night. They made some traditional Indonesian cuisine that was delicious and it’s still one of my favorite moments from the trip.
*If you’ve never been to Ubud before, I would definitely recommend staying closer to the main part of Ubud or in a place where you have a house manager/concierge who could help arrange transportation. We found that difficult but made the best of it.
Day 2: Spa Day & Dinner Show
The jet lag was tough on the first day and we all woke up at 3am which was kind of expected so on our first full day, we planned a spa day to ease us into vacation. Everything in Bali is so inexpensive compared to the US so we were ready to live like QUEENS and booked a 5 hour spa experience at Putri Ubud Spa. It included a massage, body scrub, rose petal bath, facial, manicure, pedicure, and hair cream rinse and blow dry all for around $60. Yes, only $60. In hindsight, 5 hours might have been a little long but it was a memorable experience.
We also discovered two of our favorite restaurants in Ubud on our second day. The first was breakfast at Art Cafe and the second was after our spa day. We were walking around and stumbled upon The Elephant. It has an incredible view of the Tjampuhan Ridge Walk and it was our first but not nearly our last experience with the insane views of Bali.
Later that night, we went to Cafe Lotus to eat dinner and watch a traditional Balinese dance. Honestly, I was so tired and overwhelmed that I don’t remember much of it but I’m sure it was beautiful!
Day 3: Elephants, Jungle Fish, and the Art Market
Without a doubt, the highlight of my trip was playing with the elephants. I’m not sure how I heard about Mason Elephant Park but the minute I learned that you could play with elephants, it was added to the Bali bucket list.
It felt special from the minute we arrived. First we helped bathe the elephants which was so much fun but nothing compared to the second part, which was playing in the water with them. It was obvious that all of the elephants are well cared for and we later learned that none of the elephants are taken from the wild but are all rescued from camps throughout Indonesia.
I honestly didn’t think our day could get better (or that the trip could) after spending the morning with the elephants but we made a last minute decision to not go back to our villa and instead took a detour to a pool bar/restaurant called Jungle Fish.
Y’all, this place was the definition of paradise. There was an infinity pool that looks out over a ravine, huge sun loungers, and delicious food. We paid about $10 for a towel and to use the pool. We stayed here most of the afternoon and I think everyone was happy to have some time to just lounge and relax.
Day 4: Temples, Coffee, & Hot Springs
Day 4 was action packed! Our driver, Nengah, from the previous day had offered to take us to some of the popular areas around Ubud for 550,000 IDR which is about $36. His English was broken so we didn’t even know where exactly he suggested we go but for less than $10 a person, it seemed like a good deal and we said yes! (Side note: all of the Balinese people were so kind and patient and welcoming and if we were anywhere else, I wouldn’t jump in a car with a stranger and not know where I’m going, but I felt totally safe in Bali.)
I did understand that we would be going to some temples so I wore pants and a shirt with sleeves because your shoulders and knees need to be covered when going into the temples. However, they do have saris available at each temple that you can wear around your waist to enter if you wear shorts or a dress.
Our first stop was Gunug Kawi which is an 11th century temple and archaeological site. There are huge stone statues carved into the banks of the each side of the river that runs through the site. It was so hot that day and we had to climb down about 300 steps to get to it but it was really beautiful, like everything else in Bali.
The second stop was to Tirta Empul which is referred to as the Holy Water temple. There is a spring that is considered sacred within the temple and the water runs out where people can go in and cleanse themselves with the water.
Our next stop was lunch at a little roadside warung that our driver picked for us. I still can’t believe that we could hardly communicate with him but we were all super trusting and were just along for the ride.
After lunch, we headed North to the agricultural part of the island to do a coffee tasting. They told us about the specialty coffee found in Bali, which is made from the poop of a local animal called a Luwak. It’s like a mixture of a cat and monkey and as appealing as it sounded, none of us tried it.
The final destination was to the hot springs, which we hadn’t heard of but it might have been the best part of the day. We drove even further north toward Mount Batur and along the way, we saw the touristy parts of Bali start to disappear as we entered a more rural, local part of the island.
Mount Batur is an active volcano so there are natural hot springs that flow into the lake below it. There are a few little resorts that have built up near the hot springs which is where we went but other than that the whole lake is pretty untouched and it was fun to sit by the edge of the pool and watch fishermen on the lake.
If you made it this far reading this blog post, congratulations! It’s probably my longest one to date so I’m going to do part 2 which covers days 5-9 in Seminyak. Make sure to subscribe or like my page on Facebook so you don’t miss it!