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My American friend Mallory and I planned an itinerary from Ubud to visit Bali in 11 days.
DAY 1. THE DAY BEFORE NYEPI.
I couldn’t arrive in Ubud in a better day: THE DAY BEFORE NYEPI.
It sounds kind of apocalyptical. But somehow it is.
Balinese celebrate the night before Nyepi parading with proud their ogoh-ogoh: dolls that represent the evil spirits. They build them and then… they destroy them!
On our way from the airport to the hotel in Ubud, my friend Mallory and I ended up in a village tossing our heads and dancing on the street with the locals. We were so involved in their celebration! It was so much fun! The enthusiasm of these people while they destroy their dolls is so contagious!
It took us hours to get to our hotel. Every turn we made we would get stuck in the crowd and see an ogoh-ogoh floating in the air.
Any taxi driver in the world would get frustrated in a situation like this. Not in Bali. The driver who took us would just crack-up any time he’d see an ogoh-ogoh. And we would laugh with him!
DAY 2. NYEPI DAY.
Ok but… what is this Nyepi?
Nyepi is the Balinese New Year’s Day. Nothing like our New Year’s Day. It is their day of silence.
The island has to look like it was abandoned to fool the evil spirits that survived the night before. They would think that no one lives on the island anymore and they would leave.
No one is allowed to leave their house. Everything is closed. No one works. Tourists are not allowed to leave their hotel.
Basically Nyepi is what you do on Sunday when you are hangover.
It might sound like the most boring celebration in the world but being part of it is absolutely amazing!
You relax in your hotel and you can’t stop wonder how the island looks like if anyone could see it. And the best part is that most of the hotels in Bali have a SPA. You can imagine then what we did all day. Not too bad after all!
DAY 3. FROM THE RICE TERRACE IN JATILUWIH TO THE WATER TEMPLE PURA ULUN DANU BRATAN.
The day after Nyepi everything goes back to normal. Mallory and I woke up fresh and ready for some adventures and for our first destination: the rice terrace in Jatiluwih.
The scooter we rented couldn’t take the both of us on top of the hills we kept finding on our way from Ubud.
“Do you think we’ll make it?”
“Mmm, maybe you want to get off? I’ll meet you on the top”.
Well, saying that we drove on challenging roads doesn’t say enough! But in a couple of hours we finally made it to Jatiluwih.
Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. Yes. This is who you feel you are when you walk through the Jatiluwih rice terrace! It’s so beautiful!
Our next destination is Munduk for a hike to the waterfalls.
The view from the roads to get there is breathtaking.
“Look at that swing suspended in mid-air!”. But we will go there on our way back.
Oh no! Don’t think like that in Bali!
If you spot something you want to see, just go! You never know what is going to get in your way later!
In our case what got on our way was an unexpected thunderstorm!
Not too bad, we are hungry and we can stop somewhere to have some lunch. Obviously it stopped raining when we sat for lunch and it started raining again when we finished!
How do they call it? Oh yes, bad luck! But that’s fine! We can do this!
No we can’t. He had to stop again and look for some shelter! So now I guess it’s dessert time!
And then we finally made it! We chose a short path that leads to one of the many waterfalls that are in the area.
Now that we are wet enough, let’s go back to the swing.
Too bad! The steam after the storm didn’t make it the greatest view in the world, but we couldn’t help being the sultans of swing anyway!
And our last stop of the day before heading back to Ubud is the beautiful water temple Pura Ulun Danu Bratan. We took a few pictures that I could share, but I think this guy totally ousted us.
Oh yes! You are absolutely FABULOUS!
DAY 4. VISIT THE UBUD SACRED MONKEY FOREST.
Don’t look the monkeys in the eyes. This is the number one rule if you want to survive your visit to the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud.
Monkeys are so funny! They live free in this sanctuary and love looking for some food! You can feed them with bananas but let me warn you! Once you start feeding them, they won’t leave you alone!
Bye bye monkeys! It’s now time for us for our next stop: Goa Gajah, the Elephant Cave. This temple is not far from Ubud.
To go inside this cave you have to pass through a big mouth!
In the same area there is a bathing temple and some paths to… nowhere! We followed the signs but we ended up in a swamp with biting bugs. Ok, you feel like Indiana Jones but I wouldn’t recommend it! Save your adventurous spirit for later!
Nearby there are some waterfalls named Tegenungan. Some people swim there but we didn’t have any bathing suit on. And Bali is not exactly a place where you could just swim naked!
DAY 5. DRIVE ON THE SIDEMEN ROAD AND WATCH THE BARONG DANCE IN UBUD.
I loved this day! Our scooter did a really good job taking us to all these places!
We decided to start our day at a beach near the Pura Masceti Temple. But let me tell you, this is not the best choice if you want to swim. The waves are huge and the current is super strong!
If you are wondering what happened to the poor Mallory after this picture… don’t worry! Mallory is safe! She just turned back saying “naaah! Forget it!”
After rescuing Mallory, we head to Semarapura. Here there is the Klungkung Palace, a beautiful complex where you can see the Kertha Gosa Pavillion, the ancient court of justice.
From Semarapura to Muncan you drive on the beatiful Sidemen Road that offers a stunning view over the rice field. Sidemen is such a perfect place to toast with some wine!
And of course… here comes the daily thunderstorm! Same old routine: find a shelter and get something to eat and or to drink. For us it was coffee time, Balinese coffee time.
We are back in Ubud. Wet. Of course.
Tonight we are going to watch a traditional Balinese dance: the Barong.
The Barong is a traditional act. The perfomers are fantastic! And when you watch it you can tell how peculiar and unique the Balinese culture is. This would be a show you wouldn’t watch anywhere else in the world. Just… how can I put this? Well I would say, drink a lot of caffeine before you watch it. These two hours show are, let’s say… intense!
DAY 6. NIGHT HIKE TO THE VOLCANO BATUR.
If you want to hike the volcano Batur at night and watch the sunrise from the top you have two options:
- Do not go to bed. Stay awake until they pick you up at 2 am.
- Have a power nap, set your alarm and get ready.
We chose option 2. Mallory and I are big fans of this power nap thing. Hiking the volcano is tiring, trust me: you need energy!
After they picked us up at our hotel in Ubud they took us to a place for some “breakfast”. Can you call breakfast a 2:30 am meal?
And here we are. In a group of hundreds people. Flashlights in our hands. We are ready to hike!
The night hike to the Volcano Batur is beautiful and fun. If you have never hiked at night before, do it! You will love it!
It takes a few hours to reach the top of the volcano. It is just you, your group and the dark. And your breathe.
And here it comes: THE SUNRISE.
The view is spectacular. You can see the lake Batur and the Mount Agung on the other side of the lake.
On the way back down they take you to see the craters of the volcano, which is still active.
The experience was beautiful! It was my first hike at night and I absolutely loved it!
Once we are back to Ubud, we take our bags and we are ready to catch the ferry to Lombok.
We originally planned to stay a few days in Lombok. But then this happened:
Ok wait. I am not the kind of person who freaks out for shabby hostels. I have slept in $1 hostels. But this time we were just not in the mood to spend 3 nights like this.
Plus we wanted to spend a few days at the Gili Islands.
It’s decided. Tomorrow we are leaving!
DAY 7. FROM LOMBOK TO GILI AIR.
What is the cheapest way to get to Gili Air from Lombok? This one:
And after this alternative ride you finally dock in Gili Air! The Gili Islands are a piece of paradise on earth!
Our resort is beautiful and the welcoming was great!
We got a bike to go around the island but you can totally do it on foot too! It’s so small!
We went for a swim and chilled all day.
Everywhere in the island there are cute restaurants on the beach where you can eat in a standalone gazebo.
The Gili Islands are those islands where you can just relax, take it easy and rest!
DAY 8. DIVING IN GILI ISLANDS.
So far the Gili Islands are my favorite diving site in the world!
The first diving spot where they took us was the Shark Point. And guess what you can see here! Exactly!
If you are not certified you can’t go to this specific spot, but you can chose between many different sites.
I have to say that the current here is pretty strong but what you see is amazing: white tip reef sharks, green turtles, stingrays, eels and much more!
The second spot was Hans Reef. This is a site where you can dive even if you are not certified. And if you like to dive with a lot of green turtles, this is the perfect spot!
DAY 9: VISIT GILI MENO.
Gili Meno is more like a Robinson Crusoe island.
It’s even smaller than Gili Air!
Snorkeling here is beautiful but also… painful! We got stung by hundreds of tiny jellyfish! You couldn’t even see them!
We called it a day and got off the water.
That was the last day at the Gilis before heading back to Bali.
And what they say about Gili it’s true… it is hard to leave Gili!
DAY 10: VISIT ULUWATU.
We are back to Bali. This time we are in Kuta.
Well let me get this straight: Kuta is not Ubud.
Ubud is the perfect traditional Balinese village where you can soak up the culture.
Kuta is just a chaotic / westernized village where people get drunk and go to clubs.
But for us Kuta was just a good starting point to visit the other side of the island. So new scooter new adventures! And this time we got badasses helmets!
On our way to Uluwatu we saw a country house where they make the Luwak Coffee. Well DO NOT DRINK IT. We did. And we felt guilty for the rest of our vacation.
If you don’t know what Luwak coffee is, Jack Nicholson explains it pretty well in the movie “The Bucket List”.
Yes. That’s right. It comes from cherries that have been defecated.
For most people this should be enough to stop them from drinking it.
But if this is not enough for you I give you another reason not to drink this coffee. The poor civets are taken from the wild and kept in cages where they are cruelly overfed. Unfortunately we found out about their conditions only after we had the coffee. And we felt terrible!
So please. Let the civets alone.
Now, Uluwatu. The temple has a wonderful location. It stands on top of a cliff. It is totally a must see during your trip in Bali in 11 days.
There is a beautiful pathway that offers the perfect view of the temple from the distance. And of course there are monkeys everywhere! The spirituality of this place is constantly interrupted by this announcement:
“If you get robbed by a monkey, please report immediately”.
Well, every place has its criminals!
Near Uluwatu there are different spots where you can swim. The beaches here are basically for surfers but you can also swim.
We picked Blue Point, Padang Padang and Bingin. They are all pretty close to each other and perfect for a good beach hopping afternoon!
DAY 11: SURFING IN KUTA.
Kuta is the perfect place if you want to learn how to surf!
On the beach there are a lot of surfing teachers that are more than happy to assist you with the surfboard.
Personally I expected a disaster, but I have to say: we were actually pretty good surfers! I mean we stood up! We kept our standing position while riding the waves for 5 times out of 100. Isn’t that what makes a surfer a good surfer?
So here is my cool picture:
And here the real story behind it:
I’d say that we probably got a little bit way too self-confident. We wanted to surf all day. We couldn’t stop repeating surfing quotes and we also started talking with a weird ozzie accent.
Result: I hit my head with my surfboard and got a head concussion.
My new surfing quote of the day: Learn how to surf and… keep a low profile.