I have heard a lot of beautiful things about Bali when I was young, miles of wonderful sandy beaches, crystal clear water, smoking volcanoes, rich cultural heritage, friendly people and breathtaking sceneries. Bali is a magical and mythical tropical island of paradise. Everything about an ideal vacation destination, but 2 terrorist bombing in 2002 and 2005 has changed all that. I had dropped Bali out from my vacation list but in 2007, I was tempted with the very attractive value 4 days 3 nights package (Air Asia DIY holiday package). I managed to convince my wife and 2 of my friends to join me on this 4D3N trip.
We took off from Penang at noon and arrived at LCC terminal about 1.00 pm and then continue from LCC terminal at 4.20 pm and arrived at Denpasar 7.20 pm. Our prearranged transport was there to pick us up and we arrived at Rama Beach Resort around 8.00 pm. After checked in we had our dinner across the road (which was much cheaper than our hotel). Rama Beach Resort is situated in Kuta, the main tourist attraction of Bali. The October 12th, 2002 bombing that killed 202 people and injured another 209 happened right here in Kuta. Kuta is a bay area with miles of fine black sandy beach. The main street of Kuta is concentrated with Beach hotels, resorts, restaurants, discos, bars, and shopping malls. It was once packed with thousands of tourist (mainly Australian) everyday and night but ever since the bombing, the numbers has dropped significantly. Rama resort is quite nice and the room is very spacious with full amenities. The only draw back is the water supply is very hard with high dissolved solids, not good for bathing and definitely not for drinking. I get a sticky feeling after taking the bath.
After breakfast, I negotiated with the tour agent at the lobby for our 2 ½ day’s travel itinerary. I have done some homework prior to the trip and I know what I want to see and where to go to places of interest. I did some bargaining and got a 2 ½ day package for Rp1,400,000, equivalent to RM560.00. Cost includes an air conditioned car, driver, and petrol. Entrance fees and meals are not included. Our driver is a young Balinese named Pudu. Speak some English but not a good guide. First day itinerary covers some temples, Gua Gajah, Gunung Batur in Kitamani, Tirta Empul, Ubud and end at Tanah Lot.
First stop was at a temple in Mengwi, one of many thousands Hindu temples in Bali. They say that there are more temples than houses in Bali. To enter a Balinese temple, one must wear clothing long enough to cover the knees. Entrance fee is Rp6,000 per person which include the rental of sarong if your cloth is not long enough to hide your knees. Next stop was Elephant Cave "Goa Gajah", a hermitage from the 11th. century used by both Buddhists and Hindus. After that we drove all the way up to Kitamani. From Kitamani view point, we can see Gunung Batur and its surrounding lake, Gunung Abang, the adjacent mountain and Gunung Agung the highest peak at 3,142 meter in the distance. Both Gunung Batur and Gunung Agung are still active volcanoes. Gunung Agung last erupted in March 1963. We had our buffet lunch at the view point restaurant.
After lunch we proceed to Tirta Empul. The most striking feature of Tirta Empul is the holy bathing pool for spiritual cleansing. With a small donation of Rp10,000, one can perform the spiritual cleansing at this holy pool. On our way back we passed thru some rice terrace farms in Ubud. Ubud is the center for art galleries and museums. We end our day one at Tanah Lot, Temple in the Sea’. Tanah Lot located north of Kuta and is built atop a huge rock surrounded by the sea. The best time to see Tanah Lot is in the late afternoon when the temple is in silhouette with the setting sun. I had a couple of beers at one of the café watching the sun set. It was the best scenery of the day. In the evening after dinner, we took a stroll along Kuta main street.
Spritual cleansing at Tirta Empul
Tanah Lot 'Temple in the sea'
We started day 3 at 9.15 am and our 1st stop is the Royal Temple of Taman Ayun. On our way to Bedugul, we made a stop to have a panoramic view of hill terrace farming. Bedugul is quite similar to our Cameron Highland with lots of vegetable farms but no tea plantation. The weather turned bad when we reach the peak of Bedugul. There is lake and a temple at this peak. Weather was not conducive for photo taking and we go straight to the view point restaurant for our buffet lunch. We also skip the visit to this lake side temple and headed straight back down hill to Uluwatu. On the way to Uluwatu, we stop by a small town to witness a holy celebration at a temple. There were Balinese women with a decorated fruit baskets well balanced on their heads entering the temple. These fruit baskets are offering to the temple. We tried to enter the temple for a closer look but were stopped because we are not wearing the proper attire. We also made a stop at one beautiful hotel situated on a hill top facing the sea at Nusa Dua. The view from this hotel is spectacular but unfortunately this place is a bit isolated and virtually no occupancy after the bombing incident at Kuta.
Offerings to temple
We arrived at Uluwatu a little passed 5.00 pm. We quickly bought our ‘Kecek’ Dance show ticket @ Rp50,000 each. This ‘Kecek’ dance is a local Balinese cultural dance highly recommended by friends. This is a big group of about 70 dancers in trance portraying the story of The Ramayana Epic on a hill top with beautiful sunset background. It’s a one hour show which starts at 7.00 pm every evening. We still have about an hour plus before the show to explore the temple and surrounding. We were forewarned about the notorious monkeys at this place. They are known to snatch things from tourist like spectacles, foods and bags. True enough, just minutes after the warning, out of nowhere came a big long tail monkey, snatched the spectacle of my friend. The monkey was so fast and appears to be a ‘professional’. It got my friend’s spectacles, ran to the brick fence, sits and waits for us to react. Then one of the locals came and throw some food (pineapple cubes) to the monkey in exchange for my friend’s spectacles. The monkey dropped the spectacles and grape the food thrown to him. Now my friend is obligated to reward (pay) the local for his service in getting back his spectacles. We highly suspect that the monkeys in this place are well trained by the ‘owners’ to prey on visitors. These monkeys are big, fat (obviously over fed) and very bold. After this incident, we were extra careful. I had my wife watching over me with my tripod in her hand while I take photographs. The ‘Kecek’ dance show performed in open air was very nice to watch indeed. This colorful dance together with the natural beauty of the surrounding environment was our high light of the day.
Day 4 is ½ day city tour cum shopping at Denpasar per the package. Our return flight to KL is scheduled at 8.20 pm and that means we still have ½ day free and easy on our own after the city tour. We have to check out and store our luggage at the reception area after our breakfast. The city tour and shopping trip was a bad decision. Nothing much to offer in Denpasar and we were hassled by some locals who keep following us everywhere offering their service in return for some tips. We had to cut short our shopping trip and return back to Kuta instead. We took the remaining morning to explore the famous Kuta beach. The beach was very nice indeed, long and wide but unfortunately, the weather was bad. No blue sky, no surfer, not much people at the beach. We had fast food lunch at the mall and took a slow walk back to our hotel via the beach.
We spent the afternoon at the swimming pool of our hotel. In the late afternoon, we went to the convenient store at the corner of the street and bought some souvenir. We had some Bali coffee and Chicken Bakso (chicken dumpling noodle). Bakso is the most favorite dish in Bali. It’s cheap (Rp5,000 per bowl) and good. After this tea break, we went back to the hotel to get our luggage. We did some re-packing of our luggage while waiting for our transport to the airport. We arrived at the airport 2 hours before flight time. The return flight to KL took off on time and we arrived 10 minutes ahead of schedule.