Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bali: Bedugul, Lovina, Tanah Lot, Jimbaran, Manggis, Ubud


I know this is not a current just back report, but I am in the mood for writing, so I better do and finish it! It would be great for my album, besides this was one of my favourite holidays and I would like to share it with you.

It was August when I got this fantastic new job that I felt like to reward myself a vacation after all the long hours and mental breakdown in the company I would be leaving. Where could be the best place to go except Bali, cheap and good, I talked to myself. So I forced my husband to take his annual leave and went with me. Initially I'd like to spend 2 weeks unfortunately it was impossible for him to do so; we compromised to shorten the trip into 8 nights 9 days. I'm not a spontaneous kind of person, I prefer to have my schedule fixed prior leaving, so this trip was actually given a lot of headache to me to decide where we're going to stay, which area to cover, and to add my headache our friend invited us to his birthday party in a villa at Seminyak, so we had to stay somewhere in South that day, while we would be staying in Jimbaran already in the middle of the trip. I wasn't familiar with internet at that time & of course wasn't aware of Bali Travel Forum existence. There were so many options yet so little time. I only equipped myself Periplus edition Bali map plus Insight Pocket Guide book. They are quite good. We (as a matter fact, I) decide to do self-drive and explore Bali as much as possible. Prior to this trip we only stayed in South, mainly Kuta, so my husband thought Bali is no more than Patong beach in Phuket. After we finished the trip he kept saying he has never thought Bali is quite big. And we haven't even explored the West and North!

Day 1, Bedugul, Bali Handara Kosaido GCC

We were greeted by the guy who arranged our rental car upon arrival, and we went straight to Bedugul via Denpasar & Mengwi. It was a nice ride especially going up to the mountain area, the scenery is lovely and the weather is cool. We arrived Bali Handara Kosaido Golf and Country Club around 3:00 p.m. & immediately checked in. There is no need to use air-con here, it's very cool, and in fact it's freezing at night. Afterwards we went to its driving range to practice for our game the next day. Apparently we paid the balls in one shot and you can practice as long as you want to, after hitting all the balls the caddy will collect all of them from the range! In the evening we went to a local restaurant nearby, the food is terrible but edible. We did ask the concierge whether there is any caf� whatsoever around, they must think we were kidding. There aren't any in Bedugul area! There are a couple sign of "Strawberry Stop" that I was curious what was it, but they were closed. We tried to sleep early that night caused we had to get up early the next morning for the early tee off time. Just when I was about to sleep, I checked our itinerary just to find out I forgot to bring my Bali pocket book which full of where to go recommendation. I cursed myself over and over until finally I found a Bali tourist guide magazine in the room - phew! What a relief.

Day 2, Bedugul, Lovina, Bali Handara Kosaido GCC

It was in the weekend so the golf course was quite jammed, not to mention there was a tournament on the flights before us. We were just playing a couple of months and weren't really good at it, but overall the game was quite fun. I just love the weather there! The course was kind of old and the fairway was made of cow grass, but the green is well maintained. We finished the game by noon, had early lunch at the club restaurant, showered, enjoyed the Lake Bratan view from the balcony, and droved to Lovina via Munduk and truned right at Seririt. I read about the Buddhist Monastery in Banjar and after a bit lost here and there, there we were, renting a sarong just to find this tiny place. Not that we didn't appreciate the place, but I was imagining something like Borobudur in Yogyakarta! We continued our journey to Lovina and to our amazement we saw grapes/ vineyard along the way, thinking why grapes can be grown in a tropical area. We went to the beach and wasn't really impressed with its black sand, so we only spent a few minutes there and went to one of a nearby restaurant and had early dinner even though we were still full from the lunch, but we were horrified thinking about having a dinner outside the hotel and not in the mood to eat hotel's food which mainly caters to Japanese. We took a different route to go back to the hotel via Singaraja & stopped by at Git Git waterfall, and one of the boy in the parking area insisted to accompany us to the place as a guide. We went halfway, just after seeing the waterfall from a distance we stopped, snapped a picture, and decided to go back. My husband's knee was weak already and I could barely walk after our game in the morning!

We went to a strawberry farm nearby the hotel and had a look. It was quite big. Unfortunately it was closed by the time we arrived at 5:00 p.m. and there were only a few security guards around. Should we arrive before then we are allowed to buy the fresh strawberry, so they said. In the end we went to the Strawberry Stop, which was actually, a small cafe serves anything strawberry. The girls were so friendly and allowed us to take a look at their backyards which plants many kinds of vegetables besides strawberry, and there we were sipping our strawberry milkshake despite of the cafe was just about to closed when we arrived.

Day 3, Tanah Lot, Jimbaran, Ritz Carlton

We woke up early today, as we needed to check out and drive to Tanah Lot for our 2nd game in Nirwana Bali golf course at the Le Meridien hotel. We were determined to go back to Strawberry Stop for breakfast, and we did it. We ordered a strawberry pancake, the owner was there and he was such a great guy that he gave us 3 small baskets full of fresh strawberry for free! He mentioned he supplied his vegetables to hotels such as Ritz Carlton and others. I was thinking to take a different route to Tanah Lot through Pupuan but it meant we would make a big turn that I was afraid we would be late for our tee of at 1:00 p.m. So we went through the same road and arrived just before time. My husband did some calls to the resort's Jakarta office before leaving as if he was interested to buy the course membership and the villas, so we played here as a complimentary trial! The hotel hasn't even opened yet and they are rushing the ground completion for the soft opening in the next 2 days. Nirwana Bali golf course is definitely beautiful and challenging. Par 3 hole no.7 overlooks Tanah Lot temple, we heard this created a dispute between the locals and the developer since the temple is considered one of the most sacred temples & there is no way a building can be located higher than the temple. Anyway, we finished the game just in time to see the sunset at Tanah Lot temple. There are a lot of souvenirs and restaurant stalls where you can sit, relax, and wait for the sunset. We had light meals on one of the stalls and waited for the sunset. There was it...a shadow of orange, yellow, and the temple looked so dramatic. I looked for a perfect spot and tried to capture the moment in more than 10 snaps. (The picture results were amazing, just like in a postcard). But then, just after the sunset disappeared, all the people rushed to go out back to the parking lot. It was a long day and I was not in the mood to be a navigator again, so I had an idea asking my husband to follow the tourist van, they must be going back somewhere in South either Kuta or Sanur or Jimbaran where we were quite familiar. It turned out to be a really good idea. The van took a lot of shortcut, besides faster we had the opportunity to see lovely paddy fields along the way. Finally we reached a familiar road, and when we passed kafe Warisan, I immediately knew where we were. We continued passing Jalan Raya Legian further up to Tuban and took the ByPass road to Jimbaran where we would be staying at Ritz Carlton.

Ritz Carlton was located further North of Jimbaran, it looks very nice and what a great place to rest after a long day. The lobby is located on the upper level giving you the view of the resorts garden and swimming pool. We immediately went to our room after checking in and very pleased with the room amenities. I had booked a Waka Land rover trip for the next day, but my husband insisted me to cancel it because he wanted to relax and enjoy the hotel. He told me why would we pay so much for the hotel room but kept going out? Well, even though I was a bit disappointed caused I heard Waka Land rover trip is worth it, I did cancel our reservation. After all my husband had not been driving a manual car for so long, I can imagine he's exhausted. It would be a good base for us to rest before we're heading East.

We were determined to have a good dinner that evening so we went to Bali Seafood market restaurant in Tuban, across Kartika Plaza hotel. We had been here many times & enjoyed the food. We passed Four Seasons hotel on the way there & saw the seafood strip on the sidewalk, and that's just what actually my husband wanted it, real seafood on the beach. Yet we passed for the hygienic reason. We did have a good dinner at Bali Seafood Market, walked around Kuta, back to the hotel and cut the night short.

Day 4, Jimbaran, Ritz Carlton

The next morning we took a time to explore Ritz Carlton with one of the staff and visited one of its villas, it was gorgeous with its own plunge pool and gazebo to lounge around. My husband knows this marketing lady from Regent hotel in Jakarta who has been transferred to Four Seasons Jimbaran, so he called her up just to ask how's she's doing and in the end she insisted to meet us. Thanks to Bali weather & attitude she looked very fresh and seemed enjoyed her stay there. She treated us a breakfast at Taman Wantilan and showed one of the villa afterwards. It was lovely but it's not as big as Ritz's villas. We asked her about the seafood strip on the beach we saw the night before and she told us she always go to kafe Bagus, great seafood and very cheap. By then we decided already we would have our lunch in kafe Bagus.

We spent the rest of morning by walking around Kuta doing some shopping, and checked out Pansea Puri Bali hotel nearby. Pansea is intimate & lovely but I personally will go to Ritz instead for the same price. We did check The Legian suites in Seminyak as well, and very impressed with the suite. It's huge and we just love their simplicity. The next hotel we checked was Oberoi, which I thought is overrated. I found it to be tired and need some renovation, we loved Oberoi Lombok better. Enough for the hotels, afterwards we return to kafe Bagus for late lunch. The lunch was the best we have ever had in Bali so far. We had fresh coconut, grilled red snapper, prawns and squid and couldn't believe how cheap the bill was. Afterwards we went back to the hotel & spend a lazy afternoon in the swimming pool. That evening we had dinner at Kisik Bar, the hotel's open-air seafood restaurant overlooking the sea flooring with real sand. The ambiance is certainly romantic with candle all over, but the food couldn't beat kafe Bagus despite of the total bill is 4 times higher including wines. We closed the night by lounging at the hotel's garden lounge listening to the live music - it was very relaxing and we really enjoyed staying at Ritz Carlton.

Day 5, Manggis, The Serai

We went to Kubu beach, the hotels' secluded beach that was located about 5-10 mins driving & driven by the one of the hotel's van. We have ordered a picnic basket the day before. The steps going down to the beach was quite an exercise, by then I felt sorry for the hotel's staff that brought us the picnic basket. The beach was certainly unswimmable, so many rocks here and there but it was a very clean, golden sand beach, and it was all ours since nobody was there besides one beach attendant. After spending a couple of hours at the beach we went back to the hotel to play at their 18-hole putting green. It was kind of fun practicing chip and put, definitely more relaxing than the real 18 whole games:).

Knowing it's still a long way to Candi Dasa where we'll be heading to, we had a quick shower, packed, and checked out & continued our journey to Candi Dasa where we'll be spending the night at the Serai hotel. It was a good journey overall but along the way my husband and I always had an argument. He kept asking me where to turn while I haven't figured out where we were! Some roads were not exactly as the map stated so I need to use my intuition as well. Luckily Balinese are very helpful, every time we were not sure which way to go, we just pulled over and asked people on the street and we were back on track. Finally we made it into the Serai and checked in. Before we're settling down at the hotel, we went to the nearby Amankila resort, which I have been dying to see. Amankila is gorgeous and very intimate; I wish I could stay here someday. One of the staff there spent sometime with us showing the properties, I think they showed us one of the superior room. It's not so big and they were made with local material, even the floor is made of terrazzo but the design was tastefully done. We decided we would return to Amankila for dinner that night.

Back to the Serai, I must say it was not quite what I expected because there were so many people in the pool that afternoon, while I was told the hotel is a boutique hotel, tranquil, and relaxing. Perhaps it was a peak season, anyway we only spent one night here and I didn't mind.

Dinner at Amankila was very romantic, the food and service are impeccable and we went back to the Serai to spend the rest of the night.

Day 6, Ubud, The Chedi

By now my husband has really voiced out he's tired so I cancelled my original plan to go to Amed and end our East coast journey at Amlapura only. We had a breakfast at the hotel, checked out and continued our journey to Tirtagangga, the water palace. Just passing Tirtangangga we found a spectacular rice terrace and took a lot of picture. At Tirtangangga there was this guy who voluntarily accompanied us and told stories about the history. He's quite entertaining and we tipped & bought him drinks before heading north to Besakih the mother temple. He was actually offered himself to go with us and showed the nearby must see, but my husband was reluctant. Even tough he seemed very nice & genuine but who knows? We don't want to get robbed in the middle of our trip with all our luggages and golf clubs in the cars!

So we headed to Besakih temple passing some nice rice terrace, stopped by at a place the name I couldn't remember, but I had a feeling it must be Putung restaurant with a million dollar view. We also passed bukit Jambal, I think. Very nice view.

About Besakih temple, here we go. Apparently it's still a long way to go to the temple from the parking lot. So we hired a motor cycle and thanks for getting it, it's about 5 mins riding! At the bottoms of the temple there was this guy whom we thought had a relation with the guy who rented us the motorcycle, so we went with him to the temple & he acted as a tour guide explaining the history of the temple. We did ask a lot of question and he seemed knows everything. We were pleased with the temple as it's quite interesting compared to the Buddhist Monastery and the view was breathtaking from the top. After we finished touring, we tipped him some money and to our amazement he asked for 4 times more. Well, we were not pleased by now but had no choice but to give him. Going back to the parking lot, we were sure we would be ripped off again with the rental charge, but this guy kept his words and not ripped us off.

Passing Rendang, Klungkung, and Gianyar, we finally arrived at the Chedi in the late afternoon starving. Immediately upon checking in we went to our favorite restaurant, Bebek Bengil and eaten like we've never eaten before! I posted a note about Chedi hotel a couple months a go; those who would like to know Chedi in detail might visit this page Our time in Ubud was simply occupied with resting, relaxing, and checking out the hotels I intended to stay. We managed to see Pita Maha's villa, and it's lovely, I really regretted I didn't choose Pita Maha over Chedi. We weren't able to see Ibah's villa because it was full but the swimming pool is nice - the staffs are friendly too. At Kamandalu (still under Banyan Tree management at that time) we didn't see the villa as well, being told by the receptionist it was full but I doubted so. Anyway we didn't really like Kamandalu's main building, it looks somber and unwelcome. I could be wrong, but definitely it's not in the class of Banyan Tree Phuket we ever stayed.
In the evening we checked out Jazz cafe but it didn't look nice from outside (turned out to be wrong decision as we found out recently it has a very good live music!) We also went to Beggar's Bush but no other guest around so we felt uncomfortable. We left the place even though we felt a bit awkward with the staff, but they didn't seem mad :) In the end we found Ary's Warung, feel at ease & hang out there watching people on the street until just before midnight.

Day 7, Ubud, The Chedi

We were booked a spa treatment at the Chedi first thing in the morning, and it was a total bliss for us. We booked the ultimate package and it lasted for 3 1/2 hours. See the above page I mentioned for my report on the Mandara spa we had at the Chedi.
Believe it or not we went back to Bebek Bengil for lunch and spent the rest of the day shopping around Ubud and back to the hotel lazing around the pool. In the evening we wanted to try something new & decided to go to Kokokan restaurant for dinner. They serve Thai food but to our opinion it was not tasty enough and the place was not really comfy, so we went back to Ary's Warung for dessert and back to the hotel for a drink.

Day 8, Nusa Dua, Nikko Bali

This will be our last night in Bali and despite of having a good time, we started to miss home, especially our dog. We went to Amandari for breakfast and curious, wanting to check out the place that people regarded it as one of the most luxurious hotel in Bali. Breakfast was so-so and the staff turned us down by saying no room is available to be seen as they were fully occupied, but again I didn't see any genuinely in her eyes. What a snob!

We went straight to the South and had a late lunch at kafe Bagus at Jimbaran (last chance!) and again, it was good! We arrived at Nikko Bali hotel and for the second time I cursed myself for not choosing The Legian Suites over Nikko Bali. It's a typical 5 star big hotel and doesn't suite our taste. I even took a hotel tour to find something I like and comfort myself, but I couldn't find any. The swimming pool was crowded, and the room was just fine, a bit dark despite of the hotel was very new at that time.

We did checked Amanusa nearby and managed to see the suite, it was no extraordinary compared to Amankila, but the lobby and restaurant are very elegant. Anyway, just before sunset we went to our friend's birthday party at Villa Atas Ombak (Sunset View) in Seminyak, this is one of the villas that listed on Balivillas private villa for rent, but of course I didn't know it at that time. The villa is huge and tastefully done with its own swimming pool & it was right on the beach so we can see the sunset clearly. It was really nice, and I think it would be great for a few couples or family like my friend the birthday boy, he invited all his relatives from Germany and they stayed in the same villa (they have about 5 rooms). Besides the buffet holding on the ground, there was a complete Balinese orchestra and dances performance.

We excused ourselves early and went to Warung Made past bemo corner for a drink and banana pancake my favourite dessert, walked along Kuta again and back to the hotel. The next morning we checked out & went back to Jakarta, I was thinking about my new job and sighed, "Could I just take a longer break?" And albeit my husband thought "Could I take another vacation after this tiring Bali holiday?" because we never do a self-drive in Bali again ever since :)

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