I have had the song Bali Hai from the musical South Pacific stuck in my head for weeks as I got excited for Bali. Bali Hai may call you…come to me, come to me. (I learned this song, by the way, attending rival high school Desert Vista’s production of it because I was crushing on a guy who was in the show)
I, shockingly, did not set foot on a beach in Bali. Which is incredible, because it’s known for beaches and surfing. I had intended to take surf lessons there even, given the popularity. But once I was there, it wasn’t the beaches that I was after. Temples and jungles and monkeys, oh my!
First, I went to Pura Luhur Uluwatu temple. This temple sits on the cliffs of the southern most point of the island and will drop your jaw. I had read ahead of time someone commenting that it was a shame that most people don’t hike the full cliffs. So I knew that was a priority. There is a point on the cliffs that is in every picture that visitors take, but as I stood at the edge of it, there was not a single person in sight or ear-shot. Even at the most touristy destinations, it’s worth it to find a little part that you can have all to yourself. Of the hundreds, if not thousands, of visitors that day, only a handful share with me that cliff.
Also at the temple, a monkey stole my sunglasses from off of my face. I knew they were grabby, but didn’t know they were that aggressive. A local jumped in and tempted him with a banana to give them back. Begrudgingly I tried to tip her after she gave them back to me. She scoffed at me and asked for more. I said no. Tipping her was encouraging her, which was encouraging the monkeys, which is why my glasses got nicked in the first place, so I wasn’t going to be haggled up for it. I told her it was what I was offering and she could have it or not. She chose not.
From there, I went to Canggu where I FINALLY met Natalia, the winner of the Global Degree contest this year. She was sweet and lovely and it was a real treat to finally meet. We hit a yoga class in possibly the most beautiful setting ever and got gelato. It was a good day.
On my birthday, I had arrived at a new hostel in Seminyak. The hostel owner gave me a beer at check in. My roommates in the dorm found out and told every possible person they could it was my birthday. I got roped into another temple visit, to one I hadn’t heard of, but will not soon forget, Tanah Lot. When we got there, we all split up to see different parts as the sun set on the waves crashing on the rocks. It was absolutely breathtaking.
I walked to the water’s edge and reflected on my year, as you do on your birthday. I could still pinch myself just about every day at my life this year. And it’s not just about the places I’ve been, or the things I’ve seen and done. I have felt the most incredible levels of support from friends, family and strangers. It blows my mind. I have laughed and cried and cried from laughing. I have succeeded and totally failed. I was really excited about 30, but 31 feels a bit more monumental. Like now I’m IN my thirties. Whoa. But if this is what 30+ is like, bring it on, because I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Maybe it was being in such a spiritual place, maybe it was the sunset on the water, maybe it was exploring a new place with more new friends, maybe it was the incredible life that I’m lucky to be living or probably all of the above, but I would say that standing in Tanah Lot on my 31st birthday was one of the most special birthday moments yet.
And then, the travelers at the hostel made sure the birthday was as fun as it could be. We grabbed pizza, played games at the hostel and headed out dancing all night. Absolute perfection.
Lastly, I spent a day in Ubud with a few of the girls from Seminyak. This place is just one where you get a vibe and you love it. Rolling hills, ancient architecture, all set in a jungle. Temples and bikes and markets. It’s a lot to take in. We wandered around, met up with another Global Degree gal, Petra, for lunch and hit the monkey forest. I thought the monkey forest was going to be a tourist trap, but they do a great job of maintaining the grounds and facilities – it’s like a walk through the jungle, with a few temple visits and a whole lot of monkeys. I was on guard with my stuff this time and nothing was stolen, but I still squealed with half terror/half delight when one jumped on my back and later when another lunged out, hoping to grab my water. The babies are so crazy cute, it’s unreal.
A woman nearby screamed bloody murder and I thought a monkey had ripped her arm off. Another one of the girls thought a monkey had stolen her baby. Then, we thought the monkey took her wallet. It turns out it took some stupid chincy wooden souvenir. Talk about crying wolf! Her screams of terror will be a source of laughter for long to come.
I also did a quick stop in Jakarta while in Indonesia, despite it being considered not worth a visit by many travelers. I beg to differ. I enjoyed walking around and checking out the city. It’s massive. And crowded. But I continued to fall in love with the food in Indonesia by ordering food on the street just by pointing at it. And ice cream was less than a dollar, so it’s a win.
Also attended a Halloween celebration in Jakarta, and decided to dress as a badass woman, since I’ve been talking so much about them (and because I had everything I needed in my backpack).