- An Article by Jeff Epps
Beautiful Breathtaking Bali
Me and Rebecca at the Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa in East Bali
When I was planning my trip to Tokyo in April, I asked Rebecca if she wanted to go with me. She said yes and we were supposed to meet there, but then there was a change in plans. I decided to go to Tokyo alone.
But after I got back to Wuhan, I thought about Rebecca and how I wanted to take another trip with her. The Jakarta trip we took together was amazing and the Singapore trip was even more amazing. I could only imagine what Bali would be like and I knew that she had been there before.
So I got a hold of her and asked her if she'd like to go to Bali with me in June. She was not reluctant and said yes again. Last time we met was in May of last year in Singapore and we had somewhat of a system where we would work together to plan our trip. Like Bali, she had been to Singapore before so again, this worked to our advantage because she had the insider experience.
But Bali, oh Lord, like no other place on Earth. A place that was ranked #1 by TripAdvisor in 2017 and understandably so. It is heaven on Earth. Honestly, what you read here and what you see on YouTube videos, other articles, and by hearsay just isn't enough to help a person understand the magnitude of how beautiful and breathtaking Bali really is. It's a place that you just have to go and experience for yourself. I hope that this article will help to encourage you to do just that.
On our way to the Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa in East Bali
I booked our tickets to where we would both show up at the Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport around the same time at 12pm. She only had to travel two hours east from Jakarta and I, on the other hand, had a little more traveling to do. I booked a red-eye flight from Wuhan to Bali via Kuala Lumpur. I'm not a fan of transferring in the KL airport because there are two security checkpoints that you have to go through JUST for a transfer. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about security and I always put safety first but this is a bit ridiculous. I really didn't have much of a choice if I wanted to make good time. So, being the travel soldier that I am, I did it anyways.
Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa
We met up around 12pm as planned and I grabbed a SIM card at the airport. I called her and told her to meet me somewhere while I booked us a ride to the resort. Rebecca was such an asset in so many ways, but one way that she helped tremendously was that fact that she's Indonesian and she can speak the language. This came in handy on several occasions that made our travels run much more smoothly. Otherwise, I would have had to rely on language apps that aren't 100% accurate and that require Wi-Fi service, which isn't always readily available even with a SIM card.
It took us a couple of hours to reach the resort via taxi service, but the good news is that when I booked the taxi at the airport, they charged a fixed price that we actually talked them down on. This means that there was no meter in the taxi that was manipulated to run faster and there was no arguing with the driver if he tried to take a longer route to keep us in the taxi longer.
So, we got off to a really good start......
Kuta Beach is Popular Among Expats
We drove through Kuta, which is a BIG expat community due to its proximity to the airport and also because most of Bali's tourism is concentrated in the south. Even more specifically, Nusa Penida is a hotspot for Bali tourism.
Map of South Bali
Kuta is where you see a lot of Western-style restaurants and entertainment.
When we arrived at the resort in Candidasa we were amazed at just how beautiful it really was. We were so close to the ocean that we could hear the waves crashing on the shore. We had two doors, an entrance door and a balcony door that were directly across from each other, meaning that if you open them both up then you can enjoy a magnificent, refreshing cross breeze. I opened a can of Bintang beer and had my first alcoholic beverage in over 11 years. I can't tell you how therapeutic that initial resort moment was.
My First Alcoholic Beverage in Over 11 Years at the Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa
Of course, we had to check in before all of this. They had an outdoor check-in area that was covered by a large canopy. This place was really something.
Balcony of our Room at the Candidasa Resort & Spa in East Bali
We sat out on the balcony of our room for a few minutes while I drank my Bintang beer while we were deciding what we wanted for dinner. It was most definitely going to be room service because I was NOT going to leave that room anytime soon. I believe Rebecca was set to stay put as well.
Room Service Dinner at the Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa
On our itinerary we planned to explore East Bali on Day 1 (Monday) but I was exhausted from all the travel and I was feeling that beer. We decided to order some Indonesian strawberry wine and have dinner and just relax for the day while we planned what exactly we were going to do for Day 2, which would be Nusa Penida Island. For Day 1 we decided to just chill and hang out at the resort. After all, we were both relieved and relaxed to be in Bali.
Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa (Gallery)
After I had a beer and a glass of wine and filled my stomach up with food, I decided to go check out the rest of the resort. Rebecca stayed in the room while I moseyed on down, out toward the beach area.
Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa Beach Area
As I walked out toward the beach area I could feel a sense of nirvana as I could hear the waves get louder and the smell of ocean grew stronger.
"Am I really in Bali?" I asked myself, and "is this resort for REAL?!"
Rebecca met me out there after about a half an hour and we enjoyed it.
As the evening grew near, we talked about Nusa Penida for Day 2.
We spoke to the staff at the resort and made a couple of phone calls.
We went to bed feeling really good. It was nice that we were back together. We were supposed to meet in Tokyo in April but we didn't. The last time we saw each other was last October in Singapore. We slept well in our cozy beds.
The next morning we woke up around 5am. I couldn't help but get my Sony camera with my tripod and set up out on the balcony to catch the sun coming up over the hills. I was able to capture about 25 minutes of footage, but with my Filmora software, I created a one minute and fifteen second, 10x speed fast play version of the video with some folk music to add to the appeal. This was the beginning of many great experiences to come.
Sunrise Over the Hills from our Balcony of the Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa
After that, we ordered some room service breakfast and after I ate I decided to get me some great drone footage of the resort and beach area.
Morning Drone Footage of the Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa
Heading to Nusa Penida via Padang Bai from the Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa
Broken Beach & Angel's Billabong (Northwest Nusa Penida)
We planned on getting to Padang Bai early in the morning and catching a ferry to Nusa Penida. Unfortunately, it didn't work that way. We sat at the ferry terminal for a few hours to wait until the 11am ferry, because there were only two ferries that went to Nusa Penida that day, one at 11am and one at 1pm. Of course, had we planned better, we could have booked a private speed boat from another terminal and left much much earlier.
But hey, fuck it, we were both in Bali and we didn't mind the wait.
One should have a flexible schedule when they are in paradise, right?
Bali Island to Nusa Penida Ferry Ride from Padang Bai (Gallery)
We arrived at the Nusa Penida terminal after about a good hour on the ferry. It was nice because we had the breeze blowing through the passenger area and there was a local Balinese man who was strumming a tune on his guitar. I enjoyed my cold Bintang beer along with the perfect weather while me and Rebecca talked about our upcoming adventures on Nusa Penida Island.
Top Deck of Ferry on Our Way to Nusa Penida Island from Bali Island
A View of Mount Agung from the Ferry to Nusa Penida via Padang Bai
As we were arriving into Nusa Penida, we noticed some people having fun on jet skis. It made me excited and made me look forward to Nusa Penida.
Jet Skiing in Nusa Penida
I booked a very unique kind of place on Nusa Penida, because we planned on staying the night on the island and leaving the next morning. However, we ended up staying two days on Nusa Penida because we got a late start on our first day there and also, one day just wasn't enough for Nusa Penida.
Nyuh Bengkok Treehouse Hostel
The staff at the Nyuh Bengkok treehouse hostel were very friendly and spoke just enough English for me to be able to communicate with them without going nuts, but it was all good because I had my translator with me.
We rented a scooter for about 50,000 Rupiah (about $3.60 USD) and put on our helmets and headed toward Broken Beach. I strapped on my GoPro headcam and we rode for over an hour to get there. It was fun as hell until about halfway through the trip the roads became very bumpy and rocky and then it became a headache. But we made it to Broken Beach and back without dying, so I guess overall it was a great trip. And the scenery, WOW!!
17-Minute Clip of our Scooter Trip from Nyuh Bengkok Treehouse hostel to Broken Beach
Broken Beach & Angel's Billabong on Nusa Penida Island
I was able to setup my Sony RX100 III camera on my tripod and was able to catch about 10 minutes of sunset footage overlooking the Badung Strait. I used my Filmora software to edit a shorter, 5-minute video of the sunset.
5-Minute Bali Sunset Video
If you're like me and you're a hardcore sunset junkie, then perhaps you can also appreciate the full, raw, unedited 10-minute video of the same sunset.
10-Minute Bali Sunset on Nusa Penida at Broken Beach
I promised myself before coming to Bali that I would capture a lot of great footage because I knew that I was coming to a very beautiful place and that this was going to be my biggest, most important trip yet. Bali is a HOT destination. As previously mentioned, in 2017, TripAdvisor named Bali the #1 global tourist destination and for very good reason. You just have to be there to understand why it's such an awesome place that everyone talks about.
It's something that you can feel, smell, and even taste. It's magic.
Bali Sunset on Nusa Penida Island
I invested heavily for my Bali trip, spending about $500 USD for a DJI Spark drone and about $200 USD for a GoPro Hero waterproof camera. The former can record great aerial footage of beaches, mountains, outdoor events and such, while the latter can be used as a headcam to capture awesome footage for scooters, underwater snorkeling, and even for river rafting. I also spent another $200 USD on additional accessories.
Broken Beach Rocks
As a travel blogger, I want to share my experiences with the world and to be professional about that I need to have professional equipment.
Needless to say, I'm just getting started and MY equipment is NOTHING compared to the heavyweight professional travelers who have been to 100+ countries and have been traveling for 10+ years.
But my Bali trip taught me not only what I was capable of with my minimal experience, but what I could be capable of in due time.
I believe that if we are to get better at anything, we need to be humble ourselves and learn from people who are better than us. And that's exactly what I do on a weekly basis. I study and observe more experienced travelers and bloggers and try and understand their magic formulas and incorporate some or much of what they're doing into my own formula.
While at Broken Beach, we met an Italian, a Canadian, and a German, along with a couple of other Americans. Like I said, Bali is world famous.
It was getting dark and we decided to head back and we were extra careful on those awful roads. I really need to write a serious letter to the Indonesian and Balinese governments about those roads and include a petition with signatures from fellow tourists.
We had dinner at a semi-outdoor beach restaurant upon our return to the Nyuh Bengkok Treehouse hostel and we watched a guy do some fishing/snorkeling while we enjoyed our dinner.
Nighttime Snorkeler Doing Some Fishing in Nusa Penida
We arrived back at the treehouse hostel, had some food, drank a few beers and listened to some Ray Gay music and then called it a night.
Atuh Beach (Southeast Nusa Penida)
I woke up with something that I hadn't felt since my college days at SIUC, a hangover. But I liked it because it reminded me of the good ole days and at the same time reinforced the fact that I was living it up in Bali, Indonesia.
Rebecca wanted to see Atuh Beach, which is located on the southeastern part of Nusa Penida island. But first, we needed to find a better place to stay the night. I thought the treehouse concept was cool, but neither of us could sleep in it. To shower and use the restroom we both had to climb up and down stairs that were steep like a ladder. So when I woke up in the middle of the night to piss from all the drinking, I just pissed over the side of the balcony. Everyone was asleep and inside their treehouses. I like convenience.
We made a plan and we had breakfast. Our breakfast was a plantain and an apple with coffee. I borrowed a scooter from the owner of the hostel and took a ride down the road, while Rebecca stayed behind and I checked us into a place called the Mae Mae Beach House. It was an okay hotel that was on the water and in the downtown area, and close to the ferry terminal.
Mae Mae Beach House in Nusa Penida
It was hell getting checked into this place. I showed up and the guy I spoke to was working behind the outdoor bar area and he seemed like a dimwit kinda person. He acted like he didn't even wanna be there. He had long hair and a slumped kind of posture. He showed me a room on the first floor that hadn't been cleaned from the previous occupants. He said they'd clean it. I said okay and then asked him about a scooter. He said there was one left and handed me the keys. I then went back to the bar area and sat down while he went to get the paperwork ready.
Then another guy came and said that someone had just booked the room online. I said, "wait a minute, I thought I just booked it." Being the patient, exceptional listener that I am (NOT) I got pissed off at the guy. He said that there was another room available on the second floor. I didn't wanna hear it. We exchanged a few words with each other and dropped a couple of F-bombs until I agreed to take the room. It was actually a nice room.
Mae Mae Beach House in Nusa Penida
Despite having a shitty first impression of this place, it ended up being a great place to stay and it was close to a lot of restaurants, ATMs, and as I said, the ferry terminal. After I checked in and paid the money, I went back on the scooter to grab Rebecca. The folks at the Nyuh Bengkok Treehouse hostel gave us a ride on scooters back to the Mae Mae Beach House. It was kinda weird riding with all of our stuff on those scooters up and down steep hills, but hey, it was the Bali way of doing things so I just rolled with it
(literally & figuratively).
It was around 12pm when we got settled into the Mae Mae Beach House.
I needed to charge up my drone and my other digital stuff.
We had lunch and then I was able to capture some great drone footage.
Drone Footage Next to the Mae Mae Beach House
We were at the Mae Mae Beach House for about an hour and then we headed out toward Atuh Beach, which took about an hour and a half or so by scooter. The scenery was amazing because Nusa Penida is hilly and we were riding the coast the whole way. We were able to get some great GoPro headcam footage along with some shots with the Sony RX 100 III camera.
17-Minute Clip of our Scooter Trip from Mae Mae Beach House to Atuh Beach
Atuh Beach in Nusa Penida
We arrived at Atuh Beach after about an hour and a half. We stopped for gas once. We were able to see a lot of interesting things, both on the coast and in the small farming villages that were nestled in the hills. I just love the people and the culture in Nusa Penida. It all makes me wanna live there among them and enjoy the island life in paradise. I could totally do that.
Atuh Beach in Nusa Penida
We literally had to climb down a cliff to get to Atuh Beach. I mean, there were rock steps that had been carved out of the mountain but they were very steep. We had to be very careful of our step. I walked in front of Rebecca so that she would feel more secure going down, even though it really wasn't anymore secure for either of us. She felt safer, psychologically. But at the same time, I knew that if she fell, I was going down with her.
Needless to say, we got a reward that was worth all the risk.
We relaxed on a couple of beach pallets for a couple of hours as the sun went down. I had a couple of beers and she enjoyed some BBQ chicken.
We knew that we needed to absorb every moment of what we were experiencing, for every moment we had at Atuh Beach was temporary.
But we were able to capture the pictures and videos to relive the experience.
The way back up the cliff was a bit more of a challenge. Do I need to elaborate on it? I think not, you can use your imagination.
After we made it back up the cliff, I don't think that I'd ever been more happy to sit on a scooter and allow a machine to do all the moving for me.
The way back to the Mae Mae Beach House was so relaxing with the cool evening weather, along with the ocean breeze hitting us while we traveled up and down the hilly coastal roads. And the scenery was just as good.
Moonlight Dancing on the Lombok Strait in Nusa Penida
We arrived back at the Mae Mae Beach House around 9pm or so. We grabbed a bite to eat and Rebecca went across the street to find out about transportation to the ferry terminal for the next morning. Since the next day was our last full day in Bali, we wanted to get back to Bali Island as early as possible.
Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary & Tegalalang Rice Terrace
We booked a trip for 5am and we were able to see the sun come up. It was amazing, especially when we arrived and witnessed Hindus praying on the beach to the sound of the ocean waves, and to the sight of the sunrise coming up over the clouds while hitting the water just right. This early morning Bali beach experience was one of the highlights of our trip.
Taxi Ride back to Rama Candidasa from Nusa Penida Ferry Terminal
Back at the Rama Candidasa Resort Gearing Up for Ubud
We had breakfast on the beach at the resort. The view of the ocean was amazing along with the sound of the waves. The ocean breeze and early morning temperature all made it a very pleasant experience.
Beach Breakfast at the Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa
Come to find out, we couldn't rent scooters at the resort without an international driver's license. But we could and would once we got to Ubud.
We took a private taxi to Ubud, which cost about 400,000 IDR (about $29 USD). The price for the taxi from the ferry terminal back to the resort cost about 250,000 IDR (about $18 USD). That's one great thing about Bali, it has the beauty of Hawaii but is MUCH MUCH cheaper (if you're a Westerner).
It took us about an hour or so in the taxi to reach the Ubud Monkey Forest and we made a stop at the ATM along the way. In a place like Bali, it's great to have cash on you at all times. Many places will not accept cards, especially local vendors with a mobile makeshift shop on the side of the road.
We knew once we arrived Ubud, it was pretty obvious, and the Monkey Forest wasn't too difficult to find since every single person there knows where it is.
Entrance of the Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
Ubud Monkey Forest Entrance
We knew in advance what to expect from the monkeys. Since they are used to being around people, they are very aggressive and they'll even steal from you. I had to fight one off of Rebecca as he was trying to steal her plastic water bottle. I smacked him a couple of good times. It created a scene with everyone watching and a local worker approached us with friendly advice, telling us to stow all plastic objects. The monkey bit my hand during the fight but I wasn't hurt. In fact, I was laughing about the whole thing afterwards. Rebecca was a bit shaken up but she was fine and unharmed.
Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary (Gallery)
The Monkey Forest was amazing in so many ways. The way the monkeys would just climb all over you was pretty cool. I was able to get a lot of close up shots with the camera and some great footage. The Monkeys are everywhere and they are fearless. They remind me of the squirrels in Florida.
Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
After we had our fun for about a couple of hours at the Monkey Forest, we decided to grab a bite to eat at the Bali Bohemia restaurant, which was close by. The food was good and of course, the beer was great. I enjoyed the music as well. It had kind of a 60s hippie type of theme to it.
Bali Bohemia Restaurant
After lunch we walked back through the Monkey Forest toward the entrance we came in at, since the restaurant was at the other end. We walked down the street in search of a scooter and stopped to have some Gelato. Next door was a massage parlor, so we took advantage of that since massages were on the itinerary. It was great and SO relaxing. I can't remember the last time I had a great massage. I think it was back in Wuhan last year.
After the massages, we walked further down the street searching endlessly for a scooter. In Nusa Penida, we just paid the money and we got on the scooter. At the Rama Candidasa resort in East Bali, we had to have some kind of international driver's license. It was a similar scenario in Ubud. But we managed to find a place that didn't require one. So we grabbed a scooter and headed to the Tegalalang Rice Terrace in Ubud.
17-Minute Clip of our Scooter Ride from the Monkey Forest to the Tegalalang Rice Terrace
Tegalalang Rice Terrace (Gallery)
Tegalalang Rice Terrace
I thought the Rice Terrace was cool. It just looked neat and I'd never seen anything like it before. Rebecca has seen plenty of these because she's Indonesian, so she wasn't as excited about it. There were people swinging on swings and doing all kinds of fun things. There were plenty of coffee shops and restaurants that lined the outer perimeter of the terrace. Like the Monkey Forest, the Tegalalang Rice Terrace is a must-see attraction in Ubud.
We headed back on the scooter after about 45 minutes at the Rice Terrace. We returned to scooter and found out that the people who rented us the scooter could not give us a ride back to the resort after all, as had been the original plan. Now the guy that had initially gave us a ride to Ubud told us that for 800,000 IDR (about $57 USD) he would wait in Ubud for us. I said "nah." So, we needed to find another ride and we were kinda in a time crunch. My flight was at midnight and Rebecca was leaving the next morning. It took a good hour and a half to get to the airport from the resort, depending on the traffic of course.
After searching various tour companies and taxi services along the street, we were able to book a ride for 400,000 IDR (about $30 USD) which was the same as we paid to get from the resort to Ubud. We had to wait about 30 minutes before the driver arrived.
We had a nice surprise on our way back to the resort from Ubud. It was a Hindu holiday and the Balinese Hindus were worshiping together in the streets. I was able to capture a bit of the experience.
Balinese Hindus Worshiping in the Streets during Galungan Holiday
Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa at Night
After arriving back at the resort from Ubud, I had about an hour to get things ready to head to the airport. Rebecca helped me to arrange transportation. They wanted to charge me 450,000 IDR (about $32 USD), but I talked them down to 400,000 IDR (about $30 USD). I know it's not a big difference, but being the regular traveler that I am, I always try and negotiate prices. I do this especially in Asia since almost everything is negotiable.
Last Day Together in Bali at the Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa
As I packed my things me and Rebecca said our goodbyes while we recapped on our wonderful Bali journey and discussed our next trip, which will be the Maldives in October. It will be our fourth trip together, if you include Christmas in Jakarta in 2016. She has become a really good travel companion and we have become a pretty good team with each of us having our own roles that we tend to take on during our adventures.
Rebecca was a lifesaver with her translation and previous Bali experience.
We didn't go snorkeling like we planned, but that's okay, the Maldives are coming up and it will be an even bigger trip than Bali was. Bali was my best trip yet and man oh man, I will never forget it and I will most certainly be back.
I'm grateful that I was able to share our adventures with everyone and I truly hope that you, the readers, will or have been able to enjoy Bali, Indonesia as we have. It truly is paradise and heaven on Earth.
I hope that my article was entertaining, informative, and inspiring.
Map of Bali in Indonesia (Green)
Bali is one of more than 17,000 islands that make up the Indonesian archipelago and has about 4 million people.
Modern touristy Bali was founded in the early 1970s by the surfer, hippy, Vietnam War protester genre type of people.
Bali is very crowded during August, September, and December.
The Majapahit Empire ruled Bali for over 200 years and its culture is still apparent to this day with the architecture, temples, lifestyles, attire, and Hindu and Buddhist religions.
There are about 20,000 temples on Bali Island.
Bali is the only island in Indonesia that is dominated by Hinduism, as most Indonesians practice Islam.
80% of international travelers to Indonesia travel to Bali and Bali alone.
Bali is nicknamed the "Island of the Gods" due to it's lush landscape, natural flora and fauna, and pristine beaches.
Denpasar is the largest city with over 800,000 people.
South Bali is the most visited part of the island by far, with close proximity to the airport, Western-style restaurants, and Kuta Beach being a BIG hit among international travelers.
Central Bali consists of Ubud (Monkey Forest, Tegalalang Rice Terrace, etc.) and the central mountain range along with other communities and attractions.
West Bali has the West Bali National Park and ferries to Java.
North Bali has black sand beaches and the old capital city.
East Bali has coastal villages and Mount Agung, which is an active volcano, as well as ferry terminals that offer transportation to Nusa Penida and Lombok.
Southeastern Islands include Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Ceningan which are all great for scuba diving, jet skiing, snorkeling, and scooter excursions.
Bali was ranked #1 by TripAdvisor as the top tourist destination for 2017. It was home to the 2013 Miss World pageant, the 2011 ASEAN Summit, and the 2013 APEC Summit.
The Subak irrigation system is a UNESCO world heritage site.
ONLINE RESOURCES FOR BALI TOURISM:
Top Tourist Attractions in Bali
Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
Tegalalang Rice Terrace
Broken Beach & Angel's Billabong (Nusa Penida)
Atuh Beach (Nusa Penida)
West Bali National Park
Bali Safari & Marine Park
Bali Botanic Garden
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