Using the combined powers of The First Paycheck, The Birthday and The Need To Move, I tossed together a surprise long weekend for myself to Bali. Being a well-known name on the ‘been there’ list of Asian destinations, I wasn’t too sure what to expect, besides other tourists and travelers.
So if you’re thinking of taking a trip to Bali, or you’re just curious as to what I got up to for my birthday (flattered), here’s the framework of the 3 day, 4 night trip, based out of Singapore.
Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport receives multiple daily flights from all over, including a 9-11:30pm flight out of Singapore. This worked well for me, as I left Thursday evening after work. There was even time to try a new Japanese restaurant along the way, Hana Hana outside Tanjong Pagar MRT station. You’ll definitely see me there again.
Midnight is a rough time to arrive anywhere for a first time, but things like Uber, Grab and Go Jek help to take the edge off those arrival blues when you see the sea of taxi drivers waiting for you. The airport supported WiFi without any local SMS requirements (always hate that), so in a bit I was on my way to Sky Garden club to meet Jariah, my super friendly, gym crazy, couch surfing host for night 1.
Being a long weekend and all, the morning went to catching up on sleep and eventually getting some breakfast down the street. By noon however I was on the back of a Go Jek scooter, heading to Sanur beach for a boat across to Lembongan island.
Spoiler: Boats don’t use jetties here much, so you likely will end up walking into the water and getting on the boat. High tide can transform this into a bit of a scarier experience, but still no big danger.
Arriving at Lembongan I joined Janies and his friends (we met on the boat) and we headed off on motorcycles to Ceningan, the even smaller island just below Lembongan and connected with the Yellow Bridge. The western tip of Ceningan sports a cliff diving spot I was really keen on. Unfortunately the swells were too big to jump the 10m, so I had to be satisfied with the 5m.
Eventually I made my way back to Lembongan main beach on foot, to trawl for accommodation and see who else might be around. Day 1 ended at Rama Homestay, right on the beach, in a 2nd storey room facing the ocean. Oh, almost forgot, I also checked in with a few dive shops to see whom I might go with the next morning for a session underwater. The setup and prices were near identical.
Bali Diving Academy was the winner of my patronage, Andy the guy out front has the most amazing blue eyes… So before 8am I was present and eating breakfast, after which we all hauled onto one of the boats and got going. All dives in the area seem to be drift dives due to the currents.
Dive 1 was cozy, but dive 2 reminded me of Umkomaas back in ZA and I was shivering within minutes. We saw turtles, flute fish, stuff I don’t know the names of and some others as well. The coral wall was nice and the fish plenty and beautiful.
Returning to the main beach I was made to realise a mistake I made in not checking departures times of the boats. What followed was a signature jog-there approach to getting to Mushroom beach and catching the 2:30pm back to Sanur. It was a silly idea, not advised unless you enjoy making up challenges for yourself.
No problems though! Happily on Bali there was a kilometer or two to walk before the motorcycle rental shops stopped charging ridiculous prices, after which I was on my way north, past Ubud, to Tegalalang. A slight wrong turn and some confusing phone calls were all it took to meet up with Tety and Ivory, new friends (also couch surfing) with whom I’d do the Mount Batur sunrise hike.
The ride further north was pleasant, but the view when we crested the outer rim of the crater around Mount Batur was something otherworldly, and that’s not just the heat stroke speaking. Dinner after dark and a bit more riding finally got us to a place to sleep that night down against the lake and close enough to the morning’s departure spot.
Day is used loosely here, since we woke up at 3am. The plan was to hike Mount Batur between 4-6am and crest it a little before the sun peeks out, sharing its glory with our endorphin-zinged minds.
Tourist reality check: Locals pay 10’000 IDR to go up the mountain and can do so freely. Foreigners pay upwards of 350’000 IDR, which includes the services of a guide. I had my friends check out the pricing before I went to pay the ticket, but it didn’t change the situation. The guide is also mandatory, so rather than argue about it you can enjoy the help of someone to carry stuff for you, answer some basic questions and help you out of the main crush of bodies going up.
At the top the view is gorgeous (similar to the outer rim of the crater), but clouds are more frequent to block your view. We had about 10 minutes of sun-rising glory before the fog rolled in, clearing now and again as we walked around at the top and made our way back down after.
Back at our homestay we showered and napped for a little, then went for lunch at the Floating Restaurant a little further along the lake edge. It’s well worth a visit for good food, great view and reasonable prices.
And so we started our trip back south to Denpasar, except it started raining and we spent 2 hours relaxing at a roadside shop drinking white coffee (coffee with milk in sachet form). Eventually the rain let up though, and since it’s all down hill the temperature rises as you progress, which left me safely deposited at Jariah’s street again, for a last vegan meal and a rest.
Good old Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport and its conveniently timed flights had me covered with a 6-8:30am option back to Singapore. It did however demand me getting up after early to get on a last Go Jek to the airport, a situation not helped by my fitful sleep that night.
And that was that. The Monday was a little rough and moody but the weekend was lovely and I can honestly say the local friends I made brought the best out of the Bali experience for me. There’s also tons more to see and do, so a return trip might just come round some time in the future.
P.s. If you are planning your own trip I’d happily share the rest of the details/lessons learnt, it’s just a bit much to write here so rather ask (: