10 Things To Love About Bali

10 Things To Love About Bali

This post was last updated on August 26th, 2014Anything that has to do with poop is automatically deemed either childishly humorous or just super gross. Even saying the word out loud might bring a chuckle along, especially if you’re of the same maturity level Dan is. Of course, there is always an exception. In this case, it’s Bali’s luwak coffee. I was lucky enough to get a sip of this extra smooth, velvety cup of Joe, freshly roasted via coffee beans a civet pooped out. And yes, that’s correct—I actually thought it tasted phenomenal. Especially once I got the fact out of my head that it had already passed through the digestive track of a luwak—which are SO cute, btw. Unfortunately, Dan detests everything about coffee, so while he can’t quite be included in the sentiment, I did get him to admit that extra-sugary-vanilla-milk-with-a-hint-of-coffee is okay. After six years of trying, I’ll take it. While we might be in discrepancy about the coffee, we are certainly in agreement about the rest of Bali. There will be lots of photos and descriptions in the near future, but until then, here’s a bit of an appetizer: just a few of the things we love about Bali. Hopefully it will entice you to come back for seconds. And thirds. And maybe even fourths.   10 Things We Love About Bali   1. The View From Our Room at Suara Ombak That’s Dan. He’s in our room. And that’s the panoramic view of the Bukit Penninsula, including major surf spots like Bingin Beach and Dreamland. I guess you could say we’re comfortable. 2. The...
The Gili Islands: A Guide to the Magical Stepping Stones of Lombok

The Gili Islands: A Guide to the Magical Stepping Stones of Lombok

This post was last updated on September 6th, 2014 The Gili Islands are known for being some of the most beautiful islands in Indonesia, having managed to preserve their pristine beaches and authenticity despite growing tourism to Bali and Lombok. And by authenticity, I mean the only form of land transportation is horse carriage or bicycle! Ah-mazing, especially after living in Taiwan where I’m constantly trying to avoid collisions with incompetent scooter drivers. There’s a reason why the three islands have such a good rap—with white sand beaches, amazing snorkeling and diving, and easy accessibility, they really are a must for any Bali/Lombok visitor. One awesome thing about the Gili Islands is that each island caters to a different kind of tourist, promising a match for any traveler personality. Gili Trawagan is the party island, and has morphed into a Kuta wannabe. It’s easy to get your dance moves on til sunrise, or rent a boat and drink the night away under the stars. Gili T is the largest and most developed of the three islands, and has many five star resorts, reliable dive shops, and classy restaurants. The beaches are still quite nice-not as secluded as some you might find on the other Gili Islands but still rather clean despite the hung-over foreigners that dot the sand here and there. Gili T is perfect if you are traveling with a group of friends, or if you want a lot of options in terms of things to do. Also, if you need a doctor for any reason, Gili T has a great 24-hour clinic with English speaking doctor. Unfortunately...
Padangbai Barong Dance: An Exorcism Ceremony

Padangbai Barong Dance: An Exorcism Ceremony

This post was last updated on September 24th, 2014We weren’t expecting to see spiritual warfare when we went to Padangbai. Our main purpose for visiting the small fishing village was actually just to check out the action below the water: reef sharks, manta rays, turtles, and general ocean scenes seemingly taken straight from Finding Nemo. And while we were fortunate to experience the incredible marine life Padangbai boasts (sans manta rays), this wasn’t the most memorable part of our short stay in the town. That’s because this was no typical day on Bali’s east coast; it was the day of the Barong dance ceremony. Now we had already seen numerous Barong dances before arriving in Padangbai, a favorite being in Ubud. So when we heard we would have the opportunity to see another one, we weren’t all that excited. I mean, it has got to be like the Harlem Shake—once you’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen them all, right? Wrong. Especially when it is a local, religious ceremony; then it’s still an entertaining performance but with a much deeper, spiritual purpose. As it turns out, our previous encounters with Barong had left a crucial element out of the tourist driven performances: exorcism. But before we get to the juicy stuff, here’s a summary of the story of Barong, according to Balinese mythology. Don’t worry, it’s quick. Barong dance portrays an epic battle between good and evil, a similar concept in most world religions. Barong, often depicted as a lion, represents ultimate good. In contrast, Rangda is an evil witch, or demon queen, skilled in black magic. Does this...
Ubud, Bali: More than just ‘Eat, Pray, Love’

Ubud, Bali: More than just ‘Eat, Pray, Love’

This post was last updated on September 24th, 2014We were sitting at breakfast in the middle of who-knows-where-Java, drenched to the bone and devouring our glamorous breakfast of plain toast and Nescafe after a failed attempt at climbing Mt. Bromo.  (Well, in all fairness, we succeeded in waking up at 4am and climbing to the viewpoint to see the sunrise. It was the constant downpour—aka lack of seeing anything—that constituted as failure.) A couple of minutes into our breakfast of champions, a retro British gal (also returning from the not so epic Bromo quest) asked to join us as she awaited her next transport. Our conversation soon arrived at the generic, travelers meeting other travelers questionnaire, somewhat reminiscent of freshman year of college. After covering the basics of “Where are you from?”, “How long are you here?” and “Is this going to be a long term, clingy friendship kind-of thing? Cuz I can’t tell if you’re annoying quite yet.”, our chatting soon turned to Ubud. Our new friend had just spent a month practicing yoga there, and I was intrigued to find out if it lived up to all the hype it receives. After all, I kept hearing Ubud was supposedly the one place I just had to visit while in Bali. Like finding out your favorite male celebrity is actually only attracted to other men, her description more than turned me off: “Well, actually, it’s quite Eat, Pray, Love at the moment. A lot of middle aged American women soul searching and practicing bunny yoga. But I still loved it. Everyone does.” Ughhhhhhh. I inwardly groaned for about...
Suara Ombak Homestay: Accommodation Review

Suara Ombak Homestay: Accommodation Review

This post was last updated on September 24th, 2014‘Off the beaten path’ travel is all the rage right now. It seems every twenty-something backpacker is claiming you should throw the guidebook out the window, leave your itinerary at home, and just surrender yourself to all the wonders of travel that will just miraculously fall into your lap. And obviously, all of it will be epic. Museums? Not original enough. Arts and music performances? Nope, too many foreigners. The first coffee shop in the city? Over-priced with long lines. I sort of agree with this idea of travel. Yes, you can miss out on a lot if you’re stuck to a detailed travel plan that doesn’t leave room for spontaneous destinations and adventures. You never know who you will meet that might invite you to their great-grandmother’s house to share a cup of tea and impart on you all the richness of their history. However, more than likely this isn’t going to happen every time you venture somewhere new, and one can also miss out on a lot that the culture has to offer if they don’t do any prior research on the destination at hand. All too often I meet fellow travelers with the mindset that anything touristy is off limits. But in the end, they spend the majority of their time not really doing anything at all–I even met one girl that didn’t want to get out of the car on a countryside tour because she saw other tourists around. Well, sorry, but tourists normally go to a place because there is something worth seeing. Of course, being...
Getting Out Of Kuta

Getting Out Of Kuta

This post was last updated on September 24th, 2014We had heard the warnings. Fellow travelers felt personally responsible to inform us that Kuta was now the remnants of a past paradise, transformed into an overrun tourist town where too many high-priced souvenirs and western restaurants (think Hard Rock Café and Wendys) now dominate the landscape. We heeded their kind advice, and chose to stay at the amazing Puri Bambu hotel in Jimbaran Bay. But you know how it is. If you’re told not to play with fire, the first thing you do is try to turn bacon into a welding torch. So obviously we set off to Kuta on our first day in Bali, just to see if it lived up to our expectations. The first thing we noticed was that there were about 10x more foreigners than locals. And the second thing? The Hard Rock Café. Determined to understand why so many tourists came to a city that appeared like it could be any other city anywhere else in the world, we headed to the beach. Of course this would explain the obsession some have with Kuta! Unfortunately, we were met with a disappointing reality. The beach was filled with trash, and a sewer smell pervaded the area. Mamas, as they called themselves, roamed like hawks, and it didn’t take long for me to become their prey. Normally I’m pretty good at resisting when locals try to sell me overpriced services and goods. This time, I managed to leave Kuta beach with a manicure and pedicure, and I’m still not exactly sure how it happened. In all fairness...