Last day in Bali

Thursday 11 September 2014

We are oblivious to  Greg and Katrina’s dramas of the previous night as we wake up, go to breakfast and have our second in room massage.  Its an extremely lazy day!  About 3:00 we venture out and decide to check out what there is to see if we head the other way down the street – answer broken pavement, smelly sewers and traffic congestion.

5:00 sees us heading over to Katrina and Greg’s villa to have a couple of drinks and say goodbye.  They have decided to cut their trip short by a day and leave Bali tonight.  To make matters worse Greg has left his cash card in an ATM.  They are both disillusioned with Bali.   Can’t say I blame them – we too are looking forward to leaving in the morning.

We head back to our Villa and decide to eat close by at Warung Bonita which was good and not expensive, then home to bed.

Temple blessings and thieves

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Today we are returning to Seminyak.  We are a bit sad to leave both Ubud and Alaya.  After breakfast the others head out to arrange a car to take us back to the coast, while I hit the computer and catch up on my work emails.

Alaya has been abuzz for the last two days as they are planning for a temple blessing ceremony – those who have been to Bali know that every hotel, every shop, every home has a temple.  Offerings to the gods are everywhere – on the steps outside shops, on footpaths, perched on steps.  At the hotel it seems that no expense is being spared for the ceremony.  Yesterday a couple of stages were erected and decorated, and this morning elaborate offerings start getting piled up around the temple and a large band is playing traditional music.  Everyone is dressed in their finest traditional attire.

Ayala temple offerings

Ayala temple offerings

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Suckling pig

Suckling pig

There seems to be a bit of confusion about when it’s starting we have been told 12:00, 3:00 and 1:00.

At 12:00 we say goodbye to the paddy field ducks that have kept me amused for hours, check out and head up the road for lunch .

Goodbye little ducks

Goodbye little ducks

We end up in a organic joint with a laid back Byron Bay feeling.  There is everything you could possible want on the menu – from smoothies with buckwheat shots to toasties, Mexican, Italian, Indonesian, Thai, Middle Eastern – you name you can get it!  All choices are decidedly  delicious.

Urap Pakis - Fern Tip Salad

Urap Pakis – Fern Tip Salad

The drive to Seminyak is pleasant at first – through small villages and paddy fields but before long we are stuck in traffic in Denpasar.  But eventually we make it back and are dropped off at Kaya Raja Villas.  Greg and Katrina continue to the Bali Ginger Suites where they have a villa for 2 nights.

For dinner we are making our 3rd attempt to go to Sarong a fancy restaurant very close to our place.  The hotel has tried to book 3 times and have been told that the only available time is 10:00 – bugger that.  Greg has managed to get onto the owner who has said to just turn up at 7:30 as they always keep a few tables for walk-ins.  And sure enough we arrive and Greg and Katrina have snagged a table and are already into the chili and lime margaritas.  Umm better get me one of those!

Katrina and Greg

After some confusion about what and how much to order we make our selection.  The menu has a strong Indian influence but covers most of Asia.  Everything is delicious – we can see why this place is in such demand.  Our selection includes:

• Naan bread stuffed with lamb & yoghurt
• Signature crispy pork belly with sichuan chilli salt, tamarillo and tamarind sauce
• Sichuan style red braised pork cheek with black pepper soy lotus root chilli and Sichuan pickled cucumber
• Southern Goan curry of prawns with okra curry leaves fenugreek yoghurt and kerala spices
• Tandoori snapper pahadi marinated in mint chutney yoghurt garam masala and green chilli
• Sauteed green beans with sambal ulek
• Naan bread
• Jasmine rice

The décor is very swanky and a luxurious retreat from the hussle and bustle of Seminyak.

We only have a short walk back to our villa and Greg & Katrina head in the other direction.  They had only gone about 100 meters when Katrina’s bag is snatched from her arm by some punk on a scooter.  She was dragged several meters and ended up face down on the footpath/road.  Cash, credit cards, purse, phone, camera – all gone!  They then spent the next several hours at the police station filing a report and then cancelling  cards etc.  The police confirm this happens all the time – every night in Seminyak.  But usually not that early in the night. Bali is changing for the worse!

It could have been me! Anyone.

Dala Spa

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Our first morning in Ubud and, another big breakfast.  The good thing about Alaya is that it is not buffet style, so we are not tempted to eat our body weight (again).  Over breakfast we decide the boys (Howard & Greg) will go for a walk out to a villa that Greg’s family stayed in on their previous visit – this turns out to be a 3 hour trek.  Katrina head up the hill to look at the shops and I tag along.  There are lots of yoga gear shops and small shops all selling slight different versions of the same thing (or are they all the same – I’m not much of a shopper, so I’m not paying that much attention).  Couple of hours, a dose of heat stroke and one blister later I head back to the hotel for my Empress Facial.

The Dala Spa is tucked away at the back of the hotel grounds overlook a small stream.  After a friendly greeting and a glass of some excellent ginger / lemongrass tea, Siriyana takes me down to the Cala Lily room.  First she washes my feet in a fixture of herbs, spices and flower and explains the treatment process – we are using just natural products.

Dala Spa

Dala Spa


Cala Lily Room

Cala Lily Room

As the brochure says “This royal facial uses fresh and natural ingredients.  The face is cleansed and exfoliated with a lavender, chamomile and honey scrub.  Sliced cucumber is used to tone the skin and then sweet almond oil is slowly massaged into the face.  The ritual continues with a steaming mini pouch followed by a traditional Indonesian rice pearl mask.  The chilled surface of a jade roller is then used to caress the skin and close pores.  A soothing balm is applied to the lips.”

Sounds good doesn’t it. 75 minutes of pure indulgence.  By the time they finish I really do feel like an Empress!

We spend the rest of the afternoon on our balcony looking out over the rice paddy fields, reading and watching the ducks.

Some pre-dinner drinks with the Robson’s and then its out for dinner.  Katrina has selected LaRoMona Tapas – it’s a bit hard to find and when we do get there its very small, hot and crowded. We escape quickly and decide on Pica a South American restaurant.  I know “South American” in Ubud?  Well, you can’t eat Indonesian ALL the time (there is not that much variety).

Pica turns out to be a pretty good choice, – the margaritas are delicious (if a bit on the small size), the bread and salsa is really good, the empanadas (two types vegetarian and meat) yummy and our mains of octopus (for H) and fish (for J) are beautifully presented and perfectly cooked.

Fish - Pica style

Fish – Pica style

Octopus

Octopus

We decide to have a few more drinks at a nearby bar to listen to a local musician singing some old classics before we head back down to the hotel.

Ubud here we come

Monday 8 September 2014

Today we are forsaking Seminak for a two day stint in Ubud.  Lets get outa here! So we pack up a small bag and go to reception.  The taxi driver from two days ago is already waiting for us in the carpark as pre arranged. We made the arrangments when he dropped us off from Nusa Dua – we couldn’t remember what he looked like, didn’t exchange phone numbers, didn’t even know his cab number – but there he is waiting. I hope its him!

It is a 1.5 hour drive to Bali – the distance is not great but the traffic is very slow.  We have asked him to stop at a temple along the way.

What this says

Whatever this says is where we are!

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As far as Balinese temples go this is pretty modest and we quickly return to the car and had off to Ubud.

Alaya Resort on Jalan Hanoman, Ubud is great.  The staff are once again very friendly and greet us as if they are actually pleased we are staying with them.  We are quickly checked in, and find our friends Greg and Katrina from Sydney in the restaurant having a snack.  We keep them company while they eat and then take off to explore our rooms.

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We have a private balcony that overlooks paddy fields, it is end of the dry season and the fields have already been harvested and look a   bare and brown. But this does not detract from their attraction – it is very peaceful watching the swallows dive over the fields and the ducks foraging amongst the rice stalks.

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The other great surprise in the room is a great big round bath with a bamboo water sprout.  I’m definitely going to indulge in a looooong soak later!

It’s now time to grab some lunch.  Greg leads the way down the street and around the corner to a café called Tropical View, an open plan café that also looks out over paddy fields.  Bintang for the boys, margaritas for the girls and a selection of dishes – my chicken in banana leaves is fabulous and the sate sauce is something very special – very dark and packed with flavor.  The bill is only about $A60 for the four of us (and that includes 4 cocktails and 2 large bintangs) not bad for the best meal we have had in Bali to date!

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Back at the hotel we decide to head down to the pool for an hour or two.  Afterwards a freshen up and duty free in room drinks with Greg and Katrina on their balcony.

Drinks with Katrina

Drinks with Katrina

We then head off to find Wayun Café, which turns out to be a twenty minute walk.  This restaurant has some good recommendations.  We are escorted through the large airy restaurant to the rear gardens – they seem to go on forever.   Our table is on a patch of grass, surrounded by tropical plants and a small water feature nearby.   We select a range of local dishes including crispy duck (crispy and stringy).  The food is pretty good but not nearly as good as that at Tropical View.

Cafe Wayan

Cafe Wayan

We decide to walk back to the hotel the other way around the block and once again Greg forges the way.  There are some twists and turns, a shortcut crossing a playing field and we are all wondering if we are even headed in the right direction. Eventually sense prevails and we ask where we are – yep we are on the right street headed in the right direction.  Woohoo!  Before long the hotel is in sight and we are home safe and sound.

Seminyak at Sunset

Sunday 7 September2014

The villa has a hard bed – real hard.

In the morning we spend the morning exchanging some exciting news from home and lazing by the pool before we head up to the restaurant for the buffet breakfast. Then its back to the villa to wait for our 2:00 in-room massages.

Relaxing by the pool

Relaxing by the pool

At about 5:00 we head out to the beach to watch the sunset and have dinner at Gado Gado. The traffic leading down to the beach is unbelieveable – the road to Seminyak Beach is a little lane that is barely wide enough for two cars to pass and has cars parked on both sides as well. Our taxi has to squeeze down the middle while avoiding scooters going in every direction.

At the beach we are blown away by the crowds walking, playing and just lazing. There are dozens of bars set up along the beach front with bean bags and low tables, packed with tourist enjoying the sunset, while locals are crowded by the water line playing football and other games on the sand.

Beach bars

Beach bars

beach bars

beach bars

and more beach bars

and more beach bars

We walk down the beach for a while in an attempt to work up an appetite. When we come to a creek (it smells dreadful) outlet running across the beach and into the water we turn around and head back to the restaurant.

Seminyak at sunset

Seminyak at sunset

Attention - dirty beach

Attention – dirty beach

Gado Gado has an open deck that looks out over the beach. Unfortunately there is a walk way between the deck and the beach and there is a horde of noisy scooters, golf buggies and people on the walkway. Its not exactly peaceful.

Ah the serenity

Ah the serenity

After the serenity of the Conrad at Nusa Dua we find the hectic, noisy, bustle of Seminak quite annoying. Luckily as the sun sets the traffic on the walkway dies down and we can sit back and relax with our drinks. I’m indulging in a “Spicy Beach”, a yummy combination of vodka, ginger, lime and chilly.

Dining at Gado Gado

Dining at Gado Gado

We can clearly see the stream of planes approaching Denpasar from the south west and we entertain ourselves speculating which one contains our friends Greg and Katrina from Sydney whom we are meeting in Ubud tomorrow.

For dinner H has the Slipper Lobster and the Croquettes, I have the Fricassee salad of squid, chorizo and cannelli beans, and the Pork “3 Ways”. Everything is absolutely delicious. With the ++ on the price that we are getting used to it ends up being a quite an expensive meal (in Bali terms) but well worth the money.

H & J

H & J

There is a sign in the ladies toilet cubical that cracks me up…., only in Bali! How can you shower in a toilet? Wait, I don’t want to know.

Ladies toilet sign - WTF?

Ladies toilet sign – WTF?

Back to Reality

Saturday 6 September 2014

Its Saturday and we are leaving the Conrad and heading over to the Kayu Raja Villas at Seminyak.   The reason we came to Bali this year is because we took a deal with Scoopon for a week in Bali.  Or as H likes to put in 7 nights in hell!

Before we check out we head down the beach to see what’s around.   Within 100 metres of the resort grounds real Bali become apparent.  Up  to now we have been cloistered in groomed luxury.  Reality is piles of rubbish, overgrown derelict lots, half built sidewalks, air pollution and mangy dogs.  Welcome back to reality.

Its all too much and we return to the resort for our remaining few hours.  We had a quick swim at the Suites pool, breakfast and in room checkout.  Very cool.  The hotel arranges for a taxi to take us on the 30 minute drive to Seminyak.

We arrive around 1.00 pm and check in to our not so luxurious room.  Oh well, you can’t always be the King!

Our one bedroom villa is a townhouse with a private pool.  The lounge/kitchen area is totally open at the back and overlooks our  pool.  As we arrive the pool boy is there retreaving an empty bottle of vodka from the pool.  Ummm someone was have a party!

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We decide to go out for a walk.  It’s been years since we have both been in Seminyak and its typical frantic Bali.  Terrible footpaths, lots of cars and scooters and tattooed skanks from the western suburbs.  We stop off at Petitenget for a few drinks and then continue our walk.  J decides she must have a pedicure and manicure and we find a small salon with a some lovely girls who do a great job and are very friendly and receptive.  H even gets a bonus foot massage, the chubby girl from Suribaya had him howling and cringing, much to everyone else’s amusement.  We have a great time.  We head off and find another bar and a few more drinks.  Its getting late-ish and we head back to the hotel for a change and off to dinner.  The restaurant J has picked out (Sarong) is full so we continue down the road a bit and get a table at Warung Bonita.  The food is good, a bottle of local wine, spring rolls, king prawns in rendang with rice and nasi goring.  All up about 480,000 rupiah – about A$45.

Getting into Bali mode

Friday 5 September 2014

We woke up early, probably went to sleep too early.   After H indulges in a couple of coffees from the very good in-suite coffee machine, we head off down to the beach for a swim.  The water is pretty clear and clean, as is the sand.  H hits the water and then drags me in for a dip.  The water is surprisingly cool (everyone knows I’m a wimp when it comes to cold water) but it is lovely in the water.

Early morning on the beach

Early morning on the beach

We chill out on the beach on a lounge for a bit longer and debate the benefits of the hotel.  The Conrad Bali is so much better than we imagined.  I want to stay another night and H thinks it’s a great idea.  Hang the expense, and it is expensive!  We make the arrangements to stay in our suite and head off to breakfast.

The staff are very accommodating and the breakfast spread is way to tempting for us to show any kind of self restraint.  After an hour of solid grazing we move 10 metres to the private pool for “Conrad Suites” guests”.  We jag a really nice cabana with plenty of pillows and shade.   The next thing we hear an almighty crash and look up to see a large tree has come crashing down on the path we have just walked along!

By the pool

By the pool

Bali mode

Bali mode

H wanders off and finds the Spa and comes back with a deal for a massage for the two of us in a private cabana overlooking one of the many water features of the hotel.

Before we know it, its 1.30 and time for our massage.  H’s massage is with Ketut, a girl Ketut and she is very good!  My massage is with Tinni who also does an outstanding job.

Janet and Tinni

Janet and Tinni

Then we have a tour of the spa facilities and a dip by the exclusive spa pool.  Yes, that’s the fourth pool so far.

After all the excitement of the day we need some vodka.  We eventually head up for afternoon tea, which is one of the bonus’s of Conrad Suites guests and part of the room rate.  Plenty of cakes, tiny sandwiches and other sweets with your choice of any beverage you can imagine. H opts for a banana smoothie and I get a hot chocolate. The staff are very warm and friendly, H has a running joke with one of the waiters about buying a kilo.

The day is slipping away and its cocktail time.  So off we go upstairs for some cocktails (also part of the Conrad Suite freebies). They are very generous and we indulge for two hours of free cocktails, margaritas for J and white wine for H, plus an assortment of yummy snacks (once again our lack of self control is embarrassing).

We are now well lubricated and feeling hungry – well, not really but it is dinner time and we didn’t have lunch.  There is a Balinese restaurant in the resort called Suku, so we decide to go there for dinner.

When we arrive at Suku there is a performance by a Balinese theatre group, a traditional ceremony called Kecak Dance. Men are seated chanting whilst various traditional costumed dancers perform.  It’s very elaborate and like nothing we have seen or heard before.  The dancers are telling the story of Prince Rama and his wife Princess Sita, exiled to the forest where an evil demon Ravana disguised as a golden deer lures the beautiful Princess away, the Prince and Vanara the Monkey God helps find and save the princess. And the live happily ever after.

Kecak dancing

Kecak dancing

Check dance troupe

Check dance troupe

Howard and the golden deer

Howard and the golden deer

After the performance we partake of the Indonesian buffet which includes, suckling pig, satay, chicken in Balinese spices, fish in banana leaves, gado gado and host of other yummy dishes.

Now there is nothing left to do but waddle back through the beautiful lantern lit gardens to our room.

Nusa Dua

Thursday 4 September 2014

We are off to Bali and places beyond.  It’s an early start for our 8.45 Jetstar flight on the 787 Dreamliner.  Up the front off course!

De Plane is a dream. Very modern and quiet!

Dreamliner

Dreamliner

I love holidays

I love holidays

Naturally Jetstar is delayed and we eventually get away 45 minute late.

Arriving in Denpasar at 1.30 pm local time, the airport has been renovated and we rip through Visa on Arrival.  Thank God the process is a lot quicker than it used to be (now US$35) and eventually passport control, bag pick up, then customs and we are outside looking for our driver.  His name is Marco and soon we are on our way to the Conrad Bali.  Not our usual choice of a place to stay as it is a large rambling property on the beach with different types of accommodation and many, many pools.  We usually go in for the smaller and more intimate resorts.

It’s a Wotif mystery deal and boy have we lucked out!  We have this huge suite (#2512), probably the biggest and best we have ever had. Lounge room, kitchen, dining room, bath and dressing rooms, and a huge bed, it’s a marble floored palace!  And don’t we feel very special.

Conrad Suites bedroom

Conrad Suites bedroom

Conrad Suits lounge and kitchen

Conrad Suits lounge and kitchen

After a few duty free vodkas to “settle the nerves”, J and I decide to go for a walk along the beach and check out the rest of the resort and find a Bintang or two.  As we wander down the beach we witness a couple getting married – no guests just a photographer and lots of hotel staff throwing petals in the wind.

Beach wedding

Beach wedding

But first we need some cash, so its out to the street, where we find an ATM.  After 10 tries I give up.  Fortunately I still have my card.  I only have $20 aussie on me and exchange that in the shop for a better rate than the NAB and buy a Bintang (20,000 rupiah) and some mystery snack.  After which we wander back to the hotel for a dip in the pool, a few more drinks and relax by the main pool area (which has two different pools) before dinner.

Cocktails by the pool

Cocktails by the pool

Conrad Nusa Dua

Conrad Nusa Dua

From our sun lounges we watch the staff slowly (very slowly) put together a buffet for a function by the beach. There is a horde of hotel staff, wandering around bringing everything out – one plate at a time it seems.

There are two big functions on tonight. The function by the beach and an Indian wedding (we have already discovered the  large modern chapel called Infinity right by the beach).  The Indian wedding has booked out the main restaurant, so we go for the Japanese restaurant, Orin.  The food is pretty good with lots of fresh sushi and sashimi plus all the cooked dishes and miso soup too!  But no sake! – only in Bali.

Between the time difference and the early start we can barely keep out eyes open so it’s back to our luxurious room for a great nights sleep.