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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bali and Phuket 2011 Part 1

Part1. Budget dancing dolphins and a holy snake.

CLICK, went the mouse. As I sat back on the lounge, with what I can only describe as a shocked stare of disbelief. What have I done? As I sat forward and looked at the laptop screen again, and again just to make sure. Yeah no mistake, I had booked tickets with Jetstar to Bali, the shocked stare soon turned into a silly smile and a joyous giggle.

You have mail, came from my laptop. Air Asia sale. And with tickets $26 each way to Thailand. I thought, "Phuket! Let’s go" pun intended.

With my air travel and my travel insurance sorted out, I got started on my accommodation and an itinerary, which took a few days and a few emails, thank god for plastic cards, PayPal and the Internet.

I love the way the Aussie dollar has been to the lead up to the trip, I have saved money on my accommodation, plane tickets and visa money. It's just a shame the dollar didn't stay as strong while we were in Bali and Phuket. Most places we are staying at have had good reviews, but staying there will be the test.

Day 1

Where is my lift? I'm ready why it isn’t here. God I'm impatient, I thought. Just then my lift arrives.

And off we set, for the two hour journey to Sydney airport.

I tried to web check on the internet at home for Jetstar and it wouldn't let me. Oh no I thought and was expecting to have to pay extra money at the check in counter. But to my surprise the Jetstar lady said its fine and no extra fee was required. So with us checked in, it was time to fill our bellies as it would be four odd hours before we ate again in Darwin.

OMG, after we passed through Darwin customs / immigration. I got the welcome to Darwin pat down by the friendly immigration officer. The international departure lounge was full of schoolies. And the flight from Darwin to Bali was noisy and bunches of schoolies kept blocking the walk way other than that things went well.

Touch down at Ngurah Rai International Airport 845 pm , and what a debacle it was with the school kids not having a clue what to do made getting a visa a longer than normal process . Maybe a little research may have helped them out. Then to top it all off immigration cards were handed out just after VOA counter also making the process even longer, we managed to get out of the airport in 50 odd minutes.

A stop at the money changers to change $50 into some large and small rupiah notes .Then out the airports doors to breathe and smell the thick humid air infused with the smell of Indonesian cigarettes and incense. With the faint sound of Balinese music playing in the background brought a smile to my face, it was great to be back again.

A right turn to the fixed price taxi counter, to organise a taxi to The Sari Beach Inn, Legian, our home for the next few days. The taxi fare from the airport to the hotel was 55000 rp.

more photos of The Sari Beach Inn Here

 The Sari Beach Inn web site here

We got room 117 a deluxe room. Rooms are basic clean and comfy. There is no phone in the room or bottled water or shampoo. There is a DVD player, but reception on the TV is crap. The taps in the bathroom sink are a little on the Yuk side and the shelf in the fridge was broken, but other than that we are very happy with the room and location. The hot water worked fine and so did the air conditioner. There is free wifi in the reception area and the restaurant / bar area. It has a certain authentic old-world charm about it. The staff are lovely and helpful. Breakfast is included. Would I stay here again, Yes I would I think the location and the gardens make this place.

Day 2

I awoke and stepped out of our room to view the meticulously manicured gardens, the smell of the salty air and sound of the crashing waves made me smile and I thought to myself the gods must be happy.

Breakfast time, we headed to breakfast and were greeted by a nice guy who asked us our room number and what we would like to eat. The choices are eggs cooked anyway, bacon, fruit, pancakes and of course a selection of Indonesian food. I decided to go with the scrambled egg and bacon and orange juice, very yummy. The girls were more interested in what was happening in the world of facebook and getting into the hotel pool. Which is a small pool set in a fantastic garden with a rustic wall and over it a great view of the beach and ocean.

We hit the streets to visit some friends; first stop was Turika and her shop. It is so nice to see her calling out our names and to see how happy she is to see us. She is such a lovely women and her shop is fixed price, she is the battler of the Bali fixed price shops and I make a point of buying a few things from her each visit. Next was Wayan my driver, he hangs around the corner of Garlic lane and Melasti Street, just in front of the Melasti art market where Turika has her shop. Wayan is a top guy I have used his services for many years and very trustworthy. It was great catching up as we didn't get the chance last visit, back in March 2011.

I picked up an Indosat sim card, cheap call and text back to Australia and unlimited facebook which made it even cheaper to keep in touch with friends and family.

I went to a small booth/shop in Garlic lane to change some money located next to Garlic Lane Restaurant, I have used this small booth for many years now and never had a problem, and it’s a welcome break from the heat with the air conditioner nice and cool.

We went for look at Ketuts shop which is in a laneway just behind Turikas shop and she seems to be the giant of the fixed price shops as her shop is almost the size of K-mart, lol. Beautiful lady and a wonderful shop. Further down Garlic lane on the opposite side of the road we visited Miss Debby shop , out back in her house is where she keeps a lot of stuff and if Ketuts shop was K-mart Miss Debbie is the whole shopping mall , both great places to shop and great prices . I will add the business cards to my earlier post on fixed price shopping found here.

Back to the hotel to cool down in the pool and toast the flesh in the hot Bali sun and to sip a few ice cold bintangs.

Later in the day we headed for the Golden Key Printing. I was put onto by a fellow trip advisor (thanx LWNJS). I ordered some stubby coolers for my brother business. And at 7500 rp each, with a minimum order of 50 pieces. Costing 375 000 rp in total.

 See photos of the stubbie holder Here

Walking back to our hotel, along Padma Utara. We stopped at SukSema spa and massage to have an hour reflexology for 60 000 rp for an hour. The girls there are great and we all have a great laugh.

Later we walked to Seaside for dinner, we love seaside and visit at least once a trip. Luckily we managed to get a table as the place was very busy. And as usual the food and service were fantastic.

Back to the hotel for a quick swim and a few beers and check into facebook and Google+ worlds before going to bed.

Day 3

The bloody body clock hasn't adjusted to Bali time, just yet. Lying in bed, with my IPod. Listening to Angus and Julie Stones new album. I started playing angry birds, but after half hour I felt like throwing the bloody IPod against the wall. Don't know about angry birds, it was becoming frustrated Andrew.

Shower and breaky time.

I walked a little down Padma Utara to ANA laundry, it’s at the end of a narrow laneway they do a great job and I have never had a problem. The clothes smell so nice when they come back.

10 am and Wayan my driver arrived, he was taking me to order some doona covers. They do a great job, but they are not very good with English so I find it better to take an old doona cover as a sample and a pillow case. I bought one at a salvos store in Australia for $2 and donated to the cleaner in our hotel who was more than happy to take it off my hands after I used it for a sample. Also take a picture of your design. And give them about a week to make them. I have had a few made already and they still look great and machine wash well.

Back into Wayans Kijang and onto Tanah Alot. Oh My God! What a shock I got, last time I was there was 2000. I can't believe how the place has changed. I was enticed into the holy snakes cave to touch the holy snake, which nearly bit me, but apparently I have good luck now. What an experience and all for a few thousand rupiah .We walked around the temple grounds trying to avoid all the sellers. We were ushered into a snake show, were we had a photo taken with a huge snake weighing in at 60 kilo.

Wayan and Miss C and Miss G

More photos of Tanah lot Here

I love a day out with Wayan, this man loves his country, his life and his job and was thankful to the gods for it daily. He explained about his life and the culture of his people and he is hungry to learn about our lives. And the lessons on Bahassa Indonesia are free.

We stopped into a few hotels to find accommodation for the next few nights and found one just up the road from the Sari Beach Inn. Tomorrow is the big move day, we were going to go Nusa Lembongan but my youngest Miss G stomach has been on the weak side the last few days and I think the boat trip would finish her off.

Back at the hotel for a late afternoon swim and to sit on Kuta beach and watch a magical sunset with an ice cold bintang, the simple things in life are the best.

Freshen up time and out for dinner at MozzarellA by the sea we got a table right at the front with a great view of the ocean. This place was expensive but very yummy; I had the pan fried duck breast with orange sauce and veg, just sensational!!!! The staff are friendly and eager to help. I do love the flash light / torch to read the menu.

After dinner we headed to Cocoon beach they had a hot summer night beach dance party with 5 odd DJ's but the bintang was darn expensive, but the girls and I had a great time.

Back to our hotel and sleep time.

Day 4

Ouch! My head is about to explode. I need a cold coke stat! Hangovers hurt and not to mention the way my body feels after dancing for hours on the beach.

Idiot me left the hotel key in the door last night / early this morning. And around 7 am some random guy just let himself in and woke me up. Get the firetruck out of here buddy!

I have declared today a day of rest and recovery.

I'm just sitting out front of my room catching up on my blog, while the girls are still crashed out. It's another perfect day in paradise. All I can hear is the waves crashing on the beach and a few birds chirping. One of the staff is walking around delivering pool towels. He placed 3 towels on the chair next to me. I just feel like getting up and rubbing my face in them, they smell so good.

We need to checkout of the hotel today at noon. I went looking for another hotel yesterday afternoon and as I mentioned above we found one just up the road check in time is 1 pm. The Adika Sari Bungalows, what we saw yesterday looked good and a pretty good price for a suite room.

Book in was quick and easy. The hotel is clean comfy; the suite room 76 is about 6 foot from the pool. There is no safe in the room but safety deposit box are at reception. There is free wifi in the restaurant and in the room just ask for the password in the restaurant. There is a phone in the room, air conditioner and a small TV and the reception is good no DVD player, but they can be rented from reception. The bathroom is nothing flash but tidy, there is a funky smell in there but a few squirts of some air freshener fix that up. Staff are friendly and helpful. Breakfast is included.

More photos of the Adika Sari Bungalows Here

 The Adika Sari Bungalows website here

We spent most of the afternoon relaxing by the pool. Before heading out to Kuta Square, to do some shopping. The taxi seemed to take forever and the traffic unbelievable. Why on earth they stuffed up Legian street is beyond me. And some roads have been dug up to run underground power cables.

Miss G got herself a beautiful dirt cheap watch at Bagus watches. Miss C bought herself some surf brand clothing.

I bought myself new thongs / slippers / flip flops (what ever you want to call them) before I left home. And have only worn them for four days in Bali and they are worn out. Not very happy, K-mart! So I found some Havaianas at the rusty shop in Kuta square for 149000 rp.

We walked down to the beach to sit relax and cool off while watching another magical Kuta sunset, you can't beat the feeling of sand in your toes and an icy cold bintang. It is such a cheap way to spend an hour and it’s so cool by the water at dusk.

After we grabbed a cab, which isn't that easy, it seems as the taxi mafia is taking over and finding a taxi with a meter is a bit tough at times.

We freshened up and went to Indo-national for dinner, always great service and food, the Gado Gado was yummy.

A swim to cool off in the hotel pool. And a few bintangs before bed time.

Day 5

I think we are slipping into Bali time, sleeping longer, walking slower and relaxing more, thank god.

Breakfast at the Adika Sari Bungalow is tea, coffee or orange juice, rice porridge, corn flakes or nasi or mie goreng. Miss C and G went with the cornflakes with banana and I went with the mie goreng, Yummo.

Another nice day. With a slight breeze and a few clouds overhead. Wayan arrived to pick us up and take us to Bali bird and Reptile Park. After a brief Indonesian lesson on hellos and how you are we set off.

On the way we passed a truck full of dirt which had smashed into a drain / water way at the side of the road the cab was squashed. I would of hate to of seen the driver, two men were unloading the dirt so the truck could be pulled out.

I thought admission price was a little expensive for the Bird and Reptile parks. But it was enjoyable and the bird and reptile encounters were great. At the bird park we watched feeding time in the Papua aviary and one of the large stork type birds landed on my back while I was bent over taking a photo , a heavy bugger too , and it bit/pecked Miss G and the Japanese lady standing next to her . The Bali bird park lady shooed the bird away, no major damage done, thank goodness.

On the trip home the girls zoned out with their IPods while me and Wayan chatted about Balinese food and another Indonesian lesson. Which was great to help brush up on my pronunciation. I had downloaded the lessons from the learning Indonesian website.

Back at the hotel and time to cool off and to socialise around the pool and sip a few beers and relax.

Both girls pestered me to go to Sea Side again for dinner, another great feed and stunning sunset. After dinner we headed to the Melasti spa for a massage, arrhhhhh bliss!!!!

Defiantly blown the budget tonight, but what’s holiday with a splurge.

A dip in the pool and a bintang or two a chat to the neighbours and off to bed we go, we have an early start in the morning.

Day 6

Up early, Wayan will be here at 9am we are head to Lovina for the night. We packed our gear, and had a shower and had breaky of Nasi Goreng and fresh juice.

I caught up with my blog before dropping some washing off at ANA laundry just next door to the Adika Sari Bungalows and down the laneway. Their puppy bit my toe; maybe the holy snake good luck was wearing off. It was only 26000rp for a black plastic bag jammed full, is great value.

Today is our first overcast day, it's still darn humid. It poured with rain around 11 - 12 pm way last night. Fingers crossed the weather will remain good for us.

The Adika Sari has really grown on us , it's budgety , but friendly staff and a great relaxed feel make it all the better . I think we will return on another visit.

Off we go to the Villa Agung Beach Resort in Lovina, recommended by Perthlovestotravel from trip advisor. The drive was great once we got out of the madness; the further we went the better it was. The transition from shops catering for the tourist and shops catering for the local Balinese really made me think how different this end of Bali was from the madness around Kuta. Even the change in clothes to some extent was different there was more people wearing more traditional clothes and life seems a lot less manic.

We stopped off at Saranam eco-resort at Pacung to take in the view and what a view. It was breath taking. The countryside is so lush and green. We continued up the mountain range to Strawberry stop to take in the view which was also amazing. But ahead the clouds where getting blacker and blacker.



Strawberry Stop

We stop again at Lake Bratan to see the temple in the lake which was beautiful and the grounds were well kept. The girls had spotted some baby owls and had a photo taken with them. I must admit they did look cute.

Back into the Kijang and off we set again we start to climb another mountain range and after a while stopped to look at the monkeys at the side of the road. We carried on and ascended into the darkness of the black cloud on top of the mountain the rain started to fall, it was getting hard to see. Wayan slowed right down; on the descent other cars were overtaking Wayan and nearly hitting the on-coming cars. Some of these drivers are fearless or just plain stupid. By the time we got to Singaraja the rain had stopped. This side of Bali was so different; it wasn't until we got to the hotel until we saw anyone other than Balinese.

We booked in and had a look around, checked out the room. I invited Wayan to eat lunch with us at the hotel. The food was yummy and with the cool breeze coming in from the ocean it was so refreshing. After lunch Gus the owner welcomed us and we sat out the front of our room and chatted for awhile.

More photos of Villa Agung Beach Inn Here

 Villa Agung Beach Resort website here

Our room was room 0 well that’s what was on the key. This is a smallish hotel with small pool with a restaurant right on the sea front with a view of the black sand beach and flat ocean. The family room was great clean comfy , no phone , no TV , no in room safe but the owners are more than happy to lock stuff up in there safe . There is a lockable cupboard in the room to store valuables in .The bathroom is outdoors , it's a bit of a strange feeling showering or using the toilet outdoors Miss C and G were a little worried at first. There is a fridge stocked with goodies and tea and coffee and a jug. Our room had fans and air conditioned. It has I large queen bed and in the next room a set of bunk beds. This place is great. The owners go out of their way to make sure you are comfortable. And there is a book in the room they have put together, I think all hotels in Bali should have it, the tips and info is great.

We went for a walk along the black sand beach and back to the hotel for a beer and dinner. And a little socialising with the other guests before turning in for an early night. It will be an early start in the morning. Let's hope the weather is good.

Day 7

There goes that darn alarm, 530 am. Another of my stupid Ideas, an early morning dolphin cruise off the coast of Lovina. I had arranged it with the hotel on arrival. The price is 70 000 rp each. Payable in the morning before you set off, and there is tea or coffee before you go.

We walk down to the beach and into our little boat my girls and me and two Javanese and off we set. The ocean was flat and almost like a mirror finish the sun was rising over the mountain range of Lovina, a beautiful sight. We powered on across the ocean for a good 2 km. Miss C was up front followed by Miss G then me and our two Javanese friends behind. I yell "look" and pointed off to the right and our boat driver turn and off we went towards the dolphins. They are very little dolphins and the babies are very small, in my girl’s words, they are so cute. There was about 4 or 5 other boats heading our way, it was beautiful the ocean so flat. The only noise was a humming from the boats motor and the lapping of the water on the bow of the boat. It was a fantastic experience watching the dolphins swim around. But then the dolphins disappeared and as I turned around to look for them I noticed more and more boats coming towards us. I guess in total there was around 20 boats all chasing the dolphins across the ocean. It seems as the dolphin were playing with us, showing up and disappearing all over the place. Some were jumping out of the water, one just had its tail sticking out the water and flapping as to say "here I am”. They are so quick it was hard to get a good photo; I think a video camera would have been excellent. After a while we headed back to shore, the whole experience lasted about 2 hours.

On the way back to the black sand beach , Lovina looks so peaceful with the sun above the mountains and the shore line in-cased in fog and smoke gave it a wondrous authentic feel of a small sleepy fishing village . And as we got closer we spotted a few women meditating on the beach, enjoying the morning peace and tranquillity.

The girls went back to the room and rested, while I sat on the beach to catch up with my blog. While my new found buddy sat next to me, I'm not sure if it the hotel dog or some random dog roaming around but his fur is almost a tiger pattern. He is a little untrusting at first, but soon warmed to me after a gentle pat.

This is a magical place and I wish I was here longer to explore it. But Wayan will be here soon to pick us up and continue our tour back to the madness of Kuta.

We are heading towards the Buddhist temple just out of Lovina. We entered the temple and put on our sarongs and followed the trail of incense to the first prayer and meditation room. The rest of the temple was in quiet time as there was lot of people in a meditation workshop.

It was great to get back into Wayans car and cool of in the cool of his air conditioner, we then headed to Banjar to visit the hot springs, and we parked the car and headed in, past all the shop owners desperately trying to sell their stock. The hot springs are so nice I love visiting here and feel great after a swim in the pools. We dried off and had a drink before we headed off to Kuta via Munduk.

What a drive this is the climb up that mountain is bloody steep and some of the views from up there are breath taking. I did think at one stage is this an episode of world’s deadliest roads.

Along the way Wayan asked me if I had tried Durian or Jackfruit. I said "no”. Wayan stopped at the side of the road and went and got a Durian and asked the lady to cut it up for us to try. The girls high tailed it out of there quick smart, my god it was a rotten pungent smell. As Miss C said, it's worse than a thousand farts. Both Miss C and Miss G refused to come anywhere near it and sat in the car with windows shut. Wayan picked up some and ate it, I grabbed a piece trying not to smell it and put it in my mouth, hey this is good, bloody good once you get past the smell. Wayan got a bag of cut up Jackfruit as they are so large we would just waste the rest of it , I didn't like the taste of this at all , Miss C said it was ok , but wouldn't go out of her way to eat it , lol . Miss G just refused point blank. The rest of the trip the girls had the IPods and went into their own worlds, while me and Wayan chatted and had another Indonesian lesson.

We neared Kuta and the change in pace blew me away; I was starting to wish we were still in Lovina, it was so relaxed.

Wayan pulled up out the front of the Febris hotel, our home for the night. This is the most expensive hotel so far but I got a good price on It is very clean very comfortable and has all amenities, there is free wifi. The fridge in the room is huge and the towels are made into rabbits. The girls again said "they are so cute”. And Miss G is refusing to have a shower as she doesn't want to wreak it. All up the Febris is a great hotel especially for families. It was a bit noisy due to all the building going on in the area.

More photos of the Febris Here

Febris Hotel website here

We grabbed a cab and went back to ANA laundry in Legian to pick up our washing. The girls want to grab some vans singlets from a shop near Indo-national as this is the only place we have found them.

Dinner was at Indo-national and back to the hotel to enjoy a swim and a few cold beers before bed. It will be another early start in the morning.

More photos and scans of business cards here 



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