Bali, Indonesia

What is beyond this EPL island haven?

In 2016, Frenchie and I literally spent our first two weeks of the year in this small island of Indonesia, which became famous by the Eat, Pray, Love memoir of Elizabeth Gilbert.  


Because of the book, many single (and divorced) women have packed their bags (and life) to settle (and travel) to the island, hoping to be able to find themselves (and a new love) just like what happened to Elizabeth Gilbert. That even the local Balinese people (who can speak English) called this the E-P-L-syndrome.

Bali, as a place to travel and visit has so much to offer. They even have hidden gems along the way! So what's beyond this Eat, Pray, Love island haven?! Oh, so much more!!!

We stayed in Ubud, in this family-owned bungalows. The place reminded me of a Beijing hutong! The family was so nice and accommodating. They barely speak English but somehow their one-word-sentences help us get by when we stayed there.


Things You Can Do In Bali:

1. Visit the Sacred Monkey Forest


In Ubud, the most famous tourist attraction is the Sacred Monkey Forest. For Balinese culture, they have high respect with monkeys, as they believed they were the spirits of their beloved dead. So whenever they see monkeys around, they don't shoo them away. They just let them do their thing. But you have to be extra careful being around them. 


Frenchie and I had a very, very close encounters with them while we were there. They were very playful and would grab things from your hands, especially if it's food.

2. Watch a shadow puppet show


They have so many cultural shows and event around the island. Wayang, the art of shadow puppet was one particular show that made Frenchie so curious. I, on the other hand had no idea what the whole thing was about, although they gave an English explanation about the plot of the play before they started. I was more fascinated on who were behind it.


Apparently, being a shadow puppet "manipulator" is not just a talent you can develop but to be a dalang means you're an artist and a spiritual leader. And at the same time, had an extraordinary talent to showcase the epic mythologies. That's why if you'll get to watch one of these, they're usually old men. UNESCO required Indonesians to preserve this heritage.


3. Get lost in the middle of their rice fields


Indonesia's staple food, like many other Asian countries is rice. So it's no surprise that you will see hectares after hectares of rice fields in the country or in the island of Bali. It's not something special but somehow for many tourists, this activity brings another bucket list adventure and experience.


Well, being Filipino myself and being surrounded by rice fields all my life, this was like--- nah! :P

4. Rent a motorbike or scooter


It's the best way to beat the traffic around the island! Also the best way to move around and even go farther from Ubud.


We had so much fun with this form of transportation and I highly recommend this! Fret not because you'll see a lot of rental places in the area and they're relatively cheap.

5. Find an infinity pool for an afternoon dip


There are so many resorts around Bali and most of them have swimming pools. Some of them have infinity pools overlooking the rice fields. So use your Google search and find one. You don't need to stay in the resort, you can order food and drinks, or just pay for swimming fee.


6. Dress up like a Balinese and join their local ritual event


Indonesia is primarily practicing Hinduism, so they have plenty of religious and ritual events all year round. They have at least one per month. In order to truly immerse yourself in this fascinating culture, make an effort to join in, but do dress-up appropriately for the event.


We were lucky that our bungalow owners were kind enough to lend us their costumes/clothes, so we didn't have to buy them.  

7. Rent a car (oh, it's right-hand drive)


If you plan to see more of Bali, this is the best way to go around, rather than taking a taxi every time. I was lucky to have Frenchie, who had an International Driver's Card, as my official driver. It's the best road trip we had so far in our travels. And it's cheaper to rent as well ($15/day), so it's not bad for your travel budget.

8. Go to the rice terraces


They have several ones around Bali. And if you're a nature trekker, this is one good activity for you. We went to Ceking Rice Terraces, when we did our car road trip. It's my first rice terraces visit, ever.


So I made a promise to myself that my next rice terraces visit should be the Bananue Rice Terraces in the Philippines.

9. Visit the volcano


If you're a risk taker, you can even hike it. The most famous and the highest one is the Batur Volcano. It's the volcano located at the center of two concentric calderas.

10. Swim in a hot spring


Hot springs are another tourist attraction in Bali. But you need to go farther from Ubud or Kuta. Frenchie and I stayed overnight in a resort nearby a hot spring. It's a public one and it's mostly locals who come and swim here. You can spend an hour or two in the area-- no more, no less.


But since it's quite a ride going back to Ubud, we decided to spend the night in the area. I loved it because it was more quiet and we had the resort to ourselves at night. They even had their own hot spring!


11. Snorkeling to see shipwrecks


There are quite a few of shipwrecks in Bali dating back during the World War II. We drove all the way to Amed to do snorkeling and shipwreck hunting.


Amed is still relatively cheaper compared to Kuta and Ubud-- and still less touristy. If you're into scuba diving and free diving, this is a place to be.


We spent several nights there and we paid cheaper compared to the resort we were staying in Ubud.

13. Visit sacred temples


Again, Indonesia's religion is mostly Hinduism so it's not surprising to see temples, temples, temples. It is a very fascinating religion-- at least from my very Catholic background.


I love how they offer flowers everyday, without missing a corner of their house. Visiting a temple, it'll give you an idea how Hinduism is being practiced.


We went to the temple on their 50.000 IDR. We even had a dance entertainment while we were there.

15. Go the surfer's paradise in the island


Bali is a surfer's paradise. One of the many reasons why they come is to surf. There's at least 10 great spots to go, and they're mostly in the southern part. You can ride a motorbike to get there as well.


Uluwatu is the most famous and most likely the best one. I tried surfing once, but I did not go on surfing here. But if you are, this is the most scenic with big waves.

16. Explore and swim in their waterfalls


This activity was among my top favorite. We had a great time looking and swimming in them. There are a lot of places to go, you just need to do a little more out of the way and ready to explore them.


The best one we had was the hidden waterfalls that we just kind of saw while we were driving around. It was a great find! But the water was sooo cold!


17. Check out the local market and buy unique souvenir pieces


It has been on this trip that I was really fascinated on visiting the local markets. I love all the things I see. I love bargaining and interacting with the local people.


I love how things can be a good idea for souvenirs for families and friends-- the best part, they're cheaper compared to buying them from a souvenir store! 


From then on, I made a conscious effort to visit the local markets on our travels. And you should, too. You'll be very surprised on the things you can find.  

18. Go on a food trip! Like a lot!


I'm one happy Asian to have tasted all the varieties of food we tried on this trip. It was, of course, my most favorite activity on this adventure. It made me realize that Asian food is really the best there is.


I may be biased on saying that. It's the most authentic and the most savory of dishes with the exemplary spices, I've ever tasted. My most favorite Indonesian dish is nasi goreng with satay. It is somehow similar to Thai food.


On our last night in Bali, we went to the fish market in Kuta, bought some fresh lobsters, and gave our seafood to a cook--- who made our very fresh and cheap dinner goodness!


I even went for a Balinese cooking class, which I will also blog about


Have you been to Bali? What activities did you love?

Taipei, Taiwan



Taipei, Taiwan is the place to go!

Our trip to Taiwan was more like a side trip before we went to the US. Frenchie and I found the cheapest flight from Manila to the US through Eva Air--- that is known for their Hello Kitty planes.


Knowing that Eva Air is an airline company from Taiwan, we were highly-likely to have a stop-over there. So we decided to spend a few days and get to know this other Chinese speaking country in the world. 



I'm impressed at how the airline managed the delayed flight which was only 30 minutes. They gave us a burger and a bottle of water. For a local Philippine airline that's a very rare occasion. Or maybe they don't do that at all.

FrenchieatPinay Tip: Check with your travel insurance if you are covered for a delayed flight compensation.

After almost two hours of flight, we arrived in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. For Filipino passport holders, you need to secure a visa. But if you have a US visa, just fill up a form online through their website and bring the printed copy with you. The airline staff itself will do all the necessary routines upon your check in. That's what I did.


It was a breeze at the immigration. No questions asked. But the airport was still an hour away from the city center of Taipei. To get around the city, there are buses and metro lines conveniently designed to take you from end-to-end of the whole city.

Taipei has a very good public transport system. So if you're planning to go around for some sightseeing, it's best to buy a metro card. It's a very good souvenir, too!

For this trip, we were on a backpacking budget, so we were hosted by a very kind man from Couchsurfing, Tony on his studio apartment near the National Taiwan University.

The best thing about staying with a local is that, they will take you to their favorite spots that probably no other tourist knows and no other guidebooks can suggest. On Tony's case, he took us to his favorite Japanese restaurant, that easily became our favorite, too!

He also took us to the night market that Taiwan is very famous for. We love the vibe and the colorful food around us that night!




Their subway lines are very clean and spacious. And Taiwanese people act courteously.



They provide free maps and guide information on every subway stations/stops. And in English, too!



Their subway view is all green and natural!



They have cool and inspiring places to hang out.





They have clean and safe alleyways that will make you love walking. And fun, too!



Their local dishes are so good, delicious, and cheap!

They have art and historical museums, most famous one is the National Palace Museum-- which is home to 696,000 pieces of ancient Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks from Forbidden City in Beijing, China. Making it one of the largest museums in the world.





They have a very organized way of making the mainland Chinese behave! I mean, just look at how miraculous this line was. In China, tat's a rare sight! Haha!





They have the best viewing point of the sunset overlooking then Taiwan strait. Which is another cool place to walk. 



They have a lover's bridge that even when you're alone you can still go there. Haha.



They're being responsible pet owners.



They have a 24hour laundry places that became a good training place before we arrived in New York. It was a first to me! 

their tallest building--- TAIPEI 101, is also the greenest building in the world!



Their airport has a reading area with lots of books to choose from!

FrenchieatPinay Tips: Taiwan is also famous for their hot springs. They have a lot around the city and the prices vary from 80- 1,000TWD. We went to a public one and only paid for 25TWD per person. No pictures allowed though.

Have you been or would you like to go to taiwan?