Bali, an exotic Indonesian paradise referred to as The Island of the Gods, has been at the top of my bucket list for years, largely due to its remoteness, fascinating Hindu culture, and mesmerizing beaches. My friend Ashley just returned from a solo trip to Bali and filled me in on what makes it such a unique and spectacular destination. Read on and pack your bags!
Lisa: Ok Ashley, why Bali?
Ashley: Because Bali has EVERYTHING! Where else can you find such rich culture, stunning natural beauty, delicious organic food, a monkey forest, incredible waterfalls, an elephant sanctuary, and a volcano to climb all on one island?! Seriously, Bali is for everyone – foodies, animal lovers, beach bums, hikers, hotel snobs, arts enthusiasts, scuba divers, you name it. The island has so much to offer. I spent 2 weeks there and just barely scratched the surface.
Lisa: Could you share some of the highlights of your time in Bali?
Ashley: One of the most incredible experiences of my life was bathing an elephant at the Elephant Safari Park and Lodge in Taro, Ubud. The park is set in a lush jungle and maintains Bali’s largest herd of 31 Sumatran elephants. I’ve always loved animals and having the opportunity to feed, wash, and interact with these gentle giants in a natural setting was pretty surreal. I’m not sure who enjoyed it more.. as you can see we were both pretty happy! He even painted me a picture!!
Ashley: Another highlight of the trip was spending a couple of nights on Gili Trawangan, an island off the coast of Bali. It’s known as a “party” island due to its strip of bars and hotels on the beach with a laid-back, Key West vibe. Cars are banned on the island and transportation consists of horse-drawn carts (which I don’t recommend due to the treatment of the animals) or bikes. I stayed at Vila Ombak Hotel in one of their traditional indigenous-style wood huts with an outdoor bathroom and open-air living area. It was heavenly.
Ashley: I climbed Mt. Batur on a sunrise hike, a life-changing experience. Mt. Batur is an active volcano and a sacred mountain, according to Hindu belief. We started the climb in the wee hours of the morning and it was very challenging. Imagine hiking straight up a rock path in the dark with a tiny flashlight for 2 hours. It was so worth it once we reached the summit, though. I felt like I had scaled Everest and the sunrise was other-worldly. My guide even served me a tasty breakfast of eggs and bacon cooked using the steam from the volcano. Tip: I highly recommend wearing hiking shoes, NOT tennis shoes like I did.
Ashley: I went to an incredible Kecak Dance ceremony in Uluwatu, an artistic masterpiece that depicts the history of Bali through symbolic dance. Set in the open air at sunset above a cliff facing the sea, the performance used no artificial backdrop or musical instruments; only an orchestra of chanting men. It was very dramatic, colorful, and passionate.
Lisa: I’ve heard the food in Bali is delicious and organic. What did you think of the cuisine and restaurants?
Ashley: Yes the food was very healthy and beautifully presented. It was almost too pretty to eat. There were so many unique restaurants I felt like all I did was eat and there were several I didn’t get to that looked intriguing. The smoothie bowls were outstanding, the coffees were artfully decorated, and the seafood was from ocean to table.
Lisa: Where did you stay on Bali?
Ashley: My home base for the trip was at The Hilton Bali Resort in Nusa Dua in the southern part of Bali. It is a stunning hotel perched atop a 40 foot cliff with amazing views of the Indian Ocean. Nusa Dua is an enclave of 5-star hotels and resorts, quiet with stellar beaches and high-end restaurants. I visited Uluwatu, Canggu, and Seminyak during my stay and each had lovely and affordable hotel offerings. My five-star stay was about $120 a night.
Lisa: Your trip sounds like a slice of heaven. Thanks so much for sharing it with me and the readers, Ashley. I’m joining you on the next one!!
Ashley: My pleasure! Can’t wait to go back!!