For just about the previous 40 days of the trip, we had been in native English speaking countries (Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand). We would be leaving that comfort zone.
But, we honestly were looking forward to it. We were excited to get to an exotic and new destination. Plus, Bali is heavily tourist driven, so they are pretty accommodating to English speakers (similar to the areas we went to in Thailand).
Bali is an island in the archipelago of Indonesia. I was pretty surprised to learn when planning that Indonesia is the 4th largest country in the world by population at 237 million people. Only China, India, and the US are larger.
The vast majority of the Indonesian population is muslim, and several of the provinces are governed under Sharia Law (Islamic Law). Bali is its own province (governing region) within Indonesia and is unique in that the population of Bali is almost exclusively Hindu.
The Balinese people have a reputation for being genuinely friendly and pleasant. I’d have to say that reputation is deserved. Just about every person we came across had a smile on their face and was happy to assist us in whatever we needed.
Getting around Bali was easy enough. The island is not overly large from a geographical standpoint, but it can take a lot of time to get from point A to point B. The streets are narrow and not in the best condition, and driving requires navigating around the thousands of scooters heading in each direction.
I would not recommend anyone outside of the most adventurous drivers renting a car in Bali. Streets were not well marked and were extremely crowded with people heading in every direction. It works for the locals, but I had no interest in driving. Plus, taxis or drivers/guides are very cheap. We had an English speaking, friendly guide drive us all over the place for $50/day in a nice air conditioned van.
Bali is located just south of the equator and is a tropical island. As such, it is pretty warm and humid all year round. We were there towards the end of the wet season and got a pretty hefty dose of rain – more than the usual daily storms. That said, it did not affect us too much…and we were still extremely lucky on the whole when it came to weather.
Bali – and Indonesia in general – are known to have some great SCUBA diving. I’ve seen some people argue that Indonesian livaboards are the best diving in the world.
Bali, itself, has a vast array of locales to choose from when deciding where to stay. There are nice beach/coastal areas all along the island. Having been to a couple beaches already and with our next stop being a beach destination, we decided to stay inland at Ubud for a little different experience.
Ubud is known for being a relaxed, laid-back, tranquil area. I’m glad we decided to stay inland because Ubud was different than anywhere else we’ve been. It also was a good launching point for the different activities we had planned.
We were on the only non-stop flight from Adelaide to Bali, which only flies a couple days a week. As such, we had to fly at whatever time the flight left – which was earlier than we would have preferred.
The bags were mostly packed when we got up (I had to squeeze in my wine pack for Bali). We did want to eat some breakfast, having the nice provisions provided from the owners. Alyce cooked up some food, and we were able to eat a little of it before getting on the road slightly later than I hoped.
Still, we had 3 hours until our flight with an estimated one hour drive to the airport…No problem…Until we hit Adelaide.
Traffic in Adelaide was just about at a dead stop. Our mood changed from no issues, to this traffic had better get moving, to Alyce…well let’s just say we usually don’t cut our airport arrivals close. At all.
Monitoring the situation on Google Maps on my phone, I was confident we’d make the flight-but still nervous. We finally made it to the airport and returned our rental car then made a dash for the terminal.
It was about 80 minutes to departure, and the check in line was pretty lengthy (no business class this flight). I was reassured at this point because people were still arriving behind us, and they were all on our flight. It did not do much to soothe Alyce’s nerves.
Finally checking in, a nice young girl chatted with us about Bali – which she was quite fond of – and checked our bags for us. I don’t know if it was our friendly banter or our making the bags “look light” but she did not ask to weigh our carry-ons. This was the last flight that would be a concern, and knowing that I didn’t have to worry about that anymore was a big relief as soon as we left the check-in counter.
Security and immigrations were still ahead of us. Security in Australia in general was a breeze; it’s like pre-9/11 security in America. That said, Alyce was luckily chosen for a random screening on this day. It wasn’t a big deal, but it stressed us some more with time already being tight. Immigrations was right after security and wasn’t too bad.
We proceeded straight to our gate once we were cleared. Boarding hadn’t even started – and wouldn’t for another 15 minutes. There were a whole lot of nerves that morning for what ended up being a merely 15 minute early arrival instead of our usual 2 hour early arrival.
This flight was operated by Virgin Australia and was a decent flight. It compared to your average American carrier, so there really is not much to write about it.
I had booked us express Visa assistance through the hotel from something like $20. I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it going in, but it was very nice as we had someone pretty much waiting for as we got off the plane and did everything for us as we waited and got to skip the lines…We were through in what appeared to be significantly less time than the general public. After we were through, I decided that it was worth it; Alyce thought I was insane for even questioning the value that we got out of it.
The Chedi Club included transfers to/from the hotel. As I mentioned already, car services are pretty cheap, so this wasn’t a huge deal. Still, it was very nice to have transportation all worked out and ready waiting for you by the hotel.
The drive was about an hour long and the driver was friendly. Before we knew it, we were at the hotel meeting our butler…
The Chedi Club at Tanah Gaja is a hotel that is part of the GHM group of hotels. These are all very nice hotels at pretty exotic locations, in general. The Chedi Club labels itself as a “club” hotel. That basically meant that a lot of extras were free of charge (or already included in the room rate – whichever you prefer). These extras included free laundry service, internet, breakfast, tea, cocktail hour, in room minibar and liquor selection, in room snacks…and a personal butler.
Our butler was Japa. He was definitely our style…friendly and very laid back. Our maybe he just picked up that that was what we liked. Either way he did a good job and was on top of anything we needed.
So what exactly does your butler do? We didn’t really know what to expect either. Outside of the obvious things hotel staff does – clean/refresh the room/minibar, deliver room service, laundry, etc – the butler’s main task seemed to be helping you plan and arrange anything you wanted to do in Bali.
Being that I had everything planned out, this must have been the least amount of activity planning that Japa ever had to do.
Anyway, Japa was waiting for us on arrival with a golf cart. He took us on a tour of the property and then brought us to our room…which had been upgraded to the gigantic spa suite.
So, how did I finagle this upgrade? I didn’t. There were ways – booking through certain travel agents will get you a room upgrade if available, but the rates were too much more than the deal I got. But this time, it was just dumb luck that got us the upgrade.
The room was very nice and very large. The included snacks and drinks were delicious. The spicy nuts were hard to resist; the dried fruit snacks were pretty good too.
The grounds of the property were very lush and well maintained. The owner even lived in a large house right in the middle of the property.
After settling in, we walked over to the restaurant/lounge area to have afternoon coffee followed by some cocktails. The restaurant was in the middle of the hotel’s rice field; it was a really nice setup.
The staff was extremely friendly and helpful. It was kind of warm, so we had some ice coffee. Some snacks/cakes were also brought out with the tea/coffee.
Shortly later, it was cocktail time. We branched out from out usual drink of choice – wine. I had the house specialty drink (I think it was called something like Tanah Gaja Purple), and Alyce got a mojito. They were both very refreshing; we drank several more of the purple drinks over our stay.
We were enjoying just relaxing at the hotel, so we stayed for dinner in the restaurant. Tonight’s menu was a fixed special of crispy duck, a popular dish in Bali. It was good; but, honestly, the fried duck was a little dry for my taste. The hotel didn’t cook it too long or anything; I think that is just the style of the dish.
After dinner, we returned to our room, which had been turned down by Japa. It had been a long day, so we got to sleep pretty early.
Today, the plan was to go Scuba Diving in Padang Bai. Padang Bai was about an hour away from the hotel and diving was first thing in the morning. As a result, we had to leave at 7:00 a.m.; the hotel restaurant did not open for breakfast (which was included) until 7:00. I thought we’d have to miss breakfast.
The night before at dinner, I had inquired about getting coffee to go when I explained that we’d have to miss breakfast the next day. This was unacceptable to our server, who then arranged for the restaurant to be ready to serve us breakfast at 6:30. We felt bad, but they assured us it was not a problem. This was indicative of the service at Chedi Club for the stay.
After our specially arranged early breakfast, we went to meet our driver, Made (pronounce Mah-day). Made was also a tour guide and would be taking us around the following day as well. Made was a driver for Sila Tours. He did a good job, and I’d have no problem recommending him/Sila Tours.
The drive to Padang Bai went by pretty quickly, and we arrived at Geko Dive. They were waiting for us, as we would be the only divers that morning…It was the slow season in Bali.
Our guide (Wayan) got us geared up, and we were off in the boat shortly after. We did not have to travel far, as the sites are just off shore. We did a two tank dive and really enjoyed both of them. We saw plenty of fish, coral, rays, eels, etc. A major benefit to the dive sites being so close to shore was that we did our surface interval on the beach.
Geko Dive did a very good job. They were friendly, safe, and professional – which is all I look for in a dive operation. Padang Bai had very nice sites and is the closest place from Ubud. If we ever make it back to Bali/Indonesia, we’ll definitely have to do some more diving.
Back at the resort, we set up a meeting time with Made for the following day. It was raining at this point, which wasn’t really a big deal as all we had planned for the afternoon was to hang out.
We did use this time to take advantage of our spa villa. We sat in the sauna for a while. It was nice…not completely my thing. I’d use it when we have one right there like we did, but I’m not going out of my way any time soon to sweat my ass off.
Still raining, we had our afternoon coffee delivered to the villa. By the cocktail hour, it had slowed enough to allow us to walk over to the restaurant where we enjoyed some cocktails.
For dinner, I wanted to try some place in town. Naughty Nuri’s is famous for its BBQ ribs, which was right up our alley and different than anything we had in a while.
The hotel car dropped us off and gave us a phone to call them when we were ready to head back. We each ordered a rack of ribs and scarfed them down; they were delicious. So much so, that we each had a second rack…
By this point, we were pretty full. So we paid and had the hotel come get us. We were back to our room and in bed pretty early for the second night in a row.
We got to sleep in a little bit today, but we still had a pretty full agenda. Breakfast was again very nice at the resort. Afterwards, we met Made and took off to our first stop.
Tanah Lot temple was first on the agenda. Tanah Lot is a waterfront Hindu temple. Today, the sea was so high that it could not be reached by foot. Made explained some of the history behind it and took some nice pictures of us. We had a pretty good ride to our next stop at the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces.
The Jatiluwih rice terraces are a little more out of the way than some of the others, but everything I had read said that it was definitely worth the trip. And while we didn’t go to any of the others, it would be hard to imagine them having better (or comparable) views.
The final stop for the day was Lake Bratan and the Ulun Danu Temple. This is a very scenic Hindu temple located right on a mountain lake. Unfortunately, it was raining pretty hard at this point; we got stuck with plenty others under a little shelter. Made also said that the view was much better without the rain. Still, it slowed for long enough for us to check out the temple and get some pictures.
On the way back, we had a little time, so we stopped at the coffee and tea plantation. This was a neat spot that we got to try some local tea and coffee at…including the famous Luwak Coffee. This was a good stop since we’d be in the area, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.
It was still raining when we got back to the Chedi Club, so we had our afternoon coffee in our villa again. It had cleared up enough for cocktails at the restaurant though.
After a drink, we made our way to the lobby area for the tradional fire dance show called the Cecack Fire Dance. While waiting for it to start, we met a nice honeymooning couple from Chicago and talked with them for a little bit.
The show itself was ok; we didn’t really know what was going on. Apparently, it has to do with Hindu folklore. Either way, fire was involved which is always entertaining.
After the show, there is a traditional Balinese dinner back at the restaurant. We ate with the Chicago couple and had a really nice dinner. It was fun to have dinner with another American couple and hang out with them. It was the first time we had dinner with other people in over two months.
The dinner was pretty good and all you could eat. We finished and said goodnight to the other couple and went to bed.
Things weren’t quite “right” when we woke up this day. It was the first time all trip that we had some stomach issues, and I still to this day have no idea the exact cause of it….but – whatever it was – we both had it.
Fortunately, we didn’t have anything planned this day – just play it by ear and do what we wanted. Today, that was lay around the hotel room.
We did make it to breakfast to eat a light breakfast. Afterwards, I caught the LSU baseball SEC opener against Mississippi State on my computer.
We did make it over to the restaurant for our last day of tea/coffee and cocktails. That said, our “cocktails” consisted of sparkling water.
I had booked dinner at a place in downtown Ubud called Bridges, but we decided to just stay at the hotel and have room service. We both got a hamburger, and they were good – albeit on the small side.
Following dinner, we attempted to finish the wine we had left (we didn’t ), watched some shows and went to bed.
Ubud lived up to its reputation as a chilled out/laid back place. That was great for us because we could definitely use it after the previous month of non-stop moving around in New Zealand/Australia.
We really liked the Chedi Club. The food was generally good, and the service was excellent. It was a small place that had a boutique atmosphere. We probably spent more time on the property here than anywhere else on the trip (except for the Maldives – obviously). The Chedi Club reminded me of Peter Island in the Caribbean where we honeymooned – which is a pretty high compliment in my book.
There were plenty of things we did not do that you could do in Bali. It is not a huge island, but it takes you a while to get from place to place. You could really spend a couple weeks going from place to place on the island and not get bored.
The Balinese people definitely lived up to their reputation of being sincerely friendly. That is one of the things I’ll take with me from our stop in Bali.
Overall, we really liked it. We may be back in the area some day; and, if so, it will probably be to do more diving with some relaxing mixed in.