Magic in Bali

In keeping with our trip’s theme of painful country transfers, our way from Myanmar to Indonesia was a long and dragging affair. It wasn’t without its highlights though. It started with the best bus ride of my life. The bus gods made up for all the bus nightmares by giving us a bus with reclining seats, small screens loaded with current movies, headphones, blankets, drinks and snacks, and only one other passenger. It was pure bus heaven and Nica, Bernice, and I basked in it unashamedly. Then it peaked with the most nerve-wracking cab ride of my life in Yangon where our driver attacked another driver with a metal pipe. They didn’t actually touch each other, just threatened to do so. Still it was pretty intense. Our minds filled with all sorts of crazy scenarios ranging from great escapes in the middle of the busy highway to becoming state witnesses to manslaughter. Then it finally ended with a flat-line at the Yangon International Airport where we spent the evening trying to entertain ourselves before giving in to boredom and attempting to sleep on cold metal benches amid the crowds and mosquitoes.

When we finally exited the next morning into the new Kuala Lumpur International Airport en route to Bali, I felt my brain stop momentarily. It somehow felt like I just exited a time machine and returned to 2014. The past several weeks have been spent in places where local culture was very well-preserved and thriving; where many of the American influences I was accustomed to growing up in Manila were not present. And while I loved the uniqueness of each culture, and being exposed to them made me feel richer (and cooler), I could’t deny the comforts of familiarity. There was a flutter in my heart upon seeing the big yellow “M” again after four weeks, and a certain excitement after seeing Starbucks (how sad is that really?). Apart from familiar names, the newness and modernity of the airport itself was also refreshing. I’m a huge fan of old architecture and traditional practices, but it was nice seeing a modern structure again after so long. It was a very sufficient break and a very efficient reminder of home, between all the unfamiliarity and wild adventures thrown our way. 

We arrived at the Denpasar International Airport in Bali late into the night. Finding a cab was easy enough, and in no time we were unloading our stuff at Guess House Hostel in Seminyak. We passed out soon after and stayed in that state well into the next day. With funds and clean clothes running low, we pretty much spent our first full day in Bali doing chores. We got to walk the length of Jalan Petitinget though, and I got a first glimpse of Bali’s very distinct character.

The following day we finally decided to be more productive and see the rest of the place. We took the first Perama bus from Kuta to Ubud and arrived in Bali’s arts and meditation center at around 7am. We spent the morning walking and walking, soaking in the atmosphere and the vibe of the place.

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Ubud is full of yoga shops. These are dream catchers in one of them.

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Because we arrived very early, most of the shops were still closed and the town itself was barely awake. Except for the monkeys, of course.

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Being at the tail-end of our trip, we were pretty much beggars by the time we reached Bali. Between all the impulse buying and binge eating over the past weeks, our funds were too depleted to afford us entrance fees to Ubud’s many museums and art galleries. So we just made do with free attractions. After all, the whole place itself had such a unique vibe that just strolling through the streets was an experience in itself already. One of the “free attractions” we found were rice fields. We pretty much just saw a makeshift sign that said “RIce Terraces This Way” and followed it.

Of course, being Filipinos and having just come from Sapa, Vietnam, there was really nothing to it. But what the heck, where there were photo opportunities, we’d make do.

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Balinese architecture is famous and getting to see it for myself, and to see how well they’re not only preserving it but adapting it to current times was impressive.

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We of course couldn’t leave Ubud without seeing the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. The god, Bali, himself was represented as a monkey throughout the island, and being amid these little guys was supposed to somehow be symbolic of that. Also, there’s a certain weird thrill in walking among wild monkeys who shamelessly grab whatever they want. And they were cute-ish..

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We got back to Kuta in the early afternoon, grabbed a quick lunch, and headed straight for Tanah Lot. We timed it so that we would be there by sundown to see the sun setting on the temple and the cliffs. We got lucky with our cab driver cos he got to pass us off as locals so instead of paying international rates at the entrance, we only paid domestic, which was significantly lower.

The tides were coming in when we arrived, and we were just entering golden hour. The rumble of waves and the sea breeze were soothing, despite the crowds. It wasn’t as ostentatious or big or ornate as the other temples we’ve seen throughout the trip, but its location made for a quiet and unassuming magnificence as well.

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The following day, our last whole day all together, was spent chilling at Kuta. We walked up and down Kuta and Legian, diving into the chaos and activity (and shopping a little). Then we hung out at Kuta Beach, which wasn’t as crowded as I imagined it would be. The waves were pretty good, but none of our lazy bones were in the mood to surf so Nica ended up sleeping while Bernice and I camwhored by the waters. It was awesome.


That night we decided to have a special dinner to celebrate us reaching the (sort of) end of our epic journey together. I was about to go solo as I get my SCUBA diving certification in Amed, Northern Bali; meanwhile Nica and Bernice were staying a couple more days in Seminyak. One restaurant along Jalan Petitenget caught our attention from Day 1. It’s called Mantra and it had the coolest interiors, a mix of rustic and industrial. The best part is, the food was amazing. Then we had gelato while people watching at Salty’s before calling it a night.

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Reminiscing on all the adventures we had together emphasizes to me the importance of being with people whose company you not only enjoy, but whose travel principles and sensibilities match yours as well. I wouldn’t hesitate for a heartbeat to run off with these girls again. Nica and Bernice were absolutely perfect road companions, and I couldn’t ask for any two people as adventurous, as game, as nuts, and as much of a trooper as I was. Fifty percent of the epicness of this trip was probably due to the fact that I was with such great company. A testament to how great we were together, I think, were the seemingly cosmic blessings we got from the Universe. It almost felt like we were destined to land upon adventures together, even when we weren’t looking to. It was like, we three were together and the Universe feels it must give us something – like it’s a cosmic law. I couldn’t be more thankful that it was them I got to share this journey with, and I couldn’t wait to do it all again. <3

Note: Bernice’s take on the events, and more awesome stuff, could be found here. She’s one heck of a travel photographer so chekkit! :)