We rented our motorbike for another day and decided to drive out to Tanah Lot, another temple roughly an hour from where we were staying. We left a little after 8am, hoping to beat the midday crowds. I should have done some research before we went, as I was disappointed to find out that we couldn’t actually go inside or even get to the island it was built on. The entrance fee was a little over USD 2 for foreigners, but it’s even cheaper for locals. There is a parking area about a half mile from the temple itself and the streets leading up to it are lined with vendors. Once you get to the viewing area, there are more vendors and restaurants to the left. It was beautiful. The weather was perfect and a handful of surfers had gathered to take advantage of the tide.
Personally, it was underwhelming, probably due to the incredible experience I’d just had the day prior and my unrealistic expectations. The vendors are just like the ones you see all over town, and there’s only so long you can be entertained by viewing a temple on an island, especially after seeing pictures online. We got some lunch and had a great time, but after driving for an hour, we weren’t there for as long as I had imagined.
Our time on Bali was incredible. Despite being known as more of a honeymoon resort style travel destination, there were lots of fellow backpack style travelers as well, mostly from Australia and New Zealand. Lodging and dining is inexpensive, and although transport throughout the country can be a little tricky to arrange at times, it can still be cheap. You can truly travel anywhere on a budget. Just remember that there is always a better price (so haggle), and always take metered taxis (no exceptions). Next stop Malaysia!
We rented a motorbike from our friend at the Purnama House and rode out to the Greenschool to make it to our 9am tour. We arrived at 8:30 and found the tour was already sold out, and I had not been able to make reservations online. Luckily, some of the other reservations didn’t show, and we were able to take their place. The tour was a little overpriced compared to the rest of Ubud, but we were later informed that proceeds made from tours are used to help Balinese students pay for tuition.
The tour started promptly at 9, and lasted about 2 hours. We were lucky enough to visit during summer break which allowed us to wander into all of the classrooms. Multistory classrooms, dorms, bridges, and all other buildings on the campus are constructed from bamboo. The tour was diverse, gearing equally towards parents of potential students and architecture buffs alike. Definitely try to book ahead, but if you are unable to, try going anyway! You might luck out…and if nothing else, you’ll get quite the scenic drive. You have to cross a wide stream from hundreds of feet above on a wooden bridge. Secondly, brings some bug spray. I recommend it for everywhere in Asia, but I got eaten alive at The Greenschool…
After returning to our hotel following the tour, we had a large portion of the day left over. We grabbed some lunch and then headed out to Tirta Empul, a Hindu temple famous for it’s holy spring water. I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular, but I was in for a surprise.
Although crowded with visitors, the temple felt calm and neutral against all the energies of the people inside. At Tirta Empul, tourists are allowed to plunge into the the fountain where the supposed holy water flows (only after purchasing your own sarong of course). At first I chalked it up to a money making gimmick, but decided I couldn’t leave without at least having tried it for myself.
I pulled my hair back and wrapped my red and gold sarong around my hips before sliding into the waist deep water. The water was lukewarm, but still felt refreshing against the hot humid air around me. Large koi fish swam between my legs as I made my way over to the fountains. I held my hands together in prayer against my chest and held my breath as I bowed under the flowing water. The water poured over my hair for seconds before reaching my scalp…but when it did, I could no longer hold my breath. Uncontrollably, all the air from my lungs felt like it was being sucked away and my body was powerless to replace it. I could not breathe but I also didn’t feel like I needed to. The feeling remained, it pulled at my throat and chest long after my lungs had emptied.
It all happened within a matter of seemingly endless seconds, as I stepped away from the fountain I took a breath. I could never put into words what it felt like. I was not gasping. I was not out of breath. But the air in my lungs fulfilled me and renewed me in ways I have never experienced. Not sure I could ever explain the experience to it’s full content, I persuaded Sam to go in while I dried off. Low and behold, he had the same experience.
Maybe the lukewarm water felt shockingly cold, or maybe Tirta Empul’s supposed healing powers worked their wonders on us. Either way, it was a magical way to spend the afternoon.
Our bus tickets to Ubud were IDR 60,000 (about US 4.50) and the total travel time was just under two hours. The drop off location was central enough for us to walk to our hostel after stopping at a smoothie shop to cool off and GPS our location. We stayed at Purnama House, which we booked on Kayak and turned out to be a great pick. It was on the same street as the Ubud Market and walking distance to the Monkey Forest. I cannot say enough good things about the family who runs the hostel. They are truly good hearted people who aren’t just looking to rip you off to make an extra buck.
We checked in and made plans to go to the Sacred Monkey Forest. We had walked by it to get to our hostel and several monkeys had posted themselves outside the entrance looking as adorable as possible. The entrance fee was only IDR 40,000, barely USD 3. Upon entering, we quickly learned that the monkeys were jerks, and they angrily stole our water bottle for amusement. Although it was well worth seeing Sam hop away from a thirsty, hissing monkey, as he reluctantly gave into the fierce little one’s demands. He twisted off the top and proceeded to waste our .50cent water all over the ground.
Monkeys from a few days old to several years old, interacted with each other everywhere. Bananas were available for purchase and monkeys would crawl all over you to retrieve their favorite snack. The grounds themselves were lush and relatively clean compared to the rest of Indonesia. Vines, waterfalls, and a seemingly endless canopy of trees covered the area. We stayed for about two hours walking around and taking pictures before going to get some dinner. We got some cheap massages before heading back to our hotel and relaxing for the rest of the evening in preparations for the following day. Ubud had a lot of great meal options and was even cheaper than Kuta Beach.
It was a long drive to Vancouver, but the opening of the airport doors refreshed me with a second wind as I waited to board my 2am flight. The 12 hour flight to Taiwan, followed by a 5 hour flight to Denpasar was daunting. I usually find it impossible to sleep in cars and airplanes, but the adventure ahead would be worth the long travel time. Surprisingly, I was able to get a couple hours of sleep on the plane after watching a few movies, making the flight seem much shorter.
Flying into Denpasar was a moment I will never forget. The runway was right at the edge of the Indian ocean, and a bright aqua blue from the view out the airplane window. I had finally made it to Bali, Indonesia.
It only took about an hour to go through customs and exchange currency (a tip for my fellow travelers, exchange money outside of the airport, you will get a much better rate). We took a taxi to Citadines hotel, where we would be staying for two nights to celebrate my recent birthday. After roughly 40 hours of travel, including driving and layovers, it was truly a site for sore eyes to finally arrive at our beachfront paradise.
We showered, ate dinner, and dozed off around 9pm, hoping to cure our jet lag. We woke up early the next morning and ate breakfast before heading off to get massages. The streets were lined with vendors offering motorbike rentals, tour packages, and merchandise. Little girls rushed to our sides selling bracelets they had made, and “Taxi! Taxi!” could be heard on just about any road we walked down. Hindu offerings were plentiful, and designated prayer areas were beautifully maintained. It is humbling to see “how the other half lives”…while Americans are demanding $15/hr minimum wages, the vendors lining the streets are living in a poverty most of us have never seen or acknowledged, creating whatever income they can for themselves and their families. (That being said, some are not always the most moral people, so use caution and don’t get yourself scammed!)
One USD was worth about $IDR13,150, and despite being a popular tourist destination, food and attractions were fairly inexpensive. For those who may be a little more health conscious in their eating habits, there aren’t a lot of options, but you will make do.
Our short stay in Kuta did not disappoint. On the last morning of our stay, we woke up at around 5am…perfect timing to watch the sunrise before grabbing breakfast at the hotel. It was too beautiful to describe, and pictures could never do it justice.
Plans have been made and tickets have been purchased!
On June 17th, we will fly to Bali, Indonesia from Vancouver. We’ll stay roughly five days, at which point we will fly to Phuket, Thailand. My goals in Thailand are simple: personal growth, business development, and life experience. The balance of these goals is what I would label my own recipe for all encompassing success. Your recipe may be different from mine, and may morph over time as your circumstances change. Although I may seem to just “go with the flow,” I trust that there is no such thing as the wrong path. You and I are consistently in an experience of enjoyment and learning. Occasionally, we get so distracted by thinking we must plan everything that we forget to just “be.”
A recent example would be that for the past month, we had been preparing for a different journey entirely. However, we refrained from buying tickets. We held off until three days ago, when hours before we made our purchases, we drastically changed destinations. Taking this new route would require some sacrifices, but the shift felt necessary. It didn’t take much pondering to be convinced.
The sequential preparations for our new destinations all landed in my favor. I got an unbelievably affordable new storage unit that would fit both my car and the contents of my other storage unit, my airline miles covered the entire cost of my ticket and insurance, and currently 5 days before my trip, I have almost everything organized and ready to go. If you are unsure of something, ask yourself for the answer and it will reveal itself, because the answer is already known. You will know when you’ve been met with the next piece to your puzzle.