So my first few steps on Balinese soil were not exactly how I envisaged them, what with the inability to access money and the general shit-scary situation I found myself in. Although I no longer consider myself a novice solo traveller – I’m on my fifth month and fourth country – I felt naïve and vulnerable for the first time since I began travelling back in January. I realised I am well and truly doing this alone.
Now that enough time has passed, I can just look back on it as a hilarious incident, a caper of woe that I can tell my friends about when I finally return back home in three weeks. But at the time, it was terrifying. I hope that anyone planning to travel to Bali heeds my warning: bring US$ or IDR with you – enough to cover the $35 “visa entry” (Tip: it is cheaper to pay in US$ than IDR), a taxi, first night’s accommodation, food for the day, and water – you never know what could happen and it is better to be safe than sorry. Don’t wing it like I did and assume that you will be able to access an ATM as you would in a western country.
I’m nearing the end of my time spent solo travelling – I do have a further day by myself in Hong Kong before returning home to England – but, really, my big solo adventure is drawing to a close (how funny that a year ago 1 week travelling on my own seemed impossible, and now it’s not even worth mentioning). As I type this I am sitting with two of my friend from England who have flew over to join me in Bali for a girlie holiday.
We’re currently in Ubud, having a great time and gearing up for an elephant trek that we’ve got booked for tomorrow morning. I am beyond excited for this trip; elephants are one of my favourite animals and I can’t wait to get up close!
I love travelling with these two people. Its easy and so much fun – not to mention the logistics and money issues that are made infinitely easier when you are more than one person.
But there’s a bit of me that’s sad that the solo is over. I am surprised; I honestly didn’t think I’d feel like that, I thought I’d feel relieved.
I’m not sure how I feel. Excited. Happy to have such fabulous company. Thrilled that we are having our little adventure together. But I also feel a little sad. Sad that the trip I planned and saved and travelled all by myself will soon be coming to a close. Proud that I have made it. Tired from all the travelling but disappointed that its ending.
I’m a big mass of feelings and emotions right now.
So what have I been up to?
After the money debacle and my meeting with my Canadian saviour, I spent the first night in Fat Yogi’s which is a really lovely hotel in Kuta. A little over my budget at £12 it was the only place that would allow me to pay by credit card. We had a great time hanging out at the beach, having dinner and drinking far too many Bintangs.
The next day I upped and left to a hostel 20 minutes outside of Kuta called Granny’s Hostel. Now this hostel was more in my price range at £8 or £9 a night and really is a little gem of a place if you don’t mind spending time outside of the centre. I was more than ready to leave the madness of Kuta behind and spent the afternoon and evening chilling with the super friendly bunch of people at the hostel, talking rubbish and drinking water. It was exactly what I needed as I was in danger of feeling a bit burnt out by all the travelling and drama.
I left the next day for Jimbaran in the south where I met up with a friend of mine who has been living and working in Bali for a few years. It was great to see her. She cooked me dinner and gave me the low down on a few things including great places to eat, drink and party, plus a few tips on cultural differences and things to watch out for.
I decided I wanted a few days at the beach to relax and do nothing so I headed to the upmarket town of Sanur. The taxi was a bit pricey from Jimbaran but it was worth it because the beaches are so beautiful and the area is very chilled. Its nicknamed Snore by the locals and I can see why they might think that. To the average backpacker there’s not much there other than nice places to eat, couples and white sand. I was more than happy with this quiet pace of life for a while.
I arrived in Sanur and was unceremoniously left at the side of the road by my unfriendly taxi driver. He wasn’t sure where it was that I wanted to go so he decided it would be best for me to get out, walk and find it myself. As we were on a meter, I didn’t argue! I started walking to the beach and I must have been looking so lost because I lovely local guy on a scooter asked me where I was headed and offered to drop me where I needed to go. “It’s too far for you to go with a backpack,” he said. I asked him how much it would cost and he waved a hand dismissively in my direction. “Free. I want to help,” he replied. He dropped me at my hostel with a smile and sped off down the street. Some people are just good people!
The homestay my friend had recommended was full so I headed to another across the road. Yulia 1 is a great little find in Sanur. At only 150,000 IDR (approx. £6 or £7) I had a room with a fan and access to a pool. It made up for the crazy, expensive and unhelpful taxi journey from Jimbaran.
I did nothing in Sanur apart from laze which is exactly what I wanted. Laze and eat. I am currently a bit obsessed with an Indonesian dish called gado-gado which is vegetables and fried tofu in a satay sauce with crackers. It sounds boring but it’s usually quite cheap (especially if you eat it in Warungs which are like cafes) and really tasty.
I met two ladies, one from Australia, the other from Hawaii (who lives in Hawaii????) and organised to travel with them back to Kuta to share the cost of a taxi. I had no accommodation booked but stumbled across a little hotel near the beach with rooms at 200,000 (£10) which again is a little pricey but I wanted a room to myself before sharing with others again tomorrow.
After Sanur, I headed to Seminyak where I arrived at THE fanciest hotel I have stayed at in a while. After rocking up in my tie-dye dress (I know, such a cliché, right?) with my dirty backpack slung over my shoulder, I felt so out of place waiting for my friend to arrive. I was so excited and a little bit nervous to see her – such a mixture of feelings – as she was the first person I’d seen from home in over four months, but when she appeared, all excited squeals and jet-lag, I couldn’t have been happy.
We spent the day catching up, drinking cocktails in the pool bar, before heading out for drinks in the evening. In true fashion, we got hideously drunk, ended up at a secret rooftop party in the pouring down rain, and then curled up in our big king sized bed for a mammoth kip.
The next day we were joined by another friend who was getting a later flight.
Seminyak for us was all luxury beach bars and overpriced food, so we were more than happy to head to Ubud where we accidentally booked the most hilariously unfinished “hotel” (dubbed Horror Hotel some hours previous due to the horrendous reviews the property received on Trip Advisor).
But it really isn’t that bad. Sure there is a building site right where we eat our breakfast and the swimming pool looks like Mould Soup, but its quite a comfortable room and the company is great. Sometimes the accommodation isn’t that fab and you just have to roll with it.
We’ve spent our time exploring the area: perusing the markets, exploring the Monkey Forest and taking many a selfie with the furry little creatures, having nice dinners and arranging our travel plans for the next few days.
Oh, and there was also an case of mistaken identity that involved a gecko making loud noises outside our room. We couldn’t have freaked out more when we heard this unknown sound coming from outside the door and, after lots of hesitation, laughter and a couple of ridiculous iPhone videos later, we plucked up the courage to go and have a look. When we couldn’t see anything we decided to ask reception what it was only to be laughed at and told it was a gecko! Queue red-faces all round.
Have you ever been to Bali? What do you think of Kuta? Have you ever been to Saner or Ubud?
How do you feel when approaching the end of your solo travels? Do you, like me, feel a complex mixture of things that you can’t quite explain? How do you deal with the travel come down?
Have you ever gone from solo to travelling in a group?