Ah, Bali. Even as I sit and write this, I miss it profusely.
A place of astounding natural beauty, tranquillity, unbelievable food but also nightlife like you’ve never experienced before and probably never will again.
My very lucky little sister has decided to move there after her stint of travelling, which means I can now visit to my heart’s content – catch me there again over Christmas and New Year.
It’s one of those places where I’m afraid that two weeks just isn’t enough to discover all the wonders that this island in Indonesia has to offer, so I will offer my insights into the few places I visited that didn’t even really scratch the surface.
My first stop was Ubud – famed for its beautiful rice field terraces and yoga barns. We stayed in The White House Hotel which for only £10 a night, you have your own gorgeous infinity pool and breakfast included.
Here, you are on the main drag of gorgeous bars and restaurants and a stone’s throw away from the Monkey Sanctuary and many temples. At the time of our visit, the locals were preparing for Hindu New Year; Melasti Festival that leads up to ‘Nyepi Day’ or ‘Silent Day’, the Hindu equivalent of New Year’s Day.
What this entails is that people in villages make large effigies of spirits called ‘Ogoh – Ogoh’ that they then parade down the streets to the nearest beach to cast into the sea or set alight on the sand.
They are giant, terrifying things and the parade itself is a flurry of colour and noise as they bang together pots and pans to drive the spirits out in time for Silent Day.
I would advise having a strong nerve when visiting Monkey Sanctuary, because it is pure terror in the form of monkeys jumping on you or nicking your bag whilst you also get the privilege of seeing some of the most intricately beautiful temples in a vast jungle. It’s stunning, all the same.
After a few days in Ubud, we headed to the coast to take a trip to Gili Trawangan, one of three Gili Islands just off the coast of Lombok. It has to be said that Gili Trawangan is one of the most beautiful islands in the entire world, famous for breath-taking sunsets and even more unreal beaches.
We stayed in Gili Mansion Hostel, which is a complete and utter party place, much like the island itself, something I was unaware of until drinking many, many ‘joss shots’ and partying like a traveller. A joss shot is either tequila or vodka mixed with pre-workout, or as it can also be deemed ‘mental juice’.
There are no cars on Gili T, so to get ahead we hired bikes which cost the equivalent of £2 to hire for 24 hours. We rode around the west side of the island and settled on two beach bars with very decent happy hours – The Exile and Malibu Beach Bar, both with swings and hammocks in the sea for those classic Instagram sunset pictures.
Now, this isn’t like Spain or Greece where you have to pay through the nose to hire a bed on the beach for an hour. Oh no, in Malibu Beach Bar, the price of one Bintang (£1.80) gets you the use of a pool and all the beach facilities.
Sitting with a beer in hand, watching the sunset on the most gorgeous beach was a proper ‘I’ve never been this happy’ moment.
After Gili Trawangan, we headed back to mainland Bali to stay in Seminyak, but also close enough to the very hip and happening Canggu.
We were due to visit Nusa Penida, but because of the silent day we though it best to be back on the mainland with our family. This is because everything on the island is on lockdown during Nyepi. The airport is closed, no cars are allowed and traditionally all electricity is turned off.
When staying in a resort, you are allowed to move around but not permitted out of the hotel and also, it’s lights out and no noise by 7:30pm.
We stayed in the Grand Balisani Suites, right on the beach and in between two of the worlds best beach clubs – Potato Head and Finn’s. Both of which are like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, luxurious, great music, beautiful setting, the lot.
Now, for Canggu. I can’t describe in enough adjectives how much I adored this part of Bali, probably because it was so unexpected. No longer in Ubud, Toto, it’s very much full on in Canggu. Some of my top recommendations include:
Old Man’s Bar – great live music, a stupidly cheap happy hour and right on Batu Belig beach.
Sandbar – for late night dancing on the beach like you’re in a film.
Pretty Poison – a half pipe turned bar where you sit around it and observe skaters whilst washing down a Bintang or six.
Black Cat Mini Mart – you’re in a mini mart, you go the back and there’s a fridge labelled ‘broken’. Naturally, open the fridge and you walk into a secret bar. Cool AF.
Deus Ex Machina – On Tuesdays, it’s tacos and free tattoos. Yep, that’s right, free tattoos. Also mad and brilliant happy hour throughout the week.
Again, this doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the amazing little places on the beach to sit and catch the sunset. Did I mention that Bali is super cheap?
My family and I took a day trip out to Uluwatu, the south of the island, whilst stopping at Tanah Lot temple and Nusa Dua along the way. The temple, isolated in the middle of the sea and only accessible to monks when the tide goes out, is a wonder to behold.
In Nusa Dua, a place famous for its water sports, I tried jet-skiing for the first time, much to the amusement of my two sisters as I kangarooed around the water and we also went tubing which was the most fun we had on holiday (maybe not for my mountain goat mother that gets seasick very quickly).
If you are ever get the chance, I urge you to visit Bali. It’s like no place on earth.
Flights from Manchester Airport to Bali start from £598 return with Qatar Airways