09-Oct-2009, by Jason
After four days in Singapore, it was time to head a little bit back south to enjoy Indonesia and the island paradise of Bali. Saturday morning was spent updating the blog (enjoy our last entry!?!) and heading to the Hawker stalls for one last meal (not that we won’t be back next weekend of course) and off to Singapore’s Changi Airport (at let me add, one hell of an airport, it’s not often you find a major world airport offering free wifi and a pool!) We arrived in Bali around 21.40 (yup, get used to this time format) and didn’t really feel like dealing with taxis/searching for a place to stay, so we’d booked ahead a room at the Hotel Puri Dewa Bharata and arranged for a pickup at the airport (that’s right, once we cleared customs there was a guy with a little sign that read “Mr. Patrick Weber” one of the few times he’ll be getting that kind of service! ;-) A quick note on passport control/customs in Bali. Unless you’ve previously arranged your visa, you can purchase one on arrival for USD 10 for 1-8 day stay, USD 25 9-30 day stay (purchase that BEFORE you get up to the passport control/immigrations control person or you’ll be heading to the back of the line) The hotel was nice (and relatively inexpensive at USD 38/night) but a little out of the way in Seminyak, a bit north of Kuta and most of the beach action down that way. So the next morning we took a taxi (correct spelling here apparently is Taksi) down to Kuta Beach and the rumored inexpensive lodging of Poppies Lane…boy were we in for a surprise! :)
After a 261,200 Rp taxi ride (that’s USD $2.61 for you and I) we began trekking down “Poppies Lane I” while is really a narrow alley just off the beach. We were constantly “asked” multiple times as we walked down the street if we needed: cold drink, transport, taxi (errr taksi), clean room, an I “heart” Bali bag, t-shirt, ashtray, etc. It’s hard to say how much of this was Balinese hospitality (renowned the world over) and how much was pandering to westerns with perceived dollar signs over our heads (I’d prefer to think it was a mix of both but I’m sure it was a little more of the latter) We found a really nice, clean room at 51 Lima Suta Cottages on the more eastern end of Poppies Lane I, just around the corner from TJ’s Mexican Restaurant. For USD $20/night (total!) we had a clean room with our own front porch for sitting out, two beds, western toilet, refrigerator, shower/tub and brand new Samsung A/C unit! (Nothing fancy, but clean and secure, which is all we really need, with A/C being an even nicer luxury)
It should be noted that you can find cheaper setups (under $10)especially if you are willing to forego A/C. We settled in and spent the afternoon exploring the surrounding area, stopping at a local bar for a few beers to relax (and only USD $1.70 for a large 630mL bottle, take that SF bars!) This place would become our local watering hole as they had the lowest prices we found on Poppies I (Bali Agung, stop by if you’re in the area!)
Monday morning Swiss was off to rent a surf board and I was off to explore, get some sun on the beach (lathered in SPF 2000 of course!) and relax/catch up on a little reading. No sooner had Swiss than he returned to inform me that the “Lonely Planet SE Asia on a Shoestring” (aka the “yellow bible” in backpacker circles) was available “down the street, around the bend and take a left where we had lunch yesterday” directions that turned out to be quite correct and somewhat un-swiss-like. I brought with my copies of Lonely Plant Australia and New Zealand which I’ve been lugging around and need to get rid of it. Now part of me was reluctant to pick up this book only because it ends up taking you on the same tourist traps as everyone else (and you miss out on local things, like checking out Geylang in Singapore, which friends recommended and is nowhere to be found in a Lonely Planet book) but for the sake of having at least a slight baseline for each place we go, and not going in totally blind, I exchanged my two books and USD $5 for his copy of the “yellow bible” which was also the most recent edition. It was nice to finally have a map of the Kuta area :) [And again, a request that if any of you out there have recommendations for Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, HK, China, Japan, India or any of our other upcoming recommendations please click the link on the right to give us some insider/local tips and help keep us somewhat off the tourist trail!! And thanks to everyone that’s already contributed! We do read it and appreciate it!] (Swiss is making snarky remarks regarding my use of exclamation marks!!!!)
Now I was on a hunt for a small bag to use to carry a book and my personal stuff (wallet, money, camera, etc) to the beach since I don’t really have pockets on my swim shorts. I found a little place that had backpacks, asked the shopkeeper if he had anything along the lines of what I wanted and he said “be back in 3 minutes, stay here” about a minute later I saw him ride away on his scooter and his wife came along, none too happy that he’d abandoned ship without telling her, and she proceeded to try and sell me some gaudy t-shirts. About 10 minutes later he came back with almost exactly what I wanted and tried to sell it to me for USD $25. We bargained down to $15 but only had $7 on me, so he took that, gave me the bag and told me to come back with the rest (not a style of selling I’m used to) Some would argue I could’ve gotten it for even less, but this was just my first time bartering, so it’ll take some practice (I of course returned and paid him the rest) Long story short Swiss tried to surf but had a crap board and crap waves so he laid on the beach without sunscreen and got burnt, I was on another part of the beach relaxing, reading and we met back at the hotel later.
Tuesday in Kuta involved some pictures at the beach and at the gorgeous Hard Rock Hotel Complex.
Now it was definitely a nice beach town but also a bit of a tourist trap and we wanted to explore a quieter side of Balinese life and bought our tickets to Ubud with Perama bus services. We spent the rest of Tuesday relaxing and enjoying the local food and drink quietly in our little adopted neighborhood.
Wednesday morning it was time to head out to Ubud and a quick hour and a half bus ride we’d arrived just slightly south of the Ubud town center. We found a small lane off of main street and were looking for an affordable/cheap accommodation when we stumbled into Yualita’s Bungalows. A decent place and only 150,000 Rp/night but we probably could’ve gotten a similar room for less at another place or possibly by bargaining. I’ll admit that I was lazy after walking with my bag and just said “let’s take it” The place itself was fine/clean/secure but lesson learned to always look around a little more and/or do some bartering on price.
We then had the idea to rent scooters. The guy at our place had 2 scooters to rent for only 5.000Rp per day/each. Now Swiss rides a motorcycle at home and enjoys splitting lanes on California freeways (ie. he’s not too intimidated by scooter traffic here) while Jason has never ridden on nor operated a scooter/motorcycle before in his life…this can’t end badly, can it? Well, I’ll leave out the gory details but let’s just say that I wasn’t used to leaning to turn (used the handles to turn a bit too much), my knee and elbow are a little scraped up, the scooter was fine and we decided to go down to one scooter rental with me riding on the bike and Swiss in charge of getting us around. After all that excitement we decided to take it easy the rest of the day…stopped by a little Mexican place for dinner (very cool, the guy who opened it or started it was inspired to make Mexican food after a trip to San Francisco!) and then made up plans of “cultural” things to do the next day.
Thursday we set off to, finally, experience some culture in Bali (better late than never I guess) and started by visiting the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud. A cool temple site set along a small creek/river that is also home to tons of Balinese Macaques. Let’s just say that they can smell food on you and are not afraid to climb on you to get it (or show a few teeth for that matter!)
After this our goal was to make it to Gunung Kawi, a temple with some very old (11th Centruy!) carvings made into the cliffs above the rice terraces in Tampaksiring, NE of Ubud. Along the way we stopped at Goa Gajah, another famous Ubud area temple that was along the way. We paid our temple admission (USD 60 cents) and donned the appropriate covering and immediately were met by a man offering a tour of the temple, for the low bargain price of USD 10!! We bargained that price down quite a bit (with a different guide, the first one wasn’t really willing to come down to our level) and had a quick 25 minute tour of the grounds.
From there it was off to Gunung Kawi while passing through some beautiful countryside, Swiss at the helm of course!
Gunung Kawi itself is a beautiful location with great scenery (rice terraces), a gorgeous temple and amazing stone carvings made into the cliffs surrounding the area. Here there were no guides (which did not bother us at all) and we were free to enjoy the area on our own and even talked with a local working in the rice fields that a huge boxing fan (and he loves Manny Pacquiao!!)
Didya’ notice our stylish sarongs? Aside from the fashion statement that it is, it’s also a requirement to enter most of the temples we visited. From there it was a nice ride back into Ubud and some dinner and drinks to relax and enjoy the evening. The next day, Friday, was our flight back to Singapore, so we relaxed in the morning, caught a bite to eat at Mojo’s Burrito shop and ended up talking with a nice pair of Canadians for about an hour. Then it was off for hour and a half bus ride to the airport, followed by quite a wait. I thought our flight left at 9.30pm, it really left at more like 10.20pm and we had quite a nice wait at the airport. We grabbed a quick bite to eat at McDonald’s (yes, it does taste very much the same in Indonesia as it does back home and it did taste quite good! ;-) Checked our bags, got our boarding passes and were ready to check out of Indonesia, only to be surprised by another airport fee, 150,000Rp (USD 18) to LEAVE the country! We had no idea this was coming and it’s really something I’ve never heard of before. Maybe we’re used having these fees built into the tickets in the US or most other places, but in Bali be prepared with USD 10 cash for entry and USD 18 cash for exit from the island!
We arrived in Singapore a little after 1.35am and set about to collect our bags and find a place for Swiss to sleep (we all know I can’t sleep someplace like that, I mean I physically cannot, so I got a wifi password and hung out online for a few hours) Now Singapore is a great airport, but more so when you’re on the departures side of the wall. Once you’ve arrived, there are fewer services and less comfy options for sleeping. He caught a few hours, I got a lot of pics uploaded and chatted with some friends and it was off to check in to the Rucksack Inn and spend a day in Singapore getting ready to head to Malaysia. Sunday we’re off to Tioman Island on the east coast of Malaysia!