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Rumble-Rambles of Bali the Magical Island

PREAMBLE: The RUMBLES of people

Wonderful. Beautiful. It’s like my second home. Breathtaking. If I could migrate I would have.

Oh, the vibe of Bali is simply…

 Magical.

These are the typical answers that I will get from people who have visited Bali.

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How BALI became a reality.

The trip to Bali was impromptu. Well, it was not impromptu in terms of the ultimate destination in my to-do-list but it was impromptu in terms of the execution and the realization of the trip. It happened when I went out with my friend and suddenly just like a  thunder bolt it hit unto me and  I said to my friend “Hey, let’s go to Bali’ after all according to the premonition the world is coming to an end, why not we just fly to Bali, what is there to lose right? More to gain, I said!”

My friend was flabbergasted but nevertheless agreed to the notion.

Hence the research on Bali began. Research to me is a vital element- I have to dig, to venture, to quench my thirst of the unknown. Metaphorically speaking, it’s like oxygen to me; the lack of knowledge of the unknown would suffocate me to death.

I went through various mass media medium, from the official tourism website to the bloggers website even to the length of watching the tourists previous visits to Bali on YouTube and of course, getting the most reliable source of all, friends and family who have been there.

I was convinced that I know a lot about Bali mainly Kuta, Denpasar, Ubud and Tanah Lot, the only areas that I wish to cover about Bali for now thinking that I will go again to Bali in the near future to discover other parts of Bali.

BALI- from a dream to REALITY

Then there we were in LCCT airport, about to board the AirAsia AK1362 flight to Denpasar , Bali filled with joy,  excited and anxious at the same time. It was a trip that we deserve after the long months of working.

After 3 hours of journey, finally we arrived at the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar.   Utterly excited almost to speechless; we were amazed by the beauty of the architectural design of the ‘pintu gerbang’ at the airport and the fact that as we were landing the airport is on the sea! Spectacular view! I thought, and not only that, the customs in the airport was hospitable and more receiving compared to other destinations in Indonesia.

I was thrilled.

 

The BUDGET accommodation for the BUDGET traveler

Our trip was a short trip and we were on a budget. For the first 2 nights we decided to stay in a budget accommodation roughly about RM 50 per night for 2 people. The facilities were basic which comprised bed, internal bathroom, and closet and no air-condition: just a fan. The decision was made such because the plan was to tour extensively around Bali for the first 2 days and the need for the room is little.  Also because we want to spend the last 2 night in a fancier, more expensive hotel while  chilling and relaxing during the consumption of the hospitality service provided by the fancier hotel.

But, truth be told, this place where we stayed was a ‘super-duper budget’ accommodation.’ My heart sunk when I saw the condition of the room. Apart from the appalling sight of the room, my hands and legs were bitten by the mites. Yes, beggars can’t be choosers, what you pay is what you get and that is exactly what I get, a big fat TRAUMA and ugly skin.

TOUR Operators of BALI

In Malaysia, when a tourist walk towards the signage ‘tourist information’ that is exactly what they will get; information. However, in Kuta , where we stayed at , the  many booths with a ‘tourist information’ signage on top of it is a franchised tour agency. They sell tours, giving little information.

To top that, the agent that sells you the tour today, might not be available the next day. They will be selling tours elsewhere because (I might be wrong here) but the tour operators in Bali open up few booths at various places to sell their tour product.

TOURING like a BOSS!

Nonetheless, we chartered a van together with a driver cum tour guide. The tour guide cum driver was a young man, probably in his 20’s.

Our tour started with a Barong Dance. Personally, I was fond by the whole cultural dance personification.  The emotions of the dancers captivated every bit of my soul and I was mesmerized by the Bali dancers, not only with the movement of their body but their eyes were dancing too! The movement of their eyes was parallel to the musical instrument ‘gamelan’. The only downside was the over commercializing of the dance lessens the authenticity and the costumes used by the dancers was old.

Apart from the downside, I was absolutely satisfied with the cultural aspect and moved on with our journey.

Now, it is a common fact that tourists bring in income for a destination. The gained income enables the government of the country to implement methods to upgrade their nation’s wellbeing. Improvements of the road system, expansion of the international airport, development of hospitality and tourism products, retail and other related sectors including the development of the society and economy will be possible through tourist expenditure.

Shopping is a successful device to extract as much cash from a tourist pocket and as a responsible tourist I did my part to help enhance Bali’s economic condition. I did my fair bit of shopping.The silverware and the art masterpiece was too hard to resist!

UBUD the magnificent greenery and the famous animal POOP!

Finally we made it to Ubud, the on top of the hill rice terrace village. It was mentioned by our tour guide cum driver that Bali mostly import their rice due to the amount of paddy fields in the island is not enough to sustain the whole Balinese population and not forgetting the tourists!. Hence to own rice terrace in Ubud makes the owner multi-millionaires! The view of the rice terrace was picturesque. You do not need a SLR camera or to be a professional to capture the beauty of the greenery. Point your camera at any angle of the rice terrace, your picture will turn out pretty gorgeous!

Subsequently, we moved on to the peak of the hill where I have tasted  the acclaimed and the most expensive coffee in the world- the Luwak coffee! The Luwak coffee is expensive mainly because the Luwak (an animal that looks like a fox but black in colour) apparently could determine the best quality in a coffee and only consume the best. After that, they will excrement (excrete) the coffee in its original form.

Since the best of quality (is) in a form of dung, the refinery process is longer which consumes long hours of labor.

For approximately RM15-20 per shot (in espresso cup) I drank the luwak coffee like a brave lass. As I was drinking I imagined the poop streamed through my very veins.

The luwak coffee tastes rather peculiar. It smelled like brewed coffee but the taste was less robust compared to the Bali coffee and it was rather sour. My guess for the sourness is because of the digestion process in the luwak’s intestines. Turns out it might not have been a  truly purified coffee after all.

Nevertheless, the Luwak coffee was not the only beverage that I’ve tasted. The place that we had our coffee gave us to sample an array of coffee drinks for free. The flavours of the coffee were innovative in the sense that they added different flavor like lemongrass, honey, lemon, chocolate and many more to make it  its own distinctive flavor that will appeal to different taste buds. And picture this; the coffee sampling was accompanied by the breathtaking greenery of the rice terrace.

TANAH LOT- the Temple of ROCK

Tanah Lot was the last segment of the tour. Famous for its sunset backdrop and this is one of the temples where the Balinese perform their daily rituals. The extraordinaire feature of the place is that during the low tide you shall witness that the temple is on top of a rock but when it is the high tide it appears as if the temple is floating on the water.  That makes it magical I guess.

LIVING the dream in an OASIS!

bali 2

Now that the tour is officially over, it was time for us to move to the Oasis! And finally escape the torture of living in the budget mites blood sucking’ dungeon of horror! The hotel namely The Oasis is an award winning hotel which is located in the heart of the Kuta city but isolated and quiet at the same time. Credit is due to my friend for the discovery. Just like the name, the first instance I walk into the hotel compound I was greeted by the beautiful panoramic view of the swimming pool surrounded by coconut trees. As I walk further inside suddenly the hustle and bustle coming from the city, magically disappeared.

To add further to the magical feeling, our room was located on the ground level facing the swimming pool. There’s a door that let us access the pool by just few steps away! I have never floated as much as I have floated in the pool. I can only float but not swim.

I floated away with my dreams…

SPENDING in KUTA the tourist paradise

Bali to most tourists is a crime free city. Here’s the thing, daylight robbery is also a crime. Kuta is surrounded by souvenir shops, designer shops and branded outlets- mostly Australian brands. If you do your shopping’s in the mall you will save time haggling and might even be safe from being ripped off by the locals outside selling the same thing as in the mall.

Nonetheless, the branded items are cheaper than the ones sold in Australia and cheaper for the Australians because of their currency power. Truly a haven for the Australasia, I believe.

ADDED TOUR to satisfy the hunger for HERITAGE.

We went to Denpasar on our 4th day because I have this itching need that I have to fulfill which is to go to a museum and immerse myself to the histories of Bali. I wanted to go to the Bali Museum. We took a local taxi and it was not a smooth ride. The distance from Kuta to Denpasar is about 10-15 minutes away. But the taxi driver took us for a ride and instead of sending us to Bali Museum; there we were standing in front of the Bali War Monument which turns out to be a blessing in disguise!

The war monument was a temple with Sanskrit inscriptions and idols in it and also acts as a museum. The design of the display is in a circle form which worked like a timeline as the reader moved from one exhibit to the other. Although it was simplistic but I could feel that I was moving to a different era , like as if I was in a time tunnel.

I’ve learnt that the glorified Bali Kingdom existed circa the 17th century, few centuries after the magnificent Malacca Kingdom. I have also learnt that Ngurah Rai was a man and fought the Dutch for Bali’s independence.Bali International Airport was named after Ngurah Rai to commemorate his heroic move for his country.

In the middle of the temple, there stood the minaret or a tower where you could climb the spiral staircase to have the city view of Denpasar.. As we were about to climb the stairs, I asked my friend to pose for the camera and  through the camera lens I saw the signage stating “Climb the stairs in one single file, and to those who are in their mensus YOU are not allowed to climb…” What does my monthly vital fluid discharge have to do with the climbing I thought! Whoa! Almost like a runner, we brisked away from the stairway.

Well actually, according to various resources, any women during their menstruation is considered impure and not to be allowed in a Balinese temple. I suppose the top of the minaret was a temple then hence the signage.

THE Un-necessary tour GUIDES

Earlier, we asked the ticket seller the whereabouts of the Bali Museum and she said it is about 15 minutes ride; it was too far to walk to the museum. But disbelieving her, due to the cheating episode by the taxi man we decided to walk. And we walked and walked and walked but we never reached the museum. Then like an electrical brainwave, we mutually agreed to get a taxi and it cost Rp. 35,000 but we have walked halfway, so if it had been from the monument it will be roughly Rp. 70,000 which is about RM 20.

Yes. I am a tourist and yes I only know a little about the Balinese culture and yes as a tourist nothing comes free! In front of Bali Museum there is a white colored temple and we were greeted by two guardians of the temple, one is the chief of the guardian and the other his assistant. They claimed that we have to tour the temple first before entering the museum whereby in actual truth it was not! So, we went in, wore the ‘sarong’ together with the temple scarf and toured by the assistant and later charged Rp.100, 000 (about RM32) for “donation” sake. They actually gave a specific amount to donate and they also claim that usually they will charge Rp.100, 000 for each guardian to other tourists! So much for my cultural tour!

In fact, there was another person who wanted to assist us the ‘lost lambs’ but only this time I was clever enough to escape the entrapment!

SURPRISE! Bali museum is not included in the local tour packages

The truth is…I was not at all surprised. The architectural design of the museum is praiseworthy because the retrospect of the Balinese centuries of heritage and culture was apparent. However, the maintenance and the display items were not sufficient to my opinion. There was only 3 small display area. The 1st area displayed the Stone Age timeline together with some fossils, and relics. The next display area showed the general history of Indonesia and briefly on Bali history and the final display area some arts and paintings. The admission fee was Rp.50, 000 per person and extra Rp.1000 for a camera/video which to me, the price did not match the amount of displays in the area.

That is all about the discovery of heritage. After that we took a cab and went back for isolation in the oasis.

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REALITY Check!

Located in the Java Island not so far from Australia, Bali is popular among the Aussies due to its near location. Even to most Malaysian I may say that Bali have their certain extent of good perception. I was one of the many.

Bali…. the island that could be  pompously dubbed as an escapade for the stressed, the ultimate destination for honeymooners, mystical culture and adventurous destination, indeed  a magical island like none other.

That was how I perceived the island.

Happiness is always short-lifted, a saying that is quiet relevant to our trip to Bali. Overall, Bali was a nice escapade from the routines of life but not entirely magical to me. It could have been magical but the glitches that happened along the way somehow stole away the magic in Bali.

My story could instill anger or disagreement in others. But like my mum used to say   ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’. Well Bali is certainly not my magical meat but it did not magically kill me either.

Nevertheless, Bali brings about the greatest realization of all. That word of mouth is so powerful and persuasive. People’s information of a destination could be one of the mitigating factors for the extent of ‘magic’ in a destination. So the next time before I travel, the question that I should ask myself will be: should I believe this word of mouth?

Written by: Zulaika Zakariah in 2012.

Photos: Personally captured using my humble wizardry tool- Canon DSLR.

(Featured image: A temple in Kuta, 2nd image :  Swimming pool view at The OASIS hotel , Kuta Bali. )

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