Ballin in Bali

This place is paradise. The people are so genuinely friendly and lovely. Smiling and helpful. Pretty much everyone speaks English. But they really appreciate when you take a second to learn some Balinese or Indonesian. Suksma | thank you and pagi | good morning were all I could remember. I suck at learning other languages.

So the flight there, yeah. Not fun. 2 1/2 hours to New Jersey, 2 hour layover, 15 hours to Hong Kong, 5 hour layover, 5 hours to Bali. With a 12 hour difference. Fortunately getting there if you just stay up until your normal bed time and then sleep you should be close to straight when you get up. Coming home for some stupid reason is not the same.
It’s been 3 days and I’m still waking up at 4am.

2017-03-17 Bali La Joya 12

Bali is part of the Indonesian Islands, the string of islands between the Vietnam peninsula and Australia. Most of the other islands are Muslim but Bali is over 80% Hindu. They are very open and welcoming to all kinds of travelers. They have small temples (not actual buildings but little places to make an offering) at almost every business and larger ones at homes. Then there are the big temples that are a group of buildings inside a wall. Everywhere you go there are little palm bowls full of flowers and incense burning. It smells lovely.

It’s really hot, Florida in August hot but I didn’t think it was as humid. You were hot and sticky the whole time but you just get used to it. At night you shower and sleep in the a/c. Their rainy season is I think November to April so we were there just at the end of the season. I think it was perfect. It rained just like Florida afternoons for a couple of days and all day one day. Otherwise it was fine. The rain would cool things off. I didn’t really notice a lot of bugs or mosquitos. We came with 10% deet repellent just to be safe but about halfway through I forgot to use it and didn’t have any problems. You can check the CDC’s website to see what shots or precautions you should take when traveling to a certain country. They kind of go overboard. We ended up just getting tetanus shots and taking antibiotics in case we got a back case of Bali Belly. Fortunately as long as you only drink bottled water, don’t swallow when brushing your teeth, only use ice if it’s a specific shape not just broken up, and don’t eat that the sketchy places along the street or from street vendors you should be fine. If it looks like it’s dirty don’t eat there.
There are lots of clean beautiful places to eat.

Their money is crazy – 100,000 Rp equals about $8. So we were walking around with millions, hence the Ballin in Bali. Download the Currency + app or another simple app. But once you figure out what 100,000 is worth in dollars it’s pretty easy. Most things are some combo of 100,000 or 50,000. So 800,000 Rp is 8 x $8. Everything is ridiculously cheap. Our 4 star 5 course world class meal with wine at each course at Bridges in Ubud was $64 pp, yes $64 pp. Our full day at the Karsa Spa – 1 hour massage, 1 hour body treatment followed by an essential oil bath full of flowers, 1 hour foot massage, and a pedicure $72. Yes, $72. It’s crazy and the flight was the same as getting to Europe about $1,000. But once you are there
you’ll spend a fraction of what you’d spend in Europe.

Don’t bring dollars or travelers checks (if they even still have those). Just use the local ATMs to get out what you need each day or whenever. They have them everywhere. Most banks have a daily limit to take out cash so check with your bank on that amount and let them know you’ll be in Bali. Ours had a limit of $400 for each card holder. Also, call your credit card company to let them know too. Most places wanted cash. The larger restaurants and hotels will take credit cards and larger purchases but clothes and other tourist type stuff you need cash. Same thing for paying a driver or taxis or tips. Most restaurants include a service fee of 10% so they aren’t expecting a tip. But come on. Leave 100,000 Rp. It’s $8. The average person in Bali
makes $8 a day so you’ll make someone’s day.

So as far as packing and travel tips (then I’ll stop talking and post pictures). They pretty much have any toiletry you might need and as stated earlier it will be cheap. So don’t worry too much about pharmacy stuff or toiletries just pack what you normally would and get something you missed there. Or if it’s something hard to pack get it there. They have sunscreen and bug spray (you need both). Just bring any prescriptions obviously.

For the flight | pack a good pillow for the plane both our long flights were over night which really helps you be able to sleep. I used this one I got on Amazon and it worked great (I’m a side sleeper so trying to sleep sitting up is hard). I also recommend wearing sandals then taking socks. So you can slip off your shoes easily but won’t have stinky feet. They feed you constantly so you really don’t need snacks. I took a bunch of stuff and we didn’t eat any of it. Take a little travel tooth brush and toothpaste so when you wake up towards the end of the flight you can brush your teeth. It helps. Maybe deodorant and some nice wipes too.

Ok now for the good stuff,

La Joya

We stayed at a beautiful smaller resort when we first got there. Again, lovely people who own it. They have nicely appointed bungalows with a/c and wifi. There’s an open air spa and a restaurant. Two beautiful pools that over look the Indian Ocean. You can walk down steps in the cliff to get to a very small very rocky beach. Really too rough to swim, my husband ended up cutting his leg. If you want a smaller cozy very relaxed kind of place I highly recommend it.
You can find it on Airbnb | La Joya

Breakfast by the pool

2017-03-20 Bali La Joya breakfast by the ocean

Very laid back and relaxing. Secluded. the only down side is it’s not in a great area and there isn’t really anything near by. It’s between Jimbaran Beach and Ulu Watu south of the airport. If you are planning on just hanging out by the pool, getting massages, and eating at their restaurant for a couple of days I recommend it. They take great care of you and the view is ridiculous. But, if you want to go explore you might want to look on Airbnb for a place in Ulu Watu. Jimbaran has several high end hotels, Four Seasons and Intercontinental but they are also isolated. Ulu Watu is surfy. Kuta is party central and very surfy.

We spent a day at Seminyak for shopping. The shops are nicer here than by Jimbaran Beach and there are a lot more restaurants you’ll want to eat in. The shops are less roadside and more boutique. It’s still not Ubud but it’s getting there.

Ginger Moon

Most of the food in Bali is Asian mixed with a weird idea of western food. I am very grateful their menus are in English but their descriptions sometimes get confusing and the waiters don’t really understand when you need further description so you end up just going for it. The only time I ordered something I really didn’t like was at a very touristy place next to the rice terrace and it said mixed vegetables on a salad. It was hard boiled eggs, bean sprouts, and lettuce.
Not tasty. I ate the side of white rice.

Ginger Moon was mostly Asian and very good. In Seminyak.

We also found a cool French Bistro place called in Seminyak.

The Corner House

In Ulu Watu we stopped on our way to a local temple to eat at

Single Fin

Forgot to take pictures of the food but it was delicious. Very fresh and lots of salad. The tuna sandwich says tuna loin so we expected sliced tuna, it was tuna salad. But it was good tuna salad. Most places have fresh bread they bake. And every place has freshly made fruit juices. So good. You can combine the different fruits too. Banana, just banana takes like a smoothie. There were surfers down on the beach, live music later in the day and the shops were all surf shops. Just thought I’d share the random guy who was walking around with a monkey on his back.

After lunch we headed over to the Ulu Watu Temple. It was ok. the walled walk along the cliff was beautiful but the actual temple wasn’t outstanding. Lots of tourists. In fact a group of girls walked up to me and asked me to take a photo. I said sure then realized they wanted to take a photo WITH me. Which was odd. Apparently, the surrounding countries learn English in school and like taking pictures with English speaking tourists because it shows they
were able to talk to us in English. Okey Dokey.

Ulu Watu Temple

There are lots of tourist traps. This silver shop was flashy and the prices were crazy. If you are paying American prices for anything you are paying way too much. Just be careful of that. Most of the places we stopped at were 1/5 of the cost of America.

2017-03-20 Bali on our way to Ubud silver store

There are also all these beach BBQ places. Most of them were just gross. They have obviously old seafood and the room you walk through to get to the beach, the place where you pick the seafood and they grill it, it smells like garbage. Then they seat you at folding tables and chairs with satin table cloths and chair covers on the beach to eat and watch the sunset. I’m assuming there are nice ones but all I saw were the tacky gross ones. I don’t recommend it. I ordered only the vegetables and was still worried I was going to get sick.

After exploring the area around La Joya and the airport we headed inward and north to Ubud. This was my favorite area. All the cool old stuff is here. By many accounts it’s the cultural center of Bali. You can get to volcanos, temples, rice terraces, coffee plantations, shopping and pretty much anything else they offer from Ubud. If I ever go again I would just go straight to Ubud when I get there and just spend a couple of days at the end of the trip
at Jimbaran Beach to unwind.

Private Ubud Villas

We stayed at the Private Ubud Villas in the Penestanan area of Ubud. It’s about a 10 min walk down the hill to downtown Ubud. But there are plenty of taxis at the top too. This little area was perfect. There are a lot of Australian yoga types here. So lots of coffee shops and vegetarian restaurants. It very quickly felt like we lived there. It was easy to get
around and not too far from downtown.

Alaya Resort

The villas like most of the homes are a walled in courtyard, most with a pool and beautiful garden. The kitchen and living space is open air the bedrooms and bathrooms have a/c. There’s wifi and we had a house keeper Wayan that came everyday to bring clean towels, make the bed, tidy up, take out the trash and make us breakfast. There are also really nice resorts right in Ubud one of them we happened to have lunch at Alaya Resort it was in Ubud
near the Monkey Forest on Jalan Hanoman


Here are some pictures of the Penestanan area, gardens and
rice terraces we past every day.

And our favorite little breakfast place that was across the street from our villa


They had delicious coffee, fresh fruit juices, yogurt bowls, avocado toast, eggs with asparagus and pancakes with caramelized banana and strawberries. My husband says the best oatmeal he’s ever eaten. We even brought home a wooden bowl just so he could eat oatmeal in it.

We tried black rice pudding for breakfast at another local place down the street.
Tasted very similar to oatmeal.


The BEST restaurant in Ubud was Bridges. We ate there twice, I could have eaten there every night. World class atmosphere, service and food. Just outstanding. It’s this beautiful restaurant built under a bridge on the side of the cliff leading down to a river. As with everything it’s open air so each level it open to the view of the gardens and river.

Gorganzola Apple Brulee with Rucola Salad
pickled fennel, orange and candied pecans

2017-03-20 Bali Ubud Bridges 18

Wild Mushrooms and Polenta
with caper and tomato relish, fresh pea puree and vegetable terrain

2017-03-20 Bali Ubud Bridges 20

My travel friend’s favorite part of the meal, the palette cleanser

Strawberries with a lime sorbet

2017-03-20 Bali Ubud Bridges 19

Another beautiful spot to eat is right downtown Ubud and has a garden courtyard in the back and a bar facing the street in the front to people watch.
The food was great, fresh, and unique and the service was great.

Oops Restaurant and Bar

No website but it’s right across from the market in the center of town.
Just a few blocks from Starbuck. Yes, Starbucks.

Karsa Spa

Our spa day was at Karsa Spa set in the middle of a rice terrace
ponds, flowers and fountains everywhere.

The massage rooms were open air with a garden around you the ceiling fans made it perfectly comfortable. After the body treatment you slide into an essential oil infused tub full of flowers.

The view from our pergola while getting pedicures

Rice Terraces

The rice terrace was really beautiful to hike through. The area around the terrace was very touristy, I wouldn’t recommend any of the restaurants but look through the shops. There were a couple that had stuff I hadn’t seen yet. It’s free to hike the terrace but in a couple of places you’ll come across someone basically being a gate keeper and asking for money to pass. 50,000 for our group was fine. Most places were free to get in but then you paid a priest or someone to show you around or someone who was selling palm hats in the field. $4 for a group of 8, not bad.

2017-03-23 Bali Rice Terrace 2

2017-03-23 Bali Rice Terrace 17

Coffee and Tea

After the rice terrace we visited the coffee plantation. This was set up a little more for tourists. People greeted us, took us on a tour, there were people demonstrating how they roast the coffee and you got a free tasting of several teas and coffees like chai, ginger, and cocoa. A cup of the coffee where the luwak eats the berries, poops them out then they roast the pooped out beans was 50,000 ($4). It was actually deliciously smooth no wonder people
pay $30 a cup for it here in the US.

While we enjoyed our tea and coffee sample we couldn’t help notice the extremely hard working ladies just below us. They would carry up empty bowls from below, another lady would fill them with dirty then they would carry them on their heads down below to the construction site. Up and down. No special safety gear. Just hard work all day in the heat.

2017-03-23 Bali Ubud Coffee Plantation 20

Hike to the top of Mount Batur

Our driver told my husband about a hike up one of the volcanos, Mount Batur. They left at 2am to get to the mountain by 4am so he could be at the top by sunrise. His guide Madi was yet another tough ass Bali lady. She kept asking him if he needed a rest and
would say hati-hati which meant careful careful.

Traditional Villages and Temples

We visited a traditional village out in the country side. Where there are bamboo forests and rice terraces and little beautiful villages. The villages are walled in and each “home” is a walled in space with several small buildings inside. some are open air some aren’t. Most have a temple in the front then the old historic building for tourists like us to see then more modern buildings where they live. Open air kitchens, stable for a pig, gardens. The family that lived there welcomed us in and explained how they used to live.
Did I mention how friendly and sweet these people are?

Nearby was the oldest temple in Bali. I forgot to write down the name of it. Just like the smaller spaces, there is a wall with a grand door in this case at the top of a lot of steps. In side are many smaller open are buildings. Some are for preparing things for
worship some are for actual worship.

Tirta Empul Water Temple

We then visited the Tirta Empul Water Temple. As with all the temples, to enter you need a sarong. Then if you want to go in the water you pay for a water sarong, go into a coed changing room. Yeah, that was awkward. And change into the water sarong. We all had bathing suits on under. I wrapped mine around my neck the guys just around their waste. Some people were in there in their clothes with the sarong just around their clothes. So whatever works for you.

The priest gave us an offering, had us clear our minds and meditate for a minute then explained we choose a place for our offering at one of the fountains then started at the left and worked right taking 3 sips of spring water and then dunking your head 3 times to cleanse you inside and out. The water was cool but not cold, there were Koi in the pond with us and the stones aren’t comfortable to walk on. But it was a really cool experience. I definitely recommend it!
We tipped our priest 150,000 Rp ($12) for helping us.

Aside from the spring and the pond you get in there were Koi ponds and
the usual buildings all the temples have.


Near Ubud was another spectacular restaurant Sayan it overlooks a valley, river, and rice terrace and across the valley you could see one of the Four Seasons on Bali. It had a pond on it’s roof

Once again delicious. Best chocolate cake ever and it was flourless.

Some cool stuff I noticed with the food, they put salsa and dips in little banana or palm leaves they fold into little bowls. Everything is natural no plastic stuff, wooden bowls, plates lined with banana leaves, so pretty. There was always fresh fruit and herbs. They slice their limes different. Just the ends, not sure what they do with the middle of the limes. They make a dipping sauce from sambal a tomato based sometimes spices sometimes sweet condiment and mayo. I think if you took ketchup and sweet chili sauce you might get something similar.

Ubud Monkey Forest

Our last adventure was in the Ubud Monkey Forest. Ok, not a fan of this one. The monkeys are really aggressive and know you have bananas so they come running over and climb all over you looking for the bananas. You can’t shove them off or they might bite you and they are all over the place. Yeah, not a fan. But if you don’t mind the crazy monkeys all over you for sure go.

2017-03-27 Bali Ubud Monkey Forest 2.jpg

As we walked home from downtown Ubud we came across the beautiful Lotus Pond Palace. It’s tucked behind the Starbucks and the Lotus Café. It’s easy to miss because of the pergola in the front. There’s a pergola behind the Starbucks that you can sit and enjoy the pond or
eat at the café but the menu looked mediocre.

Nyepi and Ogoh Ogoh

While we were there is was Nyepi. That’s the Hindu new year. The day before is a little like Mardi Gras. They party and build these cool floats called Ogoh Ogoh. Each nearby village or neighborhood (didn’t quite get a clear answer on that) makes one then the day before Nyepi they carry them to the main temple in Ubud. There’s a whole performance that goes with the presentation of the Ogoh Ogoh. There are smaller ones that children make and carry and larger ones the adults make. On the day before Nyepi they also have temple services and after we saw people carrying these beautiful trays with fruit and desserts, not clear what they were for.

2017-03-27 Bali Ubud Ogoh Ogoh 10.jpg

These guys just added to the atmosphere

2017-03-27 Bali Ubud Day before Nyepi 4

Then on Nyepi it’s their day of silence. You can’t leave your home or hotel, no lights on, no entertaining, no eating. For tourists they just asked us to stay inside, keep the curtains drawn so you couldn’t see our lights and keep the cooking to a minimum. And obviously be quiet. It just made for a relaxing day to read. I know the hotels abide as well but I’m not sure if you have to stay in your room or just on the hotel grounds if you plan on coming to Bali during Nyepi you might want to check that out. A couple of tips. Don’t wait until the day before to get cash from the ATMs they were all out and the day after Nyepi it was afternoon before we found one we could use. The grocery stores were slammed to. Think day before a hurricane when everyone thought it wasn’t going to actually hit but a the last minute realize it will.
So get food, supplies, and cash out 2 days before Nyepi.

Intercontinental Bali Resort

After Ubud we headed to the Intercontinental Bali Resort at Jimbaran Beach. Wow. Just wow. If I was going to Bali again I would go straight to Ubud to stay for most of the time then stay at the Intercontinental for 3 days at the end. They have everything there and lots of activities, yoga classes, cooking classes etc. A beautiful spa. The buffet and show with traditional dancers was meh. The dancers and entertainment were great but the food was just ok. It was a lot of odd Asian food. I guess at the end of the trip I was just tired of that. But they have a great breakfast every morning and the other restaurants were great. There’s one by the pool and the Sunset Bar and Grille over looks the ocean. Fresh lovely salads and sandwiches. Served in awesome wooden bowls and with snacks like bread with a mango jam and some kind of cheese spread, Bali peanuts and little coconut cookies with the coffee. They also had a white wine, apple cider, elderflower drink that tasted like apple sangria.

So here’s the lobby

And the endless pools and gardens, yes you can swim in those pools

Pool side dining

and the Sunset Bar and Grille and Apple sangria

The spa

And of course our room

Leis when we checked in with a refreshing local drink and chilled wash cloths. Beautiful rooms with turn down each night and they didn’t get there at 7am to clean it. Every toiletry you could need. 4 different restaurants, the beach, I don’t even know how many pools, club level rooms and club lounge the size of a restaurant, endless activities and it was $137 a night. Yep.

What a great trip. Its a really long way to go but so worth it.
I would go again in a heartbeat and would barely change a thing


Sarasota Sunsets

I can’t believe I’ve lived in Florida my whole life and just visited Sarasota for the first time.

2015-08-23 Sarasota 29th Anniversary Ritz beach club 6

The downtown was a cool mix of 1920’s Mediterranean – mid-century modern – and chic new buildings. It was really easy to walk around the entire downtown and the beaches and other sites were a very short drive away.

We were there in late August when Ringling was out and all the snow birds were still up north so it was pretty dead but the up side to that is we didn’t have to wait for anything and we didn’t really need reservations to anywhere. But it was 1,000 degrees so we ended up spending a lot of time in the water. I definitely want to go back to see some of the other sites and spend more time exploring when it’s more pleasant.

You can tell there’s a large retirement community there – every block has an Italian, steak or old school seafood restaurant and a lot of the shops downtown were well lets say – mature. I’m assuming there’s more diverse shopping nearby because it’s an upscale area so there must be a Jcrew somewhere. But they have lots of new exciting restaurant options too. Farm to table – locally grown – and interesting prepared. I think the young people are slowly infiltrating the place.


Cute historic house with a modern interior. The chef literally catches the fish in the morning for the dinner menu.

Parmesan beignets with honey, pear and thyme – Local cobia with vegetable slaw and potatoes Lyonnais

Louies Modern

Because this is their slow season they weren’t open most of the time we were there – the only opportunity we had to eat there was for Brunch. Which was really good but I’d love to go back when we can try their dinner menu.

Buddy Brew Coffee

Right next to Louies Modern there was a little coffee place that shared an open air lounge area with Louies they had great coffee and a little a/c area to enjoy it. But during months with nice weather the open air lounge area would be awesome to hang out in. I imagine in the evenings it doubles as a bar area for Louies.

Jack Dustys

The main restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, we met friends there for drinks and the waitress overheard us say it was our anniversary so she brought over a cheese tray with marcona almonds, honeycomb, dried and fresh fruit and crackers. My drink was Hendricks gin with ice cubes made of 3 different juices, mango, passion fruit, and rose water with a lily. You drink it slowly so the ice cubes slowly melt and mix with the gin.

   Their breakfast had everything you can imagine only house made with local ingredients. Perfect service.

2015-08-22 Sarasota 29th Anniversary Ritz Jack Dustys tea

For dinner we had coffee rubbed steak with a house made steak sauce, pork belly Panini with peanut butter and banana (not usually on the dinner menu but I wasn’t very hungry so the waitress offered the lunch menu – the Ritz is cool like that) – dessert was chocolate mousse and a couple of skinny mochas.

Their homemade molasses bread baked in a can and served with fresh butter and sea salt

Some places we didn’t get to eat but want to try next time…


Social Eatery and Bar

Selva Grill

Nancy’s BBQ
in the historic Burns Court of downtown

The Ritz-Carlton Beach Club on Lido Key

We stayed at the Ritz-Carlton on the bay

It was right at the edge of downtown so we were able to walk everywhere – even though it was crazy hot we just sucked it up. But if you went in November it would be lovely walking weather. To get to St. Armands or the Beach Club on Lido Key it was a quick right out the driveway and over the bridge – about a 5 min drive. We rode bikes to a beautiful waterfront neighborhood with complimentary bikes (paddle boards and kayaks were available too). This Ritz was exactly what I expect in a Ritz so accommodating and great at making you feel special. Everyone asks your name and remembers it the next time you see them. Like you’ve been visiting there for years. They find you chairs by the pool, adjust your umbrella, cover your chairs in towels, bring you an ice bucket with water and wait on you hand and foot. We drank cucumber, gin and St Germain in the pool and Modelo’s over looking the beach at the Beach Club.

My only complaint is that they need a separate smaller pool without kids. Rich kids can be obnoxious. Their parents pay no attention to them and no matter what corner of the pool we tried to hide in one of them was constantly splashing by us or almost jumping on our heads even though I was shooting my best stink eye at them.

The Ritz has private residences at both locations but at the Beach Club it’s just private. The hotel guests get to use the pool, access to the beach, the tiki bar, and the pool side restaurant. Same amazing service. Every evening they have a sunset party with bongos at the tiki bar on the beach. The bartenders were so hospitable – every time they made someone a frozen drink they would give samples from what was left over in the blender.

   On our bike ride we visited a couple of the historic neighborhoods in Sarasota. I started to read a coffee table book as I was waiting in the lobby, I didn’t get to finish it but the history of Sarasota is pretty interesting – Google it or look it up on Wikipedia. There’s a historic downtown that leads to an area called Burns Court that is a cool collection of shops now. That leads you to the Orange and Osprey Ave neighborhoods where there are waterfront homes. Turn west off of Osprey Ave onto Lincoln Drive. The 1 block oak lined drive that ends in a cul-de-sac has a park in the median. All the homes are new but built in historical styles and just really well done. Architecture and landscaping.

Turn west onto Bay Point Drive off of Orange Ave. and at the end of the drive you’ll see this beautiful mansion that overlooks the bay. The second photo is the backyard. If you look carefully you can see deck chairs on the roof we think there was a pool up there. What a dream, it reminded me of the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom and if know me you know that’s a compliment.

Most of the other homes in the area were just big. No character at all but this one was amazing.

Some places we didn’t get to see partly because of time and partly because as I already mentioned – it was a 1,000 degrees. So next time we visit it will be cooler and we’ll go see these sites…

Ca d’Zan
the Venetian inspired home of the Ringlings

The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
downtown near the Osprey neighborhood

Sarasota Jungle Gardens
just before Ringling

St. Armands
a shopping and restaurant area on a little island between Sarasota and Lido Key, it was very Tommy Bahamas

Mote Marine Aquarium
on the north end of Lido Key

There are also a ton of theaters and an opera in downtown Sarasota.

A friend whose daughter went to Ringling stays at the Lido Beach Resort right on the beach with it’s own tiki bar. Great option for next time. Can’t wait.