Dear Bali, You changed me forever

 

If you’re reading this, and plan to read the whole thing, I’d grab some popcorn, some wine and the comfy section of your couch because this is possibly the longest, most vulnerable blog post I have ever written. And I’m not mad about it. I’m going to be open and vulnerable first then I’ll give a brief itinerary about what we did with a few tips, links, etc. and will leave my email address at the end so please leave a comment or shoot me a message if you have ANY questions or want help planning / booking your trip! I’m more than happy to help.

If you are just interested in the Bali Itinerary – SCROLL DOWN till you see THE ULTIMATE 12-DAY BALI GUIDE and photo of me on a swing a million feet in the air. If you want the vulnerable stuff keep reading below..

They said I was crazy to go to Indonesia by myself, a single, young, blonde, American, female…and honestly I agreed with them. I’m not really sure how it all happened, because I planned it pretty last minute, but I’d do it a million times over and over and over again and wouldn’t change a single second of the entire trip. I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I boarded my plane in Chicago. I was a mix of emotions – excited, extremely excited, nervous, anxious for the long flight, completely burned out, homesick, heartbroken, a little lost, had misaligned energy, and yet I was more than ready to go.

People always talk about Bali being this magical, healing place where you go to find yourself again and your spark comes back to life & stronger than ever. I truly thought it was a bunch of hype in the beginning, or something only people with a deep meditation practice can feel, however, (also as I re-read this I realize how many times I say “however” so let’s play a game every time I say “however” you take a drink ;)) I have never ever been more wrong; and this is one time I am MORE than okay with it.

As departure day got closer, well, no, it actually didn’t “get closer” it just came out of nowhere and suddenly it was the day before departure and I had to pack that night – so I barely had time to be nervous or question myself and wasn’t even sure what I had packed but I didn’t really care. Then, before I knew it, my dad was waving bye to me at security and I still didn’t realize exactly what I was doing but just kept walking down the terminal pretending like this was fine.

One of the most beautiful things about traveling solo – is you get to experience everything on YOUR OWN. You form your own experiences, your own opinions, your own memories, create your own journey, build your own relationships, spend time with yourself, and don’t have to share it with anyone else. I know that may sound lonely and bizarre, however (DRINK!), I don’t know how else to describe it. I’ve spent my whole life being a damn people pleaser, worried about what people think, worried if I’m trying hard enough, am I smart enough, am I talented enough, do they take me seriously – and I’d always talk myself down and answer to myself no, they don’t, not yet, I need to work harder, need to PROVE something, need to BE someone they can’t possibly survive without. I’d compare my success to others, I’d fall into the instagram black hole of “why isn’t my life like hers”, “why doesn’t my body look like hers”, “their life is so perfect”, forgetting that they’re human too and probably using filters and only showing the highlights. Exhausting, right? I’m exhausted just writing it.

In Bali – I had NO ONE to prove anything to. No one to impress. No one to answer to. No one to compare myself to. No one to disappoint. NO WiFi. No one telling me what to do (except Bex reminding me to put on sun cream and hydrate, thanks doll love you a million seashells). No one to leave me behind. NO. ONE. (except the 4 amazing girls in my group, all solo & on their own journey as well). I was here for ME, I chose to be here, I chose to stay or go, I was doing this for me, and everything about this trip – I DECIDED. And no one could break or take that away.

It was the most liberating thing I have every experienced and I have no idea how or why or where or what it was, but it taught me how to love myself again and I’ve never smiled so much in my whole entire life, truly, genuinely, whole heartedly SMILED. It showed me I AM capable, I CAN do this, and do not need anyone’s approval or comments and that I am MORE than enough to accomplish ANYTHING. And it doesn’t matter what other people are doing, feeling, thinking – I can’t compare who I am to someone else, because they will never be me either and none of us are perfect.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I FINALLY got a hold of my toxic perfectionist relationship with myself – and I let it go. Broke it off. Left it in the ocean. Told it it was not welcome in my soul anymore. I forgave myself. I cried with myself. And I finally saw that I am me, and me is a beautiful, one-of-a-kind thing. Not everyone has to like it and not everyone is going to understand it, however, (DRINK!) a few special people will love it regardless and they’re the ones who matter.

I took myself out from under my own microscope, no makeup or doing my hair for a whole week, standing under the sun, surrounded by amazing people, music, vibes, positive energy, nature, and finally had a chance to open my eyes and breathe. I realized these were all just voices in my own head the whole time. Voices that originally had good intentions, then the wind changed directions, suddenly the sky went dark and the voices planted roots deep into my soul where they grew into monsters, clouding my energy and burning out the light in my spirit. You may laugh or roll your eyes – and that’s okay. I never expect anyone to understand as I write this – however, (DRINK!) I still want to share this because I know I’m not the only one who’s their own worst enemy and I want you to know you are not alone and you will be okay, I promise you that.

So, if you’re reading this, I don’t care where you go, around the corner or across the world, but take time for YOURSELF. Truly alone – to a place you love or are happy or are comfortable or even uncomfortable. Do things that make you happy, even for a few minutes, and do it ALONE. Take your broken heart, your burned out spirit and find a way to shine some light into your darkness. I know, I know, this sounds so loopy and I can’t believe it’s even coming out of my fingertips at 3am bc I couldn’t sleep and just wanted to put this on paper. I just want you to know it’s okay to be alone, it’s also more than okay to ask for help, and it’s okay not to be okay. While I am telling you to be alone, I will also tell you to surround yourself with the people who remind you of the light you have inside you because they will be the ones to help it shine again.

Okay, enough about my soul makeover and on to the GOOD STUFFFF. (this is me trying not to be awkward about being open for once…is it working? Nah? That’s okay :))

THE ULTIMATE 12-DAY BALI GUIDE

Going to talk about:

  • where to go in Bali
  • What to pack for Bali
  • Do I need a visa to go to Bali? For less than 30 days – no.
  • Tips and tricks for traveling to Bali
  • Best time to visit Bali: August – October, They say November is rainy season – but we had mostly sunshine
  • What to pack for Bali: a few bikinis, shorts, sundress, flip flops, hiking shoes, supportive sandals, a backpack, a travel towel, sunscreen, sunglasses, bug wipes, stomach/nausea meds, portable battery pack, outlet converter
  • What to leave behind: hair tools, makeup, high heels, expensive jewelry, dressy clothes, sweaters, too many gadgets

First of all – you do NOT need a visa in advance to go to Bali. You can obtain a VOA = “Visa on Arrival” at the Denpasar airport which is good for up to 30 days. HOWEVER (DRINK!) – this is VERY important – be VERY cautious about layovers, especially in China, because you may need a transit visa – which for China requires mailing your physical passport to your nearest Chinese Embassy along with your application for review before being granted the transit visa.

Since I flew from Chicago > Shanghai > Bali on my way to Bali I was fine and able to get a 24 hour transit VOA when I arrived to Shanghai because I was there for 22 hours and was going to a third country. However (DRINK!), on the way back from Singapore > Guangzhou > LA I had a layover between Guangzhou and LA in Chengdu and I was not allowed to leave Guangzhou because I was not allowed to enter a 2nd Chinese state without a transit visa, therefore I had to forfeit my ticket and purchase a direct flight from Guangzhou to LA (or any country outside of China). EXPENSIVE LESSON LEARNED.

When I arrived in Bali, it was super late and unbelievably humid. I’d had a really long layover in Shanghai which helped lessen the blow of jet lag but I honestly didn’t feel much from the time change (I always blame that on excitement). I’m going to share more about my 24-hours in Shanghai in a separate travel guide, so stay tuned and keep reading for the Bali stories.

While yes – I went alone – I met up with a (very) small tour group called Bali Bucketlist Tour, and they arranged all of the activities, accommodations and transportation each day, including pick up at midnight from the airport to the hotel where we stayed the first night (Hotel Frii Bali). If you are looking to travel solo I CANNOT recommend Bali Bucketlist Tour enough, even wordpress would run out of blog post space for all the things I want to say and number of times I would say to GO! It was such a small amazing group it never felt like a “tour group” – just 4 random, awesome girls who happened to be in Bali at the same time and wanted to do the same things.

DAY 1: Canggu
I missed this day due to my long layover (I booked the tour AFTER my flight, but it was no problem and they gave me a discount for joining late). However (DRINK!), I do know this day was surf lesson day at the beach! Super bummed I missed out. Just means I have to go again 🙂

Day 2: Ubud
This is where I joined in. On this day we woke up to monsoon, yes monsoon – because this caliber of downpour does not qualify as rain. I have never seen rain come down in sheets before and our van barely made it through some of the waters. Peoples scooters were getting stuck and it was up to some people’s knees!

Anywho – onto the activities – We went to:

  • Batuan Temple
  • Tengenungan Waterfall
  • Tegalalang Ricefield Terraces

At the temple – you are given a sarong and are expected to keep your voice down and respect others who may be in prayer, just like at any temple.

Then we went to Tengenungan Waterfall and it was absolutely AMAZING. I love waterfalls and this one did not disappoint. While it was raining and the current was too strong to actually swim in it – I could have hung out here all day. It felt like we were actually in the middle of the jungle with trees and palms all around us with the sound of water crashing into the ground (and you are technically in a large jungle / park / nature).

 

After Tengenungan Waterfall, we made our way to the Tegalalang Rice Terraces where we had lunch before hiking to the top (wasn’t really a “hike” so to speak). We made perfect timing to wait out the rain and ate at a cafe right across the street, called “by Cafe”, with a view looking right at the rice field. This was one of my favorite activities. I had never been to a rice field before and it was unlike anything I had ever seen – like something out of a movie. As we made our way to the top, you suddenly saw people swinging in the sky and I realized it was the Bali swing. Now, I am terrified of heights, however, I knew I was not going to leave until I got on that swing (which BTW cost $100k Rupiah).

I definitely recommend making sure you give yourself a few hours for the Rice Terraces just to walk around and enjoy! There’s a lot to look at, just be sure you wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen and bug spray.

DAY 3-5: Gili T Islands
The next day we were off to hop the islands! First stop was Gili Trawagan. We took a massive cruise liner from Sanur across the Bali Sea (yes, it’s actually called Bali Sea) to Gili T where we docked. First order of business was to check in to the hotel. When we arrived, I realized it was a hostel. I had never really stayed in a hostel except one time in London (when I was also by myself). Let me tell you – it was a one-of-a-kind true Balinese experience. The people were SO nice and accommodating, not to mention they had some of the cutest littler otter pups there that they had rescued from poachers.

  • Snorkel at Halik, Turtle Point, Statue and Garden Fish
  • Cycle to Sunset Point

I cannot recommend snorkeling at Gili T enough. This was hands down the most incredible underwater experience I have ever had in my life. And as a certified scuba diver that is saying A LOT. We saw about 13 turtles and endless amounts of colorful fish and coral. I was up close and personal literally swimming right next to the turtles!

NOTE – Never NEVER ever ever touch the turtles!! The oils from human oil glands in the skin are toxic to turtles and will kill them. So as much as you want to go give one a hug or a gentle tap on the shell – don’t do it. #metoo LOL.

We also got to spend some time on the beach, and I have never seen so many seashells and white coral washed on shore in my life – it was in actual PILES. Definitely a beach comber’s paradise and took all my might not to bring a suitcase of shells home with me (mainly because it’s actually illegal and you can get fined / conphiscated at customs if you try to take it out of the country).

Day 6-8: Nusa Lembongan

  • Nusa Penida – Billabong, Angel Beach, Kelingking Beach and Crystal Bay
  • Devil’s Tear for sunset
  • Favorite spot to eat: Lemongrass in town center
  • Also my favorite accommodation was here ~ ask me for the name of it!

Nusa Penida is one of the main reasons I wanted to come to Bali. The dinosaur-esque landscape at Kelingking Beach is absolutely breathtaking (I still believe it looks like a whale, but what do I know). You can walk down to the actual beach, it’s pretty steep and quite the hike, however (DRINK!) totally worth it. I just had a broken toe so wouldn’t have made it, and we didn’t have time. Next we hopped to Angel Beach which overlooked the Billabong – which is a branch of a river forming a backwater or stagnant pool, made by water flowing from the main stream during a flood. At Angel Beach, this spills into the sea.

At Crystal Bay – we laid out by the beach, and water was quite choppy to swim in, so you bet I was out in the middle of the current, happy as a clam. However, don’t let it fool you – this beach had some INCREDIBLE marine life and coral reefs. I highly highly highly recommend snorkeling here. You can swim out from the beach or take a boat from Nusa Penida and dock.

Devil’s Tear is perfect spot to watch the sunset. You’ll catch some of the craziest pink skies you’ve ever seen in your life. There is also a billabong at the top of Devil’s Tear to the edge spilling over into the sea. Wear good shoes that can get wet, it’s super rocky and there’s lots of puddles, especially after the rain.

Day 8-10: Ubud

  • Hiked Mt. Batur
  • Ubud Marketplace
  • Monkey Forest
  • Cooking Class

The tour ended after Mt. Batur and this is where we parted ways. Whatever you do – do NOT skip Mt. Batur. This was one of the most invigorating, challenging hikes I have ever done in my life. And after living in California for nearly five years that’s saying a lot. We departed at 2am and didn’t get to the top until nearly 6am or just after, right on time to catch the sun coming over the mountains in the distance. Fun fact: it’s actually an inactive volcano, however there are still active steam pots and dried lava rock. Most of what you hike through is lava rock. Give yourself a day to do this – you will be physically wrecked by the end of it. If you are not in decent shape, I don’t really recommend it unless you’re willing to power through it. It’s a fairly physically taxing hike.

TIP: Make sure you wear layers, take a light backpack, plenty of water, supportive shoes, sunscreen, sunglasses and protein bar / snacks. Your walking guide will provide flashlights for you and the driver to Mt. Batur had banana pancakes for us!

Moving on to the Ubud marketplace. This was everything I expected. Definitely leave this until the end, bring plenty of cash and be ready to bargain. Never ever pay the asking price, you can always go down. Bring small bills so you can say “it’s all you have left”. They mark things wayyyy up so don’t worry about ripping anyone off.

The cooking class went wayyyy above and BEYOND what I expected. I was meh about it in the beginning because I was nervous I was going to mess up and not have anything to eat LOL (dramatic). However (DRINK!), it was one of my favorite parts (although I think I’ve said that about every part of this trip haha whoopps). We got to make like a six course dinner from chicken soup (hands down best soup I have ever had in my life), spiced tempeh, tofu, fish, veggies, and desert of a green banana pancake! I don’t remember how the pancake turned green, I think it was a matcha of some sort. We even made allllll of the sauces and spices from SCRATCH. It was absolutely incredible and I HIGHLYYYY recommend it.

TIP : If you want to do a cooking class in Bali – shoot me a message and I can connect you with the class we took! You won’t regret it. Not to mention it’s located on a beautiful rice field and all of the people working there are locals so it’s a very authentic, boutique experience.

Day 11: Canggu
Canggu was hands down my favorite area of Bali. It was so colorful, vibrant, energetic, social, and easy breezy beach access. There were SO MANY cute and delicious cafes it was nearly impossible to choose. Not to mention lots of nightlife as well as local food and good shopping

Similar to NYC where you can hail a cab, well in Bali you can hail a scooter – and that’s exactly how I got around. I even exhanged Whatsapp #’s with my driver since he was going to be coming back that way anyways.

  • Where I stayed: Ikobana Bed & Breakfast
    • I cannot say enough about this B&B. From the moment I arrived they took extremely good care of me. My room was enormous, clean and beautiful! Working AC, free breakfast and plenty of free mineral water. I booked on booking.com and didn’t have to pay until check out and it was cash only, FYI. Email me with Q’s! This was an absolute steal and I’d totally stay here again. Only thing is you’ll need a scooter bc it’s a little removed but also a huge plus because that’s what makes it so peaceful.
  • Spots to eat: Watercress Cafe
  • Nightlife / Social: The Lawn Canggu, Finns Beach Club – basically Bali meets Vegas & it’s right on the beach & SO FUN!!! Bex and I went here on the last night (yes same day as climbing a volcano, we’re crazy LOL) and had a bloody good timeeeeeee. I can’t wait to go back. This is me below, happy as a clam, wearing my favorite shell top.

Day 12: Seminyak
Seminyak was another gorgeous, vibrant area where you can find a temple and also close to the beach. I didn’t get much time in Seminyak, however, I was able to check out a little cafe, go see a temple and walk on the beach before catching my late flight to Singapore.

  • Things to do: Petitenget Beach, Masceti Temple
  • Spot to eat: Sea Circus

I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time in Canggu and Seminyak, so definitely save a few days. These two areas are right next to each other so it’s really easy to get between the two.

After I departed I headed to Singapore, which I’ll write a separate blog post about later this week!

Hands down best trip of my life. I’m not sure anything will ever top this. I hope everyone takes the chance to experience Bali, even if you don’t go alone – go.

& PLEASE don’t be shy! Let me know if you need help, recommendations, etc. I’d love to help you get there! Either Comment below on this post, email me at the email below or comment on my instagram post or DM me! LOL so many options 🙂

xoxo

Abby

abby@seasaltandstilettos.com

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