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We had spent a few months planning our trip to Bali and Indonesia blissfully unaware that the Covid-19 virus which was ramping up on the other side of the world would inevitably touch our lives and put an end to overseas travel for quite some time. We had some knowledge that something was coming but we were unaware of the severity of the pandemic.
Bali seemed like the perfect place to visit right after the Xmas hype, a well earned relaxing, interesting and fun holiday… and it was!
Bali with its restaurants, beaches, markets, temples and mountains was lovely. Jogjakarta was fascinating, particularly the sunrise tour of Borabadur and our visit to the Prambanan Hindu Temple… stunning!
It made a perfect holiday and we loved the beautiful relaxed atmosphere, the friendly people and the sheer variety of things to see and do… each day was a surprise!
So January 2020 we packed and headed to Bali.
Getting there is easy and the close proximity to NZ means it is relatively affordable. We flew Emirates from Auckland to Bali and most days were spent on tour with a private driver and van. We also flew from Bali to Yogyakarta and here we toured with another driver and van.
This was a great way to see all the sights because we could spend more time at the places that were of particular interest and the drivers/guides were flexible and accommodating.
There is a huge amount of accommodation for all budgets… everywhere, so looking for a bed to suit should not be difficult.
The Kayon Resort: for a luxurious Bali experience! Set amidst a garden featuring a pool and chapel, the Kayon Resort in Ubud features luxurious air-conditioned rooms with a beautiful terrace, marble bathrooms, and views over the historical Petanu River and jungle.
Sapodilla Ubud: Sapodilla Ubud is conveniently located within a 10-minute walk of Agung Rai Museum of Art and Wayang Kulit. This hotel features a restaurant, an outdoor pool, and concierge services!
On arrival in Bali we stayed at the beautiful Ashanti Villas in Ubud. We loved the traditional décor, the private pool and yummy breakfast brought to our villa each morning. The hosts were helpful, warm and friendly, they made us feel well taken care of.
In Yogyakarta we stayed at the Gopalan Hotel which is near the Borobudur Temple. This hotel has rustic charm with friendly staff and good food but the most stunning feature was the location in amongst the rice paddy fields with beautiful views.
We also stayed at Puri Artha Hotel which is located in the city only 20 mins from the airport. The traditional architecture, lawns and pool provided a feeling of luxury and charm. From here we were able to explore the surrounding restaurants and markets and get a real feel for local life here.
On our return to Bali we stayed at Flora Apartments in Seminyak. This is a modern block of apartments that gave us the freedom to buy food in and do some simple cooking. Also laundry 🙂
Our tour was running late on the day that we arrived so we missed the meetup with the agent who of course had the key. It was early evening but already dark plus the entry to the apartment was via a dark narrow driveway. Oh dear. How lucky that the driver came to our rescue and was able to contact the agent and search out a secret key located somewhere around the building. We slept well that night!
To round off our trip we wanted to stay at the beach so we choose a beach resort at Kuta Beach for our last few days. Unfortunately our hotel was poor but this stay did give us a little time to relax, drink cocktails on the beach, watch the sunset, dine out and visit the market.
We certainly enjoyed the local food. There are many, many restaurants, clubs and bars. We loved to explore the small streets and back alleyways for the most delicious and authentic Balinese food and we were not disappointed, there was a great selection.
Bali’s traditional dishes such as nasi goreng, mee goreng, satay, noodles and rendang are delicious and we could not get enough of the varied and diverse flavours.
Alternatively, Bali’s western style cuisine can be found in the many cafes located all around the town.
Bali is also home to a diverse range of incredible vegan/vegetarian options. I have heard Bali described as the holy grail for delicious and nutritious plant-based meals. From smoothie bowls to gourmet salads, to vegan pizza to coconut ice cream.
Part of the joy of travel here is searching out the best restaurants but to be honest they were all good, so good that we had trouble deciding where to eat next… the options seemed endless.
Things To Do in Bali
Kuta is a beautiful beach. It is thronging with tourists from all over the world, swimming, surfing or sunbathing by the beach, shopping or enjoying meals at its many open air restaurants. When in Kuta you know you are on holiday.
Mesari Beach. Grab a bean bag, sit under a colourful umbrella, order cocktails and snacks, watch the magnificent sunset… magic!
Lempuyang Temple: locally known as Pura Luhur Lempuyang is one of Bali’s oldest and most highly regarded temples. It is also believed to predate the majority of Hindu temples on the island. The entire landscape looks very picturesque from this temple gate. The gate is also known to the western world as “The Gates of Heaven”. The location is in the eastern part of of Bali within the highlands of Mount Lempuyang, which is cool, 1,775m above sea level. One of the 10 best viewpoints in Bali. We lined up for the mandatory photo standing within the gates, it seemed the thing to do… during the wait we watched and applauded as a young man got down on one knee and proposed, very romantic.
Ubud traditional market: fascinating and great for bargaining. I loved the hand woven baskets also the lovely macramé wall hangings.
It was here that Basker tried bargaining using Bahasa Malaysia to communicate which caused large amounts of laughter among the locals… I can only conclude that although he was understood he was probably not using the correct terms for the local scene. Nonetheless, we laughed and enjoyed quite endearing moments to remember.
Ubud Monkey Forest: this famous forest is home to hundreds of monkeys. But be careful because they are always looking for food and can be aggressive to tourists. It was great fun particularly when a monkey came and sat on someone’s shoulder. My best tip if you are not keen on getting up close and personal is to keep a good distance from the monkeys and don’t make eye contact. However, we loved the cooling walk among the forest watching these cheeky little creatures.
Saraswati Temple/Lotus Pond: (also known as the Ubud water palace) is an old Hindu temple in central Bali that honors Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge, literature, and art. Pura Taman Saraswati is surrounded by a tranquil water garden filled with countless lotus flowers. It’s located conveniently right next to Starbucks… so a coffee seemed mandatory.
Besakih Temple: Known as the Mother Temple, Besakih is a temple complex that is the largest, most important and most sacred of the Hindu religion in Bali. It is a large complex of 23 temples over 6 terraces and was beautiful to wander around. Unfortunately, there was no opportunity to go into the temples to pray which was disappointing.
Ubud Palace: tranquil walk around the complex to enjoy the traditional architecture.
The Kecak dance: is staged in the open-air setting on a cliff, by Uluwatu temple. As we watched the sun slowly dropped into the sea and we were treated to a beautiful sunset. It was hot, take a sun umbrella.
The Kecak dance tells the story of Ramayana wherein prince Rama’s wife, Sita, is abducted by the ogre Rahwana. The show was a great bit of fun.
Bali is more than Seminyak and Ubud. Get off the beaten track and venture to the north of the island. You’ll find fewer crowds, remote temples and plenty of beautiful waterfalls to explore.
Tegalalanh Rice Terraces: One of the 10 best viewpoints in Bali. The Tegallalang rice terraces provides a scenic outlook that spreads down and away to the far side of the valley. The high roadside location is cool and breezy and it’s a well-known spot for stunning photos.
It is here in the rice field that you can visit the Jungle Swing for a stunning and Instagram-able experience. My daughter did the Terrace River Pool Swing and she found it to be a truly unique and unforgettable experience.
Jati Luwih Rice Fields– UNESCO site. The Jatiluwih rice terraces are most famous for their dramatic and exotic landscapes. The cool highlands and the breathtaking scenery of this area makes it a stunning place to visit. One of the 10 best viewpoints in Bali.
Taman Ayun Mengwi Temple: Taman Ayun literally translates as ‘beautiful garden’ and is generally regarded as one of the most attractive temples of Bali. The Taman Ayun temple is situated in a beautiful park with trees and ponds.
Ulundanulake Temple: The Pura Ulun Danu Beratan temple is a famous old Hindu lake temple on the scenic Lake Bratan in Bedugul, north Bali. This is a beautiful and tranquil place to visit and take the most picturesque photos.
Tegenungan Waterfall: widely thought of as the best waterfall with clean cool water for a refreshing swim. It’s an easy walk up through an interesting array of shops and stalls and the view from the top makes it all worthwhile.
Penglipuran Traditional Village: is said to be one of the most placid, clean, and serene villages throughout the whole nation, and one of the three cleanest in the whole world. It is untouchable by modernization (you can’t even park your vehicles inside!), the village’s atmosphere surrounded by immaculate gardens. It was slightly voyeuristic to wander around the village but the local people smiled, invited us into their homes and made us feel welcome. It was interesting and a sheer delight.
Things To Do in Yogyakarta
Borobudur Temple: UNESCO site. This famous Buddhist temple, dating from the 8th and 9th centuries, is located in central Java. It was built in three tiers: a pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces, the trunk of a cone with three circular platforms and, at the top, a monumental stupa. The walls and balustrades are decorated with fine low reliefs, covering a total surface area of 2,500 m2. Around the circular platforms are 72 openwork stupas, each containing a statue of the Buddha. The monument was restored with UNESCO’s help in the 1970s.
We joined a sunrise tour and were treated to the most spectacular views in a quiet environment surrounded by just a handful of people, a truly memorable experience that was the highlight of our trip!
The experience of walking to the looming complex in the pitch dark with the sound of far off prayers being chanted in a low pitch was esoterical and enigmatic to say the least. As the sun rose the structures were revealed slowly and we could only look in complete awe.
Prambanan Hindu Temple: UNESCO site. Built in the 10th century, this is the largest temple compound dedicated to Shiva in Indonesia. Rising above the centre of the last of these concentric squares are three temples decorated with reliefs illustrating the epic of the Ramayana, dedicated to the three great Hindu divinities (Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma) and three temples dedicated to the animals who serve them.
We visited here on the same day as our visit to Borabadur and it was almost as if nothing could top that… then it did!
It was the most graceful and beautiful Hindu temple we had ever experienced. It was the second greatest highlight of our whole tour. We only spent the afternoon here but could have stayed for ages immersed in the sacred feel of the huge complex and enjoying the peacefulness. We explored as many of the structures as possible in the time we had available and felt privileged to be here.
Yogyakarta: the city is bustling and thronging with business, cafes, markets and shops. It is a great place to explore museums, art galleries, restaurants and local markets. We wandered out each night and it felt like we were away from the tourist route and right in amongst real Indonesian life. Traffic was chaotic because of course, the population density of this city is one of the highest in the Indonesia.
Ramayana Resto and Dance Programme: beautiful atmospheric Indonesian cultural ballet performance with images of the Borabadur Temple as a backdrop.
Ullen Sentalu: Javanese culture and art museum located in Kaliurang highland, Yogyakarta
Berksi Cliff: beautiful outlook for a spectacular sunset.