If you have been adventurous, even a tiny little bit in your life, there will be at least one occurrence or event which remains with you forever - This trip is one of those. Not only my furthest trip ever (Thanks Google Maps), I also learned to travel light, even though it was forced upon me - Let's travel to one of the biggest archipelagos in the world!
Still haven't guessed it? Okay, another few hints...Waterfalls, rice terraces, nice beaches?
If you haven't figured it out by now, the country I am referring to is Indonesia - I would be disappointed if even the temple or the hat did not give it away.
Getting to Indonesia
It is by far my longest trip and probably the worst, not because of the time but China Eastern Airlines had lost my luggage and I made it to Jakarta with just my hand luggage...Bearing in mind, I was going to Bali with another airline. In short, I spent almost all my time in Indonesia with just my hand luggage, and thank God I, at least, had my camera. The initial plan was to fly from London to Shanghai (almost 12 hours), then Shanghai to Jakarta (6 hours), spend a day in Jakarta before flying to Bali from there (2 hours) - 20 hours of flying in 2 days, not too bad to a certain standard. To be honest, aside from the long flight and the fact that I cannot sleep on planes, it was very well worth it.
Although the local China Eastern Airlines team tried their very best to bear my ranting, I still feel the service was way below par - If you ask me, do not fly with them.
Where to stay?
I have just booked a hotel for a night in Jakarta then ended up at the Mercure Bali Legian (I know it fails my avoidance campaign of the big brands but I had to make concessions as I was on the trip with a friend of mine). I really liked their breakfast and the location was very convenient, close to the airport and between Nusa Dua and Ubud.
The trip was mainly centered towards Bali but the day spent in Jakara allowed us to see another facet of the country.
The capital city of Indonesia, it is also the world's second-most populous urban area after Tokyo, bearing in mind it only covers 699.5 km² - That's half of London's size but with 2 million people more than the British capital...Very crowded indeed.
The name stands for independence and the edifice is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, with a capacity of 200,000 worshippers - That's over two times the population of Seychelles.
Dapur Babah Elite & Tao Bar
This is not a landmark but I was so impressed with the service and the touches I thought I should recommend having a munch there. It goes without saying the food was way up there too, although a tad pricey for the country...
The main chef took the time to ask where we were from and what brought us to Jakarta and even suggested some places to visit in Bali. I will never say it enough, the locals are the best guides money cannot buy.
Bali is probably the most famous island of the archipelago and quite well-known for its beaches, volcanic mountains, and rice terraces but it is really the home to religious sites.
There are plenty of flight options from Jakarta and the prices are between £40-70 (€44-77 or $50-87) for the return ticket.
The flight to Bali was quite short and a lovely lady slept on my shoulder the whole time. She was so cute I just could not ask her to back off...
An easy touchdown but still without most of my luggage. Our plan was to stay a few days in Nusa Dua then move north to Ubud but this airport hiccup has caused me to go daily to the airport to check if my luggage has made it (Thanks, China Eastern!)
Selamat Datang di Bali (Welcome to Bali)!
Pura Luhur Uluwatu
Pura Luhur Uluwatu is regarded as one of the six most important temples in Bali along with Pura Besakih. Luhur means “something of divine origin” and ulu the “land’s end” and watu the “rock” in Indonesian and seeing the temple can back most of its name up.
There are monkeys everywhere and these guys can be quick to do away with your stuff...
They really did not care one bit I was around...
The views from the path are just breathtaking...
Entrance fee: IDR 30,000 (£1.70/$2/€1.80)
Mandala Suci Wenara Wana
The real name of the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. It is the sanctuary and natural habitat of the Balinese long-tailed Monkey (Macaques monkeys) and is home to around 700 of the smart apes. There forest spreads over 12.5 hectares of forest and there are plenty of little attractions on the path around the forest.
A marking entrance...
Of course, monkeys are kings in here...
There are other animals in the forest, don't hesitate to go off-track (and leave breadcrumbs to find your way back).
And this was on the way out, a tad scary but artful if you ask me...
Entrance fee: IDR 80,000 (£4.5/$6/€5)
Is the most important and largest temple of the Hindu religion in Bali. It is also known as the mother temple and the name is not random. The complex is so big exploring the whole site can take a day - There are about 70 shrines in there (and each celebrates its anniversary).
There are so many of these gates I just stopped counting...
Views for ever! 🥰
Sunsets anywhere in Bali would feel magical. I think it is just a Balinese thing...
One of the warmest thing that happened to me was when the lady on the left approached me to ask if I could take a photo with her family - I think it turned out alright.
You are never too old to learn or too young to teach...
Entrance fee: IDR 60,000 (£3/$4/€3.75)
One of the most famous attractions on the island. It is essentially a swing on the edge of the woods and gives the impression to be flying in the emptiness - quite scary! 😨
There are also a few nests hanging from trees. Make sure you know your poses before getting on these as the queue tends to be a bit long.
Entrance fee: IDR 500,000 (£28/$35/€31)
On our way to Sekumpul, we stopped by this place with such a view, I don't know its name but it's just somewhere on the way... 🤦🏿♂️
I would not go down the route of telling you it is the best waterfall because it is the only one I have had the chance to visit. It is definitely the most famous based on my research (it is also the tallest waterfall in the country). It all starts with a 2.5-hour journey before the very loud sound of the shower hits you. If your hearing is any good, you can direct yourself from a few hundred meters. The walk down to the waterfall is probably one of the longest ever but definitely worth it. We rented scooters to shorten the walk a little bit but if you fancy a walk, why not?
Now the view from the top...
And up close...
And now the hidden waterfall...
I did not do the trek however have heard a lot of good things about it. I chose to meditate
Needless to say that the hike back up is a major blow to one's excitement. I even had to walk a long way because the scooter could not move on the steep slope (also a reminder I need to hit the gym harder).
Entrance fee: IDR 20,000 (£1/$1.4/€1.25) This was for the Sekumpul waterfall only but there is the medium trek which includes) the Sekumpul and Hidden waterfalls for IDR 125,000 (which is what we did) and finally the long trek for IDR 200,000 (Sekumpul, Hidden waterfalls and the triple-falls of Fiji waterfall)
Mason elephant park
The park is solely dedicated to elephant rescue and boasts the island's largest elephant herd. It is less than 2 hours away from Nusa Dua and about half an hour away from Ubud. The place has got all the elephants' facilities, a restaurant, and a lodge.
The park has a few ponds and you can feed the Koi fishes while waiting ...
I found this activity so rewarding as I felt I had to earn the right to spend time with these creatures. Perfection is an understatement.
PS: Did you know that elephants exercise less pressure per mm² than a woman on heels, yet their average weight is 4,000kgs?
I walked out of the park with less ignorance and fear - That, to me, was my biggest win
I found feeding animals in general so soothing. Observing them is such an underrated activity. I could do that for days!
Definitely the happiest of the bunch...
More of that...
The park is one of the rare ones with a government certification and rely on tourism for the upkeep of the elephants. I truly think this was my favourite part of the trip and I have learned a lot more about wildlife by just spending a day with these amazing creatures.
Entrance fee: IIDR 1.230.000 (£68/$85/€75) I felt like a millionaire for a bit!
Not of me blogging but I wanted to share how much this trip meant to me. I really wish I had more time to immerse myself in the Indonesian way of life. I feel, although, I have learned a great deal, I still had so much more I could learn. Bali has suffered a great deal of pollution because of its sudden fame and has been showing signs of resilience despite the increasing footfall on the island.
Please bear this in mind when you visit Bali. It definitely needs tourism to prosper however be wary of your carbon footprint for the next generations to enjoy the same privilege as we have - It is very much needed.
Until next time...