Mel’s Bali trip

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Ok guys…be prepared for a super long blog entry since I’m going to blog about my vacation in typical fashion (ie. in chronological order). Kindly bear with me. This is a blog entry of epic proportions (LOL).

Day 1 – 15 Apr, Thu

Arrived in the Depansar airport at 12 noon but waited at immigration for 20 mins because they only opened 1 counter for those who do not require visas. ( -__-;)

The hotel airport transfer then drove me to my hotel at Jimbaran, which is another 20 mins away from the airport. Hotel Puri Bumbu is a nice quiet hotel with very helpful staff and huge rooms. I was exhausted from waking up at 6am and so, I took a nap until 1:30pm. Did a quick change into a swimwear, singlet and board shorts. Waited at the lobby at 1:50pm for my diving school people to pick me up. Guess what? They were there already! Didn’t have to wait long. For the rest of the day, we did pool work…learning the basics while practising them in the pool. My diving instructor, Ketut, passed me a DVD player for me to watch the video in my hotel room but guess what? He forgot to put the remote control inside. ( -__-;) Sleeeep…pick up tomorrow at 7:30am.

Day 2 – 16 Apr, Fri

Pick up at 7:30am and then we picked up an Aussie couple from their hotel in Nusa Dua. Now starts the 2.5 hr drive to our dive site at Tulamben. I slept most of the way.

(To the left) Scuba tanks that we used. Trivia: Scuba actually is an acronym to mean Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.

Here I am setting up my equipment and do you notice how my diving instructor is eyeing me and making sure that I don’t screw up?

That’s me just after I cleared my mask of water. Trust my diving instructor to take unflattering pics of me. 😛 First dive site: Liberty Wreck. Depth = 12m

(Above) A rabbit fish

I also saw small sharks (no…not baby ones but its the small species), starfish, flute fish and sting ray! I think I might’ve killed some corals with my fins. Oops.

Second dive: Coral Garden. Depth = 11m.

After surfacing from my second dive, it was washing the equipment and then after changing out of my wet suit, it was another 2.5 hr drive back to my hotel since I didn’t want to stay overnight at Tulamben.

On the way, my instructor taught me about how to use the table and plan recreational dives. He also asked a colleague to bring the remote control and passed it to me before I returned to my hotel at 6:30pm.

Tired but I had to drag myself through the video and finish the quiz and test. 10:30pm…I couldn’t take it anymore…sleep beckons!

Day 3 – 17 Apr, Sat

Pick up at 7:30am again and yet another 2.5 hour drive to Tulamben. This time, my diving instructor has to teach another new student and therefore, his colleague is now my diving buddy.

(Left) Saw a procession on our way to Tulamben. They are on their way to a nearby temple for a ceremony. This one might be for the rice.

We dived at Liberty Wreck again at 18m and this time, I saw stingrays and a school of jackfish. My buddy swum into the middle of the school and hovered, letting the fish swim around him. Me being me, I swum into the middle of their path and they had to diverge around me. It was amazingly beautiful to see them swim as a school and to see them upfront. I couldn’t help but also think: hmm…if I were a fisher(wo)man…..big catch!!!

Dive 2 was at the Drop-off, so called because of the coral wall. It’s not a gentle slope downwards. OMG. This is the one that really made me fall in love with diving. The corals were gorgeous and the fish life was aplenty. I saw a barracuda and I was cursing the fact that we didn’t have a camera. Arghs! I’m soooo going to buy a waterproof casing for my camera. Who’s up for dive trips?

Ok folks, I’m officially a PADI certified diver! Wooohooo!!

(On the right) My new found friend and sayang, Kadek!

My ex-colleagues from Jakarta then picked me up from my hotel for dinner and we went to a nearby seafood restaurant. I didn’t know that my hotel was in the area famous for seafood! Our table was on the beach and faced the waterfront. It was really very romantic….or rather, would’ve been if you were with your partner.

Dinner! We had grilled grouper, prawns, black pepper crabs, mussels, kang kong and coconuts. I also tried the grilled corn with sweet sauce. Very yummy!

Day 4 – 18 Apr, Sun

The day is bright and the whole day’s activity was as follows: 1. Traditional market. 2. Batik. 3. Lunch at Ubud. 4. Shopping at Seminyak. 5. Massage 6. Wash up before having dinner at Nusa Dua 7. Shopping at Bali Collection while waiting for Jiak to arrive 8. Jiak’s dinner at Kuta 9. Drinks at Club Kama Sutra.

On the left is a picture of the ‘traditional’ market. Why the ‘ ‘? I seriously don’t find it THAT traditional and those shopkeepers harass you to buy stuff. Freaking annoying. Not as big nor wide as Jatujak Market in Bangkok but they sell the same old souvenir crap.

(Right) Making Batik.

Ubud today wasn’t what I was expecting. We only went to the Gallery there and the paintings were beautiful and obviously expensive…but there was nothing else? Hmm…I was wondering why then it was on the top ten list of places to visit and was called an arts village.

The massage that we had was VERY good. I actually fell asleep while he was massaging my left leg. I must’ve been very tired and he, a very good masseur. Shiok! I liked the fact that they gave you an mp3 player to allow you to listen to soothing music of your choice.

Jiak was due to arrive in Bali tonight at 10pm. So after dinner, we hung out at this shopping district in Nusa Dua called “Bali Collection”. They should seriously rename it to Western collection. It’s all Spanish, Italian and English restaurants and shops. There’s only ONE shop selling Balinese arts and crafts. You know what I mean…it’s like our Clarke Quay, minus the locals. Anyway, because we had to wait for Jiak, I was subjected to the torture of listening to this horrible female singer at one of the restaurants whenever I walked past it. I could even hear her from the Balinese arts and craft store since it was directly opposite said restaurant. She doesn’t emote and I believe she sang off key a few times. No wonder that restaurant’s business was the worst.

Jiak’s dinner and our supper…a flaming volcano pizza. Ok…Jiak didn’t order this. My Indo friends did because it was novel.

After supper, we headed to Club Kama Sutra because according to the ladies, the live band there is good and its popular. Well, unfortunately for us. The opposite was true on both counts. How disappointing. We decided to call it a day at 1am especially since Jiak and I have a full day on Monday.

Day 5 – 19 Apr, Monday

Happy Vesak Day to everyone! We hired a car for today and it was a good thing too, since we wanted to go to Ubud, which is a 2 hr drive away from Jimbaran. We stopped by the same Batik shop because Jiak wanted to buy a batik dress. However, she couldn’t find what she wanted. On the way to Ubud, Jiak and I were talking about coffee and then our driver told us about Kopi Luwak. Of course! How could I forget that the world’s most expensive coffee is an Indonesian product??

From Wikipedia:

Kopi Luwak (pronounced [ˈkopi ˈluwak]) or Civet coffee is coffee made from coffee berries which have been eaten by and passed through the digestive tract of the Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus). The civets eat the berries, but the beans inside pass through their system undigested. This process takes place on the islands of Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago, in the Philippines (where the product is called Kape Alamid) and in East Timor (locally called kafé-laku). Vietnam has a similar type of coffee, called weasel coffee, which is made from coffee berries which have been defecated by local weasels. In actuality the “weasel” is just the local version of the Asian Palm Civet.

Kopi Luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world, selling for between $120 and $600 USD per pound, and is sold mainly in Japan and the United States. It is increasingly becoming available elsewhere, though supplies are limited: only 1,000 pounds (450 kg) at most make it into the world market each year (Pg 23, The Gospel According to Starbucks; Sweet). One small cafe, the Heritage Tea Rooms, in the hills outside Townsville in Queensland, Australia has Kopi Luwak coffee on the menu at A$50.00 (=US$46.00) per cup, and approximately 4 people a week are up for it, which has gained nationwide Australian press.[1]. In April 2008, the brasserie of Peter Jones department store in London’s Sloane Square starting selling a blend of Kopi Luwak and Blue Mountain called Caffe Raro for £50 a cup.[1]

We went to the Orchid Farm that also sells the kopi luwak and I bought 100g of this coffee for USD 60 (approx SGD 86.52 including 3% credit card fee). It’s less bitter than normal coffee, which I like, and there isn’t a strong aftertaste, which I like as well! To add, it has a slightly chocolately consistency to it.

Again, from Wikipedia (I think a lot of people have less tastebuds…hence the lack of appreciation):

A hypothesis to justify this coffee’s reputation proposes that the beans are of superior quality before they are even ingested. At any given point during a harvest, some coffee berries are not quite- or over-ripe, while others are just right. The palm civet evolved as an omnivore that naturally eats fruit and passes undigested material as a natural link to disperse seeds in a forest ecosystem. Where coffee plants have been introduced into their habitat, civets only forage on the most ripe berries, digest the fleshy outer layer, and later excrete the seeds eventually used for human consumption. Thus, when the fruit is at its peak, the seeds (or beans) within are equally so, with the expectation that this will come through in the taste of a freshly-brewed cup. As this may be true for the beans derived from wild-collected civet feces, farm raised civets are likely fed beans of varying quality and ripeness, so one would expect the taste of farm-raised beans to be less.

In 2008, a blind taste test was conducted by Stanford University and the California Institute of Technology. Using identical preparation equipment and techniques, researchers produced 4 separate samples of coffee. The first used traditional digested beans and the second used undigested beans from the same species of plant normally used for Kopi Luwak. As a control, they also produced samples from two conventional brands, one from Columbia and the other from Kenya. Over 1000 subjects participated in the study, and were asked choose which sample they preferred, and if they could identify each of the sample’s origin. The results of the study indicated that the there was no statistically significant preference for Kopi Luwak over the other three types of coffee, even the cheap brands. In addition, subjects were unable to identify which sample was which with any measurable degree of accuracy. Researchers concluded that the digestion by the Civet had no appreciable difference on the coffee after it is prepared, and it may be little more than a gimmick to sell the product at such an exorbitant price. The researchers further hypothesized that the favorable reputation of Kopi Luwak may be due a previously observed form of “placebo effect,” wherein a consumer enjoys an identical food product more if it is more expensive. [4]

Anyway, it was off to Ubud and lunch afterwards. On our way there, we could not use the main road as there was going to be a ceremony procession and the road was blocked. Therefore, we had a mini ‘safari’ by taking the road less travelled (literally). Jiak was mentally hoping that our car’s tyres will not get flattened while I was thinking of that as well as our car not getting stuck in a ditch. Neither of us said this out loud in fear that it really happened. Thank goodness our car made it through the countryside with no worries! We finally reached Ubud and our driver brought us to Casa Luna, which in my opinion, is a much better restaurant than the one that my ex-colleagues brought me to the other day. OOps..hahahaha….

Casa Luna overlooks rice terraces and is connected to a few villas as you can see from the pic on the right. It was sunny, peaceful and there was a slight breeze. Jiak and I ate on the terrace and it was just so pleasant. Really peaceful and you could hear the rustle of the leaves whenever there was a breeze. The food was excellent to boot! Jiak had her Balinese paella while I ordered the nasi campur. Everything was delicious and we were super satisfied. All ready to shop!!!

Before hitting the shops, we decided to be culture vultures and check out the former royal palace in Ubud. What makes it significantly obvious as a palace is all the GOLD used in the decoration. Other than that, architecturally speaking, its quite similar to the temples and traditional homes that strewn across the island. What I find interesting is that despite it being a palace, it is connected to homes that are currently occupied. Perhaps its the home of the person taking care of the palace grounds? *Shrugs* No idea.

Now, I see more of Ubud than I did the day before. It truly IS the place to shop. There are higher end goods as well as your cheap touristy stuff. I love it. Our 2 hrs spent there was really not enough. We walked until Jiak’s feet hurt while I was tired but kinda used to walking long distances.

Soon, we had to leave for Uluwatu as we wanted to watch the Kecak dance, which starts at 6pm. This dance is performed near the temple which is situated on a cliff, facing the Indian Ocean. 6pm also happens to be the time that the sun sets. Therefore, we managed to see the setting sun from a cliff that overlooks the vast ocean. I can imagine why the Balinese built a temple there. Only nature, God, that can produce such beauty. Take away the tourists and the monkeys and I can imagine the peace that one can feel. I believe, at this point in time, I felt contentment.

It was just lovely to see the Kecak dance with the setting sun in the background. However, I found myself a bit distracted with the sunset. =P Anyway, a bit on the Kecak dance. It’s different from most other dances as there aren’t any musical instruments. Instead, there is a choir of 70 men who provide the music, sing parts of the dancers, narrate and are also part of the prop. It was a good theatrical experience!

The dance lasted for an hour and then we headed back to our hotel. It was a very long day but I’m glad that we managed to squeeze in both culture and shopping *cough* *averts gaze* unlike the day before *cough*.

Day 6 – 20 Apr, Tue

For the first time this whole week, I didn’t need to set my alarm clock. I could wake up at the time my body felt it wanted to wake up. Nonetheless, we still woke up by 9am as the breakfast buffet ends at 10am.

We learnt how to surf later in the afternoon at 1pm in Kuta beach. I got a rash on my elbows from the constant rubbing against the material used on the softboard. To make things worse, as my boardshorts were snug, it trapped quite a bit of sand and I also developed a rash between my thighs due to all the friction. Sucked huh. That’s not all….I realised back at the hotel that my hands also developed a rash. Anyway, the surf lesson was fun! Bodysurfing and knee surfing were the most that I could do. I managed to stand up once but I forgot to bend my knees and promptly fell into the water. Ouch. Since we didn’t manage to stand, thanks to the surf school’s policy, we get a free lesson the next time we go to Bali. No expiry date. Woohoo!

Since we were already in Kuta, we decided to grab a late lunch there and then sunbathe there for short period of time. For the first time, many strangers saw my glorious fat self in my bikini. I have never exposed myself to so many people before. Well, there’s a first time for everything huh.

I love Bali for the fact that they’re Hindu and therefore do not shun dogs!! I saw many cute doggies there and I couldn’t resist taking this pic with this adorable mongrel that was running around the beach. Wahahaha…I wished Baileys was with me running around the beach and making a fool of himself. So cuuuuutttteeeeee……

When the sun finally set and our tummies were grumbling, we ate a quick dinner at Starbucks (yes…I know…) and then went shopping. Kuta’s shopping reminds me a little of Bangkok. You’ve got both the high end and the really cheap stuff. However, the really cheap stuff are in darker lanes were 2 ladies like Jiak and myself do not dare venture. Better to be safe than sorry, although travel guides say that Bali is safe for women and we did see a lot of women walking alone through said lanes. Finally bored, we just grabbed a metered taxi back to our hotel and slept the night away.

Day 7 – 21 Apr, Wed

We caught the 10am hotel shuttle to Kuta and today is our dedicated day to sunbathe. Yes…I want a tan. I’m too fair. My mum likes me white…but I want to look healthy. Not like a char siew pau. People look at me and think that I don’t do any sports at all, and that I only enjoy sipping cocktails at a bar/ coffee at a cafe. I like those too…but I like adventure sports as well.

This is me trying to be cheeky and get both myself and a sneak photo of Jiak in the back…

I got my wish and I’m now 2 shades less white! 🙂 People still think I’m fair…so that means that I’m not burnt…which is good! I’d like to think that I have maintained a healthy glow…haha. We found a cool place to chill and have lunch! Sorry, can’t remember the name of the restaurant but its connected to a hotel and its the only place facing Kuta beach with nice lounge chairs and low tables. They play nice jazz and chillout music too. I loved how they bothered to arrange the crab shell and legs on my dish…we both chilled there till 3pm.
After lunch, we ventured again into shopping and walked into those ‘dark lanes’ that we saw last night. Now, those lanes are nice and bright and the funny thing is that the same shops look so different under daylight. We bought a few more dresses each (Jiak more than me) as well as some souvenirs for friends/ colleagues. We then caught the 6pm shuttle provided by the hotel back to our hotel to shower and change. I brought Jiak to the same restaurant in Jimbaran for seafood once more and the mood is really different when you’re the first table facing the sea. It was a lot quieter and nicer to have a conversation. Perhaps its the company too. Although Jiak and I have not maintained contact for several years, we could still have conversations and not be worried about long silences. Then came the very very good band. They sang well and you could tell that they really enjoyed singing and performing. Jiak and I sang along with them, all in good fun!
Tonight was clubbing day. We had made prior arrangements to have drinks and dance with my sayang Kadek. She brought her bro along to be her chaperone and driver. I felt kinda sorry for him because he really was there as that! He couldn’t speak English so there was no way we could pull him into our conversation and because we 3 girls went dancing, he was left with the task of taking care of our bags.

We went to “The Bounty” and it was supposed to be R&B/ Hip-hop night. That made me happy since I’m not into trance and house music to me is more for chilling to rather than dancing. They did play R&B music until the 3rd song. Weirdly, it changed to house. Uh…ok. What is it about me that attracts Indians? There was this Indian guy who obviously grew up either in the US or UK and wanted to dance with me and probably pick me up *rolls eyes*. I quite like the attention since I’ve never been picked up in Singapore while clubbing (Jiak claims its because I don’t show enough skin…which might be true). However, what made him irritating was that in order to dance opposite me, he danced and pushed Jiak away! So rude! When Kadek finally finished her drink and joined us, he did the same to her! I was sooo appalled and I really didn’t like that. Perhaps I should’ve done what I wanted to do, which was to stop dancing immediately and say to him, “You should’ve have done that to my friend. That’s rather rude.” Instead of doing so, we just went off to the opposite end of the dance floor.

Hmm…Jiak and I made this observation. There were LOTS of cute ang moh guys with buff bods but most of them were with their gfs and those were single were looking only at local girls for a quick ahem. There were of course, the old ang moh fogies who were looking for locals too.

Well, Kadek had to leave at 1am as she had to work the next day. Jiak and I could’ve stayed longer but I was tired and its just so uncool to dance with your bags (note to ang moh chicks who go to Attica: pls don’t dance with your bags!). So, we just grabbed a cab back.

Day 8 – 22 Apr, Thu

I can’t believe how time flies. I only had time for a nice leisurely breakfast before it was me heading off to the airport. There wasn’t much to do in the airport since I was feeling the pinch from the trip. As such, I thanked the fact that I brought a book along. Singapore….I’m home!!!

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