Let’s get it on! This is going to be a long post. Just so you know and you’re warned. But I’ll do my best to make it entertaining for you. I hope I’m entertaining. Hahaha.
Tourist Spot 4: Kuta Beach
After an emotional roller coaster, we decided to stay in for our second day. Our hotel though is a good ten minute walk from Kuta Beach, so we decided to give Bali sunsets another try and walked there come the afternoon.
This is a public beach, and the first thing that welcomed us when we stepped through the gates was vendors with bottles of ice cold Bintang. As much as I want a cold bottle while lounging, the girls and I were just relaxed to submission to even mull over it. We found a good spot at the beach and started watching other tourists, including the most charming dog we’ve ever met.
What was so weird though was when a handful of people came in and started taking pictures of women in swimsuits. Now, you’d think it was flattering to an extent, but no. It was downright freaky. One of them even hung around our area, taking our videos and photos, snooping around. IT WAS FREAKY AS HELL. It came to a point when we just started looking for local police because it really was scary. The man even followed us as we went out, so we had to take the long route back to our hotel.
We immediately informed Dodi of what had happened, and he was quick to say that the man is probably not Balinese. He said it is not in their culture to be so invasive. Should any stranger approach us with an attempt to endanger, all we had to do was scream for help and everyone will take care of the rest.
Safe to say, while we did catch the sunset by Kuta beach, we were not as enthused to come back to it.
Tourist Spot 5: Batubulan, Barong and Kris Dance
Day 3 and we are back under Dodi’s care. As we are first timers in the island, he recommended the Ubud Kintamani Tour, and the day started with the Barong and Kris Dance.
In a small amphitheater, we were entertained by a beautiful interpretative dance about the god Barong and his enemy Rangda. The entire dance showed the struggle between the good and the evil, and it was not short of entertaining. I think this was the crash course to Bali’s mythology.
When you enter the amphitheater, you will be given a guide to understand the whole performance. Bear with their English and other translations, but the fact that it came with more than five translated languages is quite impressive. Bali truly knows how to accommodate their visitors.
Of course, we took pictures with Barong after. We had to. He’s just so cute. And pretty. And shiny. And nice. Barong was a lot of things.
Tip: pick a seat at the elevated part of the amphitheater, preferably in the middle. The place is not air conditioned and there are a couple of posts that hold electric fans, but trust me when I say you can bear the lack of air for a while. Do not let anything obstruct your view.
Apparently, not everyone operates with the mindset of having the majority enjoy the performance as this silverfox sat right in the front row and the middle. Good thing we were flexible enough to maneuver around him and not have him on frame.
Tourist Spot 6 and 7: Tohpati, the traditional batik village and Mas, the wood carving village
Dodi gave us a choice as we cannot hit all the villages given the time we had for the day. All these villages are right after the other. We are after all in the art center of Bali. We chose the wood carving and the traditional batik villages because why wouldn’t you? HAHAHAHA. This is how the elimination process went:
Celuk, gold and silversmith village: NO MONEY TO BUY GOLD.
Batuan, the home of painters: NO MONEY TO BUY PAINTINGS.
Tampakspring, holy spring water temple: NO CHANGE OF UNDERWEAR.
Kintamani, active volcano and lake Batur: BAD WEATHER = BAD VIEW
Mas, wood carving village: WE LOVE WOOD *wink wink*
Tohpati, traditional batik: WE LOVE CLOTH
That’s the perk of travelling on a budget. Your money is limited so choices are easier to make. HAHAHAHA.
Tohpati, Traditional Batik Village
We visited the batik village almost immediately after the performance. For those of you who may not know, batik is a technique of wax-resist dyeing on an entire piece of cloth. This is all made by hand, so each design is quite unique from the other. The parts with wax resist the dye, so they retain their original color.
We didn’t really know what happens with the cloth, so imagine our surprise seeing these women, tediously and carefully waxing the designs on textile. There was a certain sense of calm in their routine; it almost made me envious. I can barely recall the last time I was calm at work.
After the wax, the cloth is then treated to heat-reacting chemicals. This man “colors” them well. It may seem like dirty doodles at first, but the sun knows how to work its magic.
He said he’s been doing this for 37 years. We asked him if he’s tired. He smiled and said, a vacation is okay, but this work, I don’t mind.
We browsed around the gift shop, where you are not allowed to take pictures. Finished batik artwork may be bought – either as a wrap, clothing or a picture to be framed – and it’s worth every penny.
(Needless to say, we only bought enough to take home, within the allowable budget for souvenirs of course.)
Remember this: good work is not cheap, and cheap work is not good. Seeing what these people do for one particular output will make you feel like a dick when you try to lowball them in your haggling.
Mas, Wood Carving Village
I had every intention to buy our ring box for the wedding in this village, but I repeatedly reminded myself that this is a budget trip. This is my way of telling you this part of the trip can get expensive.
We went to Dodi’s most recommended wood shop, and right of the bat, we were blown away. Outside the store were men working – one, presently carving a fresh piece of wood; one, sanding what appears to be finished work; and the third, coating his work with varnish.
The smell is almost intoxicating and your eyes just take in the beauty of their work. It was quite majestic. Wood pieces big and small adorn the entire place – floor to ceiling. We kept touching everything, as if validating in our mind that it truly is wood and not something poured in a mold and fashioned carefully.
Dodi encouraged us to haggle so we can bring home at least one piece, but sadly, even with our newly-found haggling skills, the items are still beyond our budget. That didn’t stop us though from exploring every nook and cranny of the place.
Six-foot-tall pieces take as long as nine months to make, according to the salesman, sometimes even a year, as some designs were quite intricate. You just want to take everything home. And then we stumbled upon this:
We love wood, but not enough to make it our center table.
Tourist Spot 8: Kopi Luwak
After lunch, Dodi drove us to experience the only must we have on our list: a taste of kopi luwak.
If you’ve seen The Bucket List (Morgan Freeman, Jack Nicholson), you’ll know it’s one of the most expensive coffees in the world. It’s also the shit. A nocturnal animal, the luwak (Asian pal civet) eats the coffee cherries and poops them out. The magic happens inside the animal. After some research:
The civet eats the cherries for the fleshy pulp, then in the digestive tract, fermentation occurs. The civet’s Protease enzymes seep into the beans, making shorter peptides and more free amino acids. Passing through a civet’s intestines the cherries are then defecated with other fecal matter and collected (Marcone, 2007).
Our guide showed us how the coffee is made. First, they collect the droppings and wash them all. Then they remove the shell-like around the bean before roasting it over coal. Then, pound away to grind the bean and prepare it for consumption or sale.
They first had us sample the wide variety of teas that they also make. It was amazing. I never thought I’d enjoy drinking hot drinks during hot weather this much. But when we requested for kopi luwak, they brought it out alongside Bali coffee.
It is a must, he said. You’ll definitely see the difference when they’re consumed side by side.
IT. WAS. DIVINE.
The flavor was full and bold, with its taste swirling a bit in your mouth as it slowly goes down. The acidity is just right, if any at all. And it is best taken black. Bali coffee tasted like water next to it. Seriously. Surprisingly though, this has very low caffeine.
And it’s amazingly pricey. I got a 60g bottle of the ground coffee and it already costs Rp.295,000. That’s roughly Php1,010. It truly is an indulgence. I believe I have stowed this bottle in a dark and cool place.
It was divine. Really. For someone who has a fondness for coffee, this was perfect.
Tatay would have loved it.
Tourist Spot 9: Ubud Rice Terraces
Now that we’re all pumped with much needed liquid energy, we’re off to see the famed Ubud rice terraces. It’s almost embarrassing to have seen this part of the world, and yet I haven’t seen our own in Banawe. I should make an appointment to do that.
Anyway, it was pretty dry when we got there. It has to do mostly with August being the hottest month of the year for Bali. But it was still beautiful.
Our stop was quick, because Dodi said we have to catch the monkey forest before it closes at 6. A couple of snaps and we’re back in his car.
Tourist Spot 10: Ubud Monkey Forest
You can really tell that the girls are missing their kids as we are always attracted to monkeys. HAHAHAHA.
Unlike Uluwatu, the Ubud Monkey Forest seem to have friendlier monkeys. Dodi told us to leave the usual shiny belongings, especially plastic bottles, because surely the monkeys will take them. In every corner of the forest, there were small stalls with bananas that you can purchase for Rp.20,000, something to feed the monkeys. They were very entertaining.
What attracted me most to this place is this humongous tree. From this perspective, it looked like it owned the bridge and the bridge didn’t mind. I can’t quite put it into words. I admire how the walkways and bridges didn’t want to interrupt the organic growth of the place. Nothing was interfering nature, just a little trinket here and there.
We also saw deer in the monkey forest. (That was an odd sentence.) A deer who peed on Marga. But the guide said it’s lucky to be peed on by a monkey. But it was a deer. HAHAHA.
Also, make note: when there’s a tree, pose.
When there are stairs, pose.
Never hesitate to strike a pose.
It was the longest day.
It was also the best day.
All these spots we hit in one day. That’s what I was saying about Dodi. He makes sure you get your fill of Bali. It was the longest and most tiring day. It was also a very good one.
Excuse the forced alliteration, but hey! It works right?
Before I forget, this is our itinerary for the four-day getaway.
Day 1: Arrival, Nusa Dua
Day 2: Stay in hotel
Day 3: Ubud, Kintamani
Day 4: Taman Ayun, Tanah Lot
Day 0: Going home
For this part, let me breakdown all the places we went to, including our hotel.
Aidel arrived a little past midnight on 5 August. Boy, were we relieved. We originally wanted to pick her up, but because of the round trip, the fare would cost twice as much. Good thing Dodi advised us how to direct her to the airport taxis. He insisted that those taxis are far more secure and affordable than the ones scouting right by the pickup zone.
Most of our time was spent by the amazing pool of our hotel, Terrace Hotel at Kuta. Located perpendicular to the popular Legian Street, this quaint hotel boasts of its hospitality, pristine amenities and affordable price.
We originally intended to stay at a hostel for a more affordable trip. However, because of our mission to include relaxation and leisure in this trip, this hotel won hands down. It is also quite conveniently five minutes away from the famed Kuta Beach.
To know more about Terrace Hotel at Kuta, visit their website at www.terraceatkuta.com.
Tourist Spot 1: Dreamland, Nusa Dua
Dodi took us here early to avoid the throng of Chinese tourists that usually come around 11 in the morning. I have to first admit that I am not a beach person. I survived a good part of the last decade not being anywhere near a beach, and I’m sure I didn’t miss much. That was until I saw this:
There was something serene and scary about the waves in Nusa Dua that day. Of course, at the time, our mood was still quite somber, not having Aidel around. But this beautiful beach was given the perfect throne. In spite of the aging hotel and the seemingly perilous descent to the shore, the view was just breathtaking.
Or maybe I’m just exaggerating. I don’t know really. But for someone who has not really fancied the beach, this was a very good introduction to what Bali has to offer.
Tourist Spot 2: Uluwatu Temple
One of the things that Dodi told us when we got to Uluwatu was to remove everything that can be snatched or grabbed, particularly those that are shiny like gems and plastic. After tucking in our sunglasses and watches, we trekked into the temple.
Upon paying the entrance fee, they will give you a mini sarong to cover your legs. While this is one of the more famous tourist spots, it is still a temple. We got lucky because there was a ceremony during our visit. Speaking with the locals, we found out that the ceremony is a celebration for the bountiful harvest they had the past full moon.
It was oddly serene, even though the traffic of people was continuous. I still had a hard time grasping the offerings to the monkeys but hey! Tradition is tradition, and four days is hardly time to fully appreciate and comprehend them.
While we didn’t see any monkeys at the temple – apparently, they’re shy types when there are huge throngs of people – we did see a good number at the parking lot, where it was less crowded. One of them looked as big as a dog, while another tried to grab Marga’s bejeweled slipper. Talk about a close encounter!
Tourist Spot 3: Jinbaran Bay
After checking in the hotel, Dodi took us to Jinbaran Bay. He said, we should celebrate our first day on the island in spite of being incomplete. He reserved a table for us at his favorite restaurant, front and center to the view of Jinbaran Bay’s sunset.
This island is just so full of culture. While waiting for our food to arrive, a ceremony was being held. It was odd at first, as we were not really used to prayer and dance being part of a sunset. At the same time, it was enchanting. The locals gave their offerings to the sea in the end.
While I enjoyed our time by this beach, I still can’t help but compare the sunset to our very own in Boracay. I think the Jinbaran sunset was just underwhelming because of the presence of volcanic ashes on the horizon, so we never really saw the sun dip in the pool. True enough, the next day, the airport closed because of those ashes.
It was a great way to end the first day. When we got to the hotel, we received the good news that Aidel is arriving slightly past midnight. It was such a relief; we can enjoy Bali even more, now that we’re complete.
I hope you stay tuned for more Owesome Bali updates. Are you on your way to Bali too? And if not, when do you plan to go? :) See you for the next part!
This is quite a delayed post but really, it is worth writing about because I don’t think we’ve ever had an event where each moment in itself is memorable.
We booked our flights to Bali, Indonesia at last year’s Cebu Pacific seat sale. At roughly PHP 24,000 (USD 530 at PHP45:USD1), Marga, Ate Ja, Aidel and I jetted off to Bali for five days and four nights last August 4-8.
Oh wait. We didn’t all get to go. Hahaha.
First hurdle: Aidel’s passport was less than six (6) months valid.
As my new sister-in-law, the fact that Aidel didn’t get to fly with us is quite stressful. Not only did we plan this trip for the four of us, but among us, she was the most excited. It was such a pain when, after paying our travel taxes, I saw her still talking to the check in counter lady. Apparently, they won’t let her fly because of her passport validity.
Important note to traveler: read the fine print. The Cebu Pacific staff was very kind in explaining how the airline will be fined (and herself, in turn) should Aidel be given an airport-to-airport transfer. Your passport must at least be valid for six months at the time of travel. It should have been elementary for us to check the terms, but eh. We were too psyched for the entire trip to even notice.
Long story short, after a day-long hurdle shuttling back and forth to various DFA offices, she was able to have her passport stamped for a year-long extension just in time to catch the next flight out to Bali that same evening. We are lucky like that.
So, Marga, Ate Ja and I landed in beautiful Bali and already we’re quite blown away by the state of its international airport. Located in the city of Denpasar, Ngurah Rai International Airport is just brimming with Indonesian culture. It was soooo clean too! I swear, we could almost see our faces on the floor and the walls. At the exit gate, we were greeted by a huge stone deity.
It made us, once again, almost infuriated that our own airport is in a state of disarray. Why can’t the powers that be just move everything and anything to have a welcome platform as representative of our culture much like this? Seriously. As an ASEAN neighbor, we truly pale in comparison to Indonesia. And I’m just speaking of Indonesia alone.
Anyway, we headed for the pickup zone where our driver, Made Dodi, is waiting for us. After changing our dollars to rupiah, Dodi immediately assisted us and handled our luggage with ease.
While buses and taxis are available on the island, we have all decided for this trip to be a budget-relaxation-leisure trip. Transportation was the last thing we wanted to worry about so we’ve decided to hire a private driver instead. It was worth every penny spent.
Dodi is the highlight of this trip. After perusing Trip Advisor for months, I emailed him a couple of days before our arrival and bam! He replies within minutes, asking for our flight details and basically arranging our airport pickup time. He was prompt, punctual and absolutely the best of Bali. Nothing else would come close.
The thing with Dodi is, he makes sure your time is well spent. On our first day, we were still getting over the shock of not having Aidel with us, so Dodi just took us to a quick tour of the Nusa Dua beaches. He then took us to lunch and then to the hotel for check in. He must have sensed our stunned silence because he just proceeded to book us a table at Jinbaran Bay, overlooking the sunset, for our seafood dinner marking our first day on the island.
Dodi is filled with stories and tips. Each tourist spot is quite far from each other, so he makes sure each area trip is maximized. His English is very good; I think he learned from his tourists too, because he uses a lot of jargons already. He is kind and very sweet. When we craved for dessert (because Balinese cuisine doesn’t really involve sugary treats), he surprised us with jackfruit fritters. The sweetest thing really! We were just completely blown away.
One thing that we will never forget was when, during our Thursday tour, Marga asked if Dodi loves driving. Apparently, he has been touring guests for the last 15 years. To that question, he swiftly replied: “I love my job. Everything about my job. I love my job.” So it is not a sales tactic. His driving is not a means to an end. He truly enjoys what he does. You will never get the short end of the stick with Dodi. He loves Bali and he loves his job. It’s the perfect combination really.
To know more about Dodi’s tours, visit his website at www.madedodi.com. Bali will not be complete without Dodi.
I know this post is amazingly late, given that our trip was at the beginning of August. But please do stay tuned. I have more to tell you about this beautiful Bali trip.
UPDATE: 16 May 2015
Just in case it’s not yet obvious, I’ve extended the promo till I complete the survey responses. :) For those who have stayed in the Philippines, please fill out this survey here:
But seriously. Thank you very very much in advance. Sincerely thank you. Oh and don’t forget to spread the word!