Bali is the most popular tourist destination among Australians: nearly one million visit the island each year, a lot of them return visitors. For us, it would be our first trip, and as always we wanted to see as much as possible. We decided to also pay Gili Trawangan a visit, so after flying in from Darwin, we went straight to the harbor for our transfer to the Gili Islands.
Gili Trawangan is the largest of three islands which make up the Gili Islands, which are located just northwest of Lombok. A two-hour boat-ride from Serangan Harbor in Denpasar brings you to the beaches of Gili Trawangan. The island almost exclusively lives of tourism; the main street, parallel to the beach, is lined with hotels, bars, restaurants, and tour agencies. Inland more hotels can be found, together with local housing and mosques. This is all relative though, as the island is no more than two kilometers wide.
We arrived early morning, and after dropping of our bags at the hotel, we decided to go for a stroll along the main street. There are plenty of places to get a coffee, beer, or fresh coconut. After relaxing at one of the beachside lounges for a while, we decided to take one of the traditional horse taxis to the western side of the island. We relaxed some more, enjoyed the swing in the sea, and headed back to the busier eastern side. There, after a stroll through the night market, we headed back to the hotel for a good night of sleep.
Gili is known for being a party island, and it certainly has all the ingredients for it. For us, however, it was time to head back to Bali, and discover what this island had to offer.
For our three-day stay in Bali we decided to splurge and stay in a resort in Ubud. We chose Villa Kalisat, which is actually located in Banjar Melayang, about 15 minutes away from Ubud. It turned out to be quite the change from our typical backpacking style: a luxurious and spacious room, pool, and amazing view over the forest valley. It was tempting to just stay at the resort all day relaxing, but we wanted to see what else Bali had to offer.
Since we only had two days, and a lot of sights to see, we decided to hire a private driver. After some research, we opted to go with Be Balinese, which was a great decision. Our driver, Wayan, went out of his way to show us his country, while navigating the narrow streets of Bali as a pro.
The first day started right after having a delicious breakfast at the resort. We left at 7:30AM, and headed straight to the Tegallalang Rice Fields, which are not too far away from Ubud. After snapping a picture or two, we drove onwards to Mount Batur. We stopped at a viewpoint to snap another picture, before descending to the base of the mountain to see some of the natural hot springs.
Afterwards, we headed to the Ulun Danu Bratan Temple, or simply Temple on the Lake. To get there, we drove through the mountains in the center of Bali, which was a great sight: due to it being wet season there were ample lush-green trees and rice fields all around us.
The Temple on the Lake is at the end of a beautiful temple complex. Sometimes, depending on the amount of rain, the temple appears to be on an island surrounded by water. During our visit, however, the pathway into the temple was still (barely) accessible. Nevertheless, the green grass on the water made for a beautiful picture.
Our last sight was located two-hours north, at Air Panas Banjar, a hot spring. After paying a small entrance fee (1.50$) we entered the hot springs. Plenty of locals and tourists were taking a refreshing dive in waters around 30°C. We opted to head back to the resort, since it was already late in the afternoon. The drive back took three hours, and exhausted we jumped in the resort pool before heading off to bed.
The second day started a few hours later than the first, as we wanted to catch the traditional Kecak and Fire Dance at sunset at the Uluwatu Temple. But first, we had a few other things to see: the first one being the Tanah Lot temple. Actually, a few temples make up the Tanah Lot complex. The Batu Bolong Temple, situated on a rock arch was scenic, but topped by the actual Tanah Lot Temple, located on a rock in the sea.
Our next stop was Kuta, the place to stay for most younger tourists, as there is plenty of nightlife and ample of shopping malls. We weren’t particularly interested in this, but still wanted to see it. Kuta Beach was a disappointment; the beach was very dirty and not very nice to swim at. Apart from surfing, it is best not to spend too much time there. We quickly drove through the main street, stopped at a shopping mall for half an hour, before continuing on to Uluwatu.
Yet another temple on a scenic location, Uluwatu is located at the edge of a cliff. We walked around the complex until sunset, when we joined other tourists in watching the traditional Kecak and Fire Dance. Here, a story is told by Balinese dance originating from the 30s, in this particular case accompanied by fire. The sun slowly setting over the sea made for a brilliant conclusion of our trip to Bali.
After our driver stopped at the GaRaSi restaurant for our best meal on the island, we headed back to the hotel. The next morning, after having breakfast with the monkeys, we headed back to the airport and back to Melbourne. We’re unsure whether we’ll return to Bali, as many Australians do, but it was a first time to remember!
We, Mark & Herta, are currently backpacking through Europe, and eventually planning to settle in London. Beyond that? The possibilities are endless.Read Mark & Herta’s full story.