We booked our flights to Denpasar, Bali 3 months prior to our flight. It was actually a spur of the moment decision and as I am proud to say – my first ever international trip where I had to pay for my own airline tickets using my own earnings. You don’t know how that in itself felt so glorious.
I was really excited because over the past 3 years, I have made friends with a lot of Indonesian friends (*who reside in Jakarta and Bandung) so I have always felt close to Indonesia and its culture. Also, my most favorite person on earth – Adam Young, absolutely loves Indonesia which further strengthens that closeness (HAHA, read between the lines)
Given that it’s an island separated from the mainland, I have always thought of Bali as Indonesia’s own Boracay. No doubt about that because Bali is indeed a Boracay but it’s so much more than that, It’s Boracay mixed with the lush greens and scenery of Davao altogether immersed in their rich culture amidst a modern landscape. Wow, that sounded so picturesque but it would be bettter if you read along on how we spent 3 full days in this wonderful city that is beyond what is beautiful because beneath it lies a certain kind of serenity that makes you want to come back over and over again.
Day 1: Breathe, Wash and Recall
We had an early flight via CebuPacific to Denpasar. There is no time difference between Bali and Manila (unlike Jakarta which is 1 hour behind us). We arrived at Ngurah Rai International airport around 8:30 and was welcomed by our hired driver from Balicab.com
The only way for tourists to get around Bali is to hire a personal car service for the day. Easily said than done especially when booking online but personally, I believe that it is essential to pick a very good driver and guide in order to maximize the experience and divulge what there is to know in a foreign country. I know, I’m supposed to be one of those ‘Wanderlust’ travelers given my age and dreams, aspirations and passions but nah, I’ll never trade up a good, comfy and cool personal Avanza for a whole-day back packing trek.
I was so happy I chanced upon Balicab.com which was my personal choice. They had me at their very beautiful and informative website which clearly explained everything that I needed to know about cars and their pricing. The driver, Gobel (who was very awesome, I’ll tell later!) was very prompt, respectful and downright cool. I know it’s a little scary to book and trust car services online but hands-down Balicab.com is the most legit, most tourist friendly and best-guaranteed service personal car service to be hired in Bali. For a brand new 2013 model Avanza + Cool and friendly english speaking driver/guide, we only had to chip in $45 for a 10-hour service (which for us was already enough hours for the day). This is a standard price in Bali- other companies go as high as $50-$100 which I think is absurd.
As soon as we relaxed in our car, we immediately asked Gobel to take us to breakfast. He suggested a few food stops because we had to catch a cultural dance in 30 minutes when I blurted out BABI GULING. Babi Guling is Bali’s special dish which is a rice topping assortment of suckling pig + other combined internal organs of the pig. Well, as a Filipino I am quite used to eating internal organs of Pigs and chickens but Babi Guling was a class in itself. It was extraordinary but I am not sure myself if I’d willingly dive into another plate the next time I visit Bali. As Gobel told us, there are 2 kind of Babi Guling’s in Bali – one is especially concocted for the tourist’s taste buds and one for the locals. The difference is that the local blend takes pride in borderline spiciness which we thought we could handle. Apparently, we watched our cultural show with flaming taste buds. But don’t let it get to you, Babi Guling is a must try dish in Bali!
( I wasn’t able to take a picture because I was too hungry too function, damnation.)
We then went on to watch our cultural dance which is famous for tourists in Bali – the Barong and Keris dance. Unlike its capital, Jakarta – Bali is actually home to 80% Hindus which makes their culture and practices aligned to the rich gods and spirits. Baron and Keris is a play composed of several acts talking about the good and the bad spirit. It’s better to watch it because I can’t really articulate it into words. HAHA.
We headed off to visit a public temple for our first stop. Temples of Bali reminded me so much of Siem reap in a more tamed version. The carvings and colors were very robust and old that you can’t help but admire the craftsmanship. Also, they are stricter with temple rules in Bali. You cannot enter the temple if:
1. You are Pregnant – nope, I’m safe
2. Have any open wounds and if you are in THAT time of the month- Good thing we were all cool because they really take this seriously
3. Want to commit suicide – nope, I’m perfectly happy with my life.
Also, one must not wander around the holy grounds without wearing a sarong (which is lent for free upon entrance).
After our temple visit, we went for a 1-hr drive to Mount Kintamani. Along the road we passed by the villages of Bali which made me love the city for its cultural roots and practices. Each village had its own specialty namely – Gold&Silver, Batiks, Paintings and Wood carvings. It’s amazing how these people preserve their culture in a very dynamic setting.
We arrived at our destination and it was worth it. Perched on a high peak is s a scenic view of the Kintamani Volcano which is accompanied by a very peaceful (but buffet, yey!) lunch. The Kintamani volcano is said to be a famous destination for first-time visitors in Bali.
Along the way we stopped by the Holy Spring water temple. Familiar? Maybe because there’s a Catholic practice counterpart. In this temple, people take a dip and rinse off in each fountain to pray and renew theirselves. Being the curious person that I am, I had to splash some of the natural spring water just to feel the cleanse within me. Believe it or not, I actually felt so happy doing it (not just because it was incredibly hot that day) but it was a very unique and refreshing (Literally haha) experience altogether.
Our last stop for the day was a site of rice paddies- or as what we commonly call it here, rice terraces. I had to take a picture with it but deep inside I was rooting for our very own, Banawe. HAHA Nevertheless, it was still very calming and relaxing to take in.
We called it a night early at 9 because we were pooped out from our early flight. We stayed at a quaint and beautiful place called Tunjung Mas along Ubud because we opted to stay away from the busy districts of Kuta and Seminyak. Tunjung Mas is a nature get-away! I love how they designed the alleyways with lush green tropical plants making it look like a forest maze (minus the creepy part). They also serve a free breakfast for guests. We booked Tunjung Mas via Booking.com and got a Standard room for only P5000+ for 3 nights. To top it all of, Tunjung Mas is home to the most warm and accommodating staff ever!
Day 2: Monkeys, Temple walks and a luxury dinner
Strangely, Bali is home to Macaque Monkeys- they wander and roam around certain areas specifically in temples and forest areas. On our second day, we woke up early to walk down the Monkey Forest (which was 10 minutes away from our hotel in Ubud).
The Monkey forest is a hidden forest temple attraction filled with monkeys. As much as I hate monkeys, the ones at Ubud are actually very friendly, tame , almost-always hungry and tourist savvy. You can purchase a bunch of banana’s to feed the monkeys as you trek through the temple. I absolutely loved this temple because of how the greens seamlessly blend in with the Balinese architecture. This temple also had a holy spring which I loved splashing onto my face for some weird reason.
After our temple visit, we wandered along Ubud and its festive market lane. I am amazed at how native and colorful this city is, everything is so batik and hand-woven. Okay, maybe there are a few of those Bintang Bali shirts but still.
Gobel then picked us up for a farther tour of the city. We first went to the Tanah Lot temple – which for me was really breathtaking and scenic. It’s a temple situated a few meters away from the sea shoreline making it look like afloat. We visited the area during high-tide, therefore we weren’t able to take in a closer look. But really, with a view like this who could ask for more?
We went to go see the main districts of Kuta and Seminyak then. I was really glad that my cousin got us a place at Ubud because personally I prefer the peace and calm of Ubud over the busy districts of Kuta and Seminyak. The roads are much crowded and the lanes are really narrow which makes the traffic really congested.
After we scurried off to check out Nusa Dua. Nusa Dua is located somewhere south of Bali where most of the luxury hotels are. The place is home to 5-star beach resorts that’s welcomed by a stretch of fine-oh-so-beautiful beaches. We were about to drive off to Uluwatu when we caught site of the entrance of Nusa Dua’s public beach. We checked it out and gracious heavens, we made the biggest regrets of our lives: WE DIDN’T BRING ANY SWIMMING ATTIRES. By all means, Nusa Dua is BEAUTIFUL and PERFECT. Its long stretch is accompanied by crystal clear clean water, ultra-fine sand and a very relaxing beach setting.
We had to settle for the next best thing, wading. So if ever you chance upon to visit Bali – always bring swimming attires and leave them on your car. You won’t want to miss Nusa Dua.
We headed off to the Uluwatu temple for our sunset view. The temple is perched on top of a cliff with a very calming view of highlands, vast water and the peach glow of the sun. (Also I love their royal purple Sarongs!)
Then for dinner we headed off to Jimbaran. OHDEAR, don’t you dare eat at Jimbaran because our dinner for 3 was too expensive. They serve live and fresh seafood by the shore. The view is spectacular but I personally think that it costs too much for fresh food by the shore. It sounds a lot like what happens to Boracay and the prices are for the deluxe Gloria Maris restaurant. Well, it really depends on your preference for indulgence but Jimbaran was not our cup of tea. I have to admit thought, the restaurant we dined in served the best steamed fish of my life. There’s the high point.
Day 3- Bodies of water and a good night
We started our last day early with a trip to Lake Beratan and the Ulun Datu temple. We ascended towards the mountainous areas and descended in the cool and open area of Beratan. This temple is the famous picturesque landmark of Bali that we often see in post-cards and NatGeo features. I have to admit that a visit in this area was really relaxing and very calming.
While me and my cousin were admiring the scenery and taking in the air, my cousin-in-law and Gobel went somewhere to eat. As soon as we met up with them, my cousin-in-law raved about what they ate which was called ‘Ba-Su’ – it’s a typical hot noodle soup with chicken broth that is native to the area and of course I wouldn’t let it pass, I had to try it.
In all fairness, it was good! Solid for only 35 Pesos!
Since the day started off with water, we then went to see a waterfalls attraction in the area which lead to my first-ever smoked cigarette (of my entire existence). To my surprise, it wasn’t so bad but as expected-and-proud, it didn’t appeal to me that much. The waterfalls was way way better.
And we went off to the beach. Okay, since we liked Nusa Dua so much, we asked Gobel to take us to a beach nearer to our area since we had an early flight the next day. We ended up in a public beach called SANUR – which wasn’t so bad, except that it had mini boats docked everywhere, the sand was very rocky and it wasn’t even close to the edge of Nusa Dua. *Sigh*
It wasn’t nice so I wasn’t in the mood to take pictures. HAHA
Our last stop before home was Mr.Liyer -the medicine man from Eat, Pray, Love. For those who watched the movie, you’d probably know the man but for those like me (who haven’t) then maybe you’re as clueless as me. Since Mr. Liyer was fully booked that day, we only took pictures from a distance.
We retired early that night and said goodbye to our good friend/driver Gobel. I really hate the separation anxiety I feel whenever we bid our goodbye’s. I was sad for a week when we said goodbye to our Tuktuk driver in Siem Reap so same was the case for Gobel. All in all, Gobel was an excellent driver and guide, also a friend that we made as we explored his hometown and city. He was polite, punctual and very accommodating. We talked about all sorts of stuff whilst driving in Bali – we talked about our own cultures up to our own personal lives. This is what I love most about exploring other countries, making friends and getting to know them out of chance. (If you want to personally book Gobel, let me know!)
I have to commend the people of Bali. They are all absolutely nice, warm and friendly. Every person that we meet never fails to greet us a good morning and flash a smile that makes you feel all giddy inside. They’re very welcome to tourists and they’re very close to our culture. Maybe that’s why I fell in love with the place because it’s a melting pot of the places that I love, of the faces that I am familiar with and with a culture that I feel at home with.
Bali is indeed a must-go destination for those who seek to go atop mountains and cliffs, take awe at wonderful water lands, immerse in rich culture and practices and breathe in the goodness of life on earth.
I cannot wait to go back!