I Left My Heart In Bali

It has been over four months since we took our trip to Bali and I’m just now writing it all down, which means many details have most likely been forgotten. But I can still feel the sand under my feet and the breeze off the ocean on my face. And thank goodness for that breeze, because geez, Bali is hot and humid!

We flew from Salt Lake to Seattle to Taipei and finally arrived in Bali two days later in the afternoon. Swollen ankles and all. I will, at all costs, avoid being stuck on an airplane for 12 hours ever again. We had hired a driver for our time in Bali, and as we exited the Bali airport, we were greeted by over one hundred hired drivers with signs. Our short driver, Dana, was hidden in the back with a sign that said Welcome Abby. And of course, I didn’t get a picture. Duh.

We traveled to our first Bali destination, Ubud, where we stayed at the Alaya Hotel in the heart of the city. We were so exhausted from our travels that after a quick stop for some dinner and some money exchanging, we crashed in our hotel for the night. The next morning (9/4) started at 9 am, where our first stop was a traditional Hindu temple, where we had our first experience of wearing a sarong. Or a heat trapper, depending on if you wear it how you are supposed to, or if you wear it in which not to get overheated and pass out. Our driver, Dana, who spoke English really well, also played as our tour guide, providing us with all the symbolism behind the structures.

After our temple visit, we did a bit of shopping. We stopped and watched how sarongs are made, and colored, and then had the opportunity to buy our own, which of course, we did. And then we headed over to a silver workshop, and watched how some of their jewelry was made, and then spent some time picking out some jewelry and negotiating the price (gag…there couldn’t be a worse way of shopping).

Our next stop was to watch some traditional Balinese dancers. Which probably was the most cultural experience we had while in Bali. But let me stop right here and tell you, everything in Bali has a price. You pay to get in somewhere, you then have to pay to use the bathroom inside the place that you already paid to get into. Luckily, everything is super cheap. Like a bathroom stop would be about 10 cents. But still. Bali survives because of tourists.

Next stop…Tegenungan waterfall! We hiked down to a waterfall, full of people swimming. We unfortunately, were not wearing our swimsuits. In an effort to not have any regrets, we hiked back up to the bathroom, paid, and changed into our suits. We only spent like 10 minutes swimming around, in which Mike took the GoPro straight into the waterfall and on exiting, ran right into some girl…because waterfalls are deafening and blinding. But that was more a memory for me because it was super funny. You know, you had to be there.

On to Tegalalang Rice Terrace, which from what I can tell, seems to be one of the most popular rice terraces in Bali.

The place is massive. And gorgeous. (Like so gorgeous this photo isn't even edited.) We spent a good chunk of time hiking around and attempting to capture the beauty of it on camera.

Last stop of the day, Pura Tirta Empul, otherwise known as the holy water temple. The best way to explain this temple is interestingly enough, from Wikipedia… “The temple compound consists of a bathing structure, famous for its holy spring water, where Balinese Hindus go to for ritual purification. The temple pond has a spring which gives out fresh water regularly, which Balinese Hindus consider to be holy.” From what I understood, anyone could bathe in the holy water, however, you should be providing an offering before doing so. This is probably a bit of a regret, as the line was very long, and not having an offering, and not really understanding the ritual, we chose not to bathe, but rather observed.

The next day (9/5) we started our day early with the highlight of our Ubud portion of the trip. We went to the Elephant Safari Park for a “Bathe & Breakfast” with the elephants. First event, washing the elephants. We were given a hose and some brushes and instructed to scrub down the elephant. I had no idea how hard that was going to be! Elephants are dirty! And all the wrinkles and the tough skin makes for a lot of dirt that is hard to get off. After a good 20 minutes of scrubbing down our elephant, we took some photos and moved onto the next event: bathing with the elephant.

We rode on the back of an elephant, with a guide of course, while the elephant bathed in the large, and absolutely disgusting pool. The guide would have the elephant dip down in the pool to soak us. We also stood on the back of the elephant. After many more photos and a few videos, we were able to go have a shower and put on clean clothes. Then we went and had a delicious buffet breakfast while overlooking the elephant park.

After breakfast, we were able to ride the elephant through the park. The ride was rather long and we were able to chat with the guide and find out all about the elephants in the park. I thought it was sweet how each guide had their own specific elephant that they worked with. You could see the relationship that the guide had with his elephant.

Next stop, to feed the elephants. Which was so fun! They had baby elephants, along with the adult elephants in the feeding area. We fed them fruits and vegetables. Once our basket of fruits and vegetables was empty, we were given some sort of bamboo or something that we could feed them. They would take it from us with their trunks and then throw it on the ground. They didn’t want that crap! Not when there was a bunch of people around feeding them the good stuff!

Last stop, an elephant show, in which they showed off the talents of the elephants including shooting hoops, kicking soccer goals, and painting on an easel. After our adventure with the elephants, we headed back to our hotel to get another shower, because bathing with elephants makes you feel that dirty. Then off to the Sacred Monkey Forest!

The Sacred Monkey Forest, in addition to having three temples, houses over 600 monkeys! And they are literally everywhere. We spent some time walking around looking at the different temples and taking pictures of the many monkeys.

You can buy bananas and feed them to the monkeys. We didn’t intend on doing this, but decided we’d probably regret it if we didn’t, so we bought some bananas and held them high above our head. The monkeys would climb up and sit on your shoulder and eat the banana! It was incredible and terrifying at the same time. I mean, the monkey could totally bite my ear off.

What a neat experience though to be that close to the monkeys! Definitely another highlight of our trip. Oh and for the purposes of journaling, they were Balinese long-tailed macaques.

The rest of the day was spent poolside, washing any extra elephant and monkey germs off.

The next day (9/6) was our transition from city hotel to beachfront hotel, and I can’t even tell you how excited I was for some solid beach days. But before we went to our hotel, we hit some stops on the way. First up, Tanah Lot. This is a temple that sits on a large rock just offshore. When the tide is low, you can actually walk to the temple, however, the day we were there, the tide was high so we took in the sights from the shore. This temple was probably one of my favorites, mostly because it was absolutely beautiful and of course, because it was on the ocean.

Next stop, Taman Ayun, another temple. Yep, we visited a lot of temples in Bali because it’s a huge part of their culture. This temple was bigger than many of the other temples. It had a lot of garden detail, and the entire temple was surrounded by a moat. We spent some time wandering the grounds before heading to our next destination: McDonald's!

I was really looking forward to this stop. So far, I had mostly eaten all American food in Bali anyway, because I was too worried about getting “Bali Belly” if I ate any local cuisine, but this was our first, true American stop. Some would say, “You go all the way to Bali and you eat somewhere you can eat right here in America?” Why yes. Yes, we do. And you better believe I got myself a Big Mac and French fries and they tasted exactly the same. Except McDonald's in Bali doesn’t have Diet Coke. Which is a travesty. But other than that, the perfect stop on our way to the beach.

We got to our beach resort just in time to change and go lay by the pool. The sun had started to set already, so we didn’t actually get in the water, but just enjoyed the relaxation. Then hit the sack because we were exhausted.

The next day (9/7) was a beach day!!! But first, breakfast. Our resort had the most incredible breakfast buffet. Any food you can imagine at a breakfast buffet, and more! I was definitely partial to the donuts and the waffles. For obvious reasons. We stuffed ourselves silly and then straight to the beach. You had to claim your chair on the beach early if you wanted to be front row on the ocean. And we did.

That first day on the beach, I was pretty sparing with the sunscreen, while Mike lathered it on like crazy and put on a shirt every time he wasn’t in the water. I married such a responsible man. Even with our SPF40, we still both were pretty sunburned by the end of the day. But that definitely didn’t stop us from having the time of our lives. In and out of the ocean all day long, taking a butt crack full of sand back to the hotel room.

After stuffing ourselves to the brim again the next morning (9/8), our driver picked us up and we headed out for another day of adventuring. First stop, the beach. Specifically, Pandawa Beach, which is one of our drivers favorites. It was kinda rainy and cold when we went to this beach so Mike and I just walked along the shore and took some photos.

Next stop, Garuda Wisnu Kencana, or GWK, which is a cultural park. They have shows, and large statues, including that of a Hindu God, Lord Vishnu and Garunda, a sacred eagle. The statues are pretty spectacular, and the shows were made up of more traditional Balinese dancing. I even got pulled up on stage to dance….not my favorite thing to do, I’m pretty awkward.

Our final stop of the day was Pura Luhur Uluwatu, the last temple we would visit in Bali. This temple is beautiful! It sits atop a cliff 70 meters above the ocean. You walk along the cliff edge to get to the temple, and it’s a long trek! The Internet tells me it takes about an hour to trek to the temple, but all I know is that this was the moment when I was just done. We had to wear sarongs at this temple and all the walking in the sun, it was so so hot. Mike knows that when I stop taking pictures, I’m over it. And that definitely happened at this temple. Good thing it was the last stop of the day! This temple was definitely one of the prettier ones that we visited so my attitude was quite untimely.

We spent the evening on the beach, enjoying the sunset. (This picture is one of my favorites from our trip, because it truly reminds me of the pure joy that we felt while playing on the beach that night.)

9/9 Today we planned to spend the entire day at Padang Padang Beach, which is another favorite of our driver. This beach you have to hike down to, through a rock cavern. It was actually quite cool. The beach however, not so cool. It was super crowded, and there was a ton of rock. You couldn’t really go in the ocean without shoes on. My only justification for it being so crowded was that the people that were there must not have been staying at a beach resort, because our beach resort beach was soooo much better than this beach. Padang Padang is also popular for surfing, so I guess that was another reason it was so crowded. We didn’t last long at this beach. I don't even have a picture from our time at this beach. We decided to just have our driver take us back to our hotel so we could spend the day on our beautiful resort beach. I think our driver was a bit embarrassed that we didn’t much enjoy the beach that he took us to, but I’m sure he was glad to get most of the day off! Well worth it to go back to our resort beach. We couldn’t get enough beach time. Later that night after the sunset, we walked all the way down the beach to the “Waterblow” where the waves constantly hit the cliff side, shooting high up in the air soaking the spectators.

9/10 Our last full day in Bali was spent on the beach. We soaked up all the salt water, sand and sun rays our bodies could handle. I’ve never enjoyed playing in the ocean much, no matter the location, but even in the sometimes seaweed blanketed water (really though, from hour to hour the water would change drastically), I truly couldn’t get enough of the ocean in Bali.

The incredible blue, warm water was exactly what I dreamt of when planning my trip to Bali.

We spent our last night on the beach taking the really awkward beach pictures that we had witnessed everyone else take through the week. I mean, why do people taking jumping pictures on the beach? Or hold out their arms as if to say…. “See….the….beach”. We just couldn’t take it anymore and decided if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Another 24 hours of travel, stopping in Taipei, and spending the night in Seattle, and we finally made it home around 11AM on 9/12. A 10 year anniversary trip made up of dreams, sweat, and saltwater. I couldn’t have been happier.