(I went to Bali on November 19 to 22, 2013. So this post is more than one year over due but I am hoping that it will inspire some ladies out there who are looking for a little adventure.)
“Alone? Are you crazy?!”
This was the response I got when I told my friends that I’m going to Bali for 3 days with no one but myself. Yes, I know.. going to Bali alone is such a cliché for a woman who wants to do soul-searching. Thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert for her Eat, Pray, Love. But soul-searching, per se, was not my intention for going to this beautiful place. It was out of a simple need to have a break, to get away from the monotony, to discover something new. And being a lone traveler was not really my choice. If only my close friends were not caught up with work or school, I could have dragged them with me in this trip. The desire for a vacation in a far away place was so intense that the idea of going alone slowly formed in my mind. And I thought, “Hmm, why not? After all, one of my life goals is to be able to travel alone, at least once. Why not do it now?” And so, the journey begun.
I admit, before I booked that plane ticket, I’ve imagined every scenario that could happen to me in Indonesia. I could get lost in the middle of an unknown town, and be stuck there forever. I could meet a stranger who would drug me and I would be part of his huge human trafficking scheme. I’m not saying that Bali is a dangerous place. But anyone who has watched Liam Neeson chased after bad guys to save her daughter in the movie Taken would understand that these kind of things are possible. And just by reading different stories on the internet, you would know that a lone woman traveling is indeed more vulnerable. I realized that my Bali trip will culminate in either of these: I will return to SG as a miserable victim of a crime or I will return as a happy girl who had experienced a wonderful holiday. Whatever, I told myself. I have a God who will protect me at all times, so why am I worrying so much? They say that fear is the greatest obstacle in achieving our dreams. Would I let fear stop me from doing what I want? Of course not! Nothing can stop me from taking on this adventure!
After several days of internal debate, I finally booked my flight. The next question was, where will I stay? Bali is quite big and there are a lot of points of interest. After doing some research, I found out that the two famous destinations in Bali are Ubud and Kuta. Ubud, where Elizabeth Gilbert stayed during her “soul-searching” trip, is the central place for Bali’s culture and arts. On the other hand, Kuta is where you will find the beach and where the parties happen. Since I didn’t feel like going to parties by myself, and the tranquility of Ubud seemed more appealing than swimming in Kuta, I decided to stay in Ubud. I chose to stay in a guest house (or home stay) instead of the fancy hotels, to save some money and to be able to really feel the “Balinese vibe”. After comparing the prices and reading through the reviews in TripAdvisor, I chose Ubud Teba House. Aside from its cheap room rates, it is very near Monkey Forest, Ubud Market, Ubud Palace and other places of interest. The room was simple and clean, and the staff were very friendly and hospitable! I definitely recommend this place!
Nothing really compares to that moment when you first see an entirely new place, when you are finally breathing in its air. It’s like you are being hypnotized to fly around and explore the secrets and wonders of this place. When it hit me that I have made it – all by myself – I wanted to shout and tell everyone that I am so proud of myself! I was sooo happy! I had a genuine big smile on my face and I wanted to high-five everyone! Haha.
A few days before my arrival in Bali, I already contacted Teba House so they could arrange airport pick-up for me. This is more practical since the cost of the taxi from the airport to Ubud is almost the same as the cost of the pick-up. And being alone and a first-timer in Bali, I also thought that this arrangement was much safer because I am assured that the driver would really bring me to Ubud (yes, I am slightly paranoid. Haha.)
The journey has begun!
First Stop: Ubud
Ketut, the driver from Teba House, was already waiting for me when I stepped outside of the airport. He was very warm and kind. From the window of the car, I could almost hear the traditional houses, the rice fields, the different colors of Bali inviting me to begin an experience I will never forget. Wait for me. Indeed, I am so excited to start this adventure!
We arrived in Ubud around six in the evening and upon checking-in, I met a Filipina and I think she was also alone! The next day, I learned that she is a travel writer (Wow!) and she was on assignment in Bali. Waahh.. to be able to travel while working, that is my ultimate dream! Kudos to her! You can check her facebook page: Maida’s Touch.
I had my first taste of Balinese food in Pundi-Pundi where I had my dinner that evening. They have big servings and it was really yummy!
The next morning, I woke up to the sound of the refreshing rain. I was planning to visit Monkey Forest early, which is just walking distance from the hotel, but because of the rain, I decided to delay it a bit. Luckily, Ketut, was kind enough to offer me a ride for free! Yay! The entrance fee to the Monkey Forest was 20,000 rupiah. I was surprised to see that the monkeys were so nice and playful, far from what I was imagining that they would attack me or something. They were just minding their own business – eating, playing around, and chasing each other.
After this, I decided to explore the adjacent village. I didn’t know how far I’ve gone but I did not feel tired at all. Walking around the village was a good chance to have a glimpse of the “Bali way of life”. Actually, the place did not feel very foreign to me because it looks just like the Philippines! Except for the temples. I realized that I didn’t need to go far to visit a temple because almost every house has its own temple, or Pura in Balinese. Now, I know why this is called “The Land of Temples”. I even witnessed a Balinese woman as she delicately placed the offerings in front of their temple.
After wandering through the village for almost an hour, it was time to move on to my next destination. But how? I could not see a single taxi! I’ve already asked some locals and they told me that there’s no taxi in that area. But I won’t lose hope that easily, I still prayed for a taxi and I waited.. and waited.. and waited. After a while, I realized that it was time to give up. Haha! Finally, I was able to speak to a lady who owns a warung (a motorbike). She told me there was indeed no taxi, so I had no choice but to ride with her on a motorbike! I am not really a big fan of this mode of transportation, so she had to give me assurance that it was safe to ride with her. And off we went to Ubud Market! The ride cost me 30,000 rupiah only. 🙂
Upon arriving at Ubud Market, the first thing that caught my attention was the beautiful ruins just opposite the market. I always find old places somewhat enchanting – whether it’s a monument, a house, a temple, a tower, or in this case, (I learned later on), a palace . I imagine the walls talking to me, telling me their stories worth a hundred years, secrets that history textbooks will never capture, because only them have witnessed. Ubud Palace was really on my itinerary but I did not expect that I would find it so easily. Thank you, universe!
After seeing a glimpse of the history and culture of Ubud, it was time to tick off “Shopping at Ubud Market” in my musts-do! Here’s a tip: as with most shoppers’ haven, know how to bargain; do not take the first price that the vendor will give you. They are usually willing to give lower prices, just use your charm! I was able to buy a bag at 35,000 rupiah, from its original price of 80,000.
After that, I roamed around Ubud Main Road and Monkey Forest Road where both my tastebuds and eyes feasted on sumptuous foods (authentic Nasi Goreng, yum!) and beautiful artworks. Indeed, there is a reason Ubud is dubbed as the culture and arts capital of Bali. Art shops, where you can find lovely paintings, sculptures and handicrafts, are scattered all over the place. This is one thing that makes Ubud really special.
I was especially amazed (and lucky) when I passed by the house of a painter and sculptor, the late I Gusti Nyoman Lempad. At first, I was not sure if I was allowed to take a look inside, but since the door was open and the women inside did not stop me from coming in, I took the chance to marvel at the wonderful works of a true artist. I haven’t heard the name Lempad before, but I would presume that he is an important figure in the local arts scene of Bali – all you need is to look at his artworks.
In the evening, I went to see the Kecak Fire and Trance Dance in Ubud Water Palace. For 75,000 rupiah, I was able to witness traditional Balinese dance – it was on fire, literally (haha)!
Second Stop: Kuta
Of course, my Bali trip won’t be complete without getting to experience the beach! The day before, I already reserved a slot in a travel agency (you can find one anywhere in Ubud) to bring me to Kuta. They picked me up right at my hostel. The trip was almost one hour or so.
I was really excited to finally see the famous white sand beach of Bali!
Yes, the beach is great – powdery white sand and crystal blue water. However, I was quite disappointed upon seeing bits of trash lying everywhere on the shore! 😦 Also, given that the place is very tourist-y, there were lots of vendors trying to sell. So if you would want a quiet alone time by the beach, I recommend going somewhere else. And lastly, I was not able to swim because the waves were gigantic (why didn’t I pay attention to the blogs saying that Kuta is a good place to learn surfing?!).
But it was still good to experience beach life in Bali – even just for a few hours! Perhaps next time I will try to go to other beaches in Bali that are not yet saturated with tourists.
My day in Kuta was dedicated to just lazing on the beach, appreciating the scenery, getting a (henna) tattoo, and trying the fish spa!
To summarize, here is my Bali itinerary:
6pm – arrival in Bali; check-in; dinner
9am – visit Monkey Forest
10:30am – walk around the village
11:30am – visit Ubud Palace
12:30am – lunch; shopping in Ubud Market
rest of the afternoon – walking around and discovering artworks in Ubud Main Road and Monkey Forest Road
7pm – watch Kecak Fire and Trance Dance in Ubud Water Palace
whole day – beach life in Kuta!!
6pm – return to Ubud (this is one thing that I regret. Instead of going back to Ubud, I should have booked a hostel in Kuta instead. It is more practical and time-saving since Kuta is nearer to the airport!)
6am – flight back to Singapore 😦
I hope that this post will inspire you to gather your courage to just pack your bag and go wherever you feel like going – even if it’s all by yourself. It is liberating and fulfilling, indeed. With the right amount of research, preparation, and guts, you can have the best trip of your life!