An October 2001 trip
to Bali by travelwisdom
Quote: For years I dreamed of a trip to Bali…an island paradise complete with visions of the movie South Pacific and the song Bali Hai. I pictured Bali as an island of tranquil, breathtaking beauty. I was not disappointed.
We arrive in Bali very late evening. Before leaving the airport, we become millionaires. Millionaires in Indonesian Rupiah…about .00 U.S. We check in our hotel in Kuta around midnight and crash. Tomorrow will be a full and fascinating day.
May be the jet lag, we awake very early and go exploring. Our hotel grounds are a well manicured tropical paradise. Heavy tropical vegetation and Hindu altars, like ancient ruins, throughout the grounds. It is very early. The air is fresh and heavy with the smells of exotic tropical flowers. There is no one else around. It’s like our personal paradise. We walk down to the beach and stand on the edge of the South China Sea…almost on the exact opposite side of the world from home. This is our first of many travel moments for this trip.
Packing Tip: Don't take a lot of clothing. Bali is a shopping paradise and prices for wraparound sarongs and tops in beautifully woven fabrics are unbelievable. I purchased several sarongs with matching tops for about .00 each. T-shirts and men's casual shirts were .00 to .00.
That said, having experienced the serenity and service of the Balinese, on a return trip I would not hesitate to rent a car and see the island at leisure.
Hotel | "Escape Reality at the Hotel Chedi"
Perched high on a hillside above terraced rice paddies and lush tropical forests, Hotel Chedi is a secluded and serene retreat. Accommodations are individual cottages with teakwood floors and walls. Bowls of fresh orchids, candles and special snacks. There are private decks inviting guest to simply sit and enjoy the dense, cool, tropical setting.
And, then there is the bathroom. Right away we notice there is no shower or tub in the elegant huge green marble bath. French doors lead out of the bath. Exiting, we discover a walled courtyard… our private rainforest…with a green marble shower in the center. Ahh...what a treat!
The Chedi restaurant is located in the main building. We meander up a winding path inhaling air heavily scented by multitudes of orchids and local plant called adenium.
Facilities at the Chedi include the usual spa, cabana, library, meeting rooms, boutique, and swimming pool. Not an ordinary hotel pool, the dramatic pool seems to float above the plunging valley. With "false sides" the emerald-green waters of the pool appear to overflow. An enormous vase filled with lush flowers and foliage rises from the center of the dramatic pool. A stone-tiled patio surrounds the pool with sun-beds nestled under huge Balinese unbrellas invites guests to relax and unwind.
The Chedi Restaurant overlooking the pool serves a wide selection of Balinese and Asian dishes. Diners are encouraged to linger and savor the surroundings.
This is the paradise I dreamed of for years...I don't want to leave it.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 24, 2004
Payangan Village 80572
62 361 975 963
Bagush points out signs of the Hindu culture everywhere. There are statues to various gods in front of most homes and businesses. The gods wear "skirts" of black and white checked material. This pattern symbolizes the coexistence of good and evil in the world. There are also small offerings fo fruit and flowers on the ground in front of businesses and homes. We’ll have to be careful not to step on one of them.
After a quick tour around Kuta, we head into the countryside. One of our first stops is to see a traditional Barong Dance. The Barong is a creature representing the positive spirit. He is a gorgeous creature who dances and struts his stuff with the help of two men inside. Soon, he is accosted by the evil witch, Rangda. ( You don’t want to meet her in a rice paddie on a dark night!) Along with the supporting cast of kings, princes, servants and a big monkey, a battle ensues. The battle of good and evil. Good prevails and the Barong defeats Rangda. I know what my unique jewelry piece will be here…got to have a silver Barong pendant!
We move on the Kintamani, the large volcanic crater high up in the hills. We enjoy a local lunch and shopping opportunities from very aggressive vendors at a typical Balinese restaurant. Heavy bargaining is the order of the day. I purchase a great wood carving of an ancient fisherman for our son for a mere $3.00. Now, the problem is how to get it home. We also visit the Elephant Cave dating back to the 11th century as a place of worship. After stops at several other temples and shrines and much walking and climbing, we are ready for our stop for the night. And what a stop. Visit my entry on Hotel Chedi for the scoop!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 23, 2004
Around Bali With Bagush
Bus Tours Included In Our Tour
Attraction | "Tanah Lot & Kecak are Must-See in Bali"
Following the masterpiece of the sunset, we climbed up the steep pathway to a cliff top for a performance of the Kecak Dance. Music and dance are an integral part of Balinese culture. Our guide told us that the Kecak or Monkey Dance is an absolute "must-see" for visitors. He was not wrong.
The story is a simple subplot of the Hindu epic Ramayana. In this version, Sita, the wife of Rama, is kidnapped by the evil king of Lanka. Rama recruits assistance from Sugriwa, a red monkey, and Hanoman, a white monkey, to find Sita. Hanoman finds Sita and attempts to destroy the palace of the evil king, but is captured and bound in a ring of fire. At the last minute, he is rescued by an army of monkey warriors (the chorus). Good once again triumphs over evil.
What makes the performance unique (besides the dramatic clifftop setting) is there is no Gamelan orchestra typical of other forms of Balinese dance. The only music is provided by a large chorus of 100-150 men and boys who sit bare-chested in a circle chanting a "chak-a-chak-a-chak" rhythm. The sun has set. In the deep night, the only light comes from the large bonfire in the center of the "stage." The combination of sound, light, and sight leave you feeling you have stepped into a National Geographic special.
Tanah Lot, Kediri
+62 361 811 602
Attraction | "A Side Trip to Lombok"
Our video camera almost causes a riot. Curious children surround us to get a look at the strange contraption. When we flip out the side screen and a couple of young boys see themselves on screen, a crowd gathers. Mothers bring babies to "see" them on camera. We enjoy the visit to the primitive village, but leave somewhat saddened at the very primitive living conditions.
As we board our bus, children are begging, pointing at their hands and pretending to write. Our guide tells us they are begging not for money but for pens or pencils for their school. We clean out our purses and wish we had brought along boxes of Bics.
After leaving the village, we visit a wood carving factory and watch carvings being completed that tower 10 feet of more. At a weaving factory and I get a chance to become a weaver. Strapped into a torturous contraption, I get a lesson in weaving the beautiful fabric…one thread at a time. The workers giggle at my clumsiness and shake their heads at my lack of talent.
Late afternoon finds us at our Lombok hotel. While clean and comfortable, this accommodation is not the luxury we were treated to in Bali. We notice another difference between Bali and Lombok right away. Lombok is predominantly Muslim and we hear the calls to prayer ringing throughout the island. There is a "feeling" of unrest here that is difficult to pin down. We don’t not feel welcomed as we did in Bali. The people are not as carefree and friendly as the Balinese.
We are glad we visited Lombok, but somewhat relieved when we fly back to Bali the next day. Two weeks after our visit, we read in the news that Christians were being evacuated from Lombok due to hostilities. With a history of religious disturbances, check travel advisories before planning a trip to Lombok.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on August 24, 2004
Lombok Island- 100 km from Bali
We began our sojourn early morning out of Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. Over the next 24 hours we will fly to Atlanta, Newark, Amsterdam, and into Singapore. The agony of so long in the air is eased by flying Singapore Airlines. They turn out to be as good as we’ve always heard. The aircraft out of Newark is clean and comfortable. The flight attendants are professional, beautifully dressed, and friendly. Unlike most "cattle cars" the seats have more legroom than usual, footrests, adjustable head rests, and individual videos in each seat back.
Another pleasant surprise, we are served hot scented towels before the beverage service and then complimentary Piper Heidsieck Champagne…in coach no less! I could get used to this! Over the next 18 hours on two flight legs we are offered numerous meals. The food is actually good. Passengers are provided with toiletry kits complete with toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash and other amenities. U.S. airlines could take a lesson here!
On our return home from Bali,we had to wait six hours in Singapore for our connecting flight.There is no airport in the world like the Singapore Internationa Changi Airport. It is more an experience than an airport. We sat in the main lobby, in a virtual indoor rainforest of towering palms, dozens of orchids and other exotic plants, beside a flowing stream and pond filled with the largest and most beautiful Koi we have ever seen. We were entertained with hourly concerts by pianists clad in tuxedos playing classics such as our favorite, Phantom of the Opera.
Gourmet dining is available at over a dozen restaurants. There is a hands-on interactive museum that enthralls adults and children alike. And, of course, there are shops and more shops. The six hours flew by and soon we were winging our way back to reality.
Between must see – must do tours and attractions, few travelers can resist the lure of shops, bazaars, and markets of Bali. Some of us are avid shoppers and some are tepid shoppers. Some of us seek out trinkets and some go for treasures. For either type travel shopper, Bali is a shopping paradise. There are splendid locally woven batik fabrics, inexpensive ready-made sarongs, intricate woodcarvings, silver and gold jewelry, and unusual artifacts. I won’t presume to tell you what to buy, but hopefully these tips will make your Balinese shopping experience more productive, easier, and more fun.
Do your shopping homework before you go. Make a list of things you want to buy and a gift list. Know your prices. Ebay and catalogs such as Smithsonian are great places to compare prices on Balinese imports. You will be pleased to find the woodcarving for $75.00 in Smithsonian catalog selling at a local market in Bali for $10.00 or less.
Print a copy of Know Before You Go from U.S. Customs at www.customs.gov , click on Travel at the top of the home page. Take the Know Before You Go online quiz to test your knowledge. It is easy to accidently attempt to bring in prohibited items. Keep a log of all your purchases and a receipt file. Makes completing customs forms much easier. If possible, pack all purchases in one bag to (hopefully) facilitate a custom’s search if required.
Notify credit card companies where you are traveling to avoid having a credit card cancelled by bankcard security when purchases come in that do not match your normal buying profile. Take two different credit cards for backup protection in case one is lost or the magnetic strip damaged. Be aware that when you charge items in foreign countries, the exchange rate you are charged will be the rate the day the charge posts to your account, not the day of your purchase. In countries where exchange rates are volatile, you could pay much more than you thought for charged items.
Don’t forget your ATM card. It offers the best rate of exchange and you will need cash to shop in the markets in Bali. Few market sellers accept credit cards. Print a pocket-sized currency exchange cheatsheet from www.oanda.com. As of August 2004, there are about 9300 Indonesian rupiah per U.S. dollar. This can make getting a handle on prices and exchange rates tricky without a cheatsheet.
Take a shopping bag. A net bag doesn’t take much room in your luggage and is a lifesaver as you accumulate purchases. Keep money and charge cards in a hidden money belt or neck pouch. As you shop, place your foot through the strap on your shopping bag and be especially wary in crowded areas such as narrow sidewalks and market stalls.
Bargaining is part of the fun of shopping in markets in Bali. Shop early in the day. Sellers believe the first "sell" brings luck the rest of the day. The first buyer has extra bargaining power.
Begin bargaining at 50% or more off the asking price and expect to settle for about 40% off the seller’s original price. Don’t haggle over pennies. When negotiations reach that point, give in. Consider the economic conditions and how much a few cents means in a poor economy. Expect to get "taken" occasionally. It’s part of the experience. It’s not catastrophic if the amount is small and makes a good travel story, if you admit to it!
Take a few small gifts. We were negotiating with an assertive young man for an antique ship compass. Toward the end, the seller commented on Hank’s sunglasses ($3.00 at Wal-Mart). Hank said, "Okay I’ll throw the sunglasses in as part of the payment." The seller was ecstatic. Putting them on, he strutted around saying, "Now, I look like American movie star." We probably didn’t really save any money on the purchase, but it made the transaction more memorable and more fun. Inexpensive items such as sunglasses, bandannas, and ballpoint pens are sought after. Use the gifts to barter, bargain, or simply enjoy the pleasure and goodwill they bring when you give them away.
Seek out unique mementos that have meaning long after your trip. We always search for a small item (not necessarily a traditional ornament) for our Christmas tree. Each year as we hang several small woodcarvings and a silver Barong pendant on our holiday "memory tree," we relive wonderful memories of our trip to Bali.
One of our fondest travel memories is a past trip to New York City. A highlight of the trip was a champagne toast with friends at Windows on the World atop the World Trade Center. It is hard to believe it is gone. Months before the terrorist attack in Bali, we enjoyed a vacation there. Who would dream an act of such violence would mar the serenity of this peaceful paradise? In 2003, weeks after celebrating Chinese New Year in Hong Kong, the SARS epidemic virtually stropped travel to Asia for months. Later that year, at the height of the war with Iraq, we cruised the Mediterranean for two weeks. Our ports-of-call in Turkey were cancelled due to U.S. Department of State travel warnings. Two days before we sailed, the warnings were lifted and the stop was reinstated. We were treated as "honored guests" in Istanbul and Kusadasi. What captivating cities! Most recently in May, we spent a romantic weekend in Paris. Less than a week later, the section of the Charles De Gaulle airport where we waited for our return flight accidentally collapsed.
Were these narrow escapes? Some might think so, we don’t. Are we lucky travelers? Not really. Did they prevent us from planning future trips? Definitely not! If we forego the desire to see our wonderfully diverse world and cower in our home, we sacrifice the privileges and pleasures of travel and those who would strike fear in our heart have succeeded. We are cautious and well-prepared travelers. We thoroughly research our destinations, carefully evaluate any risks, and take commonsense precautions to minimize any problems along the way.
Our world will continue to live under the threat of terrorism and occasionally those threats will strike at the heart of travel security. That said, the odds are overwhelming in favor of travelers. According to U.S. Government statistics, the odds of being killed overseas in a terrorist incident are one in 2.2 million. Most disturbing, odds of being killed by a handgun in the United States are one in 18,000…much greater than anywhere in Europe or Asia. Statistics also show that 80% of accidents happen in the home.
Unfortunately, it is easy to become so caught up in the "could-happen" horrific possibilities that we neglect precautions against the much more common and possibly preventable travel hazards such as street crime and fire.
As a former flight attendant and for over 20 years and an avid pleasure traveler, I encourage you to take wing. That said, I urge and encourage you to learn as much as possible about travel safety and use what you learn to improve the odds of a safe and healthy trip.
Some web sites I recommend for learning more about travel safety include:
Additional tips on specific aspects will follow soon.
Mary Esther, Florida