Bali: The Island of Love

The year 2014 was perhaps the most expensive, exhausting and the most stressful year that my hubby and I have had ever experienced so far as a couple. This was our transition period, the year when we decided to move to Philippines after living together in Vanuatu for five years. In December of the same year,  we took  a small holiday in Bali, Indonesia to relax, unwind, and plan for the following year.

Waiting for sunrise in Sanur Beach, Bali.

Indonesia. The largest archipelago in the world with over 17,000 islands. Bali is a province of Indonesia which consists of other neighboring islets including the isle of Bali. It is a sleepy coastal village located in Sanur. Bali is rich in culture and tradition. Its cultural heritage is mostly related to the Hindu religion, vibrant arts, forms of dance and music, and food. It is one of the top tourist destinations in the world boasting of natural landscapes of beautiful volcanoes, plantations, sandy beaches (Sanur area has black sand), and many other attractive sceneries.

Arrival. From Manila, Philippines, we flew via Philippine Airlines (PAL) to Denpasar, Indonesia. The flying time was 3 hours and 47 minutes. It was a bit drizzling and the weather was gloomy when we arrived at Ngurai International Airport (NIA) in Denpasar City at around 2 A.M. NIA also known as Denpasar airport is one of the third largest busiest airports in Indonesia with a facade of a beautifully sculptured Hindu curving. We were met at the airport by the hotel driver, Wayan, a tall, lanky Indonesian man who was very patient and nice. It cost us 200,000. Rupiah for the hotel transport fee. From the airport, it took us about 30 minutes to arrive at our hotel resort. While on our way to our hotel, I cannot help but notice the many temples and statutes in almost every corner of the traffic light. I had never seen these many temples (Bali has 22,000 temples-maybe even more) in my life!

Palm Garden Resort, pool area, Sanur.

Accommodation.  We were booked at Palm Garden, a small, isolated three star hotel resort which is three-minute walk to the beach. It not as fancy as other hotels but it has a comfortable bed, good hot shower, and nice balcony and a swimming pool. The food (mix of Indo and American breakfast) were not that great but it was all right. We had the same breakfast all the four days we were at the hotel. Fortunately, there were many great choices of restaurants nearby. There were also many restaurants along the main road and best choices of food served by restaurants along the beach area.

Denpasar City. This is the largest city and the capital of Bali Province. We hired Wayan to drive us around Denpasar which cost us 250,000 Rupiah including payment for his waiting time. Our first stop was to look for an ATM machine to withdraw money. I had learned that local banks do not dispense money even if they have the cirrus, maestro or visa signs unless it is also an international bank. Wayan, the driver, was really of good help in trying to find a credible bank for us. 

Considering that we already hired a car for the day, we then proceeded to shop for souvenir items such as key chains, essential oils and also bought Bubuk Kopi (Indonesian terms which mean ground coffee), green tea, and nuts. We purchased our food stuff at Robinson Mall Denpasar supermarket and also at Krisna Bali – two best places to shop, in my opinion.  Although there were other malls to shop around Denpasar. The top three souvenir items we bought for our home were the following: Two Mosaic glass candle holders (90,000 Rupiah for both) bought at Krisna Bali; Paintings (80,000 Rupiah each) bought at Sta. Ana’s Wood Craft; and Jewelry Wooden Box with curving of Ramayana and Mahabharata (100,000 Rupiah) also bought at Sta. Ana shop.

Our Bali Tour. Inside the tour van; my hubby showing the tour map provided by the tour company.

Bali Tour.  The day following, we had our Bali Tour. We could have toured Bali on our own but considering the limited days of our stay, and the distance of the tourist spots we wanted to visit, we decided to book for a private tour instead. We booked for one full day tour at www.bali-indonesia.com which cost us 60 USD per person inclusive of buffet lunch, bottled water, entrance fees, and free pick up to and fro our hotel. Our tour guide was a friendly Indonesian man with a good command of the English language. The driver of the van who was also an Indonesian was a careful driver; we enjoyed a smooth drive during our trip. We visited the following attractions:

Our tour guide explaining the cases held at Kerta Gosa Royal Court House.

1. Kerta Gosa Royal Court House. This is called ‘Hall of Justice’ and was built in the 18th Century. The intricate architecture and ‘Klungkung’ style of painting can be seen in their ceiling murals. The complexity in itself is beautiful. Beside Kerta Gosa is the Taman Gili building which was fully decorated with traditional paintings. It is located adjacent to Bale Kembang (Floating Bale) surrounded by water with lotus flowers floating on the fish pond. If you notice, we were wearing ‘sarong’ wrapped around our waist. This was provided for free by our tour guide. When visiting temples in Indonesia, the wearing of ‘sarong’ or ‘sash’ is required. 

My hubby and our tour guide explaining the artifacts kept inside the glass cabinet, Semarajaya Museum.

2. Semarajaya Museum. The structure of this museum is blended with ancient Dutch style and Balinese traditional architectures. Inside are pre historic displayed objects and photographs documenting the Klungklung King descendant and the history of Klungklung.

My hubby and I at the entrance of Besakih Temple.

3. Besakih Temple. This is Bali’s unique and largest temple complex which consists of other 86 Temples. This is also known as Bali’s ‘Mother Temple’ which is said to be 1,000 years old. It is seated in the slopes of Mt. Agung which is the highest mountain in Bali. There were some places inside this temple that were off limits to tourists. When traveling, we always  adhere to the local rules and respect their local culture, and so we did not insist on entering. On top of this temple, you will find a small shop that sells souvenir items and postcards.

4. View of Mount Basur.  Mount Basur or referred to as Kintamani volcano. Kintamani is one of the earliest known kingdoms in Bali. Mt. Basur is considered sacred by the Hindus. It is situated 1,000 meters above sea level. We did not get the chance to trek the area but we stopped at Kintamani to have buffet lunch while enjoying the beautiful panoramic view of Mount Basur. The buffet lunch at Madu Sari, Kintamani was a winner! We had a feast of authentic Indonesian food with wide array of dish to choose from while enjoying the mountain view.

Buffet Lunch (partial area), Madu Sari Restaurant, Kintamani.
Free 13 kinds of herbals drinks.

5. Satria Agowista Coffee Plantation. This was our next stop after we had lunch. The plantation has variety of fruit trees, vegetables, herbs and other plant species apart from coffee. We witnessed the Luwak or Civet coffee making. Civet coffee is the seeds of coffee berries which had been eaten by Civet cats. These cats, however, not just eat any ordinary coffee berries but chooses the most sweet and ripest ones which passed through its digestive tract and excreted. Coffee makers collect the poo (intact coffee beans) of the Civet cats and wash and process the coffee making. the result is a smooth, aromatic, and less acidic coffee beans. Civet Coffee is considered to be the most expensive coffee in the world.  This coffee is produced mainly in Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Sulawesi) and in the Philippines. In this plantation, we enjoyed our coffee and herbal drink samplers of various kinds (Rosella, Turmeric, etc.) for free while a small cup of Luwak coffee cost 5 USD.

Poo of a Civet cat collected to be processed into Civet Coffee.
The flowing spring water from the holy mountain in Pura Tirta Empul Temple.

6. Pura Tirta Empul Temple. This is located in Manukaya village in central Bali. It is considered as a national cultural heritage site. The place was jam packed with people taking a sacred bathing ritual. Accordingly, the water that flows to this temple comes from the holy mountain spring. Since this is considered as one of their temples, it was again a requirement to wear the sarong and the sash to be wrapped around the waist; another beautiful design of sarong for us. It was drizzling when we went to visit the place, hence, the umbrella which was also provided by our tour guide.

7. Painting Shop. We had the opportunity to tour around this shop which comprises of beautiful paintings with various objects and designs. Taking of photos was not allowed (we were not informed before hand, so this was taken prior to the notice) in this place although we managed to take some photos before we were allowed to finally  stop.

8. Jewelry Shop. This was the last stop of our tour before we headed back to our hotel. We visited this shop which displays authentic silver and gold jewelry with Indonesian designs. Unfortunately, no taking of photos was allowed inside this shop.

Sanur Beach area.

Sanur. Beach day tour at Sanur Area. Sanur is one of the established resort areas, in fact, considered as the oldest upscale resorts in Bali. The beach offers a mild temperature with calm water making it the best place to swim, sunbath, especially for families. Sanur is well known for beautiful sunrise. So, we were up early and headed to the beach area to watch the sunrise while also people watching: couple walking their dog, few people doing their early morning jog, and shop owners starting to open their restaurants and diving shops.

The long array of restaurants to choose from, Sanur beach area.

Sanur indeed offers an endless beach activities while relaxing in a coastal ambiance. We were able to capture a few moments of sunrise (sun did not fully come out for us) and so we went back to our hotel to have breakfast. After breakfast, we started a morning walk along the main road and went back to Sanur beach area for lunch. We had the best Indo food in Sanur for reasonable price in a beachfront ambiance. I recommend these two restaurants:

Izakaya. It is open for lunch and dinner. Izakaya is a beach front restaurant in Sanur beach area. So far, we had the best authentic Indonesian food served in this restaurant – those mouth watering spices of lemongrass, chili, garlic, and other spices. I can’t helped but asked the waitress how they actually prepare the food. She informed me that they pound the spices for the recipe using mortar and pestle, no food processor but by hand. The taste of the Indonesian spices on our food were so flavorful. We came to this place twice to have the same kind of food.

Bandjar. This restaurant is located a few meters from our hotel. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The staff were very friendly and the service was also great. The prices were reasonable and the food was also sumptous. A must visit and try!

In the afternoon, we continued our walk along the main road of Sanur. We stopped for yogurt and healthy drinks just to chill, and yes, people watching – the road was full of tourists and their kids going to and fro the main road either with their shopping bags, or just walking heading to some places.

Frittaya Yogurt Shop. I had Promegnate Yogurt topped with dragon fruits and almonds! It was a treat for me because I have to admit that it was my first time to taste both Promegnate and Dragon fruits in a yogurt. There were many flavors to choose from such as fruits, chocolates, nuts. This is a place to indulge in healthy flavors of yogurt.

Manik Organic. This is more than just a small coffee shop. It serves organic dishes, healthy beverages, drinks, and vegetarian food. There is an organic shop on the ground floor while the second floor serves as a yoga center. In here, we enjoyed our lemon, basil juice drink. We also bought organic food stuff to bring home such as Sunflower seeds, Pumpkin seeds, dried Rosella, Goji berries, all at reasonable prices  (www.manikorganikbali.com).

Manik Organik.
Canang Sari, a basket full of flowers and rice found in temples that Balinese offer three times a day to their gods for prosperity and good health.

Farewell Bali. It was raining when we headed to the airport late at night to check in for our early morning flight. But before we headed to the airport, we did a lot of thinking whether we should depart back to Manila on that day or change our departure date considering that there was an anticipated strong typhoon heading towards Philippines. The typhoon had already entered the Philippine area of responsibility but was expected to make its land fall early morning (our departure time). Honestly, I never like flying but my love for travel always makes me convince myself that flying is fun! However, during that time, persuading myself was kind of difficult.

Lesson Learned. After checking in, we proceeded to the pre departure area. However, I was surprised (in my many travel experiences in Asia) that when you depart Bali, you must a pay a departure tax of 21 USD per person! Good thing was that, we had the remaining 42 USD cash (meant to buy chocolates) to pay for me and my hubby, the change I had after having a small shopping at the duty free shop. So there were no chocolates but only disappointments.

However, my feeling of disappointment was over powered by my feeling of worry because of the typhoon. When we finally departed Bali, I could not sleep in the plane and was uneasy thinking of the many what ifs during our plane ride! Only then when we landed in Manila (actual deplaned), that I felt safe and secured. We then learned that the typhoon was expected to make its landfall on the day following our arrival. What a relief!

But the drama did not end because on the same morning, we were heading to Davao City. During our flight, I can feel the strong wake turbulence. Only then did I feel safe again when we deplaned at Davao international airport. What a price to pay for a holiday! But it was all worth it because Bali was a beautiful island where you feel the love and peace, a moment worth all the risks.

P.S.

How to reach Bali. From Manila, Philippines, we flew via Philippine Airlines (PAL) to Denpansar City, Indonesia. Cebu Pacific Airlines also has a route to the same city.

Visa. For Filipino citizens, there is no need to apply for visa to enter Indonesia, only Visa On Arrival (VOA) which if free of charge. For Canadian citizen (my hubby), only VOA (and Landing Permission) is also required but with the required payment of 35 USD. We were individually given  a 30 day visit.

Where to stay. We stayed at Palm Garden Resort which is walking distance to Sanur beach area. It is close to Sanur main road where you can stroll to visit many souvenir shops, dine in restaurants, or to enjoy Balinese coffee in coffee shops located along the road.