Mt Batur, 7am. We made it in time to watch the sun rise. Our shoes were caked in dust and dirt, and our hair a tousled mess from the atmospheric change. Once we got to the top, however, nothing really mattered anymore.
The first time I set my eyes on the magical paradise that is Bali, I was 13. To say I remembered every memory of that trip would be a lie. But the funny thing is, I knew I had to go back. There is something so beautiful about it. Being half-indonesian might have something to do with the way I saw Bali. It was a paradise close to home, and I was hungry to explore more.
Eight years later, that was exactly what happened.
As a planned graduate trip between three girls and I, we wanted to capture Bali’s essence in four days. The result was a hectic mess of non-stop adventure. I realised how truly over-ambitious we were. Looking back on it now, I feel like we were leeching off each other’s excitement as fuel. We managed to get in only 2-4 hours of sleep on the first two days, because we were in such a rush to do all our activities on our itinerary! It was insane.
For the first night, we decided to stay in a villa in Ubud. We chose Gajah Biru Bungalows and Spa because a friend of ours actually recommended it. It was also close to activities such as white water rafting, mountain trekking and yoga. We set our sights on Villa Bunda, which came with access to a pool! Honestly, the amount of photos taken in that pool comes close to fifty!
I had a really good time there because the staff is so friendly. We were greeted with open arms by the owner of the villas, who made us the cutest signs with our names on them. It was such a personalised gesture and we ended up keeping it!
We took some time to settle in, cooing at the amenities and getting overly-excited over every little detail. I loved the bathroom the most (for some reason that seems to always be important to me). Then the fun began.
White Water Rafting was a blast. We strapped our helmets and buckled up, gleaming with excitement. I’ve done this before in Bogor, South Jakarta, so I already knew what to expect. Two years back my dad took me and a bunch of his colleagues (and their kids) up for a 5 hour drive to the mountains and we camped out there for a couple of days. Was it fun then? Not really. This is the kind of activity you need to do with people you can laugh about crazy things with. With my dad it seemed kind of lame, like a forced father-daughter bonding activity.
With my friends, I loved it. It can be challenging to do this because of the hike down to the river. It’s steep and you will have to navigate rocky paths, but if you wear proper shoes it will be fine! The locals can do it with slippers on, which is pretty amazing (but not recommended for your first time).
Getting ready to kill our arms for 2 hours
Mount Batur will be hard for you if you do not work out. We’re talking about climbing a mountain made up of rocks, here. Wear appropriate shoes for the occasion because I didn’t, and ended up killing not only my arms but my feet. I could muster up the strength to complete it because I work out regularly and don’t find it especially taxing on the body. Would I do it again? YES. It’s an amazing experience.
If you’re keen to do it, expect to be hiking in complete darkness. Torchlights will be given to illuminate the path ahead. You’ll be going with a large group of other tourists too.
Taken during the first thirty minutes of the hike, when we were more than hyped. The last thirty minutes, however, looked a little less cheerful.
At this point, we had already checked in to our hotel room at The Trans Resort, Seminyak. This hotel is excellent if you want to be close proximity to the hottest bars and nightclubs. It’s also close to cute shops and cafe’s. We took the evening to settle down and freshen up. The only sleep we got so far was before the trek, which totals up to about 4 hours. Sarah and Sonia took it upon themselves to squeeze in a nap, but Margs and I couldn’t really sleep. We had planned to hit the clubs that night, and I guess we were wide awake. I ran a bath, popped in a bath bomb and relaxed. Then Margs and I decided to doll up and check out the rooftop bar.
The very first time I ever danced on a table! You can feel Sky Garden buzzing with excitement even walking over. There are kids littering the streets outside, smoking, talking, chilling. Once I’m inside a chill runs up my spine. It is electrifying. And so, so loud. The guy at the bar wants to know my name. I don’t entertain him. I just want the glass of wine I paid for, really. But he is insistent, even holds out his hand for me to shake.
If you’re into nightclubs, give this one a go. I promise, it’s worth a shot. The top floor is my favourite. The vibe is just right, and no one is creeping up to touch you. We danced from 1am to 3am, and then we leave.
Beware of random drivers at this hour. There were no blue birds for us to catch (the trusted cab company in Indonesia), so we trusted this driver who completely ripped us off. I don’t think my friends were comfortable going into a car with him, but I managed to get him to our destination with much difficulty. I would not recommend doing this because he couldn’t even get to our hotel properly. I was pissed off at myself for not listening to my friends and getting into a regular taxi, but I suspect that it might have been about the same price.
To be honest, this activity was a waste of my money. I have a weak stomach, so I got sea sick from the 5 minute boat ride to the actual activity. This was before we even started! Then the men in charge briefed us on what to do while underwater. We put on neoprene sock-like shoes and they popped an oxygen helmet over my head. Then I had to climb down a ladder to the bed of the sea and walk. For SGD72, it’s not money well spent. We saw only one type of fish, and they kept forcing us to take a picture with said fishes. The guide would hold up a bottle of fish food and feed it to the fishes, causing an insane amount of fishes to swarm around our faces. Then we would walk for ten more minutes and do the same thing.
I got really sick under water, but forced myself to keep going. By the time I resurfaced, my breakfast was up, up and away. Yes, I threw up in the sea. It wasn’t my prettiest moment.
Potato Head Beach Club + Mrs Sippy
If you have time, I recommend going to both of these beach clubs. Potato Head is obviously popular among the young and old for the laid-back atmosphere with a great beach view, while Mrs Sippy boasts a relatively older crowd and has a very 90210 feel to it.
At Potato Head, I actually chose the Pisang Daiquiri (bottom left), which tasted like a banana smoothie bowl with a hint of alcohol. I didn’t like it as much as the Rosella Margarita (top right). That one really hit the spot. It was light, refreshing and sweet.
The cocktails at Mrs Sippy are about the same price as Potato Head (SG12-13 each) but not as charming. I like the interior more at Mrs Sippy than I like their drinks. I bought the Mangosteen Margarita but couldn’t taste the mangosteen in it. When asked why, the waiter explained that they use a syrup concentrate. I ended up drinking Sonia’s drink, which was the classic Mrs Sippy. It had a heavier taste of vodka and was pretty OK.
The highlight of my trip was, naturally, Mount Batur! I will be back just to give it another go, because I love the thrill so much.
So there you have it! I hope this gave you a good idea of the things you can do in Bali. Each part of Bali is very different so it’s good to do your research on exactly where you plan to go to. If you’ve been to Bali before, I urge you to share your experience in the comment section below! Was it good or bad? Would you go back?
For those who are planning a trip somewhere down the road, keep reading!
Never been to Bali?
- The best time to visit depends on what you want to do. For example, if your goal is to surf, then between April to October is excellent for watersports.
- South Bali (Seminyak, Kuta, Nusa Dua to name a few) and Central Bali (Ubud/Gianyar) is more tourist friendly and if you don’t speak fluent bahasa, you can expect the locals know a bit of english around this region.
- When shopping in the markets, don’t be overly nice to the locals selling the goods. Our driver warned us to walk away from vendors who try to touch you anywhere (shoulder, arm, even a handshake) as it is a way to make their customers powerless when bargaining. Not sure how much of this is true but I personally wouldn’t take any chances.
- IDR 100,000 is roughly SGD10. Indonesia’s currency is in Rupiah and can be complicated to handle. As a rough guide, cancel out four zeros. This means IDR 2000 will be, quite simply, 20 cents here in Singapore. Be really careful, it’s easy to get mixed up with all the zeros, especially if you aren’t a numbers person.
- Don’t drink tap water! Bottled water is available and cheap.
- Don’t be shy to speak basic bahasa, especially when greeting or thanking others.
- I don’t recommend changing money by the side of the road. Find an authorised money changer or change it before you leave. If you plan to bring more than $500, it is safer to bring a credit card instead.
Basic words to know:
Good Morning – Selamat Pagi
Good Afternoon – Selamat Siang
Good Night – Selamat Malam
Thank you – Terima Kasih or Makasih (shortened form)
Excuse me/ Im sorry – Maaf ya
Yes – Ya/Iya
No – Tidak/Tak