I flew to Bali by QANTAS on a redemption ticket. Got a seat in Business Class due to the fact it was a British Airlines plane on loan to QANTAS and seeing the flights to Bali are only two classes and this plane configuration was for three classes, those booked on Business Class got First Class seating and a lucky few economy passengers got the Business Class section and I must say it was very easy to cope with! The flight was fine, the food typical QANTAS, but I reminded myself that it was a means of transport not a restaurant. The flight was full – where did all the passengers go to??? This was my ?? trip to Bali and I was there for a bit of a holiday and doing a bit of business. I’ve done the tourist thing so most of this ‘just back’ pertains to the Legion area.
No hassles at all with customs or immigration, no queues and no problems with my extra alcohol. Transport to my accommodation was waiting for me.
Upon recommendation from Si Badak (and a few others) I booked Sri Ratu. What a little oasis this place is. I stayed in one of the ground floor budget rooms, which was more than adequate, and for the price an absolute bargain. Checked out the upstairs rooms – must be some of the best value in Legion. As for their suites – WOW – what a great way to go for a long stay especially with the discounts they give. Also the villas across the gang are being done up. Two are completed – these are great for more info just email me. If you are planning to stay at Sri Ratu, pack a small box of dry cat food for the very noisy ginger tom – the girls there don’t understand why when they feed him rice he doesn’t eat it.
OBSERVATIONS (All prices are quoted in rp)
Painfully obvious that there was major lack of tourists. I’ve never seen the place so empty! What made it more obvious was the fact there are no hawkers on the streets (I’m one of those who is happy about this). There is such an abundance of stores you couldn’t wish for anything. If you want a leather jacket there are hundreds of place, shoes – more, just so many many stores with so much stock. Noticed some beautiful home furnishings and small statues, all very nice and well priced.
How the dodgy money exchanges make a living is beyond me – with all that has been written on the forum about these ‘dodgies’ no one uses them. Plenty of reputable places to exchange money. I take cash and use my ATM for convenience. Seems the women are more honest than the men. The maximum you can take out of an ATM in one transaction is 1.250k – at the machine just hit other amount key. You’ll only be charged one transaction fee.
Unusual shopping tips:
÷ Toothpaste and toothbrushes are dirt cheap – for families stock up.
÷ Take any negatives of photos that you want to get enlarged – so cheap and so quick from2.5k – 5k for a 5 x 7 re-print.
÷ For women – BYO tampons and hair conditioner and other hair care products – shampoo in brand names are plentiful, but other products aren’t. If you do see them, they are very expensive.
÷ Tootsies vs Bartering. What a joy it was to shop at Tootsies (Sanur)! I didn’t buy much but it was great to be able to have a good look around and the prices were very good. How I wish I had the room to bring back one of the gorgeous QS quilt for a mere 200k. Whereas when I went to the Kuta Art (?) Markets you dare not look sideways at a product without being pounced on. ALL the shopkeepers either a shop or a market stand are doing it very hard – almost to the point of desperation for a sale.
÷ Blue Taxis vs Other. Once again everything written about the Blue Taxis is true. No hassles at all. No nasty little pick up lines and the meter is turned on straight away. Even a taxi to the airport where on previous trips they charge a flat fee – Blue taxis turn on the meter and of course you have no problem tipping handsomely when the drivers are so honest.
A lot of people have spent a lot of money making their restaurant more modern. How depressing it was walking around and seeing no customers in these restaurants. It won’t be too long until the warungs will only be found on the side gangs as the rents are going through the roof and the warung owner will have no hope of paying them. There are far to many restaurant for me to pick out the better ones but Wayan and Friends is still a favourite and for Indian food I love Gajah Gajah on Rum Jungle Road (unfortunately the night I was there I was the only customer). The restaurants are very international now with food flavours from all over the world. Last week there was a Mexican Food Festival - weird???
Walking down Jalan Legion (JL)and Melasti I was amazed at all the new upmarket stores. Even a store selling very bad fake Louis Vuitton and Chanel handbags! (Boy were they bad.) Loji Supermarket in JL has closed down and now has new stores. Loji Hotel has been demolished (sorry Mitch) and even the Ketty Club has closed for a major renovation. There is just so much money being spent in Legion/Kuta. Personally I like it. There is plenty of traditional Bali to see so I see this make over as a good thing – just missing one thing – the tourists. The gang running down the back of JL has been improved and it seems very safe.
Internet is available everywhere ranging in prices from 6k per hour in Denpasar, 10K per hour above the silver shop on the corner of the new Legion Arcade to a huge amount of internet places ranging in price from 150 – 500 rp per minute. While on the internet in Bali I had a peak at the BTF. Laughed myself silly when I read someone describing Bali as Mexico with rice terraces – could see the comparison. To me – more like Las Vegas without the gamblers (ie take the gamblers out of Vegas and you haven’t much left).
I always enjoy an afternoon in Denpasar. Bit of shopping at Matahari then a ten-minute walk to Ramayana. Plus for a western junk food treat they have Wendy’s and Pizza Hut. . Third Floor at Ramayana is a great place for computer software, PSX games, VCD and DVDs.
Hired a driver to go to Padang Bai for the day. We accepted a price from a guy called Ketut who operates around J alan Utara Padma near Bali Dwira. (200k for the day) . We weren't after a guided tour so we were happy with our choice and he enjoyed the easy day out. It was a dream drive to Padang Bai via Sukawati market, Gianyar and Klung Klung . In fact I’ve never traveled so fast in a vehicle in Bali before – once again no tourists and no Lombok traffic. Had lunch at Pondok Wisata Kerti Beach Inn, upstairs overlooking the bay. 90k for the 3 of great and us including a large Bintang each. We regretted not doing an overnighter there. Great little upstairs/downstairs accom for 50k a night. Because Padang Bai is so small it seemed pretty busy. I imagine it would be chaotic during full on tourist season. Something weird though, be careful going for a swim, I sunk into to the sand to my knees.
Reading this back it isn’t your normal just back - perhaps more just an observation of the tourist market. The locals are desperate – how they long for the next AU school holidays to come. The mix of tourists was interesting. Probably 50% AU and the rest a mix of Europeans, North America/Canada and Japanese. If your idea of relaxing is lying on the beach – forget it – the hawkers are desperate and persistently badger you to buy from them. If you buy from your local shop, expect to be asked to buy more. I didn’t feel comfortable – I would have loved to be able to buy from everyone but of course this is totally impractical. Also while on the beach I was disturbed by the amount of older type men with young looking men/boys. I wouldn’t have mentioned this thinking that I am being over sensitive but I mentioned to a few friends back in AU and they too had noticed the same thing. I hope Bali isn’t turning into the new Thailand.
The quality of goods to purchase is improving every year. Seminyak is a very upmarket area with some innovative goods available. Also some classy restaurants and nightclubs.
Bali is still a shoppers paradise, how nice it would have been to bring back more my 30kg allowance!!! Sigh!!!
The party crowd are still around Poppies 1 & 2 so if this is the vacation you are after, stay just for sheer convenience.
The amount of ex-pats increases dramatically every time I visit. If you plan to relocate – be patient with the system and have plenty of money to maintain a basic lifestyle and of course for your visa runs do it. Also grab copies of the local ex-pat newspaper: Profit Advertiser and Bali Advertiser for plenty of information. I can’t help but be a little envious of those who make the transition.
Why are the tourist numbers down? My opinion is that Bali now has a lot of competition for the traveling $. Previously years Bali had no competition – but now for the same price you have a choice of Bangkok, Phuket, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Hong Kong. These packages probably look very attractive to the holiday maker, but what they might not know is that the cost of holidaying in Bali (ie eating, travel) is far cheaper in Bali than all the other destinations. Bali is going to have a hard time bringing back to their island the high amount of tourist is had in the 80s and 90s. But with the changes being made in the main tourist area (Legion/Kuta) obviously there are a lot of optimistic people about.
Customs were fine coming back to AU. I brought back packed pastes, painted wood and natural (clean) wood. Check your wood - forget about bringing in bamboo or any wood with the slightest hint of a borehole. Also forget about any untreated animal skins - eg drums. The customs don't confiscate goods to annoy you - they do it protect our country.
Also for those who haven't been to Bali for over a year and are in the Airline Clubs - be prepared for the new and updated Lounge area. It's quite lovely- they have done good - even being able to sit out on the terrace and have a cigarette or just enjoy the balmy breeze and watching the planes land. Mind you the food is still the same….