TRAVEL DATE: August 15-29 My friend Maddy and I have traveled together before. We’ve been thinking about our next destination, specifically one with good snorkeling opportunities. She spontaneously purchased a flight to Bali for $500 during a sale and urged me to do the same...
With the low price and warm beaches, I bit the bullet and committed.
Indonesia is primarily Muslim but we went to visit Bali, an island/region that is primarily Hindu. There were a lot of beautiful temples and offerings everywhere. You’d frequently see many offerings wherever you went, such as flowers and incense burning. I learned that offerings were formally offered twice a day.
Ubud, a city in Bali, is considered the cultural center. We hired a driver to take us to the “Sacred Monkey Forest.” This well-known park is both a natural habitat and sanctuary for the Balinese monkeys. You might even encounter one climbing on you like what happened to Maddy! We also witnessed a big food display being put up at the park. At first, we thought it was how the park feeds the monkeys, but later learned that it was part of a bigger traditional celebration called Tumpek Kandang.
Our other big destination was Nusa Lembongan, an island off of Bali. It’s a 30-minute ferry ride from Bali. It’s a lot less crowded but its long beach is a big tourist attraction. We learned to scuba dive there by taking a 4-day course. I am now a proud PADI open water certified diver! Diving was great - very surreal. With a mask on, it looks like you are watching TV. My first couple of tries, I found out I was not good at staying under water. I purchased extra dives, however, and with the extra experience, I finally got the hang of it. I got to swim with clown fish, moray eels, puffer fish, sea turtles, trigger fish, napoleon fish, pipe fish, and many other sea creatures.
We wanted to go to a third location, the Gili islands, but there was a massive earthquake two weeks prior to our arrival that evacuated the islands and closed them from travel. We personally experienced two earthquakes during our time in Bali! The first one was at night while I was in bed. I could feel the shaking, but assumed I was half-asleep until Maddy mentioned she could feel it too. The water from the pool next to our villa was swishing back and forth. Luckily, the situation didn’t escalate. Just a few days later, we experienced our second earthquake—this time during the day. We felt safe because the locals around us remained calm.
My assumptions that Bali was going to be a very “tourism-heavy” destination were true. Lots of signage and locations catered to tourists in both English and Chinese. I was preparing for hot and humid weather, but was pleasantly surprised by how tolerable it was. Yes, it was warm, but I wasn’t choking or drenched in my own sweat. Interestingly enough, we were visiting during the wet season (the warmest of the year). What I didn’t expect was the horrible traffic from scooters and cars everywhere. Ubud only had two-lane roads and super narrow sidewalks. I was constantly keeping an eye out to feel safe from being hit by something. Another big surprise for me was the flight. The combination of a $500 economy ticket, 20-hour flight schedule, and a poorly reviewed airline, I was fearing the worst. Looking back, I am happy to report that it wasn’t too miserable.
I’m looking forward to the day I return to Bali. Maddy and I would love to go diving in one of the many other spots in the region. Our goal is to see Manta Rays, mola mola, and whale sharks. Visiting the Komodo Islands, home to the Komodo Dragons (giant lizards), is also on my to-do list. We were unable to fit it into our schedule during this trip. The island does not have any hospitality services, so it’s a “go and come back on the same day” trip.
For people who want to visit Indonesia, be prepared for a long flight (~20 hours). In respect of the local culture and religion, men will need to be ready to wear pants. Women will need to purchase and bring a sari. We were asked to cover anything above our ankle/shin area in order to enter temples. It’s very worth it, though, as you get to enjoy their architecture, art, and culture up close.