Well, now that the bags have been unpacked, put away and the goodies proudly displayed as a boastful reminder to all and sundry of where we have been, I feel so miserable that our holiday really is finally over. It doesn't help that it's a freezing winter here and I've got a rotten cold to boot. The only cure (apart from going back of course) is to relive the memories with a nice long 'Just Back' report, so grab a cuppa, get comfy and come with me!
(All dollars quoted are New Zealand dollars)
How anybody can survive an inaugural trip to Bali without this travel forum, live to tell the tale and then return home hungry for more is beyond me. I spent months religiously reading the posts and taking notes but Bali was still a bit of a shock to my system. I had been worried about the unknown, whether I would like it or not, whether the two weeks would be a nightmare like it is for some. Fortunately, being an optimist, I trusted all those on here who rave about the place and I'm pleased to say that my misgivings were unfounded and we had a whale of a time. We all loved it. I wouldn't recommend Bali to all and sundry as everyone's idea of a good holiday is different, but for us it was highly entertaining with something interesting happening around every corner.
On Saturday 26 May my husband, 'Himself', and I (wrong and right sides of 40 respectively), along with daughter 'Pickles' (13) and son 'Tom' (11) flew from Christchurch, New Zealand to Auckland before transferring to Garuda for the flight direct to Bali. We chose Garuda rather than the option of going with Qantas from Christchurch to Bali via Sydney, because their return flight meant suffering a horrendous 10 hour transit wait at Sydney and a late Sunday afternoon arrival which was not at all appealing. Flying with Garuda was also cheaper, even with the cost of getting from Christchurch to Auckland.
Anyway, despite having the frighteners put in me by the forum Garuda-knockers we were pleased with our decision as we had excellent flights both ways. The food was nice and the staff really work their butts off, constantly handing out drinks, blankets, food, more drinks, etc etc. I don't think they ever sat down. Yes, we did have over an hour's delay on our return, due to having to wait for a planeful of transit passengers from Jakarta but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The pilot "put his foot down" on the way home and the flight was only seven hours long, unlike the ten hours it took going there (I still marvel at that!) and went very quickly in comparison. I also consider it worth mentioning the perfect landing we had on our return
to Auckland airport, it was the smoothest I have ever had in my life. I didn't even feel the plane touch the ground, nor was there the usual lunge
forward when the brakes went on. The Garuda pilot got ten out of ten for that one!
Once in Bali we zipped through customs/immigration upon arrival at 5:30pm and the few porters hanging around the luggage carousels weren't the problem I was expecting/dreading. We just said 'No thank you' to the only one who came to 'help' and he stepped back with a smile and asked us where we were from. Changed $20 at the money changers for the taxi fare, went outside, turned right to the taxi booth and got the 15,000rp for the voucher to Tuban, climbed into the first taxi we came to and away we went. Our eyes were on stalks trying to see as much as possible of this totally different world and we soon found out what everyone means when they talk of the traffic being organised chaos. Fortunately there were too many other things to see to be freaked out by that just yet.
At the Bali Rani in Tuban the staff were just as others have said: friendly, efficient and helpful. However, even though we had booked two interconnecting rooms for the four of us and I had emailed them a few weeks previous to remind them, we were given adjoining rooms and the children were not happy with that arrangement, being in a strange country. Nor was I as I had specifically chosen the Rani in order to have two rooms - the children are too big for us to all fit in one room - and the Rani fitted our budget in this repect. Back to the reception desk we go and after a bit of a 'discussion' we were told they would do what they could the next day. Sure enough, the next afternoon we were moved a few doors along to interconnecting rooms and I was relieved that the taps in them worked much better than the previous ones. For those interested we had rooms 108 & 109 on the ground floor in the older part of the hotel around the Lotus Pond rather than a pool view room, but that didn't bother us. It was less than 50 metres around the
corner to the pool and our outlook was just as pretty, if not more so. The Bali Rani hotel is very nice with a gorgeous pool and we were happy with our choice of accommodation. As far as we could tell there were very few of its 102 rooms vacant so it must be a very popular little hotel, but it never looked horribly busy.
Hey White Devil: remember that list of creepy crawlies you did for me? You forgot to add that ghastly wasp thing that had overdosed on a growth
hormone. One of them came into our room shortly after arriving and man, it must have loved the taste of the Mortein flyspray! We gave it a good 10 seconds' worth then when Himself leaned over to see why it wouldn't drop dead off the curtain it turned on him! Gee, I've never seen him move so fast - backwards!! Unfortunately for him, in his haste he fell over and landed on his elbow on the very hard tiled floor. Within ten minutes his poor elbow was the size of a tennis ball and felt like it was cracked. The wasp thingy got no mercy then; one swift flick of a sandal and it really was 'curtains'! And I'm still peeved off that Himself wouldn't let me dip into my massive first aid kit to bandage him up and put a sling on. What a waste!
From that point on, we jam-packed as much into our days as we possibly could and still came home thinking we must go back again to see this or that. Here is what we did:
Oh boy!! We shopped until we dropped, and then I made the family shop just a little bit more...! We didn't get to Tootsies so we had to rely on past forum reports and our own intuition of what things were worth when bargaining. We bought the usual teeshirts, shorts, sarongs, watches, leather bumbags, etc and stocked up on those really comfy beach sandals ("Nike", "Adidas", etc).
Pickles stocked up on bracelets, necklaces, bikini, untold fish ornaments, mobiles, pictures, etc and had her nails done twice down at the beach, the second time being the day we came home to show off to her friends.
Tom had a ball collecting Playstation games - for when he gets a Playstation, haha! Guess what's on his birthday list?! He also bought shorts, teeshirts, a couple of kites, sunglasses, hats, wallets, etc.
One day we took a trip to the Ramayana at Denpasar where Pickles spent two solid hours in the top-floor stationery shop. She came out with two big bags of goodies and still only spent $20. At home it would be more like $200 so she was in heaven!
Tom found the cheapest Playstation games on this floor as well and the internet shop here was the best and cheapest that I used.
Downstairs in the Optik Seis store I ordered some prescription Guess sunglasses. They were way cheaper than the last pair of ordinary prescription sunglasses that I got in NZ five years ago and the shop conveniently delivered them to their Kuta store the following week to save us a return trip. They put my spectacles on their machine and didn't need my prescription from my
I found Revlon cosmetics very cheap at the Ramayana and Matahari but the colour range of lippies that I use were very limited unfortunately.
Himself fell in love with Bali's wooden carvings and couldn't go past a carving shop anywhere without going in to have a look. He eventually bought two different carvings of fishermen with nets and two different old men with their roosters as a substitute for one of the big ones which was what he really wanted. They are all so magnificent.
As far as bargaining goes, I felt uncomfortable trying to get things for very cheap as there were hardly any tourists around to start with and I felt sorry for the shops having no customers. Quite often during the afternoon at some stalls we would be the only customers that they had had all day (you can tell because after you give them your money they touch everything in their shop with it for 'good luck') and in one case we were the first they had had in three days! I don't know if they are really good actors or not, but the women often looked genuinely anguished when we managed to get the price right down, eg three adult teeshirts for 45-50,000rp, saying quietly "No profit, no profit". After Himself had given them 100,000rp and was waiting for the change, I would tell them to just give us 40,000rp and that cheered them up a bit. We paid 20,000rp for all our adult teeshirts, no matter how many we bought off one shop, and that's still dirt cheap to us. They're 22,000rp in Matahari so 20,000rp must be a fair price at the market. Am I too soft?? We had a lot of laughs with the shopkeepers at the markets though, they're generally a pretty friendly bunch even when we didn't buy from them.
I really loved not having any cooking to do for two weeks but half of our family are rather fussy eaters so we weren't particularly adventurous with our restaurant choices. The restaurants that I can remember that we tried are as follows:
Koris and Poppies: very nice settings, lovely food. Koris were busy but we were the only ones in Poppies, probably because we were very early.
Ketupat: again nice setting and food, and again we were early and virtually the only ones there so I felt a little uncomfortable eating with such a large number of staff hanging around waiting to serve. It felt like they were all watching us eat!
The Pantai, Tuban: we had a few breakfasts and dinners there as it is cheap, quite tasty, has friendly staff and also has a great setting, being right on the beach. You can see the airport runway from there and we would watch the planes coming in and getting ready to take off. One morning after zipping through the Santika hotel in order to get to the beach and walk along it to the Pantai, we discovered that the tide was still in! It was the first time we had seen the water so high, as normally it is out during the day and there is plenty of sand to walk on, but this time we had to judge our runs carefully in order to avoid a pre-breakfast swim. Also, it had been raining earlier on and whilst we were eating the heavens opened up again. What an experience that was - great fun!
Durang restaurant, Kuta Square: we had several lunches there and really enjoyed their Nasi Goreng and club sandwiches. Reasonably priced, not particularly cheap, but convenient when in 'town'. Also ate next door at the R.Aja's - they were 'OK'.
Green Garden opposite Holiday Inn hotel: not the best breakfast we had and wouldn't go again.
Green Garden Bali, opposite side from Bali Rani just down the road a bit: had two dinners there. The pork spareribs and pork sweet & sour were yummy. Quite cheap, has three cats that appreciated tidbits.
C-Line, near Dynasty Hotel: very nice setting, used clean fabric placemats which we appreciated. We hated restaurants putting our knives and forks on bare tables - who knows what they used to clean the table with? Food was yummy, reasonably priced. Their orange juice is really nice.
Kartika restaurant, Tuban: our favourite for breakfasts. Ask for the bacon to be included INSIDE your omelet rather than separate - makes it so much yummier! Can have two muffins instead of toast - they really fill you up! Their orange juice is excellent too. We also had a buffet dinner there on our second Wednesday, along with an excellent Legong dance display. Food was very nice, but the chicken didn't look properly cooked. We saw that the the Bali Rani restaurant also had a buffet dinner with Legong dancing next night and guess what? Both places have the same owner and the chef and dancers were the same ones at the Kartika! It was more expensive at the Rani though.
Impala Seafood, across the road from Bali Rani: had pizzas and hamburger which were delicious. Reasonable prices, busy.
Poco Loco: didn't enjoy this meal much as we aren't used to Mexican food. Mainly went there to try it but if you like Mexican you will probably like it. They had two gorgeous little kittens there which, once they were convinced we weren't interested in putting them in the pot, gratefully gobbled up some scraps.
There were only two restaurants that we really disliked; one was
Lolo's nearly opposite The Dynasty in Tuban where we had breakfast. It was cheap - cheap and nasty and we spent the day dreading the onslaught of Bali Belly, which fortunately didn't eventuate.
The other was the Legian Gardens (also known as Taman Gardens). I will probably get flamed for this since it is popular with a lot of the forum's regulars, but we were very disappointed. First of all the tablecloths were filthy underneath and around the grubby plastic tops on the tables and the cloth that I saw a staff member wiping a table with looked like a floor cloth. Secondly my club sandwich was really horrible although everyone else's hamburgers and chips were 'OK'. Thirdly, when it was time to pay they tried to charge far more than the menu prices, saying that the menu was 'an old one'. Himself argued that that was too bad and we were only going to pay the prices on the menu we were given. There were only three other tables occupied so it wasn't as if all the menus were being used. We won't be going back there again either.
We didn't get Bali Belly, fortunately, only a bit of tummy
queasiness as we adjusted to the change of diet, and Pickles got mild Trots for a couple of days but it didn't slow her down at all. We drank some raspberry cordial whenever we remembered and whenever we felt a bit quesy and that seemed to help. What we did make a point of was religiously washing our hands every time before eating as well as using an antibacterial waterless handwash.
An enjoyable half-day trip to Tanjung Benoa, Nusa Dua and Ulu Watu temple was the first sightseeing we did. Ulu Watu was rather spectacular with the sheer cliff edges and quite entertaining with the monkeys. I found a good-sized stick to carry in case one of them fancied my glasses as I can't see well without them, and they got the message! The locals and our driver thought it
hilarious but I bet a certain unwise American wished he had one too. He was leaning on the wall photographing the temple and wasn't paying attention to a wily furbag fiddling with his camera firstly, then prospecting his trouser pockets. The monkey had its hand in and out quick as a flash before the poor guy realised that his fat wallet was disappearing over the wall and down the cliff. He went after it, as did a few of the locals, but that monkey wasn't giving up its opportunity to have a spending spree with the credit cards and money once the crowds had gone home! Poor guy, he obviously wasn't a forumite.
Next up was another half-day trip, this time to the Bird and Reptile Parks. We purchased tickets to both at a concession price and really enjoyed seeing so many very pretty birds. We were able to hold some of the large parrots which the children loved, and the walk-through aviary was excellent. Next door at the reptile park the children were in awe of the numerous snakes behind glass windows as we don't have snakes in New Zealand. Now they know why the Aussies aren't as keen on camping as we are! The best bit here though, was the up-close-and-personal interactive area where we could actually hold and 'cuddle' these monstrous lizards! Sorry, I didn't take much notice of what their proper names are, perhaps something like water monitors maybe. Anyway, we all really enjoyed that, it was extra special. The admission price to these two places IS quite steep by Bali standards, but if you can only do one, the bird park is a must.
Anyway, that's all for now folks, stay tuned as Part 2 is coming on a screen near you soon! Featuring Kintamani, the Bali Hai trip to Lembongan Island, Tanah Lot and much much more!
Ahhh, the memories....!
Jump to Part Two