When choosing a flight home a few months ago I was trying to come with the lowest costing itinerary while also stopping somewhere I had never been. I looked into plans to Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, and even Vietnam. The most economical (and also on the top of my bucket list) was to go to Bali between Saudi Arabia and Hawaii. KAUST is generous enough to pay for one flight home per year, and because Hawaii is such a trek I decided I wanted to use my longest break for this trip. My flight ended up from Jeddah to Jakarta, and then Jakarta to Bali. For the past several months I have been following the Mt Agung volcano eruption, but I didn’t stress over it because there was nothing I could do about my flight choice after it was booked. No big deal nonetheless. It is tragic that such a large community had to move out and be evacuated from the red zone, but the impacts are much more widespread and it is affecting so many people’s livelihoods.
I didn’t arrive to Bali until around midnight and I followed recommendations from family and friends to avoid staying in Kuta, so I went straight to Ubud. I found a taxi driver at the airport. I was looking a bit lost and he asked if I needed a taxi driver and we negotiated on a good price and we were on our way! He was super nice helping me plan out my trip. I originally wanted to go to the East side of Bali to snorkel and dive but I was advised to stay away because it is very close to Mt. Agung and the area should be avoided. I really appreciated his honestly and decided I will probably spend more time doing beaches on the South/West side of Bali. For my stay in Ubud I reserved a hostel that was just a 10 minute walk from the Ubud Palace and marketplace. It was called Inn Between and was nestled between some homes and a restaurant, but it was extremely comfortable, clean, had a beautiful pool and Balinese décor, and was $4/night. Keep in mind that I have extremely now standards and most people think it is weird to share a dorm-style room with strangers but it is a fun way to meet similar people. The other girl in my room was on her 12th month of traveling the world, so of course she had some epic stories and recommendation on where I should visit
The first morning I wanted to have a full day so I woke up pretty early and started my explorations. I had a general idea of the specific things I wanted to see and marked them on an app called “maps.me” (even though GPS doesn’t work with my phone it is still helpful. I loved just walking around the side roads. Residents start off their morning preparing offerings which are made with palm leafs, colorful flowers, some small snacks/rice, and incense. I absolutely love the aroma in the air between the mossy lush atmosphere and the sweet flowers and incense. Also something I didn’t realize was that every single family has their own place of worship at their home, and these are all extremely beautiful. The intricate stone carving and use of waterfalls just made everything look so amazing.
My first stop was to the Sacred Monkey Forest which didn’t open until around 8:00 so I ended up walking a random path that went through some scenic rice terraces. Eventually I made it back to the monkey forest where you pay 50,000 IRP (around $3.50…which is actually a bit pricey for here). It was quite an experience. I decided to go all out and even let a monkey climb on me which was a bit terrifying but worth it. You are advised not to bring valuables out because the monkeys are known to steal personal belongings. I had everything in my backpack which I thought would be fine but it attracted one little monkeys attention and he crawled up my skirt and starting trying to open the zipper so of course I screamed and tried to push it away and of course it bit me sooooo that was a rude little monkey. Once I started running it jumped off. I am totally fine by the way just a small bruise. I’ve heard some people having traumatic experiences here but for me it was a one-time thing. Go for the experience and watch some playful monkeys and see the incredibly beautiful temples and shrines as you walk through a beautiful forest trail with a tranquil river.
The park is pretty big with a few different gates, but I ended up using maps.me app to find my way to what was known as “Sacred Monkey Forest Road” which has a ton of shops and restaurants. Almost everything they sell here is my style so I ended up buying a whole new wardrobe of sundresses, long dresses, elephant pants, a skirt and a sarong. Even the jewelry is nice and very cheap, so I made a day of wandering markets and attempting to barter. Unfortunately I get pretty stressed out and just run away. Another thing to note was how much Ubud is effected by the Mt. Agung volcano. Ubud isn’t close to the red zone, yet because so many visitors cancelled their holidays, tourism has decreased leaving so many Indonesians out of jobs. So many of these vendors were pushing me to buy things and I felt guilty (obviously their plan) but how can I say no to something I’m bartering for when it’s really like $3. There are taxi men every 5 feet asking you if you need a ride, it gets old but I understand they are struggling. I actually found one taxi driver on this first day in Ubud who gave me his business card with whatsapp number so I could contact him for a ride later on the week. I wandered this road until I came across Watercress, a restaurant which my parents and sister had both visited on their Bali trips. These restaurants are super hippy/hipster with healthy vegan food which is obviously amazing. Obviously not the authentic Indonesian cuisine but I definitely enjoyed the food in Ubud. At Watercress I got a smoothie bowl which was delish, but not on par with Hawaii’s acai bowls (so stoked for next week!). It was super beautiful through with some yummy toppings. Be warned though, this gave Kylie “Bali Belly” so you may or may not get sick (I feel great). After Watercress I headed to the Ubud Palace, which isn’t actually much to look at compared to the other temples scattered around. I did notice a sign for a Balinese dance for the evening so I asked around and found out that on Thursdays there are two shows, and I ended up buying a ticket for a Kerak fire dance which would be later in the evening.
The Ubud Marketplace across from the palace has all the souvenirs you could imagine packed tightly into one area. It is a bit overwhelming so just prepare yourself to have a million people asking you to come inside their store. I continued attempting to look for a rice terrace path/hike that was on my maps.me map but I had no success so I headed in the other direction when I found heaven: a vegan ice cream shop with coconut ice cream. It might be one of my favorite foods in the world, topped with coconut flakes and coconut sugar…YUM! I checked out more nearby temples and then headed to my hostel for a quick swim in the pool and rest in the sun. The hostel is super quiet and peaceful with water fountains and beautiful shrines and carvings. It was a relaxing afternoon, at around 4 I walked back towards the center of town. On the main street where the market and palace are located, I passed a little spa that had a sign out front advertising their “fish spa” for 50,000 IRP ($3.50) which I had passed earlier in the morning. I almost didn’t go because I felt weird doing this sort of thing alone. Didn’t take me long to realize that of course I should do it, as it had been on my bucket list for quite some time. In high school (maybe even middle school) my best friend Lindsay and I always talked about wanting to go to a fish pedicure. Any why not in Bali, it was cheap and convenient and the workers at the spa got a kick out of my giggling away for the whole twenty minutes. They were even kind enough to take my photo for me and come sit and chat. It was lovely and I regret even feeling weird for doing things alone. One of my favorite parts of solo traveling is being able to do things on my own and having the independence in knowing I am capable. I am not even sure if that makes sense but I just find it empowering not to rely on other people and knowing that I can make plans and do all of these wonderful adventures without anyone else. Besides, it is nice to have time to myself to think and reflect on how great life is and I realize that traveling is one of my greatest passions. I absolutely thrive on seeing new things, having new experiences, and being in an unfamiliar place. I know that as long as I have any say in it that traveling will be a big part of my life. Anyways, sorry for that little sidenote, I absolutely loved the fish pedicure. It is illegal in the USA and may or may not be unsanitary, but I don’t care it was awesome. I mean I already got bit by a monkey earlier in the day, might as well let some little fish bite my feet right. While I was there I decided I might as well get a massage because why not right? Everything in Bali is super cheap compared to home. And as you might have already gathered from my past posts I am definitely a budget traveler but while spending only $4 on a hostel I can definitely treat myself to some pampering. The hour long massage was a $5 and definitely worth the “splurge”.
After this I stopped at a few more stores and then went to a bar and restaurant for a refreshing beer before heading to the show. The show was amazing, the vocals were composed of more than 100 men doing chants as a story was performed. I will try to add some photos and videos as it is kind of hard to describe. I highly recommend the experience nonetheless, for just 75,000 IRP ($5.50) it is a great way to see a local temple and get immersed in the culture a little bit. In the end of the show there is fire dancing where a guy literally walks on hot coals. It was pretty interesting to watch and I had front row seats right in the center (apparently it is typically super crowded but because of the whole Mt. Agung situation there are a lot less tourists).
My night ended as I walked back home and passed a restaurant with a sign that said “local plant-based foods” which sparked my interest. I looked at the menu and my jaw dropped with how amazing the food here looked. The restaurant was only a five minute walk from my hostel, and had the most divine vegan food I have had in so long. I ended up just getting desert, which was an amazing ‘snickers bar’. I really don’t know how they made it but oh my goodness do I wish I had cooking skill like this. I saw signs that this restaurant, called Sayuri Healing Food, offered cooking classes. Unfortunately none of the classes coincided with my free time in Ubud, so I guess I will just have to go next time I visit Bali!