Saturday, 12 November 2011

2011: Ubud & Jimbaran, Bali

OK, I lied. 

I said before that I will start making blogs about my earliest travels first, but I just HAVE to break this rule for now. Otherwise, I just might forget the wonderful time that I had in Bali, which I don't want to happen! So for now, please bear with me while I share with you the nice experiences that I had this November 'health break.' Oh yeah, please also bear with this post because there are a lot of pictures  here and it might take a long time to load.

P.S.: Since I still haven't gotten over this Bali trip, I will be quite talkative so expect a long blog entry! 

LET'S START! 0(>.<)o

I am so glad that I work at an educational setting because that means I have longer (though not so long; oh, how ironic!) time for a "health break" this November. I told this to ate Joyce and at first, I did not think that we were going to travel seeing that I only have 6 days of availability and ate Joyce needs money for the pieces of furniture of her new apartment. Needless to say, I was surprised when we were able to make the itinerary and do research in one night! This just proves the saying, "Ang biglaang lakad, natutuloy." In this blog, you will see the itinerary that we made and some prices of stuff that you can do around Ubud, Bali. 

Oh yeah, just so you know, there's no direct flight from Manila to Denpasar (Bali).  Back then, I think, PAL offers a direct flight, but not anymore. What we did was to have a connecting flight from Singapore because they have flights through Air Asia going to Denpasar over there. If you don't like Singapore, there are other options like Kuala Lumpur --> Denpasar or Jakarta --> Denpasar. The ticket to Singapore is around P10,000 (but you also have to pay the P1650 travel tax and P750 terminal fee at the airport) and another P10,000 going to Denpasar from Singapore. Roughly, you'll spend around P22,000 for a roundtrip flight going to Denpasar, Bali and returning to Manila, Philippines. 

Our schedule is as follows: Flight to Singapore is 9:25 pm of October 27. Our estimated time of arrival at Singapore is around 12:30 am. Our flight to Denpasar is on October 28, 12: 15 pm. As you can see, there's a huge time lapse between the two connecting flights. So, what we did, like any other sensible backpackers, was to sleep at Changi Airport. But of course, that proved to be impossible because of two reasons: 1) the employees at Changi Airport Terminal 2 are soooooo noisy and 2) it was uncomfortable to sleep on hard chairs that are spaced too wide apart. I felt like my butt was starting to separate from my back. In the end, we just waited for the restaurant "Toastbox"to open at around 5 a.m. then proceeded to have ice cream for desserts (during breakfast!!!) at Swensen's.

Imagine eating this in the morning when your stomach is still empty! XP

Again, we still had a lot of time to spare seeing that it was only around 6:00 am at that time and our flight was still at around 12 pm. Since we were reserving our energy for the travel in Bali, we preferred to stay at Changi Airport so we just checked in early and I am so glad that we did. Terminal 1 of Changi Airport is definitely better than Terminal 2! THEY HAVE A PROPER RESTING AREA! We slept there for around 3 hours, undisturbed. There were also computers around us that we can use for free, with internet. THANK YOU SINGAPORE AIRPORT! If you're wondering what the resting area looks like, here is a picture: 

FIRST DAY: Getting to Know Ubud

The flight to Denpasar, Bali was not a good one for me. =( I got separated from ate Joyce, IG and Aja and I was stuck with an Indian family whose children are just so noisy. All the way to Denpasar, the three of them kept on throwing tantrums! Obviously, my day was ruined.  When we arrived at Ngurah Rai Denpasar Airport, we were also struck by the long queue at the immigration posts; outside, it was even worse outside because of the long queue for taxi. We started walking around, looking for a Blue Bird taxi because they are cheaper than the Airport taxi. We did not find a Blue Bird Taxi, but an Airport Taxi driver found us and offered his services. Initially, he wanted us to pay 400,000 IR, (yep, we are millionaires in Bali! HAHA!) but we haggled with him until the final price was 200, 000 IR.though he insisted that it should be 220,000 IR. We agreed reluctantly for a good reason since he gave us a hellish ride going to Ubud from the airport. The ride should have been only one hour, but it became two because of the bad traffic. The arrogant driver kept on making this "tsk tsk" sound and kept on claiming that we should pay more because we're rich since there are a lot of Chinese in the Philippines so we were probably rich.... ARGH HIS STUPID GENERALIZATION! In the end, we payed him 250,000IR and of course, we expected to have a 30,000IR change back, but he said he had no smaller bills. Damn that corrupt driver!

If you see this driver, YOU BETTER AVOID HIM!
As you can see, my first experience of Bali was not that good. Even the scenery that we passed by did not manage to impress me. I remember feeling a little bit disappointed because it looked a lot like any other provinces here in the Philippines save for some temples here and there and a LOT of shops that sell sculptures; not that peaceful scenery featured in Eat, Pray, Love. I remember feeling afraid that my research and decision to stay in Ubud is a bad one. I thought we were going to have a bad vacation and these feelings only grew more when I saw the outside of our hotel, Taman Harum Cottages. I was afraid because it did not look spectacular at all from the outside. Oh, how wrong I was! The outward appearance of Taman Harum Cottages is very deceptive because it might look plain on the outside, but it certainly looks and feels like paradise on the inside. I KNOW that there are other more gorgeous hotels in Bali, but for its price (it's not so cheap, but it's still cheaper compared to others), you get more of what you deserve from Taman Harum Cottages. Look at these gorgeous photos!

Their welcome drink is simply heavenly! Look at the background: looks like a rainforest!

There are relaxing spots around the whole area like this one!

This is the relaxing swimming pool! The statues really aid in giving a touch of Balinese to it!

This is a "standard" room for two people only! IT'S SO LARGE! I stayed here together with IG and there's a connecting door to the left to reach ate Joyce and Aja's equally large room. 

The bedroom is upstairs....  The aircon's not so strong, but at least, there's a ceiling fan to make it cooler. We watch Indonesian dramas here, which is very entertaining!

The half- open bathroom! IT'S SO GORGEOUS & SPACIOUS, I LOVE IT... It's so relaxing.... And the shampoo/ soap that they have here smells so nice!

OK, enough gushing about the beauty of Taman Harum Cottages. Just take note that you have to stay here when you want to go to Bali! It's relatively cheaper compared to the other gorgeous hotels in Bali! 

Since we arrived at around 6pm already in Ubud, there was not a lot of time to explore the surrounding area anymore so what we did was to join the free ride trip going to Monkey Forest street and decided to eat there. There's not a lot of people there since it's not peak season and it was drizzling a little bit therefore, we had a lot of restaurant choices to choose from. In the end, we settled for "Bali Pesto Cafe" because Aja wanted to eat a dish called Nasi Campung. I ordered Shrimp Thermydore ala Barbekyu, which they say tasted weird (but I liked it!). I.G. ordered Suckling Pig. Here is a sample picture of the gorgeous dishes that they served Bali- style:

SECOND DAY: Kintamani- Besakih Tour

The night before while we were looking for restaurants, we found this small car rental space called C.V. Three Brothers Car Rental, right beside the restaurant called "The Laughing Buddha" in Monkey Forest street. The man there was nice and he assisted us in choosing the Ubud tour package that we were going to do the next day, which is our second day in Ubud. The man was so nice, he gave the whole day tour Kintamani- Besakih package to the four of us for only 350,000 IR, which is really convenient! To make things better, the driver assigned to us, Agung, was also very, very, very, very, very, very nice! If you want cheaper tours, please go to this place instead of booking car rentals from your hotel. For a group of four people, they charge 600, 000 IR as compared to the price of this small travel agency, which is only 350, 000 IR.

Our first stop was in a place called Sawadeha: Barong & Kris Dance Stage Chandra Budaya.  It features one of the three must- see dances in Bali, which is all about an eternal fight between good and evil spirits as represented by a "Barong," the good mythological creature  vis-a-vis "Rangda," the mythological monster.  The ticket per person costs 80,000 IR.

Our second stop was the Goa Gajah or otherwise known as the Elephant Cave. It is a temple, but it is most famous for the 'demon's mouth' entrance into the place of worship.  Nearby, there is also a small falls. There is also a fee in that place though I cannot recall the exact amount; something like 10,000 IR.

Our third stop for the day is called the Tirta Empul Tampak Siring a.k.a, The Holy Spring Temple. I don't know much about this place (or any of the places we visited because we had no tour guide; I just base the things I know from research and from questions asked to Agung). They say that there was a holy battle that took place in this land and one Hindu god used the water from this place to heal the people wounded from battle or made them alive again. Now, the pool of this area is sanctified by the Hindu society of Bali and they believe that it can cure diseases. Tourists are not allowed in a lot of areas in this temple. There are gates that signify whether or not you can enter a certain area. The entrance fee to this place is 15, 000 RP. Take note also that this place offers the best souvenir prices so make sure that you give extra time for this place because it is cheaper compared to the goods found in Ubud Center/ Market.

A woman carrying her offerings on her head. 

The area where the Hindu can take a bath and be sanctified. I think tourists are allowed as long as they don't interfere with the ritual. Women who have period are not allowed either. 

 People offering fruits to their Hindu gods. Tourists are not allowed within this area.

Gamelan musicians

Our fourth stop is a coffee break in Seribatu Coffee Roasting where you can have a free taste of Balinese coffee, chocolate and tea. There is no entrance fee for this place, but they WILL attempt to sell you a lot of stuff especially their Luwak Coffee, which is really, really expensive since it is hard to process the poop of a Sibet cat and turn it into coffee.Yep, it's the infamous poop turned into coffee.

Our fifth stop is literally just a stop over in a place where you can view and take pictures of the famous Lake Batur and Kintamani Volcano. It's quite cold around this area, like the temperature in Tagaytay during mornings.

Our sixth stop is the Besakih Temple, Bali's oldest and largest temple. We were lucky because they had a huge event there when we came. This event only happens once every 6 months; it's a celebration of their caste system. There is an entrance fee of 10, 000 IR per person to this area. But, beware because there are 'bad people' in here according to Agung. True enough, we encountered some 'bullies' who insisted that we pay 400,000+ IR for a tour guide and offering. They say that they are doing this because their government is not paying them. Just so you know, you CAN go inside the Besakih Temple WITHOUT a guide so if someone harasses you into paying a huge amount of money, just tell them that you're going to go on your own inside the temple. Oh and yeah, ALL are required to wear SARONGS even if you're already wearing pants. So if I were you, I'll just bring my own sarong instead of buying a sarong there that is overpriced even though you've already haggled a lot.

After the exhausting climb to the top of the Besakih temple, we finally had our lunch- dinner at Lereng Agung, which offers this spectacular view of a rice terraces. Lereng Agung offers buffet lunch with really delicious Chicken Satay! Each person must pay 60,000 IR for the buffet lunch

The second day was a really busy day for us, but we had another idea in mind for the night so even though we were already exhausted like hell, we still proceeded to watch the famous Kecak and Trance Dance at Taman Kaja Community, Monkey Forest street. They have performances there every 7:30 pm of Wednesday and Saturday (again, we had good timing even though we did not really had this in our day itinerary! We were able to catch the performance!) Tickets cost 75, 000 RP per person. For me, this is the highlight activity of the day. IT'S A MUST- SEE! You'll really have goosebumps watching this!  This dance is taken from an excerpt in the Ramayana (Rama & Sita) story where Sita is abducted by Rahwana-- this eventually leads to a war between the monkey and demon clan. What makes this Balinese dance special is that it is accompanied by 100 men chanting /singing the word "Kecak" over and over again for one hour! The Trance Dance is even more spectacular. It's the dance that I've only seen in either NatGeo or Discovery Channel where a man dances in a floor where fiery ashes of coconut husks are scattered all over! That poor man... And his poor feet....

THIRD DAY: Agung River White Water Rafting & Elephant Ride

For me, the highlight of the whole Bali trip is what we did on the third day, which is the white water rafting and elephant ride. This day was even more special because it was ate Joyce's b-day. I just feel guilty because Aja, I.G. and I voted to do the rafting and elephant ride while ate Joyce preferred to do downhill cycling (even though she and I still did not know how to ride a bike; there's always time to learn new things anyway I guess ) around the Ubud area since she's already quite familiar with white water rafting. At the end of the day though, I think she also enjoyed the things that we did.
Agung helped us book for this activity. Initially, the price given to us was $269 dollars so ate Joyce agreed. Then, it increased to $380 because Agung made a mistake with the computations... But once we arrived in the Bali Adventures center, we were told that we did not qualify for the family package since there is only one child in our group. So I.G. was the only one who got the discount; in the end, ate Joyce paid around $500+. It's expensive, yes. But, you'll have the time of your life I swear! The only thing I dreaded was the 340 steps going up after finishing the white water rafting event.

The rafting started at around 10:00 am and ended at around 1:00 pm. The river course is 9 kilometers in total. The level of the rapids there is level 2- 3.  It's so funny actually, because we were asked to do really simple, but intense tasks as shouted by our Balinese guide:
  • GO FORWARD- paddle forwards
  • BACKWARD- paddle backwards
  • WIGGLE- wiggle inside the boat to dislodge it from big rocks
  • STOP- we have to hold the paddle in an upright position 
  • BOOM BOOM!-- Our expression for this is "Woah!" because we have to hold onto the rope inside the boat since we bump into really big rocks
  • BIG BOOM BOOM!-- To this, our expression is "Meeep!" This is when we have to sit  on the floor of the boat and hold on strongly to the ropes because we  might get thrown out of the boat. Sometimes, he's unable to shout the right commands. True enough, we had some casualties.: IG got thrown out once. Aja got thrown out twice, but this is only because she transferred to a Kayak, which is much more unstable than the big boat.

 Yes, there are amazing carvings in there!
After the white water rafting, we had lunch a Bali Adventure's restaurant. The buffet lunch is already included in the package. By 2:00 pm, we were already on our way to Elephant Safari Park where we all had our first time riding an elephant!  I have to say that it was more terrifying for me than rafting because the elephant's movements are erratic and it was a really, really, really bumpy ride!

Oh yep, I forgot to introduce "Bikini girl." She walked around the entire Elephant Safari Park wearing a see-through sarong, bikini and high- heeled shoes. 0_0 Then, she rode this elephant wearing only a bikini. In a park. where there's a lot of people wearing normal clothes. 

After the Elephant Safari Park, we asked the driver to drop us off at Ubud Center to do some souvenir shopping-- not that we bought many seeing that we had very limited cash. But, the paintings there are really, really cheap! Ate Joyce bought this big painting-- something like 4 feet in width and 3 feet in length and she only paid for it with 650, 000 RP! After the shopping part, we ate gelatto first then looked for a restaurant for dinner. We settled for this restaurant called Pussari Bali Cafe. Nothing spectacular. I enjoyed the food at Bali Pesto Cafe more.

Royal Palace in Ubud

My order in Pussari Bali Cafe: Babi Guling (80, 000 RP)

DAY 4: Kuta & Jimbaran

Our fourth day was reserved merely for strolling around. We hired Agung again for the 1 hour trip to Jimbaran  checked in at our hostel there called Villa Puri Royan. We actually did not want to leave Ubud and our beatiful hotel there, but we might not be able to reach our flight in time if we were to stay in Ubud. Jimbaran is a more practical palace to stay at if your flight is in the early morning; it's only 15 minutes away from the airport.
Right after settling down, we asked Agung to drop us off at Kuta where we roamed around the Discovery mall and the beach. It's amazing since the beach is right outside of the mall! After spending the day in the mall, we already went back to Jimbaran for the sunset viewing. We also ate our seafood dinner there at Aroma restaurant. Again, it's nothing spectacular, but the staff was nice.

 Sunset at Jimbaran

 Seafood dinner at Aroma

Our fifth day was basically reserved for leaving Bali and going to the Universal Studios & Kinokuniya in Singapore, which I don't want to include in this blog. I might make another one some other time...

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