01.06.2005 30 °C
I was extremely lucky to have visited Bali, Indonesia in June 2005, before the second bombings took place. To have occurred once was horrendous, killing and maiming all those people but for a second time – what has this island paradise and beautiful and gentle people done to deserve this? I don’t want to dwell too much on this incident l want to extol to you (hopefully doing it some justice) the majestic beauty and peaceful tranquillity of this small island and its peoples.
To travel to Bali you will have to connect through one of the more major hubs whether it is Singapore or Bangkok. We flew out of Manchester with Singapore Airlines checking our baggage all the way through to Denpsar in Bali (DPS is the airport code). Flights connecting through Singapore and with a stop over in Singapore on the way home cost less than £600 STG which was excellent value. Expect to travel for practically 24 hours – we had to leave from Belfast therefore it took 3 flights to get to our final destination – with around 17 hours actual flying time. It is long haul at its worst but on arrival it is definitely worth it.
Bali is in the Southern hemisphere only just mind you – less than 150 miles from the equator (8 degrees south apparently) you are in the tropics have no doubt – so come prepared for soaring temperatures and intense heat. As it is an island l didn’t find the humidity to be as fierce as that of a city such as Bangkok – where my hair frizzed as soon as l walked out side! Another preparation before you leave is to visit your GP and ensure you are vaccinated properly – probably a tetanus jab and a Hep B (l think that’s correct) jab – l didn’t need anything this year you see as l was up-to-date from visiting Thailand the year previously. The MASTA website is a good place to check up on what you require. Then ensure you have all the proper sun creams (HIGH factors please) and bug repellents in your bag – throw in a pair of shorts and a bikini (if that floats your boat!) and your all set!
On arrival ensure you have some US dollars as you will have to pay for an entry visa which is stamped into your passport – not this was the case for me as l travel on a UK passport – other countries should consult with the Indonesian Consulate. This was around $30 for both of us. Passport control and immigration move smoothly and the officers were very pleasant – they even had sweeties on the desk for the guests – Jolly Rangers and l had 2!!
We simply grabbed a cab from outside the airport – agreeing a price before we got in l may add – but you will find such cheap in comparison to western standards – approximately £15 for our cab and the trip to our hotel which was off the Nusa Dua peninsula took around half an hour. This is where you get your first glimpse of Bali – well it is mainly roads with families whizzing past you on motorcycles – weaving in and out – horns blaring. It is chaotic and lm not a great passenger at the best of times l must say but l soon got used to it! It might sound all aggressive as a horn blares and a motorcycle skims by your cab – but then you get a huge grin a friendly wave and their off again. Another lovely thing we noticed was if stopped at lights and a family (mummy daddy and a couple of kids) on a bike pulls along usually the kids start to grin and wave profusely – it’s so sweet and welcoming and brings a smile to the hardest of hearts!
We stayed at the Bali Conrad Resort which is to be found in Tanjung Benoa/Nusa Dua area of Bali. It is a quieter part of the Island with a lot of big name hotel resorts. We booked our hotel accommodation through www.travelocity.co.uk. The hotel resort & spa is probably a more upmarket hotel but again as with most holiday resorts there are all levels of accommodation to suit all wallets. The hotel catered for your every desire – it had a fantastic spa and pool, separate pool and beach area, numerous bars and dining areas, a gym, shopping arcade, tour desk and water sports. The room we stayed in was an executive room and was huge with a large bathroom all decorated tastefully in dark woods. There was also a patio area which when opened up had a beautiful view of the sea. Rooms on higher levels had a balcony area as opposed to a patio. The patio was equipped with lounging beds and table and chairs. Each room had a little fabric monkey for guests to take away – each wearing a black and white gingham sarong which in the Hindu religion is to ward of evil spirits – l think it represents the yin and yang – now don’t quote me on that though. It was a glorious hotel and we spent a good few days of our ten night stay enjoying the facilities and the wonderful weather!
We tried to intersperse our holiday with days soaking up the sun along with sight seeing trips. The trips l must say we booked mainly through a website called www.balidiscovery.com and it was interesting as we found it to work out as cheap for us to hire a car/van and tour guide and prepare our own itinerary. I would recommend you surf around the website and see what suits you.
Eating and drinking in Bali was not as cheap as in Thailand – but still compared to restaurants in the west you were still saving. I can definitely recommend:
Bumbu Bali (& cookery school) – we actually went here for my birthday which occurred on holiday. I found it idyllic – whilst my other half found it uncomfortable due to the heat and humidity – the poor soul almost melted in a puddle in front of me meaning he didn’t enjoy the food properly. A free shuttle bus between our hotel and the restaurant meant transportation was not an issue – our concierge desk sorted that out for us. We booked the morning prior to eating there that evening – again sorted out at the concierge desk. It was dark and l can’t really remember much about the exterior of the building – maybe that was the champagne cocktails l had consumed – but as we walked in the chefs in the open plan kitchen all turned to us and shouted a big cheery hello – totally unexpected! After being in here for a while we soon realised that everyone got the same greeting! I was also given an orchid on arrival – something all the females were presented with – l slipped it into my hair it seemed the done thing! We were placed beside a little water feature with fish swimming inside – l did get concerned about mozzies and the running water – so liberally sprayed my ankles with bug spray! The food was authentic Balinese cuisine and it was divine – from memory there were chicken, beef and prawn satay and l remember having a delicious fish coated in spices cooked with in a banana leaf. We had beers and cocktails with the food – and even though the meal was a birthday treat l don’t think it cost much more than £30 for both of us.
In Kuta we ate in a lovely restaurant situated on Poppies II called Kori and l think to my other half this was his best meal of the trip (it came a very close second to Bumbu Bali for my personal choice!). It didn’t look very big from the outside but inside was like a tardis with different levels and nooks and crannies. An open air setting once in side – himself was a lot more comfortable here to enjoy the food! The menu took you across Asia with different specialities for you to choose – satay, Thai food to the Singaporean chilli crab. Food was presented beautifully – we chose a selection of satay skewers to start and it came out on a stone cube inside of which was a little fire so you could keep the food warm. I had the red snapper – l fish which is hard to come by here at home but is an amazingly delicious meaty fish and local to the area so fresh. Rice is the staple side order. Again it was extremely reasonable to eat at. We actually tried to eat here a second evening but luck was against us and the owners had closed to the public for a family occasion.
Finally, l must mention Jimbaran Beach – the area which suffered at the hands of bombers last summer. For any of those wanting a romantic setting and fresh delectable seafood – this place is highly recommended. Come early – maybe around 5pm and enjoy a wander down the beach, watch the wonderfully colourful fishermen’s boats set of for a night of fishing, have a beer and watch the sunset before choosing one of the numerous beach front seafood restaurants to have a meal. We ate at one called Sharkeys – no particular reason – it was the closest we were to when the sun set! Here you choose your fish and pay dependent on the weight – the choice is endless – lobster, snapper, crab, huge prawns or squid – cooked over an open flame grill of coconut husks – the smells wafting to you are simply mouth-watering. It was at Jimbaran that we first encountered Balinese wine! Yes you read correctly – not known as a wine producer but l must say – FABULOUS! I love a NZ Sauvignon Blanc usually and the taste was reminisant – we loved it so much – we picked up a couple of bottles to bring home – l still have the bottle unfortunately the contents is long gone! Just checked the bottle – Bali Hatten Aga Wine produced in Sanur.
Just a word about spa treatments – most resort hotels will have a spa facility and from personal experience l can thoroughly recommend them! I took 2 treatments myself and even got himself coerced into joining me for a couples treatment as a third! I had an invigorating body scrub, a fresh facial – all the products used were edible and we then and a couples foot and leg massage. All of which were amazing – the therapists were like angels and had truly magic fingers. Cost is so much less than we would pay at home – all three treatments worked out at around £55 STG.
Bali has some amazing scenery so it is an absolute must that if you are there you see as much as possible.
Our first trip took us took us in an open top jeep – which on hindsight was not such a good idea with the day time heat beating off us and nothing to shelter under and the suspension on the jeep wasn’t the greatest! Still the scenery and sights certain made up for whatever discomfort. We visited:
Tirta Empul – the most holy spring in Bali enshrined in a temple of 1000 years in age. Our guide was great in telling us all about the Hindu ceremonies and rituals that took place here, and indeed we were able to witness locals going about their religious doings.
Batur Volcano – here is where we experienced the discomfort! We went off road and crossed the black lava fields on our way to vantage point where we were able to view the still active volcano – l had though we went to the crater but sadly no.
Ubud – the local town renowned for the number of local artists which reside here. There was also a market to potter around and do a bit of shopping. I didn’t really shop much here – l was flagging from the heat!
Goa Gajah – again another holy shrine – locally known as the Elephant Cave because of all the ancient carvings.
It something l should note that local culture states proper dress attire which is that of wearing a sarong – our guide provided sarongs for us to wear and even dressed us properly in them.
This trip lasted a full day with plenty of stops for water and food. I cant really quote costs as these are all tailor made and would definitely recommend you check out the website l mentioned before.
Another site not to be missed and one of the most famous Balinese tourist spots was a sunset trip to the Tanah Lot Sea Temple. This temple is over 1000 years old and is probably the most photographed. It perches on a high cliff and when the sunsets the view is spectacular with the rays dancing on the sea and glowing through the temple. Only the Balinese can actually go inside the temple but it is still we worth visiting.
A further trip took us to Alas Kedaton Holy Monkey Forest – in the forest surrounding the temple hundreds of allegedly tame monkeys live. I found the monkeys to be quite forward and indeed aggressive so it was good our guide was with us! I had one perch on my head and eat snacks from my hand! Another tried to steal my camera case! Great photographic opportunity but do approach the animals with caution – and make sure you inoculations are up-to-date as if they don’t get what they want apparently they can become aggressive and even bite.
Kuta Beach is a wonderful golden beach – but rife with touts selling their wares from fake sunglasses and watches to offering massage or hair beading. We headed down for sunset again and himself got some excellent shots. The resort of Kuta is where the main night life is to be found for tourists with lots of restaurants bars and clubs to be found at Poppies I & II. There are the usual market stalls selling local crafts and knock off bags and the like. We spent a few evenings wandering around and also went to pay our respects at the memorial where the first bombing killed so main innocent lives. Kuta is also a Mecca for surfers so expect to meet a lot of long blonde haired lithe Australians out to catch the waves.
What l have given you is really only a snap shot of Bali, there is so much to see and do in this little island in Indonesia. Although at the moment l am not sure what the Foreign Office recommends about visiting Indonesia due to terrorism which is a bloody crying shame as these people rely on tourism to sustain there economy. The island is amazing from the towering volcanoes, to the sparkling blue lakes, to the amazing temples thousands of years old to the ingenious rice terraces. It has wonderful balmy hot weather, excellent cuisine and the people are so gentle and polite.