Our trip to Bali was more or less a last minute decision. We had a week off in October, and once we started talking about Bali, we negotiated our way to a few extra days and ended up with 9 whole days in Bali. We left on October 25th 2023 and went back on November 5th, so just before the rainy season. I was going to be my second time in Asia, but my first south of equator. It was a long flight (24 hours with planes), but went well and Etihad Airways was a pleasure. We bought a 20 GB sim card in the airport for 125.000 rupiah (around 7 €), which turned out to be very handy. Then we went on to Sanur in eastern Denpasar to check in to a cheap hotel, from where we could easily move on to the Island Nusa Penida the next day.
We booked a boat the night before via 12go (sponsored link) for 10 € each, which seemed the cheapest and most convenient. Everything from picking up the tickets to getting on board was a big chaos. We followed everyone else, and even though it all seemed incredibly unorganized, the staff would make sure everyone got on the right boats. The departure was 25 minutes delayed however, but they seemed to not worry about it – symptomatic for Indonesian we would later learn. But the 30 minutes of sailing in the sun was a delight.
In the harbor at Nusa Penida we were met by a well of locals being anything but welcoming. Somehow the managed to communicate to the arrived, that it was 50.000 rupiah (3 €) to enter the Island. Cecilie had found a nice little café called Sunny Café close by, so we went there and had the best smoothie bowl and pancakes with Bali coffee and a watermelon smoothie to cool down, as we were already pretty heated. All the while two dogs roamed the café, and one of them eventually came to rest next to our seats. Our driver, Agus, who we booked from home (sponsored link), picked us up at the café, and drove us around for the day for just 890.000 rupiah (52 €). We were very glad, cause even though you can even rent your own car, we wouldn’t want to drive on those crazy roads, which are both twisted, hilly, narrow and in a bad condition. From the backseat we enjoyed the view over the mountains, banana trees, coco palms and jack tree, while Agus took us to the first two stops of the day: Broken Beach and Angels Billabong. Broken Beach is this marvelous crater, where you can walk on the cliff all around the crater, while boats sail in and out of it underneath you in the azure blue water. Angels Billabong was just next to it, so Agus kindly escorted us there, but advised against going into the water in the hole, as it could be dangerous when big waves rolled in. Both attractions was busy with tourist all with their personal drivers, who were very helpful with taking photos of their clients. I imagine these places are nightmares in the peak season…
Our second stop was probably one of the most photographed areas in the entire Indonesia: T-Rex Cliff or Kelingking Beach as it is formally known. From the top of the clip, which by the way was inhabited by some macaque monkeys, we could look over the bay on down on the T-Rex Cliff, which looks like a dinosaur. Down below is the nicest palm beach and unlike many of the other beaches, it is covered with white sand. To get down there we had to do a pretty steep hike (or more like climb) down the cliff. Agus said it would be 45 minutes each way, but we needed only about 20. It was good exercise and burning hot, but it was mostly the traffic holding us back, so it could be worse on a busy day. It was a fun climb, and the beach was amazing with big waves to play in.
We had time for one more stop, and it would be Guyangan Waterfall and yet another hike down the cliffs. The Balinese doesn’t quite have the same approach to health and safety rules as us Danes, and just like the questionable handrails at Kelingking Beach, these stairs was not only extremely steep but also had holes between the steps. It was apparently a holy sight below, which meant that visitors had to sear a sarong – a kind of skirt, der was part of the entrance fee of 10.000 rupiah (less that 1 €) – which only increased that risk of tripping. Nonetheless the view from the side of a cliff is stunning, and once we made it to the bottom of the blue stairs, we got to the little pools, where the waterfall (which was more of a stream) goes. We didn’t bother changing into our bathing clothes once more, so we just dipped our heads and feet in the chill water, before fighting our way back up. And it was a bit of a fight, but we made it allright, and went to check in at our hotel (The Dara Hill) in the middle of nothing in the center of the Island.
At the hotel we got in the pool, and was welcomed by a very nice lady offering the best mangos I’ve ever had, although she didn’t speak any English. The Hotel supposedly had a restaurant on the other side of the road, so that’s where we went to get dinner. It had a nice garden with birds in cages and little fish ponds, but apparently not any people. We walked around confused for a bit, and eventually gave up and walked up the road. We could only see two other houses: A restaurant of sorts and a little kiosk, so it was easy to pick. We sat down as the only customers on a little platform with a roof but no walls, as was served by the couple who own the place. On the other side was the family who tended to the kiosk while the children was doing their homework and the dogs were chasing the chickens.
The next morning we tried across the street again, cause that was where the included breakfast was meant to be. We asked around at it turned out to be the right place, at the staff or residents came out to serve us some pancakes. They were also very helpful with renting a moped, which was just 150.000 rupiah (9 €) for the day. I drove, and Cecilie sat on the back while claiming to be relatively comfortable with the situation. We had targeted something called Manta Point, hoping we could rent some snorkeling gear and swim with the Manta Rays. When we arrived we were 150 meters above the sea. There was a fairly large tempel, but besides us the only ones there was some monkeys. That was pretty cool, but also a little bit scary. Luckily they weren’t very interested in us. From the cliff we could we a bunch of boats, probably with divers, but no mantas. We headed towards a new destination called The Manta Point and crossed our fingers for better luck there.
On the way there we came by Teletubbies Hills, which actually looks a lot like the scenery from the kids show with spherical hills. It was a pretty scenery, and we walked out there for a kilometer or so, and it was even prettier there. We met a couple who had just come from The Manta Point, and they had seen at least 30 manta rays, so it was looking promising. Almost there a guy stopped us, and wanted to sell us some gasoline from his small glas bottles. Yes, that is actually how you get gas a lot of places in Nusa Penida… From The Manta Point we looked over the edge, and there was in fact a manta ray in the water, clearly visible with it black back against the white sand ocean floor. The cliff was reaching far into the ocean, and as we looked on the other side, there was between 30 to 40 mantas. It was incredible. You could just look at them for ages. There had even been a stairway from the top once, going through one of the classic hindu-gates, along the cliff and out on the big rock further out. They called it Stairway to Heaven, but even though it already seem to have been dangerous enough, it was now collapsed and not accessible. We met an interesting rastafari fella, who had once been in Copenhagen. There he made a living of selling “magic mushrooms” and had learned to say what was probably supposed to be the classic Danish phrase to learn foreigners: “Rød grød med fløde”.
The boat ride back to the main Island was even more unorganized than out, and with some relatively large waves it was a long and uncomfortable trip. After some negotiations with the taxi drivers in in Sanur, we drove through Denpasar for two hours in the most insane traffic jam I have ever seen (especially for four wheeled vehicles). It was also a bit of an experience, cause never have I seen that many scooters, but in the end we were happy to make in to Canggu and meet with Cecilies cousin.
Cecilies cousin, Tine, lives in Canggu with her Australian husband, Alasdair, in a great house with a nice view over the the rice fields. Cecilies other cousin, Daniel, was also visiting, as he was an intern at a hotel i Denpasar at the moment. We did as “the locals” did, and tried living the sweet Bali life for a while. The next morning I got on the back of Alasdairs scooter, and Cecilie got a Grab driver (it’s like Uber, but they have mopeds), and went to the beach for at lovely breakfast in the bean bags at Times Beach Warung. Before and after breakfast, we had time to let the waves throw us around a bit. Full and relaxed we walked on the beach to the La Brisa Sunday Market. We didn’t buy anything but something to eat and drink, but it was a nice little market, and not too busy in the morning. We keept walking around town, visited some shops and markets and ended back at the beach for a beer at Sand Bar. It was a welcomed cold drink and a relatively cool breeze, as we sat looking over the ocean. We decided to walk the 3,5 km back to the house, only interrupted by a small ice cream break. In the evening we had burgers, cause even though there was plenty of Indonesian to choose from, it was what we all wanted the most (except for Cecilie who got some of the local food).
The next morning we got up at six am to go for a run before it got too hot. The sun was shining bright and it was already 26 degrees celsius. We balanced across the rice fields trying not to step down into the water, and then ran a nice little 5K ending at the coffee shop Flower Boy for an iced coffee. This was where the local running club was based, so Alasdair knew exactly when and where to meet us for a morning coffee. A perfect start of the day, before we had to say goodbye for now, and continue our travel north to Ubud.