As I sit at my desk wrapped in my dressing gown staring out at a grey London sky, it's hard to imagine that just a couple of weeks ago I was living in a bikini in the tropical heat of Bali on what was the trip of a lifetime. Forgive the cliche, but it's true.
Bali is an Indonesian island located only a couple of hours from Australia known for it's beautiful beaches, rice paddies, and beautiful landscape. As well as being visually pleasing and having lot of sunshine, there's so many different places and things to see and do.
Whilst some of you might be fed up of my continuous references to Bali if you follow me on social media or listen to my radio show ("this one time in Bali..."), lots of others of you have been asking me for tips and recommendations, so here is my ultimate Bali guide.
First things first - the street food is epic. Don't be afraid to eat local, because it's totally delicious and also insanely cheap. I paid 40p for 'Bubur Ayam' (chicken porridge) and it was out of this world.
Canggu is a small beach village about 20 minutes north of Seminyak and has a good ex-pat community so it's not that touristy. I stayed here for a few nights as my friends live in a beautiful villa there after leaving London for good a few months ago (I'm so jealous).
The Crate Cafe
I am still dreaming about the smoothies at the Crate Cafe - they taste as good as they look! The iced coffee and salad was pretty epic too. There's space to eat indoors but also a really cool outdoor space.
The poached egg on toast with avocado and a side of spinach were unbelievable - definitely a great little brunch spot. I had a juice and an iced coffee there too, which was delicious (although I missed those smoothies at Crate Cafe!).
Old Man's Bar
Old Man's is a popular bar and restaurant right on the beach front and it has loads of outdoor space and a lively atmosphere. I had a rather spectacular chicken caesar salad and caught up on some work whilst my friends surfed. Oh and not to sound like a total loser but there's some great walls around here for instagramming - sorry not even sorry!
Seminyak is definitely has more of a tourist vibe than Canggu, but maybe that's because it's bigger - there's a really good buzz anyway. There's streets lined with shops, awesome restaurants and bars, and some great beach bar vibes.
I wandered aimlessly through the streets of shops and was so impressed with the awesome range of things on offer. Think beach and boho vibes, lots of vintage clothes, Australian brands, and cute stationary and homeware bits too. I also loved the market for it's wonderful assortment of trinkets and all the fabulous colours.
If I could eat one food for the rest of my life it would be sushi, and I stumbled across the most delicious sushi bar. It's got a revolving table, but you can also order food too.
A very popular all day drinking beach club - it's much more chilled than anything I've experienced before though so don't be put off if you don't want a hardcore day of drinking. I didn't see champagne being sprayed anywhere once, and the music was very mellow and never loud. Try and get a bed, but otherwise there's lots of places to sit indoors and outdoors. I drank incredible cocktails whilst in the jacuzzi and we watched sunset from the beautiful infinity pool overlooking the ocean.
Other things to do in Seminyak:
Sea Circus: Amazing breakfasts and dinners - apparently the fish tacos are out of this world.
Sisterfields: A cool cafe / restaurant with good burgers and lamb wraps.
Fat Turtle: You can eat red velvet pancakes for breakfast.
Merah Putah: More of a fancier place to eat but a nice dinner spot.
Bambu: Another good restaurant, but a little more expensive.
Ku De Tah: Apparently the best place to watch sunset with a cocktail, you can also get decent food - try the black cod! Get a bed out the front so you can watch the surfers as the sun goes down.
The W: A great place to go for a drink at night.
Rock Bar & Jimbaran restaurant: A vey James Bond-esque setting. The bar is cut into the rock of the farthest point of Bali and there's a little ski cart that takes you down to the bar. Usually a queue so get there early so you can watch sunset.
La Lucciola: An incredibly romantic restaurant - make sure you book in advance. Bamboo: Located in Seminyak town with incredibly special food.
La Favela: Book dinner in the courtyard then stay afterwards as it turns into a club. Very fun music - leave your heels at home though.
We went on scooters to Uluwatu, which took about an hour and a half from Canggu. The beaches were the nicest I saw in Bali, although possibly the busiest too - it's become a little touristy because of Eat, Pray, Love.
Padang Padang beach
This is the beach from Eat, Pray, Love and despite being quite busy it was still incredibly beautiful so don't be put off. You have to walk down some steep steps to get there but it was really quite breath taking - a turquoise sea, white sand, and green and luscious landscape surrounding it. I even saw a monkey on the way back up!
Sunday Sessions @ Single Fin
Just to state the obvious this is a day to night party that happens every Sunday. We got there early afternoon and grabbed some delicious food, before finding a good floor space to base ourselves on (the tables are usually booked in advance). This was definitely one of the funnest days we had. The music starts relatively chilled and gets more and more amazing as the night progresses - we kept doing that "okay one more song" thing where you really need to leave but the DJ keeps playing tune after tune. There was a really young and vibrant crowd - lots of ex-pats and tourists alike all having a good time. The service is pretty slow because there are just so many people so stock up on a few drinks at once!
From there you can walk down some steep steps to this little tiny cove where there's a few sunbathers and huge waves so it's a great surf sport.
I honestly don't know how I lived without knowing these bowls of goodness existed. You can get them all over Bali, but there's a bowl bar just at the entrance of Single Fin and you can take them inside with you. It's like a frozen sorbet, meets smoothie, meets health.
Blue Point infinity pool
Coincidentally this is based right above Single Fins, but you need to pay an entrance fee. We didn't end up going in here, but I'd recommend it if you want the vibe of Sunday Sessions but with more space and a bit of luxury.
Balangan: Cool place to watch the sunset in a little shack whilst eating really cheap food.
Probably one of the most magical places I've ever been in my whole life because it's incredibly green and beautiful, and full of raw food, yoga, and meditation so it's just got this really happy and tranquil place.
The Hanging Gardens of Bali
I usually like to holiday on a bit of a shoe string, but when I saw a photograph of the Hanging Gardens I treated myself to a night of luxury, and I'm so glad I did! The hotel has won so many awards and the two tiered infinity pool is one of the most incredible things I've ever seen. It's located about a 20 minute taxi ride from Ubud town, and is extremely remote so you are surrounded by the rainforest. You have to get a tiny ski lift down to the different levels of the hotel, and if you're a guest you also get free afternoon tea which was pretty special. Our villa was incredibly spacious, had both an indoor and outdoor bath, and a private pool. Saying that, we took advantage of the incredible infinity pool and I was introduced to Avocado Magaritas, which were the most incredible and refreshing drinks I've ever tasted.
If you don't want to break the bank you can come for lunch or drinks and you just need to pay a small entrance fee. It's so worth it though!
Tunjung - the fortune reader and healer
If you're looking to see a Balinese fortune teller or healer then I cannot recommend Tunjung enough. You can see her for a range of things from tarot reading, fortune reading, karma healing - I booked for both a reading and healing session and it's the best thing I've done. I've seen lots of people in my time, but Tunjung got everything spot on, gave me lots of clarity and since seeing her I've felt like a different person. Maybe I'll do a separate post about what she taught me, if you're interested?
The Yoga Barn
The most incredible little barn where you can book to do a retreat or drop in and do a one-off session. Sadly I didn't experience anything myself because of my cracked ribs. I was told I must try the Tibetan meditation, but it was fully booked an hour and a half before it began so make sure you get there early to avoid disappointment. I did have a lovely browse through the books at reception and made a couple of purchases.
White Water Rafting
The only way I can describe White Water Rafting in Ubud was like being taken on a tour of Jurassic Park (without the dinosaurs obviously). The waters were quite calm as it didn't rain that day, but I just kept looking around thinking how incredibly lucky I was to be seeing such beautiful landscape. We even saw loads of monkeys running through the trees directly above our heads. I think we paid about £40 each, but this fee included hotel pick-up, a free buffet lunch and a good 3 hours out on the water.
The most amazing culinary experiences I've had for a long time. We were walked out into an outdoor courtyard onto our candlelit table, there trees were hanging down all around us and it felt like we were eating right in the middle of the jungle. The space was quite big but the tables are quite far apart so you get a really private experience. We had the six course taster menu and were given appetisers on top; each course was total food porn! It was pricier than other places but totally worth it for some real fine dining, my taste buds are watering now just thinking of the little truffle balls.
Seniman Coffee Studio
A coffee shop with a little outdoor space that looks onto the street. They brew their own coffee here and it is absolutely unreal. Actually, the matcha latte was damn good, as was the smoothie bowl. It was all delicious and the presentation was epic too! I'd pay good money for someone to bring me one of those right now. Or even better, for me to be taken back out there right now.
Seeds of Life
I met up with a friend in this little raw food place. I came straight from the Seniman coffee studio so was too full to eat, which is a shame because the salads looked out of this world. I had a very green juice though, which was pretty amazing. The loo door was covered in cool motivational quotes too so I took some time reading all of those!
There was a really cute shop a couple of doors down from the Seeds of Life (facing the cafe turn right and it's about two shops away) - it had cool home decor and jewellery so I'd recommend a browse in there too.
XL Shisha Lounge
If you're looking for a nice chilled evening then go smoke some shisha at this little place. You can sit outside overlooking the football field or sit inside in the most incredibly decorated space ever. The daiquiris and Margaritas are pretty nice too, just be sure to specify you want them frozen (if you want them frozen that is).
Other things to do in Ubud:
Visit a Temple
Monkey Forest: Probably the main touristy thing to do, and I am obsessed with monkeys. I got so distracted with all the spiritual side of things that I didn't go see the monkeys, sob.
Padi fields: you can hire bikes and go on a half day trip with a guide round the Padi fields and visit the 'Agro Tourism' coffee plantation where you can have a coffee up at the highest point of the Padi fields up in the trees.
Naughty Nuris: An old traditional place which is famous for its ribs (its a cheap roadside restaurant BBQ)
Uma by Como: A hotel with the most beautiful bar & restaurant.
Rent a scooter! You can rent a little scooter for about £2 per day so that's probably the cheapest and easiest way to get around. I wasn't brave enough to ride by myself but I hopped on the back of my friend's scooter as much as possible.
Taxi. You can get taxis pretty cheaply out there (especially a scooter taxi). One great discovery was an App called GrabTaxi; I saved 200p cheaper on my journey when I booked it through it!
If you're thinking of going abroad this year then I cannot recommend Bali enough. I hope this post has inspired you to go there. If you've read this because you're going to Bali then I HATE YOU. Not really, but I'm pretty jealous. Either way do let me know if the post was useful or interesting, and I'd also recommend checking out the Bali Bible's bucket list.
Finally, I must say a thank you to Nick and Hayley for all the advice and recommendations, most of these places I'd never have discovered without your geeky little guides. And to Dave, Amy, and Jess for their awesome hospitality and company - I'll be back!
Until next time... x