Indonesia With over 17,500 islands, it’s hard to decide which ones to visit, and with only two weeks to spend there, we thought it best to start with the road most travelled - the Islands of Bali and Gili Trawangan.
Next, we had to decide what we wanted to do and see. Having worked in travel for a high-end operator, I knew where not to go - Nusa Dua and other resort areas were extremely unappealing as they are very over built with hotels. After lots of research we decided to spend just two nights in Seminyak (purely because we felt it needed to be ticked off) and instead opted to take a driver up to the north and stay in lesser known Lovinia then onto Ubud, ending on the Island known as Gili T. That was the plan. However, on check-in we were advised that our flight was delayed, and we would miss our connection in Doha, meaning we would be held there for over 18 hours until the next flight departed. Gutting news of course, but thankfully Qatar really looked after us.
On arrival in Doha we were taken by taxi, given a hotel room, and an allowance for meals. We used the time we had to see the sights – although admittedly, I am using this term lightly! What can I say about Doha? Hmmm…. I can’t believe the next world cup will be held there. It’s a very new city and small at that; lacking in character and overbearingly hot. The main attractions worth visiting are the Doha Museum of Islamic Art and The Souk Market. The museum building is beautiful and is filled with some very interesting artefacts. In the evening the Souk Market sells amazing textiles and jewellery. You can literally buy anything here, including animals, which is heartbreaking to see. A ride across the river in a Douw is also fun with its booming sound system and city views.
Eventually, it was time to board a flight to Bali- first stop Seminyak. We arrived at 11pm, got showered and headed straight out to Mr Potatoe Head Beach Club which was quiet when we got there as it’s all about the sunset parties. The same can be said for the Ku De Tar bar. Both are worth a visit, but ideally in the day rather than late evening. After asking around for a livelier spot, we were pointed in the direction of La Favela. I would highly recommend this for a late-night party. Once you see past the hordes of people, you notice what an incredible building it is. Built in 2013 by husband and wife team Gonzalo & Sandra Assiego, it started as a small shop and was designed and built over a 2-year period. Everything is vintage and heavily decorated, with graffiti and stencil art adorning the walls. It was inspired by the jungles of Bali and Indonesia, the favelas of Rio and the London club scene. There are semi-indoor gardens with bridges that you can walk on, with the classic tunes of summer booming. An all-round great place, but be warned, the queues at the bar are long and every bit of dance space is busy.
The following day we were due to be picked up by our private driver at 12pm. We rose early to have a quick look round and of course, a massage, which at £2.50 for an hour, you can’t walk past. A great way to cure a hangover, followed by a juice on the beach. Unfortunately, the beach in Seminyak was very dirty. It was sad to see how much rubbish lined the shores (David Attenborough needs to get out there and teach everyone about disposing of plastic). If you’re keen to avoid built up beach resorts, then I would give this place a miss.
Lake Bedugal & Lovinia
The drive to Lovinia takes approximately three hours and you can stop at various sights along the way. We opted to see the coffee plantation and the wonderous Lake Bedugul, specifically the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan water temple. I can’t recommend this enough – it’s busy, but worth the detour. As a westerner, it’s very amusing as most of the tourists here are Malaysian and have not often seen westerners. Hence, everyone wants to have a picture with you. We soon understood why Justin Bieber gets annoyed with fans harassing him! We did however manage to get some photos of our own and enjoy the moment and the beauty around us.
We had previously agreed that we would like to find rustic-style accommodation where possible in Bali, and Santhika was just that - a family run guest house built by the owner himself. We were greeted by very friendly staff and given a welcome drink along with a 30-minute foot massage. Pictures don’t do justice to this quirky place. Based around a small pool in the centre, all the rooms are very individual. Ours was a budget double room with a lovely veranda to sit out on and drink a beer. A communal table allowed us to get to know other travellers while laughing at the resident mockingbird as it imitated everyone. The guest house is about 10 minutes’ walk from the beach and offers free bike hire.
Lovinia is famous for dolphin watching, but be warned, you need to be up and out at 6am to see them. We were one of the first boats out and all seemed very peaceful, but slowly lots of other boats appeared. As the dolphins arrived, all the boats would chase them down. They were amazing to see, but I have mixed emotions about the whole set up. If you would like to see them then this is easily booked locally – you will often be stopped in the street and offered this excursion. Lovinia is great if you want authenticity.
There is only one tourist bar (Spice Bar) where you can lounge on the sunbeds all day for free if you have drinks or food. There’s a great local market and I would highly recommend hiring a scooter to explore what’s around.
That’s part one of our time in Bali.
Head over to Bali Part II where I talk about Magical Ubud and Gilli Trawangan.