29 Aug Babymoon: Bali Part 1
Bali Day One
First things first. Bali is a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and getting there required roughly 27 hours of flights, excluding layovers. Bali is part of Indonesia, so the primary languages are Balinese and Indonesian. The national currency is rupiah, and the current exchange rate is 13,000 to 1, which meant exchanging roughly $77 American dollars made us instant millionaires. (And if you go, you’ll certainly need to exchange cash because credit cards are not super common.)
When Brian and I (the last to arrive) landed in Indonesia, we realized that, by no small miracle, all 8 of us had made it to the other side of the world — with a combined 17 flights, through 7 countries, and over 40-something hours of travel — without a single flight delay or lost luggage! Woo hoo! But the adventure was only just beginning.
After becoming millionaires rupiah-style, we found the Stones, and the bravest of the four of us (Ruth) took the driver’s seat of the Stroyer rental car (yes, we came up with names for all combinations of the four couples). Y’all, I think driving in Orlando is crazy, but driving in Bali makes Orlando look like a 25-mph school zone in Nebraska. Here, let’s just take a look.
First, the inaugural 10 minutes of driving in Bali, the commentary on which is golden. Don’t let the wide roads fool you…they didn’t last.
Ready for more Bali driving? Here is Zach’s first time driving in Bali, which (as you can hear) had us laughing the whole way home. It must have been construction season because it was not unusual for there to be massive piles of dirt or rock literally in the middle of the road. Also of note, there are 1-2 foot drainage ditches on either side, and, no, this is not a one-way street.
About an hour later, we made it to our AirBNB just outside of Ubud, which was INCREDIBLE. Each couple had their own suite in its own building on the property, which itself was situated between a forested valley on one side and a temple-like structure on the other.
We also shared an open-air dining room, kitchen, meditation deck, and infinity pool, and there were four really amazing staff who made sure everything was clean and perfect from the time we got up until the time we got home every evening. For $40 USD per night! And for $10 more they brought masseuses to the meditation room two different nights for the best dang massages we’d ever had (technically, it was Brian’s first massage but still).
We took a much-needed shower, and then we packed up the rental cars and headed back into Ubud to buy groceries and find dinner. About halfway through our Indian food, the 3 days of travel suddenly caught up to us and we realized just how tired we were. So with that, we untied the mosquito nets, and the sound of roosters and rainforest bugs lulled us to sleep.
Bali Day Two
I’m pretty sure I didn’t wake up even once through the night, knowing we (finally!) didn’t have a plane to catch! But I did wake up the first morning to a strange sound coming from outside. We quickly showered (in the outdoor shower, of course, because that’s what you do in Bali!), and then opened the door to find the most precious little kitten sitting on the little path in front of our door. We have this running joke that a cat finds me in every country or territory we visit (Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico, Iceland…), and the tradition continued with Meo, as we affectionately called her (short for “meong,” which is “cat” in Balinese).
After breakfast we headed into downtown Ubud for what became one of my very favorite parts of the trip: the Ubud Monkey Forest! Located in the city center, the Monkey Forest is home to a temple, beautiful walking paths, and lots and lots (and LOTS) of monkeys! Vendors sell bananas for just a few cents inside the gate, which gives you the chance (if you are so inclined) to get up-close-and-personal with the monkey residents. But be warned — sometimes the monkeys get a little too up-close-and-personal, and their moods can be just a little flighty. Case in point, this photo progression of me holding one of the “adolescent” monkeys…
After the monkeys, we strolled around downtown Ubud, which was by far the most touristy area we frequented while in Bali. That said, you really don’t see other Americans much in Bali. In fact, we were the first Americans to stay in our AirBNB, the first Americans to rent the cars we had, and the first Americans to ride in Wayan’s taxi (more on that fun experience in a bit). Most people knew a little bit of English, but it definitely wasn’t something you heard just out and about!
Bali has a super interesting culture, which is evident even in the architecture. While the rest of Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, Bali is 90% Hindu, which means elaborate temples dot the landscape and the aroma of incense is ever-present. Offerings (see photo below) cover many areas of the sidewalks and store fronts, and we tried really hard not to step on them, as people present offerings to both their gods and their demons multiple times a day. The streets are crowded and colorful, and if you stall too long to look at any of the goods for sale, you’ll have about 3 people convincing you to buy something. Motorbikes are everywhere, and it’s not unusual for them just to park in the sidewalk if the streets are full! It’s definitely a strange mix of “developed” and “still developing.”
We stopped by the market, where we stocked up on sarongs for the temples and some fun things to take back to family. It’s expected that you haggle for everything, and it’s not unusual for people to pull you – literally – into their little booths, which was exciting at first, but then grew really exhausting. Brian and I are super frugal, but we also really appreciated how hard people worked for a living in Indonesia and how (relatively) cheap everything was for us. That made for a love-hate relationship with haggling and the market, so we quickly headed straight for some gelato instead!
Bali Day Three
For our third day in Bali, we cooked breakfast (which was almost always eggs, bananas, and peanut butter, and which was, ironically enough, the most expensive food we ate in Bali), and then decided to knock out one of our Bali Bucket List items: snorkeling!
Brian found a great deal through a website, so at 7:15 we were picked up by a driver, driven to the coast near Denpasar (about an hour away), and loaded into the “fast ferry” that took us all the way to Nusa Lembongan. From there, we caught our snorkeling boat and spent the day swimming with colorful coral and lots of pretty fish!
We went to three different snorkeling sites, and then — most notably — chased some manta rays! And holy cow, were they ever worth the search. These guys are HUGE and majestic and super social. We didn’t know until after we got back in the boat that they actually really enjoy being touched, which is why they kept circling back around to see more people!
A few hours later, we crawled into bed and, once again, fell asleep to the sound of roosters and rainforest bugs. And just like that, we were already halfway through our time in Bali!