Temples, monkeys and surf!

BALI

Overview

  • When: 14 September – 22 September, 2013
  • Where: Vasanti Seminyak Resort
  • Transportation: round trip from Bangkok (BKK) to  Denpasar (DPS) on Air Asia airlines
  • Transportation within island: hired driver/guide, moped rental
  • Must see/do: Seminyak, Kuta, Uluwatu Temple, Sanur Beach, Jimbaran Bay, Ubud (town and the Monkey Forest), Tegallalang Rice Terrace, Kintamani Volcano, Pura Besakih- Mother Temple, Nusa Dua Beach, Dreamland Beach, Canggu Beach
  • Food/drinks: Ku De Ta restaurant in Seminyak, Potato Head Restaurant, Jimbaran Seafood Cafes.

After the work conference in Thailand that lasted a few days, I decided to extend my stay in Asia for one more week. It just did not make sense to fly all the way around the world from Boston to Thailand  for three days and come right back. As I have already been to Thailand on vacation for a two week trip (see Thailand post!), I decided to go to one of the Eat.Pray.Love. destinations and meet my former boyfriend from Australia halfway between Bangkok and Sydney- beautiful Indonesian island- Bali!

SEMINYAK

Day 1

The flight from Bangkok was early in the morning. When the work conference was over, a few of us went out in the wild Bangkok city and some drinks led to dancing and then it was too late to go to bed. So at 3am I got to the hotel just to collect my suitcase and get a cab to the airport. Given the circumstances, the flight was over before I knew it- I had no problem sleeping the whole time.

Hotel arranged the transfer from the airport and the only confusion was how much cash do I need to take out of the ATM, which I did right at the airport. 1 USD is approximately 13 000 Indonesian Rupiahs! So when the ATM gives you an option how many hundreds of thousands you want to take, you really have to do some math 🙂 . 11187_10202006837041391_874702822_nI usually use Oanda currency converter app when I travel.  It gives you at least an approximate exchange rate. I never felt more richer in my entire life than holing this pile of cash. And it was around 30-50 USD 🙂 !

Yes, Bali is very reasonable expense wise. For example this resort was $70 USD per night. It had a comfy bed, plentiful breakfast and a private access to the pool!

Ahh why am I here for only a week?!

I relaxed by the pool and waited for Matt to arrive. We are meeting some of his Aussie friends for dinner in Ku De Ta restaurant/lounge tonight.  A lot of Australians vacation in Bali. It’s a close and inexpensive tropical escape. Not that Australia needs escaping, but it’s always nice to get away.

Ku De Ta is a pretty amazing restaurant right on the water.

Incredible fruit drinks (watermelon martini was my favorite), great food and the best was the price- just over three million that four of us spent for all our drinks and dinner 🙂 ! That amounted to about $200 USD. Which was not that cheap for Bali, but we also had a lot to eat and more than one drink each. In Boston it would cost two people around this amount.

Day 2

After a very filling breakfast buffet, we set out to find the closest beach. Hotel shuttle dropped us off and, after a few wrong turns and possibly crossing someone’s yard, we reached the beach. Well, I was not too impressed I must say. The sand seemed pretty dark and the water did not look crystal blue as I was hoping for. And waves were too dangerous to swim in!

But this is not the best beach on the island, let’s not lose hope that Bali has much nicer options! Continue on walking and see what else we’ll discover. 1240299_10202000478242425_1651118753_nWe reached Canggu Beach and had a refreshing Indonesian beer- Bintang at the Canggu Cafe. There are surfboard rentals here, we will come back when the waves are better!

 Along the beach, we came across several small temples, some right on the beach.

Not long after, we reached Echo Beach. It’s a beautiful beach with great surf, but waves are strong, so prior surfing experience is recommended. Sand is still dark, which was not my favorite, but if you wait till sunset- the view will be incredible!

Echo Beach has a lot of seafood cafes lining the shore- perfect for a late lunch/refreshing coconut water straight out of the coconut! IMG_3786Relaxing day continued with the massages. Just as in Thailand, massages and other spa services are very cheap and therefore very popular among tourists.When I say cheap- it can be 10-15 USD per hour cheap! Again- feeling rich for a change 🙂 .

After some shopping in Seminyak and looking for a place for dinner, we decided to check out a popular spot- Potato Head. After visiting it, I have to say- it’s a must go while in Seminyak area!

This beach club has 2 restaurants, 3 bars (including swim up one in the infinity pool) and all of this is overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Please, go before sunset and stay till late at night. After dinner, move over to the comfy lounge beds and enjoy their creative and delicious cocktails.

This place is not cheap for Bali standards, but again, coming from Boston it was very reasonable.

KUTA, ULUWATU, JIMBARAN

Day 3

Time to leave touristy Seminyak and see more of Bali. Well, I guess it’s all touristy 🙂 . It’s not a calm quiet island as I imagined. Not disappointed, just very different than what I thought it would be. We rented a moped and luckily Matt knew how to drive it and was used to the driving on the left. 575290_10202034576694865_676781579_nBecause traffic in Bali can be horrendous! Mopeds are everywhere, passing cars from every side, crowding the shoulder lanes- it’s nothing I’ve ever seen before. Well, Thailand was a bit similar, but I think Bali’s traffic jams were worse.

Today’s first destination was Kuta and the Bali bombing memorial.

Bali bombing happened in 2002 when Islamist group carried out the attack killing over 200 people.

Other than that- there is nothing much else in Kuta. It’s overly crowded, there is a lot of trash and we could not wait to get out of this town.

This is not Eat, Pray, Love part of Bali that I came to see.

Well, let’s check out the more of the beaches instead. The beach close to Uluwatu temple was beautiful. And you can have lunch at the cafe on the top of the rocks. Lunch also came with a very persuasive lady, who convinced me that I needed a shoulder massage 🙂 . IMG_3859For $2 USD!

Uluwatu Temple- next!

Yes, everyone wearing shorts or short skirts have to cover up before approaching the temple. Even men. There are plenty of scarves to borrow or buy.

And be careful with the monkeys! They love hats and sunglasses. So keep them out of reach and tucked away if you don’t want to part with them for good!

Finally seeing Bali that we came here to see! As we are on this side of the island, we must check out Jimbaran Beach. Come here for the sunset and come hungry! Seafood cafes are lining up the beach (literally right on the sand) and you can have any seafood that your heart desires!

1175726_10202009718073415_1894025908_n558882_10202009490827734_283529239_n1236726_10202009491387748_2038205364_n

King crab, prawns, grilled fish and rice dishes wrapped in banana leaves- it’s incredible. We pretty much ordered a little bit of everything off the menu 🙂 .

Tired after a long day driving on a moped (seemed like the whole body hurt by the end of the day) we made our way back to Seminyak. Well, we did not stop the moped fast enough and stopped past the pedestrian walk. And go figure-police was right there to pull us over. Matt had Australian driver’s license and that was a ‘big offence’ since it’s not considered international! The cop tried to say that fines are very big and asked if we will be going with him to the police station and get an international license for one million Rupiahs. Umm, no, we have no desire to visit police station in our home countries, even less so in Indonesia. We offered him 500 000 Rupiahs,  he happily took it, and let us go.

Well, that was around $50 USD at the time. Not such a big amount for us. But later on we found out that we probably made this cop’s year! We could have gotten away even with $5 US dollar bribe! Oh well, I guess he probably needed the $50 much more than we did.

Day 4

We are going SURFING!!! Took the scooter ride back to Canggu beach had pancakes with ice cream and a milkshake at the cafe and rented the surfboards that were only $5 per hour! IMG_3882Matt caught the wave almost immediately, where as for me it was much harder…It did not help that the boards were not very long, waves were big and my arms would get so tired paddling out, that by the time I would turn around and tried to push off to get up, I’d have not much arm strength left. I was able to get up and ride one wave and it was a glorious feeling! Especially that the views were so incredible- it was sunset and the wave caps were white and sparkling. Sadly we did not bring a gopro and there are no pictures of this amazing evening in the water. We spent 3 hours surfing and by the end of the day my body was bruised, scratched and achy, but it was so well worth it!

Day 5

Today we are hanging out with Yoga! Not in a downward dog pose 🙂 – Yoga is our hired driver/guide in Bali for the next two days.

Matt got his contact details from the taxi driver the first day in Bali. After driving the moped for a full day and being totally exhausted, we decided that a car with AC and a knowledgeable guide will be a better option to see the farther side of this island.

Yoga picked us up at 7 am from the hotel and off to the tour we went. First stop- Sanur beach. 1233588_10202023000765474_956846306_nIt’s a pretty nice beach on the south side of the island, but it started raining as we arrived, so we did not stay there and continued the tour instead. Then Yoga took us to a traditional Balinese house tour.

It was pretty cool to see the sample of the traditional houses from up close, there was a woman giving offerings at the little temple. IMG_3909IMG_3930Yoga explained, that there are some strict rules, such as menstruating women would not be allowed to enter the temple. Not sure if the rule still exists, but those were the customs.

Good that we started the tour early- we have a lot to see and with the island traffic, getting places fast is not easy. Town  of  Ubud is next. Now here I wish we had a couple of  days and not just a few hours. Ubud is located in the uplands of Bali, surrounded by rain forest and terraced rice paddies and is famous for it’s crafts, shrines and a Sacred Monkey Forest.

Let’s see the monkeys first! No wonder it’s called Monkey Forest- they were EVERYWHERE! Parents, babies- all friendly and curious and as mentioned before- be careful with any lose belongings if you don’t want them to be snatched away 🙂 .

After making new monkey friends, we continued on to a famous Tegalalang Rice Terrace not far from Ubud.

We did not go down to the fields, but the view from above was pretty spectacular!

There are cute cafes around and you can refresh with a juice or an avocado smoothie!

By now we were getting hungry for lunch, so why not have one with a view!

Kintamani town with the view of the volcano and Mount Batur in the distance might be a perfect place for that 🙂 ! Delicious buffet accompanied by Bintang beer absolutely hit the spot!

Getting sleepy after big lunch? Maybe coffee will help! And not just any coffee- Yoga took us to the Luwak coffee farm, where one of the most expensive coffees in the world is being made!

The reason this coffee is expensive (about five times or more than high quality Arabica coffee), is that it’s made by collecting the coffee beans that were eaten, partially digested and then pooped out by the little animal civet. It is believed that due to the enzymes in the animal’s digestive tract, the coffee beans flavor is improved and the coffee has a unique taste.

I personally felt bad for the caged weasels and don’t think the coffee tasted that much different to pay the insanely high price.

As if the day was not full of incredible sights already, we had one more stop- Pura Besakih or  Mother Temple.

It is a temple complex on the slopes of Mount Agung in eastern part of Bali. It is the holiest, most important and the largest Hindu temple in the island. Luck would have it, we arrived at the full moon celebration time!

Truth to be told, we felt slightly intruding with our cameras and touristy looks. But at the same time it was fascinating to see so many locals giving offerings, praying, laughing- definitely a unique and special experience…

Day 6

One more day with Yoga. Beach time! There are so many beaches and so little time left on this amazing island. Nusa Dua is a beautiful white sand beach in the upscale part of Bali.

The area is full of luxury hotels, shopping malls, golf course etc. It is much less of a local feel, definitely touristy and therefore more pricey as well. As an example, we paid $5 USD at Canggu Beach for the surfboards, whereas Nusa Dua rentals were $30! We are here for a few hours, so let’s make it count and use these long boards! So much easier when the board is large! I was able to get up probably about four times! 1378664_10202174317388295_1069318651_nYes, that’s me, very unstable on the board, yet very happy to be up 🙂 ! The only downside for this beach- the bottom of the ocean is lined with coral. So when you step (or fall) off the board, it hurts the feet. Water shoes are recommended for sure!

The lunch was delicious and double the price for the touristy area, but still, totaled to about $4 USD per person 🙂 . Oh, and gotta love the English spelling on the menu  🙂 But hey, at least it’s translated!IMG_4061

As this is a beach day, we are on to one more amazing place- Dreamland!

Only experienced surfers dare to surf here and we were getting in the water only to cool off and right near the shore. Waves were huge and the beach is known for its dangerous shore-break. No relaxing swimming here. Relax on the beautiful white sand on the shore instead.

Day 7

Last day in Bali…Relaxing, slow paced and calm. We went to Canggu beach hoping for one last surf, but the waves were too big and the surfboard renters advised us against it. Instead, we spent the day at the beach, enjoyed our local Canggu caffe lunch and decided for the last dinner to go back to Potato Head. I absolutely loved the atmosphere of the place and it just seemed right to spend the last evening there. This time we called ahead and made the reservations as we had some of the Australian friends joining us  later.

We got a “bed” right near the pool with a perfect view of the sunset! Could not be more perfect for the last night in the magical Bali…

Day 8

564473_10202022976724873_1211681855_nLast big breakfast at the hotel, packing the suitcase and last ride with Yoga to the airport. Interesting formality there- had to pay exit taxes- 150 000 Rupiahs leaving the country. Which is just about $12 USD 🙂 .

CONCLUSION

Unexpected. Hot. Exotic. Warm and welcoming. Those are the words that first come to mind remembering Bali. Beside the beautiful temples, funny monkeys and incredible surf beaches, this island is the most memorable for it’s people. They don’t have much, but as Yoga once said- the most important is to be happy with what you have and smile from the heart!

 

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