Last day in Bali

Our last day in Bali arrived soon enough. We saw a lot of Bali in the previous four days and had a great time there. A part of us would have loved to stay on in Bali a little longer but the other part felt it was time to go home. I was comforted by the fact that I managed to catch so much with my photography there. Having good photos helps to relive the adventure.

We visited the spa again on the last day. I had a foot massage while Jessi had a manicure. It was extremely relaxing and comfortable - both, we really needed. This was something we knew we were going to miss a lot once we got back to Munich. After that, we went over to the souvenir shop to do some final shopping and to finish the remaining Rupiah that we had. Time was flying by so fast and we really had to rush. As soon as we were done shopping, we went back to the hotel, picked up our stuff, checked out and made our way to the airport by car. Everything went smoothly in the airport. There were no delays nor any issue with immigration. Soon enough, we boarded the plane and 2.5 hours later, we were back in Kuala Lumpur.

Our visit to Bali was indeed a splendid one. Perhaps more so for us since it was our second honeymoon and this time, we were both healthy. We would gladly recommend having a vacation in Bali and would be happy to provide you some tips and further information if needed. Just drop me an email.

I've finished working on our photos from the trip and uploaded them to my Picasa Web Album. The slideshow is embedded below.

Let me know what you think.

Second day out in Bali

After the long day we had before, we decided that we wanted to sleep in and take it easy the next morning. Well, not quite. We still wanted to catch the sunrise at Tanjung Benoa. So, we got up at about 6 am and went over to the beach. I was fully equipped with my camera gear and all prepared to shoot some sunshine.

As we were walking to the beach, I noticed that it was already pretty bright. "Perhaps we are too late," I thought to myself. I brushed the notion away and tried to convince myself that it starts to get bright even before the sun emerges from the horizon. After all, if you were to switch on a torchlight and place it behind a wall and close to its edge, you are bound to see some luminance come through the sides. We kept walking towards the beach and it just kept getting brighter. I was starting to doubt my theory a little but I never showed it. I was hoping that my little display of faith would help alter reality.

So I walked along the beach, set up my tripod whenever I found a good spot and started snapping away. By now, the sky was pretty bright but we hadn't seen the sunrise. After another five minutes or so, we said to ourselves, "Maybe we missed the sunrise". *sigh* Ye of little faith! As a consolation, we told ourselves that we wouldn't have been able to catch the sunrise anyway because it was too cloudy. That was actually a valid, though weak consolation. It was extremely cloudy. Even if I had woken up 15 minutes earlier, we wouldn't have been able to see the sunrise. Really!

Anyway, after that, we went to have breakfast. We still wanted to do something that day. We agreed that we would spent the first half of the day lazing around in the hotel premises and take a tour of some sort in the afternoon. Once again, we went through the many brochures we had and studied every package in detail. At first, we decided to take a boat ride and do some snorkeling. However, we called the agency and found out that such tours always start pretty early in the morning. In other words, we were too late - tough luck! Jessi was adamant about being in the water and so we agreed that we would visit Dreamland resort. We also wanted to see the Uluwatu Temple, which is another important landmark in Bali. So, we hired a car with a driver for six hours and paid a mere USD 30. The driver would take us to all the places we wanted to visit within that six hours.

First stop was Dreamland resort. The resort is apparently owned by Tommy Suharto, son of a very controversial ex-President of Indonesia. But politics aside, the resort is beautiful. The beach is apparently man made and because of that, there are some areas that are pretty rocky and less than ideal for swimming. We found ourselves a couple of beach chairs and were soon greeted by "bouncer" who kindly requested USD 10 for the privilege to use them. We didn't grumble about that since they have a similar system in Phuket. He handed us a couple of surf boards to use. This was our first experience surfing. Well, surfing may be an exaggeration - we lied down on the surf boards and let the waves beat us! In any case, it was fun. I insisted that Jessi spent as much time as she wanted in the water to avoid future "I want water" attacks.

After a couple of hours, we left the beach, washed up and went over to our car. Our driver was waiting for us. Our next stop was Uluwatu Temple. As we were approaching Uluwatu, our driver began warning us about the monkeys there. He advised us to keep all our accessories (glasses, phones, jewelry, etc.) in the car or in our bags to avoid having them snatched by the monkeys. He kept emphasizing that they were not bad but just playful and naughty. I don't know what he was actually describing because the creatures that awaited us were not naughty - they were bad to the bone! We witnessed them snatch several items from the tourists there including a pair of glasses, a bracelet and a piece of decoration attached to a backpack. They would only return the snatched items in exchange for food. These monkeys were really wild and on the brink of being labeled violent. You should not bring in any food to feed the monkeys although the people outside happily sell nuts and such to tourists. The monkeys may attack people carrying food.

The unpredictable behavior of the monkeys prevented me from setting up my tripod and taking good photos. Every time I took out my camera and started shooting, a monkey would inconspicuously pop up near me hoping to snatch something away.

However, monkeys aside, the Uluwatu Temple and the scenery around it is fabulous. The sight of the temple hanging on the cliff, the clear, blue sea and the powerful white waves pounding on the rocks is indeed something to behold. However, after a while, we decided to get away from the monkeys and to go for dinner. For the record, I didn't know that there would be (lots of) wild monkeys there and if I did, I wouldn't have wanted to go there.

We decided to go to Jimbaran again. At first, we wanted to try a different restaurant but on second thought we decided to stick to familiarity. So, we went to DEWATA again. We didn't order the same things though (we're not that predictable!). We had fish and prawns like before but different preparations. As expected, the food was splendid and the atmosphere, pleasant.

We were done with dinner at about 8 pm and decided to return to the hotel. On the way back our driver showed us his place and he offered to take us to the airport the next day. We accepted his offer.

Our day out in Bali (continued)

This is a continuation of our previous post.

We crashed. The car in front of us braked hard and our driver did the same, managing to actually stop in time. However, the car behind us, which was following too closely, slammed into our rear and forced our car into the car in front of us. We were pretty shocked. Jessi had a headache before and the impact made it worse. But other than that, we were physically fine. Our guide, Nyoman, was extremely concerned about Jessi but showed little compassion for me. That pissed me off a bit! After all, I could have been hurt too. But on second thought, he was probably afraid that the "white lady" would file a lawsuit against him, the driver and their company. The Malaysian guy couldn't do much harm. *sigh*

Back to the accident. So, I got out of the car like the other passengers and took some shots both for evidence and for my faithful blog readers. Believe it or not, all the cars were chauffeuring tourists! Who else would have time to visit Kintamani on a weekday? Fortunately, none of the other passengers were hurt either and after about 15 minutes we drove our separate ways (which were all in the same direction and probably towards the same destination).

It was during this time that Nyoman decided to enlighten me about the secret of Balinese coffee. I thought to myself, "Now I have a nice, mystical story to bring back with me from Bali!" If I only knew better. This is Nyoman's story: Bali is famous for its tasty, strong coffee and there is a secret behind it. The coffee plantations here are filled with foxes. The foxes love coffee beans - they eat them. These generous beasts leave their droppings in the fields only to be happily picked up by the farmers when harvesting their crops. The farmers do not try to separate the feces from the beans but have them processed together because it apparently adds flavor. After a (hopefully very) long process, you magically get Balinese coffee powder. Think about this "mystical" story the next time you decide to order a pot of Balinese coffee in Starbucks.

Soon, we arrived in a Chinese restaurant for lunch. It was pleasantly cooling when we got out of the car. We were probably about 1000 m or so above sea level. I would guess that the temperature there was about 20 degrees. The restaurant had a spectacular view of Mount Batur, which is more than I can say for their food. It was pretty crowded but we were still able to find some good seats. After lunch, I took some photos from the restaurant, including the panorama above.

At about 3 pm, we met Nyoman outside the restaurant, got into our car and went on our way. Our next stop was the rice terraces. Before we got out of the car, Nyoman warned us not to buy anything from the people there. Apparently, they often entice tourists with extremely low prices (e.g. 1 USD) only to demand more once they have agreed to buy. I don't really understand how that "scam" would work in practice but I wasn't keen to find out. We took his advice. Rice is a staple food for Balinese and most of Asia. It was interesting to see their ingenuity at work in devising such terraces to grow paddy in the mountains. We didn't stay very long and soon hit the road again.

Our next and final destination for the day: Tanah Lot Temple (left). Tanah Lot is probably the most famous place of interest in Bali. Here are links to the Wikipedia entry and the official website for more information. We tried to catch the sunset at Tanah Lot - it's supposed to be spectacular. Unfortunately, it was too cloudy to see much when we were there. Nonetheless, it was a splendid experience and we took some pretty good photos, I think. An interesting thing about Tanah Lot is that you can only walk to the temple when it's low tide. The path to the temple is submerged in water during high tide. It was low tide when we were there and we got pretty close to the temple.

After a while, Nyoman took us to another cliff that had an excellent view of Tanah Lot as well as another temple (right), which was on the opposite side. I took as many shots as I could before it got too dark.

By then, we were exhausted and it was time to call it a day. The drive home took us about an hour. Overall, it was a great day out in Bali.

Our day out in Bali

In the previous post, we ended with our dinner at Jimbaran Beach. The seafood there was fabulous and although we didn't actually get to see the sunset, the weather was great and the scenery, splendid. We had dinner in a restaurant called DEWATA, which has a pretty unique way of billing its customers. You pay for the seafood and drinks, and the rest is on the house. Of course, I would like to emphasize that you shouldn't expect too much of the "rest". I won't elaborate further on that and let you experience it on your own. Prices at DEWATA are very reasonable and absolutely transparent (even by European standards). There is a proper price list and you are charged based on the weight of the seafood you order. You can choose from several different preparation styles (fried, grilled or steamed) and dressings (sweet and sour, black pepper or original Balinese). Feel free to try different combinations, but I'd strongly encourage you to give the Balinese-style grilled fish a go. It's suitable for the faint of heart as well.

We went to bed soon after we got home from dinner. After all, we had to prepare ourselves for the full-day tour ahead of us the next day. As you arrive in the Bali Airport, you'd notice lots of brochures and pamphlets advertising tours within and around Bali. We grabbed a few of those when we arrived. Most travel agencies have similar packages and prices, and I would expect that the quality of most is about the same. As we were not too sure about the quality of these agencies, we decided to go through our hotel's concierge. On the second day, we approached our hotel's front desk about joining a tour. The guy on duty was kind enough to bring out a few more brochures and explain a little bit about each place of interest. We discussed the many options we had and finally decided on a full-day tour that included the Barong dance, Ubut handicraft market, Elephant Cave Temple, Mount Batur (a volcano) in Kintamani and Tanah Lot Temple. After some bargaining on the phone, we agreed on 80 USD (800k Rp) for the both of us. We would have our own car, driver and tour guide (note that we had a separate driver and guide) for the day.

Our guide, Nyoman, picked us up from the hotel lobby at 8:30 am. We introduced ourselves, paid him and got on our way. First stop: Barong dance at Batu Bulan. The Barong dance is probably the best-known traditional Balinese dance. When we arrived at Batu Bulan, we were ushered into the hall where the dance was about to take place. There was a traditional band of musicians seated towards the left of the hall. Once everyone had taken their seats, the emcee jumped on stage, gave us an introduction about the Barong dance and kicked off the show. From more information about the Barong dance, read the Wikipedia article here.

Instead of elaborating on the dance further, here's a short video we took.

Here are links to a couple of more videos we took: video 2, video 3. This was our first experience with the Barong dance. It was pretty impressive and definitely something new if you're not from the East. I would recommend seeing it once but I personally wouldn't be keen to see it again.

After the Barong dance, we went over to the Ubut area. Ubut is famous for handicrafts and we got to see first hand how some of these were actually made. First, we visited a silver factory. We were greeted by a Balinese lady who then explained to us the process of turning silver into jewelry. Bali doesn't actually have its own silver, but imports it from the neighboring island of Jawa. The raw material is then processed in Bali and turned into silver jewelry that is sold handsomely. While silver jewelry is pretty common nowadays, the articulate workmanship of the Balinese, which is evident in their products, is exquisitely rare. Jessi got a pair of earrings and a necklace from the factory shop (Duhhh! Big surprise!). They were hand-made and very well finished. I really had to haggle to bring the price down to a reasonable level. Be prepared to do so if you plan to get something from these places (a bottle of water to wet your throat is a good start). I had no doubt that Jessi would be making some ladies green when we got back.

After the silver factory, we went over to see some paintings that were being sold in a traditional Balinese house. Nyoman first took us through the house compound and explained the intricacies of a Balinese house. The most important is probably the home temple. There is a shrine for everyone or every couple (couples have bigger shrines than singles). The shrines are treated like people and even clothed with traditional sarongs. Next, we had a look at the traditional Balinese kitchen where cooking was still being done over charcoal. It was quite impressive to see such a traditional kitchen still fully functional and utilized.

After that, a guide took us through the collection of paintings that they had there. They had a very mixed collection. There were traditional, contemporary, religious and even some "playboy-style" paintings. From my rather brute description, you can probably guess that I'm no art enthusiast. We would have loved to bring back a piece or two but after the last bargaining session we had (for the silver jewelry), I just didn't feel up to it. So, we left the place empty handed and I don't think our hosts were too happy about it. Well, it isn't our fault that they've made haggling part of the purchasing process.

Our last stop in the Ubut area was a woodcraft factory. Here, we did actually buy some things. Once again, when we arrived, we had a guide talk us through the wood crafting process. According to her, the craftsmen are typically men although women do work on some smaller, simpler pieces. After the short intro, we made our way into their showroom. Some of the pieces they had on display were phenomenal. I could imagine a big market for these things in Europe although there are probably trade restrictions in place to prevent them from swarming the international market and choking the local industries. Imagine having these guys make cuckoo clocks for a quarter the price and exporting them back to Germany to be sold there! Anyway, just like the painting factory, there were traditional, contemporary, religious and even some "playboy-style" pieces. Finally, we walked out of the shop with two pieces - a wooden owl and a wooden elephant. Both pieces are solely for decoration.

We were done with Ubut at about 1 pm or so, I believe, and Jessi started feeling hungry. We stopped in a mini market along the way to get some snacks. Our next stop was the Elephant Cave Temple. The temple, which is about a thousand years old is set in a cave and built in the shape of an elephant. Before entering the temple premises, Jessi and I had to rent and put on sarongs (I bet some of you would love to see a photo of that!). This is required in all temples and the rental fee is modest, so no concern there. In the temple yard is a pond surrounded by statues with water gushing through their bellies. The pond represents a Spring of Life. Next, we entered the cave temple itself. There are large holes built into the walls for meditation purposes. Apparently,devotees would sit or lie down in these holes to meditate. We spent about half an hour walking around and taking photos in the temple premises. After that, we went towards our car and returned our sarongs along the way.

Next stop: Mount Batur in Kintamani. Nyoman told us that the drive would take us about two hours. Jessi was starting to get a headache. She popped in a couple of pills and then we both pushed our seats back to take a nap. Suddenly, we crashed...