A Travellerspoint blog

October 2009

Bali, Indonesia

Island of Gods and Demons

Bali, the island of Gods and Demons is a truly holiday paradise from the sun and sea to ancient ruins and temple and of course last but not least a shopping heaven as well. We can get almost anything under the sun especially the handicrafts that of great quality.

As comparison to some of the wood carvings and painting in Bangkok or even Malaysia, I think the quality is better and the most important is that the price really affordable for any man on the street.

Other than recharging during the holiday, we will be learning the art of bargaining with the locals. At certain places, the price can be slashed up to 70% of the offered price. In fact, it’s kind of their culture for such kind of bargaining. I was told that colour of the plastic bags that were used to pack the stuffs purchased was some form of communication among the traders / sellers. Those hardcore customers who are very good in bargaining will be given black colour bag and those not so difficult to handle customer will be given another colour. Hehe… Interesting right? Anyway, it maybe just some rumours spread.

Accomodation
On the first night of my first visit to Bali, I was staying at Sheraton Laguna Bali. It was such a great resort and we had a great time there enjoying the hospitality of their staffs and the great surrounding around the resort. In fact, the swimming pool was so huge and it’s enveloping the whole resort. This reminded me of Sheraton Phuket. The similar kind of set up that was so familiar to me. We had a dinner buffet at the resort and enjoying the traditional dance. Even though the selection of food was quite limited, it still made the meal fulfilling to me. We enjoy the food as much as the traditional dance performance. Managed to get up to the stage and dance with them. Haha. It is such an interesting experience for me. In fact, when I visited Bangkok in year 2002 during the Loy Krathong Festival, I joined their dance as well. It’s fun and great as we just blend with them and enjoy the great moments of celebration. After the dance performance, unexpectedly there was a musical band moving around from table to table performing songs for the diners. I should said that most of the us enjoying the great time.

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Sheraton Laguna Bali - the bedroom

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The next day, we checked out from the resort and move to another resort – Bali Tropic. It’s an authentic kind of Balinese resorts with all the carvings of the demons and gods of bali. It was such a great hotel whereby, I felt localised. As compared to Sheraton, it’s too international kind of feel as I stepped in to the resort. Bali Tropic gave me different kind of impression of Bali. Full of mysteries and at a time it gave us fearful kind of feelings. In fact, the hotel operator was telling us about all those ghost stories when we checked that evening after visiting some of the interesting places in Bali. It really scared my other travel mates. It was very “pantang” to them to hear that entire weird and scary story about the place whereby we will be staying for at least two nights.

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The final place where we moved to before leaving Bali was Mecure Kuta. This resort is located next to Hard Rock Hotel, where all those party goers will rock every evening. It was so happening to stay in Kuta area. We can enjoy the sea view right from the hotel restaurant and the pool as well. The beach was another happening place at Kuta whereby people will be hanging over there from the early hours of the day till late in the evening. Most of the time the sea would be full of surfers and watching them surfing was another interesting experience for me. The way they glide on the water, the way the waves moved, the laughter’s of the surfers and of course the people just made me love Bali so much.

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Kuta Beach from the top of Mecure Kuta Resort

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Places of Interests

There are a lot of interesting places worth for our visitation during the holiday at Bali. For instance, Tanah Lot, Uluwatu, Mount Batur, Bedugul, Sukawati, Sangeh, Kintamani, Kuta, Nusa Dua, Jimbaran, Mengwi Village and etc.

The first temple visited during the trip is Uluwatu. It is located at Southwest of Bali. This temple is a precariously located at point of a sheer cliff on the island southern peninsula. Pura Luhur Uluwatu is one of the most holy and important temple in Bali and it commands a superb position on the tip of the sheer rocky promontory jutting out over the Indian Ocean. It is such a great experience to be there as I managed to enjoy the magnificent views over the serrated coastline that really stunning and this is another hot spot to view the sun set. The interior of the temple is not accessible to the public just like most of the temples in Bali. However, the temple structure is relatively small and any visitor will be able to view most part of the temple from the exterior walls.

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As dinner time was approaching, we were arranged to have a BBQ seafood dinner at Jimbaran. As we reached the beach, I noticed a lot of restaurant operators occupying the beach with all the tables being set up for customers to enjoy the sun set and of course the famous seafood BBQ dinner. In fact, I didn’t enjoy the meal as the food is just too spicy and the portion served also very little. Anyway, we just ate all of it as we were really hungry after travelling all the day visiting the interesting places of Bali.

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Performance during our dinner at Jimbaran beach
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Another interesting place is Pura Tanah Lot – Tanah means earth and lot means south or sea according to the locals, thus in a way Pura Tanah Lot is famously known as Temple of the Earth in the Sea. It is situated at southwest of Bali is built on a large rock cut off from the mainland at high tide and is a must visit place. We can view the beautiful sunset while enjoying the dinner. The high tide and low tide affects the visit as well. The best time to visit is late in the afternoon during low tide as we can reach the temple and get some blessing from the monk over there who will be praying for us with a small donation. The monk will sprinkle the sacred water and put some rice on the forehead and of course a flower petal on out ear. The temple itself is quite modest, consisting of two shrines with tiered roofs and two pavilions. It was too bad for us as we can’t access to the top of the temple as the access was restricted. We just manage to appreciate it from the entrance and refresh our tiresome with the sacred water.

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Bedugul is on the Bali’s highland retreats, situated 1400 metres above sea level. The three lakes of the area provide the water for the fields, rivers and springs on the plains below the highland. It was a tiring journey for us and for those with limited time in Bali can skip this place as nothing really special or spectacular about the place. If I were to know about it, I might as well change the plan to cover some other part of the Island. The world was so small that I met my ex-colleague of SC dining at the same place with me. It was great to meet her.

The recommended mountainous place should be Kintamani. The mountainous region around Kintamani, centring on the spectacular volcanic caldera of Mount Batur with its deep Crater Lake and bubbling hot springs, is rugged with a high and wild beauty. It is another must visit place for any visitor to Bali. Along the journey to Kintamani, the land rises steadily toward an almost featureless horizon with only the mountains – Gunung Agung and Gunung Abang in view to the east and northeast respectively. Then, the famous lake came to our sight. It was an amazing experience for us. Lake Batur is the largest lake in Bali and it is sacred to the Balinese. Homage is paid here to the life giving grace of the Lake at Pura Ulun Danu Batur. For those who want a different kind of vacation can take a trip up Mount Agung and it will be a great experience as well. For me, I just want a relaxing kind of vacation so I chose not to conquer the mountain.

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Other interesting places that my be visited, include the Pura Besakih - often said to be the greatest of all Balinese Sanctuaries – the most powerful, holiest and sacred of the all the islands found in Bali. It is also known as the Mother Temple of Bali. It is situated at Besakih village about 1000 metre above the sea level on the southwest of Mount Agung. Pura Besakih is not a single temple but a spawling complex consisting of many separate shrines and compounds, unified through ritual and history into a single sanctuary. There are 22 temples, spread along the parallel ridges over a distance of more than a kilometre. Few other places are Tirta Gangga, Bat Caves, Goa Gajah and etc.

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Food

In term of food, one of the unforgettable experience was looking for Babi Guling (roast suckling pig). It was very delicious and yummy. It was a great meal and a real Balinese food. Gianyar town is often said to be the best town in Bali to taste Babi Guling. We found Ibu Oka as one of the popular venue for tourists as well as locals in Ubud...
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Other than that, maybe it's the Dirty Duck at Ubud too. It's very nice but the portion is just too small. So we had other side order, e.g. special rice, bbq pork rib and it;s specialty dessert. it's such an unforgettable experiences for us.
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Other food that I had in Bali....
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Other Activities

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sun tanning

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white water rafting at Ayung River

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Hard Rock Hotel, Kuta, Bali

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Bali Bombing Memorial

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paddy field

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Neka Art Museum

Posted by terrence79 06:41 Comments (0)

Phuket, Thailand

sunny 31 °C

Phuket lies off the west coast of Southern Thailand in the Andaman Sea, approximately 890km from Bangkok. It is Thailand’s largest island at 550sq km, roughly the same size as Singapore, and is surrounded by many smaller islands that add a further 70 sq km to its total land area.

Phuket is separated from the mainland by the Chong Pak Phra channel at its northernmost point, where a causeway connects the island to the mainland. Phuket is quite hilly. There are a few peaks above 500m, the highest being Mai Tao Sipsong at 529m.

Many of these are covered in lush jungle. The lowlands consist of rice paddies, plantations of rubber, pineapple and coconut as well as the only significant area of rainforest remaining on the island, which is now protected as Khao Phra Thaeo Park. The most beautiful beaches are found on the West coast, separated by rocky coves and headlands.

The east coast comprises limestone shoals with only a few sandy beaches while spectacular limestone islands adorn the horizon. Coral gardens full of exotic marine life dot the emerald waters surrounding the island, although sadly much of Phuket's coral has been disappearing due to environmental pressures and human activities.” – Various Sources.

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My dive buddy and I checked in at Sheraton Phuket for a night stay. It was about half and hour from the airport. Upon reaching there we were served well by the friendly staffs and the environment was very nice and very well maintained. We were led to the reception whereby we were served with fruit juice and the gulps of the drink really made me felt comfortable, as the weather was quite hot. After completing the check in process we were taken to our room. It was located at level 3 of the buildings. The room was well maintained and it was so nice and comfortable.
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After settling down for a while we went out and linger around the hotel. The area is made up from few resorts or hotel sharing some basic facilities, i.e. beach, man made lake, and the boat ride that bring all the guests round the areas and stop at few places for sight seeing. We took the opportunities to check on other resorts located around the areas and all of these resorts are very luxurious and well maintained. I took the opportunity to drive the boat as well and of course that was under the close supervision of the staff who was responsible to bring the guests to tour around the area. Though it was not as challenging as motorboat ride and it worth a try.
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We had our dinner at one of the restaurant there. As we entered the restaurant, we were greeted by the friendly staffs, “sawadee ka” (ladies) and “sawadee krup” (men). We were directed to a table for two and the ambience was so nice and really great. Our table was overseeing the lake and it was so peaceful and beautiful. With such a great environment, I enjoy the meal greatly.

The next day, we check out from the hotel and move to Patong beach to enjoy the real scene of Phuket. Patong is the most famous - some would say infamous - beach resort on Phuket. With its wide variety of activities and nightlife, Patong is an ideal place to party, play and have fun. By day, Patong's curved sandy bay is a hive of activity with parasail and jet-ski operators, boat drivers, beach vendors and masseuses all vying for the attention of the many visitors relaxing on the beach chairs. The “chaotic” atmosphere may be overwhelming to first time visitor like me. I didn’t really explore the area in depth as I was spending most of the afternoon searching for tours and diving trips. In fact we booked for island tour to Koh Phi Phi, James Bond Island, Koh Pang Nga and other islands.

However, by the end of the day we changed our mind and we would like to take up the PADI Advance Diving License course offered by Scuba Cat and it would give me a new adventure into deep diving, wreck diving, night diving and etc. It was a two days course and I need to forgo all the activities at Phuket and stayed a night on the boat far away from Phuket.

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Besides, we also booked the Phuket famous stage show – Fantasea. It was a great show with great casts and props. It was a new experience as it gave me some insights about the history and culture of Phuket. I believe that it was a must for any first time visitor to watch the spectacular show, as the trip would be incomplete without such show. It reminded me about my trip to Pattaya in 2002. I missed the signature show there and sort of regret and want to be there again in the future to make the trip complete. Tiffanny is a very famous and great show in Pattaya and worth watching.

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After watching the show, we were sent back to our hotel and before we retired for the day, I went for a two-hours massage session and it was really relaxing and after that thinking of dropping by any of the pubs around that areas with all the beautiful girls and boys dancing on the table or the entrance but due to the next day trip for diving I just changed my mind and went back to the room and rest. Early of the morning, we were transferred to the jetty.

A two hours journey on the motorboat took us to the live-board boat. After settling down and get to our cabin bunks, we were given a brief introduction of what we were going to do for the day. There were three of us who were taking up the Advance Diving License certification and the other guy was an Australian. He was a year younger than me and once in a while he will forward some mails to me. Quite an interesting guy.

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Preparing for the exam....

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Writing test inside the water

We had our dives mostly around the Racha Yai island other nearby areas, which I cannot, really recalled by now. This exquisite island (sometimes known as Raja Yai Island) offers gentle easy diving for beginners with some challenging and fun drift diving for the more experienced diver. Beneath the water we managed to find a sloping rock face dotted with hard coral forests, and especially colourful blue Staghorn corals. Water depths range from 3 to 30 metres and visibility is generally around 20 metres, thus making Racha Yai a good dive site for both divers and snorkellers.

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I had 7 dives for the 2 Day 1 Night trip and among those dives, I personally felt that the night dive was the most interesting and yet scary kind of experience for me. The dive started about 7.45pm. The night was so dark and we were equipped with all the torches to assist us. It was a real pitch dark for me as I entered into the water. It was very cold as well and all the sudden I got a kind of fear within me as I felt helpless down under the water. I hardly see and my mind started with all sort of imaginations that sent the chills to my spine. I was praying hard that nothing bad would happens to me. Most of the time I was holding the hand of my dive buddy so that I would have some sense of security that I was with someone I know. However, my mind just running wildly and I even thought that I was holding the hand of something or someone else instead of my dive buddy.

In fact, I dun really enjoy the dive due to all the fearful feelings that run within me. The interesting part was that I need to use my instinct to survive down under the water and tried to stay calm all the time and to fight for all the fears that were haunting me. That night, the sea was unusually calm and hardly for me to spot any special sea creatures.

Maybe I was too worried about being in such a situation, which I hardly manage to control and I did not have the chance to observe spectacular views of the sea at night. After the dive I took a quick shower before preparing to end the day with a sound sleep, as I need to wake up very early the next day for a morning dive at about 7am.

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Overall, the advanced diving course exposed me to lot of new and useful knowledge, i.e. navigation under the water, water buoyancy test, deep diving and wreck diving skills as well. The wreck diving was another interesting experience for me. A lot of precautions need to be taken to ensure a safe and fun dive. As we descended to the sea using the rope as a guide, I was really excited and thrill by what was awaiting me down under. In fact, the wreck has been commercialized and lost its originality

Posted by terrence79 05:09 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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