When I made the resolution over 2 years ago to get out of my comfort zone and take a trip a month, I didn’t see Bali on the horizon. But through a chance meeting over dinner 6 years ago that connected my partner Adam to our friend Rob who owns this beautiful place in Amed, Bali, our tickets were booked. I had heard stories from friends who had visited about the peacefulness of the place, the ritual, the offerings. I had heard about temples, and I had heard about hippy surfers. I had also heard about all the fresh fruit, the chickens and the local dogs. I had heard about the textiles, and the genuine smiles plastered on the faces of the local people. Also, four of our friends from Portland were going to be there, staying in the Villa owned by our other friend, and they had no idea we were coming. We found flights by doing a google search, and finding the cheapest days to fly. We ended up flying Delta Portland to Tokyo, to Singapore, to Denpasar Bali. The total travel time was 38 hours. We slept in the airport on the floor, we ate all the airplane food, we watched a million movies. (on the way home we stayed in the airport hotel in Singapore. TOTALLY WORTH IT).
Once we landed we were picked up by our driver Adi, who took us the 2.5 hours to Amed in his van. Along the way we stopped and tried Luwak coffee, which comes out of the digestive systems of the cutest little furry creatures, and we toured a traditional Balinese weaving town. I loved the doorways, the plants, the magical little moments everywhere you turned. These things continued to show up for us the entire trip. Arriving at our destination, the excitement of the trip settled in on us. We were met with a welcome drink of fresh watermelon juice with a plumeria blossom in it. The details. Everywhere. We changed into our bathing suits and laid by the pool but we couldn’t relax. Our excitement about surprising our friends could not be contained, and we hadn’t really planned what we were going to do or how it was all going to go down. We didn’t even know when they were coming back to the Villa from their day of wandering the village. It didn’t take long though. We were inside the house when they came in, and shouting with glee welcomed us to Bali.
For the next few days we ate breakfast at 8am and then either read by the pool, or snorkeled the local beaches.
One day, Adi drove us to town and we visited a local market. Adam bought some amazing handmade knifes, and we tried mangosteen for the first time, the unassuming brown fruit, bursting open in our fingers to delight us with its floral tasting insides. Later in the day we visited Pura Luhur Lempuyang, a famous temple on top of a mountain with over 2000 steps. We met monkeys. We sweated up the road, and laughed on the way down. The temples were immense and grand and peaceful. Stone carved by hand, of dragons and other spiritual guardians. A beautiful guide let us into one of the larger temples and insisted that I make a yoga pose when he took my photo. His smile had a purity to it that made me immediately comfortable in his presence. At the top of the mountain there is supposed to be an incredible view, but we found ourselves climbing into the clouds. We also came upon a ceremony and quietly watched awhile. Everyone had rice stuck to their foreheads. Some pink inspiration outside The Grill, a nice place we ate a few times in Amed. We popped into this hotel to have an afternoon cocktail, but the staff was all busy. Nice design ideas, but not the nicest service… Adam totally in his element… We snorkeled, ate amazing and CHEAP food, and hung out by the pool playing cards and drinking so many gin and tonics. Oh and we drank lots of fresh coconuts. (Hat by Brooke Boswell) Plant shadows and my Hackwith Design House bathing suit.
After a few days in Amed, we booked an Airbnb in Ubud, and took another 2 hour car ride to get there. Our Villa was perched up in Penestenan, a little suburb of Ubud that takes about 40 minutes to walk up to. Amid rice paddies and the songs of frogs, our place was beautifully designed, and a total dream.
We ate the most amazing fruit everyday. Two Balinese women would come over to our house in the morning and make us coffee and toast and fruit. We had so many things to do! But we ended up reading and relaxing.
Rice field magicMy Dad lived in Bali for a few months as he was recovering from a stroke many years ago, and dragonflies always came to visit him. It was amazingly special to capture this guy hanging out with us while we ate breakfast and be able to text the image via WIFI to my dad back in Portland. I know it brought him back to the heat and magic of the place.
Wandering the back alleys we found so many amazing doorways. I had to stop frequently and take photos.
The pad thai was good, but the music was better at the Art Kafe. We stumbled into this cute place that is of the Monkey Forest Road when the sky threatened to dump buckets of rain on us. We were originally seduced by the BUY ONE get ONE mojitos, but they got us with the classic rock on the stereo and the fiber art and stained glass.
I met Marcello Massoni online via a home exchange website, and though he couldn’t offer us a place to stay, he invited us to visit the ceramic factory of Gaya Ceramic that he and his wife run just outside of Ubud.
I was endlessly inspired by the space, by the detail of the pieces, and by the beautiful way that Marcello moved through the world. He and his wife came from Italy over 13 years ago after being invited to open up a workshop in Bali and they stayed. His enthusiasm was contagious, and his recommendations invaluable.
He took us through the workshop, even under construction (it was still amazing), and then to the beautiful indoor/outdoor studios where visiting artists come from all over the world to work. If you are a ceramics artist CHECK THIS PLACE OUT. It was incredible.
After our inspired tour we walked to Bambu Indah on Marcello’s suggestion. We weren’t really that hungry, but we trusted his advice and we didn’t really have any other plans.
We were transported. Bambu Indah is a beautiful resort compound where they grow their own food in the most insane green houses, the pool is actually a river flowing through the property, and the Joglos (the wooden houses) are all unique and special. I wish we had known about this place when we booked out trip. We ordered gin and tonics (seems to be the drink of the trip!) and settled into a seat with a view of the rice paddies. Founded by John and Cynthia Hardy, it is a utopia of sustainability and magic.
I highly recommend it there…around every turn, each detail was considered. It was truly magical. We will stay here for SURE when we visit Bali again. I just wanted to move in!
Before leaving Ubud we had to visit Threads of Life, a well curated shop that supports textile artists in the country. They by far had the most beautiful selection of textiles.
The next leg of our trip was a different animal. The rain came and I didn’t get to go to the restaurants I had wanted to go to, but it didn’t matter, the flow of the place is easy to slide into, and I was inspired to let it go. We found a wonderful driver to bring us to Seminyak (and it cost $30 for a 2 hour taxi). We arrived at our hotel, the Grand Balisani Suites, that I found for cheap on Priceline, and rented a scooter immediately.
That was the best idea yet. In retrospect, we should have done that sooner.
We rode around without a map. Oh to be lost! To find oneself in the act of not knowing where you are! It was thrilling. I really put my navigation skills to the test too. But we were in good hands, I saw the archway of La Favela and asked Adam to pull over. It was an odd hour, but we were hungry and the space was enchanting. The music was jazzy and the food was excellent. I think that the nighttime scene there is pretty different, definitely go during the day first, and enjoy the quiet of the gardens. Probably it would be fun at night too!
In the afternoon we visited Potato Head Beach Club. I somehow don’t have any photos of this place, but it was amazing. For sure the splurge of the trip, to rent a beach cabana for the day, you have to spend a minimum of 1,000,000 Rupiah, which is around $80 USD. It was worth it. The sunset was at our fingertips, the cocktails flowing, the pool full of sexy tourists, and the dj was spinning great mellow vibe jams.
Totally worth it. Also we saw that a jazz legend was playing there only 2 days after we left. So check the musical schedule…
Watercress was GREAT for breakfast. We ate there twice! We didn’t have the coconuts, but I saw that they come with a heart shaped opening..so thoughtful.
Everywhere in Bali the juices were amazing, and this place had really fun smoothies, salads, and a breakfast special that was so filling and good.
We just scooted around until we saw something that looked interesting and then would just pull over and walk around. Home Mate was one of these places. I almost squealed when I saw the windows. This cafe was SO CUTE. There was a store next door that wouldn’t let me take photos, but I loved it there too. I had a matcha tea and bought some sambal for our friends back home.
Over breakfast we read about this place, Motel Mexicola. The tacos were maybe the best we have EVER HAD. Ever. I ate duck confit salad and drank a delicious margarita. Adam had 2 tacos and a beer. I think it cost $28, which was not cheap, but worth it for the beautiful interior design.
Across the street from Motel Mexicola is Body Works where we got the most amazing massage.
I had actually had a bad massage in Ubud, I don’t remember the place, but I totally didn’t take any recommendations and just followed my whim, which can be good sometimes, but turns out when the worst thing that happens on vacation is a bad massage, then I am doing pretty great… This place was recommended however.
This massage made up for it.
It was $60 for 1.5 hours of massage plus a flower petal bath for both of us. The massage was deep, relaxing, and very well done. I felt like a princess. The rest of the night I was in a happy daze.
That evening I met up with Aylin, who has a beautiful handbag company, Straw The Label. Aylin and her family were so lovely, we had dinner and talked about art, music and travel. She was a wonderful resource and I now have 2 beautiful bags!
On the recommendation of Mariana of Communal LA, we popped into Brown Feather. This charming boutique hotel was 16 rooms of simple elegance. The lobby was gorgeously decorated with a relaxed wabi sabi feel. The plants were well placed, and I felt totally at home. I loved the ambiance.
Our trip ended with the kindness of strangers helping us get out of the country. We didn’t know you needed to pay to leave, and my debit card stopped working. The airline clerk wasn’t helpful and I burst into tears from the stress of it. A sweet Aussie couple gave us the money, and we were so thankful. We offered to buy them a drink with my credit card but they just said pay it forward…
Bali was like that in general. Full of wonder, paying if forward in smiles, in inspiration, in friendship and gratitude.
You have to pay to get into the country, $30 USD. You have to pay to leave too: 200,000 rupiah.
Buy textiles in Amed or Ubud, We thought maybe there would be more opportunities to find certain things, but it seemed like a lot of the objects/fabrics are very village specific.
Golden Buddha, the Grill, Snorkeling. Very chill quiet fishing village.
Bambu Indah, Gaya Ceramics, Airbnb, Art Kafe, Threads of Life, Cendana Resort, Como Hotels, Mosaic restaurant, Alchemy (amazing raw juice, sauerkraut, chocolates).
Pleas share your own favorite spots and tips in the comments below!