We were in the island of Bali for a few days. Following is my recollection of the Bali visit:
We arrived in Bali on 10 January from a Tiger Airways flight from Singapore. When the aircraft landed, the passengers broke into applause after having experienced a most unsettling flying experience. It was a 2.5 hours flight, but just an hour into the flight, the plane encountered serious air turbulence because of the bad weather. At one point in time, people were screaming as if riding roller-coasters, when the plane went into free fall for at least 10 seconds. I’m sure everyone wished that they were not travelling or wishing that it was just a bad dream. But the flight attendants were smiling and giggled when they saw the extreme state of nervousness in the passengers and this sort of gave a certain degree of reassurance to me that it was quite normal and nothing sinister would happen.
The Bali airport was brand new. We had to pay for the visa on arrival, which was US$25. On the way to the the immigration counters, a friendly official approached me about having faster clearance, just for few dollars more. I declined to give these officials any side income, and therefore had to queue for at least 30 minutes. I could not find any regular taxi at the airport, and therefore settled for a private van that charged me about 100,100 rupiah for the trip to hotel in Legian.
The Legian area is quite close to the famous Kuta Beach. Kuta, Legian and surrounding areas are the main tourists districts. There is a stretch of street that is teaming with loud bars for Australian visitors. But beer in Bali is more expensive than those in Thailand. Generally, I find the food choice to be rather limited for the Balinese probably much prefer to pray that to eat out. Also, there is an additional 20% being tax being added to the food price to the bill more expensive than advertised.
The Kuta beach is rather quite ordinary from my point of view. Along the beach, there are a number of expensive hotels as well as new shopping centres. Somehow shopping centres look the same nowadays, , for they have been increasingly dominated by all the big brand name selling same merchandise all over the world, selling over-priced shoes and clothing. I’m not sure why the Aussie tourists need to go to Bali to enjoy the surf when there are better beaches all over Australia. Perhaps there are other reasons like warmer weather, unique environment and lower costs.
One the second day, we hired a car with driver that was arranged by the hotel. We visited two famous temples or Pura, i.e. the Tanah Lot and the Uluwatu temples. Cost of a whole day hiring of car with driver was 500,000 rupiah (around $50). Tanah Lot is a basically a temple built on rocks along the coast. It is rather small and seems rather insignificant but together with the sea and rocks, it provides a most alluring image that conjures the charm of Bali. There are lots of tourists there.
One the third day, we used the same driver, and moved to Ubud, in the interior. Ubud is the cultural centre of Bali. Our Ubud hotel was in a village, some 3 km away from the town centre. There were only 6 units in the hotel. We had breakfast served to our verendah, which overlooked a pool and a valley below. The air was refreshing and amidst the rice fields, little orchards and river stream, and we were awaken in the morning by the call of the rooster.
The are a number of restaurants and arts shops catering for tourists in Ubud town centre. On our second day in Ubud, we hired a car to visit surrounding temples and a volcano. The Monkey temple is close to Ubud town. Further away were the Goa Gajak, Gunung Sawi and Trithul Emphul temples. The dormant volcano is called Gunung Batur. Several restaurants were specially built to enable customers to have panoramic view of this volcano. We paid about 80,000 rupiah per person in order to enjoy the food and the view.
I was able to converse in Malay with the drivers and learn more of their culture and social situation – their devotion to their religion / rituals and the social caste system, and families and their hopes. The caste system is still there, but is not rigidly enforced.
We returned to Singapore the next day, and the were still lots of air turbulences that made our flight uncomfortable. Overall, it was a good trip but ….
Like: the friendliness of our Balinese drivers and hotels staffs, hotel pools, rice fields
Dislike: limited food choices and shoppings, narrow road, Kutu and Legian bars expensive and not to my taste
Neutral: temples (Pura) – temples don’t really interest me.