Boisterous beautiful Bali! (Part 1).

Bali is practically on everyone’s bucket list, including mine! However, for me it hasn’t really been a priority because somewhere in the back of my mind, I had the idea that Bali is highly commercialised and filled with tourist. My recent trip to Bali sadly proved me right.

This trip is one of the rare ones where I hadn’t planned anything at all. The suggestion of the trip popped up about a month and a half ago when a friend decided to celebrate his birthday there, and invited a group of us to join him in the festivities. As such, the itinerary, flight details and accommodation wasn’t handled by me at all! … Yes, a lot of “letting go” and “letting things be”…

Shrine amidst the neon lights of Kuta

This was the first time we flew on Malindo Air, which was an incredibly pleasant experience, especially after the tight squashy experiences of Air Asia (the latter is good for what it is, IMHO, not meaning to be overly critical). At the airport, we were greeted by this:

Don’t ask me what this is, but the creature above is supposed to be a “makhluk jahat” (evil creature), about to do something to baby Krishna. Whatever it is, this was an amazing visual crystallisation of my thoughts on Bali: the incredible Balinese Hindu tradition practised nowhere else in the world!

So understand that I had no idea about the logistics, geography or attractions in Bali. I had let my host handle everything, including the airport transfers. However, I understood that the journey from the airport to the hotel took about an hour because of traffic. We stayed in Legian in Kuta, and that road was one big long traffic jam, more so at night.

The Bali Bombing (2002) Memorial

Filled with nightclubs, pubs, drinking holes, cafes, restaurants and touristy shops, the street was filled to the brim with white tourists (nary an Asian in sight), one of whom was drunk and cheerily slammed on the hood of our car, and requested our driver to wind his window down, then proceeding to toot on our car horn for ages.

Our driver soberly told us that we mustn’t lose our temper here and allow the tourists to do what they wanted to do, and the other taxi drivers to go as slow as they like (to look for fares), because this was a holiday place and everyone just wanted to “enjoy”. Okay then…

Kuta in the morning – dead to the world as it sleeps the evening excesses away

Anyway, after a quick shower, we needed to go out to buy water and we were immediately immersed in a kaleidoscope of light and sound, so incredibly rich and loud that it was hard to hear or think! We had to yell to be heard to each other as we walked down the street, and every angle of vision was a blast of neon or gaudy display! This definitely wasn’t the Bali I had in my mind! Thankfully, we only spent a bare 15 mins in that chaos, and then back to the hotel to rest, for we were incredibly tired from the travel.

The next day, Eddy had planned the day’s itinerary, coz I really was free and easy. He wanted to see a volcano, that was top of his list. Together with that, I understood we were going to see the Monkey Forest, the terraced rice fields and a temple. Sounds like a half-day outing, no?

Everywhere in Bali

No! Bali is chockfull with traffic! If ever I have complained about KL traffic, let it be known that Bali’s traffic jams are monumental in comparison! But this was the day that Bali began to endear itself to me, so let me move away from the whinging and begin on how beautiful Bali actually is.

Some of the interesting statues in the monkey forest

Firstly, the beautiful statues and engravings everywhere were just breathtaking! Everywhere you drive, there is something to remind you of the island’s Hindu ancestry and religious values. Secondly, the roads had no potholes (yes, I have to mention that, take heed Adun2 Malaysia).

Thirdly, even though there was traffic everywhere, no one was discourteous, rude or obnoxious. Just sayin…

Monkey Forest, Ubud – there are more monkeys than just this!

We arrived at the Monkey Forest in Ubud around noon (a two-hour drive from Kuta). I have to say notwithstanding looking like a tourist trap, Ubud was charming (OMG, I am supposed to be positive!). The Monkey Forest too was pretty fascinating (again, notwithstanding the great throngs of people everywhere in every corner of the place). Definitely worth a visit!

Monkey Forest Komodo dragon statue – pretty realistic, no?

From there, we headed to the Tegallalang rice terraces of Ubud, which is really very pretty. However, as with all the other places, it was chockfull of people, so much so that the driver had to park really much further away. Every opportunity to take a photo was always marred by someone walking in front or coming really close to your subject. And also, I was aware that we still had two more venues to visit. So I just took one photo and stretched my legs, then headed back to the rented car.

Rice Terrace of Ubud

At this juncture, I would like to state that Bali had close to 4.5 million tourist arrivals from  Jan 2016-Nov 2016, exceeding Indonesia’s expectations. Bali is by far the craziest most crowded destination I have travelled to, and that includes my trip to Israel (click here for Part 1,  Part 2 and Part 3 about that trip)! So that explains why I keep on mentioning how crowded everywhere was!

Gunung Batur & its lake

Anyway, we finally arrived at Kintamani, where we had to pay to access the peak, to get a view of Gunung Batur, a volcano and Lake Batur. We had an RM40 eat-all-you-can lunch buffet with the above astounding view of the volcano and lake. The food was so-so but the weather was good, the air was fresh and the view was breathtaking!

Coffee!!!!

We then headed back to Ubud, having a brief stop to taste some coffee, including kopi luwak (which cost about RM15 a cup, about the same as a Starbucks frappe). We had tried kopi luwak in Hanoi before, and honestly can’t tell if there is any difference (I guess the Indonesian one may be better, considering that the Hanoi one was RM5 per cup!). Of all the coffee we tasted that evening, the coconut coffee was delicious and we duly bought a bag home (as well as some ginger tea).

Next up:

  • Tirta Empul
  • Kuta Beach
  • Bebek di tepi Sawah, Ubud
  • Seminyak Beach & K Resto
  • Uluwatu & the Kecak Dance
  • Final thoughts

Stay tuned!

Arjuna!

Have you been to Bali before? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

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