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GymBunny’s guide on where to go in Bali

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Well, this is not very health and fitness related, but I have had SO many of you guys request info on my recent trip, that I decided to put together a little post :)

So, I decided to bite the bullet this summer.

After YEARS, yes- YEARS- of humming and hawing, I decided to go a little further afield and branch out to new horizons in Bali for my summer hols!

Bali is an island and is a province of Indonesia in Asia and is made up of the island of Bali and some little surrounding islands too. It’s hugely popular with Aussie surfers and yogis and so caters very well to Western tastes when it comes to grungy little surf shack cafes and perfectly poached eggs with ‘avo-toast’.

The majority of Bali’s natives practice Hinduism, with over 85% of the majority, followed by roughly 15% Muslim in faith. The people are so gentle and lovely,  incredibly friendly and I felt so safe the entire time- I would actually happily travel there on my own.

Bali Flower

Bali has been residing in my brain and messing with my my mind for years and somewhere I always wanted to go. I mentioned it to my bestie before Christmas last year and away we went and booked. Despite planning for so long on the actual destination, the actual initial getting it all done and finalised happened very quickly. We booked flights using Sky Scanner,  flying Dublin to Denpasar, and the return flights for the two of us cost us about €1150. Even looking at accommodation at that stage brought it to approx €1200 in total each, including some really nice hotels. We weren’t too fussy about our travel dates to be honest. We did, however, want the shortest journey duration possible, without breaking the bank! And so began our little adventure…

Girls at Single Fin Bali

We started booking flights etc, in January and the trip was the end of June to mid-July. This is a great time to visit Bali as you have sun but it’s not too hot and not too humid either- OR too rainy. My pal Tash lives in Bali and recommended this time of year, so I forgot the weather apps, begrudgingly (I’m a total weather nerd!) and went with the local advice :)

We started looking into where to stay in about February or March and kept an eye out- I’m a huge fan of booking.com and typically use this for all my hotels when going abroad, if I’m not using Air B n’B. We started with all the typical Bali hotspots and ended up doing a plan for our trip that looked something like this:

Seminyak- Day 1-5

Ubud- Day 5-8

Gili Trawangan Day 8-13

Uluwatu Day 13-15

Overall, we spent two and a half days tin transit. The flights are long-haul- I think we were almost 25-28 hours travelling over and back altogether. The flight I found really awful and I couldn’t sleep- probably the excitement mixed with airplane temperature drops. We flew with Malaysia airlines and I wasn’t really impressed by the level of comfort or the food – BUT, you pay for what you get. The same flights on the same day with other airlines were double the price!

We had to alter our accommodation  around even after all the confirmations as the weather took a little turn in the middle of our trip, but with booking.com it was so easy to change. This sounds like an #ad but it’s totally not it’s just SO easy to use and you don’t need to pay typically until you arrive which is always a bonus!

Here’s a little run-down on what each place was like and what we did in each place…

Note: if you know me at all, you will know that I LOVE sunbathing, I LOVE beaches and I LOVE walking. SO put me in a hot, sunny environment and I’m easy to please. I am not, on the other hand, so enamored with overcast, dull, grey skies and can get cranky/sick/tired. *See below.

Denpasar Airport

Ok, so arriving in the airport I imagined it would be total chaos. It was actually really easy. We had arranged a driver in advance, which I would recommend, as it makes getting off a long-haul flight so much less of a bother. Also to note, loads of hotels offer transfers too when you book, which is worth keeping in mind. Our driver met us with a little sign outside arrivals and was super friendly-  Siobhan (my pal) took over on the small talk (which I hate) and away we went to our first destination- Seminyak!

Seminyak

Driving into Seminyak, I had expected this sleepy little beach town. It’s not exactly the reality. It’s hectic in terms of traffic, scooters EVERYWHERE, broken footpaths and cafes and restaurants, cute little Aussie and Balinese boutiques everywhere and loads of Spas.

We checked in, got showered- in the OUTDOOR shower- and then headed to the beach to watch sunset. Then we felt fancy, got a local beer which is far from fancy but does the job (Bintang is the local beer, Radler is the shandy) and after watching the sunset, we went and treated ourselves to a VERY FANCY full-body massage at Spring Spa. I had the Spring massage, my pal the Balinese. Mine was achingly amazing. Like the best sports massage ever but also really relaxing at the same time. 1 hour of bliss for 20 quid max including tip. We spent the next few days floating about sampling the coffee everywhere we could and some of the amazing healthy restaurants peppering the streets of crazy little Seminyak. Our hotel was in Petitenget beside the W hotel, which was quite basic but had a fab gym. I used the ‘fab’ gym twice and did a HIIT circuit outside our little villa. There was the start and the end of my gym-time in Bali. Yikes!

Seminyak beach

Restaurant/cafe wise, I’d recommend Sisterfields (probably the best food I had in Seminyak- try the avocado toast or anything really!), Monsieur Spoon( coffee and cake), Cafe Organic (acai bowls, great coffee, very Insta-friendly but, alas, the staff not so much!), Ku De Ta (for a VERY fancy date night ( I wasn’t a huge fan as the food was just OK but the setting is divine. It’s about 4 or 5 times more expensive than anywhere else around though!). Very Sex and the City. Livingstone is another cafe/bakery that stands out too and for some local food try Warung Dedalu (very cheap and cheerful and a favourite for those looking for cheap-eats and quick service). In terms of night-life, everyone had recommended Potato Head, but I didn’t get a great vibe from it walking by during the day. We were also advised to check out the cafe Nalu bowls. Really wasn’t that impressed. Very touristy, very average and poor service.

We just went on a random night or two out in Seminyak and ended up in the craziest Mexican place called Mexicola. You have to try it at least once. Mental, loud, crazy, busy and banging tunes. You can also get tacos while you dance. Win win. After that we went to La Favela which was amazing- another kind-of club but everyone was smoking and it was actually really horrible being in there after a half hour, our lungs just gave up! Even though the music was AMAZING.

My favourite part of Seminyak was actually a day club called Mrs Sippy. So funky, so clean, modern, fresh and summery. Great food, superb service, GREAT DJ’s, a super mix of locals and tourists and a really great holiday vibe. You don’t have t pay for the small white beds but you cannot bring food or water inside. We literally spent three days there. BLISS.

Mrs Sippy Bali

We arranged for a driver (through our hotel) to drive us to Ubud. I didn’t have a great feeling as the weather was a little overcast and when we left Seminyak I didn’t feel 100% at all. Started to feel really fluey and a little sick too :(. I am the weatherman.

Ubud

We arrived to Ubud at night- it took us less than two hours to get there. We had booked a super fancy hotel there and it felt all very honeymoonish when we arrived. It was full of 14 century Balinese artifacts that were lost on us, to be fair, but we did make some ‘hilarious’ videos of us finding lizards and other creatures. Breakfast was meh but the views were incredible. We stayed in the jungle and had an infinity pool which was just fab. We got up the next morning and went straight in on our free shuttle and grabbed coffee and second brekkie in a very cool place called Seniman (hat tip to some of my followers for telling us where to go!). We walked up and down the streets and stopped to take loads of the little shrines everywhere.

Twice a day, the Balinese Hindus make an offering to their gods. These are beautiful little colourful baskets filled with treats, flowers, and some beautiful smelling incense. It’s really pretty and particularly eye-catching in Ubud. (although the photo above was taken in Seminyak- I’m such a sneak!).

hindu god

Ubud is very similar to Seminyak on first sight (but greener and minus the beaches!) but seems to be a real haven for Balinese furniture, relics and souvenirs. The film Eat, Pray, Love with Julia Roberts was filmed here years ago, and so Ubud is now kind of a haven for twenty-something to middle-aged women looking to do yoga retreats and to take some time out to relax. We weren’t exactly on the same buzz, so I feel that we could probably have moved on after a day and a half in Ubud. But that’s just me, and as I said, I am minus a fan of grey, over-cast skies, so Ubud did not present itself in it’s finest hour, weather-wise! Cafe wise, we also popped into a little place called Freak (amazing raw chocolate and salted caramel treats!) and followed that with the Campuhan Ridge walk- a little tiny glimpse of the rice fields and a lovely escape from the busier streets.

Campuhan Ridge Walk

We also walked down to the Monkey forest but didn’t go in as the monkeys are bloody mental and scrape you and steal from you. They can even take off your earrings. No, no and just no. They are probably a lot startled by all the tourists too, to be fair.

We strolled into the Ubud Palace and the museum grounds which were both fab and followed that with a little massage and body scrub (NOTIONS!) in Fresh Spa which was also divine after a long day on our feet! I’d recommend doing the bike tour (Green bike Tour are supposed to be amazing!) but when I got up the next day I could hardly breathe (all chesty from allergies) never mind walk that far so we stayed near the hotel (weather was just so-so) and went in for food later on. Mount Batur is supposed to be an amazing sunset trip that I was super keen to do too, but with the icky weather and feeling icky it just wasn’t happening. We booked our driver to our next destination for early the next morning and away we went to the coast.

Gili Trawangan

SO, we got a lift with a driver to the coast with a few others in a mini-van. We were handed a sticker to put on, our bags were thrown onto the beach and off we went onto the  boat after a very hectic queuing system, a very confusing chat with people telling us to get into lines, then everyone made a mad scramble for another boat.

Gilt T Boat

The boat took two hours or so and was a little choppy but neither of us get travel sick so all good! They also hand out little sick bags and are well used to tourists so if you need a sick bag, don’t be shy! We got off the other side and arrived onto a crazy little island that stole our hearts…

So, replace the scooters with horses and carts ( at 70km an hour!) and throw in a few hundred bikes across a little island that you can circle in less than an hour. Mental. Anyways, the sea front or the circumference of the whole island is peppered with little hotels, villas, private villas, cafes, shops and bars. By day, we hung out at the beaches taking achingly cool insta shots- seriously it’s insta-heaven- and by night, after about 11pm, things get crazy. Each night there is a different party night that the whole island goes to. It is probably the only time I felt Bali maybe a little seedier  when we walked home after the parties, but I  never felt unsafe or threatened at all.

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The night-life consists of outdoor dancing, outdoor bars, street vendors selling bbq corn and crepes and lots of reggaeton and trance a little later on, mixed with a little mainstream chart music to boot. An incredible few days in this little paradise island. We stayed in Manta Dive and I would happily go back again tomorrow. Super breakfast included, very reasonably priced and really, really central. Honestly, just stay here. They also do diving courses and are right beside little tour operators where you can book snorkelling too.

Snorkelling Gili T

We did a snorkel tour and visited some of the smaller islands nearby. It was so exciting, the water was so clear and we managed to see turtles, loads of colourful fish and had a ball. It cost a tenner and the whole trip lasted half a day. A tenner well spent and you even get to stop off at a little beach shack for a beer before you get back on the boat after your third stop. So, so, so magical.

Cafe and restaurant wise, everything is so close but I can happily recommend La Boulangerie for croissants and coffee, dinner at Scallywags and we didn’t get to go but La Trattoria is supposed to be lovely too! Pretty much anywhere we ate was totally fine on Gili T! I’d recommend going in search of the nicer beaches to get the best views of sunset and the nicest sand too. Sunset Beach and Malibu beach and even just the walk to get to both are just fab. You’ll see everyone making their way to those beaches from about an hour or two before sunset. This is also where you get the famous ‘Bali swing’ photos!  We left Gili T with sad little faces, happy little hearts and sandy little toes.

Bali Swing

Uluwatu

The majority of the beaches you see when you google ‘Bali beaches’ are in Uluwatu. These are mostly surfer beaches, and the tide comes right in, so it’s worth noting that not all are suitable for swimmers or sunbathers (or kids!). That aside, the beaches are just divine, the surroundings fabulous and the people so friendly again. We went to Padang Padang, Dreamland Beach and Bingin Beach on day 1. Bingin beach was so pretty but the tide was crazy. Dreamland is very touristic but larger and more room for sunbathers or swimmers, but still very rough. On our second day we went to Nyang Nyang Beach which was gorgeous- white sand, big waves, but not as rough and only a handful of people to share it all with. We strolled over then to Pecatu temple on Balangan beach but the weather had turned so the views weren’t as spectacular as they usually are, which was such a pity as this was meant to be a lovely view for sunset!

Nyang Nyang Beach

Uluwatu is a haven for surfers and yogis from around the world- mostly Brazil, Australia and Europe. People here are staying here for surfing so this is not the place for partying really.

Bingin Beach

That saying, one of the best nights we had was when we got two drivers to take us on their scooters to Single Fin (a beach bar right on the cliff-top of a stunning beach!) and the vibe was very, VERY cool. Think denim cut-offs, tanned limbs and floaty tops. Makeup very optional. Slow to start but a fantastic sunset and well worth the mini-trek. Everyone was so friendly and a great place to eat (the pizza and nachos are to DIE for), dance, mingle and have a few fresh-fruit cocktails!

Single Fin Beach Club

Food-wise, there are so many great places to eat here you will not go hungry. They are pretty spread out though, so you will either need to grin and bear the walk or you can rent bikes or drivers. Look for Bukit Cafe (amazing for brekkie, lunch or dinner- just A1 all round and one of my fave places we ate in Bali!). Think fluffy pancakes, mouth-watering grilled fish, fajitas, nasi goreng, poached eggs, quinoa salad- you name it…This is also one of the cutest and cleanest places we ate in  that was very mid-range in terms of prices.

We also ate in Mango Tree (Corn fritters were awesome- service was SO SLOW though), in Ohm burger (which was crazy delicious and they have big jars of thick smoothies that are just the most aesthetic-looking beverage in the LAND) and a few others that we just happened upon and loved- honestly you will be spolied for choice here!

On our last day, we went for a very long and lazy brekkie and then met my pal Tash who swept us off to a little slice of luxury for our last day. El Kabron is situated 50m above sea level perched on a cliff. The views are OUTSTANDING. This is basically a very upmarket beach bar and we spent about 60/70 quid on practically nothing but, hey, it was our last day and the views were oh-so-worth-it!

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We went back to our hotel, met our driver and off to the airport we went, with heavy little hearts, still not trying to think about work or endless to-do lists, and instead soaking up the last few random hours before we landed on Irish soil…

Would I recommend Bali as a holiday?

HELL yes. It’s great for singles, couples, families and is VERY kid-friendly. Kids are everywhere but always on best behaviour it seemed. They are allowed into most day-bars and day-clubs (which are hugely popular in Bali) but they typically have a pool curfew (say 3pm) when kids have to leave the pool area. I presume this is to keep the older crowd buying drinks etc.. and for health and safety.

Overall, it’s easy to get around, traffic aside, it’s super friendly and there is so much to see and do! Two and a half weeks oh-so-very-well-spent. (mozzie bites aside…)

X

PS. Two questions I keep getting from people since I came back:

1. Would I recommend Bali as a honeymoon spot?

Yes and no. Yes if you want to go to a resort and stay there and do nothing AND not really leave your hotel, then yes. Or if you love surfing and yoga and wanted to combine that then certain parts would be perfect for that.  I think outside your hotel, if on honeymoon, some people might find the noise and street pollution a little too much. On the other-hand if you want a little island to visit and just go to Nusa Dua then you’ll probably find the aforementioned suit you to a t! Ie: clean beaches, enclosed resorts, white sand etc…

I think Bali suits the more ‘adventurous’ who want a little rough with the smooth while travelling and I don’t think that most honeymooners are after any kind of rough when they travel! That saying, you can easily hire a nice car with a driver who speaks perfect English to only bring you to the ‘prettier’ and ‘cleaner’ spots. That in mind, there are plenty of resorts that cater to just that and lots of romantic villas too with private chefs etc…

But as an afterword, you have to keep in mind that Bali is  a developing country still and the powers that be have not invested in the required infrastructure for the amount of tourism the country attracts. This in turn affects travel, pollution and even the aesthetics and living conditions of some of the towns and villages. But, for me, at least, that’s all part of the charm…

2. Would I have done anything differently?

Yes, I’d spend less time in Ubud, I’d see more temples, I’d rent a scooter in Uluwatu and have ventured to Sanur and Amed -both are less frequented by tourists and look and sound so beautiful! I’d also have been more adventurous with the food. The dog meat scandal happened just before we went on our trip and I was very cautious- I also was really sick from the food when I travelled in South America previously,  so didn’t want to catch anything. (And I hadn’t  gotten my Hep A shot oops!). But I probably missed out on some amazing street food and local experiences that would have really opened my eyes! :(

Oh to travel the world and be paid to do it….

Girls in Bali

SIGH

X

 

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