With everything that's been going on in the world, it seems a lot longer than three years since we set off on our two-week trip to Bali. We'd never been further afield than Portugal and Spain, so the tropical beaches and fascinating culture on the island of Bali intrigued us.
We booked two weeks in the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel and Spa, which is located in an absolutely massive gated complex of about a dozen luxury resorts. On arriving from the airport, we were blown away by the sheer beauty of the resort. Notably, it was steeped in Balinese culture, which we were to learn a lot about over the course of our trip!
The hotel and spa boasted a beautiful pool (complete with poolside bar)
We had the option of using our half-board status to eat in a variety of restaurants on the resort grounds - but our favorite was Tamarind. Tamarind is a feat of engineering in itself, constructed entirely from bamboo, and situated on the beach overlooking the crystal blue Indian Ocean. The restaurant offered a huge range of food and drinks, with a strong focus on traditional Balinese cuisine. My favorite meal was definitely Nasi Goreng, a rice based dish with egg and chicken. I have tried to recreate it several times since, but alas - no-one does it like the Balinese! An added bonus, while you eat, you’ll often be visited by the adorable tree squirrels that loiter around the outdoor tables hoping for a scrap of food!
Bali, once you move outside of the resorts and the main centres like Kuta and Ubud, is a haven of untouched jungle, inactive volcanos and hundreds of temples. We decided that we'd love to get a tour of 'real' Bali, so we booked a tour guide to bring us around the island for a day. The tour, which was by private taxi, only cost 1,000,000 rupia! (Don't worry, that's only about €60!)
On this trip, we visited a temple at the edge of a volcano caldera...
The world-famous Balinese rice paddies, a UNESCO World Heritage site...
We went white-water rafting on the Ayung River....
Visited the monkey forest and got up close and personal with its inhabitants...
We met the elephants at the Elephant Safari Park...
And went to a traditional Balinese dance show (we didn't want to take photos here as it was a small auditorium).
As a coffee addict, my favorite part of the tour was the visit to the mountain-side plantation where the world's most expensive coffee, Kopi Luwak, is grown and roasted. Kopi Luwak is made from the beans which are taken from the digestion (yes, the poo) of the Civat Cat - which only eats the ripest berries. The beans are washed and roasted to give possibly the richest, strongest coffee I've ever had! I also enjoyed bringing home a bag and serving it to my family only to tell them afterwards about its origins!
Needless to say, on arriving back to the hotel that night, we ordered room service and slept a solid 12 hours!
What struck me most about the trip through the island was the stark contrast between the opulence of the tourist resorts, and the poverty faced by many of island’s residents. Driving through village streets, we saw children playing barefoot outside shanty homes – many adults work in trades such as woodcarving and silversmithing, with entire streets dedicated to each individual trade. When we visited the elephant park, one of the workers told us that the children are sent to the towns for school, while the adults stay to work the land, living in poorly constructed huts and sometimes, even tents. Many homes are without electricity or running water.
Despite the hardship faced by such a large proportion of the Balinese, we couldn’t help but notice their joie-de-vivre. Everyone we met had a smile and kind word, and they were honoured that we had travelled all the way from Ireland to visit their small island, of which they are very proud.
TRIBUTES - If you go for a walk in the evening in Bali, be careful where you step. Every evening, the Balinese leave out beautiful little handmade baskets as part of their religious practice, to show thanks for what they have. These tiny 3 inch baskets contain everything from flowers, to coins, to cigarettes! A really unique and beautiful way of showing gratitude.
All in all, the visit to Bali was an adventure and a half. Whatever you’re looking for in a holiday, you’ll find it on this beautiful island!
Written by Lyndsay Considine
Trip was taken September 2017, average temperatures 32-35 degrees in high humidity