Bali, an island that hosts not only beautiful beaches; lush mountains and a volcano (which started erupting the week we were there) but also surrounds you with a spiritual and cultural sense that makes you just want to breathe it all in. It’s a place that I had dreamed about, not knowing that one day I would actually get to tick it off my bucket list. It all came about after I won a Contiki Voucher at the Travel Expo in February 2017. I went with Irina as we’re both obsessed with travel and we decided to try our luck and enter one of the competitions. We promised each other that whoever won would take the other with, plus we’re the best travel buddies so it was no question. I had always thought that my first experience of a Contiki tour would be a European tour but we kept being drawn back to the Bali Island Hopper Tour and since it was somewhere we had both never been, the decision was made!
Part 1 of my trip to Bali is about the first half of our trip which included a night in Seminyak and 3 nights at Gili Trawangan.
We arrived in Bali, exhausted after traveling from Johannesburg with a connection in Singapore where sleep totally evaded me during the flights and made our way to our hotel in Seminyak in totally zombie mode. We had a few hours before our meet up with our group so Irina and I made the most of our time by catching up on our precious sleep haha! We stayed at the Harris Hotel which is a 3 star hotel and perfect for those one night stay overs. It was modern and well equipped and was a great lead up to the other 2 hotels we stayed at (spoiler alert, one of them was the most beautiful hotel I’ve ever seen!).
That night we met our Contiki Tour group and our Tour Leader. Having never been on a Contiki Tour, I had no idea what to expect. Our tour leader Jess, was so welcoming and had such a great sense of humor that immediately I knew it was going to be an adventure. We all headed to a place called Ling-Ling’s for dinner to get to know each other and we all had such a great evening, eating delicious foods; sipping on frose’ and singing our hearts out with the crazy DJ at the restaurant. Honestly if you’re ever in Seminyak, you have to go to Ling-Ling’s and try the Feed Me option, the food is so great! Plus it’s such a great vibe!
Day 2 started off early with a comfortable 2 hour bus transfer before our 2 hour ferry ride to Gili T. Being a water lover and someone who is used to boats, I loved the ferry ride, especially as the water was calm so there was no problems there. We arrived at Gili T which is mainly known as a party island and it was a total overload for me. There were so many people where the ferries arrive, we had to drag, yes drag, our super heavy suitcases across the beach (my own fault as I packed a big bag) and then you have to try not to be knocked over by a chidamo (a horse cart). Now first off, I’m not a fan of those as you just have a feeling that the horses aren’t treated well. Gili T is so small so there are no cars which is actually really cool but I think they need to find an alternative mode of transport as opposed to using the horses, maybe golf carts? You can hire a bicycle for R50.00 a day and there are some super cute ones aka instagrammable ones. Trying to ride a bicycle after so many years was hilarious but eventually my Dutch blood came through for me and I actually really enjoyed cycling around everywhere.
For three nights we got to call the 4 star hotel, Aston Sunset Beach Hotel our home. The rooms were so beautiful, it’s right on the beach, but the best part of the hotel was the beautiful pool with a swim up bar, another great place for the group to bond because I mean who doesn’t bond over some seriously strong cocktails? That night we had a lovely dinner on the beach and headed early to bed as the next day we were going snorkeling and it was what I was most excited about!
Day 3 you have the Me Time Option which is the snorkeling trip. It’s $45.00 and is 100% worth it! Like don’t even question it, just do it! You get to snorkel around the Gili Islands, swim with turtles and then enjoy lunch on Gili Air island (not included in the package). It was honestly such an amazing day, I just love being in the water so being able to swim with the turtles and see the statues under water (it was on my Bali bucket list) was a dream come true!
Day 4 was another free day where you could do whatever you liked. Most of the group went to play volleyball and did some stand up paddle boarding but Irina and I decided to chill by the beach and the pool and then explore a bit, well actually to find great photo locations (hey, it’s what bloggers do). We cycled around, took some photos and even had a milkshake at the super cool Exile Bar. Plus we got to see the insta-famous swings all around the island.
Later that night, we all headed for dinner at Casa Vintage, a rustic restaurant on the beach with beautiful decor and an awesome view of the erupting volcano! It was also our ‘big night out’ with the group which started off as a sarong party, dinner at Casa Vintage and then a sweat filled; dance session; beer bong tournament at Jiggy Bar. It’s like R150.00 for unlimited drinks between 08:30-11:00, you play some rounds of beer pong, the drinks keep on flowing and the music just gets louder. Next thing, the sweat is literally running off you but you don’t care as you’re having so much fun dancing the night away! It was AWESOME!
The next day we took a 10 minute boat ride to make our way to the next island on our itinerary, Lombok. I’ll chat more about Lombok and Ubud in Part 2.
Few things you should know about Bali, the food is so well priced and I really enjoyed every meal but the part that I was caught out on, was the alcohol. Booze is expensive already and then they still add a 21% service tax. So add a bit more into your budget so you can indulge in those cocktails. Everything in Bali takes long, like I thought Africa time was a thing but Bali time beats it. Just be patient, you’re on a beautiful island so there is no rush! Everyone is Bali is so friendly, their generosity and hospitality made such an impression on me. Having said that though, Seminyak is very touristy so they will try take advantage of you with regards to taxi prices so be prepared to stand your ground with things like that. Also, just a little heads up for Gili T, you will most likely be offered shrooms around every corner – just don’t do it. Plain and Simple, don’t do it.
I was so impressed how well organised the whole tour was, there were zero glitches, not even an erupting volcano was a big deal haha. Plus. Jess was the bizzzzzzznessss! She is honestly such an awesome person and a fantastic tour leader, I’m so glad we had her on the trip, plus she drew the coolest trip guides for us everyday with great recommendations and our schedules were up everyday.
I honestly believe the group that we were with made the trip what it was! I met the most fascinating people from all over the world and I had such a great time chatting to them all, I miss hanging out with them everyday! **shout out to the Contiki Fam Bam* I just have mad love for you all **
Keep an eye out for Part 2 of my trip. Below is the link to my vlog on Part 1 – aaaaah it just makes me so happy each time I watch it!