Updated: Dec 9, 2021
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.