On first impression, Bali really felt like Phuket in many aspects, tourist-centric, commercialised, with many similar activities for tourists but upon interacting with the locals, we felt that they were more genuine and even the service staff were friendlier and helpful. Our 26-year-old balinese driver (from a local travel agency) shared that his monthly salary was slightly more than 1 million rupiah – which is around the amount we spent on buying Balinese and Luwak coffee on this trip – just to give you an idea of how low their wages are. He lamented to us that he does not have a girlfriend yet as “No money, no honey!” and the furthest place he traveled to was only Java.
7 Tips for Traveling in Bali:
- Ignore the travel agents or booths selling travel packages along the streets as they are not reliable. It is safer sticking with travel agents recommended by a good hotel concierge.
- A lot of taxis in Bali do not go by the meter. The Bluebird Group is honest, reliable and you pay by the meter. Beware of fake Bluebird taxis around. The real Bluebird taxi has the word “Bluebird Group” across the windscreen. Many taxis in Bali are also blue in colour so you need to keep a lookout for the word “Bluebird Group”. If you cannot find a Bluebird taxi on the roads, go to a decent enough hotel and asked them to call a Bluebird taxi for you at no additional costs. This is exactly what we did at the high-end Anantara Seminyak Resort & Spa although we don’t stay there!
- Change your money in a good hotel instead of an authorized money changer outside. Our driver brought us to a shop outside and the rate was only 9000 rupiah compared to 9300 rupiah in my own hotel!
- The tap water had a weird, salty taste to it even after boiling, so be prepared to buy many bottles of mineral water for your entire trip!
- Ensure that you keep aside 200,000 rupiah per person for airport tax which you’ll need to pay before leaving Bali. They do not accept credit card payment and as we did not have enough rupiah, we had to pay in our own currency (SGD$25) which is more expensive than the initial 200,000 rupiah!
- Beware of the chaotic traffic as their roads are quite narrow and often jammed. Also do not be too carried away by the beautiful, sandy beaches to underestimate the treacherous undercurrents in Bali. I was rather careful as I was nearly swept away in Tioman by undercurrents but was fortunately pulled back to safety by my husband (the memories of which still etched in my mind).
- There are no taxis in Ubud to preserve the rustic beauty of the place (also to prevent the place from becoming too commercialised), so you’ ll need to hire your own driver or rent a vehicle to get there.
1. Review of Sun Island Kuta Hotel
This 4 star hotel is situated in an excellent location, close to Waterbom Bali, amenities, shops, Centro Kuta shopping mall, good restaurants and bars. The staff was sincere and helpful and apologised profusely when our Bluebird taxi took a long time to arrive due to the traffic jam outside, even though it was not their fault. The bed and pillows were comfortable and we slept well. The good things about this hotel ends here. There were many things about this hotel that irked us but still would not stop us from coming back again as we value its good location and excellent service.
Most of the rooms faces the pool and you’ll get awaken by kids playing in the pool from 8 am onwards – we were already staying at the top floor (5th floor) – and the noise also does not stop there as music from the live band downstairs will blast till around 10 pm at night. The pool is shallow at 1.2 metres throughout and really does not entice me to swim at all. The hotel wifi disconnects when the phone is locked, so you’ll have to leave your phone unlocked all the time to receive new messages. The wifi only lasts for 2 days and that would mean trips to the reception to request for new passwords every time it becomes invalid.
As Kuta is a very vibrant area, this hotel may not be suitable for those seeking peace and quiet for their holiday. We found the breakfast so boring and bad that we rather eat outside although breakfasts were included in our room rates. Full of fried and processed food, the spread is also the same everyday. Once we went down at 9.30 am (half an hour before closing) and the place was like a war zone with foods not replenished. Mostly when we do eat their breakfast, we would only aim for the fruits, salads and freshly made sunny sides up and omelette.
2. Waterbom Bali
This attraction is within walking distance from our hotel. Our main gripe about this place is that it is quite expensive for Asian standards at US$33 per adult. However, Citibank card holders get 10% discount. Despite the price, we would definitely visit again as we can easily spent a fun-filled and enjoyable lazy afternoon here.
We loved frolicking in the lazy river with our floats and just going with the flow. We took some of the rides (Race Track, Boogie Ride & Smash Down) more than once as we loved the adrenaline rush and thrill. If you do rent their towels, do return them after use and they will refund you the money minus some deposit. We regretted not buying a waterproof camera to take more photos of our adventure.
3. Water Rafting with Bali International Rafting
The experience was way better than the water rafting we had in Phuket. It was an exciting adventure of 2 hours ride down the 16km Telaga Waja River which included a 4m drop! The river was very rapid with many rocks and boulders at the sides and in the middle of the meandering river. Our guide was extremely skillful and we didn’t even paddle much as he did most of the hard work and manoeuvring, avoiding the rocks and other rafts.
There were many low-lying branches and obstacles along the course and we had to lie completely flat in the rafts to avoid injuries and the guide did very well to warn us beforehand! He can speak fluent Japanese, in fact a lot of the guides can speak Japanese. The other 2 Japanese ladies in my boat hailed from Nagoya.
The 4m drop!
We noted that after the 4m drop, other rafting companies had ended the activity by stopping at the side of the river and the people had to carry their paddles up a very long and steep flights of stairs. However, with Bali International Rafting, we continue to paddle past many of them and when we eventually stopped, we only need to climb up a short flight of stairs where shower facilities and a hot lunch buffet awaits us. Our only complaint was we wished the guide would let us paddle more!
I booked the water rafting via their website here.
4. La Plancha Seminyak
We are still missing the delicious, unpretentious and fresh spanish food at La Plancha with their comfortable, colourful bean bags where we can soak in the sights of the amazing Bali beach and sunsets.
The grilled prawns were succulent and the baby pork ribs were so good that we cannot wait to visit again soon! The prices were also affordable and cheaper than Singapore! Simply loved it!
5. Rice Terraces in Ubud and Mount Batur Volcano in Kintamani
Kintamani is a beautiful and picturesque area in Bali. The massive volcano was formed 30,000 years ago, now the vast Batur caldera was occupied by the serene Lake Batur and active Mount Batur. Being city dwellers, we enjoyed the scenic and rustic beauty of the rice terraces in Ubud and Mount Batur volcano in Kintamani. We also had a simple buffet lunch at a restaurant directly facing the active volcano.
The Kopi Luwak is described to be earthy, musky and exotic. The civet cat prowls coffee plantations at night in the harvest season, eating the choicest red, ripe coffee cherries. It cannot digest the seeds (coffee beans) of the coffee cherries and will pass them out along with the rest of its droppings.
Cleaned, washed, processed and ready for roasting, the coffee beans have acquired a unique taste from their passage through the digestive tract of the civet cat and the anal scent glands they used for marking their territory.
At Satria Agrowisata in Tampaksiring, they showed us how they processed the Luwak coffee and let us sample some coffee and tea for free such as lemongrass tea, ginger tea, vanilla coffee, mochaccino, saffron tea, coconut coffee, just to name a few.
The staff also fondly called the civet cats “coffee making machines” and informed us that they had more than 200 civet cats in the plantation which were free roaming so that they would not be stressed. They sell the Kopi Luwak for 50,000 rupiah for a small cup and the staff told us that the leftover coffee can be used as compost or body scrub after drinking.
7. Monkey Forest Ubud
These monkeys are highly intelligent creatures and will not hesitate to jump on your body or snatch the bananas from your hands. It is advisable not to carry any plastic bags, bags with food or loose items or they may jump on you to grab it.
We asked our driver to bring us to a good seafood restaurant at Jimbaran where we can watch the sunset as well but were sorely disappointed with the seafood at Beach Bali Cafe. The only thing we like about the entire dining experience was the beautiful beach, roaring waves and romantic sunset but the food were so dry and tasteless, I wouldn’t recommend this place at all.
They only know one way to cook seafood and that is BBQ! I requested for chilli crab and pepper crab, but no, apparently only BBQ! The prawns were so dry and shriveled and were a far cry from those we had in La Plancha.
The meal also cost more than that of La Plancha. Anyway, we were not full at all after the meal as the meat was so little, that we ended up eating BBQ corn on the cob bought from the vendors on the beach. A reader told me that there were better restaurants in Jimbaran and different restaurants cooked their seafood in different ways. On second thoughts, the driver must have received kick backs from the restaurant for bringing us here.
We cannot wait to return to Bali again for more water sports, Sea Walker, spa and La Plancha. In fact, the whole stretch where La Plancha is situated has a lot of good food. Bali, we’ll be back! 🙂
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