EAT.PRAY.LOVE- From Bangalore to Bali in a week
Bali is becoming an increasingly popular destination for Indians. For the past 2 years I was reading about Bali and thus developed my quest for visiting this piece of land.
Millions of tourists pack their bags every week and head to this wonderful island, for a reason and the reason is - ''IT HAS ALL.''
Immersed in sun and soaked in rain this land's beauty and heritage is unparallel. It is just not a mere tropical holiday destination but it has tremendous scope of adventure, water sports, beautiful beaches, great spiritual connect, amazingly built temples, virgin islands, scenic volcanoes/ mountains, rice terrains, mouth-watering food, great nightlife, art-craft-jewelry beyond words!
In a nutshell, it has a bit of everything that a tourist wants. The challenge is however to shortlist a handful from the plenty, for a short tour in Bali. There is so much to do that one can spend months on the island and barely scratch the surface! Trying to figure out what to do in Bali to make the most of your holiday can be a bit tricky. Time is the only aspect which is limited for working professionals and when the time is right, you end up being in a place like Bali.
Another challenge for me was to travel with my 2.5 year old peanut. He is very fussy about food but remains in happy mood outdoors. My schedule was extremely tight, accommodating everything possible in mere 5 days.
Before I headed to Bali, I did a lot of reading and following were the points I considered:
- Best Time to Travel
- Budget per person
- Where to Stay in Bali to make the most of it
- Booking individually or via travel agent
- Getting a good and accurate map of Bali showing places of interest
- How much USD to carry
- What places to see in 5 days (Day wise Itinerary)
Best Time to Travel:
Very easily from internet I could figure out that the best suitable time to visit Bali is between June and August. The rest of the year it rains pretty much.
My Trip dates were from 21-June-2017 till 26-June-2017.
Budget per Person:
We did not have money for a very lavish and exorbitant holiday. So, we always have to keep budget on mind. The total expenses we incurred for 5 days was Rs 1,90,000($ 3000) inclusive of everything. We are a family of three- me, my husband and our 2.5 year son. The Flight expenses ex-Bangalore for 3 people round trip stood around 96K. You can save here if you plan early and book tickets long back. The remaining amount was spent in stay, sight-seeing, transport, shopping and food.
Where to Stay in Bali:
This is a genuine but tricky question. Since I had only 5 days, I strategically chose to stay in Kuta for 4 days and just 1 night in Nusa Dua. Where to stay is related to what I want to see. If you have come for art/culture/yoga/heritage tour, it’s good to stay in Ubud. If you have come to relax and not much willing to do sightseeing or you have come for a romantic holiday, it’s better to stay in Nusa Dua. I chose to stay in Kuta as it’s an important and busy town with good connectivity and strategic location for south and central Bali tour. Kuta has lots of close by beaches, it’s very near to the international airport. It has got malls, shopping centers, massage spas, Indian food and lot of budget resorts. I am writing this article and sharing my experiences from my typical urban, middle-class, working Indian mindset and views (In case you face difficulty to relate with me!)
Booking for Bali:
After doing a lot of research, I concluded on resting my shoulder on a travel agent. This was because I got mixed reviews on bookings made through internet. But I also would like to make this point very clear that if I visit next time, I will surely not rely on any travel agent. I chose Smart Holiday Shop (http://www.smartholidayshop.com/), which is a Delhi based holiday planner. Its Bali counterpart is Apple Tours. I paid them Rs 1,50,000 for the trip including flights, stay, and transport during the stay and sightseeing. Nusa Penida Island and Turtle Island visit was not included in the itinerary and we managed to go there on our own. Please make sure to get the confirmed list of itinerary before you start from Apple tours via SHS so that there is no confusion once you arrive in Bali. We have faced an issue as one of the temples (Ulun Danu temple) which was there in the itinerary could not be covered. It was squeezed inside the itinerary of Day 2 but we had to miss it as there was no time. Once SHS gets hold of the entire amount, they pay little heed to take care of your concern.
Getting a good Bali Map:
In the internet, there is no ready made tourist map available for Bali for all the places I wished to see. So, I did a bit of google maps, added all destinations of my choice and prepared my own map. Wasn’t that simple?
How much USD to Carry:
Carrying 500 USD was sufficient for us, rest we paid via credit card. Surprisingly the credit card conversion charges were cheaper than that of the conversion charges of USD to IDR. But not all restaurants / tourist attractions accept credit card so keeping local currency is very much essential.
Things to Do/Places to See
This is the most important aspect of planning the trip. 5 days and so many things to see. There are many important temples like Uluwatu, Ulun Danu, Taman Ayun, Tanah Lot, Royal Temple Ubud, Goa Gajah and Pura Besakish. I shortlisted 5 considering proximity and architecture. Bali offers plenty of water sports options and Scuba Diving options. But since I came with my little kid, I ruled out all water sports. After months of research, following were the places/things I planned to cover:
Day 0 -
- Started from Bangalore International Airport at 11:30 pm on 21-Jun-2017 in Air Asia.
- Reached Kuala Lumpur after a journey of 3 hrs. 45 mins.
- After a layover of 1.5 hours started for Bali in the same carrier (Air Asia).
- Reached Ngurah Rai International Airport at 10:45 am. It took 45 mins to finish immigration (No Visa Required for less than 30 days stay, only stamping on passport)and collect luggage.
- Met the Red Apple representative at airport who arranged transfer to Hotel (Holiday Inn Resort, Baruna, Kuta). The Apple Tours Driver accompanied us all through our stay in Bali. He was very helpful and a nice person. His is called ''Muriya'' and can be reached at 081703563542.
- Freshened up and started for Balinese SPA at Unagi SPA at 02:30 pm from Hotel (http://www.unagispabali.com/). We were greeted with soothing welcome drink and sent to a beautifully decorated couple room. It was a heavenly experience that lasted for 2 hours. The Aromatic oil massage took away all the tiredness acquired from the overnight flight journey from Bangalore. By God's grace my son was sleeping and he was laid comfortably on a rocking chair supported with cushions beside us.
- Post the Balinese SPA session, we started for Sunset Dinner Cruise by Bounty Cruise at Denpasar at 04:30 pm (http://balibountycruises.com/sunset-dinner-cruise/). We reached by 5:15 pm. The cruise started at 6:00 pm. Initially we were seated on the second floor of the cruise and witnessed the beautiful views on the sea side as it became dark from dusk. The cruise was accompanied with live music and starters served with welcome drink. Later we were made to assemble at the dining hall inside the cruise where they arranged the buffet dinner. The dining hall had a small stage where people performed. There were beautiful Balinese dance performances. There was an Emcee too in the cruise who made sure people stay merry with his jokes and magic show. The cruise reached shore at around 9:00 pm. We spent a lovely evening altogether. Bali won our hearts the very first day!
- Started from Hotel at 8:00 am for Ubud- the cultural capital of the Island. The first stop was at Luwak Coffee Plantation at Jambe Asri at around 10:00 am. We were shown the process how coffee is extracted. They also provided us free samples of different varieties of Tea and coffee. Luwak coffee is the most expensive coffee in the world which is prepared from mongoose excreta after they are fed with the beans. (Does not sound Yummy!) They also have a shop where you can purchase all varieties of tea and coffee. We purchased herbal tea and Red ginger tea. I am sharing a YouTube link below of the virtual tour of that place.
- Next sightseeing point was exploring the wood craftsmanship at Mas village and Silver handicrafts at Celuk Village in Ubud. Very intricate work and it beholds a lovely sight on both sides of the road- staked Buddha, Ganesha sculptures.
- We next visited Royal Temple at Ubud. We were made to wear Sarongs to enter the temple. It was the first Balinese temple that we visited and I should appreciate it being so neat and clean.
- The last stop at Ubud was at Goa Gajah Temple. Personally I liked this place a lot. It had a number to stairs so, wearing the correct kind of shoes help. Goa Gajah is a small cave temple of lord Ganesha. The overall area is very beautiful and peaceful.
- From Ubud, we took a move to the picturesque Kintamani for a grand Volcano View Lunch after an hour drive. It was really cold at Kintamani. We had the scrumptious Balinese lunch at Sari restaurant where we had a memorable experience. This place is so scenic that no matter how many pictures you take you still urge for more!
- After the grand lunch, we drove to Tanah Lot in 2 hours. Tanah Lot from the entrance is around a kilometer of walk which has shops stuffed with Bali souvenirs. You tend to buy some of them as you walk :) The last part had stairs which land you to the beach and the temple. It was very crowded but we could witness a magnificent sunset there.
- From Tanah Lot it took 2 hours to reach Kuta as there was huge traffic jam. We reached hotel at 9 PM and had dinner in an Indian restaurant (Ganesha, Ek Sanskriti) Day 2 went very hectic but was a fruitful one.
- Started from hotel at 07:30 am to reach Sanur Beach. Our Driver escorted us to Sanur Harbour and arranged the trip with Dwi Mannuggal Fast Boat Agency. He bargained and made a deal of $65 per person (which is pretty cheap!)
- We Started for the fast boat ride to Nusa Penida Island with Dwi Manunggal Speed Boat (http://lembonganfastboats.com/dwi_manunggal.php)
- Reach Nusa Penida Island in an hour and covered the following attractions- Kelingking Beach, Broken Beach (Pasi Ugh), Angel's Billabong and Crystal bay. Nusa Penida is worth a visit for each and every traveller. I have not seen such a scenic island in my lifetime. It has amazing viewpoints and is not at all crowded. The road condition is bad so be prepared for a bumpy ride. Also carry some food along as there are no restaurants on the spots. Kindly check the photos at the end of this post.
- Started from Nusa Penida at 5:00 pm with the Fast Boat and reached Sanur by 6:00 pm. The fast boat agency dropped us to hotel (which was included in the deal).
- At night we dined in Batan Waru- A posh Balinese restaurant in Lido mall, Kuta. Day 3 was the most beautiful day spent on the Island and we made sure to stay in Nusa Penida for at least 1 night next time.
- After Breakfast, Checked out from Holiday Inn at 10:00 am.
- Kept luggage in Muriya's car and visited Benoa Harbour. Since we had time, we decided to tour the turtle island. This was not included in the Red Apple tour itinerary. This was just an average experience and we got cheated as we ended up paying $40 per person for glass boat ride and Turtle island entry fee. There were no fishes visible from the so called glass boat (having 60cm by 30 cm glass!) and the Turtle Island was a over hyped place. We were totally drenched in water as the boat leaves and drops halfway in water.
- Next we checked in at Hotel Santika, Nusa Dua and freshened up.
- Then had lunch at a posh Indian restaurant -Bangle, Nusa Dua.
- After Lunch we headed to Pandawa Beach. I just wish we could stay for some more time here but we had to hurry as we would miss the sunset.
- From Pandawa beach we next headed to Uluwatu Temple. Beware of Monkeys in that place. Uluwatu has mesmerizing views of the White Mountain cliffs touching the sea. They organize ''Kechak'' dance every day during sunset.
- Finally we reached Jimbaran beach for Candle light dinner. It was a very romantic experience with great food, good music and nice view. There were live ''Barong'' dance performances too on the beach.
- Lazed around at Nusa Dua beach in the morning.
- It was time to say good bye and Started for Airport at 12:30 pm.
- Get a SIMPATI sim card which will cost around 500 bucks with minimum talk time and 10 GB data.
- We did not shop extensively only souvenirs, small handicrafts and Bali T-shirts. However, what we learnt is that we need to bargain shamelessly or else we might get cheated.
- People of Bali inflate and charge, so we need to bargain. But they do not cheat on the service quality. They are well mannered and helpful.
- Our experience with Air Asia as a flight carrier was too bad. They charge for the slightest things and you end up paying nearly same as that of other expensive airlines. Its better to upgrade your flight to a better one like Singapore Airlines for a good flight.
- Keep an eye on the hotel check in timings. We had little trouble as we reached Hotel around 12:00 pm and the check in time was 3:00 pm. We had to freshen up in the common restroom and keep our luggage in the luggage room as we needed to rush for our first itinerary.
- Some of the sightseeing spots which I aspired to cover but couldn't were Ulun Danu Temple (Bedugul), Blue Point beach and Padang Padang beach. If only I had another day, I would cover these lovely places.
- There are a couple of restaurants where we had meals. Average cost for a decent indian meal would cost you around 200K IDR (Rs 1000). You can get cheaper meals if you can live on local restaurant food (Warung). ''Nasi Goreng'' and ''Mie Goreng'' are some of the local dishes worth trying. You can find information about them from my Zomato reviews:
- Indian Restaurant: Bangle, Nusa Dua — http://zoma.to/review/30951922
- Sari Restaurant, Kintamani — http://zoma.to/review/30844799
- Indian Restaurant: Ganesha Ek Sanskriti, Lippo Plaza, Kuta — http://zoma.to/review/30831760
- Batan Waru, Lippo Mall, Tuban — http://zoma.to/review/30831723
- Hard Rock Cafe, Ngurah Rai International Airport, Denpasar — http://zoma.to/review/30831689
|Dinner at Bounty Cruise, Denpasar|
|Barong Dance Performance, inside the Cruise|
|Tea and Coffee sample tasting at Luwak Coffee Plantation|
|Jambe Asri Luwak Coffee Plantation|
|View of Mount Kintamani and Batur lake while having Lunch|
|Tanah Lot Temple|
|Broken beach, Pasi Ugh|
|View from Uluwatu Temple|
|Kechak Dance at Uluwatu Temple|
|Candle light dinner at Jimbaran Beach|
|Nusa Dua Beach|
|Nusa Dua Beach|