A Week in Bali
Eight of the last ten years I've spent traveling somewhere for New Year's Eve, my birthday, and also an easy time to take off work for an extended period of time. It's become a yearly trip with friends, and over the years we've escalated from a weekend in Mammoth, to a week in Belize. This year, my husband and I coaxed eight friends into traveling halfway across the world to ring in the new year in Bali, Indonesia. We partied at Potato Head Beach Club, visited temples, hung out with monkey's, swam in waterfalls, and learned how to cook Balinese cuisine.
Below is the gorgeous Airbnb we chose to stay in while in Seminyak. It has 4 bungalows with 4 bathrooms, all in a private courtyard surrounding a pool. It was clean, beautiful, with a marvelous open community space. We loved staying here, I would highly recommend it!
VW Bus "Cocktail Safari"
Our first full day in Bali we rode around in tricked out 70s' VW buses complete with mini bars. These buses have been remodeled to have a limo like vibe where you can hang out with friends in the back seat while waiting out Bali traffic. This tour has been coined as a "cocktail safari," making stops at a few curated restaurants and temples throughout the day.
La Laguna, Canggu
Walking into the seaside restaurant of La Laguna you feel like you have stepped back in time to the magical realm of the gypsy kingdom. As you walk along the path to the restaurant there are gypsy caravans, beautifully vintage and colorful, with intricately painted artwork. The decor, antiques and artifacts are so well curated it's drool-worthy. I could've spent hours looking at all the details. We had a few appetizers here and a cocktail while overlooking the ocean, a truly wonderful ambiance.
Pura Gede Luhur Batu Ngaus, Mengwi
The fertility temple Pura Gede Luhur Batu Ngaus is a coastal temple made from black lava rock. If Heaven's Gate is too far on your journey, head here instead to snap a photo in front of this beautiful gate.
Ji Terrace by the Sea Restaurant, Canggu
Ji Terrace by the Sea has delicious Asian inspired dishes and a overlooks the ocean from the rooftop. There are several beautifully furnished, colorful rooms in this hotel with an ancient asian meets modern ambiance.
Mrs. Sippy, Seminyak
Mrs. Sippy is a casual Beach Club in Seminyak. It has a high jump into the pool that's a blast to jump from if you're an adventure seeker, but definitely not safe after a few cocktails. Come here if your looking for a party, but not if your in a classy mood.
The Straw Hut, Seminyak
The Straw Hut was right around the corner from our Airbnb. I loved almost everything about it, except for the slow service, which seems to be just a Balinese thing. No hurry, no worry, am I right? The decor here is on point and the food was fab!
We look really content in the photo below, but I would advise against surfing or swimming the area off the island in front of Ku De Ta. It's heavily polluted ocean water. We rented these boards before heading out and then quickly realized the sea was full of trash. Literally, trash was hitting us at all moments out there, no exaggeration. If you're seeking a beautiful beach, head to the Gili Islands instead. From my experience, the most beautiful part of Bali was the rice fields and rain forests of Ubud, not the ocean. I've heard some of the beaches of Bali are quite beautiful, but Seminyak is not one of them.
Finn's Beach Club, Canggu
Finn's Beach Club is a fun way to spend the day looking over the coastline while hanging out in a cabana or cooling off in the swim up bar.
Potato head beach club, Seminyak
Potato Head Beach Club has western prices, which is insanely expensive for Bali, but we truly loved the experience of being here for New Year's Eve. It is a posh club atmosphere, with the most incredible fireworks I've ever seen in my life. No really. Ever. We danced to some great DJ's with surprise guest Disclosure closing out the night in a flood of rain and lights. December is definitely the wet season in Bali.
We stayed at the magical Airbnb below while we were visiting Ubud. It's a 5 bedroom, 5 bath villa with a pool overlooking rice fields, and a staff of 3. This villa was only 220 USD/night, 22 USD per person. It also has a yoga studio on the 2nd floor, and breakfast every morning. The only downside was that some showers were merely a trickle, and the hot/cold wasn't consistent. Regardless, we were more than happy here. It's stunning and the staff was so wonderful and helpful. Highly recommend!
take a day tour of ubud
We used Hire Bali Driver for our day tour of Ubud. When you book a day trip, you can tailor it to your needs, but they can also give you suggestions. We had a really wonderful new air conditioned mini bus and our driver Gede was such a great host/guide. I would highly recommend booking with this company.
visit some rice terraces
Rice fields are all over Ubud, but whether you're on a day trip or scouting the city yourself be sure to see some rice terraces. Tiers of rice paddies cascade down a mountainside, lush and green. It's breathtaking! Indonesia is the 3rd world's largest rice grower, and a primary need for the population for both food and to draw in tourism.
Try Luwak Coffee
Try some "cat-poo-chino" at Satria Coffee Plantation, a coffee made from beans that Luwak's digest then poop out. The beans are then harvested and cooked to create one of the most sought after coffee's in the world. For me personally, the coffee was nothing special, but the experience of visiting the plantation was really interesting and we go to try an array of other types of Balinese coffee free of charge was worth the trip. It also contributes to the local economy which I also love, tourism is a large part of the economy.
visit Tirta Empul Temple
Tirta Empul, or the "Holy Water" Temple, is a place where volcanic pools come out of the ground and create sacred waters in which the Balinese people pray. We changed into water friendly sarong's and entered the waters to say our prayers for the new year.
Visit Goa Gajah temple
This cave was buried for centuries and rediscovered by Dutch archaeologists in 1923 after a large earthquake. The fountains and pool pictured below weren't discovered until 1954. The temple grounds are lush and include some waterfalls and massive ruins when you walk beyond the cave and pools. Give yourself at least an hour to explore.
take a class at yoga barn
Yoga Barn is a gorgeous studio in Ubud with a view of the rain forest while you practice. There is also an amazing restaurant and juice bar on the grounds. We had breakfast followed by a nice morning yoga session to start our day.
visit the Monkey forest
The Sacred Monkey Forest is a nice option over some of the other animal parks in Bali where the animals are mistreated. In the Monkey Forest, the monkeys roam free in their environment. The park is well kept and has a lot of sculptures, bridges, and even a local art exhibit. They do sell bananas to give to the monkeys which probably disrupts their natural eating habits, but they are happy and healthy eating things they can digest. There are signs in the park which tell you how to interact with the monkeys. Pay close attention since they can be aggressive if they feel you are a threat. We read the signs, and had a wonderful time seeing so many monkeys in this beautiful atmosphere.
take a balinese cooking class, Ubud
Paon Bali cooking class was top notch. It takes place at a family home, where you first learn about Balinese culture and then dve into making organic Balinese cuisine. The class was well organized and the dishes we made were plentiful and delicious!
Rent a Scooter
It's only about 6USD/day to rent a scooter in Bali. I recommend doing this for at least a day if you're comfortable riding one. If you haven't ridden before, steer clear. You drive on the left side of the road and there aren't any real rules for traffic. We scooted to some gorgeous waterfalls, and then to Jungle Fish Beach Club for dinner before it started pouring rain. Luckily the rain subsided by the time we left the restaurant. It was a really cool/scary experience getting into the thick of traffic and seeing the city from a closer view.
Tip: Make sure the scooters come with proper helmets. At first, they gave us a few helmets without straps, which are basically pointless.
Jungle Fish is a "no beach" Beach Club with an amazing pool overlooking a lush landscape. It's hip and trendy, and you can't beat the view.