Its funny how life works sometimes and the unusual experiences that it brings your way. If you told me a year ago that I would be going to Bali on a Contiki tour, I would have straight up laughed at you. Not at the Bali bit, as that’s been on my bucket list for ages, but at the Contiki part. Travelling in a group? No thanks! I’ve always loved exploring with 1-2 people max, and even family vacations of 4 people start getting too much for me. But life had other plans for me, luckily! When Cassidy won a Contiki trip voucher from the Travel Expo that we went to, we weren’t left with much of a choice- pick a Contiki tour or loose the voucher. Not one to pass up an opportunity to travel, I of course agreed to accompany Cass on the trip and honestly, it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life! I’ve decided to split this Bali travel post/photo diary into 2 sections. So today we are going to talk about the Contiki tour and how it works as well as visiting Seminyak and Gili T, where to stay there, where to go party and what to do!
PS The photos are a mix between my iPhone and my camera, because honestly there was no time to drag my camera around everywhere 🙂
The reason we picked Bali was simple- we have both wanted to go there and the price was reasonable. The Bali Contiki Island Hopper Tour is 8 days long and consists of you visiting 3 islands, and 4 different parts of Bali- Seminyak, Ubud, Gili T and Lombok. The tour includes all accommodation (which we will talk about here), all breakfasts, 1 dinner and 1 lunch. It includes a day trip to Ubud, all transfers and a Contiki group manager (which is so helpful, I don’t know how we would have made it without Jess!). The tour cost just over R12000, all depending on which date you want to go on and how early/late you book. The tour does exclude flights to get to Bali, and we got ours for just over R9000 on Singapore Air as it was the quickest route (10 hours from Joburg to Singapore, and then just over 2 hours from Singapore to Denpasar).
A couple of things to mention about Bali before we get started. It is SUPER humid there so don’t bother packing anything long or warm (and yes, I’ve been to Durban. The Bali humidity has nothing on it). The moment I wore a long dress I would start heating up, so pack light and airy dresses. Your makeup will melt off so make sure you pack that All Nighter setting spray! That spray saved me on this trip, because your makeup literally starts melting off on this island.
Alcohol is not cheap in Bali, and where they really get you is with the taxes and service charge. There is a 21% charge on top of the number you see on the menu that you need to always keep in mind. And this is what happens when you ignore this and drink anyway- sleeping on the beach the following morning from too many cocktails 😉
If you are a neat freak, and don’t like dirty toilets- Bali is not the place for you. There will be times where the toilet is all but a hole in the ground (yes, sadly so). #LegDay was everyday in Bali because anytime you step out of a hotel, it’s not pretty. But hey, you just gotta roll with the punches right?
Bali Time is a real thing- the Balinese are never in a rush, and they can be slow AF. Jess warned us about this in the start of our trip, so we kept it in mind for anytime we were going anywhere. Don’t get upset or angry if your meal takes an hour to come- its Bali time. Don’t get irritated if it takes you 30 minutes to check out of a hotel even though you don’t have any room charges to pay- its Bali time. Relax, enjoy and get on the some chilled time as the Balinese nation.
The tour starts on a Saturday in Seminyak, one of the tourist hot spots of Bali. Seminyak is great for shopping (which we sadly didn’t get to do a lot of), food and partying. We stayed at the Harris Hotel Seminyak, which was alright- its your usual hotel go-to when you don’t plan on spending any time in your room. Our Contiki group manager Jess provided us with a day sheet for everyday with options on where to go and what to do, and she didn’t fail us once with a fab recommendation!
Where to go and eat in Seminyak
Dinner- Ling Lings
On our first night in Seminyak we headed to Ling Lings, and it was one of the best meals I’ve had all year! Ling Lings is an Asian fusion restaurant, basing the core ideals on Japanese and Korean styles. Because we wanted to try a bit of everything, we had the “Feed Me” platter, which was about R150 for 2 people. It was amazing and included things like popcorn shrimp (fried shrimp served with honey mustard sauce), kim-chi chips, pork belly toa (the most amazing steamed bun I’ve ever tasted), Korean style tacos and to finish it off, a chocolate brownie. Ling Ling also has a great selection of drinks, starting with a Frose (frozen rose) and ending with half a watermelon filled with vodka 😉 It’s also just a gorgeous restaurant and the DJ takes the decks at about 9pm making it a party.
Average spend per person(with 1 drink)- R200
Breakfast or dinner- Sea Circus
Picture from the Outfit Perspective
You can’t go to Bali and not stop at Sea Circus, which is what we were told. We happily obliged and visited the much hyped restaurant for dinner. Besides it super cool and fun interior, this Mexican-inspired restaurant serves delicious food. I had pork tacos, which were delish, but even though we were there for dinner, lots of people were ordering breakfast! Sea Circus is also famous for its smoothie bowls, so whether you are looking breakfast, lunch or dinner, Sea Circus is a must-do.
Average spend per person(with 1 drink)- R200
Night out- Motel Mexicola and La Favela
Probably the coolest of all places that we went to in Bali, was Motel Mexicola. It’s the most colorful and quaint place I’ve ever seen, and while you can go there for lunch and dinner (it’s a Mexican style food bar), we went there for a dance and a good time. The moment you walk into Motel Mexicola, it feels like you’re on a different planet! There are people dancing out the tables, everyone is doing the conga, and its just one huge, fun party! We had the best time there drinking Pinna Coladas and listening to fun music, but Mexicola does close at 12am. Keep in mind that drinks are a bit expensive (a cocktail is about R170), but the vibe there is worth it.
Feel like doing some more partying? Then head off to La Favela, a Brazilian inspired nightclub. We didn’t stay too late there as we were flying home the next night, but if you’re up for a party then this is a good place for you.
Early the next morning we boarded our coach to start making our journey to Gili T. Another pleasant Contiki surprise for me was the state of the coaches– they were all great, super comfy and made for a pleasant snooze ride (because we were usually all so tired from the night before, anytime we had to get on a coach). It’s about a 2-hour ride from Seminyak to the port, and then a 2-hour ferry to Gili T. Now be warned– those ferry rides are not for the faint hearted! Knowing that I get motion sickness, I took tablets before we got onto the ferry, but even besides the seasickness, that ride is rough! Prep yourself for some choppy waters getting to and from Gili T, and brace yourself! After what felt like forever (actual time, 1 hour and 30 minutes) we arrived on Gili T to spend 3 nights there.
I did mentioned that all transfers were included in the price, and what I loved about a Contiki was that everything was planned for you already. Jess gave us a time when we had to be somewhere and everything else was arranged. Luggage magically made its way onto the buses and boats, we got to ferries on time, and didn’t have to stress running around and looking for tickets.
What to know about Gili T
I didn’t do my research as well as I should have about this island because when I arrived there I was a little bit shook- there is no motorized travel on Gili T! Although Gili T is the biggest out of the 3 Gili islands, its still pretty small- you can cycle around it in an hour. The only form of transportation on Gili T is either by a bicycle or a horse carriage, called a chidamo. However, there are many rumors about how the horses are treated, so I would only suggest using a chidamo as your last resort. Also, there are only about 30 cidamos on the whole island, so sometimes you will have to wait quite a bit in order to get one.
With that in mind, we rented bikes for 3 days which cost us R150 (R50 per day) and off we went. Now I don’t ride bikes-I never had one as a kid growing up so my experiences with riding them has been very limited. But what you gonna do? Off I went to practice on a bike, and by the last day I managed to not only cycle, but also cycle through mud and bumps in a dress! There are no proper roads on Gili T either, so the bike rides will be bumpy, and you will be sore. Just think about all the calories that you are burning on your holiday!
Where to stay on Gili T
We stayed at beautiful 4 star Grand Aston Bali Beach Resort. The only downside about it is that it’s on the other side of the island (about a 20 minute cycle), which proved a little bit difficult for the nights when you want to go out. Cycling back from the club, drunk in the dark is not for everyone! However from March Contiki will be moving resorts to the main part of the island where all of the clubs and restaurants are.
The actual resort is beautiful, and if you want to go for a quiet time with a partner then its perfect. There are similar resorts to it next door, all with those beautiful Gili swings and white sand beaches. We had a beautiful room with a balcony, overlooking the lush gardens and the pool, and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Aston.
What to do on Gili T
If you come to Gili T, you come for one thing- a good party! I realized that pretty quickly when we got there, so if you are looking for a fab party time, then Gili will be the place of your dreams. This is the part of the trip that I really enjoyed being a part of the Contiki. We all had some down time to get to know each other while sipping drinks in the pool, and lets be honest, nothing brings people closer together than alcohol 😉 If you want to party in Gili T, these are the places to go to.
Sama Sama– Live music every Sunday night
Evolution Bar– Beer Pong every Monday night
Jiggy Jiggs– R150 for all you can drink between 8:30-11:30 pm on a Tuesday night. As one of my fellow South Africans said, Jiggy Jiggs is the place where cheap booze happens to good people!
Besides the fun partying bit, you can also do a variety of cool activities like stand up paddle boarding, cycle the island to visit the turtle sanctuary, get a cheap massage (its like 100 bucks for a good massage in Bali!), take a cooking class, visit an outdoor cinema or take a day snorkeling trip!And of course, get those swing pictures!
We took a day snorkeling trip around the islands and to have some lunch on Gili Air and it was fab! It cost about R500 (excluding lunch) but it was so wroth it. Besides the usual snorkeling with the fish’s vibe, they also take you to swim with turtles, which was pretty amazing. It was one of the highlights for me in the trip and something that I would do over and over again. You can honestly make Gili T your little slice of heaven with the right group of people.
Where to eat
Street food market
Situated in the heart of Gili T, the local street market is cheap and quick. Its not for everyone- I’m very wary of street markets but I think it’s a cool thing to try once.
Average spend per person- R100
Actually part of a whole little beach, Casa Vintage is a little gem in Gili T. Firstly its super gorgeous and romantic- just look at this little love hut where you can dine! It has hammocks and cushions all over, so you can relax and enjoy the sunset and then order something to eat or drink. In terms of food, it’s a Jamaican/ Indonesian fushion restaurant, with all of the food being locally sourced and freshly prepared. A definite must visit on Gili T!
Average spend per person(with 1 drink)- R150
Home to one of the original Gili swings, Exile Bar is the place to go to watch the sunset. We stopped here for spring rolls and milkshakes after cycling around the island, and again the chilled vibe was felt here. We lay around on colorful cushion while listening to live guitar music being played softly in the background. It was simply magical
Average spend per person(with 1 drink)- R150
This bring us to the end of the first part of our Contiki trip and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Bali! Next up will be a post about Lombok and Ubud and what to do there, where to eat and where to stay!