Hey guys! This post is LONG due... In case you didn't realize (which a pretty probable scenario), we were in Bali last year, from late September to mid October. Bali used to be one of those platonic destinations for two reasons in particular: the expensive flight rates and the fact that everyone seems to either have already been there or to be in the process of going (see... We like to be in the vanguard!). But while we were studying our chances of hypothetically travelling to Hawaii, we quickly came to the conclusion that one week in a shitty rental in the USA's 50th state would cost as much as three weeks in beachfront villas with private pools in Indonesia. Acknowledging this difference made the decision between the two destinations much, much simpler. We booked our flights to Bali six months in advance and we started gathering infos about all the places to visit, foods to eat, risks to take... We painted a picture in our minds of what we thought we would find in the island, based on all the photos from all the people hashtagging Bali-this-and-thats on Instagram. As soon as we set foot in Bali, we didn't take long to realize that it is much more than what might be seen on a social media feed: the unique fauna and flora (there are flowers that look like birds and geckos that sing all night long), an admirable dedication to the hindu religion and the nicest, most genuine people we could ever have imagined. But every rose has its thorn, and we were also challenged by some aspects of the reality in Bali: the lack of proper sanitized water, the abandonment and mistreating of dogs (well, animals in general), the serious trash and waste problem and the fact that some of the children and young folk, despite being unquestionably happy, have no ambition whatsoever simply because they know nothing beyond poverty. But that's just how things are, and we like to think that it's the bad things that make the good things even better.
Let's start from the top, shall we? We landed in the Ngurah Rai airport in Bali (feeling exhausted thanks to having spent the last 24 hours inside multiple airplanes) and at first we felt as if it were just like any other airport. Until we sped through the "Nothing to declare" corridor and walked past those last sliding glass doors and into the dense and humid +30ºC mist (that mist will instantly attach to your skin and it'll only come off once you're back home and outside of the tropics). We started hearing a murmur "Hey mister, cheap taxi cheap taxi" and "Hey friend, where you going" and we realized: this is definitely not Europe. We're in Bali! We arrived circa 10.30pm and after negotiating a taxi fare (that ended up being too expensive after all), we headed to Canggu where we spent the first six nights. This may seem like a long time, but when we've got three whole weeks to spend, we like to take things slow.
The first thing that got stuck in our minds to this day was the particular Bali scent: pretty much the whole island smells like a strangely well-balanced mix of incense, cows and corn. And this scent is so intense that our noses didn't get a break for a single second during the entire trip. We wasted no time and rented a scooter fueled by gasoline that is usually stored in Absolut Vodka bottles all across the island. We stopped by the best surf spots, the weekly (and weekend) markets and the groovy bars. One of us would stay at the beach sipping on coconut water and chewing on some grilled corn on the cob and watch the Bali dogs play, while the other one surfed at the Batu Bolong beach. But most importantly, we ate. Let's be honest, what else would a couple of vegan foodie bloggers do, in the plant-based, health foods meca, but to eat? Check out our guide at the bottom of the post, where we included all the places we recommend visiting.
Those 6 first days went by like a breeze and before we knew it, it was time to head on to another island – Gili Air – where we would spend the three following nights. We must say, the boat trip from Bali to the Gilis (an small archipelago of 3 islands off the northwest coast of Lombok) was not the most pleasant experience we've ever had, but sometimes you have to force yourself to remember exactly where you're at. It's Indonesia, we were all the way across the world from home and from the comforts we've become used to, but that's actually what's most enriching about this journey. After all, it took us only a couple of hours to get there. We sunbathed for 2 whole days, snorkelled along the coast and got tanner than we'd ever been, thanks to that little piece of paradise. Gili Air is so tiny, it doesn't even have any cars. If you don't feel like walking from A to B, all you need to do is rent bikes (which was what we did) and start pedalling and you'll soon get to know every little corner. Throw in a parasol in the southeast coast and a couple of snorkelling masks to this mix and you won't feel like leaving so soon!
But we did leave and our next stop was none other than Ubud. We were particularly excited to get to know the area, not only for what it represents but also because the second edition of the Bali Vegan Festival would be taking place. We got to meet the australian vegan activist James Aspey (check out his work if you've never heard of him), of whom we've been great fans for such a long time. We got together with a couple of friends of ours who happened to be there as well (HI THERE KITCHEN DATES!), and the four of us swept through the streets of Ubud. The central area of Ubud is as overloaded with tourists as a shopping mall in a summer's rainy afternoon – but hey, if you can overcome that fact, you'll find that it is very worthy of your time. It's important to mention that this idea we've got of Ubud, has only come to be because we stuck to the center, where all the commerce, restaurants and tourist attractions are located. Had we spent a couple of days (or more) exploring the surrounding areas, we'd surely have seen a totally different scenario. This doesn't trouble us at all, because we're positive we'll visit Ubud again sometime. And when the time comes, we'll go into the wild.
After saying goodbye to Ubud, we headed to our final destination: Uluwatu, down in the Bukit peninsula. This was where we finally gave in to the much sought-after #balilife: we had our own private villa, a swimming pool with a view to the ocean, healthy food & drinks on demand, lots of surfing and lots of beach hopping. On our final evening in Bali, we wondered how we'd feel to be back home in a little over 36 hours. Those 20 days were gone in no time, and since then 8 more months have flown by, and here we are. In our homeland, so distant from those wondrous places that it almost feels like we were never there. But the stamps in our passports' pages, the little shell we brought home from Padang Padang and the 3000 photographs we took help keep the memories alive and well.
If you scroll past the ridiculous amount of pictures we've stuffed this post with (not too fast though, cuz they're pretty <3), you get to the actual guide, where we talk about the places we went to, one by one.
WHERE TO STAY AND WHAT TO DO, SEE AND EAT
FRii Bali Echo Beach Hotel – This was where we cured the nasty jetlag with loads of rest and lots of swimming in the pool. We stayed in one of their Double Rooms with Pool Access and we highly recommend it! The staff is really helpful, the wifi works great and our room was super clean and comfy. Has television with loads of international TV channels, which helped us a lot through our long sleepless nights.
Move & Relax
Bali Fit Canggu – You don't need to do much to break a sweat when you're in Bali, but if you find it hard to just lay on your back the whole day, make sure you try one of their many classes. The gym is great, the staff is friendly and their café serves some pretty yummy smoothie bowls. We did a pilates class with a super cool australian instructor!
Chillax Spa – It's a small little spot, but perfect for a relaxing massage or a pedicure, in case you need it.
Old Man Surf Spot – Rent a surfboard for 1,5€ per hour (if we can remember correctly) and enjoy the fun waves at Batu Bolong Beach!
The Practice – A beautiful Yoga spot with a schedule full of group and private classes, all levels. They also have a great Yoga Teacher Training Program.
EAT, Drink & Lounge
The Shady Shack – We ate here more often than we'd care to admit. Between us both, we nearly tried every single item in the menu, so naturally, we cannot recommend this enough! We seriously wonder if we're ever gonna find a restaurant as good as this one, anywhere else in the world. The whole menu is yummy, but we have a soft spot for the Gyro Jack Burger, the Vegan Rollout, the Nori Bowl and the Fresh Garden Rolls. For dessert, try the carrot cake!
Deus Ex-Machina – This café owes it's vibe to the coming together of two different yet complimentary lifestyles: surf and motorcycling. We watched a movie while drinking a couple of Bintang beers (which quickly became our favourite!) on a wednesday night, which is their weekly movie night. The menu has only a few vegan options, so we had the Lentil Burgers and vegan Pizzas.
Betelnut Cafe – Not as many vegan options as you'd think, but still a pretty cool spot to grab a bite and hang for a while. We had the nachos (without cheese) and the black rice with tempeh and veggies.
Green Ginger – Boy, we had to cross a few hectic streets to get here. But if you're looking for some authentic Southeast Asian cuisine, this is it! Their whole menu is vegetarian, with several vegan options.
Pretty Poison – This is where the surfers hand it over to the skateboarders. We kinda felt like we'd just landed in California, mid 80s. We had a blast, drank a couple of beers and watched everyone skate, all to the tunes of a live band.
Fika – Not a whole lot of vegan options, but this scandinavian inspired restaurant is super pretty on the eyes and a really cool spot to relax between surf sessions.
Samadi Sunday Market – This market takes place every sunday and you can find a little bit of everything over there. Meet the organic farmers and artisans in person and get yourself some Kombucha, fresh produce, handmade clothing and accessories. We tried every single exotic fruit we could find!
Love Anchor Bazaar – Perfect place to buy unique clothing, jewellery, vintage items and handmade arts & crafts. We bought a few wooden spoons and forks, handcrafted by the very same fella who sold them to us!
Old Man's Market – We missed this market by a couple of days! But we heard it is the best of the best, so it couldn't go unmentioned.
Echo Beach – This was the first place we stopped by in our first morning in Bali. We sat by the sea and drank coconut water while watching the surfers rip some waves. There are some really cool stores and stands around, make sure to explore them if you don't mind sparing an hour or so checking what the local brands are up to.
Bale Kampung – We made our reservation through AirBnb and were super excited about staying there. It's a traditional tatched style bungalow set in a gorgeous garden with a few other bungalows. The host is super nice and the staff will prepare breakfast every morning, should you want it. There is a small outdoor lounging area with books, complimentary water, tea and coffee available, and you can rent bicycles to their nextdoor neightbour. The rooms are spacious and super comfortable – it was actually where we slept best during the whole 3 weeks.
Snorkel – You can rent snorkelling masks pretty much anywhere in the island (which was what we did), or even book a snorkeling day trip around the whole coast.
There a few Yoga Studios around the island as well, but we opted for resting our lazy bums all day at the beach.
EAT, Drink & Lounge
Pachamama – We had breakfast here one morning (cuz our lunches were pretty much always french fries at the beach), but it was more than enough to realize this is a pretty special place. Check their whole menu and enjoy the vibe of this cool hidden gem. They also have a lovely shop downstairs in the basement, where they sell handmade souvenirs and treats.
Mowie's Bar – This was the spot we chose to have dinner and watch the sunset for two nights in a row and we have no regrets! Cool place, good music, the most delicious sandwich EVER (beetroot and almond paste, pickles and arugula, stuffed in between a bamboo charcoal loaf), and of course – Bintangs.
Captain Coconuts – Again, only stopped for breakfast one morning and had the avocado toast and vegan pancakes. It is a lovely spot built entirely out of bamboo, owned by australian folk. They also have rooms to rent!
The Mexican Kitchen – We visited this restaurant in the northcoast for dinner, and had a chat with the chef to let him know we're vegan. He is super nice and knowledgeable and was quick to prepare a couple of vegan dishes, which were all delicious.
The best spot to watch the sunset, anywhere along the southwest coast of the island.
Kt. Kuaya Homestay – This family owned homestay is pretty much perfect. The place is located right in the center of Ubud and we stayed in one of their suites, straight in front of the swimming pool. The staff is nice and helpful, and the rooms are comfortable and clean. If you let them know you're vegan, they'll prepare you a fruit feast for breakfast!
Move & Relax
Taksu – This place has Yoga lessons, a restaurant AND a spa, so you could pretty much spend the whole day there. We treated our tired bodies to a balinese massage and a full body exfoliation (from which we thought we'd leave tattoo-less) on our last day in Ubud and it was the best.
EAT, Drink & Lounge
Down to Earth – We had a couple of meals here and ate lots of their goodies at the Bali Vegan Festival as well. Their menu offers a ton of vegan options, so you'll have trouble choosing (it took us about half an hour on our first night in Ubud). The restaurant is right upstairs from their organic market, where we got a couple of goodies like natural and locally handmade skincare products and superfoods that we can't easily find anywere else.
Wulan Warung – Really delicious vegan indonesian food. We had the nasi goreng, the noddles, the curry, the steamed edamame and the corn fritters. Everything was super delicious and the cheapest you'll find! Also, their lemonade was out of this world.
The Seeds of Life – They do serve meals as well, but we were totally moved by their desserts. All day every day they serve a wide variety of raw vegan cakes and energy balls. We tried a few different ones and our definite favourites were the Mocha Cheesecake, the Banoffee Pie and the Strawberry Shortcake. Yum!
Fussy Bird – The best place the load up on tempeh! Go for the burger or lasagna, they're absolutely delicious. Their vegan desserts are pretty irresistible as well.
Taman Taksu Garden Cafe – We had dinner in this restaurant in our last night in Ubud, after a wonderful massage and exfoliation for two in the Taksu Spa. The place is gorgeous and their vegan pizza was the best we've ever tasted! EVER! Cannot stress this enough. Get the PIZZA.
Kismet – Vegetarian restaurant with lots of vegan options. We shared the Pad Thai and a bunch of starters and sides. The vegan nuggets and zucchini fries were so yummy. And they also serve vegan icecream!
Sawobali – We came across this little place while we were on our way to the Sacred Mokey Forest – and let's just say we stuffed our faces with a bunch of vegan cakes so the monkeys wouldn't even have a chance of stealing them from us. There is also a buffet from which you can choose over 10 different savoury dishes, but really, the cakes steal the show!
Alchemy – Truth be told, we did not get a chance to go to Alchemy. But it was (and still is) on our restaurant wishlist and we couldn't not mention it.
Sacred Monkey Forest – We payed a visit to the famous Monkey Forest only fourty minutes away from it's closing time, and perhaps that ended up being the smartest idea of ours. You know why? Because we LOVED IT SO MUCH, we would have spent a ridiculous amount of time looking at the monkeys, had we not been pushed out by the guards. A must!
Tegallalang Rice Fields – Also a mandatory stop if you're ever near Ubud. The rice fields seem to go on for miles and miles and you can easily spent 2-3 hours just walking around the narrow pathways and soaking it all in. It's a really wonderful place to visit.
Bali Vegan Festival – We cannot say enough good things about this Festival. We have never felt more at peace than here, we loved feeling all the good vibes and being surrounded by like-minded people. Every year they prepare a pretty awesome schedule, full of workshops, talks, parties and lots of good food. If you're vegan or considering, make sure you book your trip to Bali around the beginning of October!
Sunrise Trekking to Mount Batur – Trekking all the way up to this active vulcano and watching the sun rise through the clouds was on our bucket lists, and we did it! This is the second highest point in Bali, with an elevation of 1,717 meters. We went to bed at 10pm the night before, woke up 3 short hours later and headed to the point where we'd start an 8 km walk in total. It was cold up there (10ºC... freezing cold in comparison to the usual temperatures in Bali), so we do recommend bringing an extra layer of warm clothes.
Saraswati Temple – This Temple is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Saraswati, which is the goddess of literature and art, so it is particularly beautiful and richly decorated. The lotus pond alone is worth the visit! We managed to fit a quick visit to the temple, in between the Festival activities (see up there).
Ubud Morning Market – We loved visiting the market top to bottom, but it is definitely an attack on the senses. You'll be surrounded by colors, scents and vendors calling out for you, so it's not a place for the fainthearted. We bought a few spices and ingredients (long pepper, vanilla bean, saffron threads, jaggery and tamarind paste) for the cheapest prices we've ever seen, and bargained for a beautiful handcarved mortar and pestle. Bargaining is a common practice over there, but never forget to put a smile on your face. Also, it's best to visit really early in the morning.
Green School – This is a wonderful project we've been following for a while now, on their social media and also the TED Talks their founder has given (see here and here). Not exactly located in Ubud, it is a 15 minute drive away. We actually did not visit the school because we didn't realize we would have to book the visit in advance (derp). We strongly urge you to get to know their wonderful concept, and definitely pay them a visit if you get the chance!
De Sapphire Cliff Villas – We were out of our minds once we saw the Villa with our own eyes. We even dreamt of upgrading it with a cool food blogger worthy kitchen and just staying there for life! The living room and bedroom were super spacious, the bed was amazingly comfortable, we had two bathrooms (one upstairs and one downstairs) and a large balcony with a view. The complex has a big swimming pool facing the ocean. The staff in the restaurant isn't knowledgeable about veganism but we did get the spaghetti with tomato sauce – it's a simple dish, but it hits the spot.
Surf at the many surfing spots.
Yoga Searcher – This was where we spent a good load of our time, when we were not beach hopping. It is straight across the street from the Villas, and it has a schedule full of yoga lessons, a gorgeous swimming pool, a restaurant (see below) and a really cool shop as well.
EAT, Drink & Lounge
Muz Kitchen – We had breakfast, lunch AND dinner several times at the Muz Kitchen, which is the restaurant at the Yoga Searcher. Their whole menu is vegetarian with many of vegan options, so we had lots to choose from and loved it all. We recommend the Breakfast Pancakes, the Smoothies, the Croquettes, the Garden Sandwich and the Burger! As for dessert, the Pannacotta and Tiramisu are quite the treat.
Om Burgers – We had lunch here on our first day in Uluwatu and had fun "building" our vegan burgers – you can choose the buns, the burgers, the complements and sauces and create your own unique burger. The restaurant is pretty cool and hip and it's located on one of the main streets, so it's a great place to stop by if you don't want to get too far from your favourite beaches.
Saffron Vegetarian Fusion – We drove our little scooters through CHAOS to get to this restaurant one night and it could not have been more worth it. It was one of the best meals we had. The restaurant itself is lovely, and the whole menu is vegetarian, with many vegan options. The staff is very knowledgeable, so we were able to ask for a vegan Risotto (which did originally contain cheese). The curry is delicious, as is the Tom Kha soup. We had mango sticky rice and pannacotta for dessert. Super Yummy!
Nalu Bowls – There are Nalu Bowls spots all around Bali, but the one in Uluwatu got a lot more of our attention. They serve delicious smoothie bowls loaded with yummy toppings such as their housemade granola. Perfect for breakfast our mid-afternoon snack!
Single Fin – The legendary Single Fin is where you'll want to watch the sunset in Uluwatu. Or watch your better half surf some waves. That is, if you don't surf as well. I (Rita) had a blast by myself, eating french fries and drinking watermelon juice, while André surfed down there at Blue Point
Bukit Cafe – We met with our friends for dinner (like we did, almost every single day) at this Café one night and tried a few different dishes between the four of us. Everything was yummy, staff is very friendly and playful, and it's got a cool vibe. Oh, and the desserts are a pretty good treat!
The Cashew Tree – We only stopped by this restaurant once and we loved it so so much. The place is gorgeous (and yes, there's a majestic cashew tree right by the entrance), you can really spend a good load of quality time there and all the food is delicious. We had the avocado toasts, smoothie bowls and DESSERT FOR BREAKFAST! Because, you know, why not. Do you guys want a piece of honest advice? Get the raw vegan Oreo cheesecake.
Land's End Cafe – A bit far from the main streets and popular beaches but totally worth the detour. We had the avocado toasts (we def filled up on avocados huh) and smoothies for breakfast and felt a tiny bit sad that we were not hungry for more. Friendly staff and a really cool spot!
Temple of Uluwatu – This Temple is a reference in many if not all tour and guide books. So all four of us (mind you, we were still with our portuguese friends) decided to get tickets to the Kecak Fire Dances at the Temple of Uluwatu, and off we went. Even though we sat uncomfortably for hours, squeezed amidst way too many tourists, it was an unforgetable experience.
Beaches & Surf Spots – Padang Pandang, Bingin, Blue Point and Dreamland. Mind you, there are many many others. But these were the ones we hopped to and from.
NavMii Indonesia – This ingenious GPS Map will help you get around even when you're not connected to the internet.
The Happy Cow – Vegans and vegetarians no longer feel lost in the world thanks to the Happy Cow! This app will tell you all about the cafés, restaurants and shops nearby.
TripAdvisor – Was super useful when we were deciding which attractions to visit or activities to do.