bali: the vacation recap, ubud & uluwatu

[Above picture taken at Padang Padang Beach in Uluwatu, Bali]

I apologize for not putting together this post sooner - if you follow me through Inspiralized, you know that my second cookbook came out, and that pretty much consumed the past two months! 

now, onto Bali. we loved Bali so much we convinced two of our friends to go there later this year! 

if I had to explain Bali in two words it would be: lush and relaxed. I found that the second we arrived in Bali, we were relaxed. perhaps it was the gorgeous hotel, the friendly Balinese, or the healthy, uplifting cuisine, but we were blown away. the trip happened in two parts: first, Ubud and then, Uluwatu, with a few stops along the way.

there are, however, a couple things we wanted to see/do that we didn't get a chance to do. next time, we'll definitely make the time to climb Mount Batur (the 2:30am wakeup call discouraged us) and see more temples.

the itinerary

Monday, June 27: 8am flight to Denpasar via AirAsia, with a 5-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

UGH. It wasn't the best day, considering we spent the whole day traveling. Unfortunately, the way the flights worked, this was our only option. We left Rayavadee (sadly!) that morning and headed on our way.

Once we arrived in Denpasar, we were picked up by our hotel (Komaneka - Bisma) and drove about 45 minutes to our hotel in Ubud. Ubud is in the North-Center of Bali and is therefore, inland. There are no beaches, you're basically in a lush, gorgeous forest. It's absolutely stunning! When we arrived to the hotel, we checked in, had an amazing Balinese dinner at the hotel, and then crashed in bed.

[Above photo taken at the Komaneka Bisma Hotel in Ubud]

I couldn't recommend this hotel more - they run shuttles to the center of town, but you're away from the bustle, so you have absolute quiet tranquility. The rooms are giant (we opted for one with a plunge pool) and nestled into the lush forest. 

Tuesday, June 28: First full day in Ubud

We had heard great things about a bike tour through Ubud, so the night before, we asked the hotel to book it for us. Unfortunately, it was raining in Ubud, which was kind of a bummer, but it was light rain and we persevered! The company, Greenbike Cycling Tours, picked us up right at our hotel that morning (bright and early, around 8:30am) and we got in a van with one other couple (a sweet British couple!) and started the tour.

[Above photo taken on our bike tour through Ubud]

First, we stopped at a Balinese Coffee Plantation - it was amazing. We tasted a big flight of coffees, saw how the world's most expensive coffee (Luwak coffee) was made, and had unbelievable banana crepes. The coffee plantation was amazing, nestled in the forest, with incredible views and landscapes. 

Fully caffeinated, we got back in the van and they drove us to get our bikes. We each got a mountain bike, helmet, water bottle, and we had two guides. When I say this was incredible, I really mean it. It was an amazing way to see a place - we drove by Balinese houses and even stopped in one. The Balinese are very spiritual and each home has its own temple! They even showed us how to make a Balinese offering, which they do twice a day (once in the morning and once in the evening.) It was really special.

[Above photo taken on our bike tour through Ubud, when we were taught how to make a traditional Balinese offering]

The bike ride took all day and was mostly downhill. We stopped through the rice fields and even though the weather wasn't the best, it was still stunning - and amazing to see how rice is grown! We were both blown away. We stopped along the way and had snacks (like bananas) and then at the very end, we parked our bikes in a lot, got back in the van, and headed to this gorgeous hotel where we had a traditional Balinese meal overlooking a gorgeous forest. 

Don't go to Bali and skip the bike tour! It's life-changing.

After the tour, we came back to the hotel, jumped in the plunge pool, showered, got dressed, and then headed into downtown Ubud. Downtown Ubud was like nothing I ever saw - bustling, cultural, with so many restaurants, shops, and bars. So much to buy, so much to eat, so much to look at it and cherish.

We had dinner at this satay place called Arang Sate Bar. Not only were the cocktails art forms (and delicious!), the sate platter was one of the best culinary experiences of my life. You basically choose a bunch and they come, gorgeous arranged with a hot stone to use to reheat some of the foods (like the lobster - OMG, the lobster!) Hands down, one of the best meals of my life!

After dinner, we walked around, went to a couple bars, bought a few souvenirs, and then grabbed a taxi back to the hotel (taxi rides pretty much anywhere were less than $3.) We ended up hanging in the lobby of the hotel, listening to some live music, enjoying some cocktails, and just soaking up every last minute of what was a perfect day.

Wednesday, June 29: Second full day in Ubud

When we woke up, we had a list of things we wanted to do and decided that we could do them all in one day and that we didn't think we needed to stay in Ubud for three more full days (although we easily could have - it's amazing and there was plenty to do.) We just decided that it wasn't the best weather and it was just such an incredible country, we HAD to see more of it! SO, we searched on our phones for hotels with vacancy, Google-d things to do, and decided to book two nights at the Anantara Hotel (the same chain we stayed at in Chiang Mai, Thailand) in Uluwatu (a surfer's paradise.) 

[Above photo taken in Monkey Forest in Ubud]

Once we decided that, we crammed as much as we could into our last day in Ubud. That morning, we decided to visit the Monkey Forest, which is this giant, gorgeous place built into the forest, where monkeys live. Many are native to the forest, but others have been rescued and placed there. There's a functional temple there, along with gorgeous statues and Balinese artifacts studded through. It was very cool, but I'm not a huge monkey fan (they scare me a little), so it wasn't my thing - but it was stunning, so it was cool from that perspective. Lu LOVED it. Actually, halfway through our walk through Monkey Forest, a monkey jumped on Lu's back, stole a water bottle out of his backpack, chewed through it, and drank it! It was hysterical and I wish I had snapped a photo, haha! Lu kept his calm.

After that, we basically roamed around Ubud, weaving in and out of the streets, shopping (we got some great bracelets and I got a vintage leather jacket - so random, but I'm so excited to wear it this fall!) We had a green juice and then lunch at this cute hipster joint named Kismet. The food was incredible - healthy, vegetarian, and beautiful. 

The most memorable part of our Ubud trip was when we meandered through this loop walk through the rice fields near the downtown area - it was about an hour long walk where you walked through villages. as of February 2016, a new warung (that's kinda like the Balinese word for a diner/casual restaurant) called Sweet Orange Warung. basically, it overlooked the rice fields, offered a gorgeous sunset, light bites, and was founded by a man who wanted to preserve the area, so he started this warung. they also offer discarded coconuts for sale that they carved that they let you purchase and decorate. all the proceeds go to preserving the area. we loved the mission, the setting, just all of it. truly memorable and sweet.

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After that, we kept walking around and then headed home, changed, and went back into town for a traditional Balinese dance show. It was definitely cool to see - entertaining and a brief glimpse into their ancient culture! 

Then, we grabbed dinner at a restaurant I'll never forget - definitely another top culinary experience. The restaurant was tucked into a side street near where the show was held, but it wasn't super crowded, which amazes me, because it was outstanding. The name of the restaurant was Hujan Locale (we took a million pictures of the menu so we'd remember!) and it was a foodie's paradise. It was a farm to plate place and the quality of the food shined. They even had a gluten-free menu! Our favorite part of the meal was probably the "Ikan Pepes" - wood grilled fish in a bamboo leaf. I couldn't believe the flavors! 

Afterwards, we had a couple drinks at some bars in town and then headed back to the hotel, excited to start the next part of the trip: Uluwatu.

Thursday, June 30: Travel to Uluwatu

We woke up early, had breakfast, and then checked out. We organized a van to take us from our hotel to Uluwatu, stopping in Canggu and Pura Tanah Lot (a temple) along the way. the total cost for the trip was just about $75, which is insane, considering the driver drove us around for about 4 hours, with a few stops! in NYC, that would cost near $250, at the very least! 

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we stopped in Tanah Lot first to see the incredible temple there. it was low tide, so you could walk right up to the temple, but at night time (I hear it's a drop-dead gorgeous sunset) the water pulls up, so you can only really see it from afar. you could see people surfing nearby the temple. it was a truly special place.

we got back in the car and headed to Canggu. an Instagram follower had recommended I stop at a place called The Shady Shack, so we built our trip around it! I'm so glad I listened to her, because Canggu was SO cool. I literally wanted to eat everything off The Shady Shack's menu. they even had zucchini noodles! it was vegan, so healthy, so flavorful, and so refreshing! there were surfers pulling in off their mopeds, stopping in, sun and sand soaked, grabbing quick acai bowls. Lu and I had our jaws open the entire time - we couldn't believe how cool these people were - how healthy, how beautiful, how happy. most seemed to have Australian accents, as Bali is close to Australia and Canggu is a surfer's destination! 

after The Shady Shack (where I fell in love with the chickpea-avocado mash combo), we bought a couple things at some nearby stores, and then got back in the van to arrive in Uluwatu. on our way down, we drove a bit through Seminyak, and I was happy we decided not to visit that part of Bali. it looked like a Vegas strip - and it was dirty. I've heard great things about Seminyak, but for this trip, it wasn't the vibe we were looking for! 

we finally arrived at the Anantara Hotel Uluwatu. Uluwatu is basically a surfer's destination and is setup as that. there aren't many luxury hotels there, it's casual, laid back, no fancy restaurants, and is just a place to eat healthy, surf, relax, and take in the Balinese vibe. it was exactly the way we hoped our trip would end - in the sun, watching the surfers, and enjoying our last moments in Southeast Asia together.

we immediately got in our bathing suits (it was around 2:30/3pm at this point) and went down to the gorgeous infinity pool that overlooked a surf break. Lu was truly in his happy place - and I was too! we had some cocktails by the pool, met a sweet Australian couple, and soaked in the views.

we got dressed (everything is so casual there - jean shorts, tanks and a tank top!) and grabbed a taxi to yet another place a reader recommended called "Single Fin Bar". We instantly became obsessed. WHAT a place to watch the sunset. I can't imagine anywhere better! as you watch the sunset, you see the surfers arriving via moped for a last minute surf, surfers coming up the stairs, stopping in for a beer, and relaxing. it was SO cool - the music was amazing and the food was out-of-this-world. I was weary at first of the food, but it was a super hip place. we spent the night there, happily and then came back and crashed.

Friday, July 1: First full day in Uluwatu

we resolved to do as the locals do and rented a moped. Lu drove us around, I packed a backpack with sunscreen, towels, water, and our cameras. 

our first stop: Padang Padang Beach, which was right by our hotel (about a 5-7 minute drive.) the beach was small but inviting, relaxed, and beautiful with rock formations all around. there were a lot of surfers, so it was fun to hop on a paddle board and paddle out near them, watching them crush the waves. Lu surfed and got up on a wave too! 

then, we headed to Dreamland Beach, because it was hyped up. I found it extremely touristy and not the most beautiful beach in Bali, but it was definitely long and expansive. the water was a bit rough for me, so swimming wasn't fun. we just grabbed a beach chair, relaxed, and again, watched the surfers! 

after that, we stopped for lunch at Buddha Soul for some wonderful vegan fare. we had a zucchini noodle salad and an unbelievable Mexican quinoa bowl - and some juices. seriously, guys, THE FOOD. so. good. so. fresh. so. healthy. we walked around some surf shops in the area too.

Lu's niece (and many other people) recommended to go to the Rock Bar in Jimbaran Bay at the Ayana Resort (about a 25 minute moped ride up the coastline from Uluwatu), so we moped-ed up there, thinking that we'd check it out and see if it was where we wanted to go to that evening. I am so so so so thankful we did this (instead of just going there without seeing it first) because it was an absolute tourist trap. the resort was huge and so impersonal. there was a line of people waiting to get into this place that was manned by cocktail waitresses. after seeing the casual, hippie vibe of Bali, this seemed so out of place! while the bar itself was stunning, the vibe ruined it completely.

we went back home, showered, changed and headed back to Single Fin Bar. we ended up meeting a couple, chatting the night away over drinks, and enjoying our last night in Uluwatu. 

Saturday, July 2: Last day in Uluwatu + travel back to Americaaa

our flight wasn't until the evening, so we had all day in Uluwatu (thankfully!) SO, we woke up early, rented mopeds, and sped off to start our day right with some acai bowls at the Nalu Bowls. we watched the early surfers and then got back on the moped and sped off to spend the morning hanging at Padang Padang Beach. we spent a bit of time there and then decided to check out another beach I had heard was good: Bingin Beach.

I'm so happy we did, because it was another stunning beach, where we had lunch and I had one of the best raw veggie wraps I've ever tasted in my life! healthy food is just so abundant, I was so delighted. the restaurant was called Kelly's Warung - I really recommend it! the juices were amazing, and you couldn't beat the beach views, with the warung being built into a hut.

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we left, our souls filled, sandy, sun-kissed, and decided to enjoy our final moments in Uluwatu by the pool at our hotel, soaking up as much sun as we could and staring at the gorgeous views off the infinity pool. then, it was time to check out and head to the airport.

after we checked out, we flew Qatar Airways home and it was the longest trip ever, leaving a place we fell in love with. however, we vowed to eventually come back (so TBD!) 

That's the travel recap for Bali and thus, the entire 15 day trip! Let me know if you have any questions at all, I'd love to answer them! 

Now.... where to next?