Bali, Indonesia became a must-see destination for the broken hearts – or even for ordinary travelers all over the world – thanks to the success of Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir entitled Eat Pray Love. The majestic island was made even more popular by the movie adaption of the said book that starred Hollywood A-list star, Julia Roberts. Unfortunately, the same success brought more commercialism in the supposed peaceful island of Bali. Accommodations skyrocketed and best beachfronts are usually owned by luxury hotels.
(In photo: At Pura Tirta Temple)
So how did I manage to have my own Eat Pray Love from Bali to Yogyakarta?
*DAY 1: DENPASAR TO GILI TRAWANGAN
I arrived in the sophisticated Denpasar Airport early in the morning. Travelers from all walks of life and from almost every continent flocked in the airport waiting to see the intriguing Balinese Culture. As a solo backpacker, I tried to maximize my time and left the airport as soon as possible.
In the airport, you have three options to reach your hotel: taxi, vans or the public bus. The following are the pros and cons for each mode of transportation:
- Taxi – In the airport, upon arrival, you need not to ask because you will naturally draw in the cab drivers. They also tend to be pushy so you really have to bring extra patience with you. I was actually in shock that the major mode of transportation in the island is cab so you have to be careful.
#GeekBackpackerStory – take a metered taxi otherwise you will end up losing a lot of money. For instance, it took me roughly 600,000 Rupiah (RP) or roughly 50US$ just to get to Gili Trawangan. I suggest you take the Blue Bird (Group) Taxi because most of their drivers are honest and they will really use the meter without imposing any exorbitant additional fees.
(In Photo: Denpasar Airport)
- Vans – The vans or any other public utility vehicle that I’m referring to are the ones that would offer you a price depending on the location that you want to go or to see. I highly discourage this – especially I personally experienced it – because drivers of these vehicles usually tend to give excessive price range.
- Bus – this is very limited though. The bus around Bali is an almost rare experience; a limited route is also available around the whole island. On a positive note, the bus in the airport will pass by the major tourist areas such as Kuta (public surfing area) and Ubud (where mostly rice fields and middle class to luxury hotels are found). The fee is way cheaper if you will use this option – although I did not personally experience it – I only discovered it once I arrived in Kuta.
- Motorbikes – there are motorbikes for rent. This would definitely bring out the adventurer in you. But I’m not so sure if it’s available in the airport because the ones that I saw are in Kuta Bali. It would cost around 10US$ per day.
Kuta Bali is a haven for surfers; it’s open to the public and the huge stretch of cream-ish sand is kilometric. Since I try to be as spontaneous as possible, I tried to check out Bali’s Kuta Beach first upon arrival especially because I purposely did not book a hotel, I walked around the area to personally look at the available accommodations. You know, websites and promos all over the internet can be deceiving.
(In photo: Pantai Kuta Area and Kuta Bali Beach)
As I walk by Kuta, I noticed that there are shops selling souvenirs, accessories and almost all forms of goods in Pantai Kuta area. This place is actually a melting pot because prominent hotels with extravagant facilities are available, guesthouses for travelers with tight budget can also be booked and shopping malls are scattered around Kuta Bali Beach.
Dissatisfied, I halted a cab driver along the street after walking around the area for an hour. I then decided to go to Gili Trawangan. Thank goodness to my Indonesian friends, Ayya and Izzy, who suggested that if ever I go to Bali, I must also go to the Gili Islands.
The Gili Islands are composed of three small islands namely: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. It’s actually a separate and distinct province since the Gilis form part of the jurisdiction of the Lombok province. Located in the eastern part of Bali, a would-be traveler would take three to five hours to reach the beautiful Gilis.
(In photo: The beach in Gili Trawangan)
Personally, I arrived in Gili Trawangan at 3 in the afternoon after I left Denpasar Area at 12 noon. It took me an hour from Denpasar to Padang Bai then another two hours from Padang Bai Port to Gili Trawangan proper.
How to reach Gili Islands?
There are two ports that transport tourists and locals to the Gili Islands. You can choose between the following:
- Sanuk Area (Benoa Cruise Terminal) – located in the southeastern part of Bali, the port in Sanuk is more accessible from the airport. But there’s a catch, you have to leave early because the vessels leave at around 7:30-8:30 in the morning. The fee is also higher and it would cost you around 700,000 Rupiah or more than 50US$.
(In photo: Signage in the port of Sanuk.)
I personally wanted to try this one even if it’s more expensive. It’s easier and more convenient anyway. However, since I arrived in the port at around 10:30 in the morning, plus the transportation through this port is very limited, I wasn’t able to try it.
#GeekBackpackerStory – Since I wasn’t able to reserve a ticket in the Sanuk port, I had no choice but to go to Padang Bai. The cost of transportation would range from 250,000 to 300,000 Rupiah. But remember to choose the metered taxis because the cost would be a lot cheaper. Avoid contracting with drivers!
- Padang Bai Port – located in the northeastern part of Bali, this port is cheaper but relatively far compared to the first option. Trips in Padang Bai start at around 8:00AM until 1:30PM. It would take around one hour from Denpasar area or roughly one and a half hours if you will go straight from the airport.
Upon arrival in the port, you can choose between two options: the public cargo vessels which also carry light vehicles this would cost around 40,000 Rupiah; or the express boat which would cost around 300,000 Rupiah.
#GeekBackpackerTip – You have to be mindful of the time of your arrival and departure in the Bali port as well as the Gili Port because they only have specific time for the trips. Although they’re not usually on time, a traveler on a budget cannot afford to lose a lot of time and money.
(In photo: Stickers to be attached in your belongings in the ports of Gili Trawangan and Padang Bai.)
According to the locals, the latter is faster but I’m not so sure whether it’s true. It took me two hours from Padang Bai to Gili Trawangan, it would even take longer if one chooses the mass transportation. In terms of buying tickets, there are available in Padang Bai Port and there are a couple of boat companies that offer the service. I personally used Semaya One in case you want to have a sure transportation service to communicate with.
As I previously stated, the Gilis are composed of three small islands. The biggest and most developed according to other bloggers is Gili Trawangan. However, if you want to experience a more peaceful place you can also try Gili Meno and Gili Air. These islands are very close to each other so you can ride smaller boats if you want to check out all of the islands. That, however, entails more expenses.
I personally went to Gili Islands and stayed there for two days and two nights. The range of accommodation in Gili Trawangan can be affordable for backpackers and can also suit the luxurious taste of some.
- Lisa Home Stay
The locals call the cheap rooms as “homestay”. Despite being affordable, the quality is not bad at all. I chose Lisa Home Stay for my first night. It’s near the area where one can buy varying goods. Restaurants can also be found two blocks away from the place where I stayed so you can do a lot of things.
(In photo: Left – the small garden in Lisa Home Stay; Right – the entrance to the hostel.)
#GeekBackpackerTip – You have to choose an accommodation near the port and the seaside because some hotels do not have restaurants unless, of course, you are staying in expensive hotels which often have their own restaurants. Most of the restaurants that cater to all tourists are found near the port area.
I payed for 250,000 rupiah for a night and my room can accommodate three to four people. If you have backpacker friends with you, this place can be perfect. Although they don’t really have many amenities, the room is clean and has its own air-condition plus internet connection. The breakfast is also free!
As soon as I arrive, I left my things in the hotel and walked around the nearby seashore. I went back to my room after dinner and took some rest.
*DAY 2: GILI TRAWANGAN
- Gili Hideaway Resort
On my second day, I tried to explore the island even more. Since I checked out from Lisa Home Stay, I booked an affordable hotel via booking.com. I chose Gili Hideaway because it seems to be peaceful plus it has its own library (haha!).
(In photo: [Clockwise] The bedroom; Authentic Indonesian shower, the water actually comes out from the wooden tube; the resort’s swimming pool; the toilet.)
The pool is serene although a little bit small in person. They refer the rooms as bungalow which is made out of wood. It has no television set in the room which makes the ambiance even more tranquil. The design of the whole room is authentic Indonesian which makes it even more interesting.
A one night stay costs 600,000 Rupiah or roughly 50US$ which includes breakfast. Amenities also include a small library that guests can borrow books and a wifi connection over the resort. But like other hotels in the area, there’s no restaurant in this hotel.
What to do in Gili Trawangan?
The beach in itself is worthy to frolic around. There are numerous things that you can do around Gili Trawangan area such as island hopping, scuba diving and a visit to a place where komodo dragons stay. I tried none of these because I was reading and writing in the hotel but like what I saw from various tour packages around the port area the cost ranges from 30US$ to 100US$ depending on the activity that you will do.
#GeekBackpackerTip – there are money changers around Gili Trawangan but it would be better if you change your money in Kuta Bali because there will be a 20,000 to 50,000 difference if you will change your money in Gili.
After reading through some of the things that I wrote, I decided to stroll around the island using a bicycle which costs 50,000 Rupiah for a day. It’s quite reasonable especially because Gili Trawangan is a bit big if you will only walk around the island. Exploring the island is fun and the beach in itself is an irresistible view!
By the way, there are only two modes of transportation for tourists in Gili Trawangan: first, through bicycles; and second through horse carriage. The horses are paid per trip and it can be very pricey. For example a kilometer or two would cost you around 80,000 Rupiah which, I believe, is not practical.
Since the island of Gili is infiltrated with tourists from multitude of countries, a wide array of stalls offering food would satisfy your gastronomical cravings. The quality is good and the price is reasonable, too. It ranges from 50,000 Rupiah and above.
(In photo: Seafood pasta and milkshake at the seaside restaurant in Gili Trawangan.)
*DAY 3: GILI TRAWANGAN TO BALI
Since I booked a roundtrip ticket through Semaya One’s ferry, I only had to wait for the 11:30 AM ride back to Bali. I was rushing back to the port since Gili Hideaway is roughly a ten-minute walk away from the port. Unfortunately, the vessel arrived late and after almost an hour of waiting, we left for Padang Bai at around 12:30 PM.
Once I arrived at Padang Bai, I asked a transportation service for the cost to Denpasar. It was around 300,000 but I noticed that there were shuttle service in the area but I only discovered it after I had my own service to go back Bali’s center. If you will go back to Denpasar, the airport or elsewhere around the island, might as well inquire the shuttle service first. I suppose it’s cheaper.
#GeekBackpackerTip – the famous Bali Bat Temple is near Padang Bai. You might want to check it out when you will go back to the city proper. I really regret that I didn’t do that because most of tourist attractions in Bali are scattered all over the island. So you might want to maximize your trip by passing by to each attraction considering that you will pass by it anyway.
Accommodation in Bali
Bali is a big island that’s why the need to strategize on the location that you will choose is of primordial importance. I scanned through the hotels that are near Ubung Bus Terminal so that I would save travel time.
Alam Puri Art Museum and Villa
I found Alam Puri on booking.com’s website. The deal was more than reasonable so I definitely booked it. Imagine this: I have my own villa, exclusive pool, bathtub and even a kitchen for only 50 US$! That includes free breakfast too. Although it’s not really the newest, most extravagant hotel in Bali, but I definitely got more for what I paid for.
(In photo: [Clockwise] The museum facade; the resort’s swimming pool; the private swimming pool of my villa; he villa’s bed; and the room’s bathtub.)
#GeekBackpackerTrivia – did you know that high-rise buildings are prohibited in Bali? This is in connection to their culture with, of course, the influence of the unique Balinese Hinduism. It’s actually different from that of Indian Hinduism.
The hotel has its own small art museum that is free to all the guests. When it comes to food, the price is also reasonable but I noticed that there’s actually a 21% tax imposition. I honestly believe that such amount is just too much.
So I capped the day off by enjoying my room and the ambiance of the hotel. A little rest was also mandatory since it was also tiring to travel from Gili to Bali. With the jasmine scented room, the night was perfectly relaxing.
*DAY 4: BALI TO YOGYAKARTA
Pura Tirta Temple
I woke up early to see Pura Tirta Temple otherwise known as the Water Temple in Bali. There are a lot of temples in Bali if you want to pray or meditate. In my book, the immersing myself in the waters of the Hindu Temple is the ultimate Balinese experience.
(In photo: The water temple in Pura Tirta.)
#GeekBackpackerTrivia – The Pura Tirta Temple is one of the water temples in Bali. Hindus believe that the water in these temples cleanse our spirit from our sins.
With the help of the receptionist, I was able to book a Blue Bird Taxi that would bring me in the temple. Like what I said earlier, metered taxis would help you a lot to save money. I’m not quite sure if there are other metered cab companies in Bali but I would definitely recommend Blue Bird Group.
It took me an hour and a half to reach Pura Tirta. The place was quiet and there are few tourists yet. Upon reaching the entrance, a minimal fee of 15,000 Rupiah will be paid in order for a visitor to enter the temple.
#GeekBackpackerTip – Most Balinese Temples require visitors to wear a Sarong – a traditional Indonesian cloth that will be wrapped in the lower part of your body.
In case you don’t have a Sarong with you, there’s an area in the temple entrance where you can rent one. There’s no specific amount for the rental, they will just ask you to give a donation. Be careful though because you can’t dip it in the water otherwise they will ask you to pay a penalty.
If you will dip in the waters, there are public restrooms that would enable you to change clothes. This means that you really have to bring extra clothing unless you want to buy one in the temple.
Goa Gadjah Temple
After buying souvenirs in the shopping stalls in the Pura Tirta Temple’s entrance, I asked the cab driver to bring me to Goa Gadjah Temple or the Elephant’s Cave. It would only take roughly 15 to 20 minutes from Tirta to Goa Gadjah so I decided to drop by. Although named after elephants, there’s no trace of elephant figure within the temple.
#GeekBackpackerTip – choose the temples that you want to see. To be honest, everything looks almost the same but each temple has its own significance. There are plenty of temples in Bali so do your research beforehand so you can choose where to go.
(In photo: [Clockwise] Goa Gadjah’s cave; a Balinese Hindu pagoda in the temple; mandatory tourist selfie in the cave’s veneer; and an old water cleansing part, it’s not functioning though.)
Like in other temples, there are shops and Sarong for rent in Goa Gadjah so you need not worry about it again. I strolled around the temple for a couple of minutes and checked out the cave. The place is also serene which really made me even more at peace; despite the heat getting higher by the minute.
Hotel Check-Out and Ubung Bus Terminal
I took a bath again before leaving for the bus terminal. Once my things were packed, I booked another cab that brought me to Ubung Terminal. I also looked online but there’s no specific bus company that was recommended in the blog that I saw.
I checked out from Alam Puri at 12NN and arrived at Ubung Bus Terminal at around 12:30. From there, I asked the locals for the bus ride from Bali to Yogyakarta. People started to flock because they knew I was a tourist. They became pushy and guaranteed that I will leave Bali at 3:00PM so I believed them.
Initially, I booked with Bus Pariwisata PO Santoso which costs 375,000 Rupiah. The price was surprising considering that other bloggers said that they booked their tickets for as low as 250,000 Rupiah. I only booked it because there was an assurance that the trip will leave early and the fee was inclusive of food. With a little Rupiah in my pocket, I needed to change my dollars; so the man, who claims to be the owner of the bus, assisted me to his staff that brought me to a nearby money changer.
(In photo: [Clockwise] Ubung Bus Terminal; the first bus that I booked; Wisata Komo’s free snack; and Gilimanuk port stopver.)
Through a motorbike, the “staff” and I went to the nearest money changer. Cautious as I am, I asked if I can go to a bank instead because I didn’t really like the ambiance in the first money changer that the staff-driver brought me in. So we went to BCA Bank which was around ten minutes away from the first money changer.
There, the exchange rate was reasonable and the bank tellers are cute, too! Hahaha! 🙂 The transaction took me an hour and I arrived back to Ubung at 2:30PM.
I patiently waited – brought water, took a pee and had my last-minute preparation for my sixteen-hour bus ride to Yogyakarta (according to other bloggers) – but the waiting became an hour. Little did I realize, I’ve already been waiting for two hours so the ever curious traveler in me asked my fellow passengers. The language barrier hindered me to expound on the questions so I just ask if I can see their ticket. To my surprise, they were only billed with 150,000. Although their destination is only in Surabaya (which is 327 kilometers away from Yogyakarta) still I felt there was something fishy.
With only three passengers including myself, my frustration was mounting. I talked to the owner and told him that he guaranteed that we will leave at three, he instead shrugged me off and told me that the only thing that he guaranteed that the bus will depart once the passengers reach twenty. This is where I got pissed (and nervous too).
(In photo: [Clockwise] In the waiting lane of BCA Bank; Balinese street market; food signage along the streets of Bali; and a gate of an authentic Balinese household.)
I went straight to the terminal guards and asked for assistance. They told me that other buses will leave at 5:30 but the bus that I booked has no definite time of departure. I felt a sigh of relief when the three guards accompanied me to talk to the owner; they initiated and insisted to the self-proclaimed owner to reimburse me with the payment. The guards, owner and the bus driver of Wisata Komodo – a different bus company – all conversed in Bahasa as they tackled my concern. I didn’t understand a damn thing!
The conclusion was simple– my fee was transferred from Bus Pariwisata PO Santoso to Wisata Komodo. At 5:00PM, the only thing I felt a huge relief that the bus will depart at 5:30PM. Although the fee was supposedly 280,000 Rupiah (inclusive of one snack and meal in the stopover) I didn’t dare to insist with the owner because my energy cannot afford another argument.
#BackpackerTip – Book your bus ride with Wisata Komodo. They have a website and the bus was pleasant, relatively compared to other bus companies. If possible, book your bus ride ahead of time to avoid the hassle that I went through.
Finally we left Bali at 5:30PM.
*DAY 5: SURABAYA STOPOVER AND YOGYAKARTA
The trip from Denpasar (where the bus station is located) to Gilimanuk (port to Java Island) took us around five hours. All the passengers endured yet another thirty-minute waiting time in the first stopover. At midnight, the bus was in the barge that crossed the seas until we reach the eastern part of Java. The travel went on so I tried to sleep as much as I can.
(In photo: With my Indonesian friends namely: Jerry, Indah, Frendy and Rachel at Alun-Alun Park.)
#GeekBackpackerStory – by the way, thanks to the guards in Ubung and to the lady passenger (I forgot her name but she’s the only one who can speak in English) for helping me through this challenging phase. Hahaha!
Two in the morning of the fifth day, we had another stopover before reaching Surabaya. Indonesian meals were served to the passengers. It was brief but worth it. I wasn’t able to take pictures because my phone’s battery was not charged. We went back to the bus and the journey went on. I slept in the chairs as the blanket (yes there’s a blanket for each passenger) covered my body.
At 6:00 AM, the driver’s assistant woke me up from my slumber. The bus arrived in Surabaya after more than twelve hours. I was then asked to transfer another bus to Yogyakarta. All throughout this phase of my trip, almost nobody can speak in English so imagine the struggle.
For the record, the travel time from Surabaya to Yogyakarta via bus (because you can also use a train) is eight hours; that would include breaks along terminals. There’s not much of a lesson that I learned here except understanding enough Bahasa to communicate with directions. To cut the long story short, I arrived in Yogyakarta at 2:00 PM.
For purposes of preparing your travel itinerary, you can stop at the following bus terminals in Yogyakarta:
- Jombor Terminal – the nearest bus terminal in Borobudur Temple. It’s also the first bus stop in Jogja.
- Giwangan Terminal – the second nearest station to a multitude of destinations around Jogja.
#GeekBackpackerTip – Indonesians rarely use English. Those who are proficient are usually students from universities. Download a translator, if possible, to make your trip less of a struggle.
The historical city of Yogyakarta is the place to be for students–pronounced as Jogjakarta or Jogja for brevity–this city houses some of the best universities in Indonesia. But what makes Jogja a staple traveler’s destination in the Java Island? It’s no less than the ancient temple called Borobudur. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t able to visit the enigmatic temple because of my exhaustion from my trip.
Wisma Bukit Barisan Hostel
I stayed in this hostel for two days and two nights. It’s actually perfect for travelers on a budget because it only costs 150,000 Rupiah per night! It’s air-conditioned and with internet connection, too! The room has two beds and a few blocks away from premiere Indonesian State University – Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM). Plus, since it’s within a school’s vicinity, the price range of food is budget-friendly as well.
Actually, this was referred to me by a friend from UGM. The hostel frequently attracts local travelers instead of foreigners perhaps because the hostel website, according to my friend, is in Bahasa. If you want to explore your options around the city, there are scattered hotels in Yogyakarta City that are fairly reasonable too. Well, that really depends on your budget.
What to do in Yogyakarta?
- Borobudur Temple – this is the landmark place in Jogja. But like what I said, I wasn’t able to visit this majestic place because I woke up late. (Haha!) That gives me a reason to go back.
- Malioboro Street – according to my Indonesian friends, I haven’t really been to Jogja if you will not go to Malioboro. This street boasts varying shops – from books to clothes and even food – you can definitely find it here. A couple of historical sites can also be visited within the area.
#GeekBackpackerTip – there’s a tourism office along Malioboro. The staff there gives free assistance in case you get lost or simply because you want to inquire about tourist spots.
- Alun-Alun Park – since jogja used to be Indonesia’s capital back in the day, the ancient leader held his office near the Alun-Alun Park. There are fancy and colorful bikes in this area that a tourist must try. It’s like your birth of fire in the city.
(In photo: [Clockwise] a touristy picture along Jalan Malioboro; locals along Malioboro; with my Indonesian friend, Egy; and the entrance to Alun-Alun.)
#GeekBackpackerStory – there’s a myth in this park between the two big trees in the center. The legend suggests that whoever passes through with a blindfold will be a successful in life. Guess what? I was able to pass through it for three times! Hahaha! My friend can’t even believe it! If you will really observe the people there, it’s rare to see people that can pass through the trees.
- Other adventures – although I haven’t personally dropped by these places, there are a lot of tourist attractions in Jogja that you can try. Thanks to the tourism information desk, I was able to see list of must-see destinations in Jogja. You might want to check out for yourself: Sultan’s Palace, Sewu Temple, Merapi Lava Tour, Kalisuci Cave, Jomblang Cave, Gembiraloka Zoo, Ratu Boko Temple, Nglangeran Beach, Vredeburg Fort, Progo Rafting, Parangtritis Beach, Sand Dune, Krakal Beach and Ullen Sentalu Museum.
I will definitely be back to this city to try all of those adventures!
*DAY 6 MALIOBORO STREET AND ALUN-ALUN
In the sixth day, I spent a lot of time resting so I woke up at lunch time already. After having my lunch, I strolled around the city to check out the how the locals live on a daily basis. By the way, there are lesser cabs in Jogja compared to Bali so you might want to rent a motorbike for your own convenience. If you can’t drive one, there’s a bus system in Jogja that’s way affordable but a bit hard to comprehend at first.
I didn’t really had a hassle in terms of travelling around the city because I have Indonesian friends that helped me tour around. So if you don’t have one, try to interact or don’t be shy to ask for help because generally Indonesians are really nice people.
*DAY 7 JOGJA TO SURABAYA
My flight back to Manila was in Surabaya. I initially wanted to travel around Surabaya too but I didn’t realize that I will not have enough time to do so. To make my experience even more memorable, I booked a train ticket from Jogja to Surabaya. It costs 250,000 Rupiah for the Business to Executive Class. The Economy Class, according to the locals, should be booked ahead of time (like months ahead) because it’s easily sold out. The price difference between Executive and Economy is roughly 90,000 to 100,000 Rupiah.
(In photo: [Clockwise] train station in Jogja; the seats inside the train; my ticket for the trip to Surabaya; and Surabaya train station.)
I left Surabaya at 7:30 in the morning. If you will try the train, please be on time otherwise you might rebook your trip. Trains usually leave on time and leave the stopovers quickly. When I compared my bus trip and my train trip from Surabaya to Jogja and vice versa, I must say that the train is definitely more convenient and faster. The bus will take a traveler around eight hours while trains, by contrast, will only take you five hours.
The seventh day may be the tail end of my Bali to Java trip but it was definitely an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. This is one of the best (and nerve-racking) trips I’ve ever had.
I’m looking forward to my next adventure soon and I hope you are, too!