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Eat, Play, Love – Our Amazing Month In Indonesia

by Meg · 23 comments

Echo Beach, Canggu, Bali Indonesia

This time last year, Tony and I were sitting at our desks at work emailing each other back and forth eagerly planning for our trip around the world.  Planning was almost as exciting as the journey itself.  But looking back now, we never fully stuck to those original plans.

We decided to forgo purchasing around the world airline tickets, as we wanted complete flexibility to change our travel plans as needs be…. And change we did.

When planning our Asia adventures, we were told not to miss Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia… No surprise there, as this is the traditional backpackers circuit. From even before we left for our RTW trip, these three countries were on the map.  But after extending our trip in Thailand an extra month (we just couldn’t part with the food there) and realizing that we couldn’t get a Visa for Vietnam, we went back to the drawing board.

While we were at our imaginary drawing board, we had a Skype date with fellow nomads, Caroline and Josh of Traveling 9 to 5.  Having recently traveled to Asia, they told us Indonesia was the place to be.

Gili Air Gili Islands Indonesia

Five minutes after our call, we had our flights booked… We may be a little too trusting with people!

Luckily, Caroline and Josh did not steer us in the wrong direction.  I am so thankful we took their recommendation to travel to Indonesia because Tony and I fell in love with this country’s beauty and charm.

So, I am now here to pass on the great advice…

VISIT INDONESIA!

To help plan your trip to this fabulous country, I have provided some tips on places to go and where to stay…. Enjoy!

Bali

Bali sparked my interest from the movie, Eat Pray Love.  Bali was the country where Julia Roberts found her “Love”… And since I was traveling with the love of my life, I figured Bali would be the perfect destination for us.

Within 10 minutes of arriving into Bali, I noticed that Bali was waaay more built up than pictured in Eat Pray Love.  On the drive from the airport to our hotel, we must have passed 5 McDonalds, 3 Dominos, TGI Fridays…. You name it, Bali has it.

As a little random fact, Bali also has McDonalds DELIVERY.  Let me just say that I really hope this is not going to become a “thing” in the states, or else obesity rates will skyrocket even further and Morgan Spurlock will have new material for a Supersize Me sequel… I digress.

Besides Bali being more built up than imagined, the surfing was great and we had a blast learning to hang ten on the beautiful beaches for the 4 days we stayed in Bali.

Surfing Bali Indonesia

Where To Stay:

Prices are a little steeper in Bali than many places in Southeast Asia because it’s so touristy.  But we stayed at the Echoland Bed and Breakfast and loved it.

Echoland was situated alongside a Balinese farm and was a 5 minute walk to Echo Beach, where there were great restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops.

Echoland Bed and Breakfast Bali Indonesia

As an added bonus, there was a convenient store right next to the hotel, which was fully stocked with my beloved Magnum ice cream bars.  As a result, this evening pit stop became a nightly ritual of ours during our stay in Bali!

The rooms at Echoland were clean and comfortable with good air conditioning (a MUST in Bali) and I loved the semi-outdoor showers in the bathrooms… It made me feel like I was on a true beach vacation.

What I loved most about Echoland was the breakfast every morning.  Situated on the rooftop with great views of Echo Beach, the staff served up delicious breakfasts of coffee, fresh fruit juices, yogurt with fruit, eggs, pancakes, and traditional Balinese breakfast dishes.

Echoland Bed and Breakfast Bali Indonesia

It was the perfect way to start the day before hitting the waves!

Gili Air In The Gili Islands

As much as I loved Bali, Gili Air was more of my scene.

Gili Air was highly recommended by Josh and Caroline, who loved it so much that they extended their stay there a couple weeks.

Known for its remote island feel (and for its incredible diving reputation), the Gili Islands are how I picture the Caribbean to have been back in the 60’s or 70’s.  Even after all these years of backpackers and vacationers trampling through SE Asia, it still feels undiscovered … I almost feel like I am breaking a rule just by writing a public article on how awesome these islands are!

Gili Air Gili Islands Indonesia

There are 3 Gili Islands: Gili Trawangan (also known as Gili T), Gili Air, and Gili Meno.  Gili T is known to be the party island and is the most densely populated.  On the contrary, Gili Meno is the perfect destination for honeymooners, as it is the smallest of the three islands and the most secluded by a long shot.

Putting our Goldilocks hats on, we felt that Gili Air would be juuuust right… And it was also the island that Caroline and Josh recommended we stay on, so it obviously was amazing!

We stayed on Gili Air for 3 weeks and got sucked into its relaxed atmosphere.  The locals were unbelievably friendly, and unlike Bali where there seems to be a great division between the local community and the tourists, we felt like the two communities blended together very well in the Gili’s.

The snorkeling and diving were also out of this world on Gili Air (and around Trawangan and Meno).

Gili Air Gili Islands Indonesia

To walk around the island by beach took roughly 1+ hours, and you literally could pick any spot on the beach and were guaranteed to have phenomenal snorkeling and scuba conditions right off the shore.

In addition to the great atmosphere and scuba scene, Gili Air had cheap and wonderful food.  Most of the beachfront restaurants were owned by resorts and catered to Westerners, but the village of Gili Air had some great local hotspots… Well, so I am told.  We actually only went to one place during our entire stay on Gili Air.  This heavenly place was known as Warung Muslim.

Also recommended to us by Caroline and Josh (next time we see them, I am giving them both a BIG hug!), Warung Muslim is basically a roadside shack run by 2 local women that serve up delicious mixed rice (Nasi) and noddle (Mie) dishes.

Warung Muslim Gili Air Gili Islands Indonesia

Just by first sight, Warung Muslim is NEVER a place I would eat at if it weren’t for Caroline and Josh’s stellar reviews.  Upon entering the shack, the food looks like it has been left out for hours/days and everything from floor to ceiling is SWARMING with flies.  This place would be condemned in about 2 seconds back in the U.S.

But I kid you not, the Nasi Ayam (chicken mixed rice) dish was phenomenal.  Spicy shredded chicken, tofu, sautéed veggies, tempeh strips, roasted peanuts, toasted coconut, and fried corn… This dish was one giant food orgy in your mouth.  It was so delicious, nutritious, and ONLY $1 PER PLATE!!

After all is said and done, are you surprised that Tony and I ate there almost twice daily for three weeks straight?

Where To Stay:

Tony and I stayed at Island View Bungalows while on Gili Air and loved it.

Island View Bungalows Gili Air Gili Islands Indonesia

The resort is on the west side of the island in a very remote area. It boasted fabulous views of the sunset and was right on the beach. Island View is unbelievably quiet and peaceful and is the perfect place for honeymooners looking to escape it all.

Gili Air Gili Islands Indonesia

The walk into town (restaurants, dive shops, etc.) was 15 minutes by beach (and scorching hot), but it was a great daily workout for us two beach bums!

The staff at Island View was unbelievably friendly.  On occasion, they also served up a beach-side BBQ (complete with a bonfire to entertain my pyro husband) for dinner.  It was also pure heaven waking up every morning and having a delicious breakfast served to us right on the beach.  Omelets, pancakes, and sand on my feet… Life was good on Gili Air!

Island View Bungalows Gili Air Gili Islands Indonesia

Warning: Internet on the island sucks.  Plain and simple.  In fact, during our time there, the satellite providing all the WiFi on the island was down.  Luckily, the beachfront restaurant, Scallywags, had their own WiFi that we ended up using every day… But even that was spotty at best.

Scallywags Restaurant Gili Air Gili Islands Indonesia

Sidenote: If you ever need to venture down to Scallywags for internet, don’t forget to try their fresh juices (The Pineapple, Guava, Mint was Tony’s favorite), their homemade cheeseburger, and their delicious homemade (and warm) chocolate brownie!

After a month in Indonesia, I was tan, relaxed, and on cloud nine.  It was such a perfect getaway and I am so glad we took a leap of faith when Caroline and Josh told us to go… Now it’s your turn!

Special thanks to the Echoland Resort & Island View Bungalows for partially sponsoring our stays with them. As always, all opinions are our own.

Disclaimer: We have since learned that getting a Visa for Vietnam was definitely doable for us…  Note to self: Always QA your husband’s travel planning “research”! 

A Vietnam visa can be applied for online from anywhere in the world and you should be able to pick it up at the airport in Vietnam within 3 days of applying… check out these links for easy applications: http://vietnam.visahq.com/ OR http://www.myvietnamvisa.com/how-it-works.html.

About Meg
Exhausted from traveling every week as a Business Management Consultant, I took a year off to travel at my own pace. I am a high-energy girl that loves being active, eating food, drinking wine, and exploring the world with my partner-in-crime (and husband), Tony!

Edna November 23, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Wow, three weeks on Gili Air? That’s impressive! I love, LOVE the Gilis but don’t think I could last more than a week there, just not that big a beach person…but don’t get me wrong, Mike and I can’t wait to go back — it’ll be one of the first trips we do when we’re back in the same country again!

Meg November 23, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Hey Edna! Funny you mention that because when we told people in Bali that we had plans to be on Gili Air for 3 weeks, they thought we were crazy! But we are easily entertained and definite beach bums. The crappy WiFi was getting on my nerves though! Hope all is well with you and Mike. Let us know when you go back go Gili…. We may just join in! :-)

Edna November 25, 2012 at 6:18 am

Definitely! Mike wants to get his SCUBA certification so we’d be staying longer next time too :)

By the way, saw the Vietnam visa comments below — we paid for ours online (we use myvietnamvisa) then collected them upon arrival at the airport, was pretty simple. Just a thought if you want to try Vietnam next year!

Meg November 25, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Did you apply for them when you were back in the states? Tony researched it and apparantly because we were in Thailand (and not the US), we couldn’t apply for them online…. But he might have missed something!

Edna November 25, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Nah, I haven’t been back to the States for quite some time! This was while we were living in Singapore. I think (if I’ve heard from others correctly) if you’re planning on traveling into Vietnam via land you have to get a visa in advance, but if you’re flying in you can collect on arrival at the airport.

Caroline @ Traveling 9 to 5 November 24, 2012 at 9:44 am

We definitely got frustrated with the internet at times, but I fell in love with the easy island lifestyle! Glad to hear you guys enjoyed it so much!

Can’t wait to explore another island with you two in January!

Meg November 24, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Thanks so much for the stellar recommendation!!! I thought we would go stir crazy after 3 weeks but I honestly was sad to leave at the end of our trip… I was tempted to throw in the cards and become a dive instructor so I live the island life full-time! But then again, we do have Hawaii to look forward to in January! 😀

Vicky from acoupletravelers November 24, 2012 at 11:04 am

Sounds like paradise! We are currently freezing here in China – the hostels have only electric blankets at best and the rooms are still bone chillingly cold so this would be perfect right about NOW! Definitely heading to Indonesia eventually and I to had read traveling9to5’s post on it and bookmarked that place to eat!! QUestion — what happened with the Vietnam visa? Why weren’t you able to get it?? We are heading there next and hoping to get the visa next week in Kunming China and I hadn’t even considered us NOT being able to get it….

Meg November 24, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Oh no that stinks! Indonesia is definitely HOT… Almost too hot in fact – But I am sure it will be much needed for you guys! With our Vietnam Visa, it would have been easiest for us to get it back in the states prior to leaving for our trip… Buuuut we didn’t research it back then!! Our other option was to get it in Thailand when we were there, but the waiting period to get it approved was too long for us with our travel plans. I think it varies by country you are trying to get it in, so I would check to see what’s up with getting it in China….Goodluck!

Vicky from acoupletravelers November 24, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Aaah I see. I think it should only take us 3 days to get the visa here in China – so fingers crossed! Definitely ready for a new cuisine already!

Meg November 25, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Oh my lord Vietnamese food is sooo good… Or so I am told! We have only had “American Pho” and fell in love, but I am sure the real deal is much better!

Tamara November 24, 2012 at 10:02 pm

Lovely post, and so nostalgic for us! We didn’t originally have Indonesia on our initial itinerary either, but there was an irresistibly cheap flight from Thailand we couldn’t pass up, so we ended up first in Bali as you did. Our impressions were much the same. We went from there to Gili Air (fit our style too) and stayed longer than we’d planned. The diving was spectacular, agreed…only rivaled by the diving we did around Komodo Natl Park, our next Indo stop. With Yogyakarta on the way out to round out the island hopping, we enjoyed every one of those 30 days the Visa would allow. We’d go back in a heartbeat. As as aside, don’t know if you’re getting back up that way, but we got our Vietnam Visa from Battambang, Cambodia. Applying was only 30 mins in the morning, and we went back the same afternoon to pick up the approved Visa.

Meg November 25, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Thanks for commenting Tamara. We wanted to go to Komodo so bad!! We heard great things. I really wish we could have made Vietnam work. We did have the option to fly into Cambodia and get our Visa there, but flights at the time were more expensive than we we’re looking to pay. We definitely hope to make it there in the future though!

JR November 25, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I loved this post. It sounds like Gili Air is for me. I am not surprised that you and Tony ate at that place 2X a day. You are both so adventuresome and a solid reference helps settle any anxiety you might have had. For a $1 a meal you can put up with quite a bit but not food poisoning……:)

Meg November 25, 2012 at 4:37 pm

haha we will have to makes a family vacay of it! Surprisingly no food poisoning! And aside from Josh and Caroline recommending it, it was the go-to place for all the expats on the island and the place was always packed. I still can’t believe that the two times we got food poisoning on the trip were from established restaurants and not from food stands like this one!

Tony November 25, 2012 at 6:58 pm

OK EVERYONE: You’ve caught me… I totally screwed up our Vietnam planning and can’t figure out how I could have been so oblivious. I swear I researched this for a day when we were in Berlin, but you all are correct.

A Vietnam visa can be applied for online from anywhere in the world and you should be able to pick it up at the airport in Vietnam within 3 days of applying… check out these links for easy applications: http://vietnam.visahq.com/ OR http://www.myvietnamvisa.com/how-it-works.html

I totally blew it… I should have asked you all before we finalized our SEA plans!

Izy Berry - The Wrong Way Home November 26, 2012 at 12:02 am

Great information on Indonesia :) I’m in Thailand at the moment. Maybe I’ll get to Indonesia as well. I would love to check the Gili islands. However, I badly need the Internet for my work…

Meg November 26, 2012 at 12:58 am

Thanks! Yeah, the internet was definitely an issue for us on Gili Air. On Gili T it might be better, but that’s just a guess. Enjoy Thailand though… We loved it there!

Callie November 27, 2012 at 5:31 am

This all looks lovely – Gili Air is going on the must-do list now, I think.

If you ever go back to Indonesia, you should go to Sumatra too! I just got back from 2 weeks there, and it’s incredible. Absolutely stunning, and the people are SO friendly. You can just show up and people will start inviting you to stay in their homes!

Meg November 27, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Great Callie thanks for the advice – It sounds wonderful!

Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) December 4, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Originally Indonesia was not in our travel plans, but these days it seems like we are making it our business to visit all the places we didn’t think we would, so now I’m really excited to make it there before leaving this part of the world! Gili Air sounds amazing… and the internet cannot be any worse than that which we experienced in our last 3 weeks in the Philippines (where some places only had electricity for 6 hours a day…)! Looks like paradise and it has been far too long since Tony & I did some diving so I foresee a trip there in the upcoming months!

Meg December 5, 2012 at 2:57 am

If you guys can tolerate the slow internet (and it sounds like you can!) then Gili is true paradise! Diving there is wonderful… And so cheap in comparison to what you pay in the Caribbean, Australia, etc. Hope you are enjoying your travels!

great experience June 24, 2016 at 3:05 am

Derawan Islands also beautiful and perfect scuba

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