Why the Flight to Bali, Indonesia, Is Completely Worth It

After a long flight, five days of exploring and getting muddy in rice paddies, staff photographer, Zach Stovall, found peace and relaxation not only from the spas and resorts, but also from contagious smiles and spirituality of the Balinese people.

Travel to Bali | Island Destinations | Indonesia | Amed


Over 36 hours of travel, five bad movies, seven airline meals and some broken plane sleep got me to Bali. But a couple Cokes and a Balinese Red Bull (no, that’s not a euphemism) are the real heroes for my long ride to the remote fishing village of Amed (pictured here).Zach Stovall
Travel to Bali | Island Destinations | Indonesia | Griya Villas and Spa

The Griya

The last leg was more than three hours in the dark, veering a right-hand-drive stick shift on no sleep through waves of motorbikes, each with a kamikaze-inspired attitude toward passing my Suzuki Arena – essentially a minivan built on the chassis of a Smart car. I couldn't wait for this bed at The Griya Villas and Spa, where I got hard sleep. All four hours of it - when first light swept over Amed.Zach Stovall
Travel to Bali | Island Destinations | Indonesia | Fishing

Early bird

I met Nyoman Bwea on the beach. He offered to take me fishing. The next morning we left before dawn, as all fishermen do here. Four hours were spent trolling, looking for any sign of plentiful mackerel. The more time passed, the more frustrated the looks got. We didn’t catch crap.Zach Stovall
Travel to Bali | Island Destinations | Indonesia | Island Life

Island Life

The “Bali smile” is something I’d heard about before my trip, and I can confirm is real. It must be something in the mackerel. Even when they didn’t catch anything, these poor fishermen living a simple life were nothing but teeth. It was hard not to smile with them.Zach Stovall
Travel to Bali | Island Destinations | Indonesia | Island Adventures

Getting lost

After five days exploring Amed, I spent a day driving back roads looking for the most beautiful stepped rice terrace I could slip my Arena into. Google Maps has saved my butt many times…until this time. It led me down a narrow path meant for motorbikes and, trying to reverse the way I came, I knocked one over. I don’t speak Balinese, and I was caught red-handed. After a lot of cursing under my breath, I thought, “Bali smile.” “Bali smile.”Zach Stovall
Travel to Bali | Island Destinations | Indonesia | Sidemen


A good tip from a friend led me towards Sidemen. There was no shortage of stunning green terraces along the way, but when I drove into this city-sized paddy late in the afternoon I immediately knew this was the place I’d been looking for.Zach Stovall
Travel to Bali | Island Destinations | Indonesia | Island People

In the Fields

Through a couple chance encounters I met Wayan and Ni Wayan Punduh, whose family works the fields the same way their ancestors have for generations. They thought I was crazy (for the record, I am) for spending three days in their rice paddy knee deep in mud and for breaking most of my falls with my face. The “American way,” as I call it.Zach Stovall
Travel to Bali | Island Destinations | Indonesia | COMO Shambhala Estate


Even though I showered, mud was still oozing from unexpected places. I'd earned some pampering after nine rough days on the road, which is why I found myself at COMO Shambhala Estate near Ubud. My villa came with its very own Mika (shown here), always at my beck and call and always wearing a Bali smile.Zach Stovall
Travel to Bali | Island Destinations | Indonesia | Hinduism

Spiritual healing

The water that continuously refreshes this pool comes from “The Source,” just up the hill. It’s a spring said to have healing properties, and used by the locals in their Hindu ceremonies. With the amount of cursing I did at Google Maps and driving in general, I hoped it wasn't just physical healing.Zach Stovall
Travel to Bali | Island Destinations | Indonesia | Uma

A New Man

I spent my last night at Uma by COMO. They say Bali is a spiritual place. When the sun's early rays trickle through the trees like this, I don't mind taking a picture of it while still in my underwear. That's a spiritual experience.Zach Stovall