Bali Trip Report

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Posted by Sue on the Bali Forum October 13, 1998

We have been back for one week and I apologize for taking so long to post a report my excuse is my immediate return to work and a bad case of the jet lags.

To help you put what follows into context 'we' are a couple of women 50-60 years old. We have both travelled in South East Asia before, with tour groups but this time wanted to travel independently. From the Forum we learned amongst many other things that Bali is the ideal place for independent travel.  Sorry I digress.

We flew Cathay Pacific on their Asia Pass and as usual their service was great, flights on time, food ok and, a wonderful bonus we were upgraded to business class for the killer Hong Kong / Toronto leg of the journey. I must say it is so much nicer in b.c.. Pity it is so much more expensive.

Upon arrival we took the airport cab to the Bali Gardenia. We knew from the Forum that the fare should have been about 15,000Rh but were too tired to care when they said it would be 30,000.

Everyone who stays at the Gardenia seems to agree it is marvellous value for money and we are no different. The staff in their gorgeous uniforms are very friendly and helpful and they serve the best inclusive breakfast in Bali. We booked through the Forum (most efficient) for two nights to recover from the outward flight and added another night because we enjoyed it so much. I would suggest that you do not use the hotels travel service as you can do much better by having them call a Bali Taxi. Their cars are clean and the drivers honest. If you like a particular driver you can call for him personally, they are very happy to take you on longer trips, with the meter running or for a previously agreed price. The hotel provide a free shuttle to Kuta, last one back is at 6:00pm so if you want to stay late you can get a taxi back for 15,000Rh. Our last night at the hotel they had a dance troupe from a local village complete with children in the role of frogs, may not be the most professional performance you will see but one of the most charming.

Whilst in Nusa Dua go to Jimbaran Bay for the seafood, we went to Tina at Siki Bali and ate like queens. Go around 4:00pm and watch the colourful boats set off for a nights fishing and see the little fish market. Aim to be ordering you dinner around 5:00pm as it gets very dark and impossible to see what you are eating. Also go early on in you trip so the sight of the planes leaving from the airport on the edge of the bay won't depress you too much! Restaurants throughout Bali tend to be dark so take a small flashlight.

After three days we felt we were ready to begin our adventure and settled on Ubud as a good place to start. We had been into Kuta to change money and congratulated ourselves on our good sense in deciding not to stay there. The youngsters seemed to be having a great time but it was not our scene. The money changer in Kuta Square that posted the best no commission rate readily gave us 50,000Rh notes and very slowly counted out the money for us. Nowhere in Bali did the changers ever try to rip us off. They would probably have been able to manage it fairly easily in the first few days as all those 00000's had us thoroughly confused.

Once in Ubud we checked out some really basic accommodation. All the places we saw were clean but as the windows were not fully screened and there were no mosquito nets we decided to go upmarket. The exception being the Honeymoon Guest House, part of the Casa Luna empire on Jalan Bisma. It is excellent value at 60,000 - 100,000 per night with a great breakfast. Book early through the internet as she was fully booked for the three weeks we were in Ubud. There is quite a jump, then to $20 US (no air conditioning and no pool). Once you get to $30 US+ you will start to have the option of a.c. and a pool. Oka Wati's was our choice and we were very happy with it. Initially we thought we could find somewhere cheaper but as we checked around, nothing in our price range had everything we wanted and by then we were really established with Oka Wati and so we stayed. Our room, on the upper level, with twin beds in the main compound cost us $40 US per night for a minimum stay of 1 week including breakfast and taxes, published rate is $50 - $55 US. There is no air conditioning but we found we really did not need it in the cooler air of Ubud. Cooler is relative, it is still hot and humid but not the blistering heat of the coast. When we had our 'lazy' days it was lovely to have breakfast on our balcony, wander around the streets of Ubud, have lunch in Oka Wati's gazebo and a swim before making our way to Milano's for a couple of hours of blissful massage and pampering. There is much about Milano's in the archives so I will not repeat it again except to say you must try it! If you opt for accommodation without a pool you can buy a day pass for 10.000Rh. Whether you stay here or not we can heartily recommend Oka Wati's Aunts home made rice wine. I am a cheap drunk at the best of times and could get quite happy on a single glass with no hangover.

Whilst in Ubud we enjoyed.

Dance performances at the Palace 15,000Rh

Kecak Fire Dance at Padang Tegal, Jalan Raya. 15,000Rh

Wayang Kulit, Kertha Accommodation Monkey Forest Street. Classic shadow puppet show. Be sure to take a peek behind the scenes as this is possibly even more entertaining than the show itself.

Casa Luna cookery class in Janet De Neefe's garden, Jalan Bisma, 80,000 Rh. More a demonstration than a class. As well as a thorough introduction to Indonesian ingredients, cookery demonstration and lunch you also get to learn of her life in Bali with a Balinese husband and 4 children, really fascinating. Janet's sister-in-law also makes a pretty mean rice wine. Book in advance at Casa Luna restaurant. Currently running a class for vegetarian food on Monday and for carnivores on Wednesday.

Roda Internet Cafe, also Jalan Bisma, for keeping in touch with home. Literally in a rice paddy.

The market and shops on Monkey Forest, Hanaman and Jalan Raya.

Chatting to the locals, mostly men, the women were generally speaking much too busy! Understatement of the trip, from an ex civil servant who is now a tourist guide, "women in Bali work very hard."

Visiting the temples and monkeys in the Monkey Forest, we chose not to feed them, if you like monkeys climbing all over you, buy some bananas on the way in. Watch, hats, glasses cameras etc. the little critters love to run off with them.

The mass cremation in the Monkey Forest. Oka Wati assured me it is acceptable to admit to enjoying a cremation.

The elaborate preparation for and royal cremation of a sister-in -law of the last king of Ubud.

Milano's hairdressing and massage salon.

Puri Lukisan Museum, with fine examples of the varied styles of Balinese painting. It is sad to see the state of some of the buildings and the conditions under which the art work is displayed, they do the best they can with their very limited resources. Another lovely setting. In Bali if something stands still for 5 minutes someone carves it, paints it, builds a lotus pond around it or smothers it in exotic scented flowers, almost nothing is allowed to go unadorned. Please visit.

Eating out. Favourite places, Casa Luna Jalan Raya, Cafe Wayan & The Thai Restaurant (that's it's name) on Monkey Forest, Batan Waru & Tutmak, Dewi Sita Street off Monkey Forest. To name a few. We usually paid around 60,000-70,000Rh for dinner for 2 with a beer and maybe a rice wine. Prices seem to be going up all the time as the menu's often had 3 or more price changes on them. Still very good value. We did not enjoy Indonesian food as much as we had expected. Thai is our favourite and we thought Indonesian would be similar. However what ever your taste in food it can be found in Ubud.

In Ubud we hired a driver guide, Wayan Purya of Bali Tourist Services. His name will be familiar to Forum junkies and he is every bit as nice as everyone says. His English is good, not fluent but he has no trouble making himself understood. He is a kind and gentle man with a lovely sense of humour. His asking price is 200,000Rh and we did not want to bargain with him, he is worth it. He took us out several days and we got to see the 'real' Bali which he prides himself on being able to show you. We are not shoppers and so he did not take us to any of the usual tourist traps. He is a deeply religious man and on our first day took us to the Mother Temple. He asked us if we would like to pray with him and as we said yes he took us into the main part of the temple where we were the only tourists and led us through a simple service. I don't know what the priestess thought of her new converts but we found the whole experience incredibly moving.

From Ubud we went to:

Kintamani - well worth the trip. The buffet lunch at the Lakeview Restaurant is expensive by Bali standards at $6 US and not particularly good but they have the location and what a location it is. Much is made of the hawkers here, all I can say is Wayan got us there ahead of the tour buses and we didn't even notice them going is and only saw them from the car on the way out.

Besakih (Mother Temple) as above.

Bali Birdpark, the most expensive entrance fee we paid at $6 but it is a beautiful park in magnificent gardens and the birds are well looked after. We hired a driver off the street for 50,000Rh. It is only a short drive from Ubud but he waited 2 hours for us. If you just want a driver as opposed to a driver guide we can recommend I Wayan Ardika he is on stand by on Monkey Forest Street in front of the Gayatri Cafe. His English is adequate, he has a sunny disposition is honest and a very careful driver. You will probably get him for 100,000 per day. His brother is also a driver but his English is not as good and he does not have his brothers personality. By the way, are all drivers called Wayan? We used eight in all and everyone was called Wayan.

Jatuluih, for rice terraces on the grand scale:

Puri Lum Bung and Munduk, agree with recent postings though we only stayed for lunch it looked like a great place to spend a few days. We missed the wedding by one day, would have loved to have gone. They have fireplaces in the cottages here so bring a sweater.

Ulun Danu, temple by the lake. Very photogenic and you can take a small boat out on to the lake. Came back here later and stayed for 2 nights at the Enjung Beji Resort, immediately adjacent to the temple. Lovely new cottages with "cathedral" ceilings built over your very own lotus (frog) pond in superb gardens. Spent a fascinating couple of hours watching a battle between two male frogs for the attentions of a female. There were small cottages for a very reasonable rate, can't remember exactly how much and larger ones close to the lake for $30 US including tax and breakfast. Wonderful setting especially before they arrive, or after the last tourist bus of the day pulls out around 4:00pm. Noticeably cooler up here in the mountains and we were glad we had taken our sweat shirts with us. There is a large restaurant at the temple with a buffet lunch for 25,000Rh or a-la-carte menu which is reasonable but unfortunately the restaurant at the resort is disappointing. Without transport you have no option other than a long walk for an evening meal.

Banjar hot springs, very much enjoyed our visit here. We were lucky in that we had the place almost to ourselves. Three bathing areas with naturally hot sulphurous water. Some coming from quite a height so it was almost like getting a massage. There is a restaurant overlooking the bathing areas and the usual exotic gardens. A word of warning, the pools are very slippery, take great care. By the time we had changed out of our swim suits the tour buses had arrived and we left.

Lovina Beach, black sand, lovely hotels on the beach but the hawkers descended and were of the most persistent kind so we literally turned on our heels and left.

Singaraja, just drove through but it is quite different from the rest of the region, having wide European style boulevards.

Git Git waterfall, wouldn't go out of your way to see this one. The path down is steep with lots of steps and even more hawkers, someone told us 80 or so stalls. Barbara was tired and stopped half way down to chat with some newlyweds who had just taken a stall there for a rental of 60,000Rh per month. I carried on and it was pleasant down there, just a few people and it would have been nice to bathe under the waterfall.

Amed, on the coast, quiet, lovely beaches, good area for diving, snorkelling or just relaxing. Great restaurant at Hotel Indra Udhyana.

Royal Bathing Pools, Tirtagangga, built by the local raja, there is a swimming pool and ornamental ponds set in a garden. Balinese children were enjoying playing in the water. The most magnificent rice terraces can be seen all around this area.

When we left Ubud we headed back to Nusa Dua and the Hotel Bualu. On the way we stopped at Batubulon village to see the Barong. We arrived early and were invited to go 'back stage', where the dancers were preparing the flowers for their elaborate headdresses and getting their make up on. The costumes were all hanging up in the temple and it was most interesting. Barbara even had lesson from a dance teacher. The caretaker told us the dancers retire when they marry as it is "not fun to watch old women dance".

Nusa Dua is like Florida, big beautiful hotels in a secure area completely sanitized for the tourists. It is expensive and I think it would be a shame to visit Bali and only see Nusa Dua. We went back there to do some shopping for the inevitable gifts for family and friends and to relax for a few days before heading to Hong Kong and then home. We chose Bualu over going back to Bali Gardenia because of its proximity to Bualu Village, we wanted to be able to go somewhere within walking distance. Nusa Dua seems to be feeling the economic difficulties more that Ubud. Hotels and restaurants and shops all almost empty. Hotel Bualu was the first hotel at Nusa and is in fact under renovation. This did not bother us in any way. They have a lovely new pool area, you can borrow a bicycle from them or go horseback riding. They have a beach shuttle which will also drop you off at the Galleria. The beach is within walking distance and is pleasant with loungers and towels available. The breakfast included in the price is a continental breakfast and not in the same league as Bali Gardenia.

From here we went by Bali Taxi to Kuta ( metered) for shopping and to Ulu Watu and Tanah Lot for a previously negotiated price.

Ulu Watu is a small temple perched on the edge of towering cliffs. It is renowned for it's sunsets and inhabited by aggressive monkeys. You will come under a lot of pressure to hire a guide to take you to the temple, you do not need one. They also assure you that you need someone to protect you from the evil monkeys. Someone insisted on accompanying us and as we really did want to be free to roam about on our own we paid her off as quickly as possible and she went off to offer her services to someone whom we hoped would be more appreciative. The monkeys are not really a problem, some of the tourists tease them and one did steal my hat and make off with it but the peanut seller chased him and got it back. If you are nervous wave a stick about and they will take off. Sunset was pretty unspectacular so we decided to go to Tanah Lot the next evening and try again.

On our way through Kuta to Tanah Lot we got caught up in a massive Mega Wati demonstration. Hundreds of her supporters tearing around on motor bikes in cars and trucks dressed in red tee shirts and bandanas and waving flags. All very low key and not at all threatening, it just made getting around a little bit slower. During our month in Bali we had watched her support grow from the odd flag at the roadside to an overwhelming red tide. The youth of Ubud were having a lovely time riding around all day and into the evening letting off steam and showing their support. It will be interesting to see the outcome, I hope she can live up to their expectations, they deserve the best.

At Tanah Lot the beautiful sunset eluded us yet again. There were hoards of tourists and the hawkers were everywhere but we were still glad we went. The setting is so dramatic and to stand on the rocky outcrop beside the temple with the tide coming in and the surf crashing around us was another unforgettable experience. As soon as the sun goes down the people melt away and yet if you stay a little longer the sky becomes suffused with colour, it may not be a spectacular sunset but it is pretty.

Just after dawn on our last morning we opened our balcony door, let in a blast of hot air and the sound of gamelan. At that time of day it could only mean one thing, a procession. We were dressed in a flash and out on the street. We caught up with them as they reached the beach and found ourselves in the middle of a post cremation ceremony. We spent a magical hour watching the ceremony which ended with the spirit of the deceased being sent out to sea on a boat and the burning of the golden tower they had carried with them. As usual we found someone who was happy to explain what was going on for us. The perfect end to our trip to Bali.

I am a keen amateur photographer and I brought back the most wonderful memories of a lovely island and it people and over 600 photos.

The only things we did not like were:

The packs of wild dogs which roam the streets, especially after dark.

The constant burning that takes place around Ubud. We could forgive our neighbour the rice farmer for waking us up at 6:00am every morning screaming at the birds to get off his crop but his constant burning of rubbish got on our nerves. What with the farmer, frogs, dogs cockerels etc it is as well we both like to rise early.

The police officers who stopped our drivers for no other reason than to take some of their hard earned money. The fact that they are badly paid did not impress us in a country where teachers earn 40,000Rh a month. We didn't see any of them intimidating drivers or tourists.

Finally a few last minute thoughts.

Mozzies: They did not trouble us much and we did not see too many. Did not take medication. Used 30% Deet at dusk and lit coils in our room before going out for the evening. Asked for coils to be lit at restaurants at dusk.

Bali Belly: I had some minor stomach upsets but no fever or headache, Barbara had no trouble at all. Took Imodium in my pack everyday for emergencies and following one such bought some sulphur pills locally which seemed to take care of the problem. We tried not to be neurotic about eating out, just took sensible precautions and the problem I did have was as the result of breakfast at Kupa Kupa Barong!

Medical help: Went suddenly deaf whilst is Ubud and had to have my ears syringed. Went to Ubud Clinic Jalan Raya, past Casa Lina and down the hill. Very pleasant and competent Dr. Charged 100,000Rh for the procedure and 60,000Rh for the note for the insurance company.

We neither saw nor had any first hand reports of any crime, we felt comfortable and safe at all times.

Road Safety: All our drivers were careful and considerate of other road users. I would not want to drive myself, for one thing there is too much to see without having to get the hang of the rule of the road. There only seems to be one and that is drive down the center until someone else appears then manoeuvre around until everyone has sufficient (just) room to pass. I would not like to travel by motor bike but did not see any accidents. I wonder what the Balinese would make of road rage?

My, that was long winded, if there is anyone out there still awake who would like further information or to see some photos, email me.

Thanks again to everyone who posted on the Forum it was an enormous help in planning our trip. I am still checking in every day and wonder how long it will be before a day will pass without my logging on.

To all you lucky people still counting the days and hours to your trip, have a wonderful time.


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