Bali, the only Hindu Island in Islam dominated country Indonesia is as spellbinding demographically as it geographically is. A land of spawning scenery, serene beaches, eloquent temples, heavenly food, cheap currency, fancy souvenirs, Hindu 4-caste system and an active volcano, I can still smell Bali air and soil in my nostrils. Let me take you along to my rejuvenating trip to Bali.
I set my foot on Bali (Indonesia) – the last destination of annual international tour itinerary – on 30th October 2009.
Bali Airport and Visa on Arrival
Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport (Denpasar) can be compared to what Delhi International Airport looked in 2004. Small and tasteless! But without an option, we had to stand in a long queue for Visa. The Indonesian VISA fee was 10 USD per adult.
TIP: Keep a 10 USD bill handy else be ready to receive the balance in Indonesian Rupiah, and that with a sad conversion rate!
I had a tough time calculating conversion rates. On an average, 200 Indonesian Rupiah is equal to one Indian Rupee, making you feel like a millionaire! On clearing emigration, I came across multiple money conversion shops with artificial promises and varying conversion rates, with one only thing in common: they were all bad! So here’s another…
TIP: There are many money changer counters in Bali, but most try to cheat by charging huge commission or/and offering a bad rate for your INR or Dollar. So search for a shop that charges no commission. I found the best rate @ Wahana money changer @ PT central Kuta, barely 3-4 kilometers away from the Airport.
Airport to Hotel
Courtesy Airport pickup in our package, a person from Indo Journey was there to welcome us at Airport. 15 minutes later, we were at our – Hotel Bali Dynasty. The Bali Dynasty is a 4-star resort hotel located on Kartika Plaza in Kuta. It is calm, luxurious and mightily beautiful as its back gate opens at Kuta beach. You can see the front view here…
After unpacking and resting for a while, we went out to check out surroundings. It was then I realized the hotel location is excellent. It is on the main Kuta market road. Within 400-500 meters distance, you will plenty of good shops, bars and eateries with all budgets.
Discovery Mall and BreadTalk
There is a good shopping mall called Discovery Mall very near to our hotel. This is the biggest and the only beach front shopping mall in Bali. Here I found this amazing and reasonable bakery called BreadTalk. We tried a fire-floss and a straw tiger roll and paid a mere 15K IDR or 75 Indian rupees. Don’t forget we were in one of the finest Indonesian malls. Besides, our meal was very fresh and delicious.
Car and Bike Rental
While strolled on Kartika Plaza, we enquired rates for bike and car rental. Bike rental was unbelievably cheap – 30K IDR or 150 INR per day (double the money we spent at BreadTalk!). But the road conditions played a spoil sport and we went for a rented car. For one day’s tour to Kintamani, Tanah Lot and Ubud (13-14 hours tour), with a spacious AC car, driver, petrol and a guide, we parted with 375K IDR (about 1,900 Indian Rupees), given to Mr. Bedman.
For the day after, we booked for Mengwi temple, Uluwatu temple and Jimbaran for 300K IDR (1500 Rs) to the car!
Dinner @ Blue Planet
After the travel drained us of our energy, we decide to enjoy a good seafood dinner before retiring to our hotel. We selected on the Blue Planet restaurant, at a walking distance from our hotel. The fried Calamari (squid), seafood platter and Bintang beer (Best selling Indonesian beer, made by Multi Bintang, Indonesian subsidiary of Heineken)
And so ended our Day 1 in Bali, with Food, Bakers and Beer!
Buffet Breakfast @ Hotel
Buffet served everyday at Dynasty hotel was superb. We enjoyed Hash brown, Pancakes, French Toast, Wafers with cinnamon sugar, maple syrup and honey.
Nusa Dua: Bali’s premium!
‘Nusa Dua‘ is the Best beach in Bali and home to some good 5-star hotels. If you are coming for a honeymoon or some other special occasion, then Nusa Dua might be the ideal place to stay. It’s good for swimming and water sports.
Most famous and crowded beach in Bali, the Kuta Beach was just behind our hotel. One of Indonesia’s major tourist destinations, it has long sandy beach, choice of budget/mid-range hotels, restaurants and bars, and is very near to Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport.
Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi
Hey, Bali is also called as Island of temples. There are thousands of temples that are famous for their Art and Architecture. Even an atheist can visit them to appreciate their beauty! We started our temple spree with Taman Ayun Temple in Mengwi.
Taman Ayun Temple is a Royal Temple of Mengwi Empire and it is located in Mengwi Village, in Badung Bali. This important and famous Bali temple spawns on an island in a river. The inner part of the temple is surrounded by a moat full of river water.
Lunch @ Rice Terrace at Pacung
Pacung village has spectacular surrounding view of rice terrace and the mountain. The driver stopped for a restaurant which had a spectacular view of rice terrace on a valley. We had a delicious lunch on the top of valley, enjoying a splendid view of paddy valleys.
Lake Bratan, Bedugul
Bedugul means ‘A temple in the lake’. Lake Bratan hovers comfortably alongside Mount Bratan and Mount Catur. It is a huge lake that fills an ancient volcanic crater and its water is said to be holy. Air is cooler here than south Bali. A temple complex called Pura Ulun Danu is on the western shore of Lake Bratan. It is dedicated to Dewi Danu, the Lake Goddess that provides the irrigation water for the rice fields. The temple is gheraoed by a lush garden with exotic flowers and the sanctuaries are built directly at the water front and hence seem to glide in the water. Such beauty and greenery makes Bratan Lake a splendid sight.
On our way back from Bedugul we stopped by local fruit market. There we found a myriad of tropical fruits and vegetables. We delighted our taste buds with fresh Durian, Jack Fruit, Star fruit, Snakeskin fruit, Chestnut, Mangosteen, Rambutan, Rose apple, Dragon fruit, Custard apple and Longan.
Pura Uluwatu Sea Temple
After a healthy fruit diet, we came to Pura Uluwatu, Located on the southwest most tip of Bali, Pura Uluwatu is a large temple complex built of carved grey coral limestone on top of a cliff. “Ulu” means head, and “Watu” means rock; the temple at “the head of the rock” stands atop a sheer cliff rising two hundred feet above the Indian Ocean. Here, you also see large numbers of mischievous monkeys, who snatch food from visitors. So here comes another:
TIP: Monkey’s can pounce on anything fancy! Do not wear sunglasses, big earrings or caps. Try staying at a distance from these naughty Hanumans!
Sunset at Uluwatu
Sunset time is spectacularly beautiful at Uluwatu. It is surely one of the best Indonesian points to watch sunset.
Kecak and Fire Dance
Indonesian culture is surprisingly rich, at least for a Hindu. For instance, everyday around sunset at Uluwatu temple, a Kecak and Fire dance is performed by the locals. It’s the Epic Ramayana story acted in Balinese style including same Ravan, Hanuman and Seeta! To add to it, you will find about 30 bare chested men sitting in a circle, recite narrating chak-chak-chak rhythmically.
As Sun settles into the horizon, these dancers perform a splendid giant fire display.
Costliest Dinner ever @ Jimbaran Bay
Yes, I had the hitherto costliest dinner of my life at Ganesh cafe in Jimbaran Bay. The name of Cafe is quite a misnomer! At ‘Ganesh’ Cafe, you can choose live seafood and choose how you want them to be cooked (fried or grilled). I chose a live Lobster (1.2 kg) to be grilled, a Squid (fried) and a Baronang fish (grilled). The bill costed us a huge 11,41,500 IDR. They charged an extra 3% as we were paying with a credit card 🙁
TIP: Carry plenty of cash in Bali. Not many counters have card swapping machines and all of them charge extra for using it!
My debut withdraw from an international ATM!
I can’t explain why I decided to mention this! So through with my Rupiah and rupee, I first time withdrew Cash from an Indian Debit Card (Kotak International Card) on a foreign Soil. Thank God my bank didn’t charge me much for that!
Ubud monkey forest and handicrafts shopping
Ubud is a small village and has a monkey forest and a good market. Ubud –the cultural heart of Bali has been attracting artists and painters for several decades. Here, you can you find an incredible number of art galleries and shops selling various handicrafts and decorative items. You will find Stone, Metal and Wood carved goods in most of these shops.
People in Bali have love, and a unique talent for art and creativity. My desire to buy those stone carvings was killed as I realised how difficult it will be to carry them home. One can buy smaller things like souvenirs, incense sticks and beads at a jolly good price. But make sure that you bargain hard. No matter what price you pay after bargaining, you will find same item in next shop at lesser price 🙂 . Ubud is somewhat costlier than other small shops and street sellers that you will find around some temples like Goa Gajah or Kintamani. So better buy some stuff from these places too.
Most of Bali’s museums and galleries are found in Ubud. These museums and galleries offer paintings, woodcarvings, textiles and all kinds of souvenirs for both viewing and buying.
Goa Gajah means the Cave of the Elephant. This cave was dug in a hard rock-solid sand stone. Inside, there is T-Shape cave.
Sebatu Holy Spring Temple
There are various large fountains outside the Goa Gajah temple area, where villagers earlier use to take a bath. This water is now considered holy by the locals.
Kintamani: The VOLCANO TOWN!
Here comes the most intriguing part – Kintamani, a Volcano facing town on Mount Batur. This is the second largest active volcano in Bali, and erupted last in 1996. The land surrounding the volcano is dark and devastated, without any soil. However, there is a nice scenic crater lake called Lake Batur) there. We had another lavish lunch at one of the restaurants, admiring the breathtaking view of volcano.
Batur Lake is the largest lake in Bali and the region is home to a beautiful sight on the island, in fact one of the best in Indonesia.
Lunch @ Tanah Lot:
Mesmerised with the volcano and imaginative of its last eruption, we landed in Tanah Lot before the famous sunset. We had Mussels, King Prawn and normal prawns with rice and vegetable for lunch. The food was excellent and bill was agreeable! (Just 1,15,500 IDR for two)
Tanah Lot Temple and Sunset
Tanah Lot is unarguably the most famous temple on Bali may be due to the secrecy around it. The temple is built on a rock a little bit off-shore and visit to temple is only possible at low tide, which leave Sunset or dusk as the best time to come here. But the temple authorities seldom allow tourists to enter the temple, only priests and local Hindus can go inside!
Hard Rock Cafe
After enough of temples and sculptors, we went to Hard Rock Cafe on our last evening at Bali. As the live-band area was reserved for a private party, we took a seat upstairs at the bar. We had seafood snack combo with cocktails: Bahama Mama and Sex on beach for a mere 242, 413 IDR.
Spa and Nail Art
Ok here are two important tips, one is unisexual and the other one is for all the ladies!
TIP: Don’t miss the Spa (at least for one hour). It’s quite economical and you can get different kind of spa and massage with various exotic oils.
TIP: All women should try Nail Art on their hand and feet. It is a beautiful and subtle form of design, found only in Bali. So just don’t miss it. Check out the image below:
Indian Dinner @ Queen’s of India
The night before we left Bali, we decided to try out Indian dinner at Indonesia biggest & most well established chain of Indian family restaurants. Queen’s of India restaurant is located in Dynasty Resort (same hotel where we were staying). Quite honestly, food wasn’t that great!
While returning, do not forget to keep 150K Indonesian Rupiah per person. This has to be paid in form of a departure tax at airport. God knows why they charge people for leaving their country when coming to it is free! May be Indonesian government tries to compensate for the low cost offerings in its country!
Bye Bye Bali…
Before coming to Bali, I have traveled to US, Mauritius, Langkawi, Singapore, Hong Kong and Star Cruise. Yet, I feel Bali is the best place I have ever been to in my life. People are simple, friendly and warm hearted. Food, Drinks, Shopping, Bike and Car rentals are inexpensive and it makes Bali an excellent destination for tourists. But before I bid you farewell, I want to disclose my first confession and your Last
TIP: A 3-day trip was too short time to be in Bali. I missed more than I saw. If you are planning to visit this Indonesian beauty, plan it for minimum 7-days. I too will hopefully come back later in life. What if we meet…!?!