From Great Outdoor Store
I’ve been back from Bail for a few weeks and have been trying to figure out how to write about the trip. It wasn’t a place that was really on my radar to visit--the time it takes to get there and the idea that it was way out of my price range gave me pause. But when Jeff and I were invited to attend a friend’s birthday there, we took the opportunity to see a country that is vastly different than ours. Our tickets from Sioux Falls cost about $1000 each, which doesn’t seem that bad to end up on the other side of the world. We left Sioux Falls at 6am on a Wednesday before the final snowstorm of the season and walked off the plane into 80 degrees and 90 percent humidity in Denpasar, Bali at midnight on Thursday. The warmth and humidity felt amazing to our travel weary bodies. We found our prearranged ride without a problem and began the drive to our AirBnB.
We were a few days ahead of the rest of the group, so we took that time to explore other parts of the island. Our first Airbnb was in Sanur, a quieter part of the island with beach access. We were up early the next day which is never a good idea in a beach town as nothing is open. But, the slow morning gave us time to find an ATM so we could get some local currency. An ATM was easy to locate and the directions were both in Indonesian and English, so I punched in $100,000, which seemed like a lot of zeros. I was kind of surprised when the machine only spit out one bill. We headed for breakfast thinking that would be enough. After looking at the menu (which was all in English) I quickly realized that we were going to be short. Jeff went back to the ATM, took out one million rupiah and we were set. The conversion rate is about $14,000 rupiah to the US dollar...so I had taken out about $7US. Whoops! Our breakfast of fresh squeezed juice, coffee, eggs, toast, and fruit was about $12US. I never did get completely comfortable with the money, but everything was incredibly affordable from lodging to transportation to food.
We were on the island for two weeks. During that time we visited five different areas: Sanur, Lembongan Island, Kuta, Balian Beach, and Ubud. We visited with workers in the rice fields, visited a monkey preserve, saw the second largest monument in the world, ate incredible food, and most importantly spent time with our friends. The Balinese people are wonderful and there was never an occasion where I felt unsafe. There is no language barrier, but the traffic around the island makes getting from one place to another a lesson in patience. If Bali is on your list, I would recommend getting there soon! As tourism continues to grow (the Indonesian government wants it to increase from 4 million visitors a year to 20 million) open spaces are only going to decrease and traffic is only going to get worse.
This was one of the beaches we came across where you could actually swim. The surf and boat traffic made other places unswimmable. Many of the beaches are better known for surfing.
If you have food intolerances, Bali is the place for you! Because they don't grow wheat, there is very little gluten on the island. While most of Indonesia is Muslim, Bali has its own religion: Balinese Hinduism. This makes finding vegetarian and vegan food incredibly easy. This entire breakfast was vegan and gluten free and cost about $12us.
Kuta is where to find the surfers and the clubs. We stayed here for one night because it was closer to where we were meeting our friends. This was a more touristy place, so things were a little more expensive. Our Airbnb was about $80us; it had a private pool, two large bedroom rooms, gourmet kitchen, and most importantly, a med kit to repair my blistered feet. This is a picture of the backyard. The rice fields are everywhere, even in the middle of densely populated areas.
Once we joined up with our friends we headed to an area north and west of Denpasar called Balian Beach. The drive was 55 miles and it took over 5 hours during rush hour traffic. The drive was worth it! We were a two mile walk to the beach, but you didn't really need to leave where we were staying.
The contrast between the cities and rural areas was vast. The rice fields are tended to by hand and few mechanical advantages.
Ducks were an important part of keeping the rice fields pest free.
Our last stop was Ubud. We were here for four days and on our second day, a cremation ceremony for the previous King was taking place. It was spectacular. This is the structure that the body was eventually placed in. It was built on a bamboo platform that was carried by 30-50 men at a time. They would carry it for about two to three blocks and then switch out to a new group.