Image Courtesy : Pexels
So, there it was.. the Indian Independence week and true to our promises made to each other, our gang of pot-bellied, balding 40 yrs plus college mates set out again to a new destination, something we all have looked forward to every August.. every year, for the past 9 years. Some of us just don’t give up !
Bali.. the land of the Ramayana.. the Island of the Gods offers great beaches, countless waves for surfing and wonderful natural sites to visit and explore, colorful ceremonies, and gifted artists. There is a special vibe, an essence, something authentic that is difficult to describe, which has touched and inspired visitors from all over the world since decades. It has something to do with the Balinese themselves and their warm and welcoming character.
Apprehensive as we were, due to the recent spate of volcanic eruptions close to Bali and earthquakes in nearby Lombok, we had to mentally prepare ourselves for the possible occasional “shaken but not stirred” experience which could have happened while we were there. But the lust for new pastures and mostly the eagerness to sample Javanese food at its best, threw us into our respective flights to Ngurah Rai International Airport, Bali’s gateway to eternal bliss. However, before delving into details on Bali, I would do immense injustice if I didn’t praise the brand new A787 which took us from Singapore to Bali. Beautifully designed, fantastic seating, awsume entertainment console and most impressively, the automatic light controlled windows. Sans any roll downs, just a pair of buttons lets one decide whether to have a bright day outside or a pitch dark night. Whoaa!! The food served by the airline was again super-duper and aided to Singapore Airlines living up to the reputation of being the world’s best.
Ngurah Rai is a modern and well equipped airport with swift immigration facilities. Most countries, including India have a free-entry pact with Indonesia (30 days stay) so it was a breezy scan/stamp/exit for us. Duty Free is expensive and thankfully, we had known this fact earlier, so we had picked up the liquids in Singapore DF itself. Even at 70% discounted prices, it was double of what one would pay in other Duty Free shops worldwide. Anyhow, we met our other pals from Bengaluru outside the arrival gate and got a taste of airport fleecing for the first time since we landed. IDR 350k for a taxi into Kuta !! Later on checking with the hotel, private taxis cost around IDR 150k max and if one were to use an app like Grab, it would be as low as IDR 28k. Also, a friend picked up a tourist sim for IDR 150k whereas outside the airport it was for IDR 50k. Bitterness aside, the Indonesian currency does make one feel like a millionaire as a dollar gets you around IDR 15k and hence, you get IDR 1.5 mn for every 100 quid you exchange.
It was a long drive to our resort in Kuta, as the roads in Bali are perpetually jammed. Especially once you enter the main strip of Kuta-Legian.. OMG it’s a bumper-to-bumper ride till one takes his or her turn into their desired lane.
Kuta Traffic / Pic Courtesy : Unknown – Internet
We stayed at White Rose Resort and Spa, which is a good option for families and groups who need a peaceful location yet close to the madness of Kuta. Having said this, I would try and live elsewhere on my next visit as I didn’t particularly enjoy the crowds here.
Kuta Beach, Bali / Pic Courtesy : Surajit Mitra
Our lunch was in a nice shack serving ice cold Bintang beer (lemon flavoured) for IDR 25k and the famed Nasi Goreng rice dishes.
Nasi Goreng / Pic Courtesy : Bali Inside
In the evening we stepped out to party and the closest place was Sky Garden. Now, without hurting anyone’s sentiments, I would say that this place is the most over-rated nightclub in all of Bali. With queues ready to pay IDR 350k as entry per person and having some really bad food in form of a buffet, didn’t appeal to us at all.
Sky Garden – Kuta, Bali / Pic Courtesy : TripAdvisor
On the other hand, once inside it is a massive multi-tier nightclub, packed like a tin of sardines. Music is good & peppy and apparently the club gets world renowned DJs to perform during peak seasons. The buffet on the terrace is big but not something I would pay the IDR 99k it charges. Paddy’s Club, next-door was more relaxed with in-house DJs playing some good music and moderately prices drinks made up the remainder of the evening.
Paddy’s Club – Kuta, Bali / Pic Courtesy : Star Bali Tour & Travels
There was another foam party happening closeby but on inspection, turned out to be a Japanese group of girls jumping in a makeshift tub, much to our amusement. An interesting observation here is Kuta was, inspite of most of tourists being Aussies (just 3 hours from Aussieland), we saw many Africans (mostly working ladies trying to solicit clients). Also, to our surprise, almost every passing local whispered “you want weed ?” into our ears. Knowing the land for its strict anti-drug laws, it seemed quite open and un-heeded here. After a late dinner in an open air restaurant close by, we headed back to our hotel to call it a day.
Uluwatu Temple, Bali / Pic Courtesy : Surajit Mitra
Our next 2 days went in visiting few temples in the southern part of Bali, namely GWK (Garuda Wisnu Kannan) and Uluwatu deeper down south. Here, we got monkeyed ! well, inspite of being warned about these naughty guys trying to swipe sunglasses, caps or food off unsuspecting tourists, one of us got their RayBans flicked and chewed up, much to the laughter of those around who didn’t get swiped. Also, a Chinese woman got her ears pulled so hard that everyone else around learnt few expletives from her in Chinese, within seconds.
Uluwatu Temple, Bali / Pic Courtesy : Surajit Mitra
The 11th century Uluwatu temple hugs the shoreline and is quite spacious. We didn’t see all of it as it would involve a lot of walking in the sun. At GWK, we witnessed a live ballet show depicting Ramayana and its characters.
GWK, Bali / Pic Courtesy : Surajit Mitra
Since all the walking around and sightseeing used to sap our energies, we tried out a Balinese massage at a Balinese parlour by Balinese masseurs. Hey, guess what.. the Balinese massage in Thailand scores higher. Also the average massage skills in Thailand are many notches above than the Balinese. Sorry but true that ! So save the money and spend on Bintang instead.
Bintang Beer / Pic Courtesy : Polyfecta
Bidding adieu to Bali and while heading to the airport, we learnt that in order to enjoy Bali one needs to stay in the northern areas like Ubud as there it is more serene and scenic. Well, that’s for another time as we were looking forward to our next stop… Chiang Mai in Thailand. More of that in my next blog. Happy travels.
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