The Gypsy Redhead in Bali Part 1 – Solo Travel into the Heart of the Island

Isak Denison famously wrote, the cure for anything is saltwater… sweat, tears or the sea. These words rang true in my sorrowful heart as I boarded the plane to Bali. I just lost my doggy soul mate and I was in a particularly low place. I cleared my schedule and was Bali-bound on February 17th, 2014, one week after booking my ticket.

The plan: to solo-tour inland Bali for a month, then trek-around the east end of the island with my hubby for another month or so.

The Gypsy Redhead in Bali, Part 1
Solo Travel into the Heart of the Island

I rented a fabulous little tropical villa in Penestanan, Ubud (pronounced ew-bood) in the center of the island. The Laba Desa House was beautifully furnished, tranquil, relaxing, and the perfect place stay while in Ubud.

Ubud is said to be the creative and spiritual heart of Bali, and my soul was in need of transcendence.

Ubud is culture… artful, creative and serene. Ubud’s popularity continues to grow, adding to the exposure created by the bestselling novel Eat, Pray, Love. Tour buses with day-trippers can clog the main streets and cause traffic chaos. Fortunately, scooters are free from traffic-laws and can zip-by all of the congestion.

After renting a scooter and orienting myself to the immediate surroundings, I set out to find adventure, and just maybe heal my darkened emotions along the way.

20 Experiences for Adventurous Solo Female Travelers in Ubud

1. Rent a Honda Scoopy scooter. This baby was only $25 bucks for 30 days. I zoomed all over the island and was driving like a crazy local in no time.

© Nicole Geils

2. Try a Lychee Martini at Round Bar in Penestanan. Solo travel enables you to meet new people… locals and travellers alike. I converse with friends met in far-away places often. I became fast friends with fellow travelers Shari & Bonnie, and we bonded over Lychee Martinis.

IMG_8293Ingredients: Ice cubes, 6 ounces vodka, 4 ounces lychee juice, Splash vermouth, lychees for garnish.

Directions: Fill a cocktail shaker with ice; add vodka, lychee juice, and vermouth. Shake until chilled. Pour into 2 martini glasses and garnish with lychees.

3. Expand you mind and stretch your body with yoga classes and ecstatic dancing at the Yoga Barn.

4. Pamper yourself with daily spa and massage treatments.
© Nicole GeilsA 90-minute massage, facial, pedicure, and deep conditioning hair treatment was $38 USD, which included a generous tip. Eve Day Spa in Penestanan.

5. Read poolside. Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman is a great Bali read.

6. Participate in a batik dying workshop. Draw, wax, and dye your own original design… I did this Tree-Of-Life sarong.

7. Culinary Adventures! Take your solo-and-fabulous self out for a nice meal. Savor the flavors and aromas of traditional Balinese cuisine.

Once you have fallen in love with the food of the region, sign-up for a traditional Balinese cooking lesson. Paon Bali is authentic, and you will leave with a great appreciation for the various dishes you have been enjoying during your vacation.

8. Play volleyball with the locals! All men I may add, and they were not too sure what to think about this tall red head asking to play… but once they saw I had skill, it was on! The Balinese men love to gamble, and I made for new and interesting wagering.

9. Enjoy fresh, young, coconut water straight from the coconut, daily.© Nicole Geils

10. Alchemy Vegan Café with Salad Bar and Juice Bar in Penestanan is the best place for a healthy breakfast. I enjoyed Alchemy’s Breakfast Bar daily; consisting of a variety of fruits and granolas, yummy banana, papaya, or coconut yogurt, and much more. You feel healthy and full of energy at the completion of each meal. Try the kale lemongrass smoothie!! It is delicious!

© Nicole Geils

11. Daily strolls thru the village will include numerous locals inviting you into their homes and gardens to chat and work on their English… along with amazing photo opportunities.

12. Shopping… Bali style. The Ubud Traditional Market, located at the corner of Monkey Forest and Raya road in Ubud proper is a little open-air gem. Go early for the best deals! I am becoming quite skilled at the fine art of bartering. Shop here for locally made jewelry, woodcarvings, beautiful hand-painted silks, and woven tapestries encompassing the vibrant colors of Bali.

13. Tour Puri Saren Agung – Royal Water Palace located just across from the Ubud Market. This was the palace of the kings of Ubud until the 1940s, and a few royal descendants live there to this day. Parts of the complex are off limits to the public, but entry to the rest is free, and this is Ubud’s best setting for dance performances.© Nicole Geils

14. After touring Puri Saren Agung, head to Bebek Bengil, which translates to the Dirty Duck Diner. The Dirty Duck is dedicated to Bali’s most famous dish, Bebek Tutu – smoked duck. The smoked duck has to be ordered 24 hours in advance, but it is so worth it… smothered in Balinese spices and wrapped in betel leaves, the duck is slowly smoked all day. The restaurant exudes Balinese beauty and relaxation. Be sure to ask for one of the traditional bamboo pondoks, which are raised huts with a long table and cushions overlooking rice fields and the serene pond of the beautiful palace.

15. pooRIFIC coffee! Touring local plantations, you will have the opportunity to try Kopi Luwak. When you have the chance to try an international delicacy at the source… you go for it! It is the most expensive coffee in the world. Once you get past the mental imagery, it is actually pretty tasty… though a bit on the acidic side.

Kopi luwak, or civet coffee, refers to the beans of coffee berries once they have been eaten and excreted by the Asian palm civet. Producers of the coffee beans argue that the process may improve coffee through two mechanisms, selection and digestion. Selection occurs if the civets choose to eat coffee berries containing better beans. Digestive mechanisms may improve the flavor profile of the coffee beans that have been eaten. The civet eats the berries for the beans’ fleshy pulp, and then in the digestive tract, fermentation occurs. The civet’s proteolytic enzymes seep into the beans, making shorter peptides and more free amino acids. Passing through a civet’s intestines the beans are then defecated with other fecal matter and collected, washed, and roasted.

16. Take a dip in a Holy Spring. One of the holiest temples in Bali, Tirta Empul meaning Holy Spring in Balinese (pronounced Pura Tirta Empul), is a Hindu Temple near the town of Tampaksiring built in 962 A.D. The temple pond has a fresh-water spring, dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. The Balinese come here to bathe and purify themselves physically and spiritually. Bring a sarong and extra clothes if you want to bath with the locals. Water from the spring is clean and believed to have magical powers.

17. Partake in a Hindu Temple Ceremony. I had the great privilege to be invited to a Hindu temple ceremony in the village of Penestanan during my first week in Ubud, which was quite fortuitous since they do not happen very often.

The vibrant colors, rhythmic sounds, and potent smells of incense were a delight for the senses.

The people were so open and welcoming of my presence at their ceremony.

18. Spend a fun morning exploring the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. Filled with wild monkeys that really love it if you bring bananas… which I did. I had a monkey entourage following me about. Watch your sunglasses… these little guys are skilled liberators!

19. Sign-up for a Traditional Balinese Watercolor Workshop. I learned how to draw, shade, and paint hibiscus flowers in the traditional Balinese style with my very skilled and patient teacher, Wayan.

20. Tour the countryside… just beyond the hustle and bustle of Ubud proper awaits picturesque landscapes, terraced rice fields, and mystical statues creating picture-perfect Bali snapshots.


Leave yourself open to new experiences! From attending a free showing of Ghost Busters at Round Bar, to learning how to carry large items on your head by local women, Bali is full of random treasures.

Ubud was like a comforting mug of hot coco for my soul… Now onto Amed for one glorious month with my hubby.

© Nicole Geils

Ready for more Bali-stoke?!?! Read the Gypsy Redhead in Bali Part 2… Amed in March.

*All photography and videography was shot on my iPhone 4s.

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