|Wow, planning our wedding anniversary trip back already! Well, as the unwritten rules of the Forum dictates, all readers must post "just back" reports upon their return from Bali. I do this not for the aforementioned rule, but as a "thank you" to the previous posters and regulars that have answered many a questions.
We were looking for a honeymoon location where one could find a nice beach, do some hiking, biking, snorkeling, and experience a new culture. We were using miles for the trip and were not concerned with distance because we would upgrade to business class. The choice is obvious and the exchange rate for the US dollar was a big bonus!
The goal here was to spend time on the beach locations and then move into the central region. We decided to start in Nusa Dua, move up to Lovina and finish off in Ubud. I read all the postings on Nusa Dua and felt that this was the best place to slowly enter the culture. Lovina was for more beach, to get a better understanding of the culture by mixing in with the locals and away from the crowds. Ubud was the place to shop and check out the cultural arts.
Nusa Dua Beach Hotel:
I read that this place had the best representation of Bali architecture in Nusa Dua and sure enough it was. The rest of the hotels in the area were pretty nice but I felt that NSBH did it the best. We paid 1.2 million rupiah a nite for a deluxe room with a buffet breakfast included. Our room was great; we had a corner room with a balcony that wrapped around overlooking the garden. The staff was friendly and courteous. I did not see any downsides for this property. The health spa is rated as one of the best and it was. If you are a runner, run along the beach and you can check out all the other properties. Food is expensive relative to anything outside the hotel. With that in mind we ate like pigs for b-fast(it was a buffet) and skipped lunch. The only odd item was the slippers they provided for the room, they were way too small. Yes the Nusa Dua area is isolated, but if thatís what you are looking for, then its perfect. Itís a great place to get started if you want to avoid "culture shock" or just starting your Honeymoon and not planning to venture out of the hotel room...
This was the unknown out of the hotels we booked in advance. Not many people stay in the Lovina area to begin with and I just went online and looked for a reasonable place. We settled on SL and we lucked out. We paid 650,000 rupiah a nite for a "cottage" that included bfast. Going from Nusa Dua to Lovina is a big change. The hotel is not as elegant and very few guest. It was spooky at first but we actually began to enjoy having the run of the place. Forget the spa at this joint, better off with the beach massage folks. Thanks to Ringo and his friends for making us feel welcome. I suggest you contact him if planning to go to Lovina. Again there are many other places to stay in this area if your budget is limited, but if your on your honeymoon and would like to be a bit more comfortable I would recommend this place as one of the better ones.
This is the area where we were willing to spend some major dollars without going broke. I did a lot of research on the top end places and decided to go with Natura Resort & Spa. Why Natura, we wanted a place were if we spent some money we would feel like the King & Queen. We rationalized that staying at 4 Seasons we would only be able to afford the Duke & Duchess level. We were not disappointed at 3.3 million rupiah/nite! I read past postings and as recommended we booked a riverview villa(only 2 of these) with dipping pool. The views are awesome and we spent many hours lounging looking at our great view. I believe that they have 12 or 14 villas and we only saw 4 other couples max while we were there. Again we had this place to ourselves. Check out their web site for more info. If you want a place nestled in the jungle hills with lots of privacy this is it. Folks going on your honeymoon, I highly recommend it.
Thatís all for now, please check back on the next installment that will have driver, things to do & see, and shopping info. Please feel free to email me with questions and keep in mind that we are paupers who experienced the life of the upper class(translation, if youíre a high crust type, you may not be as impressed as we were with the accommodations). Additionally the rates given were for the low season and we did book them before making the trip. I wish you luck in getting better rates but if you do please donít tell me. Iím pretty happy with what we paid and experienced. You know, kind of like bartering with hawker and feeling good with your purchase and then come to find out that you paid way too much from the next hawker that comes by.
This is a touchy subject on the Forum since praising individual drivers appears as nothing but advertising to some readers. With that in mind, Iíll praise several drivers. After going through Haroldís list of drivers (Thanks for the awesome list Harold), I emailed what I considered the top 3 with the intention of using the 1st one to reply. Wayan Merta emailed me back within 14hrs(pretty good with the time difference from the US). We gave him our dates of arrival and towns where we would be staying and he promptly called us on our arrival day. Since this was our honeymoon, we told him that we wouldnít need a driver for the first couple of days and planned on using him on the 3rd day. Wayan drives one of those Toyota Kijangs (your basic SUV in the US but with little wheels) and has a sidekick named you guessed it, Wayan(we will call him jr. to eliminate confusion). These 2 were a great team, whenever we pulled over to take pics, jr. would jump out and make sure we were safe from other traffic or lead us to where we were going while Wayan looked for parking. The best illustration of Wayanís abilities as a guide would be the 1st day when we pulled up to a crowded parking lot at a Balinese dance place and I commented that there were a lot of tourist and to blow off the dance thing for later. As a good consultant should, Wayan asked if we wanted to stay clear of crowds and started to offer suggestions that would keep us away from the throngs of tourists. That my friends was a major hit for our Bali holiday. Our experiences were not tainted with crowded tourist and frenzied hawkers. We had a wonderful experience with Wayanís services and would use him again. I will not encourage him to others simply on the selfish act that I do not want him to be booked on my next visit. If you really want to use him, Iíll let you find his info on the Forum archives. If you still canít find it, I may email you with it if needed.
A great example of Wayan being busy, is when we where heading up to Lovina from Nusa Dua and he arranged for his cousin Nyuan(SP) to drive us up. Nyuan was an excellent driver but his English was not as refined as Wayans. No problem for us because it gave us a chance to practice our Indonesian Bahasa. Yeah, thats a problem with Wayan, his English is too good and you donít get to practice the language because Wayan makes it too easy to speak English. So if Wayan is busy, he knows others that he can recommend. Nyuan spoke very highly of his cousin and really was honored to help his cousin and us out.
The 3rd driver we used was Ketut Juari, email@example.com. We used him around Lovina after Ringo introduced us to him. If youíll be in that area, heís a good one to use and knows the area very well. He also has a boat(for dolphin watching & snorkeling), yes your one-stop shop.
OK, the food there was unbelievable and then when you consider the cost, what a deal! Nasi Goreng is all I have to say. I practically had it everyday and my wife thought I was nuts, but one has to try the same plate at each restaurant to get an accurate assessment of the food. Here are our favorites:
Jimbaran Beach - Bambooís, we followed WhiteDevilsí advice and had a wonderful meal. My wife and I polished of a 2 kilo red snapper and a 2 kilo lobster, yum.
Lovina - Sea Breeze
Ubud - Casa Luna, Lotus Cafť and Bebek Beguls
I miss my daily fruit intake, but I did buy my year supply of Nasi Goreng spice mix.
Please keep in mind that we were on our honeymoon and were not out to see the top ten even though we had plenty of time to see them all.
Tanah Lot - Great temple, this is one of those places that Wayan(driver) took us to at off hours without the crowds. Best thing was all the vendors were napping and we had the place to ourselves.
Git Git waterfalls - this deserves another wow. It was weird to be able to get that close to a huge fall without safety railings and signs covering the place.
Hot Springs near Lovina - Just west of Lovina, the place was very relaxing to the body and eyes. The surrounding vegetation made this place. We are from the city so anything green goes a long way with us.
Lake Bratan water temple - picturesque lake and temple.
Bali Bird park - Wasnít all excited to see this but it was a surprise. Fruit bats were cool along with Komodo dragon. Biggest surprise was the restaurant, prices were reasonable and good food to boot.
Sunrise hike on Ganung Batur - getting up early is the only challenge here and the rewards of the views are well worth it. If a little boy starts hiking with you, I recommend buying a bottle of coke from him right away as the price goes up after he has carried it to the top.
Dolphins (Lovina) - Well, we didnít really see any dolphins when we went out but they tell me that they are there. Sure they are, maybe we will see them next time. Either way it was a beautiful sunrise boat cruise. Note, you do not pay if dolphins do not show up. We still gave Ketut some money since we looked at it as a boat cruise.
We also did a drive by of all the small art/craft villages of Mas, Celuk etc. for shopping which is the next section.
OK, my wife shopped and I did the bartering. I guess this worked b/c I didnít get as bored b/c I knew I would have control on what was spent. Yeah right.
We bought sarongs galore and all the little things at the market in Ubud. My wife loved the fabrics, from the batiks to the ekat(sp). Well my favorites were the stonecarving picture frame and Batik dragon stamp we bought. We saw a smaller version of our stonecarving in Singapore and it was selling for US$200, we bought it for $13. The problem we encountered was all the awesome Bali crafts we could buy. We like to buy a single item for our livingroom from each country we visit, but after this one we need a whole room for the Bali stuff.
I now know what everyone means by the smells of Bali, there were flowers everywhere. Does anyone know what item makes the offerings so fragrant?
What rainy season? It rained mostly up in the mountains and in Ubud it rained a couple of days from 5pm to 7pm. Not a problem when that was nap time any way.
Best deal for changing money was at the airport. Plastic money is great especially when getting soaked at Git Git waterfall.
Surprised to say that we only saw one dog roadkill out of all the driving we did. With lots of traffic in the cities we were glad to see that road rage does not exist.
The people are way too friendly. Coming from Chicago, a big city of 3 million, one does not trust strangers and there were many a times I thought that wow we are putting our lives in some strangers hands that could totally rip us off. Well it never happened and not that Iím telling others not to be cautious, but we were and we did not have any problems.
No Bali belly!
Get as many massages as you can, canít beat the price. If youíre particular about type of massage oil, bring your own for them to use on you.
We miss our daily game of "will it be a naked man or woman" bathing on the river on our commute between our hotel and Ubud proper. I do not miss the scent of shoe polish.
Will we go back? We hope to.