ITINERARY: Friday, 22nd November 2019 – Tuesday, 26th November, 2019
No amount of blog reading or Vlog watching can truly assist you in planning your trip to Bali. My advice: just go and let the Bali flow take you! Here’s a peek at where the flow took us 🙂
Had lunch at our usual coffee shop and enjoyed easy online check-in. Departed Singapore Changi Airport at 16:15 via Air Asia. Arrived in Bali under 3 hours. Amidst all the chaos of people trying to find transport options from the Ngurah Rai Airport, we caught a Go-jek to our accommodation (basically the local version of Uber. You can download the app for free on App Store or Play Store.)
Quick Guide on Transport in Bali
Uber, Go-jek and Grab drivers face opposition from taxi drivers, who have protested against them, arguing about the charge of unfair fares they cannot compete with. At the end of the day, it’s quicker, cheaper and easier to use this form of transport in South East Asia. From experience, normal taxi drivers take advantage and overcharge tourists. As in most places around the world, taxi companies have become notorious for offering higher prices, having tampered meters, or taking longer routes.
People will tell you it is illegal to use ride sharing apps. Technically, this is actually LEGAL in Bali, but there are certain areas where Uber, Go-Jek and Grab drivers are prohibited from picking up riders. You may find it easy to get from A to B, but not so much so from B back to A. Drop off is ok, pick up is not. This is why we reccomend renting a bike / scooter, which is what we did. This turned out to be a much more fun way to explore Bali!
Instead of peeking through a window from the back seat of a taxi, we rallied through twists and turns of vegetation with the salty breeze through our hair. Make sure you have an international driver’s license with you at all times though! Driving in Bali can be dangerous, and traffic in the city is pretty crazy. It goes without saying that you’ll need to have at least some experience with riding to take this option. Oh, and driving happens on the left-hand side of the road (just a heads up!)
We were pleased with our boutique room in a small villa in Jimbaran, Kuta. We wanted a peaceful space away from the crowded touristy part of Bali. It had everything to meet our needs. A simple breakfast was included (choice between pancakes, an omelette or plain eggs – always including some fresh fruit). Located in the heart of Bukit Peninsula Uluwatu, the villa is surround by magnificent beaches, minimarkets, coffee shops, and restaurants (though not the kind of options you’d find closer to the airport).
The villa was run by an incredible Balanese woman. With a history of physical abuse, Ria is raising her 12-year-old daughter as a single mom, working two jobs cooking, cleaning and managing the villa and another Air BnB accomodation. You would never guess her struggle by looking at that beautiful, genuine smile she wears so gracefully. Generally, Indonesian people are warm, friendly and wonderful!
Our evening was spent settling into the villa, where we were greeted warmly by a German man, who frequently stays at the villa and has made it like his second home. He informed us of an Indonesian family-owned restaurant down the road, walking-distance away. Dan was pleased he could enjoy a hubbly Middle-Eastern style (beside it being teeny tiny). It was great playing cards, enjoying the night view and gentle breeze under the twinkling fairy lights where we had our dinner.
After breakfast, we zoomed off to find the beaches. First one on the list was Balangan – known around the world for it’s crystal clear blue water and perfect waves. At first glance, this beach seemed rather deserted. It’s a popular one for surfers, but not for tourists. We actually really came to appreciate the off-the-beaten-track kinda feel of this beach.
It was unusual with it’s limestone crevices, and the water was really beautiful to swim in. Surf shack and restaurant owners were friendly, letting us use their suntan lotion. I bought a pretty shell chocker and ancklet from a vendor on the beach much cheaper than it cost in the city.
The plan was to go check out every beach on the peninsula, but we ended up loving this beach so much that we stayed way too long to manage all those beaches and still make it for the sunset at Uluwatu temple! We always overestimate our ability to see and do it all in a small amount of time.
Dreamland Beach was next on the list. Though, when we got there, we actually wished we had stayed on Balangan. Recent investors have developed this beach in an unnatural way. Now called NEW KUTA BEACH with a golf course and a condotel operated by Best Western. We had to pay for parking fee and overpriced, underwhelming food, while enduring Southern (cowboy-like) American music that just, unfortunately, eroded the experience of being on an island in Indonesia.
We made it just 5 minutes too late to see the spectacular sun setting from the Cliff at Uluwatu Temple after an unfortunate little accident follwing a rocky path (note: follow highway and not other google map trails that seem quicker!!!) We were lucky it was not too serious. Was it worth chasing the sunset?? Well, Dan got a few scrapes and bruises and we were a little shaken, but the stunning colours in the sky (even after the sun had set) and the hilarious and cheeky monkeys at the temple made up for it.
Thought it’s worth mentioning that entrance to the temple per adult = Rp.50.000 and that you’ll need to be moderately dressed (though, shawls are provided at the entrance if the gatekeeper thinks you are too exposed). You can watch a Kekac Dance (we missed it, unfortunately) so I reccomend you visit the temple earlier than we did! I’d say around 4:30 would be a good time to go so that you have a chance to see everything and enjoy the sunset and show before the temple is closed and you get chased out. Beware of the monkeys!!! They are thieving little things – snatching water bottles, chips, or … hats (we saw a monkey wearing someone’s hat!)
We made it home before Dan’s battery died – me as navigator at the back of the scooter – to revell in our adventure over dinner at the same restaurant from the night before. So nice we had to have it twice. Another round of tiny hubbly, food, drinks and another game of cards.
We thought about heading to the beaches at the very South point of Bali to have a chill time reading our books and soaking up the sun (still wish we had just ONE more day to do this) but we ended up in the city in search of a scrumptious lunch. I had heard so much about how Bali accomodates healthnuts like me. A quick internet search brought up an array of foodie-paradise spots. Balibola‘s exceptional rating, conscious ethos and instagramable healthy dishes made for pick-of-the day.
I was vegetarian for 2 years, and I aspired to be vegan, but those who know my journey in Thailand and how difficult eating became as someone with wheat and gluten-intolerances throughout my travels in Asia know that I am currently in a flexitarian stage of eating. I’m still experimenting with what feels right, doing my research and finding what works for my body.
By definition, a flexitarian diet is one that is predominatly plant-based, with the occassional inclusion of meat. This was a place that everyone can eat without restrictions. Their dishes are inspired by staple meals around the world and carefully crafted to taste as authentic as can be – just meatless. They have developed some faux meats incorporated into some of their signature dishes to entice taste-buds. Beautifully plated dishes and eye-catching interior bursting with a colour palette of pastels, whimsical paintings, homey cushions describe Balibola.
We ended up at Potato Head Beach Club for a couple cocktails, some beach tunes and a sunset. There is no entrance fee, BUT if you want a “VIP experience”…or just a cabana/ day-bed, there is a minimum spend (depending on weather you want a poolside bed or beachfront cabana.) Drinks aren’t cheap. The dress-code is smart-casual beachwear. Potatohead is working on environmental projects, recycling plastic and turning it into other products, which I found pretty great. They also use reclaimed materials in their design (including the use of old flip flops!)
Love is blind, they say
I’m sitting on the beach adjascent to Potato Head next to Dan as the sun is setting and there’s something getting in the way of this romantic moment. Something rather strange is beginning to become clear to me… well, when everything becomes rather UNCLEAR… that is to say, that everything became more and more BLURRY… and that is when it hit me. I’m going blind!!! Something is very, very wrong!
The lenses of [our] eyes are the wonderful, naturally engineered optical devices that are part of the ocular apparatus allowing [us] to view the world. The words you are now reading present images, focused by the lenses on your retina, then transported into nervous-system signals interpreted by your brain as black letter images on white background. Lenses are like diamonds: without flaws, they are crystal clear, allowing the unimpeded passage of light. Pretty damn amazing, when you think about it. Flawed, however, and the passage of light will be distorted (Davis, 2014).
I remember I’m wearing these (stupid) coloured contacts so I pluck them off my eyeballs and blink at the sunset. That should do it… nope. Everything has a foggy haze. I can’t even see Dan’s face properly. I ask him anxiously whether things suddenly got very misty/ humid. If he’s seeing rainbow orbs around lights too??! I assume he looked at me really funny then. He’s thinking: did her drink get spiked?
This lovely sunset is happening before my eyes but they are unable to take it in. People are sitting on the beach watching it in awe. Dan is trying to enjoy it but I’m rubbing my eyes over and over again, squinting at the horizon, then turning to him and blinking frantically. I’m really freaking out now. I’m going blind!!! It’s happening!!! I’m (barely) seeing my last sunset 😩
This got progressively worse and I was seriously getting frightened as everything went dark. Then came the burn… it felt like my eyes had been squirted with acid! It hurt to keep them open, it hurt when I rubbed them, it hurt when I kept them closed. I was in agony. Mostly, I was imagining that I’d messed up my eyes and would never see again. At this point, Dan was so stressed, he saught help from a guard at the hotel next door. They lead me to the hotel clinic by hand; informing me of every step or tree ahead (I seriously could not see!!!)
The nurse (a blurry figure at this point) had a calm voice, but telling me she HOPES I don’t lose my eyesight just added to my anxiety. Is there something she’s not telling me?! The eyedrops she gave me didn’t do much. Washing my face did jack shit too. It was then that my problem-solving fiance (he’s so damn good under pressure and in emergencies) made the call to leave the bike at Potato Head and taxi over to the nearest hospital.
That 30 min ride was quite a painful, yet spiritual experience for me. It was total surrender. There’s something about suffering that makes us humans give over our power to something greater than ourselves. I meditated, trying to transcend the physical pain beneath those eyelids. “Focus on your feet Maria” … I wiggled my toes… brought all attention to that sensation. By the time I scanned my way up to my face, we had arrived outside the hospital.
I gave my total and utter trust over to Dan. He took my hand and lead me into the hospital. He didn’t let go of my hand. He held on while the dr. examined my eyes using a lumo yellow liquid and florescent light, while her assistant held my eyes open and drained them using what felt like a never-ending bottle of saline. He held on even tighter as she dropped something that made my eyes feel like they were on fire (as if they were not burning enough before).
Doc told me that sand particles had gone into my contact lenses and had cut my cornea. It would take around 3 days to heal. The burning liquid made them numb after the fire subsided and it was the greatest relief! She told me my eyesight should go back to normal but gave me a number for an optometrist just in case.
$100 later!!! 🤒 I felt so bad. “You could’ve spent that on food/ drinks/ the ” VIP experience ” at Potato Head”, I said shamefully to Dan. But no, my incredible human told me he’d rather be there next to me at that hospital holding me tight, knowing my health was in tact. It was oddly romantic sitting there at that hospital. Our sandy bare feet on that clinically shiny floor.
We weren’t out on the dancefloor under the stars, but nevertheless we were bonding in a way more meaningful way. He showed me (as he has countless times before) that he’s not only in for the good times, but for the bad too ♡
He couldn’t stop telling me how much he loves my big bown eyes, and that I should never do something so silly as to wear those fish eyes again. So, I flushed those pathetic little eye trinkets down the toilet first chance I got. Embracing my Greek coffee goggles and appreciating my sight was another great side-effect of that experience 😅 (I’m still looking at things as if for the first time – soooo much gratitude I’m not blind!!!)
Thankfully, I awoke to see my birthday. And, oh, were there a bunch of surprises in store for little-old-me… 😊😁
Birthday brunch at Sea Circus and Dan and I found ourselves telepathically matching outfits (again!) I swear we don’t plan this. We’re cheesy, but not THAT much 🤨🙄!!! Undoubtfully, my eyesight was back and the universe was once again unfolding as it should 😁😊
Sea Circus was another healthy place with fun decor that had poor Dan feeling like he’d only had an appetizer (he sacrifices so much for me!) butttt he said we would need to keep some space in our stomachs for a special dinner reservation… 😳🤫🤭😉 Little did I know that my Bali birthday was about to end up with Dan on one knee popping the question!!!
Through all the ups and downs, This man has made my life feel like a fairytale dream-come-true 🥰💝🙏 what a better place to make this union official, other than the sacred shores of Bali. So much gratitude, always!!!
Bali will forever remain a special memory for us, and we absolutely reccomend you visit! People say it’s overrated, but it’s really what you make it.
(Stay tuned for the Bali Birthday, engagement reveal in the next post to come!!!)