After plenty of research and debating where to go for our honeymoon, my husband and I took off for Bali, Indonesia in October 2017. Neither one of us were experienced travelers, and we knew we were in for a treat. Since we were coming from the United States, the travel time was the most daunting part considering we'd literally be flying to the opposite side of the world. It was an exactly 12 hour time difference, and we took what some conventional honeymooners would probably consider a risky route.
We flew from Knoxville, Tennessee to Chicago, Illinois. From there, we endured an almost 14 hour flight to Doha, Qatar. After missing our connection in Doha, we were given hotel, meal, and travel vouchers (I would highly recommend flying Qatar Airways if you haven't yet). We then hopped on a sketchy, 85-mph bus ride to the hotel and enjoyed dinner in Doha which was a surprisingly fun experience.
From there, it took 9 more hours to get to Depansar, but we both agreed the flight was well-worth it. Case in point though, the travel to southeast Asia can be intimidating, but you won't regret enduring the long flights for the experiences you'll have! So, here's why I think you should give it a shot.
1. THE People
Until you are able to interact with someone, I don't think you can ever assume what they will be like. Our research indicated that the Balinese people were incredibly kind and friendly, but I was surprised by how true this was. The hotel staff at Maca Villas in Seminyak could not have done a better job, and they even surprised my husband with chocolate cake on his birthday.
Other people we met at restaurants or on excursions were more than willing to explain the culture to us and seemed excited to meet people from the United States. Even if you were turning someone down who wanted to sell you something, you'd receive responses like "Ok, thank you. Maybe tomorrow?" Due to the Balinese religion and the general belief of happiness and gratitude throughout the island, it truly is an enjoyable place to spend your time.
The quick expansion of tourism on the island created a delicious array of western-style restaurants, but fear not! Local cuisine is still prevalent for those searching for more cultural cuisine, or you can be like us and try it all! The Seminyak area proved great for any restaurant you'd like and was much quieter than Kuta. We weren't disappointed with anything that we tried there. On the other hand though, Ubud offered more traditional, Balinese cuisine as did the neighboring islands. These options were not what I expected as I'd not been exposed to much island food before. If you enjoy spicy meals, be careful with the peppers!
Prices in Bali made the expenses for the long flight easier to digest. We were only disappointed in the cost of alcohol as it's more expensive to import into the island. It cost less than $60 USD to have a driver for the entire day who took us to three stops in Ubud as well as Tanah Lot. We could each get a 2-hour massage for about $25 USD, and the most expensive meal we had included appetizers, drinks, specialty entrees, and dessert for only $60 USD. I'm not one to enjoy being tied to the resort for an entire trip, because you don't get to experience much else. The low prices in Bali made it much less stressful to skip the all-inclusive option and enjoy the local restaurants and bars.
4. Religion & Culture
Like I said before, the religion and culture of the Balinese people play a significant role in the hospitality you'll experience. With the majority of Indonesia following the Muslim religion, Bali is an outlier island that predominantly practices Hindu. This unique sector of Balinese Hinduism believes in three caste levels: animal, human, and spirit. No one person is better than another. We were fortunate to experience Galungan Day which is the Balinese version of traditional Hindu Diwali. If you're Christian, this is essentially their Christmas. Ceremonies were taking place all over the island, and locals showed us how to make the decorations they put on their homes. Check out the Bali Events Calendar to see what ceremonies you can check out while you're there!
5. Balanced Activities
If you're traveling with your spouse, family, or other friends, the amount of options available made Bali more fun. We wanted to relax with more tourist-type activities occasionally, but I also wanted to enjoy the native culture. Staying in Seminyak allowed us to stay in a quieter, tourist area with an easy trip over to Ubud. In my opinion, this is more "true Bali." We were able to take two full days there that were well worth it, but we also took two lazy days on the beach or by the pool at the resorts.
6. Salon & Spa Options
By far, one of our favorite tourist activities were the salon and spa options. I already mentioned the low cost, and we were able to get massages, manicures, pedicures, etc. at an unbelievably low price. We went several times while we were there, and it was excellent after a long day of activities to be able to go enjoy that together, especially since we were on our honeymoon.
7. Outdoor Activities
After a couple of days on the beach, I get tired of sitting around pretty quickly. We wanted to have some sort of activities that we could take part in. Specifically, I love to hike. Unfortunately, Mt. Agung was on alert at the time, and we opted not to do the sunrise hike to the volcano due to the potential eruption. There are a ton of options for trekking though as well as surf lessons, white water rafting, etc. The majority of these are located on the northern side of the island, but it's not a bad drive to get there.
8. Neighboring Islands
We booked a last minute trip over to Lombok for a day, and it was definitely worth it. Based on everything the locals told us, we really missed out on the Gili Islands. All in all though, the neighboring islands of Bali are beautiful, and well worth any excursions you're considering. We enjoyed some snorkeling, lunch, a banana boat ride, and a little more time on the beach. A pretty great day finished up with dinner in Seminyak.
When it was all said and done, we were in agreement that we'd be traveling back at some point but hopefully for a much longer than two weeks. I'd love to hear from you if you have any questions or if you've been to Bali yourself! I'm considering making this a series, so let me know if you'd be interested in that 🙂