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Destination: Bali

Updated: Dec 9, 2021

February 2019

Strap in.. It's going to be a long one. So this is going to be the first of hopefully a long string of adventure blogs! I apologize in advance if it doesn't have as much detail as I would like. I'm writing this at 4 in the morning, so I'm a little loopy. Not to mention, this is ten months after I went to Bali, but it was too much fun not to share.

Just a little background on this trip, I went on a modeling/photography retreat hosted by my old modeling agency. We had an awesome group of models and photographers from all around the US (mostly Montana) and even a photog from Sweden.

Day 1


Every overseas trip begins with a long ass journey to even get to where you are going. My journey was no different. I started here in Missoula, MT, from where I then traveled to Seattle. From Seattle, I took a 20-some hour flight to Taipei, Taiwan. Holy heck, that flight was miserable. I don't know about you guys, but I hate being crowded in small spaces. I hate being unable to leave the small spaces even more. Though I think that it is pretty cool that they provide pre-pasted toothbrushes and lotion in the restrooms. It definitely made me feel refreshed in between the many movies I watched. And hey, I know it's expensive, but I definitely recommend splurging for the in-flight WiFi. Being stuck on a plane is a great excuse to get down and dirty with your homework if you are a procrastinatory student like me. Just trust me when I say to stay away from the chicken and dumplings.

From Taipei, it was only a short 4-hour flight over to the beautiful island of Bali. Don't be like me. I managed to immediately forget my cell phone in the bathroom of a foreign country. Don't worry, it only took about 5 minutes to realize it, and I successfully retrieved it, thank goodness.

The Resort

From the airport, we headed over to our resort in Nusa Dua. From what I saw of the island, Nusa Dua is the cleanest, most touristy area I saw. If you are looking to be immersed in the culture, this is not the area for you. It's kinda weird because locals aren't allowed into this area. You have to have proof that you are staying in the resorts there to get into the city. And I'm not talking about just our resort.

The Meliã, where we stayed, is an all-inclusive resort. So yeah... all you can eat and all you can drink. You can bet your booty that I took advantage of those bottomless mojitos and piña coladas. While there, I was roomed with the lovely Baylee (@missbayleeaileen), whom I am sure you will see throughout this post. After getting cozy in our room, we headed down to meet the rest of our clan for a sunset cocktail meet & greet. Not a bad way to end a long day!

Day 2

Pura Lempuyang Luhur

Day two, we got up early and headed to the Pura Lempuyang Luhur, also known as the Gateway to Heaven. It's so funny because when you look up images of Bali and places to go, this temple always shows up. You see pictures of girls standing in the archway with a mountain in the background and a perfectly reflective pool, as still as can be, mirroring the sky. Well, hate to burst your bubble, but in reality, this is actually a crazy dirty place. And that reflective pool? Nope. A little dude sits on a basket holding a piece of black glass to the base of your iPhone and snaps a quick pick. It's almost impossible to get an image without other people in it. Granted that we showed up on one of their busiest days.

When we arrived at the temple, we weren't actually able to make it up to the temple on our bus. The roads were closed for this incredible Hindu ceremony, so we almost had to ride these super sketchy little mopeds up, until we found an even more sketchy other bus that they actually allowed in. That driving was terrifying. Anyways, back to the ceremony. I'm not sure what the name of it was, and I still, to this day, cannot manage to find the name of it anywhere online. Anyways, everyone there dresses in all white. Men, women, children, all were carrying offerings. Although we weren't able to enter the religious part of the temple where the ceremony was taking place, we could see the people heading up to the temple. It was absolutely breathtaking.

The architecture was absolutely incredible. This pura is one of the oldest temples in Bali, dating back to the 11th century. The one thing that really disappointed me about this location was the amount of trash everywhere, especially on the far side of this gorgeous gate. It's unfortunate and disappointing, but throughout the entire island, there is trash everywhere. I understand that it's a cultural thing, but I'm not exaggerating when I say that there is trash filling up the streams and hillsides. It is absolutely heartbreaking.

Even so, we were able to capture some fantastic images, and it was all together a successful adventure.

Tirta Gangga Water Palace

On the way home from the Pura Lempuyang Luhur, we stopped at the water palace of Tirta Gangga. It was such a perfectly manicured environment and an excellent way to detox after the crowded temple. I spent this time wandering around with my friend, Andy (@andyaustinphoto), and enjoying the beautiful craftsmanship in this 70-year-old garden. The statues had such incredible detail! If you find yourself here, definitely pick up a couple packets of fish food out front and hit the koi pond.

When you walk out of this temple, you may find a stand where you can pay to take pictures with all sorts of exotic animals. I urge you to PLEASE stay away from these areas. These animals are taken out of their natural habitats and are forced to perform in unnatural and painful conditions. By paying to take pictures of them, you are supporting the abuse of these helpless animals. Also, I know it's hard, but resist petting the local animals. Cats and dogs aren't taken care of like they are here in the states. I know it's hard not to pet or feed the animals, but it isn't worth the rabies shot you may need after.

Sunset Beach Shoot

We ended the evening back at the resort with a photoshoot in the sand. You can't miss out on a sunset photo-op with a water swing. I mean, come on! I won't include the video, but I definitely got whacked by a wave while shooting. I nearly didn't save my camera as I fell over.

On the other hand, if you stick around to the end, I will happily include a picture of me falling off of the swing. It was wicked slippery. I was just trying to be cute... fail. Last time I try that!

Day 3

Tegenungan Waterfall

Another early morning. Up at around 4am to head to this beautiful location in Ubud. Although this waterfall is considered to be one of the most popular, we got lucky! It was almost entirely empty. Just our little group! When you get to Tegenungan Waterfall, you must first pay to enter. You then hike down over 100 stone stairs to get to the main area. On the hike down, you will find these funky nest-like structures you can crawl in and grab a snap of. You can also find a path for another smaller waterfall on the side of the trail that is definitely worth exploring.

Down on the main landing, you will find a little viewing area. You will also find this lovely pool. Ladies, if you are on your period, you are considered to be impure in the Hindu culture and will not be allowed to enter this pool, just a warning. Also, be really careful not to get any of the water in your mouth. One of the gals in our group ended up getting Bali Belly from this pool! Yikes!

You will also find river access on this level. The time of year we visited (February), the water was shallow, making for some excellent locations for photos. Bring your swimsuit! The water is wicked warm.

Further down, you will find the Tegenungan Waterfall. Different times of the year, the water flows stronger, but it was beautiful none the less. Be careful when crossing the bamboo bridges or when walking in the water. Even with water shoes, this area is wicked slick. I ended up having to make a visit to the doctor at the resort after slipping and cutting my foot open (don't worry! The camera was okay!) to make sure it was correctly sanitized. You don't wanna mess around with diseases around here.

Rice Fields

We then ventured even further into Ubud to visit the rice fields. Although I don't know the name of the specific location we went to, there are rice fields all over Bali. These particular rice fields are famous for the large swings they have overlooking the grounds. They make for a great photo - unless you are terrified of heights like I am. This was probably my least favorite part of the adventure, not because it wasn't fun, but because of the time of day. It was so damn hot out. It was just miserable! Ugh! But still got some decent shots in.


After this, we headed to a Monkey Sanctuary, which Baylee and I, being paranoid about getting bitten by the monkeys, did not actually enter. I'm not crazy, seriously! Google and YouTube it. Tourists are frequently attacked by monkeys or stolen from here. Not for me.

Anyways, while we were here, there was a MASSIVE rainstorm. I mean HUGE! Which is common in the afternoons here. I felt so bad for all of our group caught out in it. Luckily everyone's camera gear seemed to be okay.

Meanwhile, Baylee and I made friends with some friendly Australians. I always hear that Australians are the best tourists to make friends with and that they're super outgoing and kind. Turns out, it is totally accurate. Once the storm cleared, we headed back to the resort.

Beach Shoot with Baylee

Back at the resort, my roomie, Baylee, and I ventured out into the open water. Okay, not so much the open sea, as the tide was down. But we at least tried. Swedish photographer Elias Olofsson (@elol9), and my sister, Sarah, (@_biggiesmiles) were kind enough to help as water splashers for our swimsuit look, then to stand guard while Baylee and I did a private boudoir shoot. This honestly ended up being some of my favorite photos I have ever taken, though I'm keeping my favorites for us.

After Hours

To end the night, the group of us all had dinner by the beach. I ignored my prior advice and fed a stray cat my salmon, and ended up getting my hand bit the shit outta. I do not recommend it. After this, the 21-and-uppers and I grabbed a few drinks at the beach-side bar.

What is a vacation without at least one drunk story? After a night filled with girl talk, bonding, shots, and a little dancing, Baylee, Rachelle, and I decided it would be a good idea to jump in the pool, which was closed for the night, fully clothed. Long story short, it was totally a good idea! I highly recommend it. Unfortunately, security didn't seem to think so as they escorted us out of the pool, but I think they were just jealous.

Day 4

Sunrise Shoot

This morning the group didn't have anything scheduled. Still, being me, I can't resist a good sunrise, so I whipped something together. I was up until 3am Bali time because tickets to my favorite country music festival went on sale at 10am mountain time. They usually sell out within 40 minutes, so I had to stay up! I was exhausted. Anyways, a couple of us ladies wandered back to where Baylee and I had shot so we could catch those first beams of light. Worth it.

Resort Day

After a nice nap, we just explored more of the resort and shot around whatever unexpected locations we could find. I loved this because it really challenged me as a photographer to see the beauty in areas I would typically never shoot. Definitely a fun exercise!

Free Time

We then had the afternoon all to ourselves to do whatever we wanted. If I didn't mention before, my awesome family (mom, dad, & sister) joined me in Bali! So the four of us took this time to have our own adventure.

We headed to try some local teas and coffees, including the most expensive coffee in the world: Kopi Luwak, or cat poop coffee. Yes, you read that right, cat poop. The coffee beans are eaten and digested by the civet cat. Once digested, the beans are then collected and cleaned, then turned into coffee. It's not as bad as it sounds, I swear. These nocturnal cats only eat beans that they consider to be entirely ready - not too soon, not too late. During digestion, the pulp of the beans is removed while the bean remains intact. A single pound of this coffee sells for up to $600! Though it wasn't as expensive to try.

My favorite thing I tested at this location was a mangosteen peel tea. I was so glad to bring some of it home. This stuff is incredibly delicious! I am so bummed I didn't get more. I've been saving my last serving for a special occasion.

From here, we went and checked out the local shops. Shopping in Bali is so weird because everything is so cheap. I almost felt guilty shopping there. Did you know that $20USD can rent you an entire villa for a few weeks in Bali? It's crazy the difference in the value of money. The one thing I did splurge on while there was a sterling silver necklace made locally, which was $40USD. I thought this item was worth spending more on because all proceeds at this shop when back to help women who were struggling in the community.

Goodbye Party

Back at the resort, we had a bit of a send-off party, as some members were leaving that night. Others we set to leave throughout the next week or so starting the following day. It was great to spend an evening with new friends, enjoying cocktails and dancing our butts off. I am definitely thankful for the friends I met on this trip.

Day 5

Sunrise & Cigars

For our final sunrise, Andy (@andyaustinphoto), and I wandered out for one more sunrise, just the two of us. What was meant to be a lovely, peaceful morning was interrupted by laughs and Andy's rendition of the Lion Sleeps Tonight from the Lion King. Still, I wouldn't have it any other way.

After the sunrise, we met up with my parents to smoke some cigars. I know. Really hecking weird. Cigars for breakfast? It was Andy's fault, not mine. He insisted all week on having a cigar with my dad, and since we were leaving in the afternoon, this was our last chance. When faced with one last send-off activity, it is sometimes best to say f*ck it, and just go for it.


We spent the rest of the morning saying our goodbyes and enjoying some well-deserved pool time. Oh, how I miss those piña coladas. I even made time for a massage (totally worth it). Not a terrible way to end the night.

We then flew out for another layover in Taipei. Then over to Seattle for the night, which I will share in a separate post. On to home and back to school from there. All in all, a fantastic trip! I'm very thankful to have gotten the opportunity to go. They were memories I will keep for the rest of my life!

I would love to hear about any of your experiences in Bali if you've been there, or other recommendations of where I should travel to next in the world. Any questions you have about my trip are also welcome! Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments below! Thanks for tuning in!

Also, as promised, here's picture of me falling off the water swing. Okay, bye!

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Love ready about your adventures❤️Awesome photos, especially your beautiful family. Love your sense of humor. Looking forward to reading more.

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