The Bali Relationship Test

The Bali Relationship Test

11 minutes read

By Ellen Kortesoja


The Denpasar, Bali airport is muggy and stifling. It’s full of drivers holding up signs and looking expectantly at you. I’ve arrived first, so I settle in and watch the scene around me.


So I scored a ‘plus one’ to a wedding in Bali… I realize that’s a bold move – flying across the world for a date. But don’t worry, folks, it all worked out. (Even if it didn’t… It’s Bali.)


The couple-to-be lives in Hong Kong and picked Bali as a destination wedding. This makes a lot of sense – Bali is an easy flight from Hong Kong and in the same time zone. Unlike the flights for us Americans, which take a full 24 hours of travel.



Once you’re there, you certainly should do everything because it’s likely you’re not getting back anytime soon! If time allows, you could combine the trip with more of Indonesia (Jakarta, Sumatra, Java). This is something I didn’t do, which I’m bummed about.


Bali is for the Tourists


The resorts in Bali are plentiful. Although it’s getting wildly popular, you can still find great accommodation for about $100/night.


The wedding was in Nusa Dua, on the southern tip of Bali. This meant we had a couple days of dinners lined up at different resorts, mainly the Ritz Carlton, where both the ceremony and reception were.



The Ritz Carlton of Bali ( looks like Jurassic Park. It is not a hotel, it is a village.


However, since we did not want to put all our eggs in one basket, we opted for the more economic Swiss-Belhotel nearby ( It had a great breakfast, bangin’ pool, but not so desirable bathroom.


If you’re looking for more of a hostel-speed accomodation, there are certainly options in places like Ubud and Seminyak, but not in the resort-heavy Nusa Dua where we were for the wedding.


Getting Around


Get a private driver for your day excursions. End of story. To hire a car for six to eight hours in a day, the cost should come out to $50-60.


The driver will take you anywhere you want to go. They also give advice, if you want to heed it. It’s best to remember that their advice comes from the point of view that: you are a tourist, and therefore, you probably want to do sterilized, tourist things.


That’s a little harsh, but it was sometimes difficult to explain things like: “Yes, I really want to eat the far-cheaper local food at the risk of possible indigestion.”


Advice they give is based on geography and pragmatism. Luckily, our driver led us to a luwak coffee tasting that we had no idea about. What’s luwak you ask? This is the coffee derived from the feces of civet cats, who eat the coffee beans. Yep.



Exploring Nusa Dua


Uluwatu Temple


We were recommended to see this temple at sundown to catch the nightly dance performance. The sunset is perfect there.



The dance every night is a mysterious spectacle of sound and costume. If you are artistically-inclined and embrace the abnormal, it’s a priority. Go early and get some butt-space – this place is, regrettably, an awesome tourist trap.



Green Bowl Beach


This was an amazing find. A friend recommended it as a surfer beach off the beaten path. Again, getting there earlier is better. Still suffering from jet lag, we arrived at the crack of dawn and enjoyed a mostly empty beach until the afternoon.


Green Bowl, however, is a real pain to get to. We took a cab one way and waited 30 minutes for an Uber (yes, there’s Uber there!) to get back. The outing is probably best suited for a day with a driver.



Ubud the Artist Community


From the south in Nusa Dua, Ubud is an easy enough day trip – about one and a half hours each way. We were aiming to get to the Tegallalang Rice Terraces as the first stop in the late morning.


It rained mercilessly all day. On such a trip with your newfound romantic interest, getting caught in a rainstorm without an umbrella is one of those make-or-break scenarios. So, we fashioned plastic bag ponchos that we had to buy off a shop owner, and I decided he possessed that certain travel x-factor that we fellow wanderers so desire.


Even with no sunlight in sight, the cascading green rice fields are still unbelievable.



We ate decadent ‘roast suckling pig’ back downtown in Ubud at a place called Babi Guling Ibu Oka ( As always, earlier is better because the pig typically runs out in early afternoon.


We wandered the artisan markets, getting accosted by sellers. We bought bottle-opener penis gourds – because this is what you do in Bali.


Another Ubud attraction we didn’t make it to is the Monkey Forest. After getting my snacks stolen at Green Bowl Beach by one cheeky primate, I didn’t feel like I needed to pay money to get my sunglasses stolen as well.


Ending the Trip in Seminyak


On our last day with a private driver we made the best possible decision: to go to Sekumpul Falls.


The low down:

  1. It’s a far, three-hour drive from Nusa Dua across the island.
  2. It’s a very difficult hike not due to endurance, but for the knees and balance aspect with loose rocks strewn everywhere.
  3. It is singularly the coolest part of my Bali trip and one of my top favorite excursions I’ve ever done.


The falls are very isolated. It feels like a big secret… So don’t pass it on to anyone uncool who’s not worthy of it!



Not only do you see stunning waterfalls on this hike down into the valley, there are other rice fields that stretch across the rolling hills. And these views are all for you. We didn’t see anybody else until we got all the way down to the falls.



Afterward, we drove toward Seminyak. If we thought Nusa Dua and Ubud were touristy, Seminyak takes it to a new level. There’s almost exclusively Australians on holiday running around on the beach and in the restuarants. But the boutiques were great and the hotel was a great value:



Final “pro” tip: the best coming-home food gifts are found at the supermarket in Seminyak.


To see a map itinerary of the places we went and others we intended to, you can see it here:

I referenced the Excursion app in a post about Singapore. It’s not fool-proof, but I love how it drops pins on the map for you to judge how close you are to attractions.


All and all, ladies and gentleman, if traveling as a plus one, Bali is not for the romantically faint of heart. Everyone assumes you’re on your honeymoon (and asks repeatedly). But if you think the relationship (whether budding or veteran) could use a touch of resort luxury… with some mischievous monkeys and surprisingly delicious cow brain, Bali is the place for you!


Ellen is a construction project manager in Washington D.C. Hailing from Ann Arbor, MI, she is getting slowly naturalized to the more temperate winters and blossoming food scene of D.C. She has traveled to parts of Europe, Central America, Peru, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, Singapore and Bali. You can usually find her bumming around volleyball courts or ingesting NPR podcasts. Follow her on Twitter or IG: @ellenjaneen


Ellen Kortesoja

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