The place they say the lonely go. Where you do the “Love” part of Eat, Pray, Love. The ultimate soul searching getaway.
That’s Bali for most. As for me, Bali then was just another item on my “must-go-to places for a solo trip” list. You know, to go just for the sake of saying I’ve been there.
So I write this now, more than 2 years after the trip, to say yup! I’ve been there.
And I’ve experienced the magic of Bali.
It started out as just like any other trip. I booked the tickets, packed my bag, and got on the plane.
Despite the uncomfortable seats on board, the flight was rather pleasant. How can it not be when you’re thousands of feet above the ground with front row seats to the breathtaking view of the sunrise?
I touched down Denpasar, Indonesia before lunch and was welcomed by the hostel’s driver. From there, it was a little over an hour’s drive to Ubud.
My first stop for the trip? This toilet. Haha.
Sooo, okay. With that as the first “attraction” I encountered, my next stop and my home for the next few days was more than what I expected.
Who would’ve thought my $15/night will get me THIS?
For their rooms and rates, check out:
I had my very own Balinese pad! This was when I started to see and feel the beauty of Bali.
And it was about to get even better.
DAY 1: The Day I Met Steve
I never believed in people meeting out of coincidence. With billions of people in the hundreds and thousands of kilometres in space, how can two or more people just happen to be at the same place at the same time? Nah, I don’t think it is ever just a coincidence. It all happens for a reason, and this has never been more true on that day that I crossed paths with Steve.
How I met Steve was the epitome of this sentiment. I’ve always wanted to immortalise how it happened because it really is a story to tell. The tale of how I experienced firsthand “fate” and “destiny” work.
From the whole trip and out of all my trips, this was the only time I didn’t take any photos. I didn’t feel the need to. Writing this now without any visual aids, I hope my words will be enough to do justice to what really happened.
With that, let me just leave out the how, but I will tell you about the why.
When I somehow ended up talking to Steve that night over a few drinks, I felt like I met a guy version of myself. I think what made it extra special was that it felt so refreshing to talk to someone who was as free-spirited as I am, who shared the same passion for travel, the same hunger for life, and the same sentiments about happiness as I do. Talking to him was a breather especially that I was dealing with a then significant other who was always against of my traveling. Who never saw the genuine happiness it brings.
And then there was Steve, who I had a conversation with for just a couple of hours and made a mark.
He opened my eyes to see where I was at that point in my life.
I happen to mention a recurring dream I’ve been having since I was in high school. In my dream, I’m underwater, rushing to swim up to the surface, gasping for air.
What everyone told me:
Dive more often to get over the fear of being underwater.
I don’t think it’s fear of being underwater.
It’s because you’re trapped.
You feel like you want to get away from something. Or someone. May it be a job you’re in, a relationship, or you being where you are in general.
You’re trapped, Samantha. You feel trapped.
That’s why you should keep on traveling. Continue making yourself happy by setting yourself free.
I think I just stared at him for a good 5 seconds after said that. This is a guy I barely know but he just said was spot on. I’ve always loved swimming, being in the waters and underwater. It was never about having the fear of being underwater.
More than that, what he said about being trapped, I never realised it until he said it. I did feel trapped. I did feel like I wanted to get away.
From then on, I knew I am on the right path with doing what made me happy—traveling.
He reminded me how to win over fear
We talked about fears. He asked me what my fears are. I told him I’m scared of nuns (yes, don’t ask) and snakes.
He said he’s scared of heights. And just when he said this, he took out his phone and showed me photos and videos of him skydiving and bungee jumping.
I never liked being a slave to fear. Rather being defeated with the what ifs isn’t it better to just face it? What’s the worst thing that could happen anyway?
Either way, it’s better to just face it than wonder your whole life what could have been.
He couldn’t have said it any better. Funny, ‘cause it wasn’t even a realisation on my part. It was exactly how I felt and exactly how I saw it. I just needed to hear it from someone else.
You see, meeting someone is never just a coincidence. Though I never saw nor heard from Steve again after that night, his words remained. He changed my life in so many ways and he probably never knew it.
So if by any miraculous chance that you, Steve, the guy from New Zealand who just came from Thailand to do Muay Thai for 6 months and ended up going to Bali before going back home, happen to read this, thank you. For those refreshing and eye opening words you gave me that night. Cheers!
DAY 2: Laid Back Day at Ubud
I only had a day to explore before heading to Kuta.
Here’s what I was able to squeeze in for the day:
Conquered my fear of snakes! (Thanks to Steve)
I was walking around one of the temples and a small sign caught my eye:
OMG. My knees weakened. But Steve’s voice from the night before played in my head.
“I never liked being a slave to fear… it’s better to just face it than wonder your whole life what could have been.”
So after 10 minutes of pacing around the area, I gathered enough courage to just go in and go for it.
It took me another hour though to get them to place the 100 lbs snake on my lap. OMG.
This photo looks so deceiving ’cause I WAS SCREAMING MY LUNGS OUT, worrying that he will snap at me and just bite me.
Okay, this looks more true to what really happened.
Gotta do what you gotta do for the sake of a photo! Haha.
I can’t say I’ve completely gotten over my fear of snakes. Just looking at these photos now still makes me cringe. Then again, AT LEAST I did it!
Coffee and tea testing
The local driver I hired brought me to Kebune Bali, a farm where they plant, harvest, and make coffee and tea.
Here, I was able to see how they make Luwak Coffee! Yeahp, the famous poop coffee. Haha.
So this is how they do it:
They make the luwak eat coffee beans, and apparently that’s all it can eat.
When it poops out the beans days after, they clean it up,
and grind it.
They say there’s something with how the animal digests the coffee bean that makes it so good.
At the end of the tour, they make you try 12 different kinds of coffee and tea.
They don’t charge for this. You only pay if you buy from the small shop they have at the entrance.
Temple tours + nature sightseeing
Then I met this local painter at one of the temples I visited.
PAINTER: (Talks to me in their local language)
ME: Oh, no, sorry, I don’t understand.
PAINTER: Ay! I thought you’re Indonesian!
ME: Hahaha, no no, I’m not.
PAINTER: You look like celebrity. You make very beautiful Indonesian!
ME: (Hahahahahahahahaha) Oh, thank you! But I’m from the Philippines. I’m just travelling.
PAINTER: Ah, you come to Bali to look for love!
ME: (Eat, Pray, Love levels? Hahaha) HAHA NOOOOO. I’m just here travelling by myself. Exploring. Hehe.
PAINTER: Ah, but mark my words. You come back to get married in Bali!
ME: (Is this my Bali prediction? Maybe this IS like an Eat, Pray, Love experience HAHAHA) Wahahahahaha no, I don’t think so!
I can’t say I wasn’t scared when I entered. They’re cute
but they can get quite rough. Make sure you don’t have food with you when you go there. They’ll go bananas!
Food trip + Cafe hopping
Strolling the streets + street finds
Ubud is and will probably be one of the most chill and laid back places I’ve been to. There really is magic in that place.
There were a lot of things I still wanted to do like the yoga and meditation activities, but I didn’t have the time to.
DAY 3-4: Sand, Sun, Sea, and Some Booze at Kuta
After the chill and laid back experience in Ubud, I made my way to Kuta, where it was all about getting out there and having fun.
Daytime was the time to hit the beach
and the nights were all about unwinding.
A place that was once just an item on my travel bucketlist. I marked it done, and I say it’s a place I will definitely go back to again.
And who knows? That painter’s prediction just might come true. HAHA kiddiiiiiiiing.
Ubud and Kuta, Bali, Indonesia, November 2014
(All photos are unedited were taken by Sam)
Writer | Solo Traveler