My trip to Bali blog — My first real vacation in Bali
One of the most difficult things for me to convey to people as a full-time travel writer is that my life is not a flawless everlasting vacation. Let’s have a look at my Bali travel blog – My first genuine holiday in Bali — down below.
While I am able to pursue my goals and convert my passion into a career – being invited to visit the most incredible locations and even being paid to travel – I do have to pinch myself from time to time to remind myself that my hard work is finally paying off. That being said, it isn’t always what it appears to be.
I was beginning to feel imbalanced and even a little overwhelmed with travel during the last several months, but the worst part was that I was beginning to feel that my blog was moving from a passion to a duty, which terrified me. In my perspective, when a blog becomes more work than play, it begins to DIE. Please assist me!
With this in mind, I decided to have a 10-day layover in Bali on my way back to New Zealand from Mongolia. I’m doing it on my own expense. Only for me.
While I’ve been able to go to my ideal destinations in recent years, virtually all of them had numerous work-related components woven in, and they all ended up worrying me out and not being a real holiday. The days of sleeping in, reading by the beach, and having no commitments were long gone.
As beautiful as Mongolia was, I knew it would be difficult and exhausting labor, and that I would need some time to recover before returning to reality in New Zealand. And I was hooked as soon as I discovered it was really cheaper to go home through Indonesia rather than directly from Hong Kong.
I knew one thing before boarding that plane: I didn’t want to be a tourist in Bali, ticking items off a must-do list and feeling the need to see and see as much as possible.
I just wanted to relax!
So I decided to take things slowly, to not plan anything ahead of time, and to go to quiet locations where I could genuinely relax and enjoy myself. I simply wanted to go diving, lounge on the beach, and eat Balinese food.
This vacation would be different from the others – it would be ideal.
I nearly didn’t want to bring my camera with me, but let’s not get too carried away. I eventually decided to bring it along but not push myself to go out and shoot photos or plan my day around sunrises or sunsets. If a lovely moment occurred organically and I felt like photographing it, I would, but if it did not, I was not going to force it.
I ended up only taking it on 3 of my 8 dives, and used it about 3 days of the trip, the rest of the time it was kept hidden away in my bag, and it was so liberating!
I feel like this is a good mental shift to go through as a blogger and self-proclaimed social media addict.
Diving in Amed and Pemuteran
On my first trip to Queensland, Australia, this year, I fell in love with diving, and ever since I received my PADI open water certification, I’ve been wanting to get back into the water as frequently as possible to improve.
This was most likely my major reason for stopping in Bali, and after some research, I decided for Amed as my first dive location. I knew I’d put on a wetsuit and jump in as many days as I could during the vacation.
This was going to be a wonderful spot to improve, with easy access to dive sites, calm currents, and amazing reefs.
After doing some research on Tripadvisor, I settled on Adventure Divers Bali, and wandered into their shop/homestay as soon as I arrived in Amed. They blew me away. I signed up for 4 dives over 2 days, and couldn’t have been happier.
Both days we did dives off the beach around the amazing coral reefs in Amed and the second day was a dive around the USAT Liberty wreck, a US army cargo ship torpedoed by the Japanese in WWII. After a brutal 4:30am wake-up call, we were geared up and making our way into the water just as the sun was rising in the distance.
It made for a beautiful and memorable morning.
As it’s one of the most popular dive sites in Bali, the earlier the better, and by the time we had a coffee break and got back in for the second dive, it was so crowded I almost felt like I was jostling the other divers to get anywhere.
I’ll take this opportunity to thank the diver who descended on my head and knocked me into coral, scraping my leg and leaving me with a very attractive scratchy rash that is only starting to fade 3 weeks later.
That being said, all of the dives were amazing and I fell in love with the undersea world over and over again.
But the absolute highlight of the trip was getting to see a couple of mantis shrimp, which if you haven’t read the Oatmeal’s take on it, please go do it now as it’s the best thing that has ever graced the internet.
Initially I was planning to boat over to the Gili Islands from Amed and relax for the rest of the trip, but I was on such a high from diving, I decided to stick to mainland Bali. After hearing from one of my taxi drivers about a place called Menjangan Island, a national park with epic dive sites, I was determined to head over and check it out instead.
I’m happy I did since, like Amed, Pemuteran is a hidden treasure in Bali that is still relatively unknown.
While the south surrounding Kuta and other regions have become increasingly industrialized and inundated with visitors, these two areas remain quite peaceful and calm. That’s exactly what I was hoping for.
I only went diving once in Pemuteran because I was recovering from a particularly inconvenient attack of food illness, but it was incredible. I also made my first boat descent, falling backward off the side of an ancient wooden fishing boat into the crystal blue water below.
It was a great day!
Self-pampering at the Griya
After three weeks of roughing it in Mongolia (think no showers, no bathrooms, no heat, and no power), I knew I needed to pamper myself as soon as I arrived in Bali.
We need to overspend on the road every now and again.
Bali is a great place to pamper yourself because it’s still very cheap compared to the rest of the world. Knowing I would head straight to Amed from the airport, and since it’s still a small town and hasn’t exploded in tourism yet, I knew this would be my place to recoup. I was excited to finally have some affordable luxury.
After a little searching around online, I found The Griya Villa and Spas in Amed, just where I wanted to go.
Did I mention the villas have their own private infinity pools?
Considering I was spending less than $20 a day on accommodation on the rest of the trip and the fact that I hadn’t even had a shower in almost a month, I was ready to finally treat myself and desperately to have a vacation.
I thought I was getting a good bargain because it was about double my typical budget ceiling for a property. Though I don’t consider myself a 5 star hotel kind of person (who is? ), a little luxury every now and then doesn’t hurt, especially when you can count the number of showers you took that month on one hand. Gross!
After the Griya discovered this little old blog, I was invited to stay (full disclosure, please don’t hate me), so I decided to be a smart saving grown-up for once and save the money I would have spent on a villa, instead splurging on spa treatments, room service, the mini bar, and more room service.
After a long day of diving, I took a scooter ride from the dive shop to the Griya, which would become my regular mode of transportation in Bali. That was a lot of fun!
I was taken away to my palace, sorry, villa after being greeted with a cold drink beside one of the many pools. I was greeted with a lovely private stone staircase leading up to my rooms (plural, please note), and I managed to keep a straight face and hold it together until the porter departed before having a huge Taylor Swift dance party and leaping in the pool. I was only wearing my underwear.
You know, because it was my OWN pool! Holla! (yes, I did just write holla).
I spent a lot of time at the Griya knowing that my main objective in Amed was to relax and enjoy being somewhere lovely and warm.
There are several reasons why I don’t frequently venture into the enigmatic world of luxury travel, but they typically fall under the categories of unachievable, alienating, and irritating. But once in a while sounds OK to me. The more stars a hotel has, the more sterile, white bread cookie cutter it is, and that is not a vacation experience I enjoy.
I like quirky, I like local, I like authentic, isn’t that why we travel in the first place?
In fact, that’s one of the main reasons I was so keen to share my experience at the Griya on my blog. It was affordable luxury with a full Balinese staff running a place that actually felt Balinese. All of the art was local, every little touch reminded me that I was in Bali, on a dream holiday! Also everyone was incredibly friendly day after day.
The Coffee Diaries journeys to Indonesia
I was overjoyed to finally be able to visit Bali, a destination I’d been hearing about for years but had no idea when I’d be able to visit.
Did you know that before to this trip, I had never gone to Southeast Asia?
If you’re like travel and backpacking, you might find this unexpected. Because it is so inexpensive, Southeast Asia is generally the first visit for college students and budget travelers searching for international adventures. Unfortunately, it is accompanied with all of the not-so-fun stereotypes.
I’ve recently felt that the backpacker party scene has passed me by, and I don’t want to go back if I can help it. I’m becoming too old for it.
I was worried after reading that Bali is not just a backpacker mecca, but also a playground for intoxicated Australians searching for a cheap tropical vacation.
Taking all of your guys’ advise you gave me on Facebook, I avoided Kuta and the south altogether, instead opting for the east and north to avoid the crowds.
Even though I told myself I was on vacation and not working or trying to cram in as many things as possible, my curiosity got the best of me, and I found myself seeking out locals as much as I could to learn more about Bali.
While it’s not difficult to meet locals in Bali if you try – the people are really nice and inviting — one of the greatest methods I discovered to meet people was by living in homestays.
Homestays, like B&Bs, are an inexpensive and fantastic way to travel throughout Bali, as well as a simple option to escape the backpacker scene.
While many B&Bs operate on a more commercial, distant level, homestays in Bali are exactly what they claim they are: staying in someone’s house. Literally.
My best homestays had only two rooms and where you were met by the family and spent time with them during your stay.
I ended myself staying in Pemuteran for much longer than I had planned after discovering a wonderful guesthouse directly on the beach.
After two fantastic days of diving, I decided to take it easy for a bit. Instead of filling my days with events and trips, I stayed at home, playing with the kids, bonding with the son my age who gave me scooter rides about town, and resting in the sun. These are trying times.
It was in these little moments that I began to learn about and become interested in current Balinese culture. It was a surprisingly easy way to get to know life in Bali, from enjoying wonderful homemade banana pancakes drizzled in honey for morning to conversing with the family in the courtyard in the afternoon and visiting the small neighborhood temple next door.
And, like in so many other cultures, life in the house with guests centered around uncompromising hospitality.
After receiving a welcome drink of rice tea, I started to get to know Wayan’s family and a little more about Balinese culture – including the importance of all of the elaborate temples and good snorkeling and dive sites around the island.
In exchange for his hospitality, the next day I offered him one of my Starbucks VIA® Ready Brew coffees to try. In a culture where hospitality reigns with the elder and homeowner to boot, I could tell he wanted to say no at first, but luckily Wayan’s curiosity won out, and he was game to give a taste.
We strolled over to the beach with our coffees, leaving our sandals on the porch, while I bombarded him with questions about his family, how Bali is changing, and what he sees for the future of Pemuteran (I’m not one to ask light questions).
What I remember most about the talk, and what I found most remarkable, is how the name system works in Bali. Did you realize that just four names are used?
Wayan – Made – Nyoman – Ketut
There are various variances, and there is frequently some sort of follow-up nickname attached, but that is how it works for both males and girls. And what if you have five children? Return to Wayan.
Bali was so different, so lively, and so one-of-a-kind from anywhere else I had recently visited. My recollections there are more of sentiments, little moments, and snippets of knowledge I picked up here and there than of physical activities and tourist attractions. It was the ideal starting point.
Have you been to Bali or Indonesia? What have you learned with a stranger over a cup of coffee on the road? Have you ever felt the need to have a true vacation like this?