Bali, Indonesia: Candidasa and Nusa Lembongan Fun Stories, What I Did, What I Learned, and What I Recommend
If you want to visit a place that will get you out of your comfort zone, give you a new perspective about a different culture, and won’t hurt your wallet – go to Bali. It’s a long journey to get there, but it couldn’t be more worth it with the stories and experiences that you’ll come home with. In this post you’ll get the inside scoop about what I did, what I recommend doing, what I learned from my experience, and some fun stories that happened along the way.
Some backstory on my trip/how I ended up there:
Sage and I had been wanting to take a trip somewhere for awhile. We even got on a tangent at one point and convinced ourselves that we were going to quit our jobs and just up and leave to travel the world. Time came and went and we were still stuck in our same jobs, tied down to NYC rent, and we knew that we needed to do something to boost our morales.
My friend Brad had been traveling around Australia with two of his college friends, Cameron and Connor. He was basically just making a career out of making us normal people super jealous with all of his amazing instagram pictures, lack of a job and responsibilities, and what seemed to be a permanent smile on his face (disguised under a new mustache). It had been just about a year since I’d seen him when he texted me asking to have a reunion in Bali. He was planning on making a pit stop there before heading home and decided to invite me (probably without the intention of me actually coming but haha jokes on him!). I looked up the flights and round trip was only $800!! The stars aligned and it seemed meant to be. It took all of two seconds to convince Sage to make the trip with me and we extended the invite to our friend Lindsay to make it a solid three man travel group. Before I knew it, the flight was booked and it was time to start planning.
Bali Destination #1: Candidasa
Where I Stayed: Rama Candidasa
Our first stop was Candidasa on the eastern coast of Bali. We stayed at the beautiful Rama Candidasa resort where we were able to lounge by the pool and shake off our jet lag on our first day on the island. We were doing this trip on a budget, but were lucky enough to get to stay here thanks to Brad’s parents who wanted to ensure that we had a great time – gotta love ‘em!
We took advantage of the free scuba lesson in the deep pool at the resort with the intention of doing our first dive the next day at a shipwreck off the coast that was supposed to be incredible. We woke up bright and early ready to go when we found out that the scuba instructor totally screwed us over and we weren’t going to get to dive. We were all super bummed for a second but this just meant that it was time to improvise! We heard about a large temple that wasn’t too far away and we were also determined to swim with a waterfall on this trip so that became our new itinerary. We rented some motorbikes (the main form of transportation in Bali) and we were on our way.
Motorbiking was one of the highlights of our trip. We had three guys and three girls so it worked out perfectly and was so much fun to all ride together. But as we learned on this trip, with every peak, there’s a pit. Within an hour of riding we had a total wreck. Connor and Lindsay skidded out on their bikes and then Cameron and Sage took a tumble right behind them to avoid running Lindsay over. I don’t know how she was feeling in the moment but she must have been scared shitless because her life flashed before MY eyes as Brad and I quickly pulled over to rush to their help. Shoutout to Cameron for doing some really quick thinking and making the choice to sacrifice himself and Sage in order to save Lindsay’s life.
Lesson #1 of the trip: Balinese people are so nice.
Before I even had time to pull a towel and some water out of my backpack to clean up my friends bloody wounds, 15 Balinese people showed up out of nowhere to come to our aid. They started pouring iodine (at least that’s what I think it was) all over my friends and patting them down with gauze. They didn’t speak a word of English but felt so bad for us and wanted to make sure we were ok. This nice woman let us come into her little farm/shack of a house because it was about to start pouring and she gave us this weird fruit to eat. She let us stay there until the rain died down and Lindsay and Cameron felt less like they were about to pass out. For the rest of the day, every Balinese person we saw asked Lindsay if she was ok when they saw her bandages everywhere. Seriously so nice. When I fall on the sidewalk in NYC no one even looks twice.
So once we were able to shake off our wreck, we were back on the bikes and ready to continue our adventure. Props to Connor, Lindsay, Cameron, and Sage for not letting their injuries ruin our day. Or even the trip for that matter – because their wounds were kind of crippling. Glad it wasn’t me (sorry guys – and thanks Brad!).
First stop – Besakih Temple aka “The Mother Temple of Bali” on Mount Agung. We had high hopes for this one since we just almost died trying to get there but unfortunately we were kind of underwhelmed. The temple was cool to see and we got some cool pictures there but we kept getting yelled at left and right! We were kind of over it within five minutes. The guards at the gate of the temple were refusing to let us in and insisting that we needed to pay some ridiculous price (probably like $5 lol) to have a guide escort us inside. We just turned around and went up a different set of stairs, looked around for about 5-10 minutes and went happily on our way. Came, saw, conquered. Like I said, it was cool to see and I’m glad we did it since we couldn’t scuba dive – but if you’re crunched for time, you can totally skip it.
Lesson #2 of the trip: Everything is cheap but nothing is free. Always negotiate.
Everywhere you turn in Bali, the people are trying to milk you for some money. Sure 100,000 Rupiah is equivalent to like $7, but it’s easy to get ripped off since everything seems so cheap to foreigners. Never go with the first price they tell you and if they are charging you for something that seems bogus, just walk away. They’re too nice to chase you. Brad, Connor, and Cameron had so much fun haggling the locals. By the time we left, they were professionals.
Next stop – Kuning Waterfall. Connor joined our group the day before having just done some exploring in Northern Bali where he apparently saw an amazing waterfall. We were all really jealous of his story and wanted to see a waterfall for ourselves, but we didn’t want to make such a long trek to do it. We did some research and found this secluded waterfall nearby that seemed amazing. It was kind of hard to find, but after pulling over a few time and asking some locals we finally found the little hidden path that would lead us there. The hike down to it was kind of scary. It was a steep and muddy slope that made us feel like we were going to fall to our death a few times. The boys ditched us within .5 seconds (thanks guys!) and left us girls to fend for ourselves and make the way down. It was honestly probably for the best since if one of us fell we would all go down like bowling pins and we’d already sustained enough injuries for the day, I don’t think we could have handled much more.
The waterfall was unbelievable. It was one million percent worth the scary hike down and the even more miserable hike back up. The water was clear and cold and we had the place all to ourselves. It totally made up for the bad time we had at the temple and brought our spirits way back up to a much needed peak. If you’re up for adventuring and don’t mind a climb – you should definitely go here.
And that concluded our time in Candidasa. We went to bed that night doped up on Tylenol PM (the soreness was setting in) and ready for our next adventure.
Additional side note highlight of Candidasa: Papa Mama. Since we were balling on a budget, we avoided eating at the hotel and we also wanted to immerse ourselves in Balinese culture as much as we could. We discovered this little shop/restaurant?? (questionable) right outside our hotel where we ate pretty much every meal. There were chickens and stray puppies running around but otherwise it was totally legit. There was a sign there that said “Papa Mama” so that’s what we decided to name this woman. She made some great Mei Goreng and Nasi Goreng (fried noodles and fried rice – which we ate every day in Bali so get ready for that) and I seriously think she might’ve lived there. Throughout our time in Bali we noticed a lot of people had small businesses attached to their homes. When we stopped to get massages we could hear the masseuse’s (if that’s what you could really call them) kids right outside the door playing in what would be considered their yard. When we would tell them that we needed two massages they would be like “Ok let me call my friend” in their adorable little friendly Balinese accents and another lady would roll up on a motorbike within 3 minutes. Anyways, Papa Mama was great – I miss her.
Bali Destination #2: Nusa Lembongan
Where I Stayed: Cassava Bungalows
The next day we woke up and had our last breakfast with Papa Mama and soaked up our last few hours in Candidasa. We hung around the pool at the hotel until early afternoon when we began to make our way to Nusa Lembongan. We traveled there via boat from Padang Bai. One thing to be ready for is all of the locals who try to sell you stuff while you wait for your boat. They seriously do not leave you alone from the second you arrive from the second you pull away on the boat. It was kind of overwhelming.
We rode the Super Scoot Catamaran to Nusa and the boat ride was so much fun! We got to ride on the roof and they were playing fun music. We kept saying throughout our trip that we hate travel days but this one was really fun. We were drinking some Bintangs and enjoying the wind blowing in our faces as we took in the mountainous views of Bali from the water.
Lesson #3 of the trip: Bintangs, Bintangs, Bintangssssss
This actually should have been lesson #0 since Brad and Cameron greeted us with Bintangs upon our arrival. Bintangs are the beer of Bali and were our drink of choice for the week. The large Bintangs cost around 35,000 Rupiah which is equivalent to about $2. We did a test in the ocean and discovered that one large Bintang fits exactly two small ones. They were cheap and delicious. The answer to about every question of the week seemed to involve more Bintangs. It felt stupid not to.
When we got to Nusa Lembongan there were people everyone offering people rides to their hotels. We found a guy who was driving in the direction of Cassava Bungalows and made our way to our hotel. As we drove around the island we quickly understood the appeal of visiting the Nusa islands. We heard that it was the Bali that everyone expects but few actually get to see and I’d say that that is the perfect way to describe it. The small island was sparsely populated and covered in dirt roads. Two of the islands are connected by a small rickety yellow bridge that only one motorbike can fit down at a time.
We finally got to our hotel where we were greeted by a cheery Balinese man who promptly distributed some guava juices to all of us. The place was small and consisted of about 8 little bungalows surrounding a small pool and had a small dining area off to the side. We quickly threw our stuff down in our bungalows and the boys ventured off to secure some scuba diving for us for the next day. We were on a mission to do it and would be totally bummed out if we missed the opportunity again. Lindsay, Sage and I decided to take a walk and find “Secret Beach” – a local spot that our hotel guy told us about. The guys finally met us with some Tangs and we sat and enjoyed the sunset on the beach together. There was an old Balinese man that came out onto the beach to do his yoga and meditation so that was really cool to watch too. Our travel days always seemed to wear us out a little bit so we were happy to be able to just zen out and enjoy a new place for awhile.
We had a nice family dinner at L.Good (pronounced “All Good”) – another local spot recommended by our concierge and had a great time talking about the “peaks and pits” of our trip so far. This became somewhat of a family dinner tradition for the rest of the trip and made for a lot of fun reminiscing conversation as we recounted our favorite memories from each day. The restaurant had great vibes and great food and was only a short walk from our hotel. It was just the right amount of adventuring that we needed to balance out our tiredness with our wills to explore this new place in the short amount of time that we had.
The next day we were up bright and early ready to scuba dive finally, yay! Sage, Lindsay, and I were kind of nervous since we’d never done it before but the guys were obviously pumped about it which made us feel like it was something we would regret missing if we chickened out. The scubadive people (Indo Divers Lembongan) picked us up at our hotel on motorbikes (which was funny since it was maybe 500 feet from our hotel – they insisted on us getting full use of their service), gave us wetsuits and equipment, and shuttled us to the boat that we’d be taken out on. They drove us out to where we’d be diving, gave us a quick rundown of the hand signals that we’d be using while 12mm under the surface, and before I knew it we were flipping backwards off the boat and making our first decent underwater. I thought that one of us would have a panic attack down there but we were all surprisingly calm. The breathing is hard to get used to at first but once you get the hang of it you feel fine. Our instructor did a really good job at keeping us calm. He held our hands the whole way down and made sure to point out anything cool that we saw along the way. By the time we came up and made it to our second dive we felt super comfortable and were able to make it down to the reef without any anxiety. Sage had a mini panic attack at one point but our instructor totally took control of the situation and calmed her down to the point where she felt ok to stay underwater. It was actually really cool to watch.
We made it back to our hotel by 12:30/1pm and even though we were really wiped out, we knew that we needed to do some sight seeing since we’d be leaving for Ubud the next morning. We ate a quick lunch, found some motorbikes to rent, and decided to ride around Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan (since those two are connected by the bridge) to see what we could find. I had done a lot of research on the Nusa islands before coming and had a rough list of things that I knew were the recommended attractions for us to hit up so we decided to just ride around and find them and take in some views along the way. We hit Devil’s Tears, Dream Beach, the Blue Lagoon, and Mahana Cliff jump. We had a lot of fun navigating the rocky dirt roads and enjoying the desolate areas of the island.
Side note: a few days after we returned back to the United States, we saw in the news that the small wooden bridge between the islands collapsed! Glad we dodged that bullet – RIP.
We finished off the day with some more Bintangs during the sunset at Secret Beach and a second meal at L.Good. Mesmerized by the cheap beer and great company we ended up staying at the restaurant for hours making a scene playing the classic game “Heads Up!”
We finally stumbled our way home and decided to hang out on the lounge chairs at the pool outside our bungalows. We were having a good time just talking and laughing about our day, mulling over what we should Instagram and discussing our travel plans for the following day when the night took a slight turn for the worse. These angry Germans that were staying in the other bungalows kept yelling at us for being too loud. They gave us a couple of warnings and we did our best to lower our voices and brush them off but then finally around 11pm this woman came out of her room screaming at us at the top of her lungs about how we were being too loud. She was hysterical about the fact that she was doing her first dive tomorrow and we were keeping her up and blah blah blah. We were getting kind of sick of listening to her and the guys did a pretty good job at keeping her wound up after a few unneeded jokes and comments. After about 5 minutes, us girls decided we were over this situation and retreated back to our bungalow feeling very annoyed and ready to just get to bed. The guys redeemed themselves by sneaking into our room with a deck of Uno cards. We played a few games and got back to good vibes before going to bed to get some rest for another travel day tomorrow.
Click here to read my post about our time in Ubud and Uluwatu!