Bali, Indonesia – The Mystical Island

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Final check, done! Everything was packed, zipped and locked. I tried to squeeze in as many things as possible into our luggages. Not even 1cm of space was left empty.

I personally don’t like airport scene, especially when I have to say goodbye to my family. My heart turned sour then bitter. The feeling was unbearable at the very last moment when it was time for boarding. I took my last glance with an unwilling smile. It’s gonna be another year or so before I get to see them again.

It was the first day of Formula 1 in Sepang, Kuala Lumpur, when we departed to the mystical island, Bali. We missed the golden opportunity! But, Bali would make up everything, I thought.

Last minute itinerary was drafted on the flight. We were quite happy with what we wanted to do during our short 4 days visit. AirAsia EK007 finally touched down at Ngurah Rai International Airport (also known as Denpasar Airport).

As soon as we got our passports stamped, we headed to the arrival hall, trying to squint through the crowds to spot the driver. Finally! We made ourselves comfortable as we got on the car. The sky was grey and they clouds were low during that time, it was drizzling.

As I stepped on this mystical island, I could already feel that it’s different. So different from anywhere that I have been. It’s so unique. The first impression really counts and my first impression upon Bali was beyond my imagination.Majority of Balineses are Hindu or Hindu Dharma – a special blend of Hinduism, Buddhism and ancestor worship that has been flourishing over the centuries. That’s why I find Bali is so unique, it’s probably closely related to its religion.

Ever since the bombing, the security has become really tight. Each car has to be checked and scanned before it’s permitted entering the compound of the hotel. We were welcomed by the friendly staff atIntercontinental Bali and were served with drinks while waiting to be checked-in. The hotel is full of charm, characteristics and tranquility. It is very well decorated, very Balinese! I love it!

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Our first place to explore was Seminyak. This is a very chic shopping place. There are many shops and lined up on both sides of Jalan Raya Seminyak. Whether you are shopping for homewares or jewelleries, they have it all here. Also, there are many arts and crafts shops in this area.

Tip 1: Always ask and negotiate the price before you buy. Started an offer price with a slash of 60% – 70%. Then, from that price, try to agree on a final price that both parties are happy with.

Tip 2: In Indonesia, even little purchase starts with thousands. So, pay attention on the number of zeros on the currency notes. 1GBP = 18,000 Indonesian Rupiahs (approx). You will feel like a millionaire there!

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We wanted to make our way to Jalan Laksamana to check out Oberoi but it was pouring at around 6-ish. It wasn’t pleasant at all to walk in the tropical rain. We were completely drenched. So, it wasn’t a good idea anymore. As the rain got heavier, we decided it was probably a better idea to have dinner at somewhere nearby. They have a lot to offer in Seminyak area. From authentic Indonesian food to Modern European.

There are many restaurants along Jalan Laksamana. We decided to dine at Wild Ginger that serves Modern Asian food. This restaurant has very modern and stylish look. I opted for something Indonesian – Sate Lilit Ikan (Fish Satay)served with rice, vegetables and special dipping sauce. Absolutely love it! (Sorry, not pictures to share but I am keen to try making this at home).

“Yeah!” After spending about 30 minutes on the phone, I got the final price and itinerary agreed for tomorrow’s trip. The front desk at Intercontinental got me in contact with a tour company that do day trip to Ubud.

Ubud is the cultural centre in Bali. It’s situated in the middle part of the Island, which takes slightly more than an hour to get there from Jimbaran, where we stayed.

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The breakfast at Intercontinental was good. Again, over here I was spoiled for choices. There was live traditional music by 2 Balinese musicians at the open air breakfast area which was really breathtaking

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Finally, we met our tour guide for the day at the lounge. This day tour that we opted was a great idea as we had only short stay in Bali. It was:

Flexibile – we told the tour guide/driver where we wanted to go and stop.
Pleasant – we got the whole MPV for ourselves.
Convenient – we didn’t have to look at the map to get to places as I realised it wasn’t a good idea to drive in Bali as in certain areas, there were lack of signs to know exactly how to get to one place to another. Also, there seemed to be too many scooters and they drove in the middle of the roads. So, watch out!

As we were approaching Ubud, I could see many small independent art galleries by the road sides. Some are located in the most picturesque areas, backdropped with rice terraces. There were so many talentated artists in this areas that I was greatly amazed by the paintings. The typical Balinese paintings caught my eyes. I like the uniqueness of the paintings that ranged from Balineses daily lives to special occasions.

Each piece of them looked very finely painted. If you are an art lovers, make sure you start your offer price with about 70% – 80% discounts as Ubud is a famous tourist area. Or, speak Indonesian language, which would make a difference. I could get by speaking Malay language, even it is not exactly the same.

Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary was the next stop. Over here, you could see the mischievous long-tailed Balinese macaques. I am not a great fan of monkeys as I was scared that they would attack me. However, I gathered, they only followed closely those who had some fruits (bananas) in their hands. So, I was safe!

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There are many temples all over Bali that some are worth a visit. We went to Pura Tirta Empul, a sacred spring temple. Balinese usually come here for propitious mandi (a ‘bath’ where you ladle cold water over yourself). We also went to Pura Taman Saraswati, also known as Ubud Water Palace. Every angle of this temple is worth a shot.

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It was time for lunch. No, we didn’t go to Warung Ibu Oka for its ever famous Babi Guling. We missed it. I told myself that I would make it there next time! Even so, we had really nice typical Indonesian lunch. We were slightly on a tight schedule in the afternoon as we had to make our way to Pura Luhur Ulu Watu in the South Western part of Bali for the famous Kecak dance performance and also to witness the sunset from the cliff.

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We managed to be in Uluwatu just slightly after 6 o’clock. Dance in Bali has its roots in ritual. Kecak dance is by far the most famous Balinese dance. It features a large choir of bare-chested men who, packed in a swaying, fire-lit circle, chant a hypnotic ‘chak-a-chak’ accompaniment (adapted from Lonely Planet). The dance took place on the stunning clifftop stage overseeing Indian Ocean and lasted for about 45 minutes. This is a lifetime experience that shouldn’t be missed. The view of the cliff is amazing!

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What could be nicer than ending the day with a Balinese Massage? I had a 1.5 hour massage + coconut scrub at Baliwis Spa in Nusa Dua. That’s what I call holiday.

Kuta Beach is the paradise for all the surfers. Kuta is too touristic, thus not to my liking. There are many shops around this area and probably is another shoppers paradise after Seminyak. Well, Seminyak is more an upmarket place I should say. We were at the Bali Bomb Memorial, the place where 202 innocent people were killed.

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The afternoon went pass quickly before we went back to the hotel to take some sun and to relax by the pool. Just before dinner time, we went to Ulu watu again. But this time, to check out Bulgari Resort, which probably is the most expensive resort as it stands at the moment in Bali. The view was a thousand dollar view. I could see myself staying there.

As it was our last night in Bali, it was a shouldn’t be missed dinner on the beach at Jimbaran Bay. Many restaurants were lit up at night, creating a very romatic ambience to welcome their customers. Almost all the restaurants served freshly caught grilled seafood dinner. As I said, everything is negotiable in Bali, provided you don’t feel hesitate to do so. Just remember that persistance plays an important in the skills of negotiation.

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A long stroll on the beach heading back to the hotel was a great idea, we walked pass a few stalls that sell grilled corn (Jagung Bakar). Do try these. Treat them like some snacks after dinner. Bali, I shall return! Note: My Cooking Hut’s recommended areas to stay in Bali are: Nusa Dua, Seminyak, and Jimbaran.

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