Well I’ll tell ya, I have never been on an adventure like that in my entire life. Being on the other side of the planet away from my friends, family and fur baby Wilson, during the apocalypse was…well, memorable to say the least.
Pura Lempuyang – Mother Temple- Entrance to the middle sanctum is marked with three white-painted
paduraksa portal Flanked with mythical figures of Naga, semi-devine deities.
I have been home for almost two months and I think it’s all just catching up with me now. Hindsight is 2020. I did two weeks of quarantine with Wilson and have never found so much time on my hands and not know what to do with it! Jet lag puts you in some kind of weird time warp of like, not exactly sure what day or time it is… Or wait, is that Covid?
I loved how Mount Agung lined up with the peak of one of the prayer altars.
Personally, I found it tough to feel inspired to do anything really when I came home to Canada, it was really weird for a bit. The direction of the world seemed so out of balance, like a movie. Our real lives were now better than Netflix. Things seem to be returning to normal, no one follows the arrows anymore…
During quarantine, the balance in my days switched between ultra boss productive to like, messy bun, PJ’s, coffee baileys and a book (Currently 1984, by Georges Orwell -Fitting?) I actually found peace with this “balance”. I’d prefer to have a pulse, feel high’s and low’s in life rather than to feel flatlined.
Ok SO, you came here for Bali and here I am bla bla bla-‘ing. It’s so easy to get carried away and off topic. SQUIRREL!!!
Where to even start? This trip was comparable to nothing, on so many levels. Firstly, it was literally 46 hours away from home, on the other side of the planet. Typically, I like to have a plan and itinerary when travelling so far away. This time, I was completely wingin’ it, letting things happen organically. Nothing except my first few days airbnb was booked when I left New Brunwsick.
You can learn a lot during a pandemic it seems.
Let’s start with flights. There were some HARD learning curves during this shit show I can tell you that. Biggest lesson of them all?
book direct with your airline or travel agent!
I say no to Expedia and third party bookings, ever again.
Do you know how many hours I spent on hold? A LOT. After the hours it took just figure out how to even dial OUT of the country ( I had to like, “hack” my phone and change providers in my carrier section. Like wtf!) … What’s worst?!!? Expedia’s hold music – Trolling me with songs like Adele “Hello?” , “Mama I’m coming home” and the ultimate Troll song
Rick Astley- “Never Gonna Give You Up”… Are you for real?? I eventually found a back door on their website to get them to call ME instead of sitting on hold. For. HOURS… Not like I had anything to do except colour and journal and read.
But the hold music suuuuucked.
So yeah, book your flight directly with the airline or better yet, get yourself an awesome travel agent!! Shout out Melanie Doiron !! Lesson learned.
The prices are very often the same and if you call, the CSA’s can maybe do more for you over the phone. Speaking to an actual person is nice. When I finally sorted out some flights home, it was Delta Airlines that truly stood out from the crowd with beyond exceptional service. Over the phone, they helped me rebook a number of times, get earlier flights and calm my nerves. Plus, in cabin experience was top notch, Wooot woooot Detroit Crew!! There were 35 of us on a 365 passenger plane. It was the eeriest, coolest and for sure something I’ll never see again. Delta, you da best….
PS- Thanks for the double Baileys!
Flights (At the time of writing) Were around $1,400 round trip, through Expedia. Still waiting for a refund from my unused return portion from Philippine Airlines lol. The travel time from Moncton, New Brunswick is Brutal. The layover in Manilla was about 14 hours.
Moncton- Toronto (3hrs)
Toronto – Manilla, Philippines ( 16.5 hours)
Manilla – Denpasar. (4 hours)
- LONG HAUL AIRPORT TIP
When travelling so far away, It might not be a terrible idea to book connecting flights in nice, well equipped airports… Manilla, is not one of them! On the way home though, the South Korea airport was incredible. Although everything was closed due to Covid, I was imagining how beautiful it must have been. Live plants and Orchids throughout the entiiiiree airport. My kind of place.
Once I arrived in Denpasar at 2am, the drive to my first airbnb was about an hour away. I highly recommend getting a driver booked with your villa or accommodations, especially if renting an airbnb. My driver, Hendra, met me at the airport with my name on a little sign and everything… I’ve always wanted that lol. These little places are incredibly tough to find. By the time I got there, it was 4am. Hendra parked at the bottom of a stone staircase on the side of the road, leading up into the jungle. There were bat’s flying overhead and strange sounds coming out of the tree tops. I had also spotted a giant stripped snake dead in the road on the way there, soooo, there’s snakes. Another taxi would have never known where to go from the stairs. There are no street signs, house numbers or any kind of direction. The Happy Villa was through a giant wood carved door and family temple.
I would have never found it alone, especially not at 3am.
Ubud, in my opinion was the right place for me to hunker down in, it just ended up that way because my original “plan” was to explore the island and wander to different villages. Towards the end, I was going to hit up Kuta, touch the Indian Ocean and stay where the young, hip expats like to have wicked beach parties. Ubud is like, not that at all. It’s art, cafés, culture and yoga retreats. You can feel it’s authenticity. It has alllll the hippy dippy vibes. So again, I’m not mad, it was pretty perfect actually.
FOOD– SO GOOD and so cheap!! For the most part. I especially started to dine on the el-cheapo toward the end, in preparation that I might have to stay there for months. A full meal including a milkshake and appetizer is about 10$-ish Cad!! That is easily a $35-$40 meal here in Canada. The food is delicious! So many wonderful flavours and you can taste freshness. Like anywhere, you’ll for sure find your “yuppy” spots. Restaurants on the main roads can sometimes be higher priced, but still good.
I’ve realized now through my adventures that the best spots are always on side roads away from the crowds. All of the best spots were literally down jungl-ey side trails. My fave spot – Yellow Flower cafe. The views, the food and the cool vibe. I also really liked Element, these spots, are pricier but totally worth the value because the food was top notch. Try the steak sandwich, they put pickled beets and feta cheese on it….mmmmmmm.
I also fell in love with Made’s (pronounced Ma-day ). And had 6$ breakfast, Bali coffee and Milkshake daily.
It was a special little place I ate everyday the last weeks of my trip.
This little hidden gem was right next door to the villa. A kind man named Komang and his wife Made greeted me everyday. Komang, is Ketut’s brother, the man who owned the villa I was renting. He recommended a visit to the restaurant. Lucky for me, he was one of the only ones still open and I was one of three regular guests. One being Ariella, she was awesome. A retired New York nurse, living her best life enjoying her spiritual journey. She had been living there for over a year. I thought to myself “If the world shit’s the bed, I have food and a New York nurse right next door.” We had some great conversations about the universe, looking into ones self and
C-section births lol…
Indonesia is all about family. They often live on compounds together, in separate little homes and gather at their family temples to pray. I tried to not be stare, but when Made would be praying, dressed in her traditional sarong and sash coloured in yellow, orange and vibrant purples and hints of golds, I couldn’t help but watch. She lit incense, every day they smelled different. She’d place her offering followed by intentional hand gestures kneeling in front of the beautiful stone altar.
She would then put a small flower on her left ear, signifying that she prayed that day. They make time to do this daily. I had so many questions, but never wanted to seem rude. The people are so kind, warm and very welcoming. She may have enjoyed telling me about the gods she prayed to, but as time went on, and the world began to dim due to the virus, the offerings grew larger, and the prayers became louder …
Knowing Canada was already a shit show, in Bali things had remained business as usual until my last week there. Things started to slowly feel strange. I was listening to everyone’s conversations, because when you’re alone, you eavesdrop lol, and everyone was talking about it.
Corona… Corona… Corona. The locals would be chatting amongst themselves. I couldn’t understanding a damn thing obviously, except… Corrrona (*Roll your R’s) . The Russian woman next door was trying to calm her screaming toddler while she cried on the phone to her family, she was stuck there. She sang a lot while in isolation. Meanwhile, I’m starting to worry that my life will turn into a real episode of Survivor…
I think – “I’d totally win at this”
All the restaurants, shopping and boutiques were all closed… The people were gone, the trails were messy and the critters started to appear more often… Then one night, I almost walked on a huge snake on my way out of Made’s…
“…ok. Maybe I wouldn’t win at this”
Accommodations. I stayed in Ubud, the entire month. There were plans to visit the entire island, Nusa Penida, Mount Agung, stay in a beautiful Bali bamboo tree house in Selat and visit the Indian Ocean.
…Well, then, #Covid. So I hunkered down in Ubud.
Villa’s in Bali are very well priced!? Airbnb is a great tool to book your home stay. I don’t think I’ll ever stay in a hotel again, well maybe, but I love airbnb’s. They always feel welcoming and like you still have some sense of normalcy. You can pop your own popcorn, make a nice meal, have a few drinks and watch youtube on the nights where you just need some normal downtime while you do laundry. Some people want to be on a resort, and do nothing. I totally love that too. But some normalcy is nice and makes it a little easier on the return home when you weren’t totally reliant on others.
I wouldn’t hesitate to stay in Ubud again, except next time, I’ll book the same spot for at least a week at a time. I recommend booking one that is centrally located, near the supermarket (Bintang is the best!) and well equipped so you can pretend you actually live in Bali. Pretend…
Next up – TRANSPORTATION
Ok, so it’s bat shit crazy traffic there. Like scooters all over the place, beep beeeep BEEP, weaving in and out of traffic, no traffic lights or road signs. Sheer madness.
BUT, I gotta tell ya. After being there for over a month, I see, the very well structured “respect” system they have goin’ on. It’s almost elegant really. They use their horn for warning and letting people know they’re coming, blind turns and passing.
The only accident I saw were both white girls, one crashed haaard coming out of the Monkey sanctuary and the other had the biggest goose egg I’d ever seen on her face at the airport (The first time I tried to leave lol) Usually I’m pretty adventurous, but this seemed a little too risky to go at solo. Not having anyone to rescue me and my bruised ego if I ate shit on a scooter… or visit a hospital during the plague…
SO, I hired drivers.
If you’ve ever been to Ubud… “Taxi, taxi, TAXI…Hi you need taxi?!” Coming out of the bushes and everything. So getting around and finding a drive is super easy. Buyer beware though, they’ll offer it to you at a high price first, don’t be afraid to counter offer and walk away. They love bargaining…
At the Art Market, they especially expect you to bargain. I’ve learned that I’m not a fan and frankly, sucked at it. I actually thought I’d be awesome!!
It gave me anxiety lol. Please, just give me a price because low balling you makes me feel like a dirtbag, even though you love it.
THINGS TO DO!
There is so much to do! Water blessings, Nusa penida, Bamboo houses, pool villa’s, hiking Mount Agung or Batur, Beach parties, boat tours, snorkelling, cultural experiences, cooking classes and the list goes on and on. I had things on my “must see” list, however I only had the chance to do one of my 3 activities that I had originally loosely planned. Airbnb has a new feature – Airbnb adventures and I have to say, there is a lot of fun things you can check out from this platform. I feel like this is an entire blog about airbnb
… PS – These are not affiliate links for me to make money off of here haha!!
I chose this “Instagram tour” with Nyoman. It was an all day sightseeing tour for $78. To note, when booking adventures, keep in mind that most of the time it does not cover entry fee’s, lunch and obviously any cool items you’ll probably want to buy. They often take you to places that you’ll be wanting to spend more money, so bring some cash/credit.
Most tours operate this way… Exit through the gift shop please.
It was worth every penny and usually always is.
On this day trip, I tried Luwak shit coffee (Cat raccoon poop coffee, it’s not that great) Had lunch with a kitty at a jungle top restaurant, visited the mother Temple “Heavens gates“, Tirta Gangga water temple, the Tegalalang Rice fields and some random waterfall with a few booty shaking
Best part of it all?? There was barely anyone, anywhere!!! It felt like I had the entire island to myself, I seem to have that kind of “luck”!
Nyoman said it’s usually a 3 hour wait for the epic photos at Heaven’s Gate even if you get there at 5:30am!
I would have been pissed, and probably would have opted out.
It’s pretty epic though…
It’s almost like I was visiting Bali, prior to the tourism explosion.
As a photographer, I felt lucky to barely have to worry about being in anyones way or capturing them in my backgrounds. But more than that, it was amazing to see and feel the moments and the beauty. For once, I didn’t feel the “need” to be a photographer. Nyoman kept asking if I wanted him to take pictures, and I declined a lot ( I felt a little weird to be honest…)
I felt the desire to experience this place, through my eyes and my soul. Down side of any organized tour? I don’t like being on a “schedule”.
Even though he said he didn’t mind to wait, I just wanted to linger and explore at all these places for more than 30-45 minutes. Especially the temples…Like what was beyond those doors…??!
Visiting Bali wasn’t meant to be about “Content creation” or about getting those drool worthy insta shots (Even though it’s almost impossible to take a crappy picture). It was about connection, with my little soul, this place, the sun and all the stars. It was meant to be a journey, a learning experience and it turned out to be more than I could have imagined.
This Tour is great if you’re hoping to get shots of yourself or you and your lover in all the “best of Bali” spots. Nyoman was a great photographer and I am pretty happy with all the images he captured, impressed even.
I highly recommend getting a guide and letting them take you around. They know all the good spots. He managed to find a rad woodworking place that I must have spent an hour watching men carve a custom door for the president!
* Note – For a solo travelers, most tours charge an extra $30-ish
After my little adventure day… That’s when shit was starting roll a little downhill with the virus mess. I had a clustered inbox and texts from home with links to Trudeau’s announcement to “Canadians come home” at this point, I still had a week left, and my flights were good to go. I was thankful for all those messages, but wasn’t really worried. Maybe I should have been more concerned? I just didn’t want to jump on the fear train or plane in this case. I especially didn’t want to loose my cool, solo, in a foreign country.
1.5 million people packed like sardines in airports and planes came back to Canada that week.
Am I Stubborn?…Yup, it’s probably that.
Either way, I was completely prepared for both scenarios at this point.
In three days, I went from adventuring along Ubud, exploring the country side, meeting locals and checking out all the beautiful shops to……
Staying in the villa, cooking food in a half ass equipped kitchen with a case of “Bali Belly” and cancelled flights.
Fast forward to more cancelled flights, up until 4am trying to figure out my new travel plans, cancelled Jungle bamboo house (BOOOOOoooo, I’m not over that one yet), a useless trip to the virus covered airport and ending up sitting on my suitcase sobbing like a lost puppy.
No one could help me get flights… Four days before all this, I told the universe, I’d love to live in Bali. Ouuu baby, be careful what you wish for!!
I had an airport drink and some nachos, composed myself and headed back to Ratna Villa.
Prior to leaving for the airport, this was our conversation.
Me- “I might be back, I might not have any flights and will message you through Airbnb”
Ratna- “Ya, ok, ya, we see you again!!”
Me “Yes, but I might be back TOday…”
Ratna- “Ohhh yaa, hahahah”
Language barrier is another challenge.
When I got back, of course, they had cleaned the villa. All of my groceries, supplies and my 3/4 full quart of whiskey were gone.
I guess they didn’t understand… lol. I said fuck it and went to bed.
The next morning I went for breakfast at their restaurant, asked for Honey with my coffee….Guess what? They served me my own honey… lol.
That was one hell of a heavy day. By far the weakest I have ever felt.
No control over a situation, hours of trolling hold music (Screw you Expedia!) and dropped calls, with no forward movement and no flights home in sight. Every morning was wake up and like “Damage Report”
Luckily, I have some amazing people in my life that helped me get through it. I never felt alone and knew I could always call home, that was enough to keep me sane. xox
Honestly, I could go on forrreeeever.
It’s really tough to share details, tips, feelings and little side adventures into words, especially when I now have a million inside jokes with myself lol. Moments like my night time snake encounter, the time I thought I went through a time travel portal, how I met Ketut and Nyoman, the Monkey Forrest adventure… The full blown rain storm, attack of big bathroom spiders, the drunk asshole with the head dress and all the little stories that made this trip truly and adventure. SO – If you’d like to follow more, or have any questions at all, come join me on my insta page!! I’ll be sharing stories and giving tips here and there of all the adventures I’ve been on —> @T_Fem
I need to put a pin in this now, so here are some more photos, a breakdown of approximate expenses and links to some of the cool things from this wild trip!
Thanks for joining me and taking the time to read through this long ass post! As usual, if you read it all, Thanks a bunch and hopefully you got some inspiration to say fuck it, and go!!
…When the world returns to normal…Eventually.
Stay safe and keep dreaming!
A MONTH IN UBUD, BALI Indonesia.
Flights – $1,460.00 return (booked via Expedia November 2019, 1 person)
Happy Villa – $430.00 (4 nights – 1 bedroom AC & pool, well equiped)
Ratna Villa – $1,400 ( 13 nights – 1bed, AC Pool )
Ketut Kartika House– $1,672 ( 14 nights – 2 bedroom, Beautiful Pool, daily cleaning and Breakfast included. My fave spot, hands down.
$90 – Airbnb Adventure 14 hour Day tour with driver
Approximate – $1,800 (including groceries) Average $45 a day with no scrimping. PS- Booze is EXPENSIVE! I came prepared with Whiskey and Disaronno from Canada for chill evenings at the Villa’s… Bring some lol
Airport transport from Ubud is $35 per trip. I did 3 trips, since, well #Covid. Otherwise, the only time I booked transportation was for my airbnb adventure and that day was $80.
This will vary since you probably won’t be isolated when you go so plan for more.
Shopping, miscellaneous purchases, airport expenses, entry fee’s, and Manilla airbnb and layover not included.
So, for 31 days – Around $6867.00
(Also not including my ridiculously priced return flight during the apocalypse…)
Depending on how you like to travel this can be much less, (or much more)
I rented airbnb Villa’s…There are tons of hostels or apartments for under 10$ a night or a small place for $25 a night!
There are also, ultra luxurious hotels for a lot more.
If I were to do it again, I’d a monthly rental. You can save a ton of money if you were to talk to someone directly when you arrive.
The inexpensive restaurants in the side roads are wonderful, meals for $4.00 … Just don’t get iced drinks or food that may have been rinsed with tap water…
Bali belly is real.
You don’t want it.
Got any questions?! Send me a DM through any of my social handles or email me firstname.lastname@example.org https://www.instagram.com/tiafennellyphotography/?hl=en