14 November 2011

ay, bali!

for the longest time, i'd been wanting to go to bali, indonesia. perhaps i took elizabeth gilbert's description of bali in her book "eat, pray, love" that i had such high expectations of the place. don't get me wrong, i also had a lonely planet book about it, too. but somehow, the more romantic version of bali was much better to read and imagine about rather than lonely planet's matter-of-fact details.

and so for our third anniversary as a couple, bali was our destination. the first thing that you notice about bali when you land is...well, it's like any old province in the philippines, except a few minutes away from the airport, you get greeted by this:
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and every house you pass by has small temples. you really get the feeling that you are in a place where spirituality is clearly and visibly expressed. even our hotel has a temple, and these icons.

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but we were definitely looking forward to the beach. lonely planet notes that the beach in kuta area where we were staying is a surfer's paradise. meaning: waves. and i don't like waves. i conjure up images of a tsunami when i think of big waves. and the fact that kuta beach is facing the indian ocean straight on doesn't help a bit. but thankfully, we timed our jaunts to the beach during low tide, so we were able to swim a bit (strong undertow, though).
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what i like about the beach here is that it's a separate area for most of the hotels. meaning, there's no such thing as a "beachfront" hotel, save for one or two that are at the edge of the island. if you want to go to the beach, you have to step out of your hotel, take a few minutes walk onto the street and pass by a few street vendors/stalls first.
and since i know bali is not just about the beach, i pulled lloydie to go with me for a few touristy activities. we hired a car and a guide to take us to watch a traditional bali play (i'm sorry, i get that they want to introduce their culture to tourists, but a play using their own language, with a flyer for explanations in badly written english, is not really the way to go). it was...strange and towards the end, bordered on weird and disturbing.
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anyway, after that, we went to silver and wood crafts shops (tourist traps, i tell you), but the ultimate tourist trap (and one that i almost fell for) is the small family museum/store. i had a few "wow" moments in that place, but after looking at the prices, i knew i was going to leave empty-handed.
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in the afternoon, we dropped by a small coffee place where they had us tasting that famous, expensive coffee made out of animal poo. hmm... it was good, but i've had better.
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we were also brought  a little further up north, to see beautiful temples and have lunch with a nice view of one of their beautiful mountain, sort of similar to eating at a roadside in tagaytay.
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mt. kintamani
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                                                  ancient cleansing area at the gua gajah temple
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                                                               at the besakih temple

but i must admit, we were not too impressed with the food. but this ayam penyet meal was good!
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most of the people i talked to said that shopping was good in bali. personally, i didn't really go there to shop, but it's really not that cheap. we kept mentally converting prices of stuff like billabong shorts and roxy shirts, and they seem to be the same as in sg.  and can i just say, this particular area of the island is becoming way too comercialized. they have a mall here (with starbucks and all those other stores--buti na lang, hindi pa ganito masyado sa boracay). their tourism department had better be cautious.
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but we were blown away by the massages! oh, i can tell you we will definitely go back here for the massage services. all those little spas and salons offering really cheap massage and all sorts of pampering scrubs and lotions and oils. we took advantage and had these hour-long sessions everyday that we were there.
overall, i can say that bali is a nice place, worthy of exploring. we'll probably try the other areas of the island next time we visit. and i'll probably go to ubud and walk around there. maybe i'll see what "eat, pray, love" was talking about. i think i saw glimpses of it this first time, but a few more trips will definitely be better.

more pictures here

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