I’ve been back from Indonesia for a little less than month now, and am finally just finding my footing and a little inspiration to write about it.
This was the most challenging trip I’ve had to date, and I haven’t really known how to process the life challenges thrown my way until now.
A little background on how this trip came to fruition: I met a wonderful group of individuals in Tulum over the summer in 2018. We decided, after the soul bonding we did, that an annual trip to a new country each year would be beneficial to all of us.
We took a group poll to vote what our location would be this year: Sri Lanka or Bali. Bali was the consensus.
My personal challenges started before the trip did. After being in a full leg brace for a month and a half, I didn’t know if I would be cleared to be on a plane for 20+ hours, or be able to enjoy Bali the way I would have hoped to.
I started rehab on my leg 3 weeks before hopping on a plane, hoping I would be in good enough shape to at least get around and partake in some of the excursions. I didn’t know what my physical condition was going to be, so I didn’t do much research or planning around things I’d like to do. I didn’t want to get my hopes up in the event I wasn’t capable.
I was given clearance by my doctor to travel. Where I was ecstatic about that, my nerves still ran high. Being stagnant in a leg brace for 7 weeks, I was more susceptible to getting a blog clot while flying. My first flight was into Guangzhou China, and was 15 ½ hours long. I planned a long layover in China, for a day of exploring to see a part of the world I probably wouldn’t normally. When I landed, I couldn’t get my left foot into my shoe because of how swollen it was. I walked around for a bit to regain some circulation and eventually wedged my foot into my shoe. I wandered Guangzhou for about 6 hours with my foot spilling over my shoe. It was terribly uncomfortable, but I was happy to be out and about exploring new surroundings. If you have a long layover, I recommend taking a half-day tour. I can’t say that I recommend the tour I did, as I don’t feel I received much from it, (My tour guide fell asleep on the bus mid tour), But I do suggest seeing the area if you are there for the day. It takes about 40 minutes by bus to get into the actual city. Our first stop was the Zaha Hadid Opera house. It’s surrounded by hundreds of skyscraper buildings and the iconic Canton TV tower.
Next stop was the ancestral Temple of the Chen family. We got to experience traditional Chinese tea making. That part I actually really enjoyed, all while being in a historical building with so much ancestral history surrounding us. Our last stop was supposed to be to go eat Dim Sum, the part I was looking forward to most. Our guide decided instead to take us to one of his personal favorite sit down restaurants where no one knew what a vegetarian was. 6 people in our tour were non-meat eaters. It was not dim sum, but we were served every vegetable dish they had, which ended up being surprisingly phenomenal.
While wandering around, I learned that Guangzhou’s major export is fabrics, so a lot of fashion designers frequent there. Aside from coming for the fabrics or a quick layover, I don’t personally think I would have cared to spend much more time there. To see the city, I would think you’d maybe need 3 days tops.
I got on my final flight to Denpasar. It took a little over 5 hours to arrive, and I was hoping because of how late I was coming in, that the days heat would have subsided some. The second you walk off the plane and into the airport, you start sweating. It was 95% humidity and 100 degrees. Woof! I was expecting heat, but I wasn’t expecting this. At the airport, there are several kiosks where you can purchase a SIM card, and a lot of them are unlimited use for a month for about $25.
I had already set up an international plan with my provider to use while traveling, but as soon as I landed, I was made aware that this plan wasn’t available in the area I was in. I pondered the idea of a SIM card, and then made the decision that I was going to disconnect this trip. This was my very first international trip that I decided not to have cell phone service unless I was connected to Wi-Fi somewhere. Not a monumental breakthrough, but a step outside of my comfort zone and normality.
I was picked up from the airport and shuttled to the Airbnb we reserved in Canggu. I learned before arriving, the importance of knowing your intention behind traveling. When traveling with a group, everyone has different priorities, budgets, agendas, routines, sleep schedules, etc. We all had different ideas behind what we wanted for sleep accommodations. I personally, am fairly low maintenance. I primarily either stay in hostels, in a tent, volunteer houses, or really cheap hotels. I spend most of my day out exploring, so a roof over my head at the end of the night is just a plus. We were all a bit torn over what we were going to do for housing. Half the group wanted something a bit more “boujee”, while the others were looking for something a little more cost efficient. Housing in Bali is ridiculously cheap by the way. Consensus was that we would do a really nice place for 6 days and the other location for the remainder of the trip would be accommodating towards budgeting. Our first house, we each paid $23 a night. Where that might not seem like much, it adds up when you’re traveling for 16 days. Our place was stunning, however. It was a fully open layout, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, beautiful pool, meditation area, and right next to a rice field. If you’re going to be in Canggu with several people, I do recommend Mayana Villas.
Canggu wasn’t my favorite. I enjoyed everything outside of it, but Canggu itself was a bit too westernized for what I was itching to experience. All areas outside of the city, is the Bali you’ll want to experience. It’s just hard to get around.
We all rented mopeds on our first day there and I think only one of the six of us had any clue what they were doing.
Couple notes on moped rentals-
- Make sure you get an IDP (International drivers permit) before renting a moped in another country. You can get one at your local AAA for $30. Always keep it on you while driving.
- Be sure to take pictures of your moped, as you can get nickel and dimed for “moped damage” when returning it.
- Triple check that you have UP TO DATE registration for your moped under the seat. Always be aware of registration location.
- Always wear your helmet, and have a secondary helmet if a passenger accompanies you.
- If you’re smart about it, you can find scooter rentals for $4 a day.
- In Bali, you will drive on the left side of the road. It takes a minute to get used to.
- Bring a scarf or mask to cover your face. Bali is dirty and the trucks that flood the street spew out black exhaust. Your lungs will be happier, and your face won’t be covered in soot.
I LOVED riding my moped. I had never driven one before this trip, but I became comfortable within an hour of practice. Moped is the cheapest and quickest way to get around Bali. There is so much to see and do, but everything is extremely spread out. On moped you have the lenience to go around slow vehicles or other mopeds. The roads in Bali are terrible, and flooded with people and vehicles. It is quite intimidating to drive there. Mopeds in Bali are NOT for the faint hearted. Where I encourage you to definitely try it, I cant advice being cautious while doing so, more. It wasn’t until I returned to the states that I found out that there are 1,500 fatalities annually, from moped accidents alone in Bali. Driving there is complete chaos, to say the least.
This trip was an absolute whirlwind, full of challenges that have taken me a month to dissect. That being said, I’m going to list some positives before I dive into the challenges of Bali.
Offerings: Little palm leaf baskets filled with flowers, candy, grass, incense, and what ever else you care to give. It is a daily practice, done by the Balinese Hindus to thank the Sang Hyand Widhi Wasa in praise and prayer. The offerings are a sacred form of gratitude for what is and a wish for peace and abundance in the world. You will see them everywhere. Be mindful not to step on them. I loved seeing these offerings put out every day. Balinese people are patient, kind, hard working, and put care into everything they do. They put so much time into the practice of making these offerings, a daily ritual of self-sacrifice, a spirit of thankfulness. The contrast behind the way they live, and the way we do in America, is night and day. I learned a thing or two about slowing down from them. Busyness doesn’t always mean success.
Canggu offered some pretty amazing food. It’s good to be aware that you cannot drink the water in Bali. Rule of thumb, anything cooked or fried is going to be a safer option than salads or anything washed in the water. Travelan tablets are a smart option to bring, “The alternative to diarrhea BEFORE it starts.” I also bought some antibiotics I got a script for in the event that Travelan didn’t work. “Bali Belly” is extremely common! Be aware, and be prepared! It’s hard to follow up diarrhea with food, but here we go!
We had breakfast at a café next door to us almost every morning. It’s called Jikaa Coffee X Eatery and has very yummy food, friendly staff, and good energy.
There were so many vegan restaurants, but the one that I frequented several times was called Amami Italian Vegan. Get the Pesto e Zucchine pizza with pumpkin crust. You can thank me later.
Other awesome restaurants-
Green ginger noodle- (vegan/ vegetatian)
Crate- Australian breakfast joint with rad vibes.
We spent a couple days at the beach “surfing”. My buddy Ellis gave me a lesson, but I never got up, nor do I think those were waves to be learning on. I know nothing about waves, and that’s probably my pride getting in the way of the fact that I didn’t get up. 😉
The beach we went to was located directly to the left of Finn’s beach club. A club that is not my scene but seemed to be extremely popular with tourists. It’s essentially a Vegas pool party next to the ocean.
It’s fairly cheap to rent surf boards, and the guys at the rental shop are friendly and hilarious. You will see all kinds of stray dogs along the beach. Any dogs that are wearing a red collar have had rabies vaccines. While jotting down notes for my blog, I see that I wrote, “Beach dogs create rash hands”. I’m laughing reading this now, but rash hands weren’t, and never will be a cute look. I still think the reason I developed a rash was from the insane sunburn I got, but I could still be convincing myself that it was a good idea to pet all the stray animals. It’s definitely hard to resist giving these pups loving.
“Old Mans” is a beach that is fairly near by and is an awesome spot to catch the sunset. There are beanbags to lounge on, and a bar with finger food and beverages. I made friends with a paralyzed dog on that beach that I named “French fry” because that’s what I fed him a plate of. I’m telling you, its damn near impossible to not pet all the dogs!
Another predicament came up within the group. We were spending Thanksgiving together in Bali, and had discussed having a meal prepared for us. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, we did not have a clue what to do for our meal. We were all kind of in disagreeance on what we wanted to eat, which makes me giggle now seeing that we didn’t have issue around food other than this one night. This was the least traditional Thanksgiving I’ve experienced and one of my favorites. We all ended up splitting up and getting our own dishes, dishes that we could share or have on our own. We had a table covered in vegan pizza, curry, chicken skewers with peanut sauce (Basically the only thing Jon ate the entire trip), vegan pasta carbonara, naan bread, two regular pizzas, and some Asian cuisine with fried rice. I’m looking back on the photo now, and I’m loving that I just wore a sports bra to Thanksgiving dinner. My wardrobe makes about as much sense as anything else that day.
Struggles of Canggu:
It was day 3 when we decided to take the mopeds on an hour and a half cruise to see a temple and waterfall on the coast. I don’t really think there’s any way to prepare yourself for sitting on a moped that long going into uncharted areas. Did it ever cross my mind to put sunscreen on my hands, the one area extremely visible to the sun exposure? Nope. I’m giving you notes now… be smarter than me. Marinate your hands in sunscreen.
Ellis was guiding the group that day. He has a keen sense of direction, and also had a copilot on his moped to read off directions turn by turn. The comfortability on mopeds within our group was 2/6. We came up with a system to make everyone happy, that in turn was not full proof in the slightest. Ellis, Brooke and I were going to take the lead, go a bit over the speed limit, and wait for the others before making the next turn on the map. It really made no sense seeing as we would wait about 15 minutes each time before the whole group was back together. We were about an hour into our 1 ½ hour drive, and still 2 hours away. Ellis took us on back roads to help with the comfort level, and avoid traffic. The 3 of us were stopped waiting for the others when Jon and Melissa pulled up but Amela wasn’t anywhere to be seen. Two Balinese people were in the road waving their arms to signal us. Amela had crashed her moped. We booked it back down to her, and cleaned her up with what water we had. It was clear she was going to have to go to the clinic and get stitches.
Ellis was guiding the way to the clinic when his phone died. A friendly Balinese man stopped whatever he had going on in his day and guided us to the clinic in the next town over. That was something I was in awe of. Balinese people are so kind and courteous to each other, but also to foreigners. We ran into so many challenges, but ran into that many more wonderful hearted people who were generous enough to help us.
He guided us to the clinic, which could have easily been confused with a Petco. There were birds everywhere, and zero indication that this was a place for health. One look at Amela’s leg and the doctor said we would have to go to the hospital. A sweet woman gave Amela a lift to the hospital on her moped. The hospitals are painted lime green and have a manji symbol, (easily confused with a swastika).
This was my first experience in a foreign hospital. There was no wait, everything was wide open, and cleanliness wasn’t a priority. The front entrance was right next to Amela’s hospital bed.
They cleaned her wounds and gave her stitches in her knee. I walked outside for some fresh humid air after trying to tough out watching the process of stitches in Bali. I handled it poorly, where Amela didn’t shed a tear or complain a single time. Analyzing that situation, I admire her on soaring levels for her bravery, pain tolerance, get-shit-done attitude, and selflessness. After receiving her stitches, we picked up antibiotics, and placenta cream. Yes you read that correctly. Either you’re as dumbfounded as I am, or I am majorly out of the loop.
Amela insisted after being this far into the ride that we should keep going and see what we came to see: another admirable and selfless moment. How she managed to get back on a moped she had just crashed and visited the hospital over, I will never know.
The ride was absolutely breathtaking. Hanging vines, shades of green you’ve never seen, rice terraces, the wind blowing your hair, the scent of jasmine rice, and sunrays beaming through the trees. We got about an hour in before we agreed to find somewhere to stop off and grab a bite to eat. Ellis and I led the way and communicated we would pull off the road where we could be seen at the restaurant Ellis had found. Ellis had missed the restaurant turn but the rest of the group wasn’t to be seen. We decided to turn around and hopefully beat them to the turn off. As we approached the restaurant, we saw Melissa helping Jon up off the side of the road. He had gone off the road and collapsed the side of a canal. By the grace of divine power, he walked away with a tiny scratch on his arm. We did however have a casualty. A giant iguana took the blow of the canal rock fall. RIP lil fella.
In this picture we are all laughing. Not because we are cold hearted pricks, but because we were hour 6 into this journey to see a temple an hour and a half away. The turbulence just kept coming. The only thing to do at this point was laugh.
We ate at the restaurant that had no vegetarian options aside from French fries. I lost my appetite after see hair and ants on the plate and 86’d the fries.
Ellis let us know that we were going to have to do either the waterfall or the temple, as we wouldn’t have time to do both now. Brooke had a deposit on a tattoo appointment that we were all planning on going back for. We chose the temple. We arrived at Rambut Siwi Temple. You are required to wear a sarong to cover your legs and a long sleeve shirt or jacket to cover your arms. Most temples have sarongs you can rent if you don’t have one.
We had been exploring the temple for maybe 12 minutes when Ellis informed us we had to head back. It had taken us close to 7 hours to get there and we were going to have to leave. Melissa, Amela, Jon and myself decided we would navigate our own way back and would meet Ellis and Brooke back at home. This day had been hell, and all for this temple. None of us were ready to leave that quickly.
The four of us continued to scope out the temple with a monk guiding us. There was a little gazebo area overlooking the ocean that us 3 girls decided to do a quick meditation and decompression in. Amela broke down almost immediately. She had not had a second to really process anything that had happened with this day because of how quick everything had moved. This day was a heavy load, and we didn’t foresee it getting heavier. Bali had other plans.
A massive storm was coming in and the thunder was enough to make the hairs on your body stand. We knew we were going to have to head home quick. We made the plan that we would pull over and stay wherever we were if the rain started coming down.
It is important to go with the ebb and flow of traffic. Going well under the speed limit, and throwing on your breaks is more of a hazard than going the speed limit with the traffic. Be aware of that.
The group decided that Melissa was going to guide us, and we would go no faster than 24 mph for the comfort of those who were anxious riding a moped.
Not long after leaving the temple, there were police officers on the side of the road that signaled us to pull over. Jon was trailing behind and was the last to get pulled over. We were asked for our IDP’s and registration. My registration was expired and they kept telling me “No good”. These are the sorts of things you need to be aware of before renting a moped. I would have never thought to look over the registration, but after you rent the bike out, it is now your responsibility. They gave me all of my documents back and let me go, but after getting to Jon, we all soon realized, he had no registration in his moped. “No good.” “No good.” They looked like they were ready to arrest him, and then said they would let us go for 500,000 rupiah. We all chipped in what we had. I told the cop that we needed him to write down that we had paid this already. In the event that we were pulled over again, we wouldn’t be able to get out of the situation because we wouldn’t have enough money on us. He wrote it on the back of Jon’s IDP and we were sent on our way.
We used the same method we had before, where the people guiding and in the lead would pull over at any intersection or place we had to turn. Melissa turned at a major intersection when we didn’t have Jon with us. We all realized the mistake and turned around as quickly as we could. By the time we got back to the intersection, Jon was nowhere to be seen. Jon also didn’t get a SIM card or have a phone plan without WiFi. We knew right away we had lost Jon.
We got in touch with Ellis and looked for Jon for about 2 hours. At some point Jon connected to WiFi and said he would just meet us at home. It was getting dark at this point; we were all sunburnt, covered in exhaust, and tired beyond belief. It took us another couple hours to get back.
I had a sunglasses outline on my face, where the rest of it was just black. With how much you sweat from the humidity, everything around you will stick to you. Exhaust, dirt, you name it. I’ll say it again, Bali is VERY dirty.
We only had a couple days left in Canggu and they were very low key. Amela couldn’t swim or walk because of her knee. I got a 3rd degree sunburn on my hand along with a rash, and heat rash all over my body. It was hard to want to go anywhere after the challenges we had been thrown.
Our next stop was Ubud. It’s a little over an hour away from Canggu, and deeper into the jungle. We had 5 days in Ubud and this was the area I was most excited about exploring. Our villa was way off the beaten path. You have to take a tiny, bumpy, dirt road to get there. It was a nice house, and MUCH cheaper, but didn’t compare to our first.
After experiencing the road out to our villa, Amela realized it was just too much on her knee. I could totally relate after being in a leg brace. Driving on a bumpy road is hell.
She and Melissa decided to stay at a resort in the city instead. The rest of us stayed put at the villa. I took issue with a couple things in my room. The first thing was, they use a bathroom freshener that smells like something toxic. I thought it was a bug bomb the whole time and I got migraines from it. It’s extremely common to smell that scent in bathrooms in Bali. Secondly, I had bees that would show up flying around my room every night around 2am. I would have to summon one of the boys to come upstairs to catch and release. If they didn’t answer their phones because they were sleeping, I would sleep under a blanket fort and listen to humming all night. Not ideal.
After being there 2 days, I started going stir crazy. Traveling in a group is tough. It’s hard to coordinate everyone and get on the same page. I brought little baggies of this vegan protein I drink that suppresses appetite so I have more time for exploring, and less time trying to figure out food. I realize that not everyone is going to do that, but that’s just how I travel.
I lost patience this day. I realized on this trip how much I lack patience. This was now day 8 and we hadn’t really done anything in nature yet. I was craving a hike, and waterfalls, and being submerged in greenery. Our day didn’t start until after 2 pm. I cracked that day. It was the first day I was just going to go out and explore on my own. Long story short, it didn’t happen. We had to go get the girls settled in their resort, (Which I understood and empathized with), but then everyone wanted to eat. Again, normal… but when you’ve already got an idea in your head of what you’d like to do for the day and you’ve been up since 5 am, it’s now 2pm, you kind of start to lose patience. I completely broke down, and Ellis picked up the pieces. (Thanks, Ellis!)
I was recommended to go experience a waterfall that was an hour and a half away. I focused my day around that, and it didn’t end up happening. However! Ellis found another waterfall closer to us that was also nearby a temple and rice terrace. I opted for anything at this point. Ironically, it ended up being my favorite day in Bali. We went to a donation-based waterfall in the middle of the jungle. The sweetest man and woman lived there, and escorted us down. We had the place to ourselves. We crossed bamboo bridges they had built, heard bird calls that sounded like fire alarms, and walked through hanging vines and next to a creek all the way to the most beautiful waterfall. I am not going to list the name or location, but if you would like to know, reach out and I’ll give it to you! This place felt sacred. It wasn’t flooded in tourists, and felt pure. I had thought a lot about if I wanted to say where it was, but decided to keep it private. I’m sure you can find it online somewhere, but I’m keeping it sacred here.
The sweet woman, who guided us down, took us hand in hand, under the waterfall. It felt like all the stresses of Bali had just washed away. Nothing mattered in the world, other than this moment, here and now. We all sat down there for a while, with the mist hitting our faces, taking in this overdue serenity. I daydream about it all the time.
We went back up the hill and sat with the man who waited up there for us. I believe he was a shaman. He spoke some heavy truths to me, let me hold his rooster, and then we were offered tea that they made from fresh pulled ginger and cut lemon grass from their garden.
They added honey from the hives they had on the grounds as well.
Melissa and the shaman shared some time together, and then we all left, feeling lighter than ever.
We went to a temple nearby, which again I’m not going to list the location, this time mainly because I’m not really sure if we were supposed to be there or not. This was a temple that had a fountain, used to submerge yourself in and receive blessing from the water pouring over you. We dissented down a steep hill, followed by many uneven steps, before reaching a place that looked like heaven. There were 3 women bathing naked in the creek next to the fountain, who continued with our presence. None of us knew what to do, so I decided to ask the women if we could get into the fountain, (Thanks Google translate!) We had to put on this red fabric with a yellow sash that was drying on the ground, before entering. The right side was for men, and the left side for women. I felt so uncomfortable here. I got in the water and had no idea what to do. I felt disrespectful in front of these bathing women, and I felt I didn’t belong in the fountain. I finally stuck my head under the water pouring out and came back up short of breath. I had a panic attack. I’ve never experienced something like this before. The whole experience was really heavy for me. I got out of the water and went and sat with it for a bit. This point moving forward, the day felt off for me.
We visited the Tegallalang rice terrace on our way back. It cost 30,000 rupiah to enter. It really is beautiful with all the layers, but a little too touristy for me. They had a lot of “instagram attractions” set up for photo ops, (The nest and swings you’ll see all over social media.) You can pay to take pictures on these attractions if that calls to you.
That evening, I wanted to make a plan for the following day. Each day thus far didn’t have a plan and we never knew what to do. I had wanted to do the Mount Batur sunrise hike, and you HAVE to plan for it. You’re picked up around 2 am to drive to the base of the mountain. You climb with flashlights, or you can bring headlamps, and you reach the top around 5am for sunrise. They cook you boiled eggs over the volcanic steam and you’re served fruit. This was a top excursion I wanted to do. 5 of us planned to do it and we hired a driver. Last minute, Melissa bailed out. The 4 of us were still going to do it. My alarm went off at 1am; I got ready, packed my backpack and got a knock on the door. Jon had bailed on going because he got Bali belly. Ellis made the call and said it just didn’t make sense for 3 of us to go, because of how expensive it would now be splitting the carfare. I was crushed, but there was nothing I could do. I got back into my pajamas and back into bed, just in time for the 2am bees to show up.
The next day, 4 of us went to Aling-Aling waterfalls in Sambangan. We paid 50,000 rupiah each to do the tour. You have to have a guide to do it. It’s a very steep and slippery trek down. I recommend water shoes. You’ll first see Aling-Aling waterfall. It’s split into two streams, with water coming down at different speeds. You are not allowed to get in the water here, as it is sacred.
We were guided back up the stairs to a cliff jump. This one was only about 17 feet, but still scared the living hell out of me. It took me a long time to jump. I believe my anxiety kicked in, almost manifesting the worst was about to happen because of how challenging this trip had been already. I took the plunge, and was glad I did. Once we were down in the water, we were instructed to grab a life vest and climb up to the top of the waterfall. This was a “Natural waterslide” that plunged down to where we had just jumped, but from much higher up. It goes quick, is very bumpy, and is important you keep your arms and legs together. Definitely worth trying if you make your way out here. There are two other jumps that you can do next to the waterfalls here. I tapped out after the first one, and Ellis was the only one brave enough to do the others. I think the last one was close to a 50 foot drop. I was pretty pleased that we took a car out to this one, because Jon and I slept a majority of the way back. I think Ellis was over the long moped rides after this drive. 4 hours on a scooter on these roads is a lot.
We went to a restaurant on the way back that Ellis picked. It was essentially a gazebo on the side of the road, that I’m pretty sure I ate only French fries for a meal again. As we were eating, I kept feeling something on my back. I didn’t address it until I was sure there was now something down my shirt. I pulled it out and it was a giant moth carcass. I FREAKED out, and realized I had moth bodies all over my chair. I looked around to figure out what was happening, before I looked up. A spider, the size of your hand, was above me, throwing moth guts that he had mostly devoured, onto me and my fries. It would be an understatement to say I made a scene. Local Balinese people trying to enjoy their meals didn’t have a clue what to do with my hysterical performance. I wish I had a picture of my chair, because I mean it when I say it was literally covered in moth bodies.
This photo was after I had switched seats.
Our second to last day in Ubud, 4 of us took a 3 hour drive to Tulamben to do some snorkeling at the USS Liberty shipwreck. (We lucked out with transportation drivers in Ubud. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend Andre (+62 813-3797-7438). He’s a great kid, extremely informative, and fun to be around.)
We rented snorkel gear from a stand right on the beach. They charge for the hour, and I believe we talked him into a discount since there were several of us. We swam around for a while aimlessly as none of us knew where the shipwreck was or how far out it was. I swam back to shore after a half hour or so because I kept feeling stings on my legs. Jon too got out because he was feeling the same sensation. Ellis stayed in the water and was pretty far off the coast. He was yelling at us but none of us knew what he was saying. I’ve never been stung by a jellyfish, but I assumed that was what the stings were. Ellis had found the shipwreck and told us we all had to come out and experience it. We followed him out there and holy crap is it something incredible. There is coral reef, neon colored fish, anemone, and life growing all over the rusted ship. I dove down a few times to get a closer look and still am in awe of its beauty. Just a friendly reminder: this planet is a very undeserving gift to us. We must take care of her wellbeing, and only help with the betterment of her. There was a girl diving at the shipwreck ripping coral off the ship today. Why we must feel the need to take from the earth, leave our mark, vandalize or alter creations will forever baffle me. While traveling, I have felt personal struggle with not standing up for what I feel is right, because of cultural differences. When it comes to disrespecting the earth, mostly, and animal cruelty. Rule of thumb: wear eco friendly sunscreen, don’t take what doesn’t belong to you, and better yet, don’t even touch it. We’re taught the ‘golden rule’ as children, and should continue to use that mantra while exploring this planet. Wander thoughtfully.
After a while of being out there, I started to feel stings all over my body, primarily on my chest. We learned later on that there are tiny jellyfish ALL OVER in the water in that area. A few had swum into my top and got stuck there. I had red marks all over my boobs. I swear I was learning things all over Bali that I had never seen posted about online. It’s so common to see all the beautiful pictures of Bali, but nothing about the difficulties or hardships there. Look no further; I’m pretty sure I experienced all of them during my trip.
Our last day in Bali was the first day we had experienced massive amounts of rainfall. Amela had to go to get her bandages changed and Jon accompanied her because he randomly felt some pain in his leg that he wanted checked out.
We all had a super chill day playing card/ dice games before having our last family dinner. Amela and Melissa were headed back to New York, Jon was going to stay in Ubud a few more days and Ellis, Brooke and myself were headed to Gili Air, an island near the coast of northwest Lombok.
I think we were all just about ready to head home, or into new surroundings.
The following morning, Me, Brooke and Ellis caught a shuttle to Padang Bai. The drive is a couple hours from Ubud, followed by a 1 ½ hour ferry ride to Gili Air. Be sure to book at least a couple days in advance… they book up fast! We used a company called Wahana Gili Ocean. When making arrangements, they will give you a return pass as well as a ticket for transportation pick up on your way back. DO NOT LOSE EITHER!
Another thing I wish I could have mentally prepared for: You are sardined into the bottom of a boat with no airflow, and 100 other profusely sweating bodies. It’s a bumpy, 1-½ hours, in a hot, moist, tuna can. You will NOT be comfortable. You will first dock at Gili T (1/3 of the Gili Islands and the one most known for heavy partying) to pick up other people going to Gili Air.
We booked our own little bungalows at Jannah Homestay, $10 a night. There is free WiFi and the people running it are hilarious and always around! My air-conditioning unit stopped working after one night, so I had to switch bungalows. The idea of staying at a place in Indonesia without working air conditioning is a nightmare I would not care to experience. Gili Air was another place that I didn’t see much written about. I personally was bored out of my mind here. I didn’t see many other tourists (Maybe off season?), you can walk around the whole island in an hour and a half, and there isn’t much to do there besides snorkel which you can either do early in the morning or late in the evening, or randomly enough, they had an escape room there.
I stayed here for 3 days. I figure I will just write the key things I learned about the island that I didn’t know about before hand:
- Dogs are not allowed on the island, but it is plentiful of cats. The ratio of cats to people is absurd.
- You wont find motorized vehicles here. Only bicycles and horse buggies.
- It is a primarily Muslim based community.
- Because of said Muslim community, chanting starts on the loud speaker, every morning at 4AM for a half hour, and continues 5 times throughout the day. If you miss one, (YOU WON’T) there is always another.
- Almost every restaurant here is known for having Magic Mushroom milkshakes. If tripping your balls off in 100 percent humidity while nearly getting trampled by horse buggies, and wondering where in the sky the 30 minute chant is coming from is your thing, YOU’RE GOING TO LOVE THIS PLACE!
- “Hello Lumbung Warung” has delicious, affordable food.
I spent my last evening there by myself. I needed it. I hadn’t had time to myself in the last 15 days. I rode my bike to a pricey restaurant on the water during a monsoon. I watched the sun come out, and then set, turning the sky purple, blue and dark pink. I sat there, analyzing the last two weeks. Admiring my sunburn, allergic reaction on my face, and all the miscellaneous rashes all over my body. I was thankful for my solitude. I sat and watched another storm roll in, taking in the rapidly changing hormones of Mother Earth. Man, do I admire her power and authenticity to her emotions.
I went back to my bungalow and Marie Kondo style packed my suitcase, instead of going with the “rapidly being evacuated, pack a suitcase quick” style I had used the whole trip, while listening to Balinese music. This was my first moment of complete peace, since being under the waterfall in Ubud.
The next day, Ellis and Brooke walked me to the dock, where I sardined myself back into the boat, sitting next to a nice sweaty fella who was coughing up phlegm and then spitting it into his shirt. This was the life! This was the Bali I had been itching for! FINALLY!
When you dock, so many men will hop on the boat trying to take your transportation ticket telling you they are there to give you a ride. DO NOT GO WITH THEM. Go back to where you first checked in and got your tickets. If you go with the other men, they will charge you.
I got a ride into Kuta. It takes close to 2 hours to get there from Pandang Bai. I made sure to take the earlier of the 2 ferries so that I would have time to wander around Kuta. My shuttle driver dropped me off 8 blocks from my hotel. Still scratching my head over this one, but it made for a nice walk with a 55lb suitcase on uneven side walk to see the area, and I got to arrive to the hotel, out of breath and looking like I had just gotten out of the shower, so it all worked out in my favor.
I stayed at Royal Singosari and paid under $20 for my room. It was right next to the ocean, and had a rooftop pool that over looked Kuta. I walked to the beach and watched the sunset with 293478372942 other tourists. I watched the sun disappear one last time on the rockiest trip I have ever taken. I wandered the streets for a few hours and then called it a night.
I sat in my room staring at the ceiling wondering how this trip went south so quickly. What could have made it better? Why was it so difficult? Why don’t I hear of other travelers having a hard time in Bali? Did I just expect something completely different, so I was disappointed?
I landed back in China and began to find gratitude for this trip. I have been so blessed by all my travels that I think it’s good to have some perspective thrown in. I know now that:
- There wasn’t enough planning that went into this trip.
- It’s okay to branch off from your group while traveling, if that’s what calls to you.
- Disconnecting from your phone is one of the most powerful tools you can gift yourself.
- Finding patience with the process will bring ease.
- Traveling changes you. If someone claims you’ve changed after traveling, it’s because you have. If they no longer resonate with that identity, it’s not on you to convince them you’re better for it.
- Traveling in a group is hard.
- It is important to have intention behind traveling.
For it being one of my biggest travel challenges yet, I sure did learn a lot about traveling, timing, patience, and myself. These are words I don’t think I was saying a month ago, but I am thankful for this trip. Not all good things come easily, but with time.
I hope Bali is nothing what you expect, but in turn, everything you need.