Eat, Pray, Love: Bali Adventures

Wow, so you made it to my page! You mean I haven’t lost my 9 followers over the four month hiatus i’ve been on?? 😉 Jokes aside, as every human being knows, life gets busy. But i’m back and trying to catch up on our latest trips! If this is your first time checking out my blog (or you forgot who I was), let me introduce myself. Hi, I’m Vanessa. I’m married to a cute US Army soldier and we are currently stationed in South Korea. We love exploring different countries and attempting to cook food from around the world. He’s a straight laced rule follower with a killer sense of humor that keeps me rolling.. And i’m your classic rule breaking thrill seeker that has a fear of heights and a makeup addiction. We LOVE to travel and our goal is to live in as many foreign countries as we can. This blog is a hodgepodge of my thoughts, funny stories, trips around the globe, and pictures to accompany it all. Enjoy 🙂 Or don’t, that’s fine too.

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Bali. Almost 6 years ago I got my hands on a copy of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. The book was delicious; full of the deep heart ache everyone has experienced in life, but balanced with light hearted self exploration to keep you reading. At 18, it was the perfect motto to feed my adventurous appetite. At this point in time I had already been to both India and Italy. But Bali? That had just popped up on my radar. Shortly after, I saw the Julia Roberts movie version of Eat, Pray, Love and Bali suddenly went from “on my radar” to “top of the list”. Cliche as it may sound, Hollywood and the NY times bestseller list had me sold. Nearly 6 years later, I finally made it happen.

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Lonely planet says this about Bali, “The mere mention of Bali evokes thoughts of a paradise. It’s more than a place; it’s a mood, an aspiration, a tropical state of mind.” and we couldn’t agree more. Beaches galore, lush volcanic mountains, coral reefs, breathtaking rice paddies, iconic temples, mesmerizing waterfalls, yoga retreats, and smiling people- yes, it seems Bali does have it all. I think one of the things we loved the most about Bali was the diversity. So much to see and do for every type of traveler, person, and budget. In fact, we loved Bali so much we have talked about going back eventually and LIVING there.

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So what do we recommend?

We started our trip by heading north and far away from the hustle and tourists traps of Kuta in the town of Selemadeg located in central Bali. And when I say far away from the tourists I mean it. Far away from even decent sized Balinese towns. Essentially we were in the middle of nowhere and off the grid. We stayed in a large open air bamboo house built and run by a Brit who walks barefoot everywhere he goes, lives in the local village, and pretty much considers himself Balinese at this point.

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We set up an all day walking tour of the local village with Simon (brit-turned-balinese) and hiked around the gorgeous rice paddies, thick mountain jungles, the local villages and ended the day with a visit to the local hot springs.

DCIM104GOPROGOPR3978.Our local guide taking us through the jungle and on to the next village

DCIM104GOPROG0764119.Hot springs!

DCIM104GOPROG0794151.Joe wanted me to note that he is not fat, and in fact has a decent set of abs but this angle makes him “appear” to have many fat rolls. Notice I strategically placed my hand to avoid fat rolls. haha.

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Our 2 and half days spent in the rural parts of Bali and at the bamboo house were right out of an adventure book. The breathtaking sunrises and homemade Balinese food made by two local women made our off-the-grid escape just too perfect.

I would SO recommend a quiet retreat to a less touristy part of Bali to EVERYONE. Airbnb.com is a great resource to find the perfect setting. Here is a link to where we stayed- https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/800284 Just be aware that it is an open air house. So don’t expect 5 star resort status. Like, the toilet is non existent.. It’s a glorified hole in the floor. BUT there is a shower with hot water 🙂

Next we set off to Ubud– the hippie jungle oasis of Bali. On our way we stopped at a spectacular waterfall called Nungnung and the impressive Tegallalang rice terrace.

DCIM105GOPROGOPR5520.Nungnung Waterfall

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DCIM105GOPROG0955532.It was a bit chilly..

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Ubud is the artsy fartsy town of Bali and is known for it’s crafts and dance. Within an hour surrounding Ubud you can find some of the most exquisite temples, cultural land marks, and iconic scenery. Ubud is bubbling with art galleries, international cuisine, fun boutiques, yoga classes, and so much more. In my opinion, Ubud is arguably the best part of Bali and a must do for anyone traveling there. Again, use airbnb,com to find a private villa for as cheap as $20 a night or try agoda.com (or hotels.com) for hotel listings.

20150630_154848Crappy phone pics (I had about 500 far better pictures on an SD card who’s whereabouts can not be determined at this time. I know, I already cried over it.)

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We spent our 4 days there riding elephants, watching cultural dances, going to the spa, feeding monkeys, practicing yoga, visiting stunning temples, participating in Balinese Hindu rituals, shopping in the markets, hiking a volcano, and eating our hearts out.

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DCIM105GOPROG1115699.Traditional Balinese Dance

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DCIM106GOPROG1456123.Pura Tirta Empul. The “Holy Water Temple” is one of the oldest and busiest Hindu temples in Bali.

DCIM106GOPROG1476147.Joe sneaked a pic while we were getting a crash course on the Hindu rituals we were about to partake in at the holy temple.
DCIM106GOPROG1526197.The rituals consisted of many prayers, meditation offerings, the washing of your hands, face, and body in the holy spring water. As well as drinking it! 

DCIM106GOPROG1516194.The natural spring water was FREEZING. And there were all sorts of fish swimming around us. It was such a unique and inspiring experience to not only witness the devout locals perform the sacred rituals, but participate ourselves. 
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DCIM106GOPROG1616300.Goa Gajah, the elephant caves

DCIM106GOPROG1756461.Monkey Forest in Ubud

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DCIM106GOPROGOPR6339.Don’t let these cute guys fool you. This was taken seconds before this giant decided to rip half my shirt off and a worker came running over with a stick, ready to beat him away. They were vicious. And terrifying. I have a scar from a monkey bite to prove it!  

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DCIM106GOPROGOPR6538.We hiked Mt. Batur, a volcano and one of the highest points in Bali. We started our journey at  3am to make it in time to see the sun rise. Another awe-inspiring moment of the trip.

DCIM106GOPROG1876601.And another frigid moment of our almost always warm weathered vacation

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To finish off our vacation we headed down south to Nusa Dua for some beach time. Nusa Dua is known for it’s resorts and less-crowded beaches. We managed to book a gorgeous resort that had just opened for a steal of a price and it was the perfect way to end our holiday.

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Now every place has to have its downfall right? While I’m sure there are prettier beaches and i’ve heard there are some amazing snorkeling spots, I was pretty underwhelmed by Bali’s coast line. If you want to travel to Bali for a beach vacation, look elsewhere. Thailand and the Philippines are far better options when it comes to jaw dropping beaches. Don’t get me wrong. It was great. But i’ve been spoiled and i’m constantly searching for “jaw dropping” not just great.

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Overall, we LOVED Bali. I know a few people who were not impressed and left feeling underwhelmed. I suppose if you expect Bali to be a cross between Cambodia and India with an untouched sort of feel to it than you will be disappointed. Especially if you stay in Kuta. There are lots of tourists. You will not be the only westerner there. They do cater to western visitors. But if you search hard enough like we did, you can find your own rural, authentic Balinese experience. And learn to enjoy the western luxuries that you can’t find in places like India.

Have you been to Bali? Let me know! I’d love to hear about how you enjoyed it. Want to go to Bali and have more questions? Be sure to comment and ask.

Till next time,

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xoxo V

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How to Travel to The Philippines for $500 (or less!)

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The Philippines. What do you think of? Rice fields? Humidity? Smiling children running barefoot through muddy streets? American kidnappings? Tropical paradise? Poverty? The kindest people you will ever meet? If you said yes to each of the above, congrats! All of them are true! (And don’t be alarmed about the kidnappings.. It’s only happened a few times in the ghetto of Manila. I felt safe the entire time I was in the country) After my trip there, I can honestly say the Philippines might be the most underrated country in the world. When you get out of the bigger cities, like Manila, and venture further into local villages throughout the mountains and dotted along the coast, you seem to find yourself transported into a 3rd world fantasy of sorts. I went on a girls’ trip to the province of Palawan which is an island situated in the western part of the country, closest to Vietnam. We had heard from other friends how absolutely mesmerizing Palawan was, and most notably El Nido, a small beach town located on the northern section of the province.

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In fact, Palawan was voted the most beautiful island in the world by Lonely Planet in 2014. My friend, Amy, and I took a 5 hour van ride from the airport that is located in the center of Palawan up to El Nido (this can be eliminated all together by flying directly into El Nido’s small airport, which I recommend to those who are on a time crunch or get car sick easily) and while the long bumpy ride was not a top highlight of the trip, the view along the way most definitely was. Amy and I kept turning excitedly to one another wide eyed with child like enthusiasm at the landscape right outside our window. And the gorgeous vegetation was just the beginning… seeing small bamboo huts lining dirt roads, barefoot children chasing after all sorts of livestock, and families of five or more all piled onto one scooter was an experience in and of itself.

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pic courtesy of google 🙂

The entire trip Amy and I kept exclaiming, “We have literally been transported to the movie Swiss Family Robinson.” or, “This island IS Peter Pan meets Tarzan!!!” (I suppose Disney has visited Palawan for inspiration). Upon arriving in dreamy El Nido, we were swept away by picture perfect sunsets and the tight knit community which had just enough tourism to keep it alive and well at night, but still so small and local that we felt like we were the only Americans to have discovered this secret gem (you’re welcome btw.. for sharing this special place with you!). If you are looking for a dream vacation that perfectly balances exotic views, the most warm and welcoming people, countless water and boating activities, affordability, and laid back island vibes, then Palawan is the place for you! If you want the financial details of our trip and how to successfully travel to the Philippines for $500, keep reading. Otherwise skip to the end where dozens of pictures capturing crystal clear lagoons and cascading jungles await!

Budget travel to the Philippines (divided PER PERSON, not per couple)

Okay, okay let me preface this by getting a few things out of the way:

1. Obviously I live in Korea where airfare to southeast Asia is cheaper than flying cross country in the states. Like cheaper than flying from AZ to UT! So for my American and European friends- I can’t help you too much there.. or wait, can I? My remedy for this? COME VISIT US! Save your pennies, bite the bullet and buy the ticket to Korea, stay with Josiah and I for free, receive a complimentary tour of Korea courtesy of yours truly, and then, just add on only $500 more to go to one of the most beautiful places in the world (and if you want i’ll even go with you AND be your personal tour guide for that as well!!! I know, I know, i’m so selfless.. ha). TWO FOR ONE DEAL PEOPLE!! Really, this is an investment in your memories and well-being. 😉

2. So I actually spent approximately $590 on a 5 day girls trip to paradise. BUT- had I wanted to spend under $500 and still have an epic holiday, I very well could have. Besides the flights and accommodations, nothing was paid for and I only brought around $300 to last 5 days worth of food, activities, souvenirs, etc. I came home with money left over! My friend and I had no budget or restrictions set (besides NOT spending more than $300 before day 5) and splurged on a few meals and activities even.

Here’s a general breakdown of expenses:

Round trip flights *per person- $249.45 (This could have been about $60 cheaper had we bought tickets a few weeks earlier.. And this total is for 2 separate flights.. combined. It doesn’t get much better than this!)

Accommodations for 4 nights *per person- $150.57 (Again, this could have been cheaper had we not stayed in one of the “nicer” hotels in El Nido- we stayed at Rosanna’s Pension.. But if you are willing to live with out wifi, hot water, and/or air conditioning then you could have REALLY saved your pennies. #hostellife Check out Lonely Planet’s listings and Agodo.com. If you are planning to stay in Puerto Princessa at all- we stayed for 1 night- I HIGHLY recommend Puerto Pension. Not only does it have the coolest hippie-boho vibe, incredible pricing, and free breakfast; but THEE BEST customer service. We loved our stay there!)

2 Island hopping tours *per person- $84.26 (This was for 2 full days, snorkel and fin rental, kayak rental, lunch. Island hopping = Dream life. Seriously I wanted to do every tour available. The guys running the tours are so friendly and easy going and the grilled fish and chicken they made us for lunch was on point! We booked ours through the El Nido Art Cafe and Boutique, which I think is a tiny bit more expensive than the dozens of other companies, but both our tours were on the smaller side- some other boats had up to 20 people!- and they were professional and organized throughout the process.)

Food, souvenirs, transportation, and miscellaneous *per person- $105 (again, had we not gotten mango smoothies every day, desserts, and gone to more hole in the wall places than we did beach front restaurants, then i’m sure this cost would have been lower too!)

Now… for the pictures! PS- cut me some slack, it was my first time using a gopro.. AND a selfie stick.. so ya. Also, I have SO MUCH video footage (TONS of great snorkeling!!), however if I had waited to publish this post until I was finished creating a video, then you might not have seen a post for another 4 months haha.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0392.So we took a 9pm flight from Seoul to Manila… Our next flight wasn’t until 6:30am. We spent 7 hours in the hardest chairs of our lives. Hiiii.

DCIM100GOPROG0080447.And after a full 24hrs in travel mode we arrived in paradise- tired as hell, smelly, but oh so happy!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0462.Mango smoothies are always a good idea!

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DCIM100GOPROG0150695.Snorkeling time with our new friend Nadine. Also water spots.. and belly rolls.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0820.Lunch. Grilled fish and chicken cooked in a pit right on the beach.

DCIM100GOPROG0220921.One of the best parts of traveling is meeting new humans. Like these kindred spirits! All of us are from different parts of the world AND we are all transplants- living outside our home countries. Like Shanghai, Korea, London. You know it’s real when we all met up for dinner later that night AND added each other on facebook haha.

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DCIM100GOPROG0271085.Again, I wish I had more pictures of the snorkeling.. You’ll just have to wait for a video to come in 6 months haha

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DCIM101GOPROGOPR1410.Uke sessions every night! Check out that reflection..

DCIM101GOPROGOPR1446.THAT WATER! This is REAL. #nofilter #noedit

DCIM101GOPROGOPR1452.Sweet Nadine from the Netherlands. What a dear!

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DCIM101GOPROG0521931.Resting B!tch Face. It’s real. I suffer from it too. But that background tho…

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DCIM101GOPROGOPR1991.Lunch in cave? Check.

DCIM101GOPROG0552051.Trying to float on your back AND be cute? difficult to say the least..

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DCIM102GOPROGOPR2359.View from our balcony

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DCIM102GOPROGOPR2453.The one downside to El Nido? The food.. It wasn’t bad per say.. But if you’re a foodie, you won’t be impressed. However, Puerto Princessa had some AMAZING food. This was one of the best meals of the trip!

DCIM102GOPROG0652486.Jeepney selfie

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So are you ready to come visit yet? 😉 …And if this wasn’t enough for you, don’t worry! We are headed to Bali in a few weeks, so more epic posts to come!

Until then, peace and love y’all!

xoxo, V