The taste, feel and look of Bali

We were very hungry when we were finally able to make our way to some restaurants outside our hotel at around 10pm.

We didn’t know then that the dinner was going to cost us millions! Well, it was not too bad a deal since it was Indonesia’s currency Rupiah… Inflation has been very bad. Joel’s rule of thumb that helped us calculate was: 100.000 Rupiah is equal to 10 US Dollars.

We found a very nice restaurant which had a special offer that night: fancy seafood dinner with 4 courses for 2 persons – only 195.000 Rupiah. The waiters and waitresses were very nice and polite. One of them could even speak German pretty well! He also offered to take us around the next day, but we wanted to first have a look at all the different things to do in Bali. After a nice spring roll each, we had soup followed by the main course: fish and king prawns with fried rice and vegetables. It tasted very good but Joel got upset with me for getting full too soon and not being able to eat “enough”. The dessert looked very artistic: half a young coconut filled with fruits and ice cream.

After dinner we went back to the hotel straight away and looked at all the different flyers about day tours around Bali that we had found in the airport. So many interesting places to go, so many nice things to do on this island! It was hard to decide on what to do. The next day we were going to take it easy, sleep in, use the hotel pool and have a look around. Finally, we took sleeping pills and knocked off.

We slept very well and only woke up at about 9am. Since the breakfast buffet was only available until 10am, we immediately went over and were overwhelmed by the beautiful view and our close proximity to the sea. Due to the fact that it was already dark when we arrived, we hadn’t been able to see anything beyond our hotel room. While eating, we saw many people doing water sports: jet skiing, banana boat riding, parasailing, etc. Our beach was not very clean because of this. So, we couldn’t swim there.

After swimming in the pool and showering, we decided to look for a spa. We found a reasonably-priced one nearby and had nice, full-body massages and facial treatments for a total of 1.5 hours. This was my first time at a spa. Very relaxing and refreshing!

Near our hotel we also found some souvenir shops that we explored soon after. We spent thousands buying presents for our friends and for ourselves. :-)

At 5pm we were picked up by a driver from a restaurant located at the east coast of Bali. This restaurant was recommended by Joel’s brother and his wife who had been to Bali twice before. We were welcomed by many nice locals working at the restaurant. First, they gave each of us a beautiful flower typical of the island and stuck them behind our ears. Then, we got a welcome drink and were escorted to the beach where we could sit at a table closest to the sea.

The view of the Indian Ocean was fabulous. The sun was slowly setting. Unfortunately, there were quite some clouds that hindered the full view of the sun going to sleep in the sea. We were a little disappointed and went to order our food. In order to do that, we had to go to the front of the restaurant and look at the seafood they had stored in aquariums – partly still alive. There were different kinds of fish, prawns, lobsters and crabs. We chose a fish and some prawns and decided for sweet and sour preparation – my favourite. When we came back to the beach, we saw a little bit of the sun again, spreading beautiful colours across the sky, changing every moment. We took lots of nice pictures before enjoying the food.

In this post, we have included some of our favourite shots.

Second Honeymoon in Bali

Jessika and I never really had a proper honeymoon. We got married just over two years ago in Germany and then went back to Malaysia for a few months. At that point in time I was in the midst of my job transfer to Germany. Things were a little crazy with my transfer then and we decided to hold off our honeymoon until things were really settled.

In my defense, I did arrange a short trip to Phuket for the both of us. It wasn’t really honeymoon-quality but as the saying goes, “Nothing else matters when you’re in love…” Now comes the bad part. I fell terribly ill a few days prior to our departure. I remember standing in line at the immigration checkpoint like a zombie, fuming at the officers that seemed to be on vacation in their minds while examining the passports. I was probably hallucinating but I could almost see an imaginary masseur behind each officer! Anyway, to cut it short, we couldn’t make the most of our trip to Phuket but we still had a good time.

Things in Bali were going to be a lot better – at least we hoped. This was our second shot at the whole honeymoon thing – a second honeymoon, so to speak. Bali is a world renowned holiday destination and a hot spot for honeymooners. It doesn’t matter if you got married two weeks ago, two years ago or two decades ago, Bali has something for everybody. We fall into the two-year category and our experiences (as described in our blog posts) may reflect that.

We decided a few months back that we should spend a few weeks holiday in Malaysia and in between we would visit Bali. We flew from Kuala Lumpur to Bali with Air Asia, Malaysia’s favorite airline (so they claim). Return tickets for the both of us came to about RM 780 (~EUR 150). Reservations can be made online at Air Asia offers holiday packages that include flight and accommodation as well. However, we found a better offer for accommodation at decided to go “á la carte” instead. We reserved our accommodation at Kinds Villa Bintang Resort, a 4-star hotel. At 60 USD per night, their price was very reasonable. For the two months or so since we finalized our reservations for Bali, we were the envy of everyone whom we told (and bragged!) about our upcoming vacation. Of course, we were ourselves extremely excited too.

So, the big day arrived. Our flight was at 5 pm. I called a cab to take us from my aunt’s place, which is where we were staying, to the airport. Note that Air Asia, Malaysia’s favorite airlines (no, I’m not being paid to say that) doesn’t fly from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). They fly from the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT), which is about 15 minutes away from KLIA. I would love so much to bash the Malaysian government right now for making such a costly, stupid move to build another airport next to an under-utilized airport for the sole purpose of protecting (at least that’s what they thought they were doing) the national airlines (and of course, more importantly, their cronies) but that topic deserves another post or perhaps even another blog altogether.

Anyway, back to our trip. The drive to LCCT took us about 45 minutes. Believe it or not, my German wife was freezing in a Malaysian taxi. Thanks to my great advice, she didn’t bring a pullover along (who needs a pullover in Malaysia!). I have to admit that we Malaysians do get a little carried away with air conditioning but it just didn’t occur to me. Well, Jessi did survive the cold winds and we checked in immediately when we got to the airport. We had some time to kill, so we had a cup of “teh tarik” (translated as: pulled tea) each while waiting. Soon enough, we boarded the plane and took off.

Air Asia is a no-frills, budget airline. They don’t offer some of the niceties available on regular airlines and if they do, they’re usually chargeable. The flight from KL to Bali is about three hours and we arrived in Denpasar (Bali) International Airport at 8 pm. There is no time difference between KL and Bali. Our first stop: “Visa on Arrival” counter. Being a Malaysian, I do not need a Visa to visit Bali. However, Jessi does. The visa costs 10 USD and is valid for up to seven days. After obtaining the visa, we queued up to go through immigration. The line was pretty short and I was feeling pretty good. When it came to our turn, we went up to the immigration officer and handed over our documents. He told me that he was only able to handle “Visa on Arrival” cases and since I didn’t need one, I should go to a different counter. I walked over to the other counter and this time I really got pissed. There was a really long queue and just about everyone who was on the plane with us was ahead of me. And remember those imaginary masseurs I saw at the immigration counters in Phuket? I saw them in Bali too! To make things worse, three (Indonesian) Amigos jumped queue and forced their way in front on me. A fourth one tried but I held my ground. I was fuming and surprised that the fire alarm didn’t go off. In the mean time, Jessi had already picked up our luggage and was waiting for me on the other side. I harnessed every ounce of patience imbued in my body and after about 45 minutes, I was through. I was still furious, but I was through.

Next, we queued up for a taxi. Fortunately, it didn’t take more than 15 minutes before we were in the cab and on our way to Tanjung Benoa (close to Nusa Dua), which is where our hotel is. The drive took us about 30 minutes and cost 10 USD. Once we arrived at the hotel, we immediately checked-in. We got a pretty big room that even includes a small terrace outside to relax and chill. There were a couple of hiccups - the water was trickling in the bathroom and the safe was jammed. However, the hotel staff resolved them very fast. Our first impression of the hotel was positive although I would question its fourth star a little bit. The décor could have been more tastefully done.

After washing up, we went hunting for some good Balinese food for dinner.

Our first week in KL

Upon arriving in Kuala Lumpur at around 2pm on Sunday, we were picked up by Joel´s brother (as Joel mentioned in his last post) and then welcomed by his parents and aunt at whose big, nice house (almost a palace!) we were going to stay in. We got a comfortable bedroom and a bathroom on our own.

This is actually the same place we stayed in for 4 months after getting married, while we were in Malaysia together waiting for Joel´s job transfer to Malaysia.

After showering and putting on some fresh and short clothes (not the long and warm ones from Germany!), we felt much better. We rested for a while and then went out to buy dinner and eat it in Joel´s sister´s place. It was great to see everyone again. I haven’t been in Malaysia for 2 years! Here are some photos of our nephews.

Shawn (1st photo in this post) is turning 4 next week and Robin (2nd photo in this post) is 1.5 years old. They are very cute and adorable. In February, they are going to have a baby sister. :-) We played with them and had a lot of fun. They call Joel “Say Ku” (2nd Uncle, maternal; Chinese dialect) and me “Jee Kim” (2nd aunt, maternal; Chinese dialect). Shawn is always eager to take pictures with Joel´s big new camera. He is actually saving money to buy a camera like Say Ku´s. Last time Joel visited them, Shawn gave him his piggy bank and said that the wanted to buy Say Ku´s camera! :-)

The first night, we slept nearly 14 hours (!) – with some breaks in between when it was too cold with the air con and then too warm with the fan only. I could have slept on for days. :-)

The first few days, we met up with many of our friends here and did a lot of shopping. Compared to Germany, most things are so incredibly cheap here! I bought lots of accessories and clothes. :-) So fun when it is so cheap! In the pics, you´ll see some of my new clothes: a new dress, T-shirts, skirt, shoes,…

Another highlight that needs mentioning is the Malaysian food that we’ve been enjoying here. Indian bread, Chinese noodles (fried and with soup), Chinese and Indian mixed rice, Malay Nasi Lemak, freshly squeezed watermelon juice, etc.

This weekend, we´re in Malacca with Joel´s parents, siblings and nephews. But that is a topic for another post... :-)

Visiting Malaysia

We decided a few months ago that we wanted to visit Malaysia, my home country, at the end of this year. Fortunately, we’re just the two of us and pretty flexible when it comes to timing our holidays. We started looking for off-peak season tickets pretty early and stumbled upon a very good offer on eBay. Yes, you heard me right – eBay.

The tickets were fixed-price items on eBay and not on auction. I was pretty surprised to find such an offer on eBay especially when the prices of flight tickets are typically variable depending on availability and departure dates / days. In the description, the travel agency that posted the item advised interested bidders to get in touch with them prior to making the purchase on eBay. We did so.

We got in touch with them, expressed our preferred dates of travel and got an offer. The price was slightly higher than that which was advertised on eBay but still the best we found on the Internet. A return ticket from Germany to Malaysia for one adult was 550 EUR with Etihad, the national airlines of the UAE. We accepted the offer and transferred the money soon after.

About four months went by before we boarded the plane bound for Malaysia. Our flight was pleasantly uneventful. We boarded the plane in Munich, transited in Abu Dhabi and arrived in Kuala Lumpur. The transit in Adu Dhabi was pretty long though – seven hours. Nonetheless, we found a nice lounge, had some food and drinks, surfed the Internet a bit and soon enough had to make our way to the departure gate. As usual, I used the time on the plane to catch up on some movies. I watched Transformers 2 in the first leg and Wolverine in the second – both movies I wouldn’t have been "able" to watch with my lovely wife at home.

Etihad is a pretty good airline and I would gladly recommend it. We were happy with their service, punctuality, movie selection and the huge LCD screens they had in Economy. They are also the only airline I know to offer a very decent pair of headphones. Most other airlines provide passengers (in Economy) with sorry excuses for headphones - they tend to hurt your ears more than entertain you. I found the leg room to be a little tight though when compared to Lufthansa, for example.

We arrived in Kuala Lumpur at about 2 pm and were picked up by my brother. We then made our way to my aunt's place.