6 September 2009
The last day in Bali started out late as we didn’t have any plans in at all in the morning and our flight was not until 2:25 PM. All we need to do is to wake up before they stop serving the breakfast buffet at ten. I slept somehow late the previous night as I was catching up on Discovery Travel & Living; these show hosts are damn lucky to have this kind of job. I was able to wake up at 9:30 – good enough for me, about half an hour to have buffet breakfast.
We headed back to the room upon finishing our breakfast. I had a quick shower before packing up my stuffs. The plan would be to checkout at 10:30 and just go around the streets of Kuta Beach for some last minute shopping. After checkout, we left our stuffs at the reception and strolled around.
It was very hot in that morning and we didn’t have much energy to go further, we ended up entering the Starbucks outlet in Hard Rock Café. I always check out the country mug they sell whenever I am in a Starbucks outlet. I did manage to add two regular sized country mugs into my mom’s collection. They were selling the mug at 105,000 IDR per piece, more expensive by 20,000 IDR from the outlet in Yogyakarta. It still came with a free drink for every mug purchased though. This collection is getting bigger and bigger, my siblings and mom are buying mugs themselves wherever they get to travel in new locations.
It was already 11:30 when we left Starbucks; we took a cab right outside and went back to our hotel to get our bags. On the way to the airport, I asked the cab driver if there was a place somewhere nearby where we can eat Babi Guling. Much to our amazement, there was a small establishment just 5 minutes from the airport that serves this dish.
Sari Bhuana was the name of the establishment we visited that serves this famous Balinese roasted suckling pork dish. This eatery itself was nothing to rave about as it was just a small warung however I really want to sample how a Babi Guling would taste like and how it would compare versus the Lechon in the Philippines.
We were served the Babi Guling Special (a bit pricey at 25,000 IDR); apart from the Babi Guling, they included chicharon, satay and some other edible stuff that I cannot identify. This also came with the Babi Soup that tasted good but was just a bit too oily and VERY SPICY!!
It was a sumptuous meal however I would still choose anytime the local Lechon in my hometown in Cagayan de Oro. There was not much flavor in the meat though or maybe it was just masked by the thick spicy gravy that came along with it. One thing that keeps me wondering is how the Babi Guling in Ibu Oka would taste like; there will always be a next time to find out.
There weren’t that many passengers at the Ngurah Rai International Airport when we arrived. Unlike last Thursday, we cleared past check-in and immigration in less than 15 minutes.
Traveler Tip: If you are departing from an airport in Indonesia, check beforehand if there is a corresponding airport tax to be paid upon flying out. In Bali, the departure tax was 150,000 IDR per person payable in the local currency and in cash.
The Air Asia flight AK 363 arrived on time and landed twenty minutes ahead of schedule in Kuala Lumpur. There was more than three hours of waiting time before our connecting flight back to Singapore. Unfortunately there was a 30-minute delay, this brought our waiting time to four hours. Oh well, these are some of the things to consider when doing this kind of trip. My only consolation is that we didn’t get stranded because of these delays.
It was past ten in the evening when we reached Singapore. I really enjoyed a lot but I was bit tired after traveling for three weekends in a span of a month. The next few weeks will be a chance for me to rest and to replenish my travel fund (as this was already overdrawn even before this Bali trip).
As for now, no plans yet of going out of Singapore until late October. Of course, it can change if a good travel opportunity presents itself…
5 September 2009
Our 3rd day in Bali was devoted mostly to the sun and the beach. It was a very sunny day, perfect for the morning devoted to water sports.
The water sports package we got was from a small travel agency along the Kuta Beach stretch. As informed beforehand, it would come out cheaper if we are to take a package rather that just chose one or two rides; after a few minutes of haggling, we finally agreed on a price of 250,000 IDR per person. The package we got consisted of a short round of parasailing, a 15 minute water donut ride and a 15 minute jetski ride. This came with a free pick-up as well from the hotel to Tanjung Benoa (the water sport activities venue) and vice versa.
At 9:30 AM, the driver was there to pick us up. It was a short 20 minute ride in which we passed by Nusa Dua along the way. Nusa Dua is one of the more quiet areas in Bali wherein most of the expensive resorts are located. Someday when I am rich, I would want to spend a vacation in this beach.
Upon reaching Tanjung Benoa, we met up with one of the receptionist of Kanaka Ocean. He asked us on what activity we want to start first. After sorting out our preference, we paid for the balance of our package and we were given our life vest and a key to a locker for our stuffs.
The very first activity was parasailing; I was the one who went up first. They strapped the harness in my body and before I knew I was already dragged up in the air by the speedboat. It was a bit scary at first but a few seconds later I got the hang of it. It was fun to watch the myriad of activities happening on the ground and the sea. My original plan was to take a camera with me and record a video of myself up in the air; unfortunately no cameras were allowed up in the air so I had to contend with picture from the ground. Less than 5 minutes afterwards, I was already hovering down. Extra effort was needed for me to bring myself down to the same area that I took off. It was a fun ride and it would have been a lot better had it lasted a few minutes longer.
Our next ride was the water donut. Similar to a banana boat ride, this activity will be dragged around the water by a speedboat. We seated ourselves in the floating donut with me on the right and afterwards a simple instruction was given; this was “just hang on tight…”
Immediately afterwards, the speedboat took off. It was okay for the first few seconds but it became really rough afterwards. The next 15 minutes, we were practically struggling to keep ourselves from getting “spilled” out of our seat. It was fun but admittedly it took a lot of energy from us. Luckily no one was spilled. I would not recommend this for everyone as it can get really rough and this definitely can cause sore muscle all over the body. Definitely not for the faint hearted!
The last activity was the jetski. It was another first for me. Admittedly at this point, I was already a bit drained after the previous activity. There was someone from Kanaka Ocean who accompanied each of us in the session; once in a while they would help in maneuvering the jetski but most of the time it was us controlling it. The experience was at first very exhilarating as you let the vessel glide over the water in full speed but it gets boring after a while. Nonetheless I was glad I was finally able to try jetskiing; I have always wanted to ride on one ever since 15 years ago but unfortunately my dad did not allow me. The following years when I was a bit older and more independent, I refrained from riding one as prices are a bit too much for me then.
It was already lunchtime when we finished our activities. The same driver who fetched us earlier then brought us back to Kuta Beach. It was fun yet it was very tiring and it made us very hungry. We had a quick lunch at the Pizza Hut outlet near the hotel before I headed back to our room to have a quick afternoon siesta.
We woke up at 3 PM and headed outside the hotel doing some window-shopping around the various stalls in Kuta Beach. I was able to get a Billabong board shorts, which was on sale that weekend. I guess it is about time to upgrade my beachwear.
Our last afternoon in Bali was spent just in the shores of Kuta Beach. We just got ourselves a shawl and sat on it; we waited for the sun to set while watching the surfers riding out the big waves with some cool refreshing drinks in our hands. One of those peaceful moments…
The clear sunset with some huge waves as the backdrop was the perfect way to end our last full day in Bali. It was a good vacation (albeit a pricey one) but I did enjoy a lot. Tomorrow, we will be heading back to Singapore but we promised to be back here sometime soon. There are so many other things to see which we shall reserve for our next adventure here in this mystical island.
4 September 2009
When eating seafood, what is better than getting it fresh and having it grilled especially for you?
Jimabaran Bay, known as the fishing village and home to some of the finest luxury hotels of Bali and of the world, is located south of Ngurah Rai International Airport and close to some of Bali’s tourist destinations. This place has been consistently recommended by friends – tourists and locals – and was dubbed as one of Bali’s must-place-to-eat destinations. Seafood-lovers, indeed we are, we have found our way to this village on our second night in the island, with the quest to try and enjoy what this infamous place has to offer.
The first time I heard of this village from my Indonesian colleague, one place crossed my mind – Dampa Seaside Market and Restaurants in Macapagal Avenue, Philippines - a place where you can buy fresh seafood in any of the stalls in the wet market and have it cooked and served in the restaurant of your choice. However, upon stepping out of our rented car, we were a bit surprised from the sight that welcomed us. Instead of the wet-market feel and smell that I commonly find in Dampa, we were greeted with expensive-looking restaurants and a number of staffs, dressed in the traditional Balinese clothing, who were lined in-front ready to start their sales talk and to gracefully drag us inside. We strolled in the first few restaurants of Jimbaran and we noticed that each of them have well-maintained aquariums where one can pick, weigh and decide what to eat and an adjacent open kitchen where one can watch how they prepare and grill the food.
As competition is high in the whole stretch of Jimbaran, different restaurants offer different freebies, such as parking (for diners who brought their own car or motorcycle), after dinner hotel transfers and welcome drinks. We got a free parking and welcome drinks plus 110,000 IDR off the regular priced set menu for 2 persons from this restaurant called Cafe Jukung. The 550,000 IDR (regular price) package includes the following:
- 2 king prawns
- 1 lobster (300 grams)
- 6 clams
- 1 fish (300 grams)
- calamari (200 grams)
Served with 2 bottles of soft drinks, rice, soup, veggies, fresh fruits and nuts, I think we have found a good deal! Haggling for a good price was not easy as mostly offers the same price range from 250,000 IDR – 450,000 IDR (before tax and service charge which approximates an additional of 21%) for 1 kg, depending on the type of seafood. Good thing, this restaurant offers a set menu, which saves us from thinking of the WHATs and WEIGHTs and was fair enough to allow us to bargain. With a refreshing welcome drink in hand, we were guided to the rear porch of the restaurant, which at that time we have come to realize that the enclosed and cozy restaurant look is just a façade. In front of us are tables and chairs sprawled neatly at the beach’s seashore, facing the sea and its gigantic waves; at the far right side, a sight of the lights of the airport’s runway and at the left side are lights of the nearest town and village area. We were impressed with the numerous people – locals & tourists, couples, families and friends – who were enjoying the food, beautiful view, festive yet relaxing mood at the whole stretch of Jimbaran. Apparently, all restaurants offer this kind of experience to their customers.
We entertained ourselves by observing the busy runway of the airport, people watching and occasional chit-chat. We have also let ourselves soothed by the fresh sea-side air and the sound of Bali’s traditional music playing in the background. Over-all, the waiting time was truly relaxing and it was only when our food was served that we felt hungry.
Nuts, soup, seafood, rice and veggies – all served fresh and in the appropriate order and intervals. At an instant, we found ourselves trying each of the variants. As all of them were grilled (except for the calamari), each was marinated in the same blend of sweet barbeque sauce. This helped in maintaining the succulence of the meaty king prawns and lobsters. The sauce also keeps one from having that strange seafood after taste when eating clams; on the other hand, it gave a delectable twist in the grilled fish. While still impressed how everything blended tastefully in this barbeque sauce, I tried some of the additional sauce and dips served to us. These included minced garlic sautéed in butter sauce (which I used for the Calamari), spicy oyster sauce (which I used for the prawns and lobster) and Sambal (which I preferred to be paired with the grilled fish). Other dips available are the usual orange-colored sweet and spicy sauce and minced ginger. I have alternately sipped my ice-cold soft drink to help keep the balance of flavors and for a good appreciation of my next spoonful intake of such exciting mix of flavors (this is what I have learned by previously being a weekly customer in Dampa). In the other tables, they used beers and branded wines (we have no more budget for that unfortunately), but whatever it is, it’s good to have something to help you savor these delicious dishes. We finished by enjoying the fresh few slices of melon and watermelon served right after the meal.
As we went out of the restaurant, the same set of staffs that welcomed us bid goodbye and thanked us. They quickly sent one of their assistants to look for Agus while they happily asked us about their food and our dinner. We even managed to get a quick shot in front of the restaurant taken by one of friendly staffs.
Jimbaran Bay is a must-place-to-eat destination in Bali. You can forget about the beach but do not miss eating under the moon and the stars in this place. Truly, Bali has its own way of letting you experience the Balinese way of life while feeling close to home.
Mr Whattaworld would like to thank Ms Ahrvederyet for writing this particular post!
4 September 2009
No mobile phone alarms went off during our 2nd day, as we deliberately made sure that we would wake up only as we please. The rule was that, whoever wakes up earlier will be the one to prepare first and then gets the responsibility of waking up the other afterwards.
Yep, I was the one that didn’t wake up early. It was half past eight when she woke me up. One hour to prepare and have breakfast before our scheduled pick-up. It was no problem for me as I just washed my face, changed into my walking short and I was al set.
There was buffet breakfast awaiting us at the Rosso Vivo Dine & Lounge for the next three days. The previous night, I was very excited on what would be the food like. Unfortunately it didn’t meet my expectation. The hotel prepared both Indonesian and Western breakfast; good for the western people and locals but not for Mr Whattaworld who was again longing for the Filipino breakfast; or at least something that was similar to it.
I made do with what was available and settled for toasted bread with strawberry jam together with ham & cheese omelet. This will be my food every morning for the next three days.
We were picked up at the hotel lobby just after we finished our breakfast. Agus, our driver, will be taking us to selected cultural places around the island in his brand new Toyota vehicle; it was a very comfortable ride as we had it all to ourselves.
Our first destination was Taman Ayun. Regarded as one of the most attractive temple in Bali, this family temple is located roughly an hour away from our hotel in Kuta Beach. Similar to the Angkor Wat in Cambodia, this temple is surrounded by a moat and if seen from afar, it actually looks as if the temple is floating on the surface of the water. The garden in the temple courtyard is very well kept and gives a calming effect to visitors. We accidentally entered into the inner courtyard and were politely asked to step out by the caretaker. We spent a good half hour inside the temple before leaving; it would have been nice to have stayed a bit longer in Taman Ayun and enjoy the serene environment however we have a tight schedule to follow.
It took us around half an hour before we reached our next destination, the Ulun Danu Temple in Bedugul. The area is located in the central mountains of Bali. The winding road going up to Bedugul was something similar to the way going to Baguio City in the Philippines. It was a bit foggy when we were there and a bit cold as well. Apparently, it wasn’t sunny all the way as what was forecasted.
The Ulun Danu Temple is a beautiful Hindu Temple that is visited by many visitors daily. This unique temple is located in the shores of Lake Bratan, one of the three lakes in Bedugul. This is supposed to be one of the most photographed temples in Bali unfortunately the grey skies didn’t do much justice to its splendor.
Lunch came next, we decided to eat somewhere very near as we were very hungry already. We were taken into this restaurant called Mentari. It was buffet however food was horrible there. Nonetheless, I didn’t have any choice as my stomach was grumbling. Adding insult to injury, it was way OVERPRICED. They charged 96,000 IDR per head (that is almost 10 USD). Stay away from this place; you will thank me for following this advice.
We continued our tour and headed towards Tanah Lot, another famous temple, which was more than an hour drive away from Bedugul. The countryside was lovely and we managed to catch a glimpse of several rice terraces. We passed by a lot of temples as well; I later observed though that temples are integral to everyday life in Bali. Temples are found everywhere – no wonder it is called the island of the gods.
Tanah Lot literally means, “Land in the Middle of the Sea” in Balinese Language. The temple sits on top of a rock that has been continuously shaped by the ever changing tide the past several hundred years. In order to reach the temple though, one has to pass through stalls that sell t-shirts, foods, trinkets, and many other souvenir items. If you have the patience to look at the wares being peddled, you will be surprised at some of these items.
As it was almost late in the afternoon, hoards of tourist were beginning to arrive. Tanah Lot is the famous site in Bali for sunset photography. We didn’t get to watch the sunset here though; at 4 PM, we made our way out of the complex.
Our schedule was to catch the sunset from Uluwatu and from there we shall witness the Kecak Dance. The distance between the two temples was not supposed to be very far however traffic jam worked its magic that afternoon. We arrive in the Uluwatu just a few minutes before the last rays of the sun disappeared.
The Uluwatu Temple is another famous sunset spot in Bali. This temple is perched on the edge of a steep cliff that towers above the legendary surf breaks of southern Bali. We took a few snaps before we proceed to the place where the Kecak Dance was held.
The Kecak Dance tells about the story of the Ramayana, a Hindu epic that is now very familiar to me thanks to our trips in Siem Reap and Yogyakarta the past month. What makes the Kecak fascinating are the men in checkered pants, numbering more than 50, who provided music in the for the story in a series of constant vocal chants which change depending on the mood of the characters. The Kecak Dance is well worth the 50,000 IDR ticket, and I highly recommend this to any visitors in Bali.
It was already past seven when the Kecak Dance finished. Agus was waiting for us in the parking lot, he will bring us to one more final stop where we will be having dinner before all of us will be calling it a night.
Next stop, Jimbaran Bay, home of quality seafoods in the island of Bali.
To be continued HERE…
3 September 2009
The excitement on the trip was the main reason why I was no longer able to get some sleep after I arrived in my apartment from work at around three in the morning. I did some last minute packing and afterwards did some stuff online and before I knew it, I was already aboard the MRT bound for Changi Airport.
Our Air Asia flight will depart from Singapore at 11:20 AM and will land in Kuala Lumpur. From there on, we will be taking a connecting flight to Bali at 15:50 PM. The flight to Kuala Lumpur was unfortunately delayed; it was not until lunchtime that we finally left Singapore onboard AK 706. I must have been very tired because from the moment I sat in my seat, I just fastened my seatbelt and I was already asleep.
The plane landed at the LCC Terminal less than an hour later; although I have been to this airport before, I didn’t expect the long walk that we had to endure before finally clearing past immigration. As we were already very hungry, we got something to eat from McDonald’s before we did the check-in for the next flight.
We were already inside the pre-departure area of the LCCT before 2 PM; there was a good two hours before our flight to Bali. Although they advertised that there was free WiFi inside the airport, it was abnormally slow. Apart from trying to connect online, there was not much to do inside the LCCT. I gave up after 30 minutes and instead browse over my Lonely Planet – Southeast Asia Guidebook.
The plane for this leg of the journey departed on time and by 4 PM, we were already bound for Bali. AK 364 was a long 3-hour flight, I managed to catch up (again!) on my much-needed sleep.
I woke up an hour before our expected arrival time; the sun was already setting and the color of the sky was very beautiful. I deliberately chose the window seat on the right side of the plane so that we could catch a glimpse of the sunset. It was an excellent choice and we were rewarded with an unobstructed view of the sun setting at 25,000 feet above the ground.
Shortly after the sun disappeared, the plane began its final descent. In less than an hour, we landed in Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali. After a long journey, we were finally in our destination. The traditional Balinese music was played at the airport sound system; it has a very relaxing effect on my weary mind.
As the plane docked in the 2nd farthest gate from the immigration counter, we had to walk some distance again. It took us 30 minutes to clear past Indonesian immigration since there was only one immigration officer to take charge of tourists not needing visas. While waiting for our turn, we made use of the time to examine the brochures of tours being offered by different companies, most of these were beyond our budget and were priced in US Dollars.
There was another long queue on the taxi stand and I was beginning to lose my patience. Fortunately it just took another 10 minute before we were able to a cab to take us to our hotel in Kuta Beach. Similar to the airport taxi system in Penang, Phuket and Yogyakarta, we needed to purchase a prepaid coupon for our taxi ride. The price of which is dependent on the area that we wished to be dropped off. They charged us 50,000 IDR for the ride to Kuta Beach.
It was a very short ride; although there was not much traffic when we headed towards our hotel, I did notice that the streets are very small, most probably it would be hell during peak hours.
We were dropped in Kuta Seaview Hotel just across Kuta Beach; it is a 4-star resort, which we booked from Agoda. The hotel staff welcomed us with some non-alcoholic drinks while they pulled up our reservation details from their file. I specifically requested for a room upgrade and was pleased to know that they granted my request; from Deluxe Garden, they gave us a Premier Deluxe Cottage. This made me feel a little better as the upgrade sort of justified the cost of the whole accommodation. The room was great, huge comfortable bed with excellent warm lightings. Suffice to say, this is the best place I have stayed in our trips the past few months (this probably goes to prove that I am not really used to hotel style accommodation). We dropped off our bags and headed out for dinner.
We ate at this Pizza Hut outlet a few meters from our hotel; we stuffed ourselves with an all-meat pizza. It was not a hard choice, as this was a favorite even when we were still based in the Philippines.
After dinner, we wasted no time as it was almost ten in the evening then. We strolled around the area inquiring from different travel agencies for a tour around the island for the following morning; all of them wouldn’t budge for the price we can afford and instead offered only a 20 percent discount from what was quoted in brochures, which was still very expensive for us.
Finally after several failed attempts in haggling, we were able to find a good price for the tour we wanted. For the price of 350,000 IDR, a driver will pick us up from the hotel for a whole day private tour. It is not a bad price considering that the similar group tour, which other travel agencies offered are priced at 35 USD per head. I paid for the downpayment and asked Nino, the travel agent, to pick us up the following morning at 9:30 in our hotel.
Travel Tip: In tourist heavy places such as Phuket and Bali, do not be afraid to haggle big time. Set the maximum price you can afford and if they won’t budge, just simply walk away. More often than not, this always works.
The day was long and I barely had sufficient rest. We were very tempted to stroll around Kuta Square and the many beautiful shops around the area but there is time for everything. For now I guess, it is time to catch up on my rest and prepare for a long day ahead tomorrow.