September 8, 2018 – Traveling from Chiang Mai to Bali wasn’t the easiest connection to plan for, but it worked out for our trip.
In order to get from Chiang Mai to Bali, we would have to fly from Chiang Mai to Bangkok on a domestic flight. Then fly from Bangkok to Bali. The tricky part in planning was that we’d have to fly through Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok rather than Sukhumvit (the airport we had already been through twice). So our flights in and out of Chiang Mai had to be one-way; through Sukhumvit on the way to Chiang Mai coming from Cambodia and Don Mueang on the way to Bali. Confused? I’ll write a planning post on how I figured all of this out later.
Our journey from Chiang Mai to Bali started with a flight at 8:40 am. The front desk at our hotel told us since the airport was so close, we didn’t need more than an hour in order to make our flight. This made me nervous, but I trusted them.
So we were down in the lobby of BED by 7:30 am to get into our songthaew to go to the airport. Our songthaew driver was the same sweet man we had the day before.
The drive took about 12 minutes. The Chiang Mai airport was very close to town. Our songthaew driver bid us a safe journey, then we were off.
We entered the Chiang Mai airport and immediately had to go through security. At first, we thought it was strange but then I realized how incredibly smart this was. Why don’t we make everyone go through security the second they step inside the airport whether they are flying or not? Someone looking to do a lot of harm doesn’t have to get on a plane to do so.
After security, we went to check in to our flight. For our Bangkok leg of our Chiang Mai to Bali journey we would be flying with Nok Air. Our fourth airline of the trip. Check-in went quickly and then we headed up the escalator to find our gate.
The Chiang Mai Airport was only two stories so we made it to our gate area within 5 minutes. Then we went through another security checkpoint where they just checked our passports and plane tickets.
We were at our gate by 7:50 am. What a dream it would be to be able to get from the entrance to your gate in 20 minutes at every airport in the world!
We had a while before we boarded, so I decided to go grab a latte. Since this leg of our journey was domestic, there was no airport lounge.
I paid cash and the coffee shop lady shortchanged me. We still aren’t 100% sure if this was intentional or an accident. She was quick to give me my correct change, no argument, but zero apology. If it was intentional, she was the only person in Chiang Mai who tried to scam us.
Around 8:20 am, our flight started to board. I didn’t see any other tourists and I think that may have been because we were flying into Don Mueang instead of Sukhumvit.
Nok Air was our least favorite airline so far on the trip. It was only an hour flight, but all we got was a tiny, but beautiful, bottle of water. Thai Smile gave us nearly a full hot meal to and from Cambodia which was also an hour flight.
We arrived at the Don Mueang airport at 9:50 am. The next leg of our Chiang Mai to Bali journey was at 11:45 am so we had just under two hours. Don Mueang was much smaller than the Sukhumvit airport and luckily, since we were on a domestic flight, we didn’t have to go through customs.
Even though the airport was smaller, it did take a while to get our bags, find the AirAsia check-in counter, and then go through security.
Once we got our bags, we were trying to find where all of the airline check-in counters were. There weren’t any signs (in English, anyway), so we just started walking. Eventually, we found a sign for international flights which pointed us up an escalator and down another long hallway.
We finally found the check-in counters, but we were on the wrong side of them. We were on the side for people who had already checked-in and there wasn’t a way to get over to the correct side from where we were. So we had to walk all the way to the very end of the row of check-in counters to a small opening where we could get to the correct side. It almost looked like we should have gone outside of the airport, up some escalators and re-entered through the upper-level international departures. It worked out, but it was very confusing and weird.
Once we were on the right side, we found the AirAsia check-in. Just like our other flights, we had pre-paid for seat selection and checked bags, so check-in was a breeze. Our big bags left on the conveyor and then we were stopped for a carry-on bag check before walking towards the main security check.
Security didn’t take long and luckily the lounge we were going to was immediately on the other side.
It was 10:50 am, so from de-planing to exiting security it took us roughly one hour. The airport was packed at this time too so that one hour included us being lost at one point and standing in a few lines.
The Priority Pass Lounge at Don Mueang was beautiful. We entered, had our passes checked, and then immediately went down an escalator. I liked that the lounge was down a floor away from the noise and chaos of security.
Barely anyone was in the lounge which was nice. There were plenty of seats along the windows so we could watch the planes taking off. The food was lacking, but they had enough for us to have a decent breakfast. There was plenty of food, it just wasn’t very good.
My favorite part of this lounge was the complimentary beverage options. While they did have a full bar, we didn’t indulge in any adult beverages. They did have some cool specialty drinks though. I ordered a latte and the beautiful Thai bartender made me the most picture perfect drink.
Not only did they have an array of made-to-order drinks, but they also had a refrigerator with carafes of butterfly pea tea. I wasn’t quite sure what this was but I really wanted to try it. They must have anticipated people not knowing what the tea was because they had a sign explaining the benefits of the drink next to the carafe.
Around 11:20 am, we decided to head to our gate. We both grabbed some waters to-go and I snagged some cookies and some cool pre-packaged Thai candy they had out by the food. I wasn’t sure what the candy was, but it looked interesting.
Our gate was right around the corner from the lounge. The flight boarded on time and then we were off to Bali!
The flight from Bangkok to Bali was four hours. We originally were not going to go to Bali because of how long it took to get there, but we figured this might be our only opportunity.
We thought AirAsia was going to be our favorite airline of the trip because it was the most well-known. WRONG! It was awful. The seats were so small to the point Eric had to sit almost sideways in order for his knees to fit. Luckily, our seatmate’s girlfriend was the only lucky soul on the plane without any other seatmates. So he moved over to sit next to her and we ended up having an empty middle seat.
The overhead bins were covered in advertisements which made it look more like a New York subway car than a plane. Also, nearly every 30 minutes the flight attendants walked the aisles with a cart full of AirAsia branded items we could purchase. It was weird. Why would anyone want an AirAsia t-shirt?
With our tickets, we received one hot meal. I got the vegetarian option which was just rice with a couple of vegetables. Eric got the meat option which was spaghetti with chicken. Mine was awful so I had a few bites of Eric’s and then I just ate the little treats I got from the lounge. Yet another day with barely any food.
There weren’t any screens in the seats either, but at least the view was pretty.
As if there weren’t enough reasons to loathe our flight, safety was definitely not on the crew’s minds. I got up to use the restroom twice which was right next to the cockpit. Both times I got up the cockpit door was wide open and the flight attendants were just standing there chatting with the pilots. Anyone could have gone in. I’ve never experienced that kind of carelessness on a flight in all the times I’ve flown. Not to mention the floor of the bathroom was covered in pee.
As we started to land in Bali, the view was unreal. The runway was right next to the water so landing was really interesting. It almost looked like we were going to land in the water, but then the runway appeared out of nowhere.
The Bali airport was much bigger than I thought it would be. But I guess with how many tourists go there, they had to have an airport to accommodate.
Customs in Bali took forever. The lines were longer than any other country we had been to so far. We were a little confused on the visa process for Bali before we went. There was conflicting information because it used to be that everyone entering the country had to get a visa. Now, United States citizens (along with a long list of other countries) are not required to obtain visas if they are staying less than 30 days. The signs when approaching customs were not clear on that, but we did not need a visa and went straight through customs without any issues.
Once we were through customs, we headed to baggage claim. Everywhere else, our bags came almost instantly. Not in Bali! It took about 45 minutes for our bags to finally show up. Needless to say, we were starting to wonder if they would show up at all.
After we got our bags, we headed out to find our driver. I knew ahead of time that our Chiang Mai to Bali travel day was going to be long and I didn’t want to have to worry about figuring out how to get to Komaneka at Monkey Forest, our resort in Ubud. So I booked one-way transportation through them.
It was extremely expensive (I’m talking double what a normal driver would cost) and knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t do it the same way. But being unfamiliar with Bali at the time, it was the safest option and didn’t require any thinking on our part. We knew we could trust our resort and that was what was most important to me at the time.
In Bali, scammers will look at the boards the legitimate drivers are holding and will write the names down in order to trick those who have booked drivers ahead of time. Because of this, our resort told us they would be holding a sign with the resort’s name on it and nothing else.
We spotted our driver quickly because he was holding a beautiful wooden carved sign with the resort’s name on it. He introduced himself and took my bag as we walked to find the car.
There was cold water and cold towels waiting for us in the car which was so nice after such a long day. We left the airport around 5:00 pm and our driver told us it was going to take a little under two hours to get to Ubud.
We hadn’t looked up the exact distance between our resort and the airport so when our driver told us it would take two hours, it didn’t register to us just how long that was. The drive was only 22 miles, but with the insane traffic in Bali, it would take us two hours.
As soon as we left the airport we heard the Muslim prayer call come through the loudspeakers in the city of Denpasar (the capital of Bali). I had done a ton of research on things to do in Bali and how to get around, but I realized I didn’t do very much research on the culture and customs of Indonesia overall. I had no idea that 87% of Indonesians practice Islam.
It never occurred to me because, through all of my research on what to do in Bali, Hindu temples were always at the forefront. I just assumed most of the people practiced Hinduism. I’ve since learned that only 1.69% of Indonesians are Hindu and most of those people are on the small islands of Indonesia.
Although 1.69% makes it sound like there are not many practicing Hindu’s in Indonesia, there are actually over 10 million. This means Indonesia has the fourth largest concentration of Hindus in the world and over 93% of practicing Hindu’s in Indonesia live on Bali (hence my confusion).
The ride to Ubud was beautiful. The sun was setting just as we were leaving the coast so the sky looked incredible.
We reached Komaneka at Monkey Forest around 7:00 pm and were warmly greeted by the staff.
Before we could go to our room, we had to sign a few things and then wait while they checked us in. They gave us some delicious ginger tea while we waited.
Once we were all set at reception, one of the staff walked us to our room. It was dark so it was very hard to see the grounds. The lady showing us to our room even had a hard time finding it.
We finally arrived and the room was incredible. A beautiful four-poster bed with canopy, a massive bathroom with separate shower and giant tub, and a large balcony with sitting area.
After we were shown the different features of our room, we were left to unpack and figure out our dinner plans.
We were both really tired but our intense hunger outweighed the exhaustion. So we quickly settled on a place next to our resort called Watercress. Eric got a beer and I had a watermelon cocktail. We both had the burger because all the reviews we read suggested it. Everything was amazing and we both loved the atmosphere of Watercress. It was laid back and very bohemian.
After dinner, we knew we had to get to sleep. Our first stop in the morning would be the sunrise at Tegalalang Rice Terraces. No rest for the adventurous!
Continue reading the travel diary here: Day 13: Tegalalang Rice Terraces and Exploring Ubud Temples