There are some vacations that you really should take – not just because it’s a break from the usual craziness of your life, but because they stay with you long after the tans fade and the memory of it settles in. My birthday trip to Bali with When In City was one of those.
After a lot of hurrying and scurrying about to get my passport renewed, and general excitement over finally being far far away at an exotic destination on my birthday, I set out on my trip. When In City had planned a fabulous itinerary for us, if you remember from this post, and I was excited to find out how we’d fit in all of this and who I’d be having these adventures with.
Day 1: I was flying AirAsia from Bangalore to Kuala Lumpur, and then from there to Bali. A bit of a misadventure happened – my flight was delayed and somehow some other Indian girls at the airport convinced me they knew where to get the connecting flight to Bali and I went with them. After walking through the huge KL airport for what seemed like ages, I went to the boarding gate only to be informed that the flight was to Manila. I freaked out when I realized the connecting flight must have already left. The airport staff were very helpful though, and directed me to the help desk. I was super confused because the help desk looked empty as hell, I couldn’t see any staff there. After circling the place for ages, I finally discovered why I couldn’t see them. They were short, and were seated in front of a huge wall! I heaved a sigh of relief and they helped me get on to the next flight. While waiting, I met this guy from Shanghai and we chatted a bit – clearly people still think we all talk like Apu from the Simpsons because he told me I don’t ‘talk like an Indian’. Sigh. Still, it was fun meeting fellow travelers on the way.
I landed in Bali in the afternoon – the weather was cool and crisp, and I saw my driver waiting for me with a board that said ‘When In City’. It was smooth sailing from there as we drove from the airport and I checked into Harris Hotel, Seminyak.
Loved the interiors – the hotel has a huge pool on the ground floor as well as a ‘Flying Pool’ on the 5th floor – perfect for us to relax and enjoy some conversations.
The staff were super friendly and helpful, and the hotel also has buggies and golf carts that take you to major places in the city. I was sharing my room with another girl in the group. It had great wifi connectivity, spacious and was kept sparkling clean. Our first meal in Seminyak was pizza and the local beer, Bintang – crisp and delicious.
The best part about When In City is how you get to connect with so many people with similar interests, and in the same age group (18-32). The first day we all got introduced, and decided to first bond over conversations at the pool. That’s when our host suggested we go to Seminyak Beach to take in the breathtaking views of the sunset – something you shouldn’t miss.
It was beautiful and surreal – sipping on a couple of drinks, sitting on little bean bag chairs looking out at the sunset while live bands played everywhere. This one little live band took requests from us, and we decided to go and sing ‘Wonderwall’ impromptu with them – while they ended up playing Kuch Kuch Hota Hai in earnest the moment they found out we were Indian! The waves crashing on the shore, the sounds of the guitar and the fun conversations we were having just made the evening perfect.
After a while, we took a walk around Seminyak. Its neat little lanes dotted with cafes and bars and little shops fascinated us as we took in the sights and sounds. Our first Balinese meal was at a local warung or eatery as it’s called in the local dialect. While it reminded one of the girls of Chipotle, there were rows of different accompaniments you could choose with rice or noodles.
I tried stir-fried tempeh, which is a natural soya bean product, baby eggs and vegetable curry with sticky rice. The flavours were unlike anything I’ve ever tried – a slight sweetness while at the same time being spicy. The sambal paste, made from red chillies, was the perfect accompaniment.
We went to bed looking forward to our first day of surfing coming up the next morning.
Day 2: Kuta Beach is one of the world’s top five spots for surfing, and it’s a shallow sea which makes it perfect to learn surfing. We gathered around at a surf school, where experienced instructors taught us all the different moves and stances we had to take while surfing. As someone who can’t swim, here’s a tip – don’t worry and don’t be scared. You’ll fall quite a few times before you can do it, and there will be instructors everywhere just stationed to make sure you’re doing ok. But once you start, the feeling of being propelled in the water is definitely amazing.
After a long day of surfing, we relaxed with a delicious lunch at Warung Kecil, close to our hotel. Their paninis and plated meals are worth trying, as are their fresh juices.
Tanah Lot is a spectacular Hindu temple, that’s located on the top of a cliff by the sea. While we couldn’t climb up to the temple due to high tide, we got to explore this beautiful place for the rest of the afternoon.
If you’re visiting Tanah Lot, you’ll have to wear something with sleeves, and something that covers your legs and ankles – I chose a maxi skirt and a top. They also sell or rent sarongs that you can wear to cover up in case you’re wearing something else.
We captured some of the most incredible sunsets at Tanah Lot and found a lot of fun shopping steals! From souvenirs and knick knacks to some really beautiful art, there’s a lot to look forward to. There’s also a cafe that sells the famed civet cat coffee (coffee beans that are passed through the bowels of the civet cat – gross yes, but it’s supposed to be some really premium coffee!), and lots of little shops selling hammocks, dream catchers and other pretty things.
We stopped on the way back at a lovely little cafe that had a great view of the paddy fields. A pint of Bintang, a delicious Margherita pizza and lots of fun conversations with friends of the founder of When In City made it a memorable evening. They were locals who had moved to Bali to live there, and listening to their accounts of life on the island, I realized I totally wouldn’t mind moving here! What’s not to love? The sea, the friendly locals, the relaxed, easy pace of life…
This was followed by a fun night clubbing at some of the hottest night spots in Seminyak – unfortunately I fell sick and had to miss this, but we more than made up for it later, which you’ll find out soon!
Day 3: The second day of surfing saw many of the group learning some more advanced moves and so they caught some great waves and got a lot of fun pictures. We broke for lunch with our friends at Warung Kecil where we gorged on some delicious Indonesian food once again. I thought I’d have a tough time being vegetarian but boy, was I wrong! The locals are very understanding if you tell them ‘no meat’, and at Warung Kecil they were great at customizing orders too. From paninis to pizzas, noodles and fried rice there’s lots for veggies to have too.
In the afternoon, we met the friendly and fun Dewa, our driver for the trip, who drove us in a minibus to the Uluwatu temple. The Uluwatu temple is one of the oldest and most sacred Hindu temples in Bali, and is famous for its stunning views as it’s perched on top of a cliff, much like Tanah Lot. It’s also known for the traditional Kecak dance or fire dance performed at sunset.
Staring out at the sea as the waves lashed against the cliff, looking at the amazing carvings and temple gateways, I felt so much at peace with everything. The sun set in shades of gorgeous orange, red and gold, and no pictures can truly do justice to how beautiful and calming it was.
Tip: Be very careful of your belongings as you walk around the temple complex – there are lots of monkeys around and they’re known to snatch people’s belongings. As long as you’re alert, you should be fine – don’t fall for the people who’ll claim to ‘protect’ you from them for a fee.
The Kecak Fire dance is unique in its reliance completely on vocals to replace musical instruments, and the story is based on the Ramayana. A huge group of men dressed in sarongs started with a chorus of chants ‘Cak’ as they danced around a central figure, and performers dressed as Sita, Ram, Laxman, Ravan and all the other characters from the Ramayana started dancing and enacting the story.
While the start had the chants of ‘Cak, cak’ stuck in our heads, the second half suddenly got very entertaining, with some of the rakshasas interacting with the audience. The most spectacular sight was that in which Hanuman sets Lanka on fire.
For the non-vegetarians, no trip to Bali is complete without trying their amazing seafood. So for dinner, we went to Sunshine Cafe, a rather unassuming place from the outside, where there was a huge tank from which you could choose what seafood you wanted. They grill the seafood on burning coconut shells the Balinese way, which apparently adds an interesting flavour to the fare. As we walked through the interiors we suddenly came out onto Jimbaran beach and saw dozens of candlelit tables literally right at the spot where the waves hit the shore. It was unbelievably lovely and very romantic.
As we enjoyed the view with some delicious food, a group of live musicians came over to us and started playing requests. The sea breeze, the yummy food and the strains of the guitar made it so much fun.
And then, all of a sudden, the moment they realized we’re Indian, they started playing Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Man, Balinese people are really crazy about that movie!
This was the magic of Bali so far – head here for the second post in the series! If this post has got you dreaming about an island vacation too, hit up When In City – they have more such fun trips planned every month, and this is the best time to visit Bali too. I’ll be bringing you more from this island paradise very soon. Till then, follow us on Instagram for the best glimpses from the trip and a lot more!