Bali in September 2012

15th September 2012 to 18th September 2012
Bali, Indonesia

The last time I stepped foot in Bali was in 2006. That was six years ago. That time, Jakarta had a bombing at JW Marriot. We were cautious on whether to proceed but we went anyway because all had been paid for. That time, Bali was eerily quiet and crowd free. Since we went during Chinese New Year, we had the entire Bali to ourselves! Everywhere we went, there were only two of us. Restaurants, temples, dances, etc.

This time round, Bali has bounced back to life! It is hustling and bustling with sounds, smells and sights. Everywhere is packed to the brim. Even parking was horrendous. Jams worsened as they were reconstructing several main roads in Kuta town centre. I guess it’s a good sign that, this tourism giant of the south has regained its popularity. This time, I still chose to stay in Kuta as I was rather familiar with the area. I wish I had stayed in Seminyak though – it is more happening and has much more to offer. I stayed at Bali-Kuta Resort by Swiss-Belhotel along Jalan Majapahit. It’s rather secluded with a big swimming pool. However, we didn’t even had the chance to use it because our itinerary was packed to the brim that we only got back to the hotel by 12 am every night! Fave Hotel along Seminyak offered good price for hotel as well as a more, outgoing night. I heard from guests that, it could be rather noisy and rowdy at night because it’s a party street. We booked it for our friends from Hong Kong because they would love to sit down to have a drink. Perhaps, the next time, I might stay in Ubud. Ubud is about 1.5 hours from the airport, it’s a little quaint town with little shops. Prices aren’t cheap though but, I guess, it’s going to be a relaxing trip the next round I am in Bali. 😀

Well, I won’t be blogging about the sights, food or shopping as I am sure most of you have been to Bali. I just would like to share with you some photos taken during this trip. I was there for Kat & Rob’s wedding actually (probably the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever been to!), at the same time, went sight seeing – to revisit my favorite temples and shop, shop and shop for old batiks and paintings. I got my driver from this website. The boss is Nengah Polos. We had this guy, Kadek driving for us and he’s most courteous and punctual. We don’t have to worry about anything while with Kadek. The price they quoted was also reasonable too. So I guess if you want a driver in Bali, you may contact Mr Polos here.

Kecak dance. Didn’t manage to catch it the last round, so made do this time. It was worth it!

Kecak dance

In the end, fire! fire!

Breathtaking view at Lake Beratan

People and ducks alike, enjoying the sunset at Tanah Lot

The walkway to the wedding altar, paved with pretty white fragipanis

The awesome and beautiful couple, Kat & Rob

On our way to Ubud, we witnessed a cultural procession

For more photos, look here.

BALI ESCAPADE: THE LAND OF THE SPIRITS

The Sacred Places

Bali indeed lives up to its other name, the Land of the Spirits. Everywhere you go, you see temples. As the majority Balinese are Hindus – about 90% of the total population, you can expect festivals happening almost every other day. In fact, along our stay there for 5 days and 4 nights, there is always signboard on the streets advising us to slow down to observe rituals taking place. Every morning or evening (once a day), locals would place offerings, consists of flowers, rice, cookies and joss stick at their doorsteps to ward off evils. If the offerings are being placed on the altars, they were meant for the divine beings.

My guide, Wayan Mudra, told us that Balinese hardly leave their own country as they had to fork out a lot of money for festivals alone – birth, death, birth of the gods, family tradition, etc in which the cost to have all the festivals ranging from at least RP500,000 (RM200) to millions. It is not easy for them, as their income per capita averaged about RP1 million (RM400). Even a child who is still in the womb would be taxed even before he/she is born!

Each temple has several sections. One is the public compound where people would congregate to watch dramas, plays or even cock fights. Cock fights are not for gambling purposes. They would need to have a festival to have cock fights. Other than that, it is considered illegal. Either cock has to bleed and die in order to appease the spirits in the temple.

I can’t remember functions of the other sections though. It has something to do with the Trinity Hindu Gods.. I have short attention span at times.

There are rules to be adhered before entering temples. Ladies, if it is the time of the month, you are not allowed to go into temples. Visitors should dress decently before entering temples. For those people who are wearing shorts would be required to don on sarungs (available for free at the ticketing booth), before entering.

Puri Tampaksiring a.k.a. Tirtha Empul

A 10th Century temple. As we were passing by this temple, on the way to Gunung Kawi, I saw a lot of people gathering in the temple for a festival. Wayan said, Tirtha means “water” and Empul means “rise”. The spring water arises from the ground. The holy water from the spring is used to ward off evil spirits. WY and I had a go and washed our face with the holy spring water like other Balinese who were performing prayers there.

The banyan tree here is already more than 1,000 years old. Everything here is old but amazingly, well maintained, despite most of the statues were covered by moss.


Puri Taman Ayun

It’s a Mengwi’s royal family shrine built in the 18th century. The temple with a foremost garden, in which the layout represents heaven, where celestial maidens and deified ancestors relax and play.

We could just watch from outside as tourists were not allowed to loiter inside the temple. The graceful multi-roofed meru (pagodas) towering above the walls like the lofty masts of a huge ship.


Puri Danu Bratan

Situated next to Lake Bratan, built around the 17th Century. When we went there, it was drizzling. Everything is covered with fog. It can be quite cold up here. We were lucky enough to have time to snap some photos before the area was sealed with thick fog.

At Tasik Bratan, they have water activities such as canoeing. The water here is not used for drinking as the cremated ashes were thrown into them. Geez. I wonder where did they get water to cook our food? I refused to think about it.

It’s a harmonious fusion of Hindu and Buddhist shrines. On the lake, there is a two multiple meru (pagodas) sitting at the edge of Lake Bratan. Within the vicinity, there is a stupa (memorial shrine) of 4 buddha niches around its sides facing the four major compass directions.

Puri Tanah Lot

This is probably the most famous temple in Bali, built in the 16th Century. If you had gone to Bali, and never been here – then consider yourself haven’t been to Bali at all.

While we were waiting for the magnificent sunset view, we saw a few tourists trying to cross the waves during high tide into the temple. I won’t do that if I were them. I was given the understanding that, there were poisonous sea snakes living in the caves and rocks around the base of the outcropping, believed to be guarding the temple against intruders.

The snakes, were believed to originated from the sash given by a legendary Hindu priest, Danghyang Nirartha, who requested a temple to be built here to commemorate his visit.

If I were to go again, I would join the westerners at the restaurants by the sea for a better sunset view.

Goa Gajah

Carved out of solid rocks in the 11th Century, believed to be by a divine being, using only finger nails. If we could believe in UFOs, I think this is also not a hoax as the design could be so intricate and delicate that I swore I could feel the eyes of the elephant face following me everywhere I go.

Inside the cave, there is a T shaped lorong – where there are hollow spaces enough to fit a person, usually used for meditation. At the end of both junctions, there are shrines for Lord Ganesh and the three lingas.

Overlooking the cave, there is a bathing area, which is now defunct. There are 6 voluptuous female figures pouring water out of a jar. Colorful fishes could be seen swimming in the ponds.

Puri Luhur Uluwatu

Built in the 11th Century, also by the same legendary Hindu priest, Danghnyang Nirartha and this was his last before he passed on.

The sight of the cascading limestone was maginificent to behold. Soothing cool breeze from the Indian Ocean caressed your face while you admire the beauty of clear turquoise sea water beating against the whiteness of the limestone cliffs.

Be careful of the “guardian” of this temple though! Wild monkeys are everywhere. You are advised to take off your spectacles, ear rings, necklaces, hats etc. Hold on tight to your cameras and bags.

This is our definite favorite temple, so far.

There are other temples which we haven’t covered, but basically, they are almost the same – with Hindu inclined designs and multi roofed merus and canti bentar.

This is the last post on Bali. I hope you guys did not get woozy after reading the marathon blogs on Bali! Take your time to read through or just feast your eyes on the pictures while I take a break from blogging for awhile.

I love Bali! I hope you guys would love it too!

Source of info: Wayan Mudra & a little bit of help from Insight Pocket Guide: Bali (Discovery Channel)
All pictures of Bali here are taken using Canon Ixus50.

BALI ESCAPADE: THE SCENERY

The Scenery

Bali boasts a variety of beautiful sceneries around its islands. The landscape of Bali is unpredictable – you have volcanoes, lakes, rice terrace, high terrains, limestone cliffs, waterfalls, clear turquoise oceans, etc. The list is endless. A definite place for photobug freaks like me.

Gunung Kawi

A twin volcano – one is dead, the other one is still active. Since it is a tourist infested place – there are quite some ruthless peddlers, some are little children, who couldn’t stop bugging you to buy things from them, even if we had told them, we were not interested. I was kinda disappointed that I had to take pics in a haste. I would love to walk along the stretch of downhill road, to slowly take my time to snap pics if not for the unruly peddlers. I saw corns being dried in the sun, villagers giving offerings to their individual family shrines, clothes being dried on the grass instead of being hung up, ladies carrying things on their heads, etc.

Rice Terrace

It was pouring as we were coming down from Lake Bratan and Bedugul, much to our dismay. Bali experiences rainy seasons from December to March. So, if you want to plan your holidays, might as well go to Bali after the rainy seasons. We were lucky though to have caught the Gunung Kawi not covered by fog.

This rice terrace pic is taken at a villa/restaurant along the road from Bedugul market. The quality of this pic is compromised due to rain. Chotto sumimasen.

Nyang Nyang

On our way from Uluwatu, Wayan, seeing that I am such photobug freak, decided to drop us at Nyang Nyang for a photobug session. We had to pay for drinks before even entering the villa. This place consists of a few private villas, built for tourists who prefer tranquility and peace. The garden is well maintained. It is a great place for honey mooners.

What I liked most, is the pool side restaurant, overlooking the very blue Indian Ocean. You feel as if you were at the end of the earth, looking downwards at the white sandy beaches against the infinite skyline of the Indian Ocean.

Simply breath-taking. I was glad that Wayan took us here. He deserved a BIG TIP!

Agriculture farm in between Kawi and Tampaksiring

Being a KLite, WY is not used to seeing trees of fruits. Unlike me, the village pumpkin, I know how ciku trees look like. I even climbed one before. Here, we get to see leaves and trees for our everyday use or consumption, which we totally ignorant about.They sell all kinds of agriculture goods – vanilla stick, cocoa powder, fruits, Balinese coffee, etc. We even get to sample the cocoa and coffee here before buying.

This is the first time that I ate salak.

Wishnu Garuda Kencana (WGK) at Jimbaran

This place lies the biggest statue in the world, and it is even bigger than Statue of Liberty. It is indeed big – provided that the project is completed. Unfortunately, project had been halted due to lack of investors.

It is going to be a major tourism spot, boasting the biggest monument in the world, with its own shopping compound, major offices and an open air stadium (pic 3). It would take another 20 years to realize this.

There will be carvings on the limestone walls (pic 2) once the project is completed. For the time being, since project has been halted, the place is scarce of visitors. The lack of people was also being contributed by the fanatic terrorists attack on Jimbaran Beach last October. Sometimes, I find it quite devastating and plain stupidity to have caused so much unnecessary hardship to your own fellow countrymen, pursuing incomprehensible agendas using violence.

The Beaches

It was a shame that we hardly spent time on the beach while we were at Bali as we were too busy shopping. The only time that we had our time in Bali, is Kuta Beach on the evening before our departure the next day and Nusa Dua beach on our way back to hotel from Uluwatu.

Kuta Beach

This is where I decided not to put on sun block – as I thought I would only be at Kuta Square for last minute shopping. We stopped by Kuta Beach to check out hot bods on surf boards. Kinda disappointed that we didn’t see many. Kuta beach caters for beginners. Those hardcore surfers get their adrenalin rush at Southern beaches or Northern beaches for higher waves.

Nusa Dua Beach

Looks like Perhentian Islands to me. Only more organized and cleaner. You don’t get durian skins floating around the place where you snorkle! This is where you get all the 5 stars hotels. Perfect place for honey mooners as it is quiet and away from the hustling and bustling Kuta.

Sunsets

I think I haven’t traveled far enough to see sunsets from other parts of the world. But the one in Tanah Lot is suffice for the time being. Taken on the backdrop of the Indian Ocean.

You will not miss any sunsets in Bali. Find any spot, and you would get to see magnificent sunsets along the beach.

These sunset pictures were all taken at Tanah Lot. If I were to go to Bali again (which is almost definite), I would love to watch the sunset at Uluwatu.

BALI ESCAPADE: THE MAKAN PLACES

The Makan Place

As this was a full board trip, our food was well taken care of. The food over there is very much bland compare to our food in Malaysia, probably the lack of use of spices. Obviously, we were taken to places where spices are used sparingly to suit the tastes of the tourists. The portion of servings was too big for two people, so we invited Wayan and Adi to dine together with us.

It is advisable to go venture on your own at the small stalls. But, not recommended for people with weak stomach.

Perama Tea House at Lake Bratan

Humongous portions. Nothing to brag about, the taste of the beef is funny. They called it sapi here. The fried rice is smashing though.

Selera Bandung, near Kuta

Both of us particularly loved this restaurant for the famous serving of a fresh water fish – which I couldn’t recall the name. It is prepared in Javanese style – deep fried and comes along with a plate of soya sauce with cili padi.

Babi Guling

Everyone advised us not to miss this specialty of Balinese food. The best can be found in Ubud. As we were already overstuffed with pre arranged food, we made a pass while we were in Ubud, and had this after our trip to Uluwatu on the last day.

Bintang Beer

At only Rp8,000 (RM3.20 – you may get cheaper if you buy them from K-Mart), indulge this drink – I loved it for the fact that it is less bitter compared to other brew. Something like a light beer.

I prefer this over KilKenny anytime!

Coffee

Balinese coffee trees, which are grown in Bali, cater for local consumption only. The taste was rather bland, almost like charcoal.

We had a go at this Uno Coffee Cipta Indonesia, (UCCI) office near Kuta.

Here, we were treated like coffee connoisseurs – having 4 shots of coffee and tea at a go. Actually we are not connoisseurs. We are just coffee addicts.

It is nice to have met a fellow Malaysian, Mr Lee from Ipoh, who is running his family coffee business here in Bali. The head office is in Jakarta, which has a history of 60 years; specializing in Indonesian coffee. Coffee trees were grown on volcanic soil in either Sulawesi or Java.

The highly marketable coffee of Indonesia is Toraja Arabica coffee, grown on the soil of Toraja Highlands in South Sulawesi.

There is also a special coffee bean, called the Peaberry – its coffee bean comes in pairs. I was told regular coffee beans can be split into two but not this one.

The coffees are superbly aromatic. The taste is not as “kaw” as our most loved local Aik Cheong coffee, as they were not mixed with oils/butters when they are roasted. I was told that Indonesian coffee contained 1/3 caffeine compared to other normal coffee and has lower caffeine content compared to Coke!

What we loved most is the Peaberry chocolate – milk and sugar were not added, even if they do taste milky. The special thing about this bar of chocolate is the 12 Peaberry beans in every bar. WY and I perked up after helping ourselves with a few servings of chocolates. Chocolates are indeed aphrodisiacs!

UCCI’s offices in Bali

JL. By Pass Ngurah-Rai, Komp. Ruko
Tuban Plaza No. 38 Kuta Bali 80362
Tel: (0361) 759 439, 763 797

Or

Monkey Forest StreetPadang Tegal, Ubud, Bali 80571
Tel: (0361) 974 252

P.S. I hope my explanation is accurate enough – as I had promised to mail Mr Lee once this post is out. (In exchange for some discounts on the purchases – ha ha!)

BALI ESCAPADE – SHOPPING SPREE

I will randomly post the stories of Bali as I had been to too many places at such short period of time that I actually lost track of the names of the places I visited!

Before the trip, I was given a few pointers by friends who had been there and loved everything about Bali. Among the few good advices, I find these few handy:-

(1) Don’t bargain with the peddlers on the street, unless you are serious about buying something from them, or else, they would continue to bug you till your earwax fall off.
(2) Wear sun block all the time (which I conveniently ignored on the last day as I was lazy, and had to pay hefty consequences of having disgusting skin flakes on my neck line and face now.)
(3) If you were to buy anything, negotiate till at least 50% off the initial offer price.

I didn’t think much during the entire trip. The previous worries or problems that plagued me – no matter how petty, miraculously slipped my mind. It is THAT relaxing. I was feeling totally at ease. Bali feels like a second home.

The itinerary is almost fixed for every arranged tour. Very commercialized.

Places that we had been this time, in this particular order:-

Kintamani tour: the Barong show, Mas, Celuk, Gunung Kawi, an agriculture farm in between Gunung Kawi and Tampaksiring temple, Tampaksiring temple, Goa Gajah, Ubud, UCCI Coffee head office.

Bedugul/ Bratan/Tanah Lot tour: Puri Taman Ayun, Lake Bratan, Bedugul Market, rice terrace, Tanah Lot.

Southern Bali tour: Uluwatu, Jimbaran, Nusa Dua

The Traditional Show

Barong show

“Nothing out of the ordinary. Just some dancers with big eyes rolling. You won’t understand shit about it. Don’t waste time.”

That was what the agent told us, when we booked our trip package at Matta Fair last September when we enquire about the show.

Somehow, I was quite surprised that it was still included in the itinerary and it turned out to be fine. Just that, the information given in the leaflet to the tourists is totally way off context and inaccurate. I did some studying on my own and appreciated the show more. It shows goodness always prevail in the end.

The Shopping Places

Bali is well known for its artistic handicrafts. Most of the stuffs being sold here reminds me of Jonker’s Walk in Melaka. The vast difference is the price and also, the variety.

Mas, Celuk

A bit overrated. This is the place famous for higher end wood carvings, stone carvings, authentic paintings and also silver and gold. Of course, being there on the first day, I didn’t buy as I was preserving my money for some other stuffs as requested by friends – beaded shoes, cheap wood carvings, cheap paintings, etc. I prefer to have a go at haggling for prices at local markets rather than galleries which cater for tourists with more spending power.

Ubud

We were disappointed that the people here didn’t really give us much way to bargain. I couldn’t apply the 50% rule here. Further, there seemed to be lack of variety. Probably, we just didn’t have the mood to shop. I ended up with some really neat post cards.

Tanah Lot

A shopaholic’s heaven.

Apart from breath taking scenery, like other markets, Tanah Lot offers a whole range of colorful handicrafts, ranging from beaded slippers to t shirts, paintings to artistic carvings, sarongs to bags.

Here, I bought most of my stuffs as I was advised that the things here are cheaper compared to other parts of Bali. And I get to apply my 50% to 70% rule here.

It was an indeed putting my thin patience to test when it comes to shopping with WY. Even if we were in KL, we hardly shop together.

I was ultimately annoyed when WY kicked up a fuss when she was selecting beaded shoes – too loose, too big, not symmetrical, etc. For a price of RM8 per pair, I guess we should exercise moderation when it comes to selection. I tried my best not to look pissed but to no avail.

Here, I gotten 7 pairs of beaded shoes, bags and t shirts.

Bedugul market

A fruit and vegetable market like the Cameron Highlands. Heck! I haven’t even been to Cameron Highlands. People from all over Bali would congregate here to get fruits and vegetables almost at cost price. A box of strawberries is going for only RP8,000 (RM3.20!!) and that was considered expensive. During peak seasons, the strawberries could come at only RP5,000 (RM2.00).

Here, you get to see vegetable vendors peddling their goods on their heads. Wayan Mudra, our guide, told us that the ladies here have very strong necks. They always carry things using their heads. When it comes to collecting paddy harvest, it was the men who would harvest the paddy and it was the women who would transport them on their heads to the warehouses. I guess the term, “break neck speed” doesn’t apply to the ladies here. Heh!

Here, I got myself 5 metres of batik with phoenix motives at RP100,000 (RM40), which they said is quite expensive. For me, I think it’s worth it. According to Wayan, the batiks originated from Java and I couldn’t possibly get them in Malaysia as Muslims are prohibited from wearing clothes with animal motives. I checked with my clerk. He was telling the truth.

Nusa Dua market

A rather quiet place to cater for the holiday makers staying around the area. As almost every market offering the same stuffs, I bought wood carvings of little owls and beaded purses. Slightly more expensive compared to Tanah Lot.

Kuta Square

The handicrafts here are more defined compared to other places that we went to. When we were passing by a shop selling beaded shoes (not again!!), I quickly distracted WY’s attention to somewhere else. I was too late. She went into the shop and complained that the designs here are far more intricate and neat compared to other places that we had splurged our dough. My heart screamed “MURDER!!” but reminded myself of the 5th Commandment of the Bible, “Thou Shall Not Murder”.

Here, we got our paintings and some really nice fridge magnets. I spent a total of RP1.2 million (RM480) on shopping alone.