A few months ago, my friends were craving a little sunshine so booked return flights to Marrakech, Morocco. Although I have already been to Marrakech a few years ago, as we went in the middle of the summer, it was too hot to do anything. I do think that March is the perfect month to go and explore the city as it's starting to get a little warm, but it's not jam packed with tourists.
I'm a planner, I like to know where I'm staying and have everything organised weeks before I go - surely I'm not the only one?! So when it came to finding a place to stay, I was the first one looking at places, trawling through different websites to find a hotel. When I had previously gone, I was travelling on a budget so we went for a basic hostel (although it had an amazing pool which served it's purpose everyday), so this time I wanted to stay at somewhere a little nicer. All of the places you stay inside of the city are called a 'Riad', which is basically a small hotel. I found Riad Le Coq Fou on booking.com and reserved a three bed room straight away, which was the best thing as I didn't have to put a deposit down or pay upfront! Would I recommend it to other people? Definitely! It was tucked away in the north of the Medina, a five minute walk away from the main square. We had the 'Idris' room, which had a double bed and two single beds as well as a bathroom. For three people, we never felt cramped and had plenty of room. Each morning breakfast was served on the roof terrace, where we ended up spending a lot of time when it was super sunny.
What to do?
As I mentioned, the first time I went to Marrakech, we didn't do much other than lie in the sun and swim in the pool, so I wanted to ensure I would properly see the city. The main way to see the city is by walking around, simply get lost in the souk and you will see some amazing things. You may get overwhelmed by all the chaos around you, but it's definitely worth it so soak it up. I'd highly recommend going to the Majorelle Gardens just out of the old town, it's a beautiful botanical garden which was designed by Jacques Majorelle and is now owned by Yves Saint Laurent. There will be more photos of that soon! You have to go for a hammam, a traditional scrub and massage in a spa. We went to Les Bains de l'Alhambra where we paid around 45euro for it all, but I had previously went to Les Bains de Marrakech, where I would also recommend.
You will see a lot of people here on buying trips (which is my dream now) and it's all because everything is so beautiful. If you're in the market for beautifully made ceramic dishes (like the ones pictured people), head to the north east of the medina and you will come across many stalls selling ones like those. I walked away with one beautiful dish and wish I had room for more. Buy a rug or cushions or even material to make your own. It's not for everyone's tastes, but take something home as a treasure.
One thing I will suggest is making an overnight trip to the Atlas Mountains & Sahara Desert. I'm going to have a whole post dedicated to our trip, as it was so beautiful. So many people told me to go there before I left and I'm glad I took notice as it was worth taking two days out of the city, and even more worth the horrible car sickness.
Where to eat?
It's easy to get caught up in the restaurants in Marrakech, to be drawn into the tourist laden places because you will be overwhelmed with choice, especially in the main square. Start with having an orange juice because this is the best place you will ever find fresh orange juice. There are so many stalls, all of which who will be shouting at you to come to their stall but head to #44. They all taste the same but the people who run this one are lovely, we went back to him everyday! As for food, it's the same thing where all the people working there will be wanting you to eat at their stall. Go to #14 if you're in the mood for some delicious fish and go to #1 for everything else. We ate at #1 nearly every night, never spending more than 5 euros each for the whole meal.
If you want to go to a restaurant, a little more upmarket, I would suggest Cafe Des Epices in the middle of the medina. We didn't eat there, just a drink one hot afternoon, but the food looked amazing and wasn't overly expensive. Another option would be Le Jardin, which is the sister restaurant to NOMAD, which is a lot more upmarket than the rest.
We filled ourselves up most mornings at breakfast and only purchased a snack in the afternoon for lunch. It could be anything from a honey biscuit, a sugar doughnut or a bag of dates from the street - all of which I would suggest.
Things To Note
- Dress code isn't as strict as people think it is. It was warm enough for me to wear just a dress and I never felt as though I was stared at too much. Just be aware that it's a Muslim country and that all local women cover up. No short shorts or thin strapped tops, wear thin layers which cover but you won't overheat in. Girls do take a scarf with you at all times to prepared to cover up when needed though.
- Don't be naive and accept mint tea off strangers in the souk because although it's a rare occurrence, sometimes people do get drugged from that. It's a tradition for people to offer mint tea as a welcome, but do have your guard up about things.
- Remember, no drinking their tap water!
- You will only find Moroccan Dirhams in airports or in Morocco as it's a closed currency. I would also recommend taking enough cash with you as ATM's are hard to find and you will avoid bank charges. Also spend all your money before coming back, as it will be worthless changing it back
- Be prepared to be shouted at to move to the correct side of the path as scooters/motorbikes/carts always have right of way.
- Never accept the first price for anything, except food. They will always put the price up slightly, so be prepared to haggle it down.
- Always ask before you take a photograph of someone or their stall, sometimes they won't want it taken and it will get you into a tricky situation.
So back when I was in sixth form, I took photography for one of my A levels and it was probably the only subject I really enjoyed, although it killed my love for photography slightly. But it was then when I learnt about shooting in film, which led to me only shooting in film for two years straight. Although I haven't been in a darkroom since I left, I still know how to process anything and it's a skill I don't want to learn.
When I was back at home over Christmas, I found a few rolls of film which had got lost amongst everything and found some gems. I found a roll of film from a trip to Italy back when I was 17, which was lovely to look at. With so much to get developed, I made sure to develop my film from Bali. I love these photos too much not to share!
These were taken on a Lomography 35mm Aqua Underwater camera, which isn't available anymore, however you may find it on Amazon or eBay! Although they aren't the most in focus photographs (due to the camera having no focus feature), it's made me fall back in love with film photography. There's nothing quite like being surprised by the pictures you took at a later time. With a few trips in the works for coming months, I'm going to be sure to dig out my old cameras and take them rather than a digital camera.
I've been meaning to write this since I got back into a routine after returning from Bali and although I did initially start writing it the day I got back, I never sat down properly to write it. But here it is, a little information if you're wondering about travelling to Bali any time soon. I would highly recommend it - seriously, go book it now!
Where to go and stay?
I was in Bali was two weeks and I was able to see four different areas of the island, which I could have easily pushed to one or two more if I didn’t aim to relax a lot there, rather than jumping between places. The majority of the people I met throughout the trip were travelling for longer than two weeks, although spending a lot more time in areas or going to the nearby smaller islands. A lot of the North of the island is hard to get to, as it’s very local and not tourist orientated in the slightest, so it would need a car & a guide to get to many places which can become expensive. Which is why the South of the island is so much more popular.
Seminyak - I started in Seminyak, which is on the west coast of the island and is one of the busier/popular areas. Compared to Kuta, where I also did stay at the end of the trip, it was a little more up market with the huge resorts and delicious restaurants. I stayed at M Hostel in Seminyak, which was fine as I was able to meet people there, however it made me remember why I don’t like staying in dorms in hostels. I was a five minute walk way from the beach, which was huge and where you were able to hire a sun-bed for however long you wish on the day for 50,000IDR. I spent a lot of time down there, as it was so beautiful but also as I took a few surfing lessons. Seminyak is very popular for surfing as the waves can be huge, but it equally means that it’s dangerous to swim in. It’s more paddling in the shallow areas and playing in the waves (which will also knock you off your feet at the same time), than swimming out far which I’m used to in Europe. I was staying in the south area of Seminyak and if you were thinking of staying here, I would suggest to go near Seminyak square which is a little further North. I found that it’s a whole lot nicer there, although many home-stays and hostels can be found there. One thing you’re able to notice about Bali is the Australian influence, as they really are all over the island, with it being so close to the country. But I found it mainly through the food, as so many of the cute cafes were super healthy and often owned by Australians. I was overwhelmed with places to eat in Seminyak, which is something I really loved. As for the nighttime there, although there are a lot of clubs there, it’s not my scene so I spent most evenings on the beach with friends. One thing which is a must for Seminyak, or anywhere on the West coast is to watch the sunset as it’s amazing! I stayed in Seminyak for five nights altogether, as I assumed I would love it when in fact I wish I only spent as little as two nights there.
Canggu - Although I didn’t stay any nights in Canggu, I did visit a friend there and loved how quiet it was! Still very popular with surfers, there was a huge difference between there and Seminyak. It took a short 20-30 min taxi ride between the areas, which cost as little as 60,000IDR, so it would be great for a day trip too. The beaches here a little less used for sunbathing, more just for a stop off for surfers. However we found a beautiful huge public pool with an olympic sized swimming pool and a few smaller pools for children with slides. When my friends and I headed there for the day to cool off, I assumed it would be very busy but at one point, we were the only ones there at 3pm in the afternoon! My friends stayed in an Air BnB which was around 30AUD a night for a traditional home villa and also used a scooter to get around, which was safer than having a scooter in Seminyak in my eyes.
Ubud - The next stop for me was Ubud, which is around an hours drive from Seminyak and cost around 150,000IDR in a taxi. I was staying at Depa House, a beautiful family run homestay which I would highly recommend to anyone visiting there. A friendly husband and wife run the homestay and I was greeted by the husband on arrival, who is also a policeman as his main profession. I decided to book a double room for myself on all nights I wasn’t in the hostel, which did cost slightly more for myself, but it meant I was able to have a huge double bed with an en-suite for myself. I stayed in Ubud for four nights altogether, with me extending my stay there by an extra night on my third day as I loved it so much. Ubud was by far my favourite place I visited in Bali, it was such a spiritual beautiful place. Almost every morning I was there, I went to a yoga class which has made me love yoga & pilates even more than before. Ubud is famous for the beautiful landscape and greenery, which I was able to experience while on a hike with people I met in the same accommodation there. Although we hiked for seven hours in 30 degree heat, I only complained a few times and enjoyed every moment of walking around off the beaten track. [see the images, we hiked from the top of the hill down to the bottom to the river and I had never been so dirty in my life]
Nusa Lembongan - I hopped over to Nusa Lembongan, which was a tiny island 12km just off Bali which is accessible by boat, which run every few hours or so from Sanur beach. I was expecting a secluded small island which didn’t offer too much and wasn’t ruined by masses of tourists, which is exactly what I was presented with. With no cars on the island, with the exceptions of a few trucks which will take you from the beach to your accommodation, it was a big difference from the main island. I stayed at Radya Homestay, which was another family run homestay which offered small villas with an en-suite. Again, I had paid for a villa to myself, so I was able to sprawl across a king size bed for three nights alone. On a daily basis here, I stopped by a local eco deli for some delicious vegan banana bread before going to the beach to have a morning paddle board. Throughout the afternoons, I found an amazing beach club where non-guests were able to use the beds throughout the day if they ate & drank there. It was worth it for the swimming pool use (I don’t always want to be wadding in and out of the sea) and the comfortable cabanas on the beach front, along with the free wifi.
Kuta - For my last night, I stayed in Kuta which is the nearest town to the airport, but also the busiest on the island. Mainly known as the area to party in, it wasn’t my cup of tea and I was super happy to be only spending the night there. I stayed at the Warung Coco Hostel for the night, where I was able to take advantage of the swimming pool the next day until my flight in the evening. Although I was able to experience the beautiful sunset for one last night there, I did notice that the beach was slightly dirty compared to just a little further north in Seminyak.
Isn't it expensive?
Before booking any of the holiday, I had always assumed that Bali would be expensive as it just seems that way. But once you're there, it's fairly cheap as it is Asia after all, it's just the flight which can be expensive. I flew with Singapore Air from Heathrow Airport, booked my flight directly through their website around two months before leaving and a return flight was £650. I was surprised as I had assumed it would be more expensive than that. For how brilliant the service was in flight and how comfortable I was during both flights, it was worth every penny and more. I flew from LHR to Singapore, with around a 7 hour layover each time (it was painful and I became brilliant at sleeping on the floor) and from Singapore to Bali, with the same route happening on return.
In my opinion, you're able to travel around Bali on whatever your budget is. You're able to find accommodation for as little as £4 if you look on various hostel websites, but also stay in a super luxe resort if you wish. As for food, I found that just because you pay more, you don't always get the best food. The local restaurants serve the best food at such a low price, you will be shocked. For food, it's clear that there is a huge influence from Australia as it's so close and so many people come here to holiday/live. This meant there was an influx of healthy/veggie/vegan places to eat, many of which I headed to for breakfast or lunch.
Many people told me about the shopping in Bali before I flew out there, as it's famous for it's made-to-order leather goods. I didn't have room in my backpack for many things, so I wasn't aiming to purchase anything. The main thing I bought was actually back in Heathrow Airport as I purchased a new pair of RayBan sunglasses from World Duty Free! So if you're flying from Heathrow any point soon or have a layover there, stop off in World Duty Free to take a look around as I found it the best place to buy anything before a flight, plus their beauty services are second to none! But in Bali, I found their markets were the best thing. Even in the UK I'm a huge fan of local markets, so of course I was going to be checking them out.
Things To Know
- If you’re going to take a taxi around Bali, make sure it’s a Blue Bird taxi and that you’re paying by the meter, otherwise you will get ripped off.
- Don’t drink the tap water, it’s not worth the upset stomach.
- If you plan on going to Lembongan, make sure you have enough cash on you as there isn’t an ATM on the island.
- Eat where the locals go - it's super cheap and you will have the chance to eat the local cuisine
- Don't pay more than 50,000IDR for a sun bed for a beach each, they will always ask for more!
- Always you don't need to book accommodation before you arrive, check out Hostelworld so you have an idea of where you'd like to stay.