For as long as I can remember I have wanted to ring in the new year by the sea.
To watch the final sunset of the year dip into the waves, to feel the warm breeze against salty skin and raise a cold glass in thanks and anticipation.
And this year I finally did it!
My boyfriend and I travelled back to the island of Bali, a place I’d fallen in love with years before.
On my last visit the girls and I did our best to see every inch of the place, touring it from top to bottom and staying in a new place every other night.
This time we went for a more relaxed approach. Opting to stay in one villa in Uluwatu.
Uluwatu is the peninsula that sticks out of the very south of Bali.
Largely un-developed, it’s a mass of mountains, jungle and wild beaches.
The surfing crowd flock here and it has a real “topless and barefoot” vibe going on.
I booked one of the Uluwatu Surf Villas on the west coast. A collection of thatched, local style villas and bungalows on the cliff edge.
We made “The Bungalow” (a misnomer as it’s one of the few villas with 2 floors) our home.
Far away from prying eyes, utterly peaceful in a little patch of jungle, complete with it’s own sizeable pool!
Just the sort of place we needed to wind down at the end of a busy year.
The gardens look out over the sea, with an unparalleled private view of the sunset every night.
And there’s a great yoga studio where you can join the sunrise session any time you like.
Cold coconuts included.
Not far away, just a few minutes up the coast, we found Blue Point.
A ramshackle collection of little eateries, bars and surf shops.
Be sure to head there one morning for a smoothie, an acaii bowl or a coconut.
Pull up a seat at the bar and watch the surfers below do their thing.
It is of course worth remembering that Christmas/New Years is peak rainy season!
We would wake up some mornings to the most intense rainstorms we’ve ever experienced. Raindrops the size of grapes pelting down from the heavens, pattering on the thatch roof and wooden deck outside.
I’m the sort of person who loves meditation tapes and “nature sounds” CDs so I was on cloud nine.
We’d run out into the rain, dance in it, swim in it, kiss in it, and run back inside to stretch out on the bed and read our books – surrounded by the never ending sound of rain.
(Press play on the video below with your speakers on loud)
If you’ve never danced in tropical rain, put it firmly on your bucket list.
The weather forecasts are utterly useless, the app pretty much showed rain all week. But in fact it generally just rains for a couple of hours (sometimes less) and then you get glorious sunshine for the rest of the day.
Which is fun because it makes you appreciate it more than you might otherwise.
And there’s no better way to appreciate a sunny day, than by going to the beach!
What used to be Finn’s Beach Club (a place I raved about on my last trip!) is now Sunday’s Beach club.
“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
The place is exactly the same as it ever was.
You take the open-air-rickety-elevator down the cliffside, walking the rest of the way down cobbled steps as monkeys skip around your feet.
Onto soft white sand edging turquoise blue sea.
Along with a cracking little restaurant and bar overlooking it all.
You pay an entrance fee (not much) but you get it as credit at the restaurant, so really you’re saving money by having lunch there!
Be sure to bag a beanbag and a parasol and you can easily while away a day here.
They’ll bring you drinks and snacks and if you wait for sunset you can sit around a bonfire making smores.
Just be sure to load up on sunscreen, with the sea breeze blowing you won’t notice how unbelievably strong the sun is and you’ll burn before you know it.
Taking a good hat wouldn’t go amiss either.
The foodie scene has changed and evolved significantly since my last visit.
The Instagram generation has taken over and the island is now littered with pretty little spots where you can find all the Aussie breakfast favourites – avocado toast is now king in Bali.
Seminyak and Uluwatu are now particularly hot restaurant wise.
You can spend a lazy morning at home…
Wake up slowly…
…and stroll in almost any direction to bump into a spot flogging acaii bowls and iced lattes.
Sunnies // Clutch
These particular beauties came from Drifter Surf Shop, where you can eat in the garden out back.
Surrounded by dangerous local tigers.
Who are particularly lethal to handbags.
The temples in Bali are incredible places.
I mean truly jaw droppingly special.
In fact much of Bali feels spiritual and almost buzzes with the most incredible energy. Perhaps it’s just down to the people, but it really does feel magic.
We visited Uluwatu Water Temple shortly after a rain storm.
The air thick with rising steam as the temperatures climbed up into the 40s.
We wandered the grounds, taking in the sights and playing with some of the cheekier inhabitants.
Monkeys live in all of the Balinese temples.
Like all wild animals, some are calmer than others.
Don’t try and feed them (unless you’re at the Monkey Temple in Ubud where they’re used to it), don’t wear jangly earrings, flash sunglasses or much jewellery. They’re cheeky buggers and they can tell who’s afraid, so they’ll whip your stuff away before you can shriek “there’s a monkey on my head!”
But honestly if you keep a respectful distance (ie. don’t try to take selfies with them) they’re pretty cool.
Getting used to the heat and humidity is really all down to acceptance.
Once you accept that it’s hotter than any spa’s steam room, you can adapt. Move more slowly, wear loose, cotton clothing (you have to wear the sarongs given to you as you enter temples) and seek out the shade.
All of Bali feels spiritual.
Every home has a shrine to their ancestors, every day the locals make offerings to the spirits (you’ll see them on the floor everywhere – little palm leaf baskets with flowers, food, incense and coins – try not to step on them).
It’s pretty incredible to see their devotion.
Even places where you wouldn’t expect it.
We fell in love with a fancy hotel restaurant on the south coast called The Warung at Alilia.
Somewhere you can book a private birdcage hanging over the sea for supper.
The passion fruit margaritas rival any back home and the Indonesian food is some of the best I’ve ever had.
What drew us to Uluwatu was the relative wilderness.
Far less developed than Kuta or Seminyak, it hides the occasional 5* resort but other than that things feel pretty wild an unbelievably authentic.
Thomas beach is a little known spot on the Uluwatu Coastline.
Which is surprising because it’s next to Padang Padang beach, known locally as “Julia Roberts” beach because they shot some of Eat Pray Love there, and it’s been overrun with tourists ever since!
Thomas beach is the most gorgeous stretch of soft white sand, ungroomed, unmaintained and wonderfully imperfect.
There are two restaurant/bars here and two rival parasol places where you can rent a bed for the day.
Rent a parasol from the guy furthest along the beach, Mary will take care of you and hook you up with some big ol’ coconuts.
Pay 50k for each bed, which works out at about £3 and you’ll live like a king for the day.
Walk back along the beach to the first restaurant you find.
The noodles are ok here, but the watermelon juice is excellent (ask for it with no sugar – a good rule of thumb for ordering juice in Asia anyway).
Get some fresh lime squeezed in there and you have a couple’a winners for less than a couple’a quid!
Life at the villa was pretty spectacular.
Every morning we’d be woken up with fresh fruit, Balinese coffee (rocket fuel) and the chef would set to work whipping up scrambled eggs and banana pancakes.
We’d trundle down the private stone steps to the sea.
(I only got attacked by a very cross monkey once, and was rescued by a local fisherman.)
Down to the smooth rocks and tide pools.
There’s no restaurant at the villas, so you order takeaway from the local restaurants and the bellboys race off on their mopeds to pick it up for you.
We essentially lived on nasi goreng (fried rice with chicken and satay sauce) and mie goreng (the same but with noodles) for lunch and dinner most days.
Getting very fat and happy indeed.
Occasionally we’d pop over to Blue Point for something different, my personal favourite being the poke bowls.
And Paletas Wey.
I’m aware that this post is waffling on somewhat, so I’ll stop now!
All in all it was a truly incredible trip. Maybe my best ever.
We relaxed fully and came home feeling like brand new humans.