Honeymoon in Bali - Jennifer Quest Photography

Honeymoon in Bali

Honeymoon in Bali

Below are some stories from my honeymoon to Bali with my hubby Aaron.  The pictures contained in this blog are off of a small point and shoot camera, my i phone.

 

Bali is an island and province of Indonesia. The province includes the island of Bali and a few smaller neighboring islands to the south-east, Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida, and Nusa Ceningan. It is located to the east of Java and to the west of Lombok and the Gili Islands, in the Indian Ocean.

 

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Bali is known for it’s stunning rice terraces, powerful surf, sandy beaches, beautiful temples and devoted offerings.  Although most islands in Indonesia are Muslim, the Balinese hold mostly to Hindu culture and religion… a fact that you can’t miss upon arrival, as traditional offerings of all shapes and sizes are found almost everywhere.

During our stay, we explored the areas of Kuta, Balangan Beach, Uluwatu, Nusa Lembongan, Gili Trawangan, and Ubud.  Over the course of 3 weeks, I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to see so much diversity in such a small place.

 

Upon our first waking in Bali, our hotel was alive with sights and sounds.  Beautiful carvings decorate paths and lush plant life surrounded us.  Unknown creatures call out to each other, and a dampness blanketed the air, bringing out my natural curls that usually hide in the more dry California air.

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We were staying in Kuta, a bustling town known for heavy partying, crazy traffic, vendors galore, and hard crashing waves.  It seemed to live up to it’s name in all areas, though we never made it into the party scene.  Admittedly, I was struggling with some jet lag.  This didn’t take away my extreme gratitude to be on this trip, however I did feel a heavy fog hanging over my usually bouncy energy.  I was just happy to be there, to stroll and relax with my lover.

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We spent a couple days wandering… trying our best not be overwhelmed and/or scammed by pushy vendors peddling wares, watching people get smashed on the waves, and avoiding the aggressive style of driving that seemed to rule the streets.. (and sidewalks)!  Eeep!  Yikes!  We did get a very nice couples massage, ate some yummy food, and took time to research this foreign land  and plot more of our trip.  We didn’t pre plan every stop ahead of time, we left some room for spontaneity.  We did however plan our next stop, which was to stay a few days in Balangan Beach, south of Kuta.

 

The ride in our taxi to the Balangan Beach was fascinating to say the least.  The sides of the road were filled with a mixture of ornate temples with offerings all about, trash, beaten down warungs (local, inexpensive, open air cafes), and lush greenery.  Traffic was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.  At any moment, another scooter or car was coming our way, head on, then quickly veering out of the way.  Everyone went everywhere at once, and I saw many close calls. Phew!  With my perspective,  this occurred like a death trap waiting to happen.  Just the thought gave me a flutter of anxiousness thinking about the moment when I would likely take my first scooter ride in this uncomfortable scenario.  Haha!  Most people seem to be making it out alive… So the odds were in my favor, yes?  I sure hoped so.  Suddenly La traffic seems so much more manageable…. At least there is structure.  But as they say, when in Rome.  At some point I’d try this out.

 

The further south we got, the less green there was.  The terrain went from mostly flat to steep and mountainous.  Dry brush and cactus appeared, creating natural fencing, with trash caught in its grasp.  Gradually, everything began to feel more isolated.  The occasional Bed and Breakfast, a Balinese family compound, a temple… Skinny cows munching dried weeds.  Clearcut fields and brush…  and more of the same.  Finally our driver reached our Bungalows, overlooking the cliffs of Balangan Beach.

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It felt like we’d just landed in the middle of nowhere ville, Bali!  Haha!  As far as I can tell, we were a long way from any stores, any services, and from most people.  Well, it’s actually not that we were that far from anything in distance… as Bali is quite small, but as we quickly learned, you don’t really get anywhere too fast in Bali.  The roads are smaller, the pace is slower, and when you aren’t in the less populated countryside, the city streets are packed.

Once we arrived, we grabbed some curry from our bungalow chef and took a look from the cliffs we were perched on to the surf below.  The waves were big and consistent… Aaron was excited to get on some of those waves.  First we’d have to score him a rental board.  We hiked down the cliff and found a row of beaten down warungs; giant shacks, seemingly cut off from the rest of the world.  Produce warmed the sun, while laying in the back of truck beds.  I saw very little refrigeration that looked to be mostly reserved for beer, and only generators for electricity.  Dogs scavenged along with bugs for food, and it became quickly clear that the locals that ran these establishments also lived in them.  Most had a second story, which appeared to be home.  We didn’t end up having luck getting Aaron a surfboard that day, as the tide was already heading back out, and this particular beach had a huge amount of coral and rock, that made surfing more likely to snap a board when the tide was out.

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IMG_0160The next morning, we were up bright and early to get Aaron a board and enjoy the day.  The surf was a little smaller, but still fun, and the scene was absolutely beautiful.  I worked on my tan, while reading, and when Aaron returned we sipped on some Bintang (Bali Beer), while watching the waves and surfers.

IMG_0163 We spent a couple of days in this quiet place, shared in a night at the hookah bar, frolicked in our pool, did yoga and enjoyed the remote nature of Balangan.

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As our stay here was coming to it’s end, we knew we were headed next to Uluwatu, a town famous for world class waves, and according to Surfline, the waves were due to be abnormally large.  Us being the water loving, wave enthusiasts that we are, we’re stoked and excited to get there and check it out.

 

Our single day in Uluwatu was jam packed.  Our taxi driver took us to a coffee plantation along the drive south, where we sampled the local Luwak Coffee, along with other flavored coffees and teas.  We saw how the Luwak coffee was made, and picked up some yummy teas to bring home.  By the time we left, we were both high from all the caffeine, and ready to take on the world!

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The hotel was gorgeous.  It was perched right on the edge of this stunningly unique, cliffside town, with a killer view of the Uluwatu Surf break.

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IMG_0275We were eager to get a closer eye on the waves, so we made our way through the town, which literally climbs its way down the steep cliff, with shops and warungs dotting the way.  Vendors sold all kinds of souvenirs each of them claiming to have the best price, while a buzz of energy filled the air as surfers lined every area that you could catch a good glimpse of the surf break.  The waves this day were too big and too powerful for most people to enter.  I was thankful that Aaron decided not to surf, as the 20 ft waves shuddered the cliffs.  It was so very exciting… and quite dangerous!  We climbed down further and further, the steps getting steeper and steeper, and I wondered how in the world these locals were balancing heavy baskets filled with food and small pallets of beer on their heads on such uneven, steep ground.  As we reached the bottom of the cliff, we entered a cave, where the ocean rushed inside.  It seemed to be a lower tide at the moment, however the pulse and strength of the ocean was undeniable.  I tried to imagine what it was like at high tide… then realized I wouldn’t be standing in that particular spot if it was!

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There was a man made bridge that led up and up to rock that led to Delpi Warung.  This seemed to be the absolute closest place we would be able to watch the waves, so we decided to grab a bite and a Bintang, and sit in awe of the amazing display of nature and courage before us.

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The place was alive with excitement as everyone inside had their eyes glued on the brave surfers who dared to take on the waves.  I was amazed to see the strength of the current and how fast it would pull the bodies of these strong men to the north.  They would release into the current and then gradually swim around the back of the waves to the west to catch their rides.  This was by far one of our favorite places and moments on our trip.  It was humbling, inspiring, and beautiful.

 

After a few hours, we gathered ourselves and headed back up top to enjoy some playtime in our pool, before we planned to head to the renowned Uluwatu Monkey Temple, a Balinese Monastery.

There we caught our first up close glimpses of many frisky monkeys, watched the sun set over the gorgeous temple walls that lined the cliff, and saw a traditional Balinese Kecak Dance, otherwise known as  the Ramayana Monkey Chant, that was truly quite enchanting.  Balinese dance is so different than all forms of dance I have known in my past.

IMG_0253It was fascinating to watch how each and every detail of their movements, from their hands and toes to their eye movements which gradually told the tales.  Their costumes were pristine and colorful, and the performers and chanters were passionate and powerful.

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We sure did pack a lot into that day… if there was one thing I would change about our trip, I would have made our stay in Uluwatu a bit longer.  The energy of the place was undeniable, and a powerful draw.  We will be back!  One day…

 

The following day, we left mainland Bali and headed to the lovely and tiny island of Nusa Lembongan, known for seaweed farming.

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It has much slower pace than the mainland, and traffic was much, MUCH less there, which got me feeling a lot safer to try out the local way of travel, motorbikes.  The only main vehicles on the roads were trucks bringing tourists to and from the boat landing to their hotels.  Most transport of goods are carried on Locals heads!  It’s very different than home.  Fascinating!

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We choose to stay in a more isolated area on the far eastern side of the island nearby Nusa Ceningan, which is the next closest island.   A tiny bridge connects the 2, visible from our villas.

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We had a gorgeous view from our terrace at the Twin Island Villas.  Our view overlooked dense jungle, a mangrove forest, and a turquoise channel that runs between the two islands.  As the light changed on the channel before us, the turquoise morphed between a deeper blue, to light green, gold and even a stunning, iridescent purple.  Our ears were filled with the sounds of roosters,  other birds, water and small raindrops… The air smelled of noodles and curry, spring rolls and wet leaves.  We were quickly greeted by an adorable litter of puppies.

Our first morning on the Island, I crashed and burned literally.  Though not on a motorbike… and if you’d asked me ahead of time, that would have been the only way I had thought I might get hurt.  The runner in me, woke up inspired and eager to explore, had gotten Aaron all pumped up to go for a run, and about 100 yards after we started, I hit a huge rock on the extremely rough, not meant for jogging road. Time seemed to stop as I went flying, and then crashing into the ground.  It hurt quite a bit and I surprised myself with instant tears.  To our surprise, as I turned over to stand, I uncovered Aaron’s flip flop, which much have been carried off by one of the playful puppies.  Both knees cut and bruised, my hand gashed and all kinds of bruises and scrapes later, Aaron escorted me gently back to the room and used our first aid kit to tend to my needs.  We scrubbed the rocks out of wounds to ensure no infection, and were ever so grateful that my intuition had told me over and over to pack that first aid kit, and pack it well I did!

Needless to say, that slowed us down sport wise.  Aaron left it up to me to decide what activities we took on, being that I was wounded.  After some rest and ice, I still wanted to explore and wasn’t going to let the fall get me down… Even if I was sore and bloody.  Water-sports didn’t feel appropriate anymore, considering the open flesh wounds on my body, but there was still so much to discover about this amazing place.

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For a few days, we road our motorbike together through the hills, my arms wrapped lovingly around my sweet hubby, giggling when our helmets crashed from the bumps in the road.

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We visited cliffs with huge waves and sharp volcanic rock.  There were occasionally rouge waves that at first we’re absolutely shocking, and then wonderfully thrilling!  We stayed at this spot for quite a while, in awe of the power of the ocean.

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We rode up and down, through the hills of Lembongan, to the main village of Jungut Batu.  There was so much we loved about this place..  It’s peacefulness, it’s people, and it’s remarkable beauty.

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We stumbled upon a mangrove forest on the beach that looked like the stuff dreams are made of.  It was heavenly.  We sipped cool coconuts and sat in the mostly nearly still ocean water on the north side of the island… far different than the water on the south and west, which was cooler and much more powerful.

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We relished in the delicious cuisine of Indonesia, checked out sea life, marveled at the running of these tiny villages and their way of life.  Every single home has a temple, and the villages have larger temples as well.  Anywhere and everywhere we looked, were colorful offerings made of Palm leaves, flowers, rice, candies and incense… all offerings to the God’s of their faith.  It’s their belief (Balinese Hinduism, without the Indian Caste system) that the gods immediately take the essence of the offering, so it’s no trouble when the mostly homeless animals and hordes of ants eat from the offerings.  The offerings are so numerous that at times you almost can’t avoid stepping on them.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  They’re on the sides of the roads, at every entrance to every home and establishment, inside bathrooms and taxi cabs… the list goes on and on.  They are made in many shapes and sizes, and far too numerous to count.  I felt a deep respect for the commitment and discipline of the Balinese to not miss a beat when it comes to these sacred gifts.

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As beautiful as it is, I was ever reminded that it truly is a 3rd world country.  There didn’t seem to be the infrastructure to deal with trash or recycling.  The sheer amount of waste at times was shocking, cluttering the outsides of homes, the streets and fields.  The tourism industry for the most part only makes the matter much worse, with endless plastic bottles and no place for recycling… they are all burnt instead.  My heart yearns for a solution… What can be done to clean all this up? This beautiful earth.  Our planet, our home?  It made me wonder what my footprint, left on Bali would be.  How many water bottles of mine would end up stacked at some family’s home, until set ablaze, releasing toxins into the precious air?  I certainly don’t know the answers… but it’s no doubt something important to think about.

Regardless of that, the trash, the poverty… the beauty there is breathtaking.

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Our next stop, led us to the Muslim province of Lombok, or to be exact, to the charming island of Gili Trawangan, aka Gili T.  After a 2 and a half hour boat ride, Aaron and I arrived in what is now one of my favorite places ever.

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Wowza!  This place was an absolute wonderland of clear, warm water, perfect sandy beaches, a fascinating main strip and absolutely no cars or motorized vehicles were allowed, making the experience that much more relaxing.

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We enjoyed eating at the numerous hip restaurants with our toes in the sand, listening to house music playing as we munched, looking east to the large Island of Lombok.  We had heard that out of the 3 main Gili Islands, Gili T had the most crazy party scene… however that was not our experience.  Perhaps it was our moods, lost and found in the romance of our honeymoon.

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The vibe for us was perfectly dreamy and relaxing.  We stayed at the beautiful Vamana Resort, located right on the edge of the beach, with a great group of friendly staff and lots of sweet kitties that lived on the property.  In fact, Gili T is filled with cats… no dogs, and nearly all had deformed tails.  Such a curiosity!

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We spent our days snorkeling with vibrant fish, enormous coral bulbs and enchanting sea turtles.  The water was absolutely magical.  It was a perfect combo pack of wonder, mystery and excitement. It was nearly clear except for the dark drop off about 50 yards out from the beach.  Straight into the depths of the ocean.  As the current pulled me closer to the drop, the pull was stronger, the water temperature plummeted, and could I feel my heart jump!  The much deeper water may have had a bit more mystery than I was up for, so I quickly swam back to the more shallow, gentle water.  The adrenaline spike was fun!

We spent hours soaking up warm rays of sun while reading, sipping on fresh juice and yummy cocktails.  We found a samba restaurant with a live band that played all our favorite classic rock tunes over a yummy feast, while we toasted our love with tequila!  Yum!

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We checked out the night market, jam packed with tourists, who were eagerly awaiting their turns to try out all the numerous kinds of Indonesian dishes.  We enjoyed our stay on Gili T so much, that we postponed our trip back to the mainland.  Being the beach and sun loving, laid back lovers that we are, we had certainly found our own little piece of paradise.

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An almost 3 hour boat ride, landed us back in Bali.  Our final destination was to be just over a week in the bustling town of Ubud.  We split our final days between a relaxing home stay located within the rice fields, just outside the city, and then at Cendana Resort, located right inside the heart of Ubud.

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Our stay surrounded by the rice fields brought about a calming peace and stillness inside of my spirit.  Perhaps it was the depth of the green, the soft sway of the rice on the breeze..  I don’t know.  I found it rather meditative.  Aaron and I watched as workers tended their rice both night and day… bent over for hours on end.  We had a deep appreciation for the work being done there, and for the beauty it left for us to appreciate.

IMG_7450Ubud was both a delight and an adjustment to all the senses.  With cars and scooters going every which way, people crowding the sidewalks, more shops than you could ever imagine with people beckoning you in, locals offering massages, temple tours and other services left and right, and the occasional frisky monkey climbing a telephone pole, I often didn’t know which direction to look!  Sensory overload!

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While Bali on a whole was a very easy place for us to maintain our vegan lifestyle, Ubud in particular, was our favorite place to eat along our journey.  We delighted in some of the best vegan dishes we’ve ever had… not to mention the best milkshake (made from cashews)!  I could go for one of those right now.    A few of our top restaurant choices in Ubud include: Soma, The Seeds of Life, Clear Cafe (which has unfortunately burned down since our visit), and Siam Sally.

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We scored unique decor to bring home and gifts for loved ones.  We bought the biggest bag we could find for all our scores.  We relaxed into plentiful massages.  I think over the course of the whole trip we each got 17 massages.  What a blessing to receive the benefits of healing hands at such a discount.  We chose to tip well, as the 5-12$ an hour prices made the whole experience feel like such a steal.  The Balinese salaries are vastly lower than ours at home… the difference was quite astounding!

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One morning we decided to explore the Sacred Monkey Forest of Ubud.  This was no doubt one of our most thrilling experiences.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a monkey climb up me before.. and this was the norm here.  Upon entrance, we were greeted by friendly women selling bananas, and helpful monks offering tips on how to handle the monkeys.  Since we were there early in the day, the monkeys were excited and ready to eat.  They were smart too.  There was no hiding bananas from these cute creatures.  They’d find whatever food you had in your pockets before you even knew they were on you, and by the time you could move they had already climbed to your shoulder or head for a little sit down.  At first it was startling, but once I relaxed into the experience, it was all good.  One just took a seat in my hand for a while… it was so cute, with it’s tiny little face and hands.

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I especially enjoyed watching Aaron with the monkeys.  He was definitely more brave than I, and didn’t mind a few monkeys climbing him at once.  His smile was priceless, as he bonded with them.  We spent a few hours there, feeding the monkeys and watching them interact in their family units.

IMG_7519 (1)It truly was a precious thing to witness.  We decided to get a last bunch of bananas, but to our surprise, the monkeys were too stuffed from the hours of feeding to take even one more!  They could barely move.  We found a super sweet monkey that reached out her hand for a banana, but was in too much of a food coma to actually take it.  Bonding with these sweet animals was a special treat for us, that we’ll never forget.

 

During our trip, we shared in so many cherished experiences… this really only counts for a small portion.   I am endlessly grateful for the opportunity to explore the world with my creative, loving, adventurous and playful husband Aaron.  The world shines brighter by just having him in it, and the treasure of exploring this existence with him by my side is a gift unlike any I’ve ever known.

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