Bali is definitely a place I've longed to visit, but realistically, knew that we probably wouldn't get to visit. Bali is one island in a very large chain of islands known as the country of Indonesia - a beautiful, yet predominantly Muslim country that has always been off-limits for US Marines to travel to for leisure. So, you can guess how surprised (and excited) I was when they decided to take the island of Bali off that restricted list earlier this year! While most of the countries we travel to are trips that have been brewing in my mind for awhile, this trip was a pleasant surprise for us, and it turned out to be one of the most unique and amazing experiences I will take away from our life in Okinawa.
I think one of the best parts about our trip to Bali was how relaxing it was, while still being super adventurous. We basically got to spend a full week living in a gorgeous private villa with our own pool, a staff that came in to cook us breakfast in our dining room every morning, and a private driver to take us wherever we wanted to go. It was the BEST! Not to mention how amazingly beautiful Bali is.... but I'm getting ahead of myself!
Let's start with the private villa! After a layover in Hong Kong, we arrived late into Bali's Denpasar airport on a Friday night. We were greeted by our driver who took us straight to our private villa, where we were greeted with a welcome drink and a tour of our new home for the next week. Bali is unique to many of the other places we've visited before in that it seems to really cater to couples and honeymooners. The big thing to do there is stay in a private villa - there are WAY more villas than actual hotels - you see them everywhere, even hidden on all sorts of back-roads in the middle of nowhere! As Matt and I had never stayed in a private villa before, we decided to embrace this aspect of Bali and go for it, which I'm SO glad we did. It truly enhanced our Bali experience!
|View from our bedroom|
|Our large outdoor soaking tub (complete with rose petals - told you this place is geared toward honeymooners!)|
|Our AMAZING open-air shower/garden|
|Our living room/dining room pavilion|
|Our infinity pool that lit up at night - pretty big for just two people! (view from the sofa in our living room area)|
|Breakfast made in our dining room in the mornings|
|Enjoying the daybed by our pool|
Our first full day in Bali was a Saturday, and even though I had made plans for what we were going to see that day (you know I never go anywhere without a plan), we started off a little rocky. Unbeknownst to us, our first day happened to be a big Hindu holiday (while the rest of Indonesia is mainly Muslim, Bali is mainly Hindu). This didn't seem like it would be a big deal for us, until we realized it was nearly impossible to get a driver to drive us up to the northern part of the island (Ubud) where we had planned to go. Okay, not nearly impossible - it was impossible to find a driver. So, we ended up exploring the closest town right near where our villa was called Seminyak. Seminyak is a hip little area with a lot of fun shops and trendy restaurants near the beach. After doing a little street shopping, we ended up getting a taxi to drive us down to the south end of the island - Uluwatu. Here, they have some seaside cliffs and temples with roaming monkeys. They aren't cute - they are sneaky little gremlins - don't be fooled!
|Cliffs of Uluwatu|
|Bali has the most unique gates of all places we've been to - they are all so different!|
After Uluwatu, we took our taxi over to Jimbaran Bay where they have a beautiful beach lined with all sorts of restaurants serving fresh seafood right on the sand... well, it's on a plate, on a table, on the sand... but you get it:) We got to enjoy our dinner as we watched one of Bali's incredible sunsets on a beautiful night!
|Matt on Jimbaran Beach|
|Fresh seafood dinner|
|Matt with his Bintang - SUPER popular Bali beer!|
|Gorgeous sunset on Jimbaran Bay... truly a magical night|
|After sunset - all the people eating dinner on the beach by candlelight|
Our second day in Bali, we were picked up by a tour company that was supposed to just be taking us on a downhill biking tour through Bali's villages. However, it turned out to be a full-day of awesome activities! Our first stop on this early morning was to a Luwak coffee and tea plantation that was literally in the middle of the jungle! They had soooo many different plants that grew all sorts of spices and seasonings like cocoa, vanilla, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, clove, and cinnamon. After a little hike through the jungle, we were introduced to the Luwak Coffee (aka "poo coffee"), which is a sort of coffee bean that is made using Luwak cats... basically, the cat eats the beans. The beans spend time in their digestive track, and after they poop them out, they are sterilized, cooked, and ground to make Luwak Coffee... I know this sounds gross. It gives it a sort of different flavor than regular coffee (you can imagine), and it is very expensive. You know we had to try it (when in Rome...)!
|Different types of coffee beans, ready to be ground|
|Our view of the plantation|
Check out this tiny clip of us coffee/tea-tasting:
|After the plantation, we stopped for breakfast at a little Balinese restaurant overlooking the active volcano, Mt. Batur, which last erupted in 2000!|
After breakfast, we geared up for our bike ride of the day, where we mainly got to fly downhill the whole time! The weather was perfect - not too hot! We went with a small group of Australian and Canadian tourists - there didn't seem to be very many American tourists in Bali at all. We did meet two women from Ohio at the Mt. Batur breakfast restaurant, but I think that was it for the whole trip! Anyway, the biking was great - we went through countless villages and picturesque rice paddies, and we even ran across a big cock fight going on!
|Balinese children in front of one of the gates to a house|
|I've never been to a country where people carry pretty much EVERYTHING on their heads!|
Warning: slightly violent cock fight ahead - do not play if you prefer not to see it!
|Taking a break on the rice paddies|
|That night, we went back to Seminyak near our villa to have some dinner - it definitely has a fun vibe at night:)|
Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 from this incredible trip!