After a wonderfully blissful few days on Gili Trawangan Island in Bali, where we spent our first Christmas together as a married couple, it was time to pack our bags again and depart for the next destination of our adventure.
We were travelling for just under a month for our honeymoon, and although that is most definitely a lovely amount of time to holiday, in some ways it was also extremely short for all of the destinations we packed in. We could have easily had that amount of time in each country we visited! Many people thought we were mad to attempt so much travelling within the trip, and there were times within that month (packing my bag for what felt like the umpteenth time, getting stuck in Singapore airport overnight when we hadn’t slept for 24 hours) when I might have agreed with them, but on the whole being able to squeeze as much out of our time away and see all of the incredible sights we did was a dream come true, and exactly the type of honeymoon we wanted.
The trips in which we’ve travelled around from place to place and soaked up as many different spots as we could, have always been our favourite in the past. We’re not really very good at staying in one place for a two week holiday and coming home with nothing more than a tan. Mainly because neither of us actually has the ability to tan (1 Scot + 1 Ginger = whitest couple on the beach) and also because we both get ridiculously itchy feet.
Having said that, after a year of wedding planning stress, we knew that at least some R&R within the trip was definitely needed, and our time in Bali was designed with this in mind. Although we both fell in love with the simplicity and beauty of the Gili Islands, we felt it would be a shame to travel so far and not spend some time on the mainland itself, and so we split our time, and finished up our Bali adventure with a stay in Ubud, the gorgeous jungle countryside in the centre of Bali.
Despite the fact that it was only a short boat ride and taxi transfer from one destination to another, they could not have been more different and as soon as we arrived back on Bali soil and began the drive through busy roads and lush tropical countryside it felt as if we’d arrived in a whole new country. We’d left behind open spaces, sandy beaches and breezy sea air for dense greenery, high humidity and rice fields and palm trees at every corner. Each were beautiful in their own way, but there was a certain frantic-ness in the air as we arrived back on the mainland, that simply wasn’t there on the islands. Initially the roads were busy and noisy (there are no speed limits in Bali so the taxi drivers kind of make their own rules) but as we started to get further inland towards Ubud and our remote accommodation the pathways narrowed and the busyness ceased somewhat.
Our villa had it’s very own spa so we could request treatments to our own little haven!We stayed at a resort called Alam Ubud Culture Villas and Residences which was a pretty breathtaking place to be. Set apart from a lot of the other hotels, it was in a remote area, built up onto a hill and overlooking dense rainforest. Accommodation in Bali is still ridiculously cheap so for a fairly budget price we found ourselves in a gorgeous hilltop spa villa with our own private pool. Yup that’s right – our OWN pool overlooking that gorgeous scenery. We jumped in there within minutes of arriving, especially seeing as the heat in Ubud felt twice as hot as it had on the Gili Islands, and I honestly could have stared out at that view forever. To be totally honest we didn’t make the most of that private pool nearly enough in the few days we were there, mainly because there were two other pretty jaw droppingly gorgeous pools hidden amongst the tropical landscape and I got a tiny bit obsessed with a certain infinity pool.
Although we also stayed in the jungle in Borneo, which was equally beautiful and mind blowing, there was something kind of monumental about the jungle in Bali. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but it felt vast and almost other worldly. Perhaps it was because we were so high up on a hill, but yet the trees around us reached up further still making it feel as if we were perched on the edge of the world looking down. It was certainly like nothing my eyes had ever witnessed before and as such our time here felt rather epic and cinematic. As I mentioned in my travel diary from this part of the trip, there was a a bit of a Jurassic Park vibe to the place and I honestly don’t think I would have been surprised if a Diplodocus has stuck it’s head over our balcony at one point.
When you’re as white as the stairs LOL!Ubud is often described as the cultural heart of Bali and there are lots of great areas for exploration around this part of the country. We had every intention of visiting temples and hiking to waterfalls, but when it came to it our time there went by in a flash and we rarely digressed further than the pool or the restaurant on most days. This was partly due to the heat, which frankly was a lot more intense than either of us could cope with and had zapped us of all energy by around midday meaning all we could manage was lazing around reading books, or cooling down with a cocktail by the pool (hard life eh?) but also partly due to the fact that our surroundings were so beautiful that we didn’t feel the need to leave.
On our last day there however, we took a trip into Ubud town and spent the afternoon browsing the markets before eating out and having a few drinks. I have to admit that it was a bit of a shock to me how cosmopolitan this little town was. Having driven only 15 minutes from Jurassic Park wilderness suddenly we found ourselves in a busy and bustling town with market traders lining one street, cult stores such as Pandora and Billabong on the next and throngs of beauty salons, restaurants and bars full of hip travellers sitting outside soaking up the sunshine, around the corner. I couldn’t quite decide whether I liked it or not. Part of me was glad to be near amenities once again (by this point I’d had an ear infection for a few days and was finally able to visit a chemist and get some ear drops) but the other part of me couldn’t help but feel that some of the culture had been lost.
The markets were fun, but arguably full of more tat than true Balinese souvenirs and the traders were quite forceful in their selling. At one point I made the mistake of opening my purse in front of one of them when buying a printed shawl (which saved me from some sunburn that day and ended up being my most worn item of the holiday so was worth it) and upon seeing the notes in there, I suddenly had about 6 sellers swarmed around me, handing me wooden toys and Bintang T-shirts and spouting discounts. It was a little overwhelming but thankfully it was so hot that my brain wasn’t functioning all that well, and I just stood there shaking my head for a few minutes until GB came and rescued me.
It was the same feeling with the bars and restaurants to be honest. It was great to have choice over where to eat, to be able to scoff a frozen yoghurt during the heat of the day and to hit Happy Hour for cocktails in the evening, but there were points where it almost felt like we were back in London. I’d have to keep reminding myself that we were in the middle of the Bali rainforest enjoying those 2 for 1 cocktails, which was all a little strange. Still, I’m glad we experienced it for at least one of the days we were there, and we did have one of our best meals of the trip that night so I can’t complain. Overall we much preferred lounging around in that infinity pool and enjoying the lush surroundings of our little tropical escape though, so I’m glad we took this time to unwind and relax a little.
I really wish we’d had longer to explore Bali so that we could have ventured further afield and actually got off our butts and visited some sights but I guess that’s reason enough to return! If you are visiting Ubud here are a few of the top things to do, should you wish to be more adventurous than us (in our defence it was hard enough to walk up the many stairs at our resort in that high heat so I’m pretty sure we would have caused ourselves some serious damage if we’d attempted a mountain hike!).
- Visit the Ubud Monkey Forest
- Hike to the Tenegungan Waterfall
- Take a bike or walking tour through the Tegalalang rice terrace
- Visit the Saraswati Temple
- Visit the Elephant Cave