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by Chloe Green @SharedBucketList
Ever fancied a solo trip to Bali? For me, I won't lie - I didn't really have a burning desire to visit this part of the world, alone, but it seemed a logical stop to make on route back from Australia (more about that trip another time) and I'm pleased that I experienced it for a short while as a sole traveler... minus the Bali belly, of course. (We'll get to that monstrous memoir in a moment!) I certainly managed to squeeze in a fair bit throughout my time there, though.
My first impression? In a nutshell, I would describe it as a hybrid destination: combine all the traditional intricacies of Indonesian culture with modern Western hedonism - that's Bali! A laid back, spiritual island with volcanic hillsides, rice terraces and rugged coastlines, hosting wild raves and lavish parties after sunset. You can see why it's so popular!
...combine all the traditional intricacies of Indonesian culture with modern Western hedonism... that's Bali!
But, if you're looking for more specific details on what to expect from a few days in Ubud (which is predominantly where I stayed), read on. To keep this guide easy to digest - unlike my meals upon returning to England - I've listed some simple questions and answers (FAQs) below. For any other queries, as always, please feel free to ask in the comments underneath this post. ~ Side note: Connor has also been to Bali before (both our trips were before we got together), so, between us, I'm sure we can answer any other generic Bali questions that you might have!
You can also check out our Bali reel here...
Are the temples worth visiting?
100%! But don't feel like you have to see them all. With the utmost respect, I visited a fair number of sites and they were all pretty similar. Impressive... but similar.
Popular ones in Ubud are:
- Pura Taman Kemuda Saraswati, also known as the Ubud Water Palace
- Pura Puseh, known for its elaborate 11th-century pillar, tiered gateway and animal statues
- Pura Desa, only a one-minute walk from the Saraswati Temple
How did you get around?
Many tourists seem to join in with the moped craze in Bali but the thought of driving one of those over there absolutely terrified me. If the roads weren't hazardous enough, with bends and potholes every other few yards, the attitude to driving over there is mental. So, if you are going to opt for a moped (you lunatic), wear a helmet.
Less adventurously, I befriended a local driver who initially collected me from the airport; he ended up becoming my personal tour guide as well as my chauffeur for the full duration of my trip. I couldn't recommend this enough!
I befriended a local driver who initially collected me from the airport; he ended up becoming my personal tour guide as well as my chauffeur for the full duration of my trip. I couldn't recommend this enough!
Keramas is the nearest beach to Ubud but it is about thirty minutes via car and is a beach with black sand. The nearest beach with golden sand is Sanur which is a little bit further but much more chilled than Seminyak (another popular beach but more for surfing and night-life).
Where is the best place to eat?
I obviously ate out on more than just a few occasions but these were some of my favourites:
Breakfast/Lunch: Pistachio Restaurant, Bisma Street - peaceful scenery; great value for money.
Dinner: The Shed - contrary to its name, this restaurant serves delectable food! Also, I have absolutely no shame in admitting this but they do a great selection of all your standard 'safe' dishes (burgers/pasta/fish and chips) if, like me, you often miss the taste of home.
IMPORTANT: Do take extra care with all your food and drinks orders. Bali belly is no joke and certainly no picnic. See next section for more details.
What is it like to get Bali belly? How can you avoid it?
I was warned about Bali belly before I went and naively assumed I'd be fine because I had a 'good immune system'. Well, if there's one thing I realised about myself on this trip, it's that my judgment is completely and utterly flawed when it comes to keeping one's own health in check.
Not sure what Bali belly involves exactly? Put it this way - you'll be running to the toilet for one of two reasons: to be violently sick or because you have uncontrollable diarrhoea. Thankfully, mine wasn't the latter but that isn't to say I wasn't in unbearable pain. My stomach felt like someone was stabbing me from the inside and, when I wasn't squirming in agony, I was projectile vomiting. Oh yeah, this was all happening on my plane journey home too. The cabin crew were genuinely so concerned about me, they let me sleep in a private compartment of the plane and I was wheelchaired off at the other end (17 hours later). What makes this episode even more of a humiliating moment in my life history is that I later found out Peter Andre was on this same very flight. I must have been the first mysterious girl he didn't want to move his body close to.
Ways to avoid catching it? Stay clear of:
Ice in your drinks. If they bring your drinks to you with ice in, tell them to take it back!
Eating foods washed in tap water. Unfortunately, you're not always going to know about this so your best bet is to choose restaurants with good hygiene ratings.
Wet plates, cutlery and glasses. As above.
Brushing your teeth from the tap. It might seem a step too far but using bottled water is certainly something I'll be doing next time as I never want to experience that level of sickness EVER again!
Getting shower water in your mouth and eyes. If you've seen Sex and the City, then you'll now understand why that scene with Charlotte in Abu Dhabi was so pivotal. Hollywood isn't all smoke and mirrors after all.
Accommodation in Bali is generally fantastic and the value for money is beyond what most would expect. Unlike many other destinations around the globe, it is not unattainable to hire a luxury private villa with a pool, sea or mountain view with breakfast included.
I felt that I'd hit the jackpot when I booked out an entire villa with Anusara Luxury Villas; it was honestly unreal to have such a vast amount of space all to myself. Sprawled across my comfortable king-sized bed, I was able to look out on my own secluded pool and the hundreds of giant palm trees which stretched beyond that. I was immersed in jungle heaven!
If the beady eyes of wild creatures that I spotted through my glass doors at night-time weren't enough of a cultural shock, showering in the bamboo bathroom outdoors was certainly about to do the trick. But all of that made it all the more memorable.
The Anusara villas are located in Laplapan, Ubud, and are surrounded by acres of rice fields and the majestic Mt. Agung. I paid £112 per night for the Honeymoon Suite (just me, myself and I!) I know. Extra, right?
Additional info: During my stay, I also spent an evening, enjoying drinks and shisha, at W Hotel in Seminyak. The Residences there look pretty darn dreamy but I didn't stay at the hotel so I'd check out other reviews. I'd imagine it's expensive.
What jabs do I need to go?
Recommended Vaccinations for Bali at a Glance
All Travellers: MMR, DTaP
Most Travellers: Typhoid, Hepatitis A
Some Travellers: Cholera, Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies
^ Copied from London Vaccination Clinic, however do seek official advice from a medical expert regarding this before you travel.
Do the monkeys really bite?
I decided not to visit Ubud's infamous monkey forest (Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary) after watching far too many videos of people getting bitten so I can't really comment from first-hand experience on this BUT I did see a few monkeys in my villa (they mainly came out at night-time) and they seemed friendly enough... from a distance. Probably best not to take my advice on this one!
Is it safe - especially for solo travel?
I believe one's attitude to solo travel and safety is entirely subjective. For me, I look back at some of the trips I've taken alone and question how on Earth I plucked up the courage to do so (despite how grateful I am for those experiences now) - I think it's an age thing. But, having said that, I felt incredibly safe in Bali at the ripe old age of 24 and just made sure I kept my wits about me when out and about. Typical precautions such as booking trustworthy chauffeurs to take you to and from destinations, making sure your phone has enough charge throughout the day/night and avoiding poorly lit areas or places which aren't as busy are all an absolute must if you're going at it alone! Networking with other like-minded travelers is also a possibility but, again, be careful.
Best time to visit?
I visited during the Christmas holidays (five days after New Year's Eve, to be precise); it was a comfortable temperature but I did experience heavy rainfall at times. These spells did come and go pretty quickly, though, and I felt it added somewhat to the tropical, rainforest vibe. According to others, July and August are considered peak season when it is sunny and warm during the day and generally more clear and cool in the evenings.
Any other tips/advice?
I had a great time in Ubud but I do feel that the days I spent there were the right amount and even those included some visits to other neighbouring towns. If you're planning a longer trip to Bali, I would definitely recommend doing your research and booking accommodation in more than one area so that you can access different places easier. Put together an itinerary and consider the location of each of the events/attractions before you go.
Oh, and don't forget - no ice!