How to Bali: A classic bucket list place

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Thanksgiving break is usually a week for students to go home, binge eat comfort food, and stress about upcoming finals while trying to relax. Sadly, I haven’t celebrated American Thanksgiving because I haven’t been actually been in the US on that day for 7 consecutive years now. But that’s okay because this year I left school a few days early and went to Bali and Belitung Islands in Indonesia and Tokyo in Japan. Bali’s volcano Mt. Agur just erupted a few days after I left Bali. Thank goodness for timing because it erupted a few weeks before we arrived as well. Having been able to escape that and safely land back in the US, here’s a brief overview of how I explored Bali and the Belitung Islands of Indonesia in 4 days. Tokyo will be in the next post.

Sneak peek at future Instagram post 😉

I arrived to Bali around 8am so when I travel on a time crunch I don’t like to rush things just to cram as many activities in just to say I did those things but I definitely make sure I use my time effectively and efficiently. I had a tour company pick me and my party up from the airport. And by my party I mean just my dad. We were a little surprised when we were met by one tour guide, one driver, and an empty van that could seat up to 10 people. Company rules were that you needed at least two people to run the tour and that happened to be us…so that was a perk of not travelling solo this time. I booked a tour that costs $42 a person and was supposed to be a Full day Highlights of Bali tour. Since it was just the two of us, the tour guide was pretty flexible with eliminating some places we weren’t interested in seeing or replacing it with something else. The tour started out with taking us to see some hobbies and jobs of some native people including silver crafting, weaving, and traditional instrument making but we opted out of the wood carving. I appreciated the historical culture and it giving insight into Bali overall, beyond its beautiful beaches and famous temples.

Making the traditional Balinese gamelan orchestra instruments.

We then went to sample coffee at a coffee plantation and tried many interesting variations such as ginseng coffee, coconut coffee, and Bali cocoa. The peak of this tour was to see the Kintamani Volcano and Mt. Batur from a panoramic viewpoint. We ate a buffet lunch up there (paid from our own pocket, about $15 each) and got to sample the many foods Bali had to offer. It was comprised of a fusion of other Asian cuisines but also other interesting things less common to me such as yellow watermelon, a sweet porridge with coconut milk, and fried banana.

Yum Yom in my Tum Tom

Afterwards we drove to see the Tegenungan waterfall, at my request, because I wanted to see the nature. I didn’t have enough time in Bali to go and see the famous beaches and temples. I also didn’t have that much time to plan my schedule and look into all my options before I booked this tour. Now that I have gone through it, I would suggest you booking this tour or other similar ones on the site :

http://www.balicheapesttours.com/bali-full-day-tour-2.html

It is only $3 more than the tour we booked but includes so many more stops along the way and includes lunch provided by them. I would have loved to see the sunset on the beach with one of the temples but that’s okay. The waterfall was really refreshing, quite small, but a nice scene. And just like that, our time was over and they drove us to our hotel, which I booked in Seminyak because I wanted to go to the nearby beach and watch the sunset. Unfortunately this didn’t happen either. Although my head and heart would have loved to continue exploring, sometimes your body just cannot take you there and you have to be okay with that. You have to account for some flex time in your schedule, plan for the unplanned arising, and understand your limits. Instead, we went out for some nice dinner that consisted of a Thai seafood salad, Tom Yum soup, and a shrimp fried rice dish.

 

Not pictured but highly recommended: Kopi Luwak aka poo coffee

When I said I really didn’t plan much ahead of time, I meant I didn’t even know what I was doing the next day. Sometimes it really is hard to plan though because things are uncertain and I had to take into consideration what my dad might’ve wanted to do.  Sometimes you just have to do it. Sometimes you just have to book a Volcano Sunrise Hiking Trek for 2am that leaves in a few hours… To my future travel buddies, just know that I’m a wild one. We stayed at Horison Seminyak Bali and it was great, about $50 for a room and a really fancy hotel, but too bad we couldn’t even spend a full night here. After our dinner we relaxed in the pool then slept for 4 hours so we could get ready for our trekking driver to pick us up supposedly at 1:40am but because of some mistakes we were forgotten and were picked up an hour later. We could’ve spent that hour sleeping longer, but it is what it is. Our driver really had to drive fast in order to make up for that lost hour and in the process got into a minor car crash with a motorcyclist. He paid him about $30-50 and left because we were in a hurry and I never felt so much thrill and amazement at someone’s driving skills. This driver was 24 but he drove like an angsty teenager, yet he drove with great precision. We made it to the base of the volcano, which was Mt. Batur, the active volcano that we had admired from a distance the day before. We left around 4:30 am wearing headlights as it was pitch black in the woods and made our way up stopping at rest stops when we hit 25% and 50% of the journey there. The second half was much harder and the solidity of the rocks was become much more feeble and shaky. The slopes were more inclined and the path became harder to predict. I’ve hiked many mountains before in China but they all had steps, like stairs and an actual trail pathway. They were tough but definitely made to be approachable for all kinds of tourists. This Mt. Batur we climbed was about 1717m above sea level and so it was actually considered quite doable but was 100% mountain and required us to get dirty by climbing actual rocks. We made it up the mountain top in 1 ½ hours to see the sunrise at 6 o’clock on the dot. It was beautiful to watch the white clouds, originally surrounding the egg yolk sun, split apart to reveal a sunrise glory. We had breakfast up there and also got to play with a bunch of the wild monkeys that frequented the place.

Snapchat validates my punctuality

The tour guide for this trip was great and super fun to be around, he and I ran down the mountain and that was quite the thrill. We ran and ran, all the way until the bottom where we were led to the Hot Springs to relax our muscles and enjoy nature’s beauty. It was honestly such a beautiful place and had luxurious views. The tour we booked was this one:

http://www.balitrekkingtour.com/mt-batur-sunrise-trek-natural-hot-spring/

It definitely was a one-time splurge kind of thing but it was worth it 100%. The tour guides we had were all personal and they were so knowledgeable and friendly. After the hot springs we went to more coffee plantations and bought more coffee and tea, such as mangosteen, rubella, and ginger tea. Then our tour driver drove us to the airport and that was that. Bali leg of the trip over, and back to Jakarta for a day only to leave the next evening to Belitung Islands.

Belitung islands is an island not as well-known as Bali and definitely was much more of an open space island but they had the classic white sand beaches with clear water. We didn’t have enough time to go island hopping as recommended to do but we went to the Tanjung Tinggi beach and Danau Kaolin. We took the Belitung part of a trip as more of a relaxed and slow-paced feel so we swam in the ocean water and I collected some seashells.

Getting around in Indonesia was definitely hard since we didn’t speak the language but we would always luck out by finding someone who could speak English or even Mandarin and translate for us. Transportation was one of the biggest expenses as taxis are basically the only tourist-friendly option for those with no phone or data plan. Food was delicious but we personally didn’t explore many areas that had very specific Indonesian cuisines jump out at us. People were friendly but in busy and big cities like Jakarta, you have to understand that people are just trying to survive and live their own life.

Travelling is always a learning experience and it is so much more than just the views or the food or the adventures. It’s about what I learn about myself and people interaction along the way.

Wild monkeys’ guilty pleasure is Oreo cookies.

This is my story,

Michelle Yin | December 9, 2017 | 7:23 pm |