Whilst living in Australia I heard many Australians talk of the wonders of Bali. Over a million Australians fly to Indonesia each year and Bali is one of the most favoured destinations… which always makes me sceptical. I don’t mean to be this way, but some part of me feels that I don’t want to go where everyone else is going. Despite this scepticism, after working in the heat of Darwin and not swimming in the open sea for fear of sharks, jellyfish, and crocodiles (people do swim around Darwin, but I limited my swimming to the lagoon), I was very excited to book flights to Bali. For once I would be taking a more luxurious vacation that normal.
It started in an inopportune way. A volcano erupted and our flights were cancelled – Jetstar, being Jetstar (the worst airline I have ever flown with), offered to fly us to many other places instead, including Hawaii. As much as a trip to Hawaii would have been lovely, I only had a one way ticket to Bali and trying to find my way off Hawaii would have been a very expensive affair. Thus we booked new flights – to Jakarta – and decided that we would traverse the island of Java, taking a short ferry ride in order to reach Bali.
We arrived in Jakarta missing two suitcases – one our fault whilst the other had been mistakenly taken to Malaysia. Jakarta was huge and mad – kind of exciting – place, but not a place that I was well suited too. A mere eight hour train ride away we arrived in the pretty Yogyakarta and it was a breath of fresh air by comparison. Beautiful temples, friendly people, delicious food, and a fascinating bike ride through rice paddies and tofu factories ensued. What I didn’t realise was that these enjoyable experiences would be consistent throughout all of Indonesia – the people were lovely, the food was amazing, and there was so much beauty to see, both natural and manmade. What was not so enjoyable was the 10+ hour bus ride from Yogyakarta to the east of Java where we would take a ferry to Bali.
We had booked (although I didn’t know it at the time) one of the nicest places I have ever stayed in – a quaint wooden villa with manicured grounds and an (almost private) swimming pool. I looked and thought, ‘Wow, am I really staying here?’ After all, I have become far more accustomed to pitching my tent on the side of the road or hidden away in the back of a park. Bali (and Indonesia in general) is certainly one of the most affordable places I have ever visited. From the budget party hostels of Kuta to the luxurious resorts of Ubud such as Bebek Tepi Sawah – see Traveloka hotel deals to see what I mean – there is something for everyone. We chose Ubud and we were not disappointed – it is relaxed, the surrounding areas are beautiful, and everything that I remember from this place is positive. We climbed a volcano, undertook an Indonesian vegetarian cooking class, and hung out with a lot of monkeys. A lot a lot of monkeys!
Our days on Bali were blissful relaxation (except when dealing with monkeys) and we rode our scooters around the island, stopping to take in the world around us. Sometimes the relaxation was climbing a volcano at 4 in the morning (others might disagree that this is relaxing), but I loved it. My scepticism had completely diminished – I’m not going to get one of the ‘I <3 Bali’ t-shirts… but… I do love Bali! [I did get an elephant vest top which is essentially the same thing as getting an ‘I <3 Bali’ t-shirt because everyone gets them.]
From the island of Bali, it was a short hop to the Gili Air – a picturesque island dominated by tourism with excellent snorkelling. Despite being set-up for tourists, we were out of season, and often had most of a restaurant to ourselves, and passed our days eating, SUPing, snorkelling, sunning, and walking. There is something about sunshine and beaches that inherently makes one happy and such was our experience on the tropical island. The only negative was a severe case of bed bugs from a super budget accommodation we found in the middle of the island – although I didn’t get a single bite, Leah was covered.
We finished our time surfing on Lombok. I broke a surf board (by riding it into the beach) and jetted off to England to see my family. I left with very fond memories and one day, I will go back again. Hopefully for longer and to experience more.
Indonesia, I like you (very much). Can we be friends?