The Final Week
At 35,000 feet above the Gulf of Thailand, aboard an empty Air Asia Airbus bound for Bangkok, I sit writing this blog astonished at how fast these past 6 weeks have flown by. Wow, what a trip it’s been.
I have left Bali and am heading back to Bangkok to begin my travels home. Although long and arduous, these next 24 hours of travel will give me a good time to reflect on the past 6 weeks and all the memories I have made.
I couldn’t of asked for a better final week to end the trip. It was an action packed, adventurous and bucket list checking week, filled with some of the best adventures I have had yet.
I began the week in Ubud, a popular place to visit in Bali where the Balinese culture is at its fullest. This beautifully green and attractive destination is at the heart of Bali and ended up being one of my favorite destinations. I stayed just outside the main area at Uma Dangin, which was wonderful. After a visit to the Ubud Palace, I wandered over to the Monkey Sanctuary Forest, which is a beautiful forest FILLED with over 600 monkeys flying around and staring down the tourists who are eagerly taking 100’s of pictures while cautiously navigating their way through the lush landscape to avoid an attack from these sneaky creatures. After witnessing a monkey run all the way down a tree and grab a wrapped chocolate bar from a mans pocket, it became abundantly clear how smart these creatures are!
On my second day in Ubud I visited a few of the main attractions in the area. First I visited a waterfall 40 meters tall in amongst a lush forest and rocky terrain, which was quite beautiful and peaceful. After climbing to the top of the waterfall and taking in the sites, I went to a coffee plantation to test all the local flavors of coffee and tea. It was a caffeine addicts paradise! And wow, was the coffee ever good... hands down the best I’ve ever had! The plantation was situated on a hill overlooking the green forest and layers of rice paddies. It’s was quite peaceful, relaxing and the best place to sit and have a cup of joe. The last stop was at the scenic Rice Terraces, perched within a beautiful winding valley. The rows of rice paddies provided a breathtaking view, one that can’t be found anywhere else.
One of the coolest experiences during my 6 week journey was a visit to the John Hardy facility. Founded in 1975 by Canadian John Hardy, this one of a kind jewelry manufacture with over 750 employees has become one of the top jewelry companies and recognized brands in the world. Their main workshop and offices are located in Ubud so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to tour the facility and witness first hand how the jewelry is made. John Hardy is one of the only jewelry companies in the world where everything is 100% hand made! Everything from the drawings and sketches to the wax carvings and final assembly of the items is handmade by the 750+ employees at the facility. Not a computer in site... not even in the design room where all the products are originally thought of and sketched out. Amazing! Once you arrive and drive through the front gate, you are transported to a whole new breathtaking world where everything is majestically maintained and perfectly preserved. The impressive architectural design of the facility and showroom can only make you say wow! Although the grounds and facility were amazing, what truly blows you away is the story behind the company and the philosophy in which John Hardy built his successful brand. John’s main focus was to build a company on a foundation of sustainability, focusing on providing a better world for our future generations and a strong emphasis on nature and a healthy way of life. Everything at John Hardy is inspired by nature and sourced locally as much as possible. After a private tour of the facility, watching the employees piece together stunning items of jewelry, and learning more about the company, I then joined the management staff for a wonderful home cooked Balinese lunch outside at their long table. It was a fantastic experience to meet with the team, learn more about the company and talk business! The John Hardy culture is second to none, what a remarkable place to work. Everything from their mission, vision, strategy and the way they treat their employees is outstanding. I couldn’t believe that they feed all 750+ employees a homemade lunch EVERYDAY! Wow! After touring the facility, seeing how each piece of jewelry is meticulously hand crafted, and learning about such an amazing company, how could I not take a visit to their beautiful onsite bamboo boutique and purchase a piece of jewelry. After narrowing down the overwhelming selection of items, I needed a quick FaceTime call with the DbyDenise fashion expert (aka my Mom!) to help with the final selection. It was pretty cool to purchase a handcrafted piece of art, only steps away from where it was originally thought of, designed and built. John Hardy created a phenomenal company, and after that experience it’s easy to understand why they are one of the top brands in the world and extremely successful.
My last major adventure in Ubud came with an early 1:30 am wake up call to embark on a 2 hour hike to watch the sunrise from atop Mount Batur, an active volcano. Hiking up the steep volcanic landscape was no easy task (especially in the dark with only a dim flashlight) however the views from the top of the 1,700 meter high volcano was majestic! What a neat experience and view. Although it was fairly cloudy, the sunrise was still beautiful.
Following an eventful and memorable few days in Ubud I headed to my last destination, Nusa Lembongan. Lembongan is a small island just off the Bali coast about a 45 minute Ferry ride away. I decided to go here instead of the popular and touristy Gili Islands. I was unsure at first if I would regret not going to Gili, but after experiencing Lembongan I was thrilled with the decision. Unlike Gili and many other islands, Lembongan is not filled with tourists. It is a smaller and quiet destination where you can enjoy breathtaking views, pure white sand and an array of adventurous activities. I stayed in a beautiful bungalow at 221 Homestay which was in a great location. I decided to rent a scooter for 2 days to explore the island as well as the neighboring island (Nusa Ceningan), which is connected by a narrow yellow bridge. It was the best way to tour around and find all the hidden beaches, the best cafes atop hidden hills overlooking the island and surrounding ocean, tour through the mangrove forest and find the perfect cliffs to watch the sunset. It was the perfect place to spend my final 3 nights. Although a quiet and serene getaway, Lembongan still provided great nightlife and live music from the local talent.
During my lunch with the management team at John Hardy, I met an individual who had just joined the team 3 days prior. After having a conversation with her, I found out that before coming to work for John Hardy she had worked at one of the top golf courses in Asia, the Bali National Golf Club. Being the golf enthusiast I am, I quickly engaged in a long golf related conversation which included telling her my background and love for golf. The conversation ended with her inquiring if I was interested in golfing prior to heading home. Obviously I said absolutely and she proceeded to ask for my contact information and said she would touch base with her contacts at the golf course and see if she can arrange for me to play. Long story short, as I was leaving Lembongan to head back to Bali, I received an email from the golf course offering me a tee time the next day at a discounted rate and with a free set of rental clubs! I was thrilled! What’s better than spending my last day of my trip on one of the top golf courses in Asia, rated #3 best golf course redesign in the world! The golf course was immaculate and I had a wonderful experience. It was the perfect way to end a remarkable trip.
The rich and diverse culture of Bali plays out at all levels of life, from the exquisite flower petal offerings placed everywhere to the traditional dancing, music and parades. Almost everything has a spiritual meaning in Bali. Yes, Bali has beaches, surfing, diving, great nightlife and fancy resorts, but it’s the essence of Bali and the Balinese culture that makes it so much more than a retreat in the sun. At the end of the day, Bali’s rich culture, wonderfully friendly locals and breathtaking sights is what takes Bali to another level.
No words can truly describe these past 6 weeks. It has been an incredible journey and I am so lucky and fortunate to have had the opportunity to get lost and experience some amazing adventures in such a remarkable part of this world.
Until next time,