Jul 272013

Posted from Kuta, Bali, Indonesia.

On Tue, Jul 23 morning Flavia and I loaded all our travel possessions into the van of our driver Jack and got ourselves transported to the very south of Bali. Our destination was Jimbaran, a small town on the coast known for its fairly nice beaches and above all its evening fish restaurants that magically appear across the beach and host hundreds, if not thousands, tourists to seafood feasts.

The south of the island is where majority of tourists go. It’s packed with youths, bars, western franchise shops and prices are double or more of what one finds elsewhere in Bali. The touristy centres are Seminyak and Kuta. Jimbaran, on the other hand, is keeping some level of genuine Balinese character, but as the resorts from its southern end spread out, it is very likely to lose that too. Then there is also the resort capital – Nusa Dua – where one gets confined behind closed gates and I’m sure hardly ever meets any locals other than the staff of her hotel.

We spent four days in Jimbaran with the objective to relax and wind down. The objective was met. One afternoon we hired a driver to take us to a couple famous beaches south of Jimbaran – The Dreamland Beach and The Padang Padang Beach. They are both great for surfers, but we found neither to be particularly exceptional. Our evening ended with the walk through the Uluwatu temple, which stand among the touristic highlights for those who settled for group tours and hardly stick their heads out of the resort. The place is packed with clumsy tourists who fall over each other taking unmemorable shots. The temple is nice, but ranks in our view way below Tanah Lot or Ulun Danu. Our evening closed with a Kecak dance performance, which is one of the typical Balinese dances. This one is accompanied by an orchestra of men singers who imitate instruments. The dances tell Hindu stories.

One night we also ventured to see one of the touristic centres – Seminyak. This only reaffirmed us that we made a good choice staying away from it. Allegedly Kuta is worth. All that I wrote above applies, so if you want to see Bali, well, this is not it.

Three nights out of four we chose to enjoy the Jimbaran speciality, which are the restaurants setup on the beach offering variety of grilled fish. The restaurants all offer very much the same food. The prices differ, as the northern establishments mostly accommodate tourists that come on a bus and hence pay twice or three times the price they would otherwise pay 5min walk down the street. The food is delicious and I could have it over and over …

All the good things must come to an end …
We truly enjoyed our stay in Bali and its surrounding islands. We have determined that we will come back one day, as there is still so much more to do and see here.

If you plan a trip to Bali yourself, let me state here a few take aways that might come useful:

  1. Balinese people are probably the most polite society you will meet in the world
  2. The locals are grateful to you for coming and visiting Bali, they will thank you for it and they will want you to enjoy your stay
  3. Bali isn’t a “knowledge society”. People typically know only what is absolutely necessary for them; however, when asked a question they ALWAYS answer even if they have no clue. Bring your guide or your iPad
  4. Always check your bill. Basic algebra isn’t a local strength. It goes both ways. Often you’re charged less than what you should pay.
  5. Many people never studied English, but they will always try to help and engage. Although on a basic level, you will always get by.
  6. Prepare to negotiate prices just about of EVERYTHING, but take it lightly. Unlike let’s say in … Cuba … once the price has been settled, everyone is friends again and you’ll get the best service possible.
  7. Start your holiday in Ubud and work your your way north, east and west. The south is where you’ll find an “industry” to pull money out of your wallet. Only go south to see it, but don’t spend too much time there.
Jul 242013

Posted from Kuta, Bali, Indonesia.

One can find variety of testimonies on Tripadvisor that comment on the quality of transportation between Bali and Gili Islands. More often than not the travellers recommend avoiding the fast boat services for the very basic reason – safety. We didn’t listen enough and put ourselves through by far the worst experience of our travel in Bali. Half way through our journey to Bali the strong sea waves spurred by the heavy currents punched out the front deck window of our boat’s deck and the sea water started pouring in! This lead to a considerable amount of panic aboard, some passengers commenced”feeding the cats” and our luggage got totally soaked as a result. We survived, no one got hurt and that’s what matters. Next time we’ll take a flight and avoid the fast boat adventure, let alone the company Semaya One! It turns out a similar accident happened to them already in the past by the way ….

Sanur is one of Bali’s holiday centres slightly north of the airport. We found accommodation in less than memorable 4* hotel Plaza Paradise and went on to discover the Balinese craftsmanship the day after our arrival. We got to see the silver factory, batik warehouse, wood carving and art galleries. These were all tourist hotspots with price adjustments clearly in place. Some negotiation though and we bought ourselves a set of beautiful teak wood bowls for our London home and at least we think the price was good.

Komodo National Park has been recently voted by public as one of the world’s natural wonders as declared by New 7 Wonders Foundation. The park stretches itself over three big islands – Komodo, Rinca and Padar – and many other small islands surrounding it.

On Saturday Jul 20 early in the morning Flavia and I embarked on a flight with Merpati Airways (local low cost airline) and flew over to the island of Flores, particularly to the township of Laguan Bajo, in which an airport has been recently constructed to enhance what is otherwise a poor fishing village and turn it into a touristl hub for the infamous Komodo islands.

There have been a few surprises we encountered in Indonesia, but this one rises to the top. As we embarked our boat, we realised there were going to be no other travellers other than the two of us, our personal guide, the captain and his deck hand. Wow – now we were talking luxury.

The islands of Komodo and Rinca blew us away. Rinca is clearly drier than Komdo, its grass is more yellow and vegetation slightly less dense. Komodo is greener and its hills can be compared to those of New Zealand’s north island or possibly to Highlands in Scotland. Both islands are of volcanic origins. Their fauna is exactly identical apart from the presence of macaque monkeys that can be found only on Rinca.

The variety as well as numbers of animals seem to be unlimited. We have seen deer, boars, eagles, monkeys, fowls and there are 3 species of snakes, water buffaloes and of course the dragons themselves.

Komodo Dragon is effectively a large monitor lizard that can grow up to 3m and 70kg in size. The males are larger than females. July is the mating season, so the males are chasing the ladies who tend to run away into the mountains, but hey, this is an island, there is no way they can escape. The eggs will be hidden in holes in September, the mothers will protect them for three months and leave. The baby dragons will hatch in April at which point the adults will return and try to eat them. The babies have developed the instinct to run onto trees and only leave those once they are able to defend themselves.

Our last night at Flores was spent at Laguan Bajo. The town is much poorer than what we saw anywhere on Bali, but one strange feature dominated our visit. It was the presence of Italian entrepreneurs everywhere. Why would the Italians buy the whole town and opened all these restaurants? Who knows!

We landed back in Denpassar, Bali, on Monday morning, booked a driver and went on to see one of the Bali’s most spectacular temples – Tannah Lot, one that is famous as it stands on a rock that can be accessed on foot during low tide and is surrounded by water during high tide.

Our Monday finished nicely in a family run Sanur restaurant just slightly off the main Street called Lilla. On Tuesday morning we left Sanur for Jimbaran where we’ll spend the last leg of our trip.