First Time Visiting Bali?
Well you have come to the right place! 



Is it your first trip to Bali? Maybe your first ever Asia destination ?
Well let me guide you in your plans!

Right – Lets get started. 

When is the best month to visit Bali?
There is no particular “best month” to visit in my opinion.
I have been to Bali in both the wet and dry seasons – so in hindsight it just depends on when you can get the time to travel (or when flights are cheap)
Direct flights are definitely the way to go!

May, June and July are generally considered to be the best time to travel to Bali in terms of the weather. However, depending on whether you are a keen surfer or explorer, preferences may change. Rainy season which is typically from October to March – Bali becomes more quiet, which could also be your preference ! ( I have been in January so right in the peak of the wet season and it only rained at night…sooooo I guess you never know your luck!)



Currency? 

Bali uses IDR – Indonesian Rupiah as the currency.
Take cash, and try to get some small notes ( 10,000rp – 50,000rp)  if you can.
These are great for haggling and everyday purchases etc.

Click here to see current conversion rates $100 NZD to IDR

Recommended Budget… that depends on whether you have pre-booked accommodation etc..
I would budget maybe $100 a day for your first ever trip – this allows you to see and do everything on a luxury scale! Massages, food, exploring and shopping.



Do I need a Visa to visit Bali? 

Do your research on this!
Every passport is different , and different circumstances i.e length of stay can change this too.

I am not going to write any direct advise on here and have someone hold the information against me, so either go online or speak to your airline directly.

Message me if you have any questions!



Roaming in Bali

After chatting to a lovely reader , Bali does offer the $5 roaming like many other countries do. However when I was there I didn‚Äôt really recieve the $5 roaming txt ?? 
My recommendation is either – switch off during the days, and just use the hotel wifi when you are back in the rooms at night…

Or alternatively, if you are going to be out and about exploring on your own get a sim card!
We brought sim cards with TELKOMSEL for approx. 150,000rp ($15NZD) for 8gb of data!
*don’t buy from the airport – far cheaper in town.



Getting Around Bali

To avoid the traffic of Bali renting a scooter is the best way to get around.
Renting a scooter is the “done thing” in Bali and is very cheap. But can also be very dangerous and I highly recommend checking to see if your travel insurance covers scooter hire!

Taxis are considered “expensive” (but nothing compared to home) , only use the BLUE BIRD Taxis and make sure they run the metre.

Uber is somewhat banned by the monopoly on taxi service.
Download the “GRAB” app, which is the new South East Asia version of UBER.
You can still use Grab, but need to be aware that some Grab drivers won’t come into over populated areas due to the “mafia” on the taxis.

Alternate option – Hire a driver!
This is by far my favourite way to explore. We have made an amazing friend with Wayan, who runs his own business driving for the day.
For about $60 NZD for the whole day you have a private driver who will take you pretty much anywhere you would like to go, and if you don’t know then he will plan a day to see the best attractions too!

CLICK HERE and message Wayan directly!
It’s his facebook page and he will respond very promptly! Tell him I sent you ūüôā



Other things I wish I had known on my first trip to Bali!

* Pack tissues in your bags, some local toilets have no paper so when you are out and about during the day you will thank me!
– And following on from above, pack a hand sanitiser!

* Insect repellent is a must, especially if you are going up to Ubud.

* Don’t drink the water, brush your teeth with bottled water and be conscious of the ice in your drinks!! Ask for No Ice just to be safe.

* Pack a small umbrella that fits in your bag, when it rains it absolutely BUCKETS down!



Okay so thats the nitty gritty over and done with!

Now the fun part – Areas of Bali to Stay and Top things to See and Do!

Deciding where to stay in any new country can make or break your trip.
Let me explain the main areas to you, and let you make the decision from there!

**Bali Traffic can be a nightmare, so getting around can sometimes take a lot longer than anticipated, therefore if you have a particular type of holiday in mind – try to stay in one or two spots that suit your needs.

Choosing your Area: 

KUTA – Close to the airport, known for being more of the party central of the island.
Personally, I haven’t stayed in Kuta – just come in and out during the day for shopping etc.

SEMINYAK – Think Private Pool Villas, Beach Clubs, Good Food, Luxury Hotels, and some of the more famous nightlife you may have heard of – Potato Head/Mrs Sippy etc.
A great location central, and again with good shops, markets etc.

CANGGU – Slightly further up the coast from Seminyak you will find the digital nomad expats. Think chilled surf vibes, amazing a√ßai bowl spots, good coffee and just an overall feel good vibe.

ULUWATU – Famous for its beautiful clifftop temples and accommodation. Amazing day beach clubs (you have to get down to SUNDAYS), and all round good vibes in Uluwatu. Home to the surfers, but equally as great for the spectators! Grab a drink at single fin and watch the sun go down whilst the surfers enjoy the evening ocean.

NUSA DUA – Good for families, more resort style accommodation . Great watersports and the beaches tend to be directly out front of your resort. Quieter than most other parts of Bali. Nightlife seems non existent, but enjoy good food and multiple massage places!

UBUD – Eat, Pray, Love Vibes! Ubud is more of a tranquil rainforest feel. Complete with monkeys roaming the streets, rice terraces and yoga spots to get your zen on. Don’t be fooled though, this isn’t a sleepy quiet town – full of tourists and shops etc along the way! Recommend looking at staying on “monkey forest road” if you don’t want to get a taxi every time you want to go for food/massage/shopping etc!

SANUR – Great for families with a mix of quiet beaches and nightlife too. If you are going to head out to any of the outer islands, Sanur is a great base as many of the boats leave from Sanur Harbour!



TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN BALI FOR YOUR FIRST TIME

These will be typical touristy things to do, but hey! That’s why we go on holidays right?!
In no particular order, here goes..

1. Visit the Tegallalang Rice Terraces in Ubud
* Tip, go early early morning to avoid the crowds, and take small change to pay the fees to the farmers around the terraces.

2. After a visit to Uluwatu Temple, choose a spot nearby and Watch the sun go down in Uluwatu  Bali has some of the best Sunsets I have ever seen!

3. Spend your days/nights at some of the many beach clubs.
    ( I will write a seperate post about some of the very best)

4. Have a tasting paddle of Local coffee and tea’s, and if you are feeling adventurous
– try the 
Luwak CatPooCino, its not too bad!

5. Go Chasing Waterfalls!
In particular, Kanto Lampo, one of my faves!

6. Try an Acai bowl at some of the best cafes around Seminyak!

7. Hike up Mt Batur Volcano for Sunrise.
I can promise you the views are worth it!

8. If you aren’t too scared, pop in to the Ubud Monkey Forest
... just be careful, they may look friendly but I got bitten when one tried to steal my ring!

9. Tanah Lot – the famous temple perched on a rock and surrounded by the ocean!
Go at hightide to see it in all its glory!

10. Visit the Ubud Art Markets to find some beautiful handcrafted goods for your home

Bonus… #11 – if you have loads of time in Bali, you simply cannot miss heading over to Gili Trawangan Island for a few days, and Nusa Penida needs more than a day to get the most out of this beautiful place!

Kelingking Beach

NUSA PENIDA ISLAND

 

 

GILI TRAWANGAN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the rest I shall leave up to you!
I hope this blog post has been informative, let me know if you have any further questions, and spread the word to friends or family who may be heading to Bali too.
Xo Cayla
@lifeoflayovers

 

 

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Top 10 Things to Do on Gili Trawangan



1. Go Snorkelling or Diving in the crystal clear waters of the Gili Islands

We took our own snorkel and masks with us, and just borrowed fins for the dives. There are multiple snorkelling tour companies on the island for you to choose from. Most of the public boats are around 150k Rupiah each (approx. NZ$15) Including your gear hire if you don’t have your own. These go to all the main spots and take about 4hours.

We decided to opt for a private boat, yes we paid a bit more 600k Rupiah (NZ$60) for two hours but this meant we could spend as little or as much time in certain spots as we liked.

And I mean HOW EPIC IS THIS SHOT !

2. Watch the Sun go down on the Sunset side of the Island

Watching the Sunset is quite possibly one of my absolute favourite things to do, and Gili T does not disappoint. Some of the most incredible Sunsets I have ever seen.

3. Enjoy a BBQ meal sitting on the beach as the Sun goes down

Every day as the Sun sets for the day the BBQ restaurants come alive. Choose from a range of fresh seafood or meats that will be cooked for you on the BBQ whilst you listen to live music on the beach.
NZ$8 for a 100gram tuna steak & full access to the salad buffet all you can eat… it doesn’t get much better than that!

4. Hire Bikes and explore the Island

Gili T is motor vehicle free which means horse carts or bicycles are you main mode of transport.
You can hire bikes for approx. 50000 Rupiah a day (NZ$5)
Because the Island is so small, this is a great way to explore each and every spot on the island – stopping whenever you want to for a cold Bintang or Fresh Coconut.
Just prepare for a sore bum – the roads are bumpy!

5. Swing on one of the many Gili Ocean Swings

There are multiple Swings to choose from set out in the ocean – all on the Sunset Side of the Island.
During the day, you have free reign and complete opportunity to take as long as you like (and as many photos as you like haha) but come sunset time – you will be waiting in line with multiple other people to get that #gramshot … yes, I am guilty – but can you blame me??!

Day Time Hangs

Sunset Vibes

6. Enjoy a $2 Fresh Coconut or Ten

Biking round the Island, any time I felt like a drink we stopped at one of the many beachside juice bars or restaurants and had a fresh cold $2 coconut.
So refreshing, So Cheap – Just Perfect!

7. Party at one of the many beach bars down by the Harbour

If you are after some party vibes, with pumping music head along to the Harbour Side of the Island.
Multiple Bars with backpackers everywhere playing Beer Pong and simply enjoying the Island Vibes.
Street Food Stalls selling local cuisine if you are brave enough, and delicious crepes for dessert too if thats what you are craving!

8. Yoga with the team at Yoga Sunset Beach Villas

We booked through Air BNB and stayed at the Yoga Sunset Beach Villas for our time on Gili T and throughly enjoyed it. We didn’t manage to get up early enough to enjoy the Yoga they have to offer but if we had more time we definitely would have made more of an effort.
A platform suspended above the ground overlooking the ocean. The team offers Yoga here twice a day, with Aerial Yoga as the sun goes down – and only 150000 Rupiah (NZ$15) a class!

9. Have a Massage

Quite Simply – no trip to Bali is complete without daily Balinese Massages, and Gili T was in my opinion my best massage throughout the trip. Don’t ask me the name of the place as I literally cannot remember, all I know is that it was down by the harbour/town area and was $175000 Rupiah (NZ$17) for an hour… yes, a little more expensive than the $6 cheap and cheerful massages most places in Bali but hey – when you are out on a tiny island you don’t have much choice.
And like I said – actually the best massage I had!

10. Simply enjoy your days exploring the island

Since Gili T is relatively small, you can literally bike around the island in less than an hour.
I highly recommend just hopping around the island, stopping at all the different beaches and spots around the Island. Taking in the local life and enjoying the fact that you are on a small island a few hours away from the main hustle and bustle of Bali.

Scott and I absolutely LOVED Gili T and I wish we had booked longer out there. 
For next time, we will explore the other Gili Islands as well and hope to get across to explore some of Lombok too!

Hope this helps, and take a look at my other blog posts for everything else we got up to on this Bali trip!

xo Cayla

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Fivelements Spa Retreat



After an early morning start to explore yet another stunning waterfall we thought it was about time we head to one of the most beautiful spa’s in Bali for a few hours of pampering and relaxation. I had heard amazing things about this retreat so I was very excited to try this out for myself!

Our time at Five Elements included a 120 minute Balinese Boreh Ritual which consisted of a massage and salt scrub.


From the website of Fivelements –
Balinese Boreh

Feel the ancient secret of Balinese herbal scrubs, the Boreh. Our experienced therapists will begin with a traditional massage to deeply relax your whole body. Your chosen blend of powerful local herbs (sacred spice, cinnamon-coffee or authentic Balinese), combined with powdered rice will then be applied to free your skin from dead cells and promote circulation. The sensation is of deep penetrating heat that melts away your tension. To complete this healing journey, indulge in an inspiring aromatic flower bath by the sacred Ayung river.


You had three choices of salt scrub to choose from , we chose the coffee & cinnamon, and gosh it smelt divine!

When you arrive into the room there is no music, simply just the sounds of the Ayung river and nature outside – absolute BLISS.

To begin our experience we slipped into our robes and headed out onto the deck where the beautiful therapists are waiting for you. Here you enjoy a relaxing footbath with exfoliation scrub and a refreshing drink whilst you soak in the surroundings and get in the zone.

The massage then begins with a brief meditation with the therapist holding your hands , focusing on your breathing techniques to truly get into that zen space and removing all of the world outside.

The massage was absolutely stunning. Perfect amounts of pressure, & great techniques. To be expected from a place of this standard and we were not disappointed at all. After approximately 1hour of pure relaxation bliss you are then treated to your chosen body scrub and my gosh we smelt good! Coffee & Cinnamon is a divine combo thats for sure!

After the massage and body scrub we stepped back out on the deck and towards our very own private spa overlooking the Ayung river. Our therapist then talked us through the 5 elements that she was adding in to the bath – in our case, a flower bath with 5 different colours & elements of flowers.

Because of this perfectly “Insta-grammable bath” we took multiple photos and didn’t enjoy the bath as long as I wanted – but we definitely had a chance to relax and sip on our ginger tea whilst overlooking the Ayung River and watching the lizards playing on the rocks & getting swept down the river.

I pretty much had to be dragged away kicking and screaming from this absolutely incredible place, but we had lunch waiting for us!



We are always up for trying new things and the Chefs 3 Course Tasting Meal was delicious!!
Served in the beautiful restaurant overlooking the jungle and river we had some delicious plant based – vegan cuisine.

To begin we had a beautiful kombucha brought out to us along with an amuse bouche of carrot hummus and crackers, full of flavour and a great little taster.

First of the three courses was a beautifully fresh, crisp salad tossed with cacao cashews, avocado and tamarillo – an incredible mix of flavours on the palate.

Then came the Jackfruit tacos – Essentially like pulled pork but for Vegans.
I was unsure what to think to begin with but was pleasantly surprised by the balinese sambal and coconut yoghurt flavours mixed through the jackfruit.

And we finished off with a beautiful Coconut Pannacotta served with a passionfruit sorbet and sitting on a bed of sunflower crumble – This was my favourite , but you all know I have a sweet tooth!

I would highly recommend this experience for anyone and everyone looking to relax and splurge a little to be pampered – its 100% worth it!

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GARDENS BY THE BAY  


Getting there : Take the train to Bayfront MRT Station.
Take Exit B and follow the underground linkway
Exit and cross the Dragonfly Bridge or Meadow Bridge into Gardens by the Bay

From Marina Bay Sands:
Walk across the overhead bridge (Lions Bridge) located at Marina Bay Sands Hotel (open daily from 8.00am to 11.00pm), or take the underground linkway via Bayfront MRT Station
(Exit B).


Gardens By the Bay is set in the heart of the city of Singapore.
From awe inspiring magical super trees to lifelike flowers made of lego – you could spend hours in the Gardens and not see everything.

Each time I visit I find something new and exciting.
Different times of the day bring out different parts of the Gardens too – Early evening however has to be my absolute favourite.
It truly is a photographers paradise.

BEST OF ALL…
ITS FREE TO ENTER THE GARDENS AND EVEN SEE THE LIGHT SHOW!

 

TOP TIP – If it rains, grab an umbrella and head to the Gardens! It brings out all the greens in the gardens and majority of the tourists don’t bother to visit so its a perfect time for photos!!

See more details below regarding pricing for particular domes etc.


HIGHLIGHTS & PRICING


SUPER TREE GROVE 
Free Admission
Garden Rhapsody Show: 7.45pm & 8.45pm every night.

  • The absolute MUST DO if you only have a short amount of time to explore the gardens is to be there for the Super Tree light shows!
    Every Evening there are two awe inspiring shows that are totally FREE to go in and enjoy!

CLOUD FOREST
$16 SGD Admission
Open Hours: 9am to 9pm

** You can get a stamp to re-enter as well on the same day.

  • After seeing a few photos I quickly added this to the top of my agenda for my last trip to Singapore.
    The Cloud Forest Dome offers one of the most spectacular waterfalls – and its indoors! There is a small charge attached with going inside the dome, but it is well worth it to get out of the humid Singapore temperatures and into a refreshing misty paradise. You will easily spend an hour in here exploring every corner of this impressive dome.

OCBC SKYWAY
$8 SGD Admission
Open Hours: 
9am – 9pm daily

At a height of 22metres surrounded by magical futuristic Super Trees, the OCBC Skyway truly makes you feel like you are in Avatar. An Experience not to be missed!


  • Follow the signs to “The Meadow” and a short stroll through the gardens will¬†lead you to one of the most intriguing and impressive art sculptures I have ever seen!
    A 7 tonne baby, masterfully balancing on the infants right hand , creating an effect that the baby appears to be floating.
    Words and photos cannot describe this impressive sculpture well enough – one of those moments you have to see for yourself.


  • Gardens by the Bay offers some of the very best views of Marina Bay Sands. For those budding photographers out there, or just everyone else that wants to get a decent close up look at Marina Bay Sands this is the place to be! Once you have watched the Super Tree Show you can head across and watch the laser and light show off Marina Bay Sands if you have time too…

Or head over to my post on Singapore for a detailed version of getting up to the top!

 

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TOPAS ECOLODGE



If you are planning a trip to Sapa and wanting a retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday Vietnam, then Topas Ecolodge is the place to stay!
Perfectly situated on a hilltop, surrounded by mountains that are covered in Rice Terraces – it doesn’t get much better than this!

45minutes out of Sapa town on a rather adventurous drive, you will arrive at your fairytale destination. Misty hills, cobblestoned paths and a pool that looks like you are floating in the clouds.

It truly feels like you are in another world up there. So peaceful, quiet and surreal.

We took our drone for a spin Рcheck it out below!! 

 

& Check out more photos of the Lodge on booking.com !



The Power of Instagram. 

Now, like most people – prior to travelling you do your research…Finding places you wish to visit, must do’s and accommodation options.
For me – I research via INSTAGRAM… #sapa and quickly Topas Ecolodge pops up with their eye catching Infinity Pool up in the clouds overlooking the mountains.

So that was me sold!

I told Scott we had to add Sapa into our Vietnam holiday just so I could visit this exquisite place and I am so glad we did!



The Lodge

National Geographic has listed Topas Ecolodge Number 1 in its list of 21 places to stay if you care about the planet.

National Geographic commented ” Sustainable, spectacular and engaged with local communities, these lodges are tucked into some of the planet‚Äôs wildest places,‚Ä̬†

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/lists/places-to-stay/21-ecolodges-sustainable-hotels/

 25 Standalone Mountain Bungalows all sit on this hilltop with unobstructed views due to the careful thinking and design of this Ecolodge.

We woke up one morning literally in the clouds. You could just make out the rice terraces below, but mostly all you could see was the fluffy clouds out our window – it was truly magical!



The Pool

 

The newly built stunning infinity pool situated high in the mountains is the reason Topas Ecolodge caught my eye.

The pool has the most incredible views of the surrounding peaks, valleys & rice terraces – I could just stay in for hours! Depending on the time of day, and the lighting you can even get shots of the pool with the clouds reflecting – like a mirror!

There is also a dedicated bar up there too , so pull up a lounger and get comfortable for the day!

And if the pool is too crowded for your liking – head up the steps to the Spa – a massage or herbal bath overlooking the incredible mountains will have you in awe!



Food & Drink 

Reviews we had previously read about the Lodge were that Food & Drink was overpriced… $160,000VND for a decent size main meal (which is served with rice) and around $110,000VND for a cocktail is extremely reasonable considering the location – 45minutes out of Sapa Town located on a hilltop in the mountains.
Look – its not the $35,000VND you are used to paying on the streets in Hanoi – its a proper restaurant with incredible views & AMAZING food full of flavour!

The Staff – who might I add are 95% local minorities from the villages which Topas Ecolodge provide employment to help support the local communities – always have a Smile and are so friendly.

We were thoroughly impressed with the service and quality of both the breakfast and dinners in the restaurant… and one simply cannot start your day in Vietnam without one of the AMAZING Vietnamese coffees !

 



Red Dao Ladies

Okay prepare – you are amongst the hilltribe villages.

When we arrived from Sapa town, before we had even got out of the car we were bombarded by 10-15 beautiful smiling ladies all wearing Red hats trying to sell us their handmade items.

Now this can be a little overwhelming at first, however they are not allowed into the Lodge.

My recommendation at first is to try and not engage too much with them. Say Hello, and move into the Welcome House until you are ready to meet these lovely, but very intense ladies.

Our second day here in the village we decided to brave it… we wanted to go for a walk around the hill area. LITERALLY as soon as you get anywhere in view of these ladies they are wanting to become your friend (and sell you some goodies).

We had 4 lovely ladies follow us… and then eventually lead us on a 2hour hike holding my hand down the slippery rice terrace tracks to show us the local area.
This was an absolute experience I highly recommend.
So many laughs along the way.

But BE WARNED – if you walk with these ladies, you are expected to buy something from each one of them that is walking with you.

As it was our last day (and we were running out of Vietnamese Dong) I bartered with the ladies and we agreed on spending $100,000VND($6NZD) per lady – and so I leave Sapa with 2 small hand sewn bags, some bracelets & and a coin purse.



If you are not already sold… then here are a few photos to tempt you even more!

 

 



Now that you want to visit TOPAS ECOLODGE
Рare you wondering how to get from Hanoi to Sapa (and vice versa) ?? 

CLICK HERE TO SEE HOW WE DID IT !! 



Check out more of our travels on Instagram @lifeoflayovers.

xo Cayla
lifeoflayovers@gmail.com

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