Oleh Oleh Khas Bali
We were finally going to Bali after months of debating. Swapnil called me one day from work to let me know that he just saw a great deal online and was booking our vacation to Bali. I couldn’t believe for a moment. Several accounts had told us that Bali was over rated and that while it was pretty, it was as pretty as any other beach – place. Probably just cleaner with a dash of culture and art added to it. Considering that such comments came frequently, Swapnil was more inclined to go to some other place. Such as Lombok, if opportunity came. I on the other hand had been imagining for long time how Bali would be, having read this book. While I am not exactly a fan of that book, I really loved the description of Bali as a laid back paradise. So I was very much excited.
Anyhow, its off-season in Bali right now. Though given the equatorial belt, the weather is not really subject to dramatic changes…but for us fortunately, this meant that we could afford a stay at a top end resort and overall control the trip expenses too. Off to Bali we went…
Exactly a week ago, on Saturday morning, we landed at Denpasar, Bali. Groggy eyed and kind of tired. The previous two days had seen torrential rains and floods in Jakarta and finally when the rains stopped, there had been power cut within our area from Friday afternoon onwards. Unsure of whether we’d be able to make it at the airport on time (due to possible flooding en route) and to escape the power cut, we started off at the airport quite early. Like some seven hours early :).
But all this resulted into sleepiness and general crankiness on the first day of our trip. Therefore note to self #1 – Unless it is absolutely imperative, do not plan travels without factoring in adequate sleep and rest. Sleeping at the airport was attempted and given up. It was just too cold. On a related note – most of the airports are over air – conditioned! almost always freezing – despite crowds at the peak hours.The only exception was Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport in March last year – where, while we froze within the airport, outside, the weather was so cold that we felt paralysed by cold for a while… of course, I have only been to south-east asian countries so far – so I can only wonder what the really cold countries must feel like. Anyhow, now, I am digressing.
So far, my attempts to keep this post only factual have fallen flat. So let me just try to limit this post by describing our first day in Bali.
We always found transport in Jakarta costly, Bali is just unbelievable. A twenty-five minute ride from airport to Nusa Dua was for around 120,000 IDR – in INR terms, this is more than Rs. 600. Referring to our “standard repository for all knowledge and wisdom” for places within Indonesia, Swapnil used his superior negotiation skills to finally fix a price of 75,000 IDR for a private taxi ride to Nusa Dua. This taxi driver was a Hindu and particularly happy to know that we were from India. He asked us whether we were Hindus and then proceeded to play some Indian devotional song. Bali is the first ever place I got asked what my religion was. Frequently. Almost 90 percent of Balinese are Hindus, and I concluded, more devout than the Indian Hindus can ever be.
We were staying at this lovely hotel. The service of this hotel is excellent. Not only the ambience, the luxury and private beach are noteworthy, but their hospitality is commendable. They allowed us an early check-in and late-checkout promptly and did not even charge us for the same. Promptly offered to change rooms when we expressed interest in some other view and did not express reservations when we chose to spend almost 5 hours after the check-out within hotel lobby. Thumbs up for Melia Benoa.
Having checked in, we spent some time freshening up and then proceeded to walk out. Nusa Dua is full of five-star hotel properties and the beaches are mostly privately owned by these hotels. You can walk down the whole beach-line crossing each of these hotels and checking out their properties. All of these are luxuriously built five stars and walking down the beach is quite an experience given the sparsely populated beach and grand properties ashore. There are some temples within the hotel properties. While half wishing to go back to room and sleep, we couldn’t still help noticing how lovely the beach front looked.Though soon we headed back. It was absolutely hot, bright and sunny.
In the evening, we took a stroll through the surrounding area and eventually made it it Bali collection center. From scorching heat in the afternoon, it had gone all cool, billowy and the sky looked dazzling with all pinks, oranges and purples dashed across it. The boulevard that leads up to the collection center is absolutely pleasant to walk through. Neatly lined with trees and the greenery, it also has pleasant views from time to time of various mythological sculptures or other art forms. I wish we could have taken pictures of that road. But it was drizzling slightly and I preferred not to take camera out for the rest of the evening.
Bali collection center is just a collection of high-end shops and some eateries.When we reached there, it was quite dark, though I guess it was just 7 pm. Neatly decorated shops, drizzling rains, live music booths, colourful lanterns (almost of Indian variety) and incense smell from time to time made up a pleasant atmosphere…we had great time checking out various souvenir shops, though we didn’t buy anything. These were over priced and we were anyways in a mood to just chill out. Eventually we found a good and reasonable eatery with live music as well. One noticeable difference for a vegetarian traveller in Bali is the ease with which one can find vegetarian food. When we found vegetarian food with ease, the great ambience – the air, the smell, the pleasant music, the lovely colours and nice tasting food….with our five senses pampered , that’s when we finally began to unwind really. It was late evening when we returned, relaxed and finally in the groove for the Bali experience.