Beautiful Bali

Trip Start Aug 14, 2010
Trip End Sep 04, 2010

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Where I stayed
Sarinande Beach Inn

Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Sunday, August 22, 2010

August 22

Pretty uneventful day here. We checked out of the hotel in Berastagi and made our way to Medan. Took about 2 hours to get back to Polonia Airport.  Check in for our Air Asia flight to Jakarta was easy, and we decided to "splurge" and pay for access to the Executive Lounge at the airport.  For only 60,000 rupiah a person (about $7) we got free Wifi and food and a very pleasant place to relax – highly recommended if you find yourself at the Medan airport.

We boarded our plane for the 2 hour flight to Jakarta.  The Air Asia plane was very clean and the flight was enjoyable.  Upon landing in Jakarta, we had about 4 hours before our flight to Denpasar, Bali departed.  We decided once again to invest in executive lounge access and at Jakarta airport for only 50,000 rupiah we became executive members for the day.  This lounge was less "plush" than the one in Medan.  Much slower internet and fewer food options, but it was still a pleasant way to pass the time and to try and catch up on our blog!  Although the internet was painfully slow (some might say glacial), we managed to upload a couple of pictures from each of the places we've visited so far.

An added perk was that 30 minutes of free foot message was included with the lounge access, so Efren took advantage of this service to help alleviate some pent up tension!

Our Air Asia flight to Bali was delayed, but only by about 30 minutes.  Again, our flight was comfortable and we arrived at the Denpasar Airport to find our driver to our next hotel , the Sarinande Beach Inn, waiting for us.  After about 30 minutes we arrived at the hotel and checked in.  The inn is a beautifully landscaped property around a curvy pool.  The room is a bit sparse, but the air conditioning is on full blast so we're happy!  Off for another Bintang before hitting the sack!

August 23 -- Seminyak and Kuta, Bali

Well here we are in Bali – the tropical paradise everyone dreams of!  We must say that our first impressions are not terribly positive.  Compared to where we just were, this part of Bali seems a bit like Las Vegas on the beach!  Lots of tourists and tourist infrastructure which was non existent in Sumatra.  Still, you can’t help but marvel at the beauty of this place!

We slept in and had breakfast at the hotel.  We are staying just north of the main backpacker heaven of Kuta in the trendy village of Seminyak.  Our first task of the day was to head to Kuta to pay for our upcoming tour to Mt. Bromo.  We took the hotel’s shuttle bus into Kuta and were amazed by the traffic!  The place is crawling with activity – surfers, drunken expats, and many English-speaking locals trying to get you to buy sarongs, blowdart guns, and everything else you can imagine!  Craig broke down and bought a nice orange sarongso he could look like a monk!

After paying for our tour we wondered over to famous Kuta beach. What an amazing stretch of white sand!  The waves are ferocious and a mecca for surfers of all abilities.  We walked a bit, were getting sunburned beyond belief despite applying sunblock, and finally settled down on a couple of lounge chairs under an umbrella.  We rented the chairs for an hour and drank a couple of Bintangs as we watched the world go by.  We then headed back to town and grabbed lunch at a local warung and filled up on amazing local food for less than $5.  The name of the place is Beneyasa I and it is located on the famous Poppies Lane II in Legian (between Seminyak and Kuta).

We then headed back to the hotel for a bit to relax and then decided to head out to the beach at Seminyak for sunset.  We first stopped for a snack of satay and avocado juice (tastes better than it sounds) at Zanzibar Lounge.  We then snapped some amazing pictures of the sun setting over the Indian Ocean.  Other than some sunburn, sweating profusely, and one mosquito bite each, it was an almost perfect day!

Tomorrow we have arranged a tour for the southern part of Bali known as the Bukit Peninsula.  Here the crowds should be minimal and we’ll get to see some seascapes and where the “real” surfers go.  The trip will end with a sunset at the famous Ulu Watu Temple and viewing a traditional Kecek dance.  Should be fun!
August 24 -- South Bali

Today we woke up late and had breakfast at the Sarinande.  We wandered onto the main drag to pick up some flip flops for Craig and postcards for Efren.  We caught up on our blog and soon it was noon when our driver Ngurah was going to pick us up for our tour of South Bali.

Ngurah was right on time at 12noon.  He is a very friendly guy who clearly has much love and knowledge of his Bali homeland.  We fought the traffic for a bit to get out of Seminyak, and were soon cruising south toward the Bukit peninsula which makes up the southern tip of the island.  On the way we learned that the region was traditionally very poor due to poor soil (not much agriculture).  This is the hottest and driest part of the island.  The government built a huge university here, and that coupled with tourism (buildings are going up everywhere) indicate there is a new prosperity for the region.

We soon approached the Culture Park (known as GWK) and decided it was worth the entrance fee to go in and look around.  This huge uncompleted park has several huge statues, but really wasn’t worth the visit with the exception of the terrific views (it’s located on a hill) and seeing a huge monitor lizard nearly being caught and devoured by an eagle.

We moved onwards toward our first beach destination – Balangan Beach.  We parked and had to walk down a very steep hill in the burning sun to reach the beach.  But it was worth it – this would be a great place to hang out for days and just forget about the rest of the world!  Sugar white sands with an eroded cliffside landscape were the setting.  We jumped in the Indian Ocean for a bit to cool off, and then wandered over to the warung on the beach and had some lunch.  Fried noodles and chicken curry, sound familiar?

We headed back to the car and moved on to our next destination, Padang Padang beach.  On the way Efren realized he lost is sun hat at Balangan (a true necessity here), but the thought of climbing those steps down to the beach again made our thighs quiver, so we decided to let it be and pick up another hat somewhere else.  On the short drive to Padang Padang we bumped into a Hindu festival progression on the road.  Ngurah told us to expect many of these today as it was a full moon and much offering to the gods would be occurring today.

Padang Padang has a similar entrance as Balangan, down a very steep path. This one was practically cut into a cliff face.  We descended down, looked for a toilet and applied yet another pound of sunscreen.  As we descended monkeys played in the trees above.  As we approached the beach, we could hear music, and realized there was a Hindu festival occurring on the beach.  The sound was enchanting and we moved closer for a better look.  The key thing to keep in mind is that these celebrations were a part of everyday life on Bali – they were not being staged for tourists.

Padang Padang beach is another gem.  More surfers and sunbathers, and a natural waterfall spilling off the cliff into the sea.  We hung around for a bit before making the arduous climb back up to the car.  We were then off to our final stop for the day, the famous Ulu Watu Temple.  Ngurah explained the temple is one of several important temples to the spirits of the sea along the coast of Bali.  The temple is perched on the tip of the Bukit Peninsula atop a cliff that plunges right into the sea.  Recently the location has become famous as Julia Roberts apparently spends some time here in Eat, Pray, Love – the movie just released which we haven’t seen yet.

The temple was crowded with hoards of tourists and very aggressive monkeys, so that made the visit a bit of a challenge.  Still, the spirituality of the beautiful temple along with the endless vistas of the Indian Ocean and pounding surf made the visit very much worthwhile.  The other thing we did was to stick around for the sunset Kecak Dance.  This very enchanting dance must be seen to believe (hopefully the uploaded videos will work!).  The performance caters very much for tourists, but it is still interesting and the mesmerizing sounds and theme of the dance where enhanced by the silhouette of the Ulu Watu temple against the setting sun.

After the conclusion of the performance we made our way back to Seminyak.  We said goodbye to Ngurah, but we’ll be seeing him again in a few days when he gives us a couple of day tours from the Ubud area of Bali.  We freshened up, had some dinner and went out to find Efren a new hat.  We called it a night and got ready to head for our next adventure tomorrow – a 2 day visit to the little relatively undiscovered island of Nusa Lembongan, perched just of Bali’s southeastern shores.

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