TRAVEL: The Weekend Bali Disappointed Me


On our sixth visit to the island that holds a very special place in our hearts – if only for the fact that hubby and I were married there two years ago (in July) – we landed in, and left Bali physically exhausted and unspeakably disappointed. Okay, truth is, I was more vanquished about the weekend trip than my forever-chill husband, Chris. No, the island had absolutely nothing to do with it, because as far the whole world is considered, Bali is, and will always be one of the most mystical travel destinations. It was the blasted heavy downpour that greeted us the moment we arrived and carrying on every single day until the day we had to fly back to Singapore, that cast a long, dark shadow upon one of my anticipated summer trips, and which I am unable to shake-off until today. So much so that I keep telling my husband we need a rebound beach trip, and preferably somewhere that would give me all the sun, intoxicating beach feels, and course, fantastic food that my chubby little human body can absorb. Some place that has yet to disappoint us. Yes, Phuket, looks like we will be seeing each other again pretty soon. You have always been like a dirty little addiction for which we haven’t yet found a cure.

But back to Bali. Thing is, when you’ve had somewhat of a winning streak in your past holidays, you tend to slip into this weird zone of entitlement in which you start thinking and behaving as though every other holiday that you will have in the future will be perfect and happy. Maldives, Australia, Abu Dhabi, PhuketAvoriaz, Bordeaux, Krabi, Phnom Penh, etc. and yes, even rainy Paris in February – all these places we’ve traveled to during the last few months, have been nothing short of fantastic. And so I thought, Bali will be as consistently wonderful as it had been for us since our very first visit back in 2010. I was wrong.

DD Ubud Villa_vickyras

We stayed at this quaint little traditional villa in the Ubud tropics called DD Ubud Villa, which is a good place to hie-off to if you just want to disconnect/unplug from the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle life you’ve been living. The place is far from luxurious. In fact, what they have are very traditional wooden little houses with basic amenities and a small balcony where you can just sit, relax, or have your meals. It is situated right in the middle of the woods so expect to hear cricket (and probably other small animals/insects) sounds day in and out. Depending on which house you get assigned to, expect to walk up and down 60 to 80 steps – so be careful, especially when it’s raining and the steps can be quite slippery. Better yet, ask for the casita close to the breakfast or pool area.

There's just something utterly sexy about outdoor baths, don't you think?

There’s just something utterly sexy about outdoor baths, don’t you think?

I liked the outdoor bath which is quite spacious. There is a bathtub, toilet and a shower, with a working hot water supply (except on our last day in which we didn’t have hot water). I thought it was pretty neat taking long, hot showers late at night with the cacophony of sounds coming from the forest’s little inhabitants. The resort has a tiny natural pool, which looks bigger in photos but really isn’t and the water is perpetually cold – especially the weekend we were there and it rained nonstop from Thursday. So we didn’t really get to try it out. In any case, it shouldn’t be that bad during hot summer days when, hopefully, the water is tepid enough for a decent dip. The place does not have it’s own restaurant, but they do have a menu where you can choose from and they order it from a partner restaurant. We tried a few of the dishes and they weren’t that bad either. Food is quite tasty and the price is pretty reasonable. Last orders are taken at 7:30pm, so if you are having your meals at the villa, take note of this because you will have a very hard time looking for food after. Chances are, you will end up paying extra for a transport to Ubud town centre or the nearby restaurant. If you are staying at DD for a few days, make sure you buy and stock big bottles of mineral water as there are no nearby store to buy supplies from. They do provide complimentary water everyday, but these are small 250ml bottles only.

Because we were unable to 'let the room breathe or let the sun shine in', so to speak, as there was only heavy downpour the entire time,  the room had this musty scent which wasn't that bad, really.

Because we were unable to ‘let the room breathe or let the sun shine in’, so to speak, as there was only heavy downpour the entire time, the room had this musty scent which really wasn’t that terrible.

You may also request for massage service in your room and the masseuse were quite good and I really liked the soft flower-scented oil they use for the massage. It doesn’t leave you feeling like a greased-up pig during or even after. Given the villa’s location, moving around can be such a pain. The only solution is to book transport for your tours. We did a morning tour the day after we arrived and opted to go on a whole day tour again on our last day – in which we ended up going to only two places because of the torrential rains that made the travel somewhat unbearable. We literally spent 7 or so hours inside the van moving from one place to another in what seemed like an exercise in absolute futility because of the terrible weather. At the end of the epic fail of a tour, all I got was foul temper and a sore bum. All things good and awful considered, our stay at DD Ubud Villa wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t fantastic either and to be fair, it was mostly due to the terrible weather in Bali that weekend. Oh, they do have free wifi but the connection is intermittent and often very slow, which we didn’t really mind that much because we were there to sort of disconnect.

Be that as it may, we couldn’t spend the whole weekend moping so we visited a few places which I would recommend you do the same, hopefully, on a much better weather situation. Here they are:

1. Visit the Pura Tirta Empul. A UNESCO-protected world cultural and natural heritage since 2012. This Hindu temple is where you will find the holy spring where believers bathe and offer prayers to cleanse their weary bodies and troubled minds. This spring is said to carry healing powers. You pay Rp 15,000 (US $1) to enter the temple grounds.

Entrance to the holy spring.

Entrance to the holy spring.

Looking to purge your body and mind of all negative influences? A dip in the holy spring just might give your troubled soul a reprieve.

Looking to purge your body and mind of all negative influences? A dip in the holy spring just might give your troubled soul a reprieve.

2. Visit (or in our case, view from afar) the legendary Mt. Agung. Still considered an active volcano occasionally belching smoke and ash, Mt. Agung is the highest point in Bali and had its last eruption in the year 1963. They have trekking tours being organised regularly if you are into that sort of thing. We would love to trek one of Indonesia’s volcanoes one day but on the weekend that we were there, we had to content ourselves with feasting on delicious local Indonesian fare for a fee of Rp 120,000 (US $9) per person for the lunch buffet at a restaurant overlooking the mountain. Before you reach the viewpoint, you will have to pay an additional Rp 30,000 (US $2) per person.

View of Mount Agung on a rainy, gloomy afternoon in Bali.

View of Mount Agung on a rainy, gloomy afternoon in Bali.

Lunch buffet with a view.

Lunch buffet with a view…of my visibly scarred thunder thighs. LOL.

3. Visit one of the organic cocoa and coffee plantations in Kinatamani for Luwak (and other variants of) coffee-tasting.  Unfortunately, I cannot recall the name of the plantation, but we did have a lovely time going around the property and I even tried my hand at manually grinding the coffee beans from the civet cat’s poop. We bought organic Bali Ginseng Coffee and organic Bali Cocoa. Personally, I think our Pinoy tableas (Filipino hot chocolate) taste much better than their cocoa. A cup of Luwak coffee costs Rp 50,000 (US $3) at the plantation and we were told that it’s more expensive outside.

Coffee beans from the civet cat poop being roasted.

Coffee beans from the civet cat poop being roasted.

Hubby enjoying his Luwak coffee.

Hubby enjoying his Luwak coffee.

4. Visit Ulun Danu Bratan. The temple complex is located on the shores of Lake Bratan, whis is the main source of irrigation in Bali. This temple complex is the site for offerings ceremony to the Balinese water, lake and river goddess Dewi Danu, due to the importance of the lake to the island.

Hindu temple by the lake.

Hindu temple by the lake.

Placid.

Calm waters of Lake Bratan.

5. Visit the famous Pura Tanah Lot. Arguably one of Bali’s most popular tourist destinations, attracting over a million of visitors from all over the world each year. It is also considered one of the holiest grounds on the island to worship the Balinese gods. At the base of the rocky islet where the temple sits atop, venomous sea snakes are believed to guard the temple from evil spirits and intruders. The offshore rock where the temple rests has been shaped continuously over the years by the roaring ocean tide. During low tide, people can walk up to the temple area, however, most of the time, when the tides are high, people are not allowed to get near the temple. They say Tanah Lot is most beautiful during sunset so we braved the inclement weather hoping it will clear up by the time we get there. Unfortunately, the rain pressed and the sky remained ominous grey.

The mystical Tanah Lot temple.

The mystical Tanah Lot temple.

Tanah Lot selfie.

Tanah Lot selfie.

Postwithoutatitle.


Today’s Facebook status message: Experiment with life – constantly. Do things other than your job and be fulfilled. Balance, you will soon learn, is a matter of logistics.

Places. Faces. Friends.

Another Year Almost Over


Here I sit, watching The Voice on AXN and thinking Adam Levine is really one very attractive specimen. Don’t you think so? In the bathroom, i’m running a hot bath in which i’m going to soak myself for an hour, to wash off the sweat I worked up with my back-to-back Insanity Core and Cardio sessions earlier. It’s Saturday, the beginning of a long weekend in Malaysia (and the Philippines, too) and I’m just keeping it nice and easy in the morning – before it gets roller coaster-crazy again in the afternoon.

Not to say that I am a fitness freak...

Twenty eleven, you are almost on your way out of the door. When did the years start speeding by so fast? Is this an age thing somebody forgot to send me a memo of? Has my life now turned into this: months moving on fast forward, days on a mad loop, minutes that swirl round and round and round me? Some years ago, I graduated from the Uni and now I’m sorta-kinda living the life I had wanted since I was little – simple but purpose-driven.

I remember last November vividly. I remember traveling to Jordan for the first time and being fascinated by Petra. It was and still is, one of THE MOST amazing moments of my life. One day, when I’m old, I will forget faces, birthdays, numbers, moments, but not Petra and how it opened my senses to the beautifully strange and mystifying. One other thing I remember last November was how excited I was for months to change already so Chris and I can finally go on our December Phuket holiday.

Phuket 2010

One year later, I’m here in Malaysia for work and feeling the same wave of excitement again for December for a whole range of reasons but most especially for our second Bali trip (this piece of wonderland we visited in August 2010). The feel of sand between my toes, the just-the-two-of-us-holiday that we planned for, to once more close the gap between us, and no longer hating geography for making us so far apart.

Bali 2010

Things are changing up so fast I sometimes have to will myself to stand still, shut people out for a moment, and take several deep breaths just to regain focus. Do you ever feel that way sometimes? Being so overwhelmed it stifles you? Not that there is any reason for me to complain because try as I might, there isn’t any. Knock on wood but I feel Life has really made up for the bad cards it dealt me earlier on.
Two days ago, I also heard one of the most beautiful love story involving my dear friends from college and I remember going to bed that night feeling genuinely happy that they have found love in each other. Ahhh, Love. How is it that you make butterflies flutter about in my stomach? I think it’s time to make concrete plans to visit NY and give my felicitations personally.:)
It’s not yet twenty twelve but the dregs of twenty eleven are now visible that I can’t wait to take them all in one gulp so I can finally get a refill. Let my new year be happy. Let new opportunities come barreling through the door. I am ready for change, 2012, and if you know me even just a little bit, you know darn well that I can handle it. Let travel happen, let long distance become together-all-the-time, let me finally figure out cash and jobs and adult relationships. Will you allow me to be greedy and ask for more, more, more, and please, will you give it to me? Let everyone I love be safe, healthy, and happy this coming 2012, too. Make it an exciting year, a good year, a year we will not want to say goodbye to. At least not too soon.

Not Really A Blogpost


Aside from running 16.61k in 1:31:38 this morning – in lieu of 21k at Earth Run which I had had to beg off from due to lingering migraine when I woke up at 3:30am – my life during the past few days has been pretty uneventful. Painfully vapid. Blah. Oh but perhaps I exaggerate, because it’s really not entirely boring, you know.  There have been some great moments worth mentioning, such as:

  • Davoud and I recently went on a business trip to Singapore to attend a workshop/conference on SEO/SEM optimization facilitated by Kevin Ryan. It was a two-day workshop which taught us a great deal of tricks we will soon be applying on our corporate website. On the last day of training, we dared to volunteer our website to be dissected by Kevin and the rest of the participants and much to our delight, we got rave reviews for it! He mentioned a few things we need to work which shouldn’t be that hard to do, given how skillful oure respective teams are. Davoud’s team handles the technical side of the website, whereas mine, handles the content. It feels great to get validation from an unbiased third party for something we painstakingly worked months and months for.  I’m sure you know exactly how lovely that feels, don’t you?

Davoud's quite enamored by Google maps in Singapore. Helped him loads in getting around the city though it's only his first visit. Me? I'm forever geographically-challenged!

It was also Davoud’s first time to visit Singapore and although our schedule did not exactly permit us to go out and do the usual touristy things, we did have a fantastic time. Met a few nice people, too, especially the fun X-Mi guys who were at the conference as well. Not only did Anette and Max give us a tour of their Google-ish office (with a badass pool table, PS3, massage chair, and endless supply of cold beer), they also gifted us (Kevin, Davoud, and I) with an X-mini stereo!

At the X-Mi office in Singapore.

Darling Chris also took us to this club called Altitude which sits atop (63rd floor) of this building whose name escapes me at the moment. What did I tell you? I have the memory of a dying goldfish! At Altitude, you get a spectacular 360-degree view of Singapore! Drinks are, as expected, a bit pricey but I suppose you do have to shell out a wee bit more for the view. But then again, inexpensive Singapore is most certainly NOT! Ugh.

*kilig*

  • FTW. I cannot tell you more about this lil’ mega-project (little and mega in a phrase: how’s that for an intriguing paradox, eh?) except that it has truly been wonderful working with Kassy, Marga, and Chad.  Three of the hardest-working people I know. These guys don’t know the meaning of the word ‘rest’. One of the few things we share in common. For The Win, indeed. See it for yourself in September! Oh but perhaps I can share this photo?

Reebok Girls

  • I have also been keeping to my bookworm-ing pursuits. I had just finished reading Michael Scott’s The Warlock, the fifth of the Immortal series which Noel got me super hooked on since he lent me the first book, The Alchemyst, last year. I remember it was one of the books I brought to Bali when Chris and I went to attend his friends’ wedding. Now that book five’s out of the way, I feel rather bitin because the last book is not due for release until next year, I think. In the meantime, I have started reading Song Yet Sung by James McBride. It’s a story revolving around colored slave-protagonist, Liz, and the cruel plight of the negro slaves in the 18th century. In that, it may seem reminiscent of Uncle Tom’s Cabin which I have read back in college – not to mention, cried many a night for – but I have only reached page 27 so far, so I really won’t be able to tell you guys more. One thing I can tell you though is that I am finding it quite hard to put the book down. Definitely one of the unputdownable reads I have come across so far. What are you feeding your mind with these days, Loves?

Travel: Goin’ Balinese


 

Sunset view at Kuta Beach

 

What else can I say about Bali that hasn’t already been said over and over again by people who have visited the island and found themselves lost and completely enamored by it? We flew in from Singapore in themorning and what greeted us was nothing at all like I expected. Yes I’ve read Eat Pray Love; wikipedia’d and Lonely Planet-ed Bali like crazy; and have likewise spoken to people who have been there so you would think I’m already sorta in the know and there’s very little that could surprise or excite me about the trip.

Until our driver Yus (a very affable fellow, that Yus) took us on a quick city tour and I found myself unable to contain my awe as I stared open-mouthed (the look I had on was quite embarrassing actually and I’m glad it didn’t show in any of the photos!) at the temples and resorts we passed by…

From the airport, Yus first took us to a beachside restaurant called Blue Marlin. The restaurant offered a nice view of the beach (name escapes me at the moment) and the huge waves which scared me a little but the surfers obviously loved – but that was all. Food was overpriced and the steamed crab that we ordered didn’t have much meat. An anorexic crab was what I called it after seeing that it barely had anything in it to satisfy our gnawing hunger. Good thing there was vegetables and the soup was at least good. Oh, and just before food was served, an all-male singing group with guitars and a violin, went over to our table and serenaded us with Robbie Williams’ Angels and James Blunt’s You’re Beautiful which I’m hoping they chose because I am both and not because of the tip we gave them. Oh maybe they did choose the songs appropriately because the tip came much much later. Good job, Blue Marlin singers!

 

Ripcurl Surfing Competition at Padang Padang

 

Though still a bit famished after our disappointing lunch, we decided to move on with the rest of the tour so we can make it in time for our, ehem, romantic dinner at the villa. Yus drove us to Padang-Padang resort where there’s a Ripcurl surfing competition happening. We only stopped for a few minutes on the bridge where we have a good view of the surfers and onlookers but didn’t really go down to where the real action is. Instead, we took a few photos and admired the view from the top.

From Padang-Padang, we drove up to Uluwatu to check out the temple. For an entrance fee of Rs 3,000 per person, you get an amazing view of the ocean (not sure if it’s the Indian ocean or something else altogether) from the cliff where the temple is actually perched on. Those of us who were wearing short dresses and shorts were asked to wear some very colorful cloth, sarong-style, as a show of respect to the place and the spirits that dwell there.

Now I gotta tell you about the monkeys. They’re all over Uluwatu temple! You’ll see them on tree branches, on the ground, on top of the temple walls – eating, ALWAYS eating! Which I found extremely cute and their carefree ways one might say are enviable – until one of them snatched my shades from my head and ran off with it! For a moment there, those monkeys didn’t seem very cute anymore. Can’t blame them entirely because Yus warned us rather sternly to keep our shades out of sight because the monkeys just love to snatch them and I, of course, didn’t listen. Good news is, I was able to get it back. Rather, one of the locals retrieved it for me for Rs20,000. Which got us into thinking that maybe, just maybe, those little furry fellas are in fact in cahoots with the shades and what-not-retrieving locals and they each get a banana or peanuts for a certain amount of tip. Lol. But those monkeys were really cute and the view from the Uluwatu temple is certainly one for the books – or postcard, at least.

After seeing what must have been a hundred or more monkeys, it was time to go to Heliconia Villa – our very fancy home for the next three days. But not before passing by Kuta beach first…for the sunset view.

Now as you know, I am huge fan of Boracay and its sandy white beaches and Kuta beach is definitely nowhere near Boracay in the powdery sand department. But I still found Kuta to my liking – especially with the hot surfer dudes and chicks on the prowl. And the whole Kuta stretch, I grudgingly admit, is by far more structured and organized than the chaos that has now become of my paradise island Boracay. And the sunset, ohmygaaaad, the sunset! It’s everything that I could ever want in a sunset.  Too bad we didn’t have a bottle of beer or a glass of wine to make the experience more enjoyable.

From Kuta, we finally made our way to Seminyak district where Heliconia Villa is located and what greeted us when we walked into the villa was like a dream – a dream that smelled of flowers and incense and with rose petals strewn all over the place…from the pathway, to the private pool, to the outdoor bar and kitchen and living area, all the way to the bedroom and the bathroom which had an ivory white bathtub in the middle filled with warm water and, what do you know…more red rose petals!

What followed after that was a flurry of pre-wedding, actual wedding and post-wedding activities. Not mine, of course, but the reason why we wound up in Bali in the first place was to attend B’s friends’ wedding. It was my first time to attend a French wedding and it didn’t at all seem any different from the few weddings I’ve attended – except that the officiating priest in Uluwatu, though Catholic, did not go through the elaborate catholic mass ceremony and instead officiated only the exchange of vows and the putting on of the wedding bands. The wedding place itself was like a little slice of heaven perched on the side of the cliff with the great view of the Indian Ocean below. It was so romantic that it’s quite easy to comprehend how and why couples can fall in love all over again just by being there.

After the wedding, the guests were requested to be at the wedding dinner at Villa Mathis which is a good ride from our villa. Food looked amazing but only B had a taste of it as I was still quite full from the late lunch we had. I helped myself to a glass of red wine though which warmed me up a little bit. We were talking to this French couple and their lady friend but I would only be able to pick up a word or two and the rest, well, B would translate for me. They didn’t speak English much you see and my French, of course, is practically non-existent!  But it was fun and the two French ladies, though in their late 30s or early 40s look extremely good and sexy that I couldn’t help but wonder if nature would be just as gentle with me when I get to their age. Fingers crossed.

The following day was our last day and the only time we would ever get to spend alone and away from the milling crowd. We woke up early, had our breakfast, and headed down to the beach. I was already starting to develop painful heat rash all over my body but I was determined to lie on the beach nonetheless. The sun was beating down on the Seminyak beach so hard I was nearly roasted by the time we decided to pack our beach stuff and make our way back to the villa to grab a quick lunch and surrender to the expert hands of the Balinese masseuse for a 2-hour massage and body scrub.

It was one kind pampering I will never forget! The massage was very relaxing and the body scrub, although at times very painful because by this time my skin was already inflamed with heat rash, felt just as heavenly.

Finally, it was time to leave Bali and at that point, I was torn between wanting to stay for a little bit more and going back to my home country which I have missed so much while I was away.  Our Bali trip was beautiful but somehow it felt like a lot of things were missing to complete the experience only because I didn’t get to soak in the island in my own terms. I didn’t get to eat local food; didn’t get to scour the shops and galleries which I would have wanted to do; didn’t get to run around the island as much as I had hoped. Come to think of it, I still have a laundry list of things I want to do next time I’m in Bali. I’m thinking maybe traveling to the island solo would give me an entirely different perspective of Bali and everything it represents. I am definitely going back.