I wish I could say that I wanted to go to Bali before reading/watching Eat, Pray, Love. Guilty! Since I am a loyal AA flyer, I consulted their website to find options and voila – a stopover in Hong Kong was born!
Since I really had no idea where to go in Bali (and was completely overwhelmed the last time I was in Asia), I did what all good travelers do…immediately purchased a Lonely Planet book! From what I read, there are 2 main ways people do Bali since it is an island:
- Move from city to city, making your way around the island – either taking cars, buses or taxis
- Stay put in 1 city and make it your home base, exploring with day trips from there
For ease, convenience, and earning Starwood points, my friend and I decided to stay put and make the Australian-friendly beach town of Kuta our home base. With our hotel booked and typhoid vaccines injected (make sure to read up on which vaccines you may need!) we were off to Bali, Bali, Bali! And in case you are wondering, yes, I did say that non-stop during the trip.
Day 1: A Late Night in Hong Kong
I don’t think I realized that the flight to HK was 15.5 hours long when I booked the ticket. Once we got to the airport and thought more about it, we decided that same-day upgrades to an “Economy Plus” were worth it, especially on Cathay Pacific.
After we left the airport, we headed to our hotel for the night, the Le Meridien Cyberport via a cab driver with 3 mounted devices. Clearly they love technology in Asia.
Not wanting to be totally lame, we dragged ourselves out for dinner and some dessert at the neon-lit Tsui Wah Restaurant and some tiny place next door.
No clue how to read either menu, we relied on photos on the menu (my favorite part about Asian dining) and made some solid selections for dinner and then found some delicious dessert next door!
Day 2: Flight to Bali and Kuta hotel relaxation
The flight to Bali was not so spacious, but at least we got our own row – and old school head phones! 4 hours later, we arrived in Bali!
Pro tip: There is an entrance visa on arrival that you have to pay at the airport, so just come prepared for that.
After a very hot, humid taxi ride, we arrived at our home base for the next week – the Sheraton Kuta! Another perk, this time from my SPG Platinum status, we were upgraded to an ocean view 1-bedroom suite where we could spread out and make ourselves home. We enjoyed the sunset from our balcony and ordered some room service desserts for dinner (hey, no judging!)
Day 3: Kuta hotel & Beach time at Seminyak
Exhausted from our 20 hours of traveling, we decided to take the day and just enjoy what the hotel had to offer. I normally get free breakfast when I travel due to my SPG status, but neither one of us were ready when we realized what “free breakfast” meant at the Sheraton Kuta. Legit one of the largest breakfast buffets was awaiting us.
After our hearty breakfast, we went to the beautiful ocean front pool to relax.
After we finished, we went to Seminyak which was Kuta’s more trendy and upscale neighbor to the north.
After watching the sunset, we roamed down the beach and came across an entire row of beach-front bars with bean bag chairs on the beach.
The absolutely perfect way to sit, enjoy a local beer, listen to the waves and watch some impromptu fireworks. The perfect way to wind down the night.
Day 4: Temples, Holy Springs and Waterfalls!
Now that we had rested, rejuvenated and ate ourselves content, it was time to explore Bali! We weren’t really sure how to best explore, so we ended up booking an excursion from the hotel. Basically, it was a full-day of seeing some of the highlights of Bali with a driver and English-speaking Guide.
Much to our surprise, when we got in the Guide, named Ketut, said “where do you want to go today?!”. We looked at each other and said “umm, the agenda from the excursion!”. To which he said “what agenda?” We knew we would be in for a treat!
We started at Taman Ayun, a beautiful temple in the heart of Mengwi (where I got a little picture happy)and our new friend Ketut explained all of the Hindu traditions and cultures.
From there, we drove through the scenic rice paddies on our way.
We then arrived at the Banjar Holy Hot Springs. I am not sure if they are truly holy, but they were hot! And green! Definitely an interesting experience with the locals.
After then, we drove to the Git Git waterfall. Well, actually we drove to a rest stop, parked and hiked up, down and all around to get to the waterfall. Which was quite worth it.
After Ketut wore us out for the day, we headed back to the hotel. But not before booking them again for our adventure the next day – for only $60 for the ENTIRE day!
Day 5: More temples, tea tasting and traditional Indonesian dinner
After our amazing breakfast (obvi!) we headed out with Ketut for another day of adventure. We had a rough idea of the things we wanted to see, but let Ketut lead the way. He took us to the Ulun Danu floating water temple first. This was a bit of a magical experience for me because we arrived during their processional to deliver their daily offerings (somewhat like a spiritual parade).
And once we made way through that, we saw that this truly was a floating temple, surrounded by an amazing lake, mountains and clouds.
Ketut then took us to his favorite tea & coffee place for a tasting of all of their varieties that they grow and harvest on-site.
They are famous for the kopi luwak or “poo coffee”, which is made by feeding coffee beans to cats, which they then pass through (you get the idea) and then are used to make coffee. Weird/gross, right? But apparently it’s a delicacy.
After a crazy drive home through the streets of Denpasar, where families of 4 ride together on a single moped, we arrived back to the hotel. On a recommendation, headed to Warung Made for one of the best meals I have had.
Day 6: Elephants, chocolate and crazy monkeys!
Do I need to mention we had the amazing breakfast? No, but it was just that good. Anyway, we headed out again with Ketut and this time went out into the jungle on an elephant ride! Our elephant, Ari, was older and a little hairy, but so cute.
Pro tip: I did not know it at the time, but after doing a lot of research for my Thailand trip, I realized elephant riding is not humane. I would not recommend doing this again in Bali, but I am still going to show you a picture of our elephant!
After we said goodbye to our friend, we directed Ketut to Big Tree Farms Bamboo Chocolate Factory, the only chocolate factory on the island (touristy of course, but they make their own chocolate and the entire building is made out of bamboo!)
After our fab tour and tasting, we hit the road to Ubud, one of the most beautiful and unique cities. This is a unique city, set within rice paddies, steep ravines – and a Monkey Forest in the middle. I will get back to that part. We had an amazing lunch at a restaurant with a wide open field in their backyard, took in the sights and the headed to the Monkey Forest.
We strolled through the town on our way to the monkey forest and saw more of the city, including penis key chains everywhere. All sizes, colors, shapes – apparently they are some form of good luck? Oh, Bali.
Now, I pictured a beautiful forest where I could be Snow White and have all of the monkeys come up and braid my hair. In reality, it is a beautiful forest filled with adorable, MONKEY JERKS! Perhaps they are just being proactive over their beautiful forest, but they will steal your food, sunglasses, camera – anything shiny! After I took my obligatory monkey photo, we made our way out.
Did I mention that Ubud is known for its spas? Oh yeah, it is. And you bet that we made an appointment for a massage before we left. Massage in Bali is incredibly affordable, ranging from $15 to $40 for a good quality 60 minute massage in a non-sketchy place.
Day 7: Bali arts and beautiful beach views
We started off attending a Barong dance performance on Ketut’s recommendation. It was absolutely amazing and unlike anything I had ever seen. The costumes, dances and emotion on the dancers faces were all just beautiful.
After that, Ketut took us to see some local artisans on our way to Gunung Batur, our hero for the day.
Gunung Batur is an active volcano on Bali – and actually a has a double caldera, and is surrounded by a volcano lake.
We drove down to the basin and took in the breathtaking sights.
Our next stop was the Uluwatu Temple, a cliff-side temple with jaw-dropping views of the cliffs, surf and sunset.
Though we opted to head to Jimbaran Bay to watch the sunset beach-side while enjoying an insanely large seafood BBQ. There are a ton of restaurants that line the bay providing a similar experience, but we at at Teba Mega Cafe and it certainly did not disappoint.
Day 8: Ocean cruising
Now that we had explored what felt like every inch of the island, we booked an ocean cruise to the Nusa islands on an insanely fast jet boat.
It was quite a ride and along the way, we stopped at a seaweed farm, a few spots to snorkel, and a beautiful beach.
After our day, we came back and headed to Kuta Beach to watch the sunset. Words don’t even do this amazing sight justice – the colors of the Bali sunset are just unparalleled.
From there, we capped off an amazing day with dinner at Poppie’s Restaurant, a romantic spot for our last night in Bali.
Day 9: Exploring Hong Kong
What else would we do on our last day besides breakfast (and you thought I stopped mentioning!) and a final farewell massage at the hotel. We said goodbye to Bali and boarded the plan for Hong Kong. We were welcomed at the W Hong Kong with a super sweet suite upgrade! If you are ever in HK, I highly recommend this place. And not just because of this pool.
We set out to explore a bit of HK in the daytime, taking a ferry across Victoria Harbor.
It’s always a bittersweet feeling coming to the end of an amazing adventure, but this trip changed me in many ways. It was really my first time traveling to Asia without someone who spoke the language, which was a great push outside of my comfort zone.
It also showed me, first-hand, the extreme highs and lows that countries like Indonesia face. It was amazing how friendly and happy the Balinese people were, despite having so little. Ketut told us that some of the people there survive on $1 USD per day – and others pool their money to afford motorbikes, because that’s the only way they can find work in tourism. I am so grateful to him for sharing his experiences, culture and island with us while we were lucky enough to be there.
Have you been to Bali or Hong Kong? Comment below and share your favorite tips and spots!