Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Memories of Bali

Bali, Indonesia. Who wouldn't love to go at this very famous place? I have been dreaming of going to this place since I can no longer remember. I never thought that I'll be able to reach it and stay for a week (7 days) all by myself.

As my yearly birthday celebration tradition, I decided to spend it on Bali, Indonesia.
So, on December 9, 2014, I already booked my ticket for this destination. I was not planning to stay there for a week but the only return ticket on sale was 7 days from my departure date from PH (Philippines). 

Due to a traumatic experience before with the Philippine Immigration officers, I know I needed to plan this trip as smooth as possible. So, after securing my airline tickets, I started researching for the cheapest accommodation in Bali.

Another misconception I have about Bali is that it's just a small part of Indonesia, I never knew it will be that big until I was trying to check out cheap hostels located on different parts of Bali. The website I mostly used to search for accommodations is Hostelworld.

The one where I choose to stay during my entire trip in Bali was with Monostel, located at Jl. Legian No. 358A Kuta Badung, Kuta, Indonesia. The place was just relatively new and the pictures uploaded on Hostelworld showcased the cozy vibes of the place. Monostel offers dorm type rooms, you can choose from rooms good for 4, 6, 12, female and male or if you are comfortable to stay in a room for mixed female and male. The room rate is more than 500 PHP. Although, there are more rooms cheaper than this. But, I based my decision from what I saw from the pictures uploaded on Hostelworld's site.

After confirming the bookings for my airline ticket and hostels, I started reading blogs about cheap travel itineraries around Bali and try to create my own. I got some tips of the places and restaurants to visit from a schoolmate in college who already went to Bali and I also asked my previous boss who recently went there about his itinerary and he told me to check Perama Bus Tour for an arranged itinerary around Bali.

I also use my CouchSurfing account to look for a host or a local who can accompany me to have my DIY tour around Bali as it might be cheaper than taking an arranged tour from the agencies. So, I tried sending messages to people who might possibly be my host while I'm in Bali but I wasn't able to find a host easily who will be able to accompany me through my entire stay. Then, weeks before my trip I tried to post my trip publicly on the website. I included the dates when I'll be in Bali and that is when I received different messages from locals who are offering to be my tour guide so I tried to negotiate while being very cautious whom to meet once I get there. My goal is to land on the safest person.

One message that caught my attention was from a girl who is from Hong Kong who will also be in Bali alone and looking for someone to accompany her. She gave me her details and so, I agree to meet her and maybe join her tour around Bali when I arrive.

So my most awaited time has come! On the midnight of July 18,2015 I was already on my way to the airport. I wanted to be at the airport early so I get enough time to face possible challenges with the immigration department once I get to present my passport to get that powerful stamp that will allow me to travel outside of the Philippines - (will try to post a different entry for the challenges with the immigration team).

After all the interrogation with the officer, I got that sweet YES! I have been approved to leave the country and make my dream trip come true! :)
By 4:00 A.M. the plane is already making its way to Bali, Indonesia.

Sun's peeking while on my way to Bali.

Day 1: Kuta-Legian, Bali

The plane landed on Ngurah Rai International Airport at around 7:50 A.M. According to one of the blogs that I read, you can walk from the airport to Kuta where most of the hostels are located but when I got out of the airport, I see that most of the roads I'll be passing through where like major roads and I got scared I might get lost, so, I decided to take a taxi. I went in line to the desk where you can book a taxi and the price will be based on your destination but I suggest that you look for the blue bird taxi company because they are the cheaper rather than riding the taxis outside the airport. I paid 120,000 IDR (this is around 360 PHP) from the airport to the hostel where I am gonna stay.

After checking in at the hostel, I grabbed my free breakfast from the restaurant downstairs (Monokrom). There are two choices for their free breakfast: Indonesian breakfast or American breakfast. So I choose Indonesian breakfast. Then, I had to make another choice from Nasi Goreng or Mie Goreng. I went for the Nasi Goreng which is the Indonesian version of fried rice with a sunny side up egg and I tried their coffee too. The food was really good and the place was so cozy I enjoyed my brunch.

After eating, I decided to walk around and try to look for postcards because some of my friends requested for it as a souvenir (gift) from Bali. When I already had the postcards I tried to look for the post office outlet so that once I get to write on them I know where to go to have them mail and how much I'll be paying.

I tried to ask for the post office while walking around and each time I asked a local they thought I was a local too. But I got directed to the post office near the market and it is a little too far away from the street where my hostel is located. I almost got lost too if it wasn't for that guy from the local eatery who ran after me and accompanied me to the post office which was hidden inside a small street but only to find out it was closed. He even offered to drive me back to the hostel with his motorcycle.

When I got back to the hostel I started writing on the postcards and then decided to walk again going to Kuta Beach. While on the streets, I'm getting lost again. So, I started asking the locals which way or street should I take to get to the beach. Finally, I got there safely. :)
The funny thing about the Kuta-Legian- Seminyak beach stretch is that there are walls built outside of it.

It was a long stretch of beach so I tried to walk through it while taking some pictures and videos. I also got a chance to talk to some of the lifeguards there because again, they thought I am a local. :)

After a couple of hours on the beach, I decided to go back to the hostel and prepare to get some dinner and meet Kai from Hong Kong - (the one who sent me the message on CouchSurfing). While on my way back to the hostel I was able to find a much nearer post office on the street of Legian. So I asked for there business hours and how much it would cost me to mail postcards to the Philippines. I went back to the hostel to get the postcards and mail them for 8,000 IDR/each.

So, back at the hostel again (too many walking for my 1st day). When I went inside the room I saw a pouch on the floor near my bed so, I picked it up and asked the girl on the bed above if she owns it and she said yes. This is how I met Ciara who is from Ireland. After thanking me, she asked me if I knew where the market is where she can grab a cheap dinner, I told her that I passed by it earlier but I wasn't sure about the eateries - (because they're closed during morning). I tried to invite her anyways if she wants to join me to get some dinner after I meet Kai and she gladly accompanied me. We meet up with Kai infront of a hotel with a Starbucks on it along Legian street. While waiting for her me and Ciara talk about some of our travel plans and I also told her that if she will be visiting the Philippines she should go to Palawan first not Boracay. When we met Kai she was with another solo traveler from Singapore- Janice.

After introducing ourselves with each other, Kai and Janice asked if I wanted to join them to go to Gili Island the next day and I said yes. I also asked Ciara to join but we have a little complication with the hostel where we are both staying. We bought the ticket for the boat going to Gili Islands together with the service van that will fetch us and drop us back on the hostel after going to Gili. The fare was 500,000 IDR. Then, we went around the streets of Poppy Lane to find a cheap eatery to get some dinner but we had some difficulty finding a place but luckily we met Garci who was kind enough to accompany us to the market where most of the cheap food are. We tried out the Babi Guling and I only paid 38,000 IDR for the whole dinner.

After eating dinner, me and Ciara went back to our hostel to ask for a refund for Ciara's deposit and for my one day payment for the room since I will not be using it once I get to Gili. So, we talked with the manager and she was able to provide us with the refunds. Now, Ciara will be able to join us in Gili Island.

As a little celebration, we bought a bottle of Bintang which is a famous beer in Bali to capped off our day 1. :)

Day 2 & 3: Gili Islands (Trawangan & Air)

I woke up at around 6 A.M. to prepare. By 8 A.M. we were picked up by the service van who will drop us off directly to the port where we will ride the speed boat going to Gili Islands. Me and Ciara were the first ones to be picked up then we went around the streets in Kuta to pick up the others who will also be going to the islands. I was the only Filipino in the van, we had guys who worked for Emirates, a girl from Brazil and a group which I think from European countries.

I think it's an hour drive from Kuta to Padang Bai. When we arrived at the port we were asked to wait for the check in time first before heading directly to the platform where the boat will pick us up. It was around past 10 A.M. and the people from the speed boat company said that the boat might be arriving at around 12 noon, so, me and the girls decided to look for a place where we can drop our bags first and grab something to eat. We found this lodge/diving center near the port (Sorry, I forgot to write down the name). The three of us ordered omelettes and Janice ordered sota ayam (chicken noodle soup). For our drinks, we ordered fruit shakes and juices. My brunch cost me 58,000 IDR.

The boat arrived at 1 P.M. We went to the first of the three Gili Islands which is Gili Trawangan. This is the largest of the three and the island known for beach parties. We arrived at the island at around 3 P.M. I think. The place was really packed with travelers and tourists. We had a hard time looking for an accommodation because every hostel and lodge we inquire to are fully booked. Luckily, Ciara got to know this guy who owns a lodging house and he offered the villa for us for one night. Although the rate for one night is a bit too expensive, we rent the villa for 1,000,000 IDR. We grabbed it so that we can have a safe place to spend the night in the island and after all there's a free Bintang beer for us :).

After settling, we went to ride the bike to go to Sunset Bar where we can watch the sun set solemnly. The bar is located on the quiet side of the island. We took pictures, talked about some of our plans while in Bali, where we want to go, places to visit and things to do. Through out the conversation we decided to go to Gili Air the next day. However, I told the girls that I'll be with them at the island during the morning but will be going back to Kuta in the afternoon. After grabbing a dinner (restaurants around Gili Trawangan are a little expensive), we went back to the house to take some rest and prepare to go to Gili Air in the morning.

I woke up at around 6 A.M. and woke the others up by 7 A.M. we checked out from the house and grabbed a breakfast before going to the ticketing office to buy tickets for the boat going to Gili Air. The ticket cost 40,000 IDR. The boat left Gili Trawangan at around 9 A.M. and it was like a 30 minutes ride to Gili Air. When we arrived at Gili Air, the first thing that I noticed was the place was more tamed than Trawangan. Before I forgot, motorcycles are not allowed in Gili Islands, you can ride the cartel with horse or rent a bike to go around. The girls decided to look for an accommodation first before we go around the island and they found a small villa. After leaving our things, we decided to rent bikes and try to find a spot in the island to swim and snorkel. By 2 P.M. I said bye to the girls and head back to the villa to take a shower and prepare my things since I have to be on the port at 3 P.M. to catch the boat going back to Kuta but the boat didn't arrived until around 4 P.M. so, I decided to get a light snack on one of the burger stall near it. I bought a vegetarian burger (consists of egg, cheese, cabbage, tomatoes and a dressing) for 15,000 IDR and a bottle of water for 5,000 IDR. I also took the pill for anti-sickness that Janice gave me before the boat ride back to Kuta because I fell sick during our ride going to Gili Trawangan. I arrived at Padang Bai at around 5 P.M. and rode the service van that will drop me off directly to the hostel. I checked in back at Monostel by 7 P.M. and rest for a while. Then, I head out to eat dinner on a local eatery near the market. Then the local who will be touring me around the next day met me back at the hostel and we talk about the places I'll be visiting and how the tour should go. I ended the day by uploading some pictures and prepare my things for the tour the next day.

Day 4: The Mother and Water Temple and Virgin Beach

I woke up at around 7 A.M. to prepare for today's tour. I decided to wear a maxi dress because I thought I'll only be asked to put "Sarong" (the cloth they wrapped around their waste) if I am wearing shorts while visiting the temples but I still brought one just in case. So, I ate my free breakfast first from the restaurant below the hostel where I am staying and head out to my first destination the Mother Temple (Besakih Temple). We left the hostel at around 9 A.M. I asked my guide to tour me around using a motorcycle rather than a car because it was cheaper. I paid 200,000 IDR for the whole tour.

It was a 3 hours drive from Kuta to Besakih. Before we head to the temple my guide asked me to drop by their house which is along the way going to the temple to get a "sarong" I told him I have one but he said it will be better if I wear the ones that they are using so that I won't have to spend renting or buying one once we are there. Though I am a little pissed, I just agreed. Then, when we reached the temple he asked me to participate on a prayer on the families temple. He told me that the temples have categories. They have mini temples at home, then family temples (depends on your bloodline) before you pray on the Mother temple. He also asked me to not speak in English too loud so that the tour guides on the temple won't demand me to get their service because they all think I'm a Balinese.
During the praying activity my guide just ask me to follow their actions and that is just what I did. After participating with the prayer activity, we went around the Mother Temple and took some pictures. We left Besakih by noon to go to the next temple on my list. There is an entrance fee of 20,000 IDR on Besakih for tourist and I think it's 15,000 IDR if you are a local.

I asked my guide if we can stop on a local eatery so that we can grabbed something to eat for lunch. He asked me what do I want for lunch and I told him that I just want something light because I am not that much hungry. We stopped by on a row of local eateries which I think is near the Bats Temple. It also has a view of the open sea. I was not able to order for my own because I was surprised when my guide was the one who ordered the food for me and again, I was pissed but I can't do anything about it anymore the food was already prepared and served. I paid 15,000 IDR for the baksoh (chicken meat balls noodle soup).

After eating, we went to Tirta Gangga also known as the Water Temple. It was a temple of pools and fountains. It is said to be the King and Queen's pools and if you take a dip on it you will have a youthful look. There is also an entrance of 15,000 IDR for tourist and since I looked like a local my entrance fee has been discounted again, I just spent 10,000 IDR for it. I just took some pictures of the water temple and decided to go to my last destination for the day - Virgin Beach. While heading out of the temple I saw a yellow watermelon for sale so I bought one slice for 3,000 IDR.

Then, on the way to Virgin Beach my guide ask me if we can go to his aunt's house first because he haven't seen his aunt for a while. Unfortunately, he doesn't remember his aunt's house and we have been going in circles and we even went into a scary looking clinic where he said his aunt works. The situation has been getting on my nerves so I told him to just drop me off at Virgin Beach and then he can look for his aunt's house and just come back for me before sunset so that we don't waste each other's time and he agreed.

I just went for a walk on the shore of Virgin Beach and choose a spot to sit and eat my yellow watermelon. I left the beach at around 5:30 P.M. to meet my guide at the parking lot. Then, on our way back to my hostel, we dropped by again on his house to return the "sarong". His uncle was watching the news when we went inside their compound and as a sign of his hospitality he bought dinner for me. The food was a local delicacy, I forgot what it was called. It was a rice with a fish (I think) and vegetables in chili paste topping and wrapped in a banana leaf. The dish was too spicy for me and for a person who is not a fan of spicy food I couldn't finish the meal. So, I told my guide to say sorry to his uncle because of my leftover.

I got back to the hostel past 7 P.M. Me and Kai had a plan of getting a dinner together that night. I told her that I'll just take a shower and then we'll meet up to go to the market and have dinner. Me and Kai met at around 9 P.M. Janice wasn't able to join us because the new hostel that she got was too far from Legian. We went to the market and bought satay for dinner and tea. My dinner cost me 28,000 IDR. We talked about how our trips went for this day and what are the plans we have for the upcoming days. She recommend Jemy which is her roommate to accompany me for my itinerary for the next day. It was past midnight when we went back to our hostels and I even forgot it was already my birthday :D.

Day 5: South of Bali

My original plan was to surf on my birthday but since me and Kai agreed to do it on the following day I changed my itinerary to visiting the beaches in South of Bali and watch the sunset in Uluwatu. I was joined by Jemy in touring around South of Bali, he's Indonesian but from Jakarta (if I'm not mistaken). He rent a motorcycle and I pay for the petrol and parking fees of the places we visited.

We went to Balangan beach first. We rent a chair and drink coconut for 50,000 IDR and just watch the surfers play with the waves in Balangan. Then, we head to Padang Padang beach. It is like a small cove. The place was full and we cannot find any place to sit on for a while. So we just took a picture but I got wet due to strong waves going to the shore. So, I wear my "sarong" as a cover up as we go to the next beach. We went next to Dreamland, this place has a long shore. We decided to go to the farthest corner where it isn't crowded yet. Dreamland was more of a playground for us. We played with the strong waves and took pictures. After, Dreamland, we went to check out Geger Beach, I didn't took a dip because the shore has a lot of moss that time. We just stayed here for a few minutes and then drive off to Uluwatu temple to catch the sunset.

There is an entrance fee in Uluwatu temple and again, it differs when you are a tourist or a local. For tourist it is 30,000 IDR and since I look like a Balinese I only paid 20,000 IDR. You can also barrow the purple "sarong" from the ticketing office but this time the person from the temple told me I can use my own. When we got inside the temple one of the main attractions were the monkeys roaming around but be careful interacting with them as they can stole your things and ask for money to return it. Jemy told me that the people who are taking care of the monkeys are also the ones who are teaching them to do these things. So, we went ahead to the cliff to watch the sunset. There is also a traditional dance show you can watch but I think it cost around 80,000 IDR. We got back to Kuta at almost 8 P.M. I asked Jemy to join us to dinner and we will also be getting some drinks for the night since it is my birthday.

So, I went on to shower and prepare for our night out. Sadly, Ciara won't be able to join us because she is currently in Ubud. So, I met up with Kai and Janice and this time they introduce me to another local they met while on tour - Nia. Jemy also wasn't able to join us as he went with his friend. After getting dinner, we were supposed to go to the bar with the word sky on it's name. At first, I thought it is going to be just a simple celebration for the 4 us (me, Kai, Janice and Ciara) but I was surprised to find out that Janice invited their diving instructors. We ended up on a Reggae bar and Nia wasn't happy about it :D. They surprised me by making the band sing happy birthday for me and the rest of the people inside the bar sing along too and they gave me four slices of cake with a cigarette because they couldn't find a candle to use. I didn't imagine spending my birthday like this. In a place full of strangers singing happy birthday to you. I was in awe and very grateful I had the chance to experience this moment. The best part of it is that I didn't get to spend anything for that night (hahaha!!!). Janice was too generous she was the one who treat us for my birthday (thank you sweetie!). I got back to my hostel past midnight.

Day 6: Bali Surf Outlet Store and Surfing in Kuta

Me, Kai and Jemy agreed to surf today but Kai and Janice went to dreamland first during the morning. Janice will also be going back to Singapore today. So, I started my day late, I took my free breakfast as brunch and then I went to the Bali Surf Outlet store to check out the items on sale. If you are a fan of surfing brands like Roxy, Quiksilver, etc. this place is haven for you. And if you are like me who's on a budget trip it's a little heartbreaking. So, I get to buy a bikini bottom and a wallet from Roxy for 155,000 IDR. After, buying these items, I went to Kuta beach directly to meet Kai and Jemy. I saw Jemy first and we waited for Kai to get there. I pay 150,000 IDR for the 3 hours surfing session. It is a 1 hour surfing lesson with the instructor and 2 hours on your own.

After, surfing, we went back to our hostel and planned to meet up again for dinner. Me and Kai went to dinner together with Marbun our surfing instructor then he invited us to check out the room he is renting. Before heading back to our hostels, me and Kai planned to go to Ubud on the next day and try to meet up with Ciara.

I got back to my hostel before midnight.

Day 7: Tanah Lot Temple

My last day in Bali didn't go as planned. Me and Kai started the day by going to the Market to buy souvenirs to be given as gifts to our family and friends back in our countries. I bought shirts and Kai bought "sarongs". Kai told me that we will be meeting up with the other locals she knew who will go with us to visit the rice fields, falls and the temple. We opted not to go through Ubud and will just meet Ciara for dinner once she gets back in Kuta. Unfortunately, me and Kai had a misunderstanding and I went on my own tour. So, I rented a car with a driver for 600,000 IDR to get me to the places I wanted to see. This is too expensive for me but they say I can use the car for 12 hours anywhere around Bali but that is not what happened. I got the worst driver, I didn't get to see the rice field in a very good view and he doesn't want to bring me to the places I want to visit. I was really pissed off the entire trip of the day. The only time I felt calm and happy was when I was inside the Tanah Lot temple and watched the sunset. By the way I didn't get a discount on the entrance fee at this temple because of the driver. I paid 30,000 IDR to get in. I wanted to get back to the hostel as soon as possible. When I got back I found Ciara there. So, I told her what happened and she advised me to complain to the manager of the hostel because their staff was the one who booked the car and the driver for me. She apologized and return half of what I paid.

Me and Ciara spend the rest of the night together. I bought additional souvenirs like key chains and a ref magnet. Then, we had dinner and drink the famous floating Bintang at the bar of the restaurant below the hostel. We also decide to go together to the airport so we can share the taxi fare. I didn't get to sleep that night. I talked with Fora the most friendly staff on our hostel. Then, we left the hostel at around 5 A.M. and head to the airport. This time we only pay 70,000 IDR from the hostel to Ngurah Rai airport. So we checked in first and I just found out that I had to pay 200,000 IDR for the airport service fee (I think it's like the terminal fee in PH). After checking in we went down to one of the coffee shop in the airport. Me and Ciara bought coffee and muffin for 35,000 IDR and bought candies with the rest of my IDR but I kept 10,000 IDR as a souvenir for myself.

My plane left from Bali past 8 A.M. and arrived in the Philippines at around 1 P.M.

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