It's taken a while to get to my final Bali post but here we are, and what better to write about than my time spent in the incredible jungle haven where Julia Roberts famously found love again in Eat Pray Love? Ubud is the spiritual centre of Bali and if you've visited the island without setting foot in this jungle paradise, you honestly haven't seen Bali. It was so different to every other place I visited while there and it was easy to see why so many expats had now chosen to call it home. Easily my favourite place on the island, Ubud is the perfect place to relax and really look after yourself for a while, especially if you've just come from partying in Seminyak or Kuta. I won't lie, I had been indulging a lot and partying pretty hard over there and on Gili T for a few weeks so I was more than ready for a rest and a chance to try out the alternative, yogi, health-food lifestyle for a while.
Planning your day trip
Earlier in my stay on Bali I had taken a day trip with a friend to Ubud where our taxi driver took us to visit the Monkey Forest, the Tegalalang Rice Paddies and Tegenungen Waterfall - as you'll see from some of the pictures in this post, they are all worth a visit! Ubud is an area of outstanding natural beauty, and while it takes you away from the sandy beaches the island is famous for, it offers something even more beautiful instead. The best way by far to explore the island is by motorbike which you can hire for almost nothing, but we found as there was a few of us it worked out pretty cheap to do a taxi as we managed to strike a deal for around 250,000RP for the day - the average day taxi costs around 3-350,000RP. Our driver was great and told us a lot about the different places we visited, plus it meant we could have a nap in the back of the car instead of driving all day. We visit from Kuta, if you do this make sure you set off extra early to beat the traffic as it gets pretty hectic mid-morning onwards.These three attractions are the most popular and well known for Ubud, plus they are great to combine even if you are just visiting for the day as they are the perfect distance from each other so you don't have to rush. I absolutely loved the rice paddies - you do have to pay to get in but it is worth it if you go early and pretty much have the place to yourself. We spent a few hours doing the sweatiest hike I have ever done across the fields which stretch as far as the eye can see. We joined a farmer for a cool refreshing coconut and played his musical instruments with him as we chatted with some Swedish guys we met. After, we headed to the Monkey Forest for a wander around an amazing temple that reminded me of King Louis' in The Jungle Book, monkeys scamper around the forest climbing on tourists and stealing food. It was pretty cool, but oh my gosh I still haven't got over my fear of monkeys so I was squealing a bit - especially when one stop a water bottle from my friend and started to stare him down!Finally a refreshing dip in Tegenungen Waterfall was a perfect end to the day - it was absolutely beautiful and a perfect place to be for sunset. Despite being quite busy, there was still plenty of space to swim/get photos/relax, and it is well worth paying a little bit to get up to the top! We drove back to Kuta in rush hour traffic which took ages but it was a great day, well planned and we had spent about six hours on the road and visiting the sights. We probably spent around 500,000RP altogether for the taxi, entry to the sights and meals for the day which is equivalent to around £30 - you could probably do it for a lot less if you went by motorbike.
Where to stay?
At the end of my trip, I couldn't resist joining some friends for a few days in Ubud. It's a bit cheesy but I really fancied a Julia Roberts experience - some yoga, some healing, some jungle life and some time to figure my next move out. Our friends had booked into the brand new Ons Hostel which they raved about, so I booked in to join them. On arrival with two other friends, myself and one of them were checked into a 14 bed dorm with no-one else in it! The place was so new they were just building up custom but it meant we had the whole place to ourselves. Imagine whitewashed walls, clean fresh dorms with the comfiest beds, luxury bathrooms with rain showers, a swimming pool with an area to sit and eat the freshly made pancakes and omelettes made to order for breakfast. It was like staying in a hotel - absolute luxury. I can't recommend staying there enough. It is positioned the other side of the Monkey Forest which although separate from the centre of Ubud, it gives you a lovely walk into the centre and a chance to see a different side to the area. Check out this HotelsCombined blog on the 7 Best Value Hotels to Relax in Bali to complete your Bali experience.
Where to eat?
I would really recommend dining at Laka Leke restaurant one evening - our hostel was just down the road so we gathered all 20 of our friends and booked in for the night's entertainment. The food was incredible, I had a traditional Indonesian curry which was mouth-wateringly good, and as we ate we watched a live performance of the Kecak and fire dance. It was a very interesting performance and there are several others they perform on different nights if you fancy something different. I believe the restaurant will also do pick-ups from your hotel/hostel if you are staying further away. Other favourites of mine included the amazing selection of vegetarian restaurants - I can't name them all here but there are so many that offer really high quality food. Also, the tiny Warungs - my favourites were the really small, local family run ones who would treat you like a daughter and cook you the best meal from scratch.
Where to yoga?
Everyone talks about Yoga Barn when it comes to Ubud, but after reading up, it sounded like there were a lot of people complaining about having to join huge classes of 60 people. As a bit of a beginner, I wasn't sure that was for me. But I did spot that Ubud Yoga Centre was just down the road so I signed up for a Bikram Yoga Class at the centre instead. It was cheap and the centre was really lovely, all brand new and very high quality. The class was hard and the heat was a lot to take, but I gave it my best shot and really enjoyed the class, it was lovely to have a good stretch out. Afterwards I was exhausted and spent the day sunbathing.
What to do?
You may have already seen the main sights, but there's lots more to do around Ubud. Your best bet is to hire a motorbike as we did and go off exploring local temples, rice paddies and villages for the day. We had a great day visiting local craftsmen, getting lost in the rice paddies barefoot in the pouring rain as we tried to find waterfalls and being blessed at the temples. We asked at our hostel who gave us a booklet of all the best places to visit and we worked out way through as many as we could cram into a day. Some to add to your list would include the Elephant Cave, Puri Saren Royal Palace and the Blanco Renaissance Museum. Also, if you get time, the Campuhan Ridge Walk is totally free and looks really beautiful - sadly I didn't get time.If you fancy sticking closer to the centre of Ubud, don't forget to check out Ubud Market for some of the best shopping I found in Bali. And head to one of the many salons for some cut price beauty treatments - my friend and I each had a massage, manicure/pedicure and facial for 200,000RP - just £12! And if you're a bit of a bookworm like me, make sure you take advantage of the many beautiful, relaxing places to snuggle up with a book and a fresh juice - either at a bar or your hostel. If you're planning a trip to Ubud and need help - let me know by leaving a comment below!
And if you're heading off on your first backpacking trip - don't forget to enter my competition to win a backpack to store all your precious possessions!
I can't actually believe how much time has passed since I was in Bali living it up with one of my best friends, with the serious lack of Melbourne sunshine I'm wishing more and more that I was back there! If you've read my Bumper Guide to Bali, you'll already know my highlights and top tips for planning a trip to the island, but now I want to focus on one amazing part that you simply cannot miss out on. Gili T is probably one of the most talked about Asian islands other than the party islands in Thailand. It's the place of tropical dreams and we've all dreamt of sitting on those beautiful sunset swings at one time or another. Just a short boat ride off the coast of Bali, it's just so close it wouldn't even make sense to not spend a few days exploring the island when visiting Bali - so here's my top 20 reasons to visit:
Gili T was an amazing week I won't forget in a hurry - right now sat here in Melbourne thinking about the 10 hour shift I'm working later, I'd give anything to be back there. If you're thinking of going on holiday to Bali, make sure you include time on Gili T as it was one of my highlights of the whole month I spent over there. When it comes to booking your trip, I would really recommend booking it on arrival - by booking the boat on the spot and just booking one night's accommodation ahead of time you can end up saving a lot of money which is just more beers! By booking the hostel (La Sister Boheme) when we arrived, we were given a discount island rate that others who had pre-booked online didn't get. Obviously if you are going peak season, it's more important to ensure you have a place to stay and that not everywhere is booked out. If you're planning a trip and have any questions - leave a comment below and I'll get back to you!
Have you been to Gili T? Where did you stay/eat? What tips would you give to future travellers?
There's no doubt about it, 2016 has been a pretty incredible year for me. I've had some soaring highs and felt pretty low at times, but I've also had the chance to experience some thing I never could have dreamed I would. I crossed three continents and ticked off my 30th country, worked with hotels, spas and restaurants either side of the globe for this blog, I said goodbye to love so that I could travel Europe solo and I made some incredible friends along the way. I've worked as a sales manager, a cocktail waitress, a journalist along the way and all the while I've been working on creating amazing content for this blog. 2016 has been a year of working hard and playing harder, and as it draws to a close I can't help but reminisce over the special times I've shared with amazing people. From the teary goodbyes at the airport, to the mates I've shared incredible road trips with this summer, to the incredible welcome home I got from some of my best friends when I arrived back in Melbourne. Getting the opportunity to celebrate a real Aussie Christmas surrounded by so many amazing friends was a perfect way to end the year. But what have the highlights been?
My top 5 travelling experiences of 2016:
Without a doubt, Melbourne is my number one for the year. Voted the Most Liveable City in the World six years running, it's no wonder I've just moved back here for the second time. I lived in Melbourne at the start of the year and it was the first place in nearly two years that had felt like home. I had an amazing flat, a great job as a sales manager, the most incredible friends and I completely fell for a great guy. Now I'm back for round two and I'm already well on my way with a great job at a rooftop bar and my own brand new apartment. Melbourne, you are well and truly my second home.
A city I had dreamed of visiting for years, Budapest was everything I had imagined and more. I loved the history, the beauty, the architecture and the people I met there. Part of my summer backpacking trip around Europe, it was a perfect opportunity to explore the city independently and to have some amazing experiences. One of my favourites was eating dinner in a traditional Hungarian restaurant with my newfound Aussie and Norwegian mates talking about the world under a blanket of stars. Visiting Budapest reminded me how much I love exploring a new city alone on foot, and it's a city I can't wait to revisit.
Slovenia was an amazing experience - not only did I get to explore some of Eastern Europe, a dream of mine for several years, but I was invited along on my first blogging trip. It was an amazing privilege and a reminder of how hard I have worked to build up this travel blog over the last few years. Spending a week at a luxury glamping site on the Slovenian/Croatian border was a fantastic way to see the country - from woodland hikes to swimming in the rivers, to visiting locals and eating feasts of freshly caught local fish. The people, and the place, made it unforgettable.
My second blogging trip of the year came about only as a last minute plan - I was at a low point and unsure of what my next move would be when one of my best travelling friends invited me to Bali. It was the best decision ever and led to my being invited along to review hotels, spas and restaurants on the island. What was supposed to be a week-long trip turned into a month and yet I still wasn't ready to leave. I explored the Bali countryside on motorbike, visited temples, explored monkey forests, swam in the waves, spotted manatees and swam with sea turtles. It was the holiday I had needed - not just travelling, it was a holiday and one of which I appreciated every second.
Definitely the most breathtakingly beautiful place I have been yet, by far. Tasmania was somewhere I had longed to visit since arriving in Australia and "mini-New Zealand" definitely lived up to the hype. I spent three weeks there staying in the best hostel I have found yet in Australia, exploring Hobart and road tripping around 11 national parks in just 10 days. I hiked for days on end, camped wild under the stars and the full moon, I climbed several mountains and spotted countless whales, kangaroos, wombats and wallabies. It was a magical experience and one I'm so glad I made happen, it was just what I needed. A true breath of fresh air.
After such an incredible year, it's hard to imagine just how 2017 could top 2016. I've travelled to eight different countries this year, I've lived in two of them long-term, I've gone from outback living to city slicker to beach babe and total mermaid. I've taken my clothes off on top of a mountain in the snow, I've changed my mind in 10 minutes and booked a spontaneous flight to the other side of the world. I've refused to stop living my dream for anyone other than myself and I've made a plan for the future. It's an exciting time to be Absolutely Lucy and it all starts again when the clock strikes 12 on New Years. Another fresh start, another exciting adventure and another dream come true. I'm ready, are you?
Where has been your favourite place to travel to this year? Have you enjoyed following my adventures? What are your travel plans for 2017?
If you're making travel plans for 2017 already - look no further than Sunshine for cheap holidays that will bring your dream destination a little closer. With hotel deposits from just £1 and holiday deposits from just £50, they'll help you make your dream trip a reality.
Okay so my travels kind of ran away with me and writing has taken a bit of a back seat lately. The last six weeks since I left home have given me endless reams of adventures to share with you all, but I just haven't had enough time to sit with my laptop and actually write. It's frustratingly satisfying when your life is so full that you don't have time to share it, but I can't help but miss the process of writing and sharing every step with you guys. So I'm here, I'm back guys, and I bring endless amazing photos, anecdotes and reviews of all the fabulous places I've been over the last few weeks. I'm writing this from Sydney Airport, halfway between Cairns and Tasmania, but I want to take you back in time a few weeks to when I first arrived in Bali. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to stay at Grandma's Hotels in both Kuta and Seminyak during my first week in Bali and I think it's about time I shared my experiences with you. I was invited along to review the two hotels and I was excited to check them out - as part of easing myself back into backpacker life it was nice to start out with all the luxuries of a hotel but perfectly aimed at business or budget travellers.
Grandma's Plus Hotel, Seminyak
We started off by spending a couple of nights at Grandma's Plus Hotel in Seminyak and it was a perfect place to kick off my time in Bali. The hotel is perfectly positioned to enjoy all the bars, restaurants and nightlife Seminyak has to offer while also being right next to the beach. Despite being so close to several big clubs, the hotel is very peaceful and you wouldn't even know that you were just down the road from some of the biggest nights out in the area. As we pulled up in the taxi, we were instantly impressed by the style and design of the hotel, unlike others on the street it looked almost as though it had been reclaimed by nature. The tropical greenery and vines wound through the walls and around the pathways throughout the building, it was such a unique look and I loved the way all of the interiors had been designed to fit with this natural theme. Combining natural jungle paradise vibes with a sleek, modern layout worked really well and set the hotel apart from the rest.
As we walked past the swimming pool and made our way up to our room, I was even more impressed by the high standard of comfort available for those on a budget. We had a twin room with an en suite, but doubles are also available, and my oh my, let me just tell you about the beds. Now beds are a big deal, especially when you're a budget traveler or backpacker, all too often I end up sleeping on springs or some lumpy mattress! So laying down on this incredible mattress was an absolute dream - I almost didn't get out of bed the whole time we were there! After spending a month in Bali I now know how often you get promised hot showers and actually find cold water running out of them, so the showers in the hotel were heaven - powerful and with endless hot water. The room was great, it had everything we needed and more, it was compact and well-designed so that it actually had those fun hostel vibes but with the privacy and comfort of a private room.
Grandma's Plus Hotel, Legian
After a couple of nights in Seminyak, we moved to the Grandma's Plus Hotel in Legian, not far away but in a whole other section of the popular stretch of Kuta. Streets lined with shops, boutiques, bars and restaurants awaited us, this section was far busier but proves a big draw for travellers of all ages who want to relax or party on their holidays. This hotel is designed along a similar theme of jungle greens and staff welcome you in to the towering structure through a leafy pergola. This hotel is set around the restaurant where breakfast is served, with huge, high ceilings and trailing vines dangling from the rafters, it's a beautiful place to start your day with a delicious breakfast included with the room price. You can choose from an Indonesian breakfast to Eggs Benedict and all plates come with fruit and treats from the bakery - a perfect meal to set you up for a day of sunbathing or exploring.
The hotel has the feeling of an oasis after stepping off the chaotic, busy street outside into the cool, calm atmosphere, it's soothing. Again the rooms are of the usual high standard and came with all the amenities we would need during our stay, and the beds were just as comfortable as the ones I had just left behind at the other hotel. The only thing we did notice with this hotel was that there was a bit of street noise despite us being seven floors up, but understandably we the hotel was in the middle of the busiest part of Bali. I can't fault the staff at both hotels, they were amazing and so helpful. Everything from moving us into our rooms to organising taxis and even trying to help me fix a SIM card for my phone. They made our stay go from good to excellent with their great attitudes and friendly manner.
While we were staying at the hotels, we were also invited along to try out their spas. At Grandma's in Seminyak we headed to De Nyuh Spa and Salon for a full body Balinese massage - my first in the country - then at the hotel in Legian we went to Rehat Massage and Reflexology. Both spas were located within the hotel building, so super convenient if you fancy a pamper but aren't ready to face the outside world yet. Both were beautiful designed and brought instant calm and peace to you as you walked in the door, the soothing music combined with the floral displays and the dark wood kept the spas cool and laced with gentle Balinese aromas. Having now had several Balinese massages, I can say that these two massages were actually two of the best I had while in Bali. If you're staying at either hotel, I would really recommend visiting the spa for a bit of me-time - you'll come away feeling like a new person and ready to really embrace your holiday.
Have you stayed at Grandma's Hotels - how was your experience? What kind of accommodation do you normally go for on holiday?
It's official - tomorrow is the day, the day when I get to start living my dreams again. This last week has been the slowest of all time, I've been clock-watching and calendar-counting, just hoping the days would pass by a little quicker. If you read my rather personal post last week, you'll know I've been struggling a bit lately and that I really need to get away. Feeling like this was good in one way because it has prompted me to book my flights and get back out there, to put a limit on my time at home and actually go again. I've loved having these months at home, they have given me so many amazing opportunities to see my friends and family, to work as a journalist again and to dedicate real time to this blog. It's been incredible to work with so many UK and international brands, to be featured in an industry magazine and to get to review so many amazing places. I feel so lucky and so grateful, but at the same time, the whole time I have been home there has been this nagging little voice in my ear telling me this is not where I am supposed to be.
Perhaps that's what prompted me to travel around so much of Europe during my time back here, and that too has been incredible. I've visited so many amazing travelling friends, seen places I had only dreamed of before now and ticked off my 29th country. But still, it wasn't enough, I returned home and have had serious post-travelling blues since, then with everything I spoke about in my last post, I just realised it was time to go. It sounds horrible to say but I just struggle to spend any length of time in this town now, I love being at home but beyond that there is nothing really here for me. I've exhausted all career options and I'm a working girl at heart - I need something I can be passionate and excited about to keep me in a place. I've been incredibly lucky with the sheer amount of freelance work I've been able to source and that has given me the money to do amazing things over the last four months. But there comes a time when it is just not enough and I know I'm more than ready to move on again.
So what's next?
Well, that's the big question. With all the stuff that has happened lately, I wasn't quite ready to return to Australia and I think I'm long overdue for some serious relaxation time. All you guys see is fun and games from my travels but I can assure you I've been working A LOT since I've been back - my whole summer has been taken up with a huge amount of freelance work, running this blog and working with countless different companies. It's been amazing, but also exhausting especially when you try and combine it with having a social life and now, I'm done. I'm completely emotionally and physically exhausted from it all - told you I always overdo it!
But that's okay, because I think I've earned a week completely off from life. So I'm heading to - wait for it - my 30th country!! And I'm doing it with one of my best friends. I couldn't be more excited to be travelling to Bali - a place I've long since dreamed of - and to be doing it with one of my closest travelling pals. When you feel a bit fragile, there's nothing more important than surrounding yourself with people who mean the most to you and will bring nothing but happiness and laughter back into your life. I can't think of anyone I will laugh harder with or be happier with at this moment in my life. I'm about ready for a week of cocktails, partying Dingos-style and relaxing. I'll be taking a week off from blogging - but true to form, I've over-prepared and you'll still be getting two new posts this week and two next week.
And after that...?
The travelling dream will be back on track and I'll be heading back to Melbourne - the city that well and truly has my heart - to catch up with some amazing friends and start part two of my journey. I'll be honest and say that while my body may have come back to the UK back in May, the last four months my heart has definitely been elsewhere. Other travelers will know that feeling of being torn between your heart and your head, between the reality of day-to-day life and the dream you've been living. Well I've had an extreme version of this and just couldn't really settle at home, hence why I'm so excited to get back there and really feel free again. Right now my head is all over the place, but by the time I step back on Australia shores I hope to be a bit more ready to take on the next year of my life and live my dream again.
I remember the exact second I had my second year visa came through after weeks of angst and worry, I was in Amsterdam and celebrated with a friend I actually met the last time I was down under! It was the happiest feeling, knowing I was going back to a country that brought me so much happiness, so now I just hope it will do the same once again. Plans for this year of travelling include visiting the raw, natural beauty of Tasmania and road tripping the slightly more wild Western Australia, plus I'm sure I'll fit in some time in Darwin and Christmas in Melbourne with all the friends I was so dearly missing during the last festive season when I completed my farm work. I'm looking forward to being that travelling version of myself again, I feel like I've been a watered down version of myself since I've been home and it's time to get back to being the real me.
Here we go again!
Right now I'm spending the day packing and making last minute preparations and tomorrow I officially take to the skies for a delightful 20 hours of travelling (eek). I can't wait to be back in the air and on my next adventure, it's so much more special knowing some of my favourite people are waiting for me in Bali and Australia, but I also can't wait to just get lost in these countries. Bring on solo traveler life again and bring on my return to Asia - it's been far too long. Follow my adventures on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter - I'll be posting all of our misadventures!
Have you been to Bali - any recommendations? Have you experienced any of these feelings as a solo traveler returning home?