Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bali - Sanur beach and Uluwatu

This is the third and last day of my trip to Bali. Since the flight home is in the late afternoon, we still have the day to spend in Bali. For the ladies the morning was reserved for the spa and massage while I had a walk around Sanur and also the beach there. Since Sanur is the earlier beach development in Bali and is thus quieter, older and more relaxing, thus it seems more for the mature (read, elderly) tourists. On my way to the beach, I passed two temples - the very old Pura Belanjong and the Pura Dalam Semawa.

The beach is not too busy and has the colourful fishing boats that are typical in Bali.

The bigger hotels here include the Bali Hyatt with a very nice garden compound. Hotels here are low-rise and add to the rustic charm.

I had a drink at one of the cafe lining the beach and watch the sea and sand which is soothing for the mind and also my feet.

On the way back to my hotel, I had lunch at D'corner, a restaurant serving very reasonable priced fusion and Balinese food. Nasi campur is only RP25K.

After lunch, we went shopping for kacang disco (fried peanuts coated with spicy flour) and other take-home snacks. Then we went to Uluwatu, with the temple perched on a cliff.

The view down the cliff at the Indian Ocean is breathtaking.

And those damn monkeys; everything you read warning you to watch out for them is true. They are lightning fast and will snatch anything at sight so hang on to your loose items or put them out of sight. My wife lost her hat to one of these snatch thieves and during my short visit there, I have seen them playing with sunglasses, hair bands, cigarette lighter and even shoes! And they are aggressive too so not sure if they are trained to do their snatching.

On the way there, there were golf courses and other beach resorts but we gave the GWK Cultural Park a miss since they charge RS50K for entrance (if I remember right). I think it is not worth it since they have the usual cultural dances and man-made monuments.

Instead we drove to Kuta to have look at the beach. We were only at the southern part since we were near to the time of our flight home and we did not want to be caught in a traffic jam. Not much activity here in the afternoon.

Soon it was time to bid farewell to our driver and to Bali. We gave him our loose rupiahs after making sure we had enough for some food in the airport and also RP150K for the airport tax. Then it was home sweet home.

Ronald Kwok.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bali - Bedugul and Tanah Lot

The main places we visited on our second day in Bali is the hill resort of Bedugul and the picturesque Tanah Lot. Before the rather long drive to Bedugul, we first headed to Sukawati for some shopping. In fact prices in Sukawati is cheaper than at Ubud (according to the ladies who knows better) so this is the best place for souvenir shopping if you can find what you want here, though the selection may be more limited.

One feature in Bali is the endless devotion to worship and prayers and you can find shrines and mini temples (for want of a better word) everywhere and people are making simple flower offerings all over the place and many are placed on the walkways so be careful not to step on these.

After shopping, it was time for lunch. This time it was at a restaurant call "I Made Joni" in Ubud recommended by our driver. The place is just off a main road in Ubud, right next to paddy fields as are many restaurants in Ubud. So it was very relaxing for the body and the eyes with all the greenery next to your dining table.

Also the food is cheaper compared to other similar restaurants, according to the driver. The crispy duck here cost 85.5K rupiahs compared to 100K to 200K elsewhere. Readers may want to comment if this is correct. Anyway, the crispy duck was crispy down to the bone and other dishes were also good so we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch in the serene and green surroundings.

We then made our way to Bedugul. As it began to rain, the journey was slow and it took us about 2 hours to reach Bedugul by Lake Bratan. The main attraction here is the boat ride across the lake to reach the Pura Ulun Danau Bratan, a tiered pagoda-like temple. Unfortunately, it was raining and we did not want to take the boat ride as it seems to lack safety features.

There was nothing much in Bedugul except for the cool climate and strawberries on sale nearby and a large tourist restaurant and souvenir shop. For those with limited time, I would not recommend the trip to Bedugul, especially if the weather is bad. Others may disagree.

It was thus a wasted afternoon but this was luckily compensated by the visit we had at Tanah Lot, our next stop. The main entrance is just like any other typical temple entrance.

However, once you reached further in, the scenery is very different as you will be going towards the sea. The famous temple is built on an island and you can walk across the straits to visit the temple when the tide is low. Most tourists just take in the view from the shore and enjoy the postcard scenery.

There are other beautiful looking islands (or out-crops into the sea) around, this is one of the most picturesque.

Some youths were even seen to be surfing in the sea.

We did not stay to watch the sunset as the weather was not too good. So we went back to the hotel and the ladies had the room-service massage.

Ronald Kwok

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bali sightseeing Day 1

Today is my first full day in Bali. After a simple breakfast at the hotel, we set out to explore Bali from Sanur. The destination is Penelokan by Lake Batur to view the volcano Gunung Batur. Along the way, we passed Celuk which seems to have silver and gold smith shops everywhere. We did not stop at any but instead we stopped at a woodcarving factory near Mas. The wood products are very nicely done but the price is also very, very nice.

We stopped at a smaller shop along the way where the price is cheaper. This is generally the case where the smaller shops have cheaper prices but less choice and also you need more time to hunt around.

Next stopped was at Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave), we just had a walk around but did not really enter the cave itself since we were not really history buffs. There were the usual souvenirs stalls near the entrance to the cave.

Further along the journey, we stopped at BAS Agrowisata near Tampaksiring. This is an agriculture park growing spices, coffee and other products. The most famous coffee here is the luwak coffee where the coffee seed is eaten and then passed out by civets and this is supposed to produce coffee of the best quality. There is a small coffee shop by the side of the hill where you can try a cup of luwak coffee for RS30,000 and you get 5 other cups of drinks for free - lemon grass tea, ginger tea, ginseng coffee, hot cocoa and bali coffee. This is quite a good deal and without doubt, the best of the lot is the luwak coffee and you get a good view of the surrounding hills. There is a souvenir shop selling their products but the price is not cheap.

Finally, we arrived at Penelokan in time for lunch. Since this is one of the popular tourist spots of Bali, there are plenty of vendors pushing their stuff and some are quite aggressive too. Here you get a panoramic view of Lake Batur and in the background the volcano, Gunung Batur. Unfortunately, it was a bit hazy and so the view was not very clear. (The driver refer to the place as Kintamani but I thought it is further away so maybe the district is Kintamani. Readers who are more familiar with Bali may want to correct me if I am wrong.)

One of the favourite tourist activity is to patronise one of the many restaurants there with outdoor platform to take in the view. We had buffet lunch there and enjoyed our meal together with the view. The buffet cost RS70,000 (or was is RS75,000?) and the food is nothing to shout about but you actually pay for the view and the atmosphere.

After that, we made our way to Ubud for some shopping. Along the way, we stopped at Tegallang to look at the paddy terrace. The timing was right since the paddy has just started to grow so we can make out the steps of the terrace clearly. You can also sip drinks at some pavilion at the slope to enjoy the view. As usual, there are plenty of vendors hawking their wares, quoting very tempting prices. The driver warn us that once you get an item in your hand, it would be very difficult to push it back to the seller.

There are also many handicraft stalls along the way. You won't find many petrol stations around but do not worry as you can buy petrol in bottles in many of the stalls along most of the roads.

Ubud was very crowded with tourists and traffic was congested due to some road diversion. After some souvenir hunting, we headed to one of the temple complex nearby. On the way, we tried the famous babi guling but to me the roast pork back home taste better. Maybe we did not buy from the right shop.

I just cannot remember the name of the place or the temple we visited. Maybe the photos below may help some readers who have visited the place to give the name. There are plenty of structures within the temple complex and visitors have to wear the sarong provided for a donation before one can enter the area.

After the temple visit, we made our way back to the hotel via the capital of Bali, Denpasar. This place is one hugh traffic jam and I am glad that we have engaged a driver. We just ate near the hotel since we were too tired to venture further away.

Ronald Kwok