And just like that, the last country of our trip arrived. We decided to end our trip in Indonesia, namely Bali & the Gili Islands. We wanted to end slowly, with not much rushing around. It didn't quite look like that in the end, as Bali is actually an incredibly hectic Island! Especially around Canggu & Seminyak where we spent almost two weeks of our time. Having said that we had some amazing times and I'd love to share the highlights of this beautiful Island.
We actually began & ended our Bali time in hipster Canggu but I'll write more about the highs and lows of that later.
Pemuteran is a small village on the North coast of Bali; it's sleepy and dramatic. The small village is fringed with dramatic, lush, green mountains and when I say it's sleepy, I mean that literally; locals spend most of their time horizontal when they're not telling you diving stories over a gin & tonic at the bar. It's a great place for observing aquatic life.
Sander went on a diving trip (a birthday gift from me) and I chose to snorkel this time around. The marine life is vibrant and colourful and I spotted Nemo! Seriously, one of the highlights of my underwater adventures.
We arrived in Pemuteran the day before Nyepi (Balinese New Year). On this day, they have a demon parade in every village, the local youth spend a lot of time building these elaborate demon statues that are paraded through the village and then burnt later that night. It all seemed very pagan and exciting to me, I love a good demon parade :)
Other than diving and lounging around, there's not much else to do in Pemuteran... you can hike in the national park, but we melted every time we walked more than ten steps so decided to leave our hiking trips for cooler climates.
The food on offer is OK for vegans, if you stick to Indonesian fare (without egg) then you can eat well for a few days, but it does get repetitive after that. We enjoyed the slow pace of Pemuteran but I'd only really recommend it if you want to explore the underwater world as there's not much else on offer there.
Ubud was the real star of the show for me in Bali. I came here a couple of years ago to focus on yoga but I didn't explore very much. This time I was excited to see much more of this magical place and learn about Balinese culture.
I really loved Ubud, there's a really local feel despite the hordes of tourists looking to find themselves (hey, I'm not judging I was one of them!). The main focus of local activity is a beautiful temple in the middle of Ubud, where locals take offerings to the gods every evening and Balinese music floats across the valley.
We watched a local dance and fire show which was interesting and unlike anything we've ever seen before. The Balinese believe in a whole smorgasbord of gods, demons and spirits and nowhere is this more apparent than in Ubud. I found it interesting that tourists aren't even allowed inside many of the temples; this is in direct contrast to all the other Asian countries where they really encourage tourism (often for a fee). It seems like in Bali they don't want to cash in on their religious beliefs and I really respect that.
We also visited the Sacred Monkey Sanctuary and befriended many a naughty monkey. I declined feeding them, I saw enough monkeys stealing my breakfast in Kenya to last a life-time. I did enjoy exploring the sanctuary, the forest is a welcome relief from the relentless heat and there are some beautiful temples you can gaze at from the outside. (Nope, you can't enter!)
The rice fields surrounding Bali are incredibly beautiful, we did end up trekking here for a little bit and got a bit lost. I've never heard of anyone else managing to get lost in these rice fields, so I'm not really sure where we went wrong, but getting lost when hiking is a skill of mine!
You can swing across the rice fields for that all time Instagram shot if you'd like to. We just enjoyed watching other people swing, it does seem pretty fun... and a bit scary.
Other than that, there are loads of good restaurants in Ubud, catering for veggies & vegans too. The food was varied and often excellent. We had some amazing views accompanying our food. The art galleries and museums we went to were all excellently curated and I discovered a real appreciation for Balinese art. I especially enjoyed the selection at the Arma museum.
Ah Canggu, a strange love affair.
At first sight, Canggu is congested, busy and the beaches only really good for surfing. I can't say it's the best place to go to relax. But if you want to hang out with lots of Westerners, eat amazing food, surf your days away and drink your nights away then it's a great place to be.
We tried our luck at surfing again. I'm not sure what to say about surfing. I want to love it, I want to be good at it... but... I'm not totally convinced. I found the surf instructors we had throughout Asia more interested in flirting with single girls, playing the ukulele, singing loudly (badly) and showing off with headstands on their boards than actually teaching. A good surfer does not necessarily make a good teacher. Needless to say, I got a bit tired of their sexist jokes after a while. I'd love to take this up again in a more professional environment, but for now I'm giving it a rest.
You can eat all the vegan food your heart desires in Canggu and practise yoga day and night. I really loved the teachers and classes at Pranava Yoga. My top choices for vegan food are The Shady Shack; Peloton Supershop; Ginger Noodle House & amazing pizza at La Baracca. To be honest I could write a whole blog post about the vegan food in Bali, and I might just do so, as it really is a vegan foodie paradise.
So, that was Bali.
I love that you can dive, surf, practise yoga, eat wonderful food, hike up volcanos (next time), visit amazing art galleries and immerse yourself in Balinese culture all in just a few weeks. Bali really does have something for everyone. If you want to party head to Seminyak, some of the bars there are incredible, if you want culture and natural beauty head to Ubud, if you're looking for excellent diving head to Pemuteran and if you want the surf lifestyle visit Canggu.
Up next is bit of peace and quiet before returning to London and we found just what we were looking for on Gili Air.