BALI AUGUST 2008
16 August 2008 3.50pm. We are at the Kuching Airport. My old friend Ah Yen had kindly offered to see us off. He came by the house and drove us up in our CRV. Everyone's excited about our first trip to Bali (I had a tinge of trepidation in view of past bombings there).
Nigel and Sharlene at the departure lounge waiting to board. We booked the express boarding with Air Asia so there was no rush to queue up and wait. But on our return flight, we were so late that everyone had boarded ahead of us. Luckily the flight was not full on the return leg.
7.20 pm. We have landed in Bali! The flight was quick. Less than 2 hours. We landed about 30 minutes ahead of schedule. I had booked a driver (Norman) with a new Kijang van but he was nowhere around because we arrived early. This photo is taken at the area where all arrivals wait for their cars.
Same place. I've got Sharlene in my left arm. She's 21 kg so I'm still pretty strong for my age. There's a small kiosk at the airport where I bought a local telephone sim card for my handphone and called Norman to hurry him up. Also bought 2 cans of Bintang beer to drink in the hotel.
9 pm. We have arrived at Sanur Beach Hotel. Sharlene's standing at the front entrance of the hotel. It's a big beachfront hotel in Sanur which is a quieter part of Bali. I deliberately avoided the Kuta Legian area as this is a holiday where we intend to relax and chill out. It had been a hectic month for me in court immediately before we left.
At check-in, we were given welcome drinks which pleasantly surprised us. The reception counter is not much different from many other 4-star hotels around the world. Check-in was quick and hassle free. The first hotel room they gave us had 2 single beds so we requested for a transfer to a kingsize bed. They attended to that promptly.
10 pm. We were hungry after arriving so we asked Norman to drive us to a pub outside the hotel called The Cat & Fiddle. It's an Irish pub with a live band. Gina had bangers and mash, I had their special Steak and Guiness pie, Nigel had spaghetti carbonara while Sharlene put her little head on the table and promptly fell asleep. Poor little tyke was exhausted.
Nigel at The Cat & Fiddle posing for the camera! The food has not arrived yet. This is an open air pub which is very common in Bali. They serve a wide range of beers. I had read of this place on the web and brought a printout of the food to order! This is the first of many great meals we were to have in this paradise.
17 August 2008 8.45am. I woke up about 8am. Went to do a little exploring by myself. Returned to the room at 8.30am. Sharlene was up so I brought her down for breakfast. See how pristine the hotel grounds are kept. This garden is just outside our room.
Our hotel room is the third one from the right on the first floor. It's called a deluxe garden view room. I had tried to book a seaview room but it was all taken. The hotel is about 30 years old and this is reflected in the garden (matured and gorgeous) and the rooms (old fashion). The rooms are the equivalent of 3 star hotels in KL, not 5 star as advertised on the internet for this hotel.
Gina and Sharlene at breakfast on the first morning. The buffet is in the background. We usually sit on the terrace outside where we can get the cool sea breeze. The breakfast itself is nothing to shout about. The eggs, sausages and bacon were ok but the fried rice and noodles were surprisingly bland for Bali. But I guess they were catering for foreign palates. A lot of Germans here.
Sharlene and I also had breakfast at this special little place just outside the coffeehouse one morning. This pic taken on the second morning of our stay. But I found it a little too windy in the morning. Maybe it would be a good place to enjoy a candle light dinner in the evening.
The beach fronting our hotel. The sand is raked every morning. There is no rubbish on the sand. Beautiful. There is an offshore reef, making the sea calm and gentle, ideal for children but not for surfers. Gina and Sharlene showing how much they are enjoying themselves.
I had to get in on the act too!
We're now in the sea. You'd think the Bali sea would be warm but it was freezing. The waves were fairly gentle. We did not stay in the water long though. We preferred to head for the huge hotel swimming pool. This hotel has 2 pools in different locations. The second one is one of the biggest I have ever seen. Sorry no pics of it.
Sharlene loved to play chess with me in the morning after breakfast. The 2 of us are the early risers and always go down first and finish eating first. So we enjoy a game or 3 before Gina and Nigel join us for a stroll or a swim.
11.30 pm. We have left the hotel on our first day in Bali. Our first destination is the famous temple in the sea known as Tanah Lot. This pic is taken in the shopping area next to Tanah Lot. Small branded boutiques side by side with small shops selling local clothes and handicrafts line both sides of the street that leads to the temple.
Take a look at that black bag hanging from the T-shaped stand next to me. That's a fruit bat. There's a little donation box next to it with a plate of cut papaya. I think we're supposed to take the papaya and feed the bat and put something into the box. These guys really can think of novel ways to make money.
We're at the cliffside overlooking the Tanah Lot temple. It's a beautiful temple built into a rocky outcrop which is cut off from the mainland at high tide. The cliff we are on has no railings so I had to hold tight to Sharlene at all times. It's a 50 foot drop straight down to the raging surf below.
This is the opposite side of the cliff from the Tanah Lot temple. The rock formation in the distance reminds us of something we had seen along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria Australia - somewhere near the 12 apostles. There was a guy surfing just beneath the cliff where this pic was taken.
We went down to have a closer look at the temple. The tide was rising and the temple was cut off from the mainland. We didn't stay too long as it was getting very hot in the mid-day sun.
2 pm. There's a famous eatery in Seminyak called Made's [pronounced "mah-dey"]Warung serving Indonesian and international cuisine. We had lunch there on our way down from Tanah Lot. I reckon it is overrated. I had nasi campur, Gina had tofu burger, Nigel had chicken curry, Sharlene had shrimp spring rolls. Only Gina enjoyed her food.
After lunch, we headed for the Kuta shopping district. Very busy and crowded. Nigel had a great time shopping for Quiksilver and Billabong products. He was just disappointed that we didn't spend more time there. We had to leave by 5pm because we wanted to catch the Jimbaran Bay sunset where I had planned for us to have dinner.
That's our driver Norman pushing Sharlene in her stroller along the main street in Kuta. Norman's a great chap. His service is excellent and if you are going to Bali and you need a driver, I can let you have his contact. His rates are Rp450,000 for a full day [8-10 hrs] and Rp250,000 for half day[up to 5 hrs]. We booked him for 3 full days. His van has good aircon and comes with child safety seat.
6 pm. We're now at the famous Jimbaran Bay warungs. I saw this huge live lobsters at Bayang Cafe and decided to order 2 grilled lobsters. Look at this monster I am carrying! The lobster, I mean [LOL]. 2 of them together weighed 4.7 kg. I deliberately picked the biggest 2 they had.
OK here's a plug for the cafe. Just a tip, let the cook decide how to do the dish. It's usually grilled with their special chilli paste. We didn't want it spicy cos of Sharlene and had the lobsters grilled plain. I think it would have tasted nicer with some condiments.
This is our table on the beach facing the sea. We could see the sun setting while we dug our toes into the sand under the table. The feeling is absolutely great as dusk falls, especially with a cold Bintang and the promise of grilled live lobsters. The place was really crowded with tourists.
The food's arrived. Fresh whole charcoal-grilled lobsters with a basket of hot local balinese rice. YUM! The condiments are in the 4 small bowls - chilli, garlic, soy sauce. Nigel and I had Bintang beer while Gina had water and Sharlene had coca cola. The one-course dinner came to Rp 1.7 million.
Eating by candle light looks lovely and romantic. But we could hardly see what we were eating after the sun had fully set and had to ask for extra candles. The long row of light in the background is the airport. We saw planes landing every few minutes, indicative of the number of tourists coming to this beautiful island.
18 August 2008. In the morning, we swam in the hotel pool and the sea. We only set off at about 11.30am with Norman to do some shopping at a Surf outlet selling Rip Curl, Quiksilver, Roxy and Billabong gear. We took a break for lunch at this nearby Babi Guling restaurant. The kitchen didn't look too clean and the roast suckling pig was a letdown. The ikan bakar was delicious though.
After lunch, it was off to the spa. We picked one called Sekar Jegat located between Nusa Dua and Jimbaran which I had read good reviews of on the net. This is the double bed room that Gina and Sharlene had. See the big bath tub in the background and the twin bed next to them. Those are the massage beds. The bath tub area is open air.
Gina looking lovely in the hot tub filled with flower petals. She has just had an hour's Balinese massage and a body lulur (body scrub that exfoliates the skin). They apply some soft paste all over her body. This is left to dry and harden. Then they scrub it off. This leaves the skin soft and smooth. A hot shower followed by a soak in the flower filled tub. Heavenly.
Even little Sharlene has her Balinese massage. She absolutely loved it. We didn't want her to miss what we had even though they don't normally massage kids. Man, this is the life. This place, I later found out, is more expensive than most. Sharlene's massage came to Rp180,000 (Ubud same massage costs Rp100,000). Our total bill came to Rp 1.5 million.
After the spa, we felt very relaxed, mellow and hungry! So it was off to one of the best eateries in Bali called Arena Sports Cafe. It has local and international food. I had a steak which was beaut. Gina had grilled salmon and Nigel had baby pork back-ribs grilled in a special sauce. The serves were big and Sharlene shared with us. We also had a lovely mushroom dish to share.
19 August 2008. We checked out at 10.30am. Set off for Ubud with Norman. This is our hotel in Ubud. It's a boutique all-villa hotel called Kajane Mua located at Monkey Forest Road, in the heart of the dining and shopping district. Kajane is a superb hotel with excellent facilities and unbelievable service.
From the main entrance, we head to the reception area. This is the walkway to the reception. Gorgeous plants all along the way. It's about 100 metres to the reception desk. We had fallen in love with this place from the moment of our arrival.
This is on the way up to our villa. We have to pass by the hotel spa and massage centre which is that building in the background among the trees. It's a bit of walk up to our villa but the surrounds are breathtakingly beautiful.
The famous Ubud paddy fields are at the rear of the Kajane. We have to walk past it each time we go to our villa.
Our bedroom in the villa. They had a lovely floral arrangement set out on the bed to welcome us. The frangipani flowers filled our room with a gorgeous scent the whole day. See the hat they have put there for Gina? It wasn't hot enough in Ubud for her to use it. This place has to be 6-star in our view. Gina loved that bed.
Our welcome drinks (fresh coconut with lime) and cold towels being served by this lovely lass immediately upon our arrival. The service at Kajane is really good. That's our saltwater plunge pool in the background and a wooden swing which Sharlene enjoyed. Immediately next to the pool is a tiny paddy patch just in front of the trees.
Front view of our villa. To the right is the bath area. It has a bathtub in an open area with an enclosed separate shower. The dining area is in front. That's where we have our breakfast served to us at the villa each morning. Utterly relaxing to wake up, stroll out and eat next to our private pool.
It's time for a late lunch. We wanted to eat the famous Ibu Oka Babi Guling which is supposed to be the best in Bali but she was closed the day we arrived. We decided to try the equally famous Dirty Duck Diner (Bebek Bengil) which I had read up on in the internet.
Even the tables where we ate were special. The tables are on elevated platforms in individual huts. The whole place is filled with plants and small ponds with huge water lilies that Gina absolutely loved. We had a couple of english women sitting at the next table in the same hut who Sharlene promptly chatted up. She doesn't know the meaning of 'shy'!
This is the rear of the Dirty Duck Diner which looks out on a green paddy field. The restaurant is really big. It's said that the restaurant got its name from a flock of ducks which came in from the muddy fields while the restaurant was under construction leaving mud prints all over the place. Hence, the Dirty Duck Diner. It's famous for its crispy duck.
The famous rice terrace of Ubud can be seen in the background. We asked Norman to drive us to have a look. We had intended to go up North to the hot springs of Kintamanis but ran out of time. So decided for a tour around the countryside.
The streets of Ubud. The kids in the background are doing a performance similar to our lion dance. They go from shop to shop. There are various different troupes through the whole day. It was a special festival in Bali - Independence Day, I think.
We went to see the famous Kecak fire dance on our first night in Ubud. The Kajane provided a hotel shuttle that brought us there and picked us up after the show. Their service was so good that it felt like we had our own limo and driver around the clock. They drove us around anytime we asked though we were supposed to give 1 hr notice. Gave them Rp10-20,000 tip each time.
Gina and Nigel enjoying a glass of fresh juice in our private pool after swimming in the late morning. The pool is unusual in that it is a saltwater pool which uses less chlorine.
Cafe Wayan in the background along Monkey Forest Road. Cafe Wayan is right next to Kajane. We went there for supper after the Kecak fire dance. Nigel thought the pizza there was good. The cakes looked delicious and we bought a slice of chocolate kahlua back to the room to eat. Sharlene liked it.
Sharlene in the Monkey Forest Sanctuary. Lots of mischievous monkeys there. Constant fights between them over food. This part of the sanctuary is an old temple. We had to rent sarongs and sash to enter. Gina didn't come with us, deciding to stay back at the hotel and enjoy a manicure, pedicure and foot massage.
Our final night's dinner. We picked Lamak, a fancy restaurant not far from our hotel. Nigel and I both had the chef's tasting menu which included 2 appetisers, a soup, a main course and a dessert for about Rp300,000 each. The entire dinner came to about Rp 1.2 million. Not cheap but the food was very nice. Whole place filled with foreign tourists.
21 August 2008. Our final morning in Bali. Gina enjoying her breakfast in the dining area outside our villa next to the pool. She had eggs florentine with crispy bacon and ham on a muffin. The rest of us had full english breakfast with ham, eggs, hash brown, baked beans and toast. Then at 11.30 am, we reluctantly left the Kajane.
On the way to the airport, we stopped to do a bit of shopping. Gina saw some household things she liked. Got to the airport a little late. Check-in was dreadfully slow. As a result, we were one of the last to board the plane. So much for express boarding!
Then all too soon, we were back in Kuching with lots of happy memories of an all too short holiday in such a great place. We went with little expectations and came away delighted. The Balinese people were all very gracious and kind. The food was superb. The Kajane Mua was the highlight of our stay. If Air Asia brings back direct Kuching Bali flights, we would surely be back when there's a long weekend. That's how much we love the place.