If you're asking yourself whether or not to go to Padang Bai on your Bali trip, I'd ask you one question: Do you plan to spend your days either diving or lounging by the pool? If not, I wouldn't recommend this place. It's by far where Kev and I had the roughest experience, and by that I mean we were often uncomfortable and somewhat at a loss for things to do.
Below, I recount some of the very silly things that happened on our 24 hour stay there.
Getting to Padang Bai
We traveled to Padang Bai from the island of Gili T, which is about an hour and a half boat ride back to the mainland.
I begged Kev to let us sit on top of the boat this time so that I could get some much needed sun. We’d been on the go so often that I’d barely gotten a tan! In Bali! He begrudgingly agreed and I sat like a puppy in the backseat of the car, so excitedly looking around at the great big world outside the boat. It was a lovely ride, but a little longer than expected. By the time we reached the port and got up to get out, we were burnt and crispy.
Where to Stay & What To Do in Padang Bai
First stop: after-sun lotion and lunch. After dropping our bags at the Dewivilla Hotel, we got a ride back into town and stopped into the first restaurant we found. No cards accepted, so we frantically begin searching for an ATM in this tiny, ramshackle town. The locals point us in the direction of this one ATM that we finally find. To our absolute dismay, there is a paper sign inside that reads “No Visa or Mastercard accepted.” Good thing I brought my Discover card. Not.
We think there is no way this is true and both try our debit cards anyway. Blame it on the hunger or the sunburn, but this may have been one of our dumbest decisions on the trip. At the time, the machine simply returned an error and we found a different ATM. Flash forward 1.5 months to when $1,000 has been taken out of my account in a series of cash advance transactions in - where else - Bali!
Pro Tip: Always check the ATM you’re using for fake card readers, and walk away if it looks fishy at all.
Moving on, we had a yummy and inexpensive lunch and then started exploring to see what exactly the area had to offer. It turns out….not much! Unless you are interested in diving, you’ve got a handful of hotels, restaurants, and a little central market.
At this point, our sunburns were feeling not so good, so our idea for spending the day was to get aloe vera massages. We finally find a spa that seems legit and not too pricey, and it turns out that they are out of aloe vera. Womp womp.
I’m feeling set on the idea though, so when we pass a gift shop advertising spa treatments, I inquire. At 200K IDR a pop, it's the most expensive massage we’ve paid for to date, and it's literally in a tiny room in the back of the gift shop. And it's possibly the most awkward and least comfortable experience of our entire trip (lives?).
The “aloe vera” comes in powder form, which two women proceed to scrub into our sunburned skin. At one point, I hear the woman working on Kevin pounding his back as if trying to harm him. To end the massage, we are told to rinse off the aloe vera, which has hardened into a mask on our bodies, in their tiny bathroom/shower.
To be clear, this was a room the size of a small port-o-potty, with a toilet and small sink taking up most of the floor space, and a shower head jutting out of the wall. You are supposed to rinse off in this place with the help of one small rag.
We booked it out of there and back to the hotel to truly rinse away any evidence of this experience. Laughing the whole way, of course -___-
After showering and polishing off our remaining black spiced rum, which Kevin had brought in via Duty Free in the US airport, we went to the “best pizza place in town” for a tipsy dinner. There is oddly a lot of Italian-inspired cuisine in Bali, though none of it necessarily good. The restaurant had a cat though, so no complaints from me.
We finished the night at the Sunshine Bar, where there is live music every night. Kevin even jammed a little on the guitar with some of the locals! It was a pretty cute and happy place, even though there were a total of 10 people there. Even sleepy, sketchy little towns need to have their fun.
The next morning, we woke up with a massive gecko in the room. Although small geckos are very common in tropical locals, I can't say I’ve ever seen one the size of my forearm. Until today! I guess it was maybe an iguana?
Whatever it was, it was incredibly huge and alarming, though kindly stayed behind the curtain and barely moved from the time we found him. We left him alone (Note: In the same room the day before, I had come to Kevin’s rescue by shooting a spider out of the room with a bidet hose, and had thus already fulfilled my wildlife taming duties).
Eager to get out of this town, we hired a private car to drive us to Uluwatu ASAP. Read the rest of the Uluwatu adventure here.