July 27, 2018

Bali Travel Diaries

  I recently went on a trip of a lifetime to Southeast Asia and explored Bali, Indonesia, with fellow creatives, including videographer Erik Lauer, nutritionalist and blogger Isa Tales, photographer and videographer Kai Cranmore, model Shanley Wilson (all from California), photographer and videographer Daniel Keating, and photographer and videographer Nash Hagen (both from Hawaii). We started our journey in Singapore, which I wrote about here. Our trip to Bali started off with some major changes in our plans and some major learning experiences. First, Erik had his passport stolen and was unable to get approved to travel to Bali with a temporary passport. He and his girlfriend Isa then had to switch their plans and spent an amazing week in Thailand. They luckily were able to make the best out of a disappointing situation. Next, another photographer, who had flown into Bali to meet up with us, was held at the airport and deported due to her passport only being valid for 5 months and 27 days instead of the full 6 months that we all learned is required by Indonesia. She flew to Japan and had a great adventure there. Once in Bali, we also met up with videographer Chelsea Brady (from Australia) and avid traveler Justin Rodgers (from Florida.) We missed the three that couldn't join us, but the remaining seven of us had a wonderful time even if it wasn't what we originally planned. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right?

First, we flew from Singapore into Denpasar and took a taxi to a nearby village called Canggu. We booked a stunning Airbnb that was a 5-bedroom villa with a pool, kitchen, dining room, and living room. Because our group was big, the villa was perfect. In Bali, most bathrooms are outside, which took me a little by surprise since this is uncommon in the US. The bathrooms were nice and clean, but brace yourself for geckos and spiders. This always made me jump. Side note, did you know geckos can be super loud? My roomie Shannon and I thought there was an alarm going off or someone knocking/hammering in our room but it was a gecko on the ceiling. You can hear what they sound like on YouTube here. It's crazy! The villa was so nice, we were tempted to stay and relax, but luckily we got out and explored. The boys rented scooters while the girls opted for a driver. For short trips we hopped on the back of the scooters, but for longer drives we wanted everyone to be safe and comfortable.

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On our first day, we headed to the coast. Suluban Beach, also known as Blue Point Beach, is a hidden cave beach near Uluwatu. From our Airbnb, we had to drive about an hour and half with traffic before we saw the ocean. We parked the scooters to the side of the road and had the taxi drop us off at the entrance. The beach is free which is awesome. Locals will try to tell you that you have to pay them an entry fee, but this is false. The beach is open to the public and does not require any sort of payment. To get to the beach, we had to climb down numerous stairways and go through a cluster of shops along the cliff. The beach is at the bottom of the cliff and is located within caves that are best visited during low tide. If you are able to catch the low tide, you'll be able to walk along the caves and see the whole beach that's just to the right of the well-known portion. This beach is a popular spot; it's usually busy with tourists, surfers, and locals. Sometimes you are lucky and get it to yourself. We had an hour where we felt like we were on a private beach, but it soon became busy. The unique beach was well worth the adventure to find it and get to it. I've never been to anything like it! We had one scooter crash along the way and lost a shoe while there due to incoming high tide, but overall we made it out unscathed. 

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Our next city in Bali was Ubud. We stayed at another incredible Airbnb. The caretakers of the house were kind, helpful, and hardworking. They also made delicious breakfasts and took special consideration of my allergies to certain foods; I greatly appreciated this professionalism. The New York loft-style home was stunning. Photographer Olya Myers (from New York) also joined us for a few days while we stayed here. Again, all the bathrooms except one were located outside. Geckos visited us daily. The interior decor of the Airbnb was boho chic and lovely. We often all crashed on the large couch editing and talking in the living room. It was definitely our hangout spot in the loft. Every morning, breakfast was available for a few dollars per person. The morning meal was delicious with fresh eggs, bacon, fried rice, fruit, and toast. We enjoyed the pool for photos and sunbathing, but we saved our energy for adventures offsite.

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Half of the group allowed ourselves to sleep in a bit (meaning no sunrise shoot) while the other half was out and about on a few hours of sleep. When we all were ready to start the day, we headed to Tegenungan Waterfall. It wasn't a far drive from where we stayed and there was a nice sized parking lot for scooters and cars. After paying the small entrance fee at the kiosk, we walked through numerous local shops to get to the stairs down to the waterfall. Going down, the stairs are easy, but after hiking and exploring the park, the stairs are challenging on the way up. 

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Before heading to another waterfall, most of the group decided to eat at a restaurant that was near the shops by Tegenungan. Chelsea, Shanley, and I decided to go to Kemenuh Butterfly Park instead of the third waterfall, so we ate lunch where our taxi driver recommended. The location of the restaurant was stunning, but I wouldn't eat there again. I told them I am allergic to onions and garlic and they brought me rice covered in green onion. I sent it back. I ordered chicken fingers because everything else was risky due to my allergies. My chicken wasn't chicken. I don't eat much red meat, so I know my chicken. I try not to think about the "mystery meat" I tasted that day because it makes me sick, but I suspect it was dog. Let's just say, since visiting Bali, I've become more of a vegetarian. Two restaurants I do recommend are the Buddha Bowl Bali and the Watercress CafĂ© (both in Ubud).

Besides a couple of restaurants, I can also recommend going to the Kemenuh Butterfly Park, which was a butterfly sanctuary. All the species were delicate and lovely, but my favorites were the atlas moths. They are beautiful, gentle giants that aren’t afraid of humans. Their mouths aren’t fully developed, so their lifespan is a few days. They spend their short lifetime searching for a mate. Others takeaway: Aw, that’s so romantic. My takeaway: They don’t get to eat? That’s truly tragic. Seriously, the butterflies and moths were truly amazing, so don't miss this park!

Travel Tip: No matter how nice your taxi driver seems, they are paid by locals to take tourists (you) to their establishments. Yelp or Google and read reviews before deciding where to go.

After numerous recommendations, the girls (Shanley, Chelsea, and I) decided to take a day trip to the famous Gili Trawangan (Gili T) a part of the Gili Islands off of Lombok, Indonesia. The island is known for its Instagram-worthy swings and beaches, snorkeling, diving, and nightlife.

First impression: the unloading/arrival from the boat is not glamorous. A bunch of tourists carrying their luggage crowd onto the sand. It looks something like this. The main road is busy and dirty, covered with horses and tourists. It's a bit overwhelming yet underwhelming since you're expecting paradise. Once you get away from the landing area, the island's charm starts to show. The island ranges from ghetto to resort every other building almost. The structures that look charming are lovely and yet are situated next to a shack/hut/hovel. The sand in the ocean consists of a bunch of dead coral so bring water shoes. The coral can tear up your skin and hurt your feet terribly. Many of my photos turned out beautiful and, on Instagram, I show the highlights. This diary isn't meant to be negative, but I do want to share the reality of my travels so that you will be prepared for your trip here.

The island is motor-free so bikes, walking, and horses are the forms of transportation. Rent a bike. The island is too big to walk everywhere in a reasonable time and the horses appear abused and exhausted; also the ride in the carriage doesn't look comfortable. The island has numerous hotels and places to stay.

My favorite hotel was PinkCoco Gili Trawangan. Yes, everything is pink and yes I loved it. We did not stay there, but it looked lovely. We wished we had stayed overnight to experience the famous Gili sunsets and nightlife, but we enjoyed our day exploring and chilling at The Exile Bar & Restaurant.

I highly recommend researching the islands to decide which one is most interesting to you. I would not go back to Gili T personally because of the crowds, trash, and animal abuse, but I would love to see the other islands.

Travel Tips: 1. Don't trust anyone but yourself, your group, and research prices online before paying. Also, don't go through a third party. Buy the tickets or excursion yourself. Our driver told us our ferry price was $80.00 each round trip to the island which we paid to a random guy who probably pocketed the extra and bought our tickets at the kiosk. We asked fellow passengers on the boat what they paid for a round trip and men only paid $35.00 to $45.00 while naive girls paid $80.00. We were angry and learned our lesson. People take advantage when they see an opportunity.

2. Be careful what you order and consume while traveling. In Gili, they add "magic" mushrooms into smoothies. We saw shroom smoothies on the menu, so they don't hide this by any means. While ordering my delicious strawberry-banana smoothie, I was very specific "no shrooms" and the waiter laughed and kindly obliged. Also, we were offered drugs numerous times while chilling on the beach. Just be aware and safe.

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This trip to Southeast Asia was incredible, and I definitely have the traveling bug more than ever. Where should I go next? What is your favorite place you've traveled to? I'd love to hear in the comments below. Xoxo, Shelly

Note: Any smaller photos, that are not my property, are linked to their original sources. Check out the cool website links for more information and great details.

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