Monday, December 08, 2014

Bali

Day 0

Touched down in Bali at about 7.30pm and cleared the baggage checks etc. and headed straight for a cab to the hotel! It was a 15 minute drive to Grand Hyatt in Nusa Dua, and the cab driver was friendly and chatty throughout the ride. :-) Do look out for the cabbies dressed in blue batik shirts, as they are registered with a legit taxi company and you are less likely to be scammed/kidnapped/be a victim of many other tourist horror stories.

Upon checking in, we were treated with cold towels and a glass of orange juice. It was quite sweet but a nice touch to the whole ~holiday vibe~ :-)

They had actual fires at the lobby haha, so resort-like!!!

Cold towel and OJ

After checking in, one of the staff lead us to our room. It was a 5 minute walk and it didn't help that we were quite tired and it was really dark out. It made the walk seem reeealllyyy long and I felt a sense of dread that we would have to walk this distance every day HAHA (lazy people problems...)

Spoiler alert: thankfully, it wasn't all that long a walk and it only seemed long that night

Still, the hotel is MASSIVE (there's a North-, South-, East- and West wing!!!) and I don't think we would ever explore it completely.

Nevertheless, the room we were given was great!!! It is a Gold room I think, so you have to pay slightly more than a standard-rate room. It has two super-single beds and one daybed which, when converted into a bed, is bigger than the super-single!!! That was my "throne" for the trip haha, I LOVE IT!



My throne, pre-conversion into a bed.


There are (close-able) blinds beside the bathtub haha, quite a cool concept, actually.

Toilet is great too!!!

Feeling peckish, we ventured to Bali Collections, which is a cluster of shops right outside our hotel. It is actually really big, but because it was late, we stuck around the area nearer the exit closest to our hotel.

We ended up at the supermarket shopping for instant noodles because all the restaurants were closed/closing.

such hipster spelling haha


When we returned to the hotel, we settled our plan for the next day and called it a day! Yes, we had no fixed itinerary worked out before actually getting here, haha. That's how a relaxing holiday should be...right? :P


Day 2

Walked out of the hotel feeling rather lost, as civilisation (well, shops) were quite far out from the hotel, and we didn't want to have the hotel breakfast buffet. After walking less than a few minutes out of the main lobby, a taxi stopped along us and the cabby (Suar, as we would come to learn) offered us a full-day chauffeur service for 600,000RP! (about SGD80) We hopped on and started our day's adventure!

Since we haven't had breakfast, our first stop was this hole-in-the-wall restaurant that specialises in babi guling, which is basically suckling pig. I enjoyed the pork, but not so much the deep-fried fat and skin. :-( The chicken (rendang?) we ordered as well was really good!!! The whole meal (3 sets of babi guling and 1 chicken set) set us back about 240,000RP (about SGD26) and it filled us up till dinner. Be warned though, the food is generally a lot spicier than us Singaporeans are used to! Bring lots and lots of water just in case hehe.



chicken rendang (I think) was superb!!!



Next, we stopped by a batik factory place to see how local batik prints were manufactured! It was quite touristy, though.


huge machine that made weaving intricate prints easy peasy







Then, we went to a couple of art galleries because my dad wanted to get paintings for the new house. We ended up buying a very contemporary/abstract piece, for 100USD! It was quite a steal, and the quality is much better than those pieces you get off the streets (duh).

Then, we headed to a wood gallery/place/thing where they sell intricately carved wood pieces. Mainly statues of idols, though.


"sitting on the palm of your hand"



stopped by a rice paddy field on the way out to Ubud!



As we just stopped for a minute of too, I didn't have time to adjust the camera (exposure) settings so the resulting photos are rather over-exposed. :( And of course, over-exposed photos are the hardest to fix haha maybe I'll just slap on a black-and-white filter...but meh too lazy.



Finally, we reached the Monkey Forest!!!


When we first entered, I was going to change my camera lens from the fixed focus one to the standard lens. As the lens was wrapped in plastic, I had to take out the plastic from my bag and that attracted a rather aggressive monkey! It probably thought that I had food in my bag, so it pounced on me. Within two leaps, he (well, it) was on my head and rummaging through my hair and bag for food. I was really afraid it would bite me but I stayed still, because that's what we've all been taught when facing scary wild animals, right? It was my mother who started yelling hysterically haha. It was all quite amusing, and thankfully, nothing that terrible happened as one of the caretakers came and chased the monkey off with a stick. No, I did not get a photo with this monkey haha.




Other than that one aggressive monkey, the others were pretty well-behaved! Well, to humans, that is... I think they have been warned/trained to behave well to visitors, or face punishment by the caretakers. They went about their own business as tourists snapped photos of them and bought bunches of bananas to feed them (20,000RP for a small bunch).


However, the monkeys were quite violent when it came to inter-monkey fights (what an awkward expression!). I witnessed, on more than two occasions, monkeys biting each other's necks and releasing these terrifying high-pitched screams. These brawls could get quite violent and it probably sounds very selfish but they were interesting to watch, too. :P


As we walked along some deserted path, we reached a pavilion with a caretaker there with a few monkeys. The caretaker waved some snacks around me to get a monkey to climb on me (this time, I was prepared!) Even after getting the snack, the monkey kept climbing onto me haha I think it likes me!!! :-))) Then it started walking (crawling?) on me and grabbing my face. It was quite scary and dirty but still fun! After it was done, I smelt poop on myself, and there were brownish stains on my arms and bag...heh.





Be warned: you never know what monkey would pounce on you! This lady here was totally unprepared for the hugeass monkey that leapt onto her shoulders.

Monkeys grooming each other

After leaving the Monkey Forest, we went to this plantation place that makes kopi luwak, which is coffee made from the beans embedded with the poop of Asian palm civets, who are fed coffee berries. The guide showed us various types of coffee beans and spices which are used in making coffee.

We got to see how the coffee beans were roasted and powdered!



Asian palm civets are nocturnal, sleeping in the day and working (well, pooping haha) at night!

Then, we were led to a hut where we got to try different flavours of coffees and teas, for free! (We didn't have to pay an entrance fee or anything!) Altogether, we tried 6 varieties of coffee and 6 varieties of tea. Out of all the coffees and teas, I enjoyed the mangosteen tea the best! It was made of powdered mangosteen skin. :-) We loved it so much that we ended up buying a packet home haha!

the 12 varieties of coffees and teas we sampled





We bought a cup of kopi luwak for 50,000RP and got to see how the coffee was brewed. The coffee powder was put in this mini distillator and as the water below it was heated up,...okay I can't exactly remember how everything went, but the coffee powder started bubbling (?!?!) and that cued the lady to extinguish the flame.






The coffee didn't taste that different from the regular black coffee, to be honest... Then again, I'm not a coffee connoisseur and hardly can tell the difference between different types of coffee, so maybe I'm not the best judge. Nonetheless, it was worth a try!


Next up was souvenir shopping at a place called Hawaii. Such irony, right? Hawaii selling Bali souvenirs... Apparently this is the place where Indonesians visiting Bali go to to get souvenirs, as they offered really low prices! However, the quality of the goods there were not that great, and the designs were just so-so. We didn't buy much stuff here...

Look at that jumble of clothes!


Finally, we stopped at Jimbaran for dinner. Jimbaran is well-known for its beachside restaurants serving up excellent seafood. The restaurant we patronised was Junkung Bali Seafood.








We were first seated on one of the tables on the beach. It was so beautiful! I especially loved the little umbrellas that added a touch of dreaminess to the whole dining ambiance. If the sky were not so cloudy that day, we would have been able to enjoy the sunset as we ate.

Sadly, it started drizzling before our food even came, so to be on the safe side, we moved to a seat where it was sheltered. It wasn't totally indoors though, as we were on the patio (if it can be called that).


The young coconut was...not so young as there was hardly any flesh inside to eat. :-(



I love Bintang beer!!! It's really light :-) My friend, Huiru recommended the avocado-coffee drink, which I unfortunately didn't get to try (she recommended the drink a day after I visited Jimbaran HAHA). But if you ever do go there, do give it a go! :-) I trust her taste, haha!


We ordered some seafood combo or other, which came with lobster, prawns, mussels, calamari, crab and fish (and soup, rice and dessert as well!). The lobster and calamari were the best of the lot, I felt. The lobster was really fresh and juicy!!! Order it a la carte and it costs only about SGD7 per 100g, which is very cheap for lobster. The batter the calamari was fried in was also delicious! It didn't feel too greasy but instead had a very buttery taste to it, which I personally loved. :-)


The crab was disappointing, though. There was hardly any meat in it, and the garlic marinade that it was cooked in was waaay too overpowering.



A couple of locals came by to serenade diners (as a form of busking, obviously) and it really felt like a dream!!! Dinner on the beach while being serenaded to, doesn't it just sound magical?!???? There was even a double bassist which made the whole thing a notch classier! haha

After dinner, we were dropped back to our hotel and conked out pretty soon after haha, we were that tired.


Day 3

After a day of activities, comes a day of play!!! We started the morning by heading to the gym for some morning exercise, before walking out to Bali Collections for breakfast! Unfortunately, there was nothing much for breakfast and so we settled for Starbucks. Starbucks is insanely cheap here! Drinks and pastries cost half that in Singapore. We paid less than SGD20 for a breakfast (brunch, actually) for 4! (As I'm writing this, we are actually just chilling at Starbucks haha)

beef quiche

After wandering around some of the shops in Bali Collections, we headed back to the hotel and got dressed in our beachwear, ready to hIT THE WAVES.

discovering a live-sized chess set while walking to the beach


Despite the ominous dark grey clouds, some parts of the sky still remained blue, and it didn't rain a drop that day.










The area demarcated for swimming was quite small though, so the water was generally shallow. Not too good for swimming in. I stayed mostly on the sand and just rested myself. It was boring, yes, BUT TOTALLY RELAXING!!! Much needed, after a whole year of hectic-ness (and another ahead of me).

this boy thought it would be a good idea to bury himself in sand

We migrated to the main swimming pools in the hotel for ~clean~ waters, and though there were water slides and stuff, it got quite boring. The pool was 1.3m throughout, and I didn't really feel like doing serious swimming then. So I hopped out and suntanned on a chaise hehe.



After everyone was done with water activities, we headed back to our room, but discovered that it was in the middle of being cleaned by room service. So, we headed out and found an exclusive pool meant only for Grand Club members! We were staying in the Grand Club side of the hotel so decided to just check it out anyway hahaha. It was much nicer than the main pool, as it was bordered by beautiful rocks and plants instead of concrete.


After washing up, we headed to Bali Collections looking for lunch/dinner!



A couple of ducks we saw grazing (?) by the grass patch waddles away quick as lightning as Jun-bin started running towards them.


Not finding anything that appealed to us, we decided to try the hotel's diner buffet, which included an hour of traditional Balinese dance. But since it was still a few hours till dinner-time, we bought Magnum ice-creams from the supermarket, which were only SGD2!!!

The hotel's buffet dinner was rather disappointing, for the price we had to pay (total bill came up to be 2,100,000RP which is slightly more than SGD210!!!) The spread was described to be "international", but really, it was mainly Asian...which was quite normal for us haha. The good points were the spicy squid and perhaps the babi guling, food-wise.






The cultural dance for the night was the Jejong (sp?) dance! The dancers danced well, but I couldn't really feel the passion exuding from their dance moves. Maybe this is just a commercialised, profit-seeking kind of gig...oh well. At a point in time, one of the dancers came up to me and asked if I wanted to dance with her! I couldn't very well say no and also, why the hell not, right? Haha! So I stood up and shimmied my way through five minutes of awkwardness. I really cannot dance and I think I just made a fool of myself on "stage", but it was fun I suppose!

Look at how awkward I was!!!


cool traditional instruments that provided the beat for the dancers

As we were preparing to leave, it started pouring really heavily. Trudging back to our hotel room and figuring out directions in the wet, dark night isn't something fun to experience. :(


Day 4

We woke up at 9.30am, and were supposed to meet Suar at 10am at the hotel lobby. It was a mad rush to get dressed etc. but we did it!!! Needless to say, we hadn't had breakfast, so we settled for McDonald's along the way to Tanah Lot.

McDonald's in Bali is much cheaper than in Singapore, and less greasy too! I didn't feel too indulgent when having my Hotcakes haha.

On the way to Tanah Lot, we encountered a massive traffic jam, caused by a hugeass truck that got stuck in a bit of sunken-in road. The road conditions aren't that good, and when a whole lot of cars are restricted to only a single lane, traffic moves agonisingly slowly. What was supposed to be a 30 minute journey took us close to 2 hours!

By the time we got to Tanah Lot, it was scorching hot :( Well, at least the sky was clear and the scenery was beautiful!!!

The Tanah Lot temple is a temple perched precariously on a rock, in the middle (ish) of the sea. It is mostly pictured cast against a orangey-pink sunset but because it is the rainy season now, we didn't bother going at sunset since the sky was likely to be cloudy anyway. The view in the day was great, too, though! The sea was sparkling (reflecting light from the sun) and the waters and sky so blue!!! Awesome place to take photos, too. :-) We didn't climb up to the temple because we were wearing shoes and couldn't afford to get them wet. Crossing the rocks to the temple involved stepping into the sea, you see (haha) ((lame sry)).



In Bali, this gate/entrance structure thing is meant to symbolise husband and wife!









watching the waves crash against the shore was so calming


sparkling waters!!!



Along the way back, we noticed a group of Balinese wearing white and carrying these "offerings", walking towards the Tanah Lot temple. These people are probably offering the gods sacrifices and stuff for some ceremony! Suar told us that that day was the day of some ceremony or other, so... It was quite cool!



After doing a bit of outlet shopping along the Kuta belt, we headed for this shop that sold keropok at wholesale prices to buy keropok for friends back home! We had to turn into a dodgy corner from the main road, down many twists and turns and finally arrived at a street with many run-down shops, reminding me of a rural village. There were lots of flies there, which was pretty annoying, so we left after buying the keropok haha. Suar got a packet of salmon keropok for free because we bought a lot of stuff, haha!





huge packs of iced gems!!! Jia Qi would love these

Finally, we were dropped back at the Grand Hyatt for a restful night. If you were wondering, we had takeaway KFC for dinner, along with two cans of Bintang beer. Such healthy living.


Day 5

We woke up bright and early (actually not bright, because it was 5 AM) for Stretch and Tone, which is a yoga/pilates/stretching hour-long class held in the hotel gym. The stretches were not new to me, but I did feel my muscles much more relaxed after the session.

We then headed to the main pool, where my family played water sports with some other American family while I stayed on the chaise because I couldn't go into the water (blame the menstrual cycle :() We chilled this way until early afternoon, when we headed out to Bali Collections for a late lunch after checking out of the hotel.

The food wasn't astoundingly good, but passable, I suppose... The afternoon passed uneventfully, and soon, it was time to head back to the hotel as Suar was waiting to pick us up to go to the airport.

On the final journey, my dad and Suar talked as if they were friends! I think our family was really blessed to have "bumped" into him (or rather, to have him run into us) during our stay in Bali. He has been nothing but a wonderful, accommodating and pleasant guide to us! He has a name-card, so the next time we visit Bali, we know who to call, haha!

At the airport, we cleared the customs quickly (do note that you have to pay 200,000RP per person for airport tax!) and were very early for our flight. Unfortunately, there was not much to do in the airport, so we just made use of the free Wi-Fi (which was commendably strong!) and waited for our time to board the plane (which was delayed...sigh)

Reaching home at 1/2am, I was exhausted and conked out after unpacking my luggages. It was a short trip but I think it was good for me :-)))))

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