We took to Bali with the hopes of ending up on a beautiful beach or two. To experience some blue oceans and snorkeling. Like many who go to Indonesia, we found much more than that, as well as made some new memories of course!
We arrived in Denpassar at 4:45pm via AirAsia flight from Suvarnabhumi International Airport (Bangkok). This gave us just enough time to comfortable exchange currencies and grab a taxi to our hotel. We had 6 nights to spend here in the Bali area. Our goal was to get to one of the Gili Islands. I think when planning a trip, you always have to start with your expectation or your major goal for the intended trip. For this trip, it was to sit on a beach and do nothing. We had heard from a co-worker in Thailand that the islands were very cheap to stay on, and a great value for how beautiful they were.
We arrived at Pop! Hotel Denpasar to spend the night, before trying to find out how to get on one of the Islands the next day. Honestly, I just now saw what the ratings are on Hostel World and I cannot disagree more. I am extremely satisfied with having stayed here, they were very helpful for so many reasons. After a slight problem with our reservation was resolved, they gave us a great recommendation for where to have our first Indonesian dinner. With the hotel behind us, we took a right and walked down the street. We walked for maybe a quarter mile until we found what was like an Indonesian food court, with individual vendors upstairs as well as downstairs. We were thrilled that they had phenomenal milkshakes, delicious spiced chicken and fix, and some tasty skewers. It was a great introduction to Indonesian food.
In order to get to the Gili Islands, you have to find a ferry that will take you there. Early the next day, the attendant at the hotel told us to just take a taxi into town and that we will find a fast ferry that will take us there. We lugged all of our heavy bags onto the taxi without knowing how it was all going to work out. Wherever the taxi driver took us, we found a company that would get us on a fast ferry. While we were standing outside of their doors, some merchants from another fast boat ferry came by loitering and offered us a better price. Knowing we very little frame of reference as to what a "good" price really was, other than some examples online- We just went with loiterers! We walked a little ways where we then bought the tickets, and signed some papers. It was all very sketchy, but their little ferry agency seemed legitimate enough. I mean we were honestly just trusting our taxi driver and hotel attendant at this point. It all could have been a scam I guess, but we dished out the money. We were then taken in an SUV from Denpasar to Pedang Bai, where the ferry would leave from. We had no idea we would be in that SUV for like an hour, I was feeling a little anxious as we just kept driving and driving, but there seemed to be enough ques of legitimacy that I didn't find it in me to just bail out of that car in some random village.
When we arrived in Pedang Bai, we were relieved to see a whole load of tourists that apparently had planned this trip out way in advanced and were headed toward the boat.
It was a beautiful trip to the Gili Islands. The Gili's are comprised of 3 Islands. Gili Trawangan (cheapest, dungy, party island), Gili Meno (chill, quiet, least developed island), and GiIli Air (A combination of both). We chose Gili Meno because remember the purpose was simply to get away and find a bungalow somewhere to chill for a week. The ferry took us to Trawangan where we had to find someone to take us over to Meno. We found a guy with a very small boat which looked like it floated. He dropped us off randomly by a beachside resort on Meno. We then randomly saw a donkey taxi (yep) that took us to the Gili Meno Eco Hostel. Think Peter Pan and the Lost boys kind of vibe. It felt like a fort built of tiny sticks. I honestly had a great time, but we had no airflow in our tree house bungalow, and the sun was absolutely scorching. Kathryn had successfully developed an absolutely killer sunburn from the ferry ride earlier that day. Every time we went to the bathroom we'd get ashes stuck to our butt thanks to the compost toilets they used. The shower water smelled like sulfer and tasted like it came straight out of the ocean. Our time was concluded when most of Kathryns soaps and makeup melted in the sun, it was time for me to be the man and rescue us from the decision I made to stay here in the first place, even the hammock I was resting in snapped, and I hit my head off the floor. It just wasn't going right. Like I said, I could have managed, but maybe with a group of 6 guys who were trying to save money and have the "authentic" experience.
We then skipped over the Blue Coral Bungalows, and landed a phenomenal bungalow with an ocean view, AC and a fan for 20usd a night. This rescued the trip. It was located just next to Ryan's Cafe, a place that we loved getting breakfast at, and just around the corner from MAHAMAYA Boutique Resort, a place where we were gifted two dinners from my family back in the states. Oh my, Mahamaya is the best. If you are ever going to the Gili's you need to stay or eat at Mahamaya. I have no idea how they were able to provide the most delicious lamb lollipops or vegetables on this island, but it was divine. They also provide a delicious sounding catch of the day, depending on what it is they catch!
We had an overall great time here on Gili Meno. We walked around the island once every morning which I believe was around 2 miles. After that it got extremely hot and we would read in the shade or snorkel until lunch. At night we would experience the most beautiful sunsets, especially from Mahamaya. The fast ferry gave us a ride back to the mainland as was promised, and we had another stay at Pop! Hotel, who arranged for us a very early taxi ride to the airport for our flight. We enjoyed a free breakfast which we will never forget, as it was some kind of meat wrapped in a strange tropical leaf. We then set for Kuala Lampur at 6am on our way to Tokyo.
If we had different motives for going to Bali rather than just hanging out on an Island, or if we had more time, we would have definitely gone to Ubud. I have heard amazing things about the villages in rural Indonesia. Another thing that we noticed was the incredible architecture. We felt like there was a large similarity between Thailand and Bali with all of the temples and spiritual architecture on display, but in Bali there was a certain darkness and grit to it. We could tell this was a place that deserved a lot more time and exploration than we gave it. A place we will go back for sure.