Two weeks in Bali and the Gili Islands

I’d dreamed for a long time of going to Bali, island of the Gods. It’s so named because it’s a Hindu land in the middle of Muslim Indonesia, and also because the gods must have favoured it specially to make it so beautiful. Here you leave everything behind you, and lose yourself in what is essential.

I went there with a girlfriend, and we booked via a travel agency so as to organise our journey more easily. Here is what we did, and a few tips.

Day 1

Flight to Jakarta. We stayed overnight near the airport so as to take the first flight the next day for Denpasar. Jakarta is clogged with traffic, noisy and polluted, and we’d been advised against going into town for the evening.

Day 2

When we arrived at Denpasar our driver, called Made, was waiting for us with a big smile which we were to see a lot of during our stay.

We were dreaming of the blue of the Indian Ocean, but our trip began with the green of the terraced rice fields of Jatiluwih, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Jatiluwih means “really marvellous”, and we certainly marvelled!

Next we visited the pura or temple of Luhur Batukaru in the sumptuous setting of the volcano of Mount Batukaru. I was overwhelmed by the energy of this place, and the absence of tourists.

The day ended at Pura Tanah Lot. Perched on a rock and dedicated to the sea gods, it’s a magnificent place for admiring the sunset.

Note – a sarong is compulsory for visits to Hindu temples.

Day 3

To get over our jetlag, this was a day of relaxation, looking out over the irresistible panorama of luxuriant jungle, from an exceptional hotel that I will mention in another post. In the evening, we walked to Ubud which is famous for, amongst other things, its art galleries. For us it was shopping, a massage and dinner in a gluten-free restaurant.

Day 4

The day started with a trek that took us outside the limits of time. Two hours of exploration of the sumptuous ricefield landscapes of Sidemen. Flip-flops are useful for crossing the river. We were with Agnès and Timothy, portrait, wedding and event photographers, a couple who are as adorable as they are professional. Lovadore Photography. The proof is in the pictures.

The adventure continued with the sacred springs of Tirta Empul. For reasons of hygiene, I didn’t go in the water although the Balinese say it is purifying. Thanks to our driver, we then watched a ritual in a temple, which was much less touristy.

Then we went to Gunung Kawi, an oasis of green that’s so charming I had trouble leaving.

Day 5

Visit to the Taman Ayun temple, said to be one of the most beautiful in Bali, with its water garden. Then we went on to Ulun Dani, a temple set in the fabulous scenery of Lake Bratan. The backdrop takes it to the very top of my personal hit-list. Next we went to the village of Munduk, where we were a little disappointed we couldn’t swim in the waterfall, because it’s not deep enough. The day finished with a little touch of adrenaline on a giant swing.

Day 6

We left the hotel at 3am to climb Mount Batur, 5,633 feet (last volcanic eruption in 1999!) and admire the sunrise – it was magical and unforgettable. Worth knowing: You need to be quite sporty. Take warm clothing because it’s cold at the summit, and suitable shoes (trainers are too slippery).

Then we went to the fishing village of Amed. The speedboat crossing was unfortunately cancelled because of weather conditions.

Day 7 – 8 – 9 – 10

Free days at Gili Air – lazing around, exploring the island by bicycle, introduction to scuba diving… The most memorable thing for me was exploring underwater. But I wasn’t totally seduced by this island. Bali is more beautiful and exotic.

Day 11

Return to Amed, where we visited the royal baths and the beach of white sand. I don’t have great memories of this day because I lost my wallet. It took me several hours to get over it and get my positivity back, but I managed it in time for our arrival at Sanur, a peaceful and pretty beach resort.

Day 12

At Sanur, we made our final purchases before unwinding for the last time, looking out over the ocean. Our time had gone all too quickly.

Day 13

A free morning before taking the plane for Jakarta and going back to our respective countries, Turkey for me and Britain for my friend. There is so much to see that this fortnight seemed too short to us. Still, although I may have had a heavy heart about leaving the paradise of Bali, I was keen to get back to my preferred jungle – Istanbul!


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