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How To Dive And Interact With Manta Rays

Diving with Manta Rays - Robyn Around the World

Swimming with Manta Rays is a unique and magical experience. Manta’s are extremely intelligent and each has it’s own personality. Some are shy but most are curious. Here are some manta facts and how to have an amazing interaction with these beautiful fish.

Diving with Manta Rays - Robyn Around the World


Manta got its name from the Spanish word for “blanket” or “cloak.”

There are two species – The Oceanic Manta (M.birostris) and Reef Manta (M.alfredi)

The Oceanic Mantas are the largest with a wingspan of up to 7 meters where the smaller Reef Mantas are half the size.

They have the biggest brain to body ratio of all the fish in the sea.

They feed on plankton and eat roughly about 12% of their body weight which is about 27KG (60LBS) per week!

Mantas give birth to one pup at a time and have a gestation period of 12-13 months.

They love cleaning stations and will surround these stations to get cleaned for up to 8 hours a day. The fish clean their wounds

Mantas are identified by the markings on their belly which act like a fingerprint. Fun fact if you take a picture of the belly during your dive, you can send it into Manta Matcher, and if the Manta hasn’t been identified, you get to name the Manta!

Diving with Manta Rays - Robyn Around the World


Do not swim into the path of a manta ray – If they are approaching you, slow down to a stop and they will swim around you.

Deflate all the air out of your BCD and kneel on the sand, or use your reef hook to secure yourself to a rock if you’re in a current.

Do not chase Mantas – This will put them off and scare them away.

Respect their environment – We are just visitors in their home, treat it as such.

Don’t touch the Manta – Their skin has a mucous protection and touching them removes this film and exposes their skin to harmful infections. It is also illegal in marine protected environments, and you will be hit with a fine if reported.

Be patient – They will come to you and will swim over your head watching you with their eyes.

Learn more about Manta Rays and how you can help protect them by visiting Marine Megafauna and Manta Trust.

Diving In Komodo National Park

Diving Komodo National Park

I just spent six weeks doing my Divemaster in Komodo National Park. Komodo has by far been the best diving I’ve done to date. The coral is healthy, and the fish are spectacular. So what makes the diving so spectacular? Komodo National Park is in the Lintah Strait. So what does that mean? The straight is smack-dab right in-between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Both these currents are rushing into the straight and the water from these two mix and creates a nutrient rich environment for the marine life in the park. You can see everything from Macro to Mantas!

So let’s talk about the currents then. When people hear about Komodo the first thing they ask is “so how crazy are the currents?” No joke the currents can be psychotic as you will see in the video below. Because you have two different ocean currents flooding the area, you need to throw everything you learned in Tides 101 out the window.

In Komodo, things can change in a minute and without warning. This video was taken at Batu Bolong. The current changed while we were under which created strong back-eddies. The boat had to pull us up and get us out before the ship gets pulled into the current creating a spin. This video isn’t meant to scare you as the boatmen were highly trained in how to get everyone out safely, and we all got out safe. But it is there to show you how mental these conditions can be and how important it is to stick with your dive guide and listen to their directions, so you have a fun and safe dive.

Don’t be scared to come here as the Divemasters are mostly locals who have grown up in these waters and can see what a current is doing from the surface and the non-local staff is trained for months before they take customers out. There are many dive sites that are calmer than others, and the dive shops will assess which dive sites to go to based on the experience of the divers.

While I was there, I dove 19 of the dive sites, multiple times. Most of the diving is done in the central area of the park and depending on the season there are also great dive locations in the North and South. Because I was there during the changing season, I got to experience both ends of the park. Here is a list of my favorite along with some of the most popular, must not miss dive sites when you’re there!


Batu Bolong (Depth 5-30 meters)

Hands down, my favorite dive site! It’s a party down there! Batu Bolong is one of the dive sites where you need to watch the current. You can only dive right after a change and well before the next change in tide. The current splits behind the rock and creates down currents on the sides and a nice sheltered lee in the middle. You dive the lee side and zig-zag up the wall. There is so much going on down there! Literally hundreds of THOUSANDS of fish. There are so many fish that you will be swimming through them. On the wall is beautiful coral and out in the blue you can see reef sharks, trevally, and barracuda. This site is not to be missed!

Diving Komodo National Park

Manta Point (Depth 5-15 meters)

This drift dive is one of two dive sites where mantas come to play. You can see them breeding, cleaning, and eating at this dive site. The dive site isn’t’ very pretty as it’s made of coral rubble from the years of currents flowing in and out of the straight, but it’s a great place to see the Mantas. The current can get quite strong, so when you see a manta, your dive guide may use a reef hook for you to hold on to, so you’re not fighting against the current.

Diving Komodo National Park

Mawan (Depth 12-18 meters)

My favorite place to see mantas. The dive site is sloping sandy reef which allows for a magical interaction that you might not see at Manta Point. One of my best interactions was here. You can view it in the video below.


Siaba Besar (Depth 10-20 meters)

Are you a macro nut? This is the dive site for you! This famous muck dive is full of cool small things. Frogfish, hairy frogfish, devil scorpionfish, wonderpus, white v octopus, robust pipefish, ornate pipefish, nudibranch, flamboyant cuttlefish, dwarf lionfish.

Diving Komodo National Park

Siaba Kecil (Depth 15-30 meters)

Dubbed the Superman drift for a reason. Not for the faint of heart! This bad boy has been clocked at speeds as fast as 1 KM in 7 minutes! Your dive guide will assess the current before jumping in; the average speed is 12-15 minutes before ending in a lee section to catch your breath and hang out in a coral garden.

Diving Komodo National Park

Tatawa Besar (Depth 5-25 meters)

A nice drift dive that has two parts, soft coral area, and a hard coral area. This is a great place to see turtles as they feed on the hard coral.

Diving Komodo National Park

Wanilu (Depth 8-15 meters)

Another muck dive where you can find fun macro life, flounders, stingrays, and the rare and beautiful mandarin fish!

Diving Komodo National Park


The Cauldron – Shot Gun (Depth 5-30 meters)

This site is famous for its area called The Shotgun. The site is a bowl underwater that has been carved out after years of currents rushing through the small passage. The shotgun is a lip on the rim of the cauldron where the current runs through, you pop up over this lip and hook into a rock then let the water rush over you while you enjoy the show. Mantas, sharks, and you might even see a dugong!

Diving Komodo National Park
Castle Rock (Depth 5-30 meters)

The Beautiful submerged pinnacle that starts underwater at 4 meters deep. The water temperature is usually warmer than the central parts and visibility is usually great!

Diving Komodo National Park

Crystal Rock (Depth 5-30 meters)

Just like Castle Rock this rock is a pinnacle that just peeks out of the water during low tide. It is blanketed with beautiful soft and hard corals.

Diving Komodo National Park


Pillarstein (Depth 5-30 meters)

Get ready for some fun swim troughs! This dive is all about the topography. It has many caves you can swim through at different depths. You do need to watch how hard the waves are crashing on the surface as there can be a good amount of surge underwater.

Divemaster Komodo National Park

3 Sisters (Depth 5-30 meters)

Named because of the three submerged pinnacles underwater that you can dive. You can do all three in one dive if the conditions are right as they are close to each other. With that said, this is one of the dive sites that needs to be done in perfect conditions.

Diving Komodo National Park

Pengah Kecil (Depth 5-25 meters)

This site is right up there with Batu Bolong. It has beautiful coral gardens flanked with marine life. You will witness schools of fish, turtles, eels, and sharks at this site.

Diving Komodo National Park

Completing My Divemaster In Komodo National Park

Divemaster Komodo National Park

When picking out places to do my Divemaster, one location came to mind. Komodo! Komodo is known for its crazy currents, yet beautiful dive sites. Completing my Divemaster here would not only ensure I would come out of the program a better diver, but I would also get to see some beautiful marine life while I was at it.

When picking out a dive shop, it’s important to check them out and their reputation before you commit to any course, be it Open Water or Instructor. I originally started my Divemaster with another shop on the Cook Islands and had to leave two months in because I wasn’t getting the best education. Hannah Logan from Eat Sleep Breathe Travel writes a great post on what to look for and how to pick a great dive shop. I completed my Divemaster with Scuba Junkie Komodo. Since I had done my Advanced Open Water Course with their shop in Borneo, Malaysia last year, I knew I’d be getting an excellent education at their new location in Komodo and that I did!

Divemaster Komodo National Park

Scuba Junkie offers two curriculums, a 4-week, and a 6-week program. I highly recommend the six weeks as I was just finding my pace going into week 4 and that extra two weeks really solidified everything together. The additional two weeks you will get more practice with guiding dives and shadow other Divemaster and Instructors on their dives. While I was there, I did 83 dives!

Here’s the breakdown of the dives I did: 23 Divemaster Course Requirements, 10 Practice Guides, and 50 Shadow Guiding. I dove almost every day and became a better diver having been allowed to practice so much in these conditions.

The course itself is broken down into different sections: Theory, Briefings, Course Assists, Assessments, Swim Tests, Scenarios, and Projects.


As part of the crew pack, you will get a small Divemaster manual that has nine chapters covering everything from Physics to Logistics. At the end of each chapter is a review knowledge section that you fill out. Once all the chapters are done you will go over the knowledge reviews with an instructor to talk about the answers and go over anything you may have gotten wrong.


There is a two-part exam that is fifty questions each, all multiple choice. Don’t worry, as long as you’ve done the knowledge reviews and know chapter 9, you’ll do great! There is also an Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving that will help supplement Chapter 9 and is just an all-around great book about diving in general.


The physiology & physics lectures are not part of PADI’s core program, but something Scuba Junkie added in that I felt was important. These lectures are the fundamental principles of scuba diving. I guess they were part of the PADI program but were taken out years ago because you learn them in your Open Water Course. I’m glad I got to sit through them again, because honestly, I didn’t remember much of my OWD course, other that getting through it and being excited that I was able to dive!


The three briefings you will do during your course are Skills Briefings, Dive Site Briefings, and Equipment Briefings. You will be practicing so many briefings it will make your head spin. With that said, I welcomed the briefings, because they are now ingrained in my head. Case in point, I did my first guide as a Divemaster at Koh Haa in Thailand, and since there were different shops on the boat, we each gave briefings to our customers individually. Because I gave so many dive briefings at Scuba Junkie (probably easily 30-40 of them), I felt confident when I was giving my first briefing to my customers. It might get monotonous doing site briefings every day, but don’t knock them if you’re going to work in the industry, this is the time to practice doing them, smooth out the kinks and get critiquing from your peers.


During the course, you will get to help out instructors in supporting their Open Water Diver (OWD), Advanced Open Water Diver (AOWD), and Discover Scuba Diver (DSD) course. This means you are there to observe and help by setting up the SMB underwater, to carrying extra weights, and help with demonstrations.


During the course you will graded on a scale of 1-5 on how well you perform each of the 24 Underwater Skills that are to be performed underwater. These skills will be practiced multiple times to get you up to demonstration quality.

You will be assessed in your Rescue Skills and go through Exercise 7. We did the assessment over two days to make sure we got it down. This is also the exercise you will do if you go for your instructor certificate, so it’s good to make sure you know this one cold.

Also not part of the PADI course, but was additional course Scuba Junkie made mandatory is a Peak Performance Buoyancy class. I’m not going to lie, before I took this class, I was decent in my buoyancy, but was still hesitant to get too close to the reef or small critters with fear of not having good enough buoyancy to stop me from crashing into them. During the course, we learned how to back-fin, helicopter turn, and control our buoyancy with our lungs while being given extra weight. After taking this class, I felt confidant getting in close to see macro life without hesitation or fear that I couldn’t control my buoyancy. This class was seriously a game changer and a pivot point in my diving.


You will be doing four scenarios while in the program; the first is a Deep Dive Scenario where you will go down to 40 meters (131 feet) while carrying an extra tank that you will switch and breathe out of right before your safety stop.

The second is a Search and Recovery Scenario where you will go through navigation skills, as you did in your AOWD course, then search for objects in the water.

The third is a Discover Scuba Dive (DSD) Scenario where you will perform all the steps of training a brand new student with one of your peers. You will start by briefing them on the three skills they will perform, talk about how to swim underwater, and the dive site, then you will take them underwater and take them through the skills and tour of the dive site. Here is where your instructor will give you problems underwater like they are your real student that you will have to solve.

The last is a Refresher Scenario where you will again pretend one of your peers is a certified OWD that hasn’t dived in a while and wants to refresh their skills. Depending on the shop this can be anywhere from 5 to all 24 skills if you’re doing the reactivate program. Basically, you will take them through a recovery, buoyancy, out of air, and mask clearing skills. You will brief them on how to do the skills ahead of time then take them underwater and show them how to perform them.


There are two projects you will do as part of your Divemaster program. The first is a Mapping Project, where you will map a dive site from drawing out the contours and depths, to establishing routes with compass headings and kick cycles. This project was really fun. The other project is to create an Emergency Action Plan or EAP, which you also should have done in your Rescue course. This plan lists actions and steps that should be taken incase of an emergency from who to call, to phone scripts to what to do if an accident occurs.


There are five swim tests you must pass with a score of 15 points. You will get a score of 1-5 points for each of the 5. If you are a strong swimmer, then you don’t need to worry. The first four tests are a 400-Meter Free Swim without the use of hands, 800-Meter Snorkel Swim without using your arms, 100-meter Tired Diver Tow, and 10-Minute Float with the last two minutes where your hands need to be above water.


Your final swim test is dubbed The Stress Test. Mind you not every shop does a stress test. The test itself is actually an Equipment Exchange where you exchange BCD, Mask, and Fins by buddy breathing (sharing one regulator). That in itself is pretty straightforward and easy, but then try it while you’re getting sand dumped on you, air blown in your face, BCDs being inflated, weight belts and tank straps being loosened all the while masks are being pulled off your head. That’s what makes it a stress test. You do this during your last days before you complete the program so that you’re ready for it. I had a lot of fun doing it and actually did it twice with two different DMT’s that were going through the program. And you know what I found? That after six weeks of diving in crazy currents and given so many different scenarios during my course, I don’t stress even when sand is being dumped on my head ☺

So there you have it! Are you ready to become a Divemaster? ☺ I promise, it will be the best time of your life!

Divemaster Komodo National Park

Expenses! What Does One Year Of Travel Cost?

expenses year one - Robyn Around the World

One question that always gets asked is how much does it cost to travel the world? In this post, I’m going to break down my first year of travel expenses. I’m not going to get down to the nitty-gritty, just the basics so you can get an idea of what things cost. I separated out my flights and scuba costs then broke the rest down into three categories. Meals, Accommodations, and Miscellaneous.

Miscellaneous is shopping, entertainment, postcards, gifts, SIM cards, etc. I didn’t break out SIM cards or transport but in general, I didn’t spend more than $20 a month on either, except for the Cook Islands, that place was just ridiculously expensive as you’ll see below.


Indonesia was my first stop and by far my cheapest country to stay and play. My accommodation average is a little high because there were two nights where I spent $100 on housing. Even with the splurge, I was still right at $30 a day. Meals at the local warungs range from $0.75 – $1.10 for a dish with rice. Most of the temples are free to go in, and the ones that do charge are under $2.00.

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


I spent the most time here and had two months of free accommodation while doing the work exchange in Chiang Mai. I visited Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Koh Tao, Koh Samui, and Phuket. I spent a good chunk of the miscellaneous money on motorbike rentals (~$400 for six months) visiting and donating to elephant and Gibbon refuges. (~$350) Along with buying gifts and shipping them back to family (~$300) and the medical bill from my surgery is in there too (~$550). The rest is from buying clothes, toiletries, SIM cards, museums, and almost weekly massages ☺

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


I was only here for ten days. Me and two friends took the slow boat from Thailand to Luang Prabang and visited the famous Kung Si waterfalls and walked the markets nightly. I bought quite a few gifts for family here and sent them back to the states. Food is cheap here too. My morning breakfast consisted of a lemon-ginger smoothie with a Nutella banana crepe for $1.50. There’s a significant French influence with a whole row of crepe, juice, and sandwich stands right on the main road. In the evening, there are many stalls that sell buffet style food where you can pile all you can on your plate for $1.

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


I spent most of my time in Penang. I love the art and food culture here so much that I went twice! Even with all my eating (3-4x a day!) I still didn’t spend that much on food. I averaged $13/day to eat like a king! Most plates cost $1-2. My most expensive meal was when I went to dim sum (6 times!). I would get 4-5 dishes for $4-5. Still a bargain!

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


Surprisingly, I didn’t spend as much as I would have thought here. I stayed in a hostel right in the center of town and didn’t skimp on meals or seeing the sights. I saw a show at the Opera House, hired a car and spent the day touring Hunter Valley wine country (purchasing a couple of bottles while I was there) and visited a wildlife park.

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


New Zealand on the other hand, I spent more than I thought I would. All of the miscellaneous was devoted to Hobbit gifts and sending them home (postage is expensive here!). I also visited the Hobbit movie set and went black water rafting which was pricey, but worth every penny!

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


This island is EXPENSIVE! Although I got a good rate on my accommodation through the dive shop, most cheap accommodations here average $20-25 a night for a hostel and $30-40 for a private room. I cooked at home nearly every day. The cost you see below is from buying groceries. Vegetable prices were through the roof! It was cheaper to buy 2 pounds of chicken than it was to buy one small pineapple. Internet was ridiculous too. The island is all satellite, so 1GB of data cost $50. I spent $300 for two months of Internet! The cost of living in paradise…

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


So after breaking it down, I was surprised that I didn’t more on my new scuba hobby about to turn profession. I spent just under $2500 to do 83 dives in 5 countries and also completed four recreational certifications (Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver, Emergency First Responder, Rescue Diver). Most people will spend that on one week of diving in an exotic location and only get 12-18 dives in.

Scuba Diving Cost - Robyn Around the World


I love Air Asia! My two biggest tickets were the flight from Seattle to Bali ($500) and my flight from Chiang Mai to Cook Islands ($800). The rest of the flights were between $30-$125 each. Air Asia is my go-to airline for flying around Southeast Asia.

Flight Cost - Robyn Around the World

Overall I spent a total of $18,450 which was $6,000 more than budget. Not bad considering I didn’t plan to pick up scuba diving along the way and stayed in mostly private rooms. Could I have done it cheaper? Absolutely, but I’m traveling to experience life in other countries, and when there were things I wanted to do that would give me an amazing experience (like black water rafting through caves), I did it. I could have also stayed in more hostels, but when I found places like the overwater bungalow for a month at a deep discount, I viewed it as a chance of a lifetime, and I wasn’t going to say no!

Temples of Bali

 Bali Temples

Bali has thousands of temples, called Pura, where locals worship and give daily offerings. Pura’s can be found on Balinese family compounds (family temple), in town (village temple) and professions (functional temple). I saw many while I was in Bali, my favorites of the public temples were Uluwatu, Ulun Danu, and Taman Ayun.


Luhur Uluwatu Temple

Uluwatu was my favorite temple, explicitly for the view. The temple sits on top of a cliff with crashing waves below. This temple has monkeys roaming free, like monkey forest, but they were more aggressive here. Even with me being the only visitor for the first hour, one showed his teeth, letting me know he didn’t care to have his picture taken. 😉 Lighting was really strong the day I went, even for 8am. I needed to do some Photoshop magic to get the colors and highlights balanced.

Luhur Uluwatu Temple  Luhur Uluwatu Temple


Ulun Danu Temple   Ulun Danu Temple

When I think of temples in Bali this is the one that comes to my mind, Ulun Danu. It’s the one that I see the most pictures of on the Internet. Although after going there, I didn’t expect it to be so small. There are two temples on the small island it inhabits. I got there around 10am, and it was packed with visitors taking selfies. If you don’t want a selfie, you can hire one of the many cameramen selling souvenir photographs to take one for you. You can also rent canoes and paddle boats to tour the lake and there’s a small playground for kids to play on.

Ulun Danu Temple    Canoes and paddle boats at Ulun Danu Temple


 Taman Ayun Temple

Taman Ayun is dubbed the floating temple because it’s surrounded by a big fish pond. You’re welcomed onto the temple grounds entering through a beautiful garden. Once inside, the temple was a little hard to photograph because it’s surrounded by a big concrete wall. This left little room for mobility and angles, so I played around with taking some shots through the holes in the wall.

 Taman Ayun Temple   Taman Ayun Temple

 Taman Ayun Temple

All the temples charge a minimal donation to go inside. The temples I visited charged a donation between 15,000 – 30,000Rp ($1.50-$3.00 USD)

Dancing around the World… Balinese Dancers

The Spirit of Bali - Balinese Dancers - Ubud, Bali

Want to be entranced for an hour? Go to a Balinese Dance Performance. Balinese dance is an ancient dance tradition native to Bali Island. I loved the first one so much that I went to two!

Balinese Dancers - Spirit of Bali

Right from the opening number I was mesmerized. The girls come out dressed in colorful costumes dancing in unison. They dance with their whole body with the focus being their face and hands. Their facial expressions are intense!   Balinese Dancers perform most nights at many of the temples around Bali.  There are about five different performances you can see.  Signs are posted outside of the temples which will tell you which dance is being performed and what day of the week.

Balinese Dancers - Spirit of Bali.

The Spirit of Bali opens up with a procession of the Balinese Dancers and musicians walking down the center of the isle playing Bale Ganur (cymbals). Once on stage the men play a musical ensemble for the first act. The music is beautiful and played by 30-40 men on stage.

Balinese Dancers - Spirit of Bali  Balinese Dancers - Spirit of Bali

We see the first dancers after the musical number. Four women come out and dance in perfect unison. There are a few different combinations of dances by the girls then out comes the monkey king. I loved this dance, his face was covered with a mask, so all of his intenseness was from his eyes. All the costumes were eye candy for my camera.

Balinese Dancers - Spirit of Bali   Balinese Dancers - Spirit of Bali

I used my Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens for close-ups of the dancers.  Although there was a decent amount of light, I set my Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera at a higher ISO so I could set my aperture and shutter speed at a setting that would minimize blurring. The performers dance so fast; you need to set your camera settings at high speed to stop them in action.

Camera Settings: ISO 6400, f/4.5, 1/125

Balinese Dancers - Spirit of Bali Balinese Dancers - Spirit of Bali

The second performance I went to is the most popular, Kecak and Fire Dance, beginning at dusk. It starts off with up to 100 men sitting in a circle around a 6-foot candelabra chanting and swaying. Two women come out and perform a few dances on their own and then a dance with Garuda, King of all birds.

Balinese Dancers - Kecak and Fire Dance   Balinese Dancers - Kecak and Fire Dance

The finale is men creating a large bonfire.   Once it dies down to charcoal, a dancing horseman kicks the fire across the room then walks on it. Two men sweep up the burning embers into a mound, and the horseman kicks the embers again and prances around on them. This goes on until the embers are gone. It’s amazing for pictures. I set my Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera at a high ISO 12800, shutter up to 320, and aperture f/9.It made the fire stop but still showed movement. I was sitting close to the front so was able to use both Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens  and Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens to take all the pictures.

Balinese Dancers - Kecak and Fire Dance     Balinese Dancers - Kecak and Fire Dance

Balinese Dancers - Kecak and Fire Dance

I would have gone to see the other Balinese Dancers, but I was only in Ubud for ten days, which is where most of the performances are located. Prices range from 75,000-100,000Rp per show, which is the equivalent of $7-10.



Ubud Traditional Art Market

Ubud Traditional Art Market

I was first exposed to Ubud Traditional Art Market the morning of my cooking class. It’s like Pike Place Market, but more condensed. There are stalls and stalls of flowers, vegetables, fruit, meat, spices, textiles, art, clothes, and food carts. Men and women sit on the ground ready to wheel and deal with you for anything you could possibly need or want.

Ubud Traditional Art Market

Offering baskets at Ubud Traditional Art Market    Ubud Traditional Art Market

The morning of my cooking class we walked quickly through the market, then the next morning (at 6am) my Balinese family let me tag along with them to do their daily shopping. The market opens at 5am. Putu says the locals go between 5-6am, and it was a completely different experience shopping with her.

Ubud Traditional Art Market        Ubud Traditional Art Market

I didn’t buy anything, but they didn’t try to haggle with me like they did when I was there the day before at 10am. Many asked her questions about who I was. I don’t know what they were asking, but they would look at me and say something to her and then they’d smile back at me after her reply. That morning she bought fruit, vegetables, a small piece of grilled chicken, and flowers for the family offering baskets she makes daily.

Ubud Traditional Art Market   Balinese woman carrying her purchases home; Ubud Traditional Art Market

She finished her shopping with purchasing Balinese cake from a small food stall hidden in a back alley. We headed home after and Putu put the basket of supplies on top of her head. All the women in Bali carry the baskets on their head. I don’t know why we don’t do it in America. It’s so much better for your back and shoulders. Putu, who is about 5’3,” and thin effortlessly puts this big, heavy basket on her head and walks perfectly and gracefully without needing to stabilize the basket with her hands. She carries on a conversation with me for the 15 minute walk home without flinching. In Bali, the girls start learning how to balance things on their head at a young age. When I passed an elementary school a few days later, I saw some middle school aged girls lined up in rows while one walked down the center with a water bottle on her head. All the girls clapped when she got to the end without dropping the bottle.

Ubud Traditional Art Market   Treats at Ubud Traditional Art Market

My favorite part of the market was the art and spice sections.  Since I’m traveling long-term and have little room in my backpack, I didn’t pick anything up.  If I did have room, I would have picked up a bunch of spices and one these beautiful masks.

Spice booth at Ubud Traditional Art Market Artwork found at Ubud Traditional Art Market


Jimbaran – Edit. Beach. Sleep. Repeat

 Jimbaran Beach, Bali

The second part of my trip to Bali has been in Jimbaran. I’m renting a room in a two bedroom house through Airbnb. The place is modern, big and equipped with a kitchen and air conditioning in the bedroom. A real treat! The only downside is the place doesn’t have internet, but there’s a SIM card shop close by and I was able to get a SIM card with 2.5GB internet for $8. The place is 10 minutes from the beach, so I rented a moped for the nine days I’m here. SO fun! I’ve only ridden a moped once, and only by a fluke accident of jumping on the wrong ferry and ended up on Orcas Island instead of Friday Harbor. The only way to get around orcas was to go by moped, so gave it a go. I’ve had exactly one day of motorbike experience before this week. Everyone in Jimbaran has been so friendly and helpful in directing me where to go. They’re also courteous to the western girl with red hair on a scooter trying to figure out how to ride the thing.  It was hairy the first couple of days learning how to turn and since there are no rules, traffic was a little confusing, but by day four I felt comfortable going most places and long distances.

Bali Moped; Olympus OM-D E-M1      Bali Laundry; Olympus OM-D E-M1


The neighborhood is awesome.  There are small food carts every other foot, and there’s one that‘s mobile and comes down my street around 4pm everyday ringing a bell like Mister Softee (remember them??). There is a place about two miles away that we eat at most days though. It’s a buffet of vegetables, beef, pork, chicken, and some other things I can’t decipher. The woman puts a scoop of rice on your plate then you point to what you want and she adds it to your plate. I’m not sure how they come up with the prices, but my meals there cost under $3. I also found a laundry shop around the corner that does a load for under $2 and turns it around in 24 hours. There is a juice shop next to the SIM card place that does mixed juice smoothies. My roommates introduced me to Dragonfruit and avocado smoothies.  I’m definitely getting my fruit on here!

Now on to the beach!


Jimbaran Beach; Olympus OM-D E-M1

Jimbaran Bay is gorgeous!  It’s one of the most popular beaches located right off the airport and is home of the Four Seasons and Intercontinental Hotel. The beach is clean and is lined with outdoor cafes that have tables right on the sand in front of the waves. They all serve pretty much the same menu: fruit juice, breakfast food, and grilled seafood. I spent most of my days at Roma Café. My waitress, Ula, didn’t mind me sitting and working for 4-5 hours on my computer and pretty much left me alone to do my thing.

Jimbaran Beach


Jimbaran Fish Market; Olympus OM-D E-M1  Jimbaran Fish Market; Olympus OM-D E-M1

A little further down, on the north end of the beach is the Jimbaran fish market. It’s a covered market with rows and rows of fisherman selling their daily catches.

Jimbaran Fish Market; Olympus OM-D E-M1  Jimbaran Fish Market; Olympus OM-D E-M1

You can find all sorts of seafood there: Snapper, squid, mahi-mahi, tuna, clams, a few different species of crabs, you name it, it was probably there.

Jimbaran Fish Market; Olympus OM-D E-M1    Jimbaran Fish Market; Olympus OM-D E-M1

We picked out tuna and squid, paid then walked across to the BBQ pit where they clean and grill your loot for you. I don’t know what seasoning they baste the fish in, but it was amazing. They package it up for you in paper to take home and give you a side of homemade Sambal Ulek.

Jimbaran Fish Market; Olympus OM-D E-M1 Jimbaran Fish Market; Olympus OM-D E-M1

This has been the highlight of my trip so far. It’s been a great experience here and I’m not looking forward to leaving!

Cooking…Balinese Style

  Balinese Cooking

I love to cook! I’ve been super excited to try the local food in each country and Bali has yet to disappoint. My first guest house suggested a Balinese cooking class by their friends at Payuk Bali. I signed up and the next morning I was picked up by the driver for a 5-hour excursion. The first thing we did was go to the public market, where we got a tour of all the vegetables and spice stands. Stall upon stalls of flowers and fruits and vegetables. There was tons of street food from chicken to sweets and art stalls selling trinkets to clothing.

Balinese Cooking Class   Balinese Cooking Class


After the market, we went to the family compound where we would learn to cook the following (click link for recipes):

Soup Ayam – Balinese chicken soup

Nasi Putih – Steamed rice

Sata Tusuk Ayam – Chicken satay with peanut sauce

Pepes Ikan – Steamed tuna in banana leaf

Ayam Bumbu Bali – Balinese fried chicken

Kolak Pisand – Braised banana in palm sugar gravy

Sambal Ulek – Balinese spicy sauce

Bumbu Bali – Balinese multipurpose sauce


The first thing we learned when we got there is how to make coconut oil. Everyone on the island makes their own, from fresh coconuts, and use it in everything. It takes 10 coconuts to make 1 liter of oil and is a 3-hour cooking process.

This class was great! There were 6 of us; four from Australia, one from Idaho and me. After we finished cooking we sat down to eat our feast and learn about everyone’s travels. The Australians were on vacation. The guy from Idaho and his wife have been traveling for the past year and were headed home in a few months. It was great to talk to him about the places he’s been and the food he’s tried. Out of the dishes we made, my favorite was the Balinese fried chicken and the Sambal Ulek.

Balinese Sambal Ulek   Balinese Sauces - Peanut, Bumbu, Sambal

Everything we made was from fresh plants and vegetables, including the turmeric. There was no kitchenaid or Vitamix in the class so everything we mixed was by mortar and pestle. You definitely get your arm workout in!

Balinese Food Processor                Balinese Cooking Class

The biggest thing I noticed is how they make the rice! They steam it in baskets instead of boiling in a pan with water, like we do in America. The outcome is a light fluffy rice instead of a heavy feel. They also make a sauce to go with each protein, but before the sauce they also marinate the protein first. the sauce is used in the finish. Each of the dishes had so many layers of flavor in them! I’m going to start marinating my protein first when I get around to cooking again. It’s so cheap to eat here, that I’ve been eating out most of my meals.

Balinese Steamed Rice   Balinese Steamed Rice

This was a great first cooking class experience and can’t wait to take more classes in each country I visit!

Dinner is Served!                 Balinese Chicken Satay


Balinese Cooking Class Details

Payuk Bali

+62 361 8987854

Laplapan Village, Ubud, Ginyar Bali – 80571



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