Confused on where we are? I’m taking this moment while my travels are grounded to care for my mom to catch up on my black hole of un-blogged content. Here, I’m wrapping up my trip to Bali in March 2017. My apologies for any confusion with the timeline, and thanks for sticking with me.
I’m going to be honest: we were never really supposed to go to Uluwatu.
When I made the reckless-but-wonderful decision to extend my time in Bali by a few days, I justified the cost by promising myself I’d finally go up to Amed, a diver hotspot on the northeast coast of the island that I’ve long ached to visit.
And yet we woke up on the day of departure with the hangovers of a lifetime, and a three hour drive to an adventure sport destination seemed ill-advised. So we spent one last night at the Institute of Code villa in Canggu, tying up loose ends (ie. getting massages, eating smoothie bowls, and discussing the merits of those medical services where they send an IV to your home to cure your alcohol poisoning), and spontaneously booked two nights at a villa in Uluwatu, a mere hour away, instead.
I’d been to the Bukit Peninsula, that little handle at the bottom of the island of Bali, before. On it’s East side sits the built-up strip of Nusa Dua, where there are white sand beaches and wall-to-wall international chain hotels and all-inclusive resorts. I’d indulged in them twice while visiting Bali when I was living on Gili Trawangan and sleeping on the floor of a cold-water hut. All I’d wanted was a vacation, and Nusa Dua specializes in those.
This time, we were headed to the West side of the Bukit Peninsula, which somehow seemed like an entirely different island. Dramatic cliffs, an arid, almost desert-like landscape, and a more rural, end-of-the-world feel.
Our trip began at Beetroot Cafe, where Katie and I had an Uber drop us off while we waited for our villa’s check-in time. I’d expected Uluwatu to be more of a simple warung-fare kind of destination, and while I certainly wouldn’t have minded that, I did not complain about a few more days of tasty smoothie bowls in painfully hip cafes.
Eventually we made our way to our villa, tucked away in a cute corner of Bingin, and made ourselves at home.
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While I’m sure there are much more epic places available in Uluwatu, for the last minute, a fair price, and a ton of bedrooms in which to invite every girl we’d met in Bali in the last two weeks, we’d nailed it.
After a stop at a cute local spa for emergency manicures, we spent the day lolling by the pool, with an ever-growing crew popping in with drinks and snacks, ready for an epic South Bali sleepover.
When we were ready for a venue change, we hopped in a taxi and told the driver to bring us somewhere bumpin’ — which landed us at Single Fin for dinner.
Single Fin is a legendary Uluwatu destination, though we didn’t realize at the time that it only stays open past 10pm on Wednesdays and Sundays, and we were keeping pretty European dinner hours, if you know what I mean. After begging them to let us order food around last call, it wasn’t long before the place was empty and we were left quizzing the bar staff on where the place to be was.
They directed us to a local gas station.
When in Bukit, we shrugged, as we gave the taxi driver convoluted directions to an end-of-the-road gas station where there was, indeed, a lively crowd gathered on pleather couchettes in the parking lot. We bought a round of beers, liquor and mixers from the attached liquor store, and ordered a hookah from the gas station attendant who was offering them. And, as you do at a gas station parking lot on a Tuesday night in a random corner of Uluwatu, we had an incredible time.
It was at Single Fin that we noted, for the first of many, many times that weekend, how heavily male the entire scene in Uluwatu skewed. We’d been the only all-girl group at dinner, and by the time we made it to the after party, we were the only girls, full-stop. And so, available ladies of the internet, I bequeath to you this gem of advice: if you want to be one of the only women surrounded by attractive, big wave surfers, get thyself to Uluwatu.
The next morning we woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (not) for a day of sightseeing in Uluwatu. (Sorry, can you tell I like saying the word Uluwatu?) We hopped on the rental bikes we’d procured from our villa manager, and headed straight to the nearby Bukit Cafe for breakfast. I had mango chia and passionfruit green tea and declared it my favorite meal in Bali, just like I did for every single meal in Bali.
But truly, it was the perfect place to start the day, and I’d put it straight on the must-eat list for anyone heading to the area.
Next, we were off to Uluwatu Temple, with Katie clinging onto the back of my bike and making me seriously question my driving skills. It was a beautiful route along quiet rolling hills to get there, and I already felt nostalgic for this trip, even though I was in the midst of it.
The temple was Peak Bali, with stunning views, girls wrapped in colorful sarongs, and monkeys swinging from the trees. Only these monkeys were mean.
After seeing a particularly viscous one draw blood from a flustered Asian tourist upon our arrival, we were pretty skittish, and spent much of our visit cowering behind each other anytime we sensed one might be near.
Obligatory cultural experience complete, we set off for the beach. Now, in Uluwatu, where most mortals dwell hundreds of feet up on the clifftops, getting down to the ocean is a bit more of an ordeal than it is elsewhere.
Without knowing exactly where we were headed, we pointed ourselves in the direction of Suluban Surf Beach.
After tackling enough stairs to feel like I’d gotten a lifetime worth of work on my glutes, we felt sand in our toes. The waves were big and the hazards to get to them were plentiful, and we watched many surfers, noses white with zinc, stand and stare at the surf for a long time in contemplation before finally plunging forward.
Eventually, through the maze of stone stairs and rock passageways, we found ourselves as a bustling little warung with epic views, and posted up to watch the waves — and the brave souls tackling them.
Eventually, most of the girls headed back, but Katie and I decided to keep exploring (read: look for food.) As we scoped out stores seemingly blasted into the side of a cliff and ducked our heads in restaurants you’d have to climb several stories to get to, I wondered how anyone ever gave directions around here, or how they received mail.
Eventually, our stair-master wanderings brought us right back to Single Fin.
Eventually we made our way back to Bingin — after coming to the horror-inducing conclusion that to get to our motorbikes, we had to return back to the cliffside maze — and bid a sad goodbye to some of the girls we’d spent the last two weeks falling in deep BFF-dom with.
Our new teeny crew stayed close to home that night, with a simple dinner and sad goodbyes at a sweet little restaurant called Cashew Tree.
The next morning I made my way to the airport with a heavy heart. The last few days had been a dream-like mash up of memories in the making, the perfect period on the end of a trip that had made me feel alive again. And yet I felt, looking over the wing of the plane, this overwhelming sadness at knowing I was ending a trip before I was ready.
I vowed I’d be back.
Bali, we’ve got unfinished business, baby…