I spent most of October in Bali before moving to Sydney in November. Taking in the beautiful sights of the rice fields in Ubud to the idyllic seaside views of the Gili Islands, doing lots of yoga, eating wonderful vegetarian food... and avoiding monkeys as per my dad's instructions!
It was the first time I travelled so far by myself, which was a little daunting in itself. I decided to do a yoga retreat in Bali so that I could experience a solo (ish) adventure within a group/organised setting. After this I had two more weeks where I got to explore some more prior to heading to Australia.
I ended up doing three types of holidays while there: an organised group yoga retreat, a four day holiday with a friend, followed by a week with my boyfriend. Safe to say I stayed in a variety of accommodation and ate/drank a huge variety - from the super healthy raw vegan food to fancy (strong!) cocktails watching the sunset.
The main thing I noticed about Bali was how friendly everyone was and the HUGE selection of vegan & vegetarian food. From the beautiful leafy jungle views of Ubud to the crystal waters of the Gili Islands it was one of the most gorgeous places I have visited to date.
I have put a list together about the yoga retreat I went on, the places I visited (Ubud, Gili M, Gili T and Seminyak), accommodation, transport, food recommendations and general info about my trip. No matter what sort of trip you're going on hopefully you'll pick up a few little tips and recommendations from the below.
I have never taken a career break or any prolonged time off since finishing university in 2009 so this was a much anticipated adventure! I decided to start off in Bali (plus it made me less nervous of the long flight as it wasn't quite as far as my final destination of Sydney) to really experience a different pace of life in a part of the world I had never visited. What better way to do this than on a yoga retreat!
The first two weeks were spent with Steffy White and Chaya Retreats on a beautiful yoga retreat. We started our journey in Ubud staying at The Dragonfly Village, experiencing typical Balinese accommodation and settling in after our long flights from London and beyond.
I arrived a day early and stayed at Goya Boutique Resort to settle in. It was really nice to have a (huge!) hotel room completely to myself to reset after the long flight before sharing a room on a retreat. It helped my body adjust to the time difference, as well as giving me time to take in this next chapter of life and let my mind settle (plus doing this while eating amazing food makes it all the sweeter). I treated myself to a wonderful massage at the hotel's spa, which was much needed after a day of travelling, and it was utter bliss. The hotel staff were so friendly, collecting me from the airport and being were so helpful throughout my stay.
The retreat started the next day with a wonderful practice in the PM before having a meal together to get to know everyone. It was my second time doing retreat with Lucy at Chaya Retreats so I was very excited to experience the magic of Bali with this group. (Read about my first experience going on a solo retreat HERE).
As with all retreats that I have been on, the group was a mixture of solo travellers (mainly) and people that knew each other, including a mother and daughter. We had two yoga practices each day, starting the day at 7.30am with a dynamic flow followed by breakfast and having a yin practice in the PM before dinner. During the day we had free time to chill by the pool, have treatments, venture to Ubud town or go on organised tours including a trip to a temple.
After a few days in Ubud we ventured to the peaceful island of Gili Meno for the second leg of our retreat. Spending days by the beach, reading books and completely switching off. There were massage and treatments on offer and I got a wonderful reflexology treatment from Daisy which left me completely blissed out.
We also had a wonderful food workshop with Lucy where we made nut mylks and learned how to make raw chocolate... which resulted in my 'healthy chocolate' addiction reaching new heights!
Transport to the islands
So up until this point in my life, I thought I liked boats (nope, nope, nope). We travelled from Bali to Gili M on one of the notorious 'fast boats', it was alright, - pretty choppy waters, uncomfortable seats and I just felt a little on edge for most of the journey. This was NOTHING compared to the journey back to Bali a week later. Oh. My. Goodness. I can honesty say I would 100% not get one of these boats again. It was the choppiest, most overcrowded boat with people constantly being sick. If you can, fly to Lombok and get a quick transfer to the islands. I was meant to get another fast boat to Gili Trawangan at the end of October but after my second boat experience we changed this to flights and it was so much better. It wasn't that more expensive (if at all) and I just felt way more relaxed when I didn't think I was going to join the Little Mermaid or die at sea.
As a vegetarian (vegan 90% of the time) travelling can prove tricky when it comes to food. I was in France a few years ago and pretty much had to live on chips and salad. Bali was amazing for veggie and vegan food. Before I went I started following heaps of cafes on Instagram to suss out the best plant-based places to dine.
My favourite place for food was Seminyak. It was a veggie paradise with KYND Community being my number 1 cafe from my entire trip, followed by Clear Cafe in Ubud. Below are my top recommendations for vegan/veggie food.
- Kynd Cafe - they have a beautiful Instagram feed which caught my eye and the food didn't disappoint. They do amazing Gourmet Toast (you can order half and half so you get to sample two types). I ordered the Einstein (which is healthy Nutella & berries) and the Ghandi (smashed pumpkin, rocket and sweet chilli) which was bloody delicious. For drinks (because I love a hot beverage!) I got their Pink Latte which was THE best beetroot latte I have EVER had. The put some cacao in their mixture so it tasted like a Kinder Bueno.
- Earth Cafe - I got their vegan pancakes
- Potato Head - great for an evening as you have killer views of the beach and it's perfect for sunset.
- Clear Cafe - I recommend their chocolate mylk and lavender infused water. Food wise they have lots of vegan and veggie options.
- Seeds of Life - I went here for a little snack and had a vegan cake and one of their amazing tonics (they have a HUGE list). I recommend the OjasRas Tonic which is basically a kickass hot chocolate. It contains ingredients such as liquorice, cinnamon, star Anais, raw chocolate and nut milk, and is said to help reduce inflammation.
- Bali Budda - We got this as a take-away when staying in an Air BnB and pretty much ordered the entire menu! Vegan pizza, curry and a burger with a charcoal bun where just some of our treats!
- The Banyan Tree - I ate here quite a lot! Great mix of veggie breakfasts from scrambled tofu to smoothie bowls.
- Kayu Cafe - we got a real mix of food here from granola and coconut yoghurt to fruit platters to pancakes. They do vegan ice cream too!
Bali is famous for being a magical spot for yoga and healing. Whether you go on a specific yoga retreat or simply fancy sampling some local studios in your own time, there are lots of great options.
RETREATS - The first 11 days of my Bali trip was on a yoga retreat with a teacher (Steffy White) that I knew and loved from London. I would highly recommend doing a yoga retreat in Bali if you can. They days are structured in such a way that you still have heaps of free time to explore the island. When looking for a retreat in Bali my best advice would be to sign up to mailing lists and follow yoga teachers that you like on Instagram to see if they are doing any Bali retreats. Most of the London based teachers I used to practice with hold retreats in Bali.
- Check out Katarina Rayburn who is doing an April Bali retreat and is an AMAZING teacher who was one of the Mentors on my Yoga Teacher Training.
- Another teacher I recommend is Liz Jacobs (I did a retreat in Ibiza with Liz before!). Liz also does a few Bali Retreats per year so keep an eye on her Instagram and upcoming website for announcements.
STUDIOS - If you don't fancy committing to an entire retreat but still want to practice yoga, there are some great studios in Bali and the Islands.
- Yoga Barn - Based in Ubud. I'd really recommend checking out The Yoga Barn if you can! I had a great experience here when I went to Paul Teodo's class. The Yoga Barn is a large space with shops, cafes and several studios. The studio that we practiced in was pretty big with lots of people in it so I went up to the front (by the windows) so that my only view was the trees outside. Mats, props etc. are all provided - however I would suggest bringing your own mat or mat towel as the studio mats were fairly worn.
- Gili Yoga - Based on the island of Gili Trawangan. Located beside The Banyan Tree so you have to perfect spot to go to for some post-yoga fuel. I went to a 7.30am class here one morning. The studio space is based outdoors so early morning is a great time to practice before the weather heats up on this beautiful island. There were also some lovely little cats on site which made my morning!
I stayed in a real mix of accommodation from shared spaces to Air BnBs to hotels.
For Seminyak I stayed in THIS Air BnB (they have some wicked options though so just do a quick search to find more!) followed by one night of luxury in the W Hotel Bali which was perfection after sharing rooms on a retreat. The room was amazing, such a comfy bed and they have great restaurants with plenty of vegan options. I also used their spa for a treatment which was fantastic too. On the pricey side and you can't really tell you're in Bali (no rice field or jungle views) but if you fancy a night of luxury with beach views then it's a good one to look at. It is beside the famous Potato Head Club too.
In Gili Trawangan we stayed at the Hotel Vila Ombak. We had a beautiful private pool, spacious bedroom and bathroom. Located just opposite the beach, it was in a great location on the more lively side of the island. They also do outdoor movie screenings on the beach in the evenings which is really lovely to do.
We walked to the infamous Gili T swings - where you actually had to queue to get a photo taken... and by queue I mean stare for ages as couples and groups of friends took a million photos, trying out different poses from standing on the swings to making love hearts with their hands. One guy even posed upside down. We nailed our photo in under two minutes because... well we wanted to sit with a beer and watch the sunset.
In Ubud I stayed at THIS beautiful Air BnB with a private pool overlooking the rice fields. We had the most WONDERFUL host who made us amazing breakfasts and also got our laundry done.... which after being on a retreat was much needed! Note: The Air BnBs had great veggie breakfast options, not much on the vegan front.
We stayed in the AMAZING Hanging Gardens of Bali (Ubud) for the last few nights of the trip. Located in the actual jungle it was pretty much paradise. You even get a cable car from reception to the rooms which is bloody amazing! The room had a private pool and outdoor deck with views of the leafy jungle.
Breakfast was amazing with a huge selection (not much vegan but lots of veggie options) and we even got a champagne breakfast delivered to eat by the pool one morning. Peak holiday vibes right there.
If you follow Hanging Gardens on Instagram then you'll know that they are famous for their infinity pool. Yep, it was pretty good alright.
- So after my trip my main recommendation would be to travel by air to the Gili Islands!
- Take a course of probiotics before travelling as many tourists get upset tummies and bugs. Two girls that I shared a room with on the retreat got ill so I was lucky to avoid it. Whether or not it was down to the probiotics, who knows! Either way it's better to be safe than sorry.
- Bring hand sanitiser and tissues with you as some of the public loos are pretty grim.
- Get STRONG mosquito repellent and make sure you always wear it. If your bed has a mosquito net above it be sure to fit it around your bed at nighttime.
- Ask friends for cafe and restaurant tips as there were some hidden gems that we wouldn't have found otherwise.
- Start saving pictures from cafes on Instagram so you know some nice places to visit too.
- Check the weather for the time of year you're travelling - we got some rain at times and it got cool some evenings.
- Don't overpack! Unfortunately I did... It is really tricky to manoeuvre heavy suitcases around, especially if you're going to the islands and getting boats. As I was moving to Oz after Bali I had my entire life with me in two suitcase which proved to be super awkward. In hindsight I would have simply brought one medium bag and shipped my things to Sydney in advance.
- There are lots of tourist attractions and things to do in Bali. From temple visits to walking around the picturesque rice fields. And if that's not your jam, you can spend your days by a pool or explore local towns and cafes.
So there you have it - my extensive Bali list! I plan on heading back next year(Canggu and Seminyak) so if you have any recommendations on places to stay, things to do and places to eat, I'd love to hear them.