Diana Odero breaks down how she planned a solo trip to everyone’s dream destination, Bali, for her 30th birthday.
Three years ago, Bali was just another destination on my bucket-list. Fast-forward to the present and I’m currently sitting at the Hard Rock Café in Ngurah Rai International Airport waiting for my flight back to Nairobi after ten glorious days in Bali. I had always dreamt of visiting Indonesia and to be here alone, for my thirtieth birthday, was surreal.
I started planning my trip in July 2019 and at the time, I had plenty to be nervous about as I did not think that it would be manageable. There was the issue of costs, accommodation and my birthday falling in January, which isn’t exactly everyone’s favourite time to go on a holiday. In fact, I created a rough trip itinerary with a proposed budget and dates and sent this to my friends; after one week, I knew I would be boarding that flight alone. I was however not going to let the reality of not having companions on my dream vacation dampen my enthusiasm. If anything, it allowed me to plan better.
Turns out, it was not as costly as I expected. Indonesia offers visa-free travel for Kenyans so that was one less thing to worry about. Upon doing some research, I realized that the major expense would be the return flights. For accommodation I managed to snag a great deal on booking. com; a beautiful upscale boutique hotel called Visala Suites right in the heart of Bali’s metropolitan city, Seminyak. A ten-day stay only set me back Ksh 30,000, inclusive of breakfast. The airport shuttle to and from the hotel was only Ksh 600 and if I had decided to use Grab (the city’s version of Uber) it would have been significantly cheaper.
Bali is known to have a few tsunamis especially between December and January. Luckily for me, the tsunami had died down earlier in January and since I visited towards the end of the month, I only experienced a few showers every other day. The weather generally stayed sublimely warm and humid. Plan to travel during the wet season (post tsunami) since the dry period can get dangerously hot and possibly ruin your entire trip.
I did not have a detailed itinerary but had a list of some must-see places which included the rice terraces and Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud, Potato Head Beach Club, the Uluwatu Temple and Padang Padang beach. I was a bit anxious about touring the island alone as a young, black woman but the locals were very friendly. Everyone was pleasantly helpful, from the hotel receptionist who put me on to Grab and recommended some of the best restaurants and cafes in Seminyak, to the waitress at Nalu bowls (hands down best place for brunch and smoothie bowls!) who told me the best place to catch the sunset in Uluwatu (Ulu Cliffhouse). There is also the one friend I happened to make there, a fellow Kenyan, who gave me an impromptu tour of Ubud where he has lived since 2018. Though I was traveling solo, I never really felt alone.
Travelling between towns, from Seminyak to Ubud then Uluwatu and back took about an hour and I mostly commuted on motorcycle taxis (I found their boda bodas to be much nicer than ours). Roads here, especially outside the bustling Seminyak area are quite narrow and cars tend to not make it too far out. My favourite attractions from the trip were two places – the Uluwatu Temple and Padang Padang Beach. The temple is a stunning piece of architecture perched atop a steep cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean; it is considered one of Bali’s spiritual pillars and is one of the most visited areas on the island. Fair warning though – the temple is surrounded by a forest teeming with bold monkeys who’ll come right up to you. I suggest carrying some bananas to keep them distracted.
The view from the top of this temple is simply breathtaking; as a Kenyan, I never realized how stunning the Indian Ocean could be until I saw it from a whole different continent. Bali sunsets are also unmatched. I spent every day trying to catch it from a different area each time and whenever I was lucky to catch it, it was always magical. Coupled with the sound of ocean waves hitting the cliff walls, sundowners and a random sighting of a whale near the shore, I can’t possibly imagine a better way to start a new decade of my life – Bali was a magnificent way to celebrate 30 and possibly the best solo trip I have ever been on. I have now boarded my flight and I’m watching the plane taxi off the runway which stretches into the ocean; a most beautiful way to bid the island goodbye, chasing one last sunset.