I’ve shared the story quite often about my Grandmother Norma Lou. If you haven’t heard it before, I’l give a quick overview here: after the birth of her 6th child, her husband - my grandfather - passed away suddenly. Norma Lou was anything but conventional. Her next move in a time in which her life could have come undone? Pack up everything, follow some unknown guide in her heart and travel. She decided to move her family to Southeast Asia to explore an unknown world, language and life.
I’d like to think I’ve got a lot of her in me.
At holiday times I always loved hearing my family tell tales of that exotic life. When I was little I’d stay up late listening to the adults sharing stories, switching to French later in the evening as the wine flowed, perhaps to protect virgin ears and I’d go to bed with a wild imagination dreaming of what their adventures must have been like. I grew up in a family that understands a need to explore.
However, despite that - it’s taken me this long to make my own trek to Southeast Asia, and my first experience landed me in a place I’ve heard so many beautiful stories about. Bali!
We each have an opportunity to take the chance to truly do the things we love. There’s so many reasons not to see that place of your dreams but there’s one big reason why you should. That big reason is YOU, you so deserve to have what you want in this grand bazaar of life! So if Bali has been on the list, I say go! Book that trip (I’ve got a list of recommended places to stay at the end of this post) and make it happen! And when you do here’s the things that made my first trip to Bali so completely magical!
9 Things To Do On Your Bali Vacation
The friendliness of the Balinese is the first thing you’ll notice. The people are unlike any other I’ve met. The air throughout Bali smells of a sweet spice with burning incense because of the holy offerings made throughout the day, there are temples on every corner, in every home and the ones you’ve seen in the photos truly are that majestic. Palm trees line the beaches, bamboo towers over the roadways and a subtle tropical breeze washes over the shore. The food - much of which is plant-based - is vibrant, full of local ingredients and simple ways of cooking that only comes with island living. So with that let’s begin our trip, shall we?!
Visit the Temples
No matter which part of the island you might be staying in there’s a temple nearby to visit. A really good way to see several is to schedule a day trip. The temple here is Pura Ulun Danu Bratan; I was able to visit this one and several others in a few hours one afternoon. Be mindful that you’ll need to be dressed appropriately, however if you forget - you’ll likely be offered a sarong at the door. Keep in mind that these temples are current places of worship, so treat these places likely you would your own special place.
Try All the Fruit and Coffee
One of the places I stayed was a working organic coffee farm - Munduk Moding, one of the premier sustainable eco-tourism resorts in the world. However, the fruit and coffee experience can be had in lots of different ways - there are cafes everywhere offering delicious smoothie and fruit bowls, and coffee tours throughout the island. Be sure to try the famous Luwak coffee. I’ll let you find out for yourself how it’s made, it’s all apart of the fun of the experience!
Experience a Floating Breakfast
Something I learned from my friend Sam (who snapped this photo!) is that ‘floating breakfast’ is the Balinese version of breakfast in bed. Seriously though! I was so in love with all of the nourishment Bali offers: and this was another way to experience that! Many of the hotels and Airbnbs offer this as an amenity.
Shop at the Markets
Each city has it’s own version of an arts market, and I went back several times to the market in Ubud and in Seminyak too. The dress pictured above ran me about $6 USD, the bags on the left started at around the same price. Pro tip: go early and ask for the ‘morning price’ and even if you can’t make it during the early hours you’ll still want to negotiate!
Take a 2-Wheel Ride
If you’re brave (and know what you’re doing) rent a scooter, however entering Bali traffic I immediately thought: here’s a sure fire way to find faith in the universe - ahhh the chaos of this Bali traffic!
I didn’t drive a scooter myself however - one of the words that kept coming up for me in Bali was “element.” Being ‘in my element’, yes — because I felt that but also because I connected so much to the enriching elements of the island. When I took my first ride on a motorbike the second we took off I let the elements really hit me. There’s nothing like the feeling of the night air, lights swirling by and the sounds of a little jungle town buzzing in your ears to truly wake you up!
Hike Mount Batur
I can remember a time when the idea of waking up at 1 AM to hike 3 hours in the pitch black through a jungle terrain wouldn’t exactly be my cup of tea. Over time I’ve learned that what IS my cup of tea is pushing through fear and allowing my body to show me what it is capable of. The feeling at the end of the hike was pure perseverance! I loved the meditative feeling of that adventure, and keep your eyes out - the monkey did in fact try to steal my fanny pack.
Hire A Day Trip Driver
Many Balinese people drive for a living. You won’t find Uber very often and a much better way to get around is to hire a driver. It’s also an awesome way to get recommendations of places to go while getting a history and culture lesson too. My driver was recommended by my first hotel - he picked me up from the airport the first night (waiting the 1.5 hrs at 1 AM it took me to get through customs) and then took me on day trips several days throughout my 2 week trip. He also drove me when I changed cities - I stayed in 4 different places over the course of those 2 weeks and I felt completely safe and at home with him. Want my driver’s info, send me a DM on instagram and I’ll share!
Visit the Rice Terraces
There rice terraces can be found throughout the island. I went to several on my trip. My favorite was the Jatiluwih terrace - famous for it’s size and also for the irrigation system and relationship the farmers have to the land; this area is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Perhaps even more famous is the Tegalalang terraces near Ubud. These are the terraces you’ve likely seen on instagram. There’s lots of other fun photo opps here (like my bird’s nest photo above) and plenty of cafes and shopping opportunities nearby as well. Be prepared to bring small bills to share as donations with the farmers - sometimes they’ll ask other times they’ll have donation boxes set up along the way.
Watch the Sunset on The Beach
What a way to reflect. I went out to the beach to watch the sunset on my first night and then again several other evenings throughout my trip. I celebrated the Full Moon on the beach. Bali is a place where the people are often gathering in ceremony. I asked a local what the Full Moon ceremony entails - her response: a bathing of the soul. I decided to do my own version of ceremonious soul bathing and took a dip right as the sun went down over the Indian Ocean.
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If there’s one thing I can’t say enough it’s that Bali is so full of love! There’s a powerful feminine energy that’s undeniable. I’ll be back with a post on things to know before you travel there, in the meantime, go ahead and book that flight!
Where to stay:
Use my code for $40 off your first Airbnb experience
Ubud: Art Villa (via Airbnb starting at $61/night)
Munduk: Clove House (via Airbnb starting at $120/night)
Canguu: Villa Sar’ja (via Airbnb starting at $75/night)
Seminyak: Hideaway Loft (via Airbnb starting at $39/night)
all images are my own and/or those of Pangea Dreams retreat. Pangea Dreams images 1, 7, 11, 12, 15, 18.