Balinese Paradise: Our Travels in Bali

When we returned home, usually the first question on everyone’s mind was – what was your favorite location? It’s a loaded question, because we visited such different places. But for me, Bali was as close to the top as a place could get. I mean, if you look up “paradise” in the dictionary, you’ll certainly get a photo of Bali! If you think I’m exaggerating, just keep reading…

Flying into Bali from Malaysia took forever, and we didn’t make it to our hotel until 3:00 am. When we woke up, we were greeted by a lovely breakfast out on our patio, full of fresh exotic fruit, coffee, toast and eggs. We put on these comfy, soft robes that were in our room and enjoyed our meal with a view. Beautiful greenery and flowers surrounded the infinity swimming pool situated right outside our room. And at $12 a night…I could get use to this! We spent the rest of our morning and early afternoon just lounging at the pool. Pure relaxation. That night, we decided to wonder towards the main area of Djimbaran beach in search of dinner. We found a cute little restaurant with fresh fish outside, which we assumed was a good omen. Then the waitress escorted us through the restaurant and out the back to tables that were directly on the beach! We sat on the beach, enjoyed an amazing sunset, and when dinner came, we were blown away. I can’t remember exactly what we ordered, but I’m sure it was some seafood medley platter. Out came a huge dish full of crab, squid, clams and a whole fried fish! It was absolutely delicious, and while it looked like it would be too much, we devoured every last bite.

The next day, we moved a little further south on the island to Uluwatu. We walked to the main strip and then down to Suluban beach. The walk is pretty magical, as you descend down a cliff and end up inside a large cave. Once you walk through the opposite end of the cave, you exit through a small archway. The tide that comes in is quite strong, so you have to time your exit with the waning of the tide. Once it goes down, you rush through and out onto a lovely beach! While the water here was phenomenal for surfers, it was a bit rough for swimming. We did get a nice swim in, but then left to explore the other caves scattered along the beach. At night, we found a surfer’s bar that overhangs the cliff above Suluban beach. We grabbed some beers and watch the surfers at their craft. The view from the top was amazing, and when the sun started to set – stunning! I mean seriously, is this place even real? We enjoyed a lovely dinner and a few beers while the sunset and tranquility washed over us.

There are many retreats in Bali, and especially down by Uluwatu; surf retreats, vegan retreats, yoga retreats…pretty much anything in the “chill” category had a retreat here. The next morning, we ventured to a local yoga retreat for some healthy breakfast and more relaxation. In the afternoon, we went to the Uluwatu water temple. The majority of the temple consists of a long walkway that lines a cliffside, overlooking the ocean. We wondered along the path, taking in the views and enjoying the breeze. Once we reached the temple, we got to see a traditional Balinese show. It was similar to a live Christmas show about the birth of Jesus. The show was a depiction of the Hindu story of Ramayana, done with amazing costumes, a bit of fire and a lot of magic. We really enjoyed the show and were glad we caught it!

If I haven’t convinced you of paradise yet, it only gets better from here. Our last few days in Bali, we spent in Ubud, located in the middle of the rainforest and surrounded by rice terraces. Ubud was, so far, the most touristy location we went to in Bali, but with a very chill, hippy vibe – we just fell in love! We spent the afternoon wandering the maze of streets, exploring shops, grabbing fresh coconuts and fruit to try…I found myself saying “just leave me here” like 14 times! That night, Matt found a place he wanted to try for dinner called Swept Away. He said it had good reviews, and looked like it was near a pretty river, so I agreed, feeling calm and happy from our time in Bali. When we got there…we were literally SWEPT AWAY! Turns out this “cute” restaurant, that was in our budget, was really part of a 5-star hotel. We got dropped off at reception, and then they drove us to the restaurant by golf cart. Tucked in the rainforest, with a tranquil river running beside the table, we just couldn’t believe we were here! Just when we thought it couldn’t get better, we arrived at a flower-lined walkway leading to a private table, sitting inside a heart shape of candles and flower petals. I’m sorry, did I die or is he about to propose? Turns out, that table wasn’t for us, but it was seriously just beautiful. But the waiter did let us take some cute couple pictures before the other love birds got there. Our table and view were equally amazing, and the night was just perfect. We ordered delicious fish, great wine and spent the whole night on cloud nine. One of the best dinners of my life, still to this day!

The next day, we traveled to the Tegalalong rice terraces near Ubud. There were endless trails through the rice fields; it seemed like you could walk forever and still not see it all. Along the way, there are a few locals with “donation” boxes, which are very mandatory if you want to continue on the path. But for 5 cents at each stop, it wasn’t really a big deal. The fields were absolutely beautiful; you’re surrounded by emerald green, colorful flowers, and small men in straw hats tending the fields. Once we had enough walking, we found a cute spot for lunch that overlooked the rice terraces. After, we went to the Tirta Empul water temple. This was a holy temple used by local Hindus for cleansing, separated by gender. Everything in the temple had intricate carvings on it – from the spickets of holy water, to the statues around the temple, even embellished doorways. That night, we went to dinner and a movie at Paradiso, a very unique and vegan-friendly place. When the movie and dinner date was over, we found our way to a cute Buddha bar and spent the evening drinking with some other American travelers.

While we were at the Paradiso for dinner, I noticed that they had a piano in the corner. On our way out, I asked if it was possible to play it, and they said of course! The next morning, I got up early and had 30 minutes of musical bliss to myself. Afterwards, Matt joined up with me and we stayed for Paridiso’s community yoga class. It was our first actual yoga class together and it was great! Very calm and accepting vibes in the group, and they modified everything so it would suit various levels. I’ll still never forget when they added a headstand into the flow, and as an ex-gymnast, I thought “oh yeah, I can do this!” While I was upside down holding my balance, I hear the teacher say, “it’s ok Matt, you can lay in child’s pose if you need.” He’s very good at a lot of things, I guess headstands aren’t one of them…

On our last day in Bali, we decided to do a sunrise hike up volcano Mt Batur. We had to get up by 1:30 am to start the tour. Around 3:00 am, we stopped at a banana plantation for a quick breakfast of banana bread and tea. By 4:00 am, we were hiking up the volcano in pitch blackness, with only handheld flashlights to guide us. With hikers in front and behind us, we looked like little ants climbing up a hill through the early morning. Maybe it was the fact that we couldn’t see how high we climbed, but the hike was actually not too bad. We even ran the last part to make it to the top just as the sun creased over the horizon. I’m sure you can guess how amazing the view was, and it was the perfect end to an epic hike. We ate a little snack, watched the crazy maquaces try to take everyone’s stuff before we headed back down the volcano. On our drive back to our hotel, the tour stopped at a local coffee plantation. We had a small coffee tasting, which was pretty good. But the presence of Kopi Luwak Coffee, also known as Civet Cat coffee, at this plantation left a horrible taste in our mouths. Both of us heard about the horrible treatment of these animals, who are stolen from the wild and slowly starved to death in a highly stressful environment, which is not worth any cup of coffee. We agreed not to purchase anything from this plantation for its support in this practice.

Our trip to Bali was absolute nirvana from start to finish. The landscape, the food, the people – everything more exceptional than we’d ever imagined. While we were a little sad to leave, we know that we are definitely coming back again! Can you say second honeymoon?!?

Matthew & Stephanie

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