We consider ourselves to be fairly well traveled (we even met each other while living abroad!), so for our honeymoon we wanted to find the most exotic and adventurous destination we could and decided to travel to Bali.
Because we knew that the flight would be the most expensive part of the trip ($3400 USD total), we chose to set up a registry on Traveler’s Joy and use the gifts for accommodations and other experiences that we had planned. After researching the different options, we decided to rent a small, private villa rather than stay in a hotel or resort, which we hoped would give us a greater exposure to the local culture.
Three planes, thirty hours, and one International Date Line later, we arrived in Bali on July 26th, 2012 for our two-week stay. A short van ride later, we found ourselves in front of our lovely villa in the small village of Canggu. The villa had everything we would need for our stay, with a pool, small kitchen, and even a view of a small rice terrace, perfect for relaxing as well as serving as our home base for any excursions. Another benefit of doing a rental was that the cost was less than that of most of the hotels that we looked at for the time of year that we would be traveling ($100/day since we were in low season). We took advantage of the small markets located on our street to stock our kitchen as well as interact with some of the local residents. Although some of the people near our villa did not speak much English, we were able to make ourselves understood (and pick up a few words in Balinese!); almost all of the locals in the larger villages/cities speak English as well a variety of other foreign languages.
On our first day we decided to take a driving tour to see a good part of the island and get some ideas on other activities to try. For a relatively small fee ($50) we had a car and driver for the entire day, who shared some of his perspective as we crossed the countryside. Among the highlights of the day was a lunch overlooking the crater lake in Kintamani and a sunset dinner at the temple of Tanah Lot. We quickly learned that a car is the best way to get around the island unless you are an expert scooter driver, as the traffic is very dense and the scooters for rent are quite large. We attempted to rent a scooter but decided we would rather start our married life by seeing the sights of Bali instead of its hospitals.
The next day we went on a whitewater rafting trip on the Ayung River. Our tour guide, who introduced himself as “King Kong,” was extremely friendly and made the trip very enjoyable as we traveled through the forest and saw the ornate carvings in the rocks alongside the river. The carvings tell the story of the Mahabharata and are hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of years old. After we reached our destination we were able to explore the village of Ubud. Although Ubud may be best known via the novel and film Eat, Pray, Love, we found the village to be a trove of fascinating craft items and unique offerings. We returned to the village a few times during our stay.
One of our main goals for our honeymoon was to relax, as we tend to want to try and see as much as possible when we travel. Bali has no shortage of beaches, and one can find a secluded area for quiet relaxation or a more central beach with vibrant activity throughout the day and night. From the pink sands of Sanur to the bright expanse of Legian and Kuta to the dark, rocky beach in Canggu, we spent a large portion of our honeymoon relaxing under the sun and in the clear water of the Indian Ocean. We also took advantage of the couples massage offerings from local spas, including one that was delivered right to our villa. Balinese massage is not only therapeutic but very relaxing, and a great way to wind down after a day of sightseeing.
But, it was on the beach that we decided on the most adventurous undertaking of our trip. There are many different companies that offer surfing lessons for all ages and skill levels. Although Bali is a surfer’s paradise, we had never been surfing before. So, we chose to take beginner lessons at the Odyssey Surf School in Kuta ($45/pp). We were a little unsure what to expect, but we began to feel more comfortable as the lesson went on and we were both able to successfully stand up and ride a wave! Learning to surf was definitely one of the highlights of our honeymoon and was a great day out in Kuta.
We also had the opportunity to experience some of the great cultural landmarks in Bali by visiting a number of temples across the island. The Balinese temples are unique in their architectural design as well as how they reflect Balinese Hinduism. In addition to Tanah Lot and the many small temples located in each village, we made sure to visit the largest temple in Bali, the Pura Besakih or “Mother Temple.” The temple is located on the largest mountain on the island (also an active volcano) and has many levels going up the side of the mountain. We were fortunate enough to be able to observe some traditional music being played in one part of the temple, and experience stunning views of the countryside.
There are a wide variety of culinary options available throughout Bali, especially in the cities, but we chose local Indonesian restaurants whenever we could. Our favorite spot for lunch quickly became a small restaurant down the street from our villa, where we were able to enjoy nasi goreng while learning about Balinese culture firsthand. Local food is plentiful as well as cheap, and the frugal traveler can eat well on as little as $20/pp/day. Our most expensive meal (Matt’s birthday dinner) was a wonderful seafood dinner on the beach at Jimbaran Bay, including the opportunity to watch traditional Balinese dance, at a total cost of around $50. We also had the chance to visit a coffee plantation and sample Luwak coffee, which is made from coffee beans that have been through the digestive system of a small animal also known as a civet. Although we never discovered who originally thought of the idea to use those beans to make coffee, we chose to give it a try in the name of adventure… but ultimately decided to stick with “normal” coffee for the rest of the trip.
We had an amazing time on our honeymoon and we were thrilled to be able to use Traveler’s Joy to help make this trip a reality. We would absolutely recommend Bali as a honeymoon destination, as there are many different places that cater to couples as well as providing a beautiful setting for any activity that you choose. All in all, our honeymoon cost about $6000; Bali offers options at price ranges for any traveler. We also created a picture postcard of our experiences to be used as a thank you for all the people who contributed, which also allowed us to share our fantastic experience with our friends and family.