As I stepped off the playful and oh so cute Hello Kitty Airplane and stretched my arms in the air, an overwhelming heat and mugginess hit me immediately. I knew it was a sign of things to come, but I couldn’t care less. This is what we came for, and we were finally here! After 23 long hours of travelling we had finally made it to Bali, Indonesia!! I am so excited to share this trip with you all! It was my first international trip since I was 12, Joe’s first international trip EVER (aside from Canada/Mexico), and our first international trip as a couple. We explored the Ubud area, the Uluwatu area, and Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan during our time in Bali. This blog series has been fun to write and I can’t wait for you guys to sit back, relax, and get transported to Bali through my next several posts. I’m not sure how many I’ll produce but each post is sure to be chockful of the good, the bad, the honest, and all the tips, advice, and cultural lessons that you can learn in a 7 day time frame! Hope you enjoy! It’s the beginning of our many travel adventures!
So the number one thing I noticed about Bali immediately besides the heat is the fast pace. Yes, when you’re relaxing and lounging by the pool at your villa/hotel, or on the beach, or at a restaurant it is slow and peaceful (well for the most part). But every other time it is a fast blur of activity contributed by daily local life and the vast amount of tourism present on the island. The airport was busy and didn’t have a very clear sense of direction when you first enter. It was quite the change of pace when compared to the Seattle and Taiwan airports (which we flew into, and I’ll be writing a post later on about!). I read a lot about what to do once arriving in Bali but still had some slight confusion, and it wasn’t exactly as people had said it would be.
Here are some airport tips to get you through it all easily and smoothly:
First of all, I wasn’t entirely sure if we had to pay for our Visa on Arrival (VOA). I know in the past you had to but recently a list of countries have been updated in which you don’t have to pay anymore. However, there is no official Bali Airport website that confirms this. And many travel blogs and websites such as Trip Advisor had mixed answers. There is a VOA payment counter and even though we weren’t sure we had to pay, we decided to jump in the normal Visa line because it was long and it was growing FAST. Luckily we made the right call, America is one of the countries that does not have to pay and we get a Visa Exemption so I’m really glad we didn’t go to the payment counter first, it would’ve took up even more time! Here’s a website I found, not sure how “official” it is, but it has the list of countries that get a free Visa exemption under 30 days:
After the Visa counter proceed to the baggage claim area. I had read that this area can be kind of crazy. Sometimes your bags will be on the floor somewhere or nowhere to be seen, and I also read about locals trying to carry your bags for you to get some money. None of that happened to us at all. It was like any other normal baggage claim area, but I know that every experience is different. After grabbing our luggage we went to the customs area, and you should have already filled out a form on the plane for your convenience, but if not, they have customs forms and a counter with pens to fill them out. I was confused in this area as well, as I had birth control pills on me and wasn’t sure if I should declare them. I asked an Australian tourist, she was a bit rude about it, but told me she never declared any of her prescriptions so I went through the normal line. However, if you have something to declare, the area was not marked very well and there is nobody standing by the entrance to direct you. There should be a sign up above if I remember correctly, and even if it looks like NOBODY is there, just go on in. When the TSA officer checked my customs card I was one of the random people that got pulled aside to have my suitcase go through the scanner. It was fine, it went by very fast, it was just funny because Joe did not get stopped.
After this is where it gets really crazy, and if you have never traveled anywhere like this before it can be overwhelming! The outside area is packed with people, tourists that have just arrived, and right on the other side, an overwhelming mass of drivers holding signs with names of the people they are supposed to pick up. Also mixed in the crowd are normal taxi drivers looking for someone who hasn’t arranged a pick up to their next destination. Taxi drivers will approach you left and right, asking “Taxi?”, reminding us of the little seagulls on Finding Nemo (this became an inside joke for Joe and I during our trip). The money changers are out here as well as a couple stores and a place to buy a sim card. I will admit I didn’t take in my surroundings very well here because I was in rush mode in my mind and I just wanted to get out of there. We exchanged some money for the ride and found our driver in the mass of people. As we followed him out we saw that he was just parked in the middle of the street along with other cars which was hilarious to us and a sign of things to come when it came to the driving and traffic in Bali. The driving was insane! Scooters zipping by so close I could touch their helmets. Not just one lone scooter, but groups of scooters! Everyone is constantly making passes, driving in the middle of the road or on the wrong side, and everyone drives fast! There is constant honking, but it’s not aggressive like how it would be in the United States. It is more like a, “hey I’m right beside you and I’m making a pass so watch out” kind of gesture. The driving gave me a bit of anxiety, but as our trip went on, we saw that even though it was a bit crazy, the flow of it actually worked well. Everyone knew what they were doing (if they were a local), and I never saw any accidents (but I am aware they do happen). After we got back home from the trip, I was actually kind of missing just being able to zip by fast and pass people constantly! I enjoyed that fast pace!
After witnessing the driving of Bali for the first time, we finally arrived at our first Airbnb. We parked at the Bintang Supermarket in Penestanan and got our sim card from a little shop along the street for the trip.
It was a little confusing at first but here are some tips on how to get a sim card in Bali and set up your cellphone:
First, make sure your phone is GSM unlocked and compatible to use in another country. We had an old Galaxy S5 phone that is GSM unlocked and we verified this with Verizon. You can call them or just chat with them on the instant messenger online which is what we did. If you have a newer model phone you should definitely check with your provider to see if it will work in another country so you don’t have to waste money buying a cheap phone there or an unlocked phone before you go. Next, you will purchase a sim card preloaded with data (we chose a 4 gigabyte package for about 60,000 rupiah which is about $4.50 USD). We also wanted minutes and texting to be able to get in touch with our hosts, so we added pulsa (credit) to the sim card (about 20,000 rupiah worth). They activated it for us and loaded up the pulsa for us. It is easy to reload the pulsa if you run out. You will see signs for it pretty much everywhere. We never had to reload minutes, texting, or data. We had plenty for the whole trip (7 days). If you are using an unlocked phone from home, just make sure you switch the network settings to GSM and connect it to the sim card network (ours was Telkomsel). There is a place in the airport to get a Sim card. I saw a little stand outside near the money exchangers and taxi service stand. We were in such a hurry to get out of there though that we just asked our host to stop somewhere to get a sim, and you will see that these stores are practically everywhere.
Our driver who we later learned was our host’s son in law, carried my bag to our villa from the shopping plaza which I thought was very nice of him! Next door to the shopping center, there is a set of small stairs and a path to follow to our villa. We walked past local people’s homes, ricefields, a small little body of water, and then walk a final little dirt trail with tropical vegetation surrounding it to our villa. It was only about a 5 minute walk, but because of that, it was tucked away in the very back of all the other homes and was very private. We were greeted with a water tank of fresh clean water, two cold water bottles in the fridge, and a basket full of tropical fruit. The villa was absolutely amazing for what it was! It was a traditional Balinese home, with the open concept thatched roof. It had two bedrooms and two bathrooms, but we only used one room and one bathroom. There is an outdoor kitchen with an infinity style pool right in front of the kitchen and deck area. The villa has an amazing view of beautiful rice paddies, palm trees, and all the homes. The rice paddies unfortunately were not in bloom while we were there, but it was still a great view. We got to admire the Balinese architecture of each home and enjoyed people watching while lounging in our pool. The bedroom was very simple and clean. It was cleaned everyday by our hosts family. The bathroom was huge and it was half open roof which made for an awesome showering experience! There were plants hanging on the stone wall that got plenty of sun from the open roof. It was extremely clean as well and I enjoyed the color of the bathroom floor.
Of course I wasn’t used to sleeping in such an open environment. Surprisingly there were not a ton of bugs, but that’s because they do such a good job at keeping it clean! Although, we did have one scare…apparently there was a huge hunter spider crawling on Joe one night. He finally woke up and saw it and he quietly chased it around our bedframe trying to kill it without waking me up. When he finally did kill it, the worst thing that could happen, happened. A mass of baby spiders exploded out!! So then he spent 20 minutes killing all the babies! I am so surprised I didn’t wake up for any of it, because let’s just say that my screams would’ve woken up the whole village! Needless to say, he is my hero. After that incident we made sure to tuck the mosquito net under the mattress every night! Keep this in mind if bugs are not for you and you are thinking of staying at this villa. It is open concept, so there will be critters. There were a ton of geckos in the villa as well but I have no problem with them since they eat the bugs. The noise at night was a little hard to get used to at first as well. The bugs, birds, frogs, roosters, etc. will serenade you all night long, and the roosters always make sure to give you a wake up call in the morning! It was fine though since we woke up between 4 am-7 am each day. At night it was very hot since the fan in the room went maybe .32937529 miles per hour…I kid you not it was so slow I questioned why it even existed. For looks I suppose.
We met our host later on that night. We were at the supermarket picking up some items and this man starts swiftly walking towards me! It scared me at first but then he asked if I was Kelsie and he introduced himself as our host. His name is Made and overall he was a very kind man! He waited for us to finish dinner at a restaurant he suggested that was nearby (The Elephant) and he cut us up some fresh mango and made sure that everything was to our liking. He told us about his driving services and that he did tours and we agreed to go with him on one the next day. I will be discussing the tour in depth in my next blog post. It was a great tour, and I really did like our host a lot. My only problem was the price seemed like it was a bit of a rip off (800,000 rupiah), as well as our airport pick up (400,000 rupiah), 600,000 rupiah just to go to the monkey forest, Goa Gajah, and a quick 30 minute dinner, and transfer to our next host in Uluwatu (500,000 rupiah). Our second host in Uluwatu confirmed our hunch that we had been overpaying for rides, but honestly I can’t complain that much. I just think of the U.S. and how much taxi and driving tours would cost here, and I just can’t bring myself to be angry. Especially with the economy in Indonesia. He was a nice man and has a family and staff to pay to keep these airbnb villas going successfully. We caught a break down south, and that made up for it all anyways.
Overall we really liked the villa, it was just quite a different experience for us but that is what travelling is all about! It was also in a really good location. Close enough to get to Ubud easily, but far enough away to escape the noise and chaos. The shopping plaza by the villa had a supermarket, several different stores, plenty of ATM’s, and a cafe that we ended up loving so it was extremely convenient. If you walked down the street each way there were plenty of other shops and cafes as well. I’m including some photos of our villa and a few other miscellaneous things from our first night down below! I hope some of these tips will help you on your future trip to Bali. I am attaching the link to our Airbnb as well, if you are at all interested in staying at this villa while in Ubud.
Hope you enjoyed this first post in our Bali series. Stay tuned for so much more!!
Until next time,
Final trail to the villa (a little scary at night!)
Front of the villa, corridor and view of second bedroom
Outdoor kitchen and dining area
The main attraction…the amazing pool!
Door to bedroom we stayed in, pool right outside 😉
Mosquito net was absolutely essential
Some nature while you shower 🙂
The open roof was a cool experience!
Views from the bed
Open roof concept…and the slowest fan ever ;P
Cool yoga studio architecture next door
I was in paradise!
Welcome basket of tropical fruit!
First dinner in Bali at The Elephant
Cozy daybeds to lounge in during dinner
The happy couple! Hope you tune into our next post!