Exploring Bali: Part One


From the moment you leave the airport and you’re hit – BAM! – with a rush of heat, Bali grips you.

It’s intoxicating. 

It was our first trip over to the ‘Island of the Gods’ and I’m not exaggerating when I say we were well and truly captivated from the get-go.

Bali, in parts, is a mad melting pot of Aussie tourists, far too many Bintang singlets, scooters, questionable construction and a sense of chaos (that somehow works.)

Peeling back that superficial top-coat, however, you find a fascinating, deeply spiritual, mostly Hindu society – the ever-smiling, awesomely friendly Balinese whose daily routines are punctuated by ceremony.

Prayer, blessings, and rituals. Protection, guidance, gratitude. 

Some say Bali is the heart chakra of the world, and her energy is something that without question, found its way under my skin. I’ve never felt so embraced by a ‘place.’ 

From the sensory overload that is Seminyak, to lazy, languid days on the Bukit Peninsula, our 11-day trip over was the perfect mix of doing and simply being.

What became very obvious to us from the beginning is that Bali has a real Choose Your Own Adventure feel to it. You could quite easily go BIG and go LUXE and blow your budget in a huge way – if you felt so inclined.

You could quite easily rough it and have the cheapest holiday of your life – if that tickled your fancy.

There’s no shortage of options if you want to party every night, or embark on a spiritual quest in the humble confines of a yoga and meditation retreat, or take off to an island with your lover and stare at the sunset daily.

There’s something for everyone. Truly.

So, gorgeous ones, let me share with you some of the highlights – observations made through the lens of our experience (and perceptions) – over the next two posts. This is a place we know we’ll return to again, and again. There’s so much more to explore.

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We loved: Aberu Villas, Canggu (booked via AirBNB)






On the recommendation of a few different friends, we made the decision to stay in Canggu – and it was a good one. It felt like home immediately.

A 10 – 15 minute scooter ride out of the hustle and bustle of Seminyak, Canggu is laid-back (and simultaneously, growing at a rapid clip it appears), full of expats and home to Echo Beach, Ramai’s favourite surf spot.

We stayed at Aberu Villas in Brawa beach, Canggu and can’t speak highly enough about it. Beautiful pool, luxurious bath, comfy bed and gorgeous, friendly staff. Ticked all the boxes.

Scooters. Transportation-wise, the reception staff organised us a scooter for 600,000 rupiah ($6 AUD) a day, which is slighty higher than you’d pay if you went direct to the hire company, but for convenience and when the difference is a couple of dollars give or take, $30 for 5 days was quite alright by us.

I’ll actually go as far as saying a scooter is an essential for getting around in Canguu, where things are more spread out than Seminyak (which has ‘main streets’ with shops/ restaurants/ bars a-plenty.) Scootering around can feel a little foreign and wobbly at first, but you quickly get the hang of it. Hot tip: cruise around the quieter parts first.

Taxis. At night if we were going into Seminyak, we took a cab and paid on average 50,000 rp ($5 AUD) for the trip.



Prepare yourself for black volcanic sand beaches in Canggu and Seminyak. And plenty of washed up trash on the high shoreline. It will break your heart a little if you’re from a clean, beachy destination, but… such is life. There are plenty of white sand beaches elsewhere, as you’ll see in Part 2.

Photos: Aberu Villas; scooter petrol stand (as quaint as it gets!); rice paddies in Canggu; Aberu Villas; Old Man’s (we didn’t eat here, but will next time); Echo Beach; Brawa Beach. 

EAT (cafes)





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Betelnet. Ahh Betelnut. This treehouse-like organic café was our favourite place to eat in Canguu and we dropped in often. Healthy, delicious food and fresh juices, prepared with a whole lotta love. The vibe is earthy and relaxed and you can quite easily laze in one of their comfy booths for an hour after a morning at Echo Beach. Highly recommend this one for the Lovers of Healthy, Nourishing Fare.

Deus ex Machina. We decided to switch things up for breakfast one morning and ate just across the rice field from Betelnut at Deus – a motorcycle showroom with an adjoining café. The Cooler Colada (pineapple/ coconut water/ coconut milk) was definitely a winner.

Green Ginger Noodle HouseOwned by the people behind Zucchini in Seminyak, Green Ginger dishes up tasty vegetarian food and has a cool, chilled vibe – think lanterns hanging from the roof, unpretentious vintage decor. The red curry was DE-LICIOUS. And the wontons? Spot. On.

Grocer and Grind. super cool fit out, and a great place for a juice or smoothie on the way home from Echo Beach. I may have just ordered badly, but wasn’t overly fussed on the food but it is worth sticking your head in anyway if you’re around the area.



Earth Cafe. Health nuts, ahoy! One side is a cafe, the other a health store, which means while you wait for your order, you can stock up on coconut oil and organic snacks til your little heart’s content. Nb yourself the window seat in the cafe section if you can and kick back with a healthy burrito or something equally as delicious in the vego/ Paleo/ raw/ gluten free/ dairy free sphere.

Cafe Bali. An eclectic cafe – one of the originals – that sits smack bang in the middle of busy Seminyak and serves delicious Nasi Goreng and the best tuna carpaccio (with lime and chilli) under the sun.

On the list for next time: Sea Circus

Photos: Betelnut; Betelnut; Deus; Earth Cafe; Cafe Bali. 

EAT (restaurants and bars)









Sarong. Holy moly. THIS PLACE. We ate, what I’ll happily declare as some of the best food we’ve ever eaten at Sarong. Slow-cooked Sri Lankan lamb curry, zucchini flowers, tandoori fish… it was all insanely flavoursome and expertly prepared. Not to mention the surroundings – lush-tropical-garden-meets-opulent-fine-dining-meets-Bali. The service here is top-notch and I highly recommend it for a fancier/ special dinner with your beloved or travelling buddies.

Biku. Friends of ours that have lived in Bali for the past few years took us here, promising that we were going to LOVE the fish curry – and yep, it was pretty epic.

Motel Mexicola (not shown). You could go here for the decor alone and leave with your hunger satisfied, but honestly, you’ll want to stay a (long) while to soak up the atmosphere. It’s electric. You’ll actually forget you’re in the middle of Seminyak as you’re transported back in time to Acapulco in the 60’s. It’s bright. It’s a little loco. It should definitely be on the list for a fun night out.

And for sundown lounging, cocktail in hand, you seriously can’t go past:

// Potato Head

// La Plancha


All are beachfront locations with awesome tunes, pumping crowds and elements that make them each unique and worthy. If you’re looking to drink in a Seminyak sunset (and a sneaky cocktail or three) get your butt to one of these places.

Restaurants on the list for next time: Sardine | Barbacoa | MAMA san

Photos: La Plancha x 3; Ku de Ta x 3; Sarong; Potato Head. 


// Wine is expensive in Bali. Cocktails or Bintangs are the more affordable choice if you fancy a drink.

// If you’re all for keeping it healthy, ask for ‘no sugar or syrup’ in your fresh juices. Green juices are usually fine (all I drank over there) but you will find they love to add some sweetness to some of the other fruity concoctions (which really don’t need any additional sweetness.)

// The entry visa – to be paid for at the airport before you go through Customs – is USD $25. Ensure you get this money exchanged before you leave your home destination. You can also skip the queue if you want and pay to go ‘express’ (200,000 rupiah, or around $20 for Aussies.) The departure tax is 200,000 rupiah, so bring this with you when you’re leaving.

// Thankfully, we didn’t have the displeasure of experiencing the dreaded Bali Belly. Touch wood! It seems to strike at random, but you can ensure you’re ‘doing the right things’ by only drinking water from bottles – which includes using bottled water to brush your teeth and refraining from opening your mouth in the shower – and sticking to reputable cafes and restaurants for your meals. Carrying around a hand sanitiser is often advised if you want to be extra safe.

// Bali thrives on tourism – and yep, you’ll also find, ‘opportunism.’ Do your research for standard pricing for things like taxi fares and hiring a private driver and ask questions/ be straight up with what you’re going to pay from the outset for clarity. The flip-side of this is, of course, maintaining an abundance mindset. If your cabbie overcharges you a few dollars, or your driver ends up bumping the standard rate up by $10 (AUD), my gentle suggestion is to look at it with a bit of perspective. This happened to us on one of the days and I swiftly reminded myself that at home a 10 minute taxi ride would cost me the same. Relax those principles, enjoy your trip!

Stay tuned for Part Two, coming shortly, featuring our time in Ubud, Bingin/ Uluwatu and Nusa Dua.

Since there’s SO MUCH to see and do in Bali and it’s a destination that has already been explored by many, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below: 

What are your ‘musts’ (see/ do/ eat/ indulge in) when it comes to Bali?

Let’s build this resource list together! And I’d be ever so grateful if you could share this baby around. Help your travelling sistas/ misters out!

35 Comments to “Exploring Bali: Part One”

  1. Ah, Bali. Reading this post and looking at your pics is making me want to get back there asap! Glad you enjoyed your trip – shame our paths didn’t cross but I’ll see you on the GC for the BYLCC live training day soon!
    P.S. Can definitely vouch for Sea Circus and MAMA san. Sea Circus is a fav for brekky – such a fantastic range of healthy meals (and vegan friendly), and such a cool, eclectic design. I also absolutely adore La Lucciola in Seminyak for brekky, lunch and dinner! Incredible view overlooking the ocean, traditional Balinese design, and amazing food :-)

  2. As a regular to Bali I get so upset when people dis it because they can’t see past the Bintang singlets and Aussie bogans in Kuta.

    Well done, Rach! Captured just as I see it myself.

    Truly magical, spiritual and like nothing else in the world.

    The Balinese have life all figured out, and I am green with envy.

    • Honey, I feel the same way about living on the Gold Coast. Many believe it’s all Surfers Paradise (and let me assure you, I wouldn’t be living here if it was.) It definitely took me some time to warm to the idea of Bali, but HOT DAMN am I glad we went. Also happy we went over with a sense of curiosity and zero expectations.

      Funny how life works best that way, no? x

  3. Soooo, Im hovering over tickets to Bali after reading this. I havnt been back since I was 18, I fell in love with Bali and I’d love to go back and experience a different side of Bali. Thanks for the post Rach, you’ve re inspired me to go on an overseas trip this year and Bali is now looking like the number one contender.

    Can’t wait for the next one.


  4. I was in Bali in 2000 – it was a present from my uncle for “being a courageous kid” after the diagnosis of my eye conditions! Heading up to see the rolling rice fields from a cafe in Ubud we came across a funeral procession in the streets. It was amazing, all the boys dressed the same, a massive cart with a statue of a horse (i think, from memory) on it, decorated elaborately and colourfully. It was such a respectful but vibrant celebration of the deceased person. I remember we made friends with some older guys who frequented Bali and they showed us around less-touristy places and it was awesome. Loved seeing this post as I adore your travel reflections!

  5. Eeeek – beautiful Rach! I’m so so glad you guys had such a wonderful time. Bali has truly won me over as well – I’m heading back in 2 weeks for my 4th trip over there and will definitely have to stay a few nights in Canggu as I haven’t explored that area at all yet. I’m a big fan of Ubud (The Yoga Barn! Clear! Kafe!) and on my most recent trip, Bingin. So I cannot wait to see your follow up post – and get my butt back over there! x

    PS. Love that you mentioned the trash on the beach in those ‘hot spots’ – this was something that I (naively) didn’t expect… Strategically cropped photos and over-hyped recommendations maybe!? Thank goodness for the white sands of The Bukit x

  6. Stunning photos Rach!! Such a beautiful holiday destination, I have never been but maybe one day. I look forward to reading part 2 :) xx

  7. I have the best driver ever! We’ve used him for years and he is just so trustworthy, honest and eager to help. He’s arranged everything for us – a day that started with ‘we’re not sure what we’d like to do’ turned out to a trip to a temple, elephant ride, scenic lunch, art gallery and more. His name is Nana, He’s on Facebook and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him to anyone who is heading to Bali for whatever reason.


  8. You have me hyped Rachel! I have been toying with the idea of taking a trip to Bali for a while, but was put off by some of the recent ‘Aussie Bogan imagery’ out out by the media.
    Taking a few notes – Thanks xx

  9. Everything (EVERYTHING!) in this post has reaffirmed my absolute need to visit Bali ASAP. The landscapes, the food, the drinks! Be still my beating heart.

    Beautiful Rach! I’m stoked that there will be a second instalment.

  10. Ohh I can’t WAIT to visit Bali! I’m in the Philippines so we’re practically neighbors and the hubs and I have it on our list of places to see in the near future. I will keep all of these recommendations in mind.

  11. I (naively) thought that bali was just a haven for Aussie tourists + cheap beer, but your pictures + radiant words are enough to make me want to jump on a plane now! We’re currently in Europe and are looking to spend some time relaxing (both the purse strings and the mind) before we head home – it looks like Bali might be the perfect place to do just that! Thank you for sharing Rach + getting me out of my ‘bogan Bali’ mindset! X

  12. Agghh Bali LOVE!!!

    Sea Circus is a must… smoothies, coffee, granola…Yum!!

    Bungalow Living, run by an Australian lady who lives in Bali, great natural, wholesome food and smoothies. With a gorgeous gift and lifestyle shop! Keep your eye out for her 2 giant pooches!

    We started here for our honey moon – plenty of R & R here! Beautiful, white sand, shady trees, surf, well maintained beach – NO rubbish, clear blue waters, very swim worthy.

    And….yoga at the Power of Now Oasis in Sanur on the beach, in an open air tree house, with the breeze and smell of the clean ocean air! It was an amazing yoga experience I won’t forget. Try there date smoothie in their downstairs lounge too :)

    Bali Love!

  13. Oh my! Bali has always been on my “to-see” list, but it just got pushed up a whole lot higher. (Clearly it’s at the top of Austen’s list due to surf spots! haha.)
    Can’t wait for part 2! xx

  14. Oh Rachel, your descriptions of the places and the food took me straight back to the first time I visited 18 months ago.

    I haven’t been to seminyak nor Canngu so they are now on my list for next time.

    Thanks for taking me back to Bali in my mind


  15. Rachel – I love this post! Bali is on my list for next year and I’m definitely putting this post in my back pocket for when I’m in the planning phase. It looks like you had a fantastic time and your photos are beautiful!


  16. Such a helpful post, Rach! We’ve just done 5 days at Mu Villas in Bingin (absolutely incredible and highly recommended), spent yesterday exploring Ubud and are now in Canggu for a couple of days. Will definitely be checking out a few of your recommendations! X

  17. Awesome Rach!!
    We have booked to go next March, a little family holiday. We are SO SO pumped!! Can’t wait for post number 2!
    Lots of love xx

  18. Ohhh my, how utterly gorgeous Rachel! I’ve never been to Bali, but soaking up these beautiful photos and recommendations has me bookmarking and daydreaming of a future vacay over there.. one day, definitely! xx

  19. I love this post, and I love love love Bali. However, I would REALLY like to point out that scooters and motorbikes in SE Asian countries are incredibly dangerous. A dear friend died in Thailand on a motorbike almost 2 years ago, she was just starting her life, loved life and lived it to the full. Her family have set up a foundation to make people aware of the potential dangers. I know it’s what you do when you are in SE Asia, but please read some of their information and the statistics and make an informed decision. And please get insurance. The unthinkable does happen.

    • My links got bumped, but it’s the Nicole Fitzsimons Foundation. Please everyone google and find out the potential risks of riding a bike or scooter in Bali (or other similar countries). Have amazing holidays and stay safe. Xx

  20. and I thought I was the only Australian to never have been to Bali! Bali has been on our family holiday list for some time, but I’ve just now decided this time next year it is. An extended holiday, to completely skip July. I’m finding this cool Southern Winter a struggle this year. Thanks for the inspo Rach.

  21. Excellent article!!

    You explain all aspects of bali like a wonderfull place for yoga and meditation.
    It’s seems to stay really there. Thanks!

  22. Thank your for sharing your unforgettable memories in Bali to other traveler, very informative and good for recommendation for you who are will come to Bali,just add a bit information please take a note: lot of money changer in Bali please recheck again ( by your self ) after change the money to avoid inaccurate amount. That’s all hopefully useful for next traveler.

  23. Hey!! I’m in loooove with your photography skills. Which camera did you use to take those pictures? They’re breathtaking!

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