Saturday, October 24, 2015

Basking in Bali: Kuta, Uluwatu, Jimbaran

When I celebrated my 34th birthday this month, I never intended on having a huge party. In the essence of being frugal, I invited my parents and a friend for a buffet dinner, nothing more. I didn't even plan a trip to Baler. And then when we were about to head home, my sister handed me a gift-wrapped envelope, and lo and behold -- she had booked me a ticket to Bali!

I was ecstatic! We've always talked about Bali but everything was all up in the air, no concrete plans whatsoever. So now with my ticket in hand, it was legit -- it was really happening!

So we had planned to stay for 6 days leaving via Philippine Airlines on October 16 at 8:40pm, arriving in Denpasar, Bali at 12:45am. Bali was only a mere 3 hours away.

The Philippine Airlines Mabuhay Lounge

Of course we always travel on Business Class on account of my sister, the Mabuhay lounge, the food, the [alcoholic] drinks, spacious leg room, and great service on-board make travelling more relaxing and convenient. 


On the plane I watched "Age of Adaline" and I highly recommend this movie, I became a fan of Blake Lively after. Much to the dismay of my sister who felt that it wasn't the best movie to watch when headed to the beach, she thought I was going to be emo the whole trip.

Chicken Sisig wrapped in Pita
Stuffed Chicken with baby potatoes 
One of my friends, Nikki, hooked us up with their local driver but there was a miscomm so he was not able to pick us up at the airport. We resorted to using Uber which we discovered was so cheap. 

We arrived in Home36 Condotel at around 1:40am (it was only 10 minutes away from the airport). It was situated along Kuta Beach and offered simple and reliable accommodations for budget travellers.


My sister booked the Superior Room which was good enough for 4 people, I suppose, but since there were only two of us, then we were so thrilled with having so much space. We could have a party in here if we wanted!


Typical accommodations: aircon, warm shower, TV, wifi connection, a refrigerator, and a radio in the shower area. Some rooms have a beachfront view, ours didn't.


We were too excited for the next day's activities that we couldn't sleep. This was a vacation where we didn't have any plans at all except to lounge by the beach and eat. Plus it was a treat not to have the parents around which meant we could just go along with whatever we wanted to do. Usually when we travel with family, we plan a strict itinerary to maximize the day which in turn can get rather stressful. 

We woke up bright and early the next morning, I could heae the waves crashing on the shore as I walked down towards the lobby. Everyone was greeting us "Selamat Pagi" which meant "Good morning" in Balinese. 


I hurried outside, skipping like a kid, too happy for words and saw this magnificent view: 


Barely into day 1 and I was already thankful for this wonderful gift of travel to Bali. At 9am, the beach was still empty with a few surfers and tourists already sunbathing.


Home36 Condotel is only 2 minutes walking distance from Kuta Beach and is conveniently beside Discovery Mall which houses some cafes (A&W!), a pasalubong center, money changer, Guardian drugstore, a department store, plus some fastfood and restaurants. We were lucky to be here because everything was within reach, and all the restaurants and hawker food places were just 10-20 minutes away on foot. More of that in my future post.


A lot of friends told me that Kuta is "so mainstream" but we didn't care. I was so happy to be this close to the beach every morning. Here's a rundown of what we did on day 1:

OUTLET SHOPS

My sister is a huge shopper, quite the opposite of me actually. Ever since I started beaching and been interacting with backpackers and travellers, I've learned to live with less. Sure, I still am a beauty blogger by heart but I've long done away with tons of makeup and other vanities. I can make do with un-manicured nails, no makeup, and my most important non-negotiable is sunscreen. In fact, when my favorite brand asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I immediately said "two tubes of sunscreen please for my beach trips." And I was majorly happy when they obliged. 

So it was obvious that our first stop (with local Balinese Wayan as our driver) were the outlet shops in Kuta. Believe it or not, Roxy, Billabong, Rip Curl, Volcom, and all similar stores are always on 60%-80% off here.


We visited each and every outlet store on the way, but we were smarter and knew not to blow our budget on the first day -- even when tons of bikinis were beckoning. I just grabbed a pair of Roxy bottoms for surfing and left. 

PANDAWA BEACH
Pandawa Beach entrance fee: IDR 10,000/pax
Parking fee: IDR 5,000

Our first stop was Pandawa Beach which was about 45 minutes away from our hotel. It's a reef beach for surfing, swimming, canoeing, and kayaking. ‘Hidden’ behind large carved limestone cliffs that reveal wide views to the Indian Ocean, Pandawa Beach was once also dubbed as ‘Secret Beach’ and it was officially opened in 2012, fast-gaining popularity among local weekenders and international visitors (source).


There are rows of food stalls in the area where food is cooked upon order. We chose to have Nasi Goreng and Chicken Satay partnered with freshly squeezed calamansi juice and buco juice.


The meal can be shared by two people with small appetites and our total bill was only IDR 80,000 (about Php 273). Score! By this time, we learned that food in Bali is so affordable yet so delicious, and the locals are so charming.


Chicken Satay: IDR 25,000
Nasi Goreng: IDR 20,000
Es Jeruk (calamansi juice): IDR 15,000
Young coconut: IDR 20,000


With full stomachs, it was time to swim and try Canoeing. This is Kuya Wayan (Wayan in Bahasa means first born therefore it's a very common first name) who guided us for an hour.


Canoe rental + instructor = IDR 70,000 (Php 239)


Buwis buhay shot na naman :P
ULUWATU TEMPLE
Uluwatu Temple entrance: IDR 20,000/pax

Another major tourist spot is Uluwatu Temple renowned for its magnificent location perched on top of a steep cliff with a magnificent view of the Indian Ocean. Famous also for its beautiful sunset view, monkeys that freely roam the area, and the Kecak (fire) dance performers.


There are strict rules upon entering the temple and it includes keeping all belongings close to you as the monkeys will grab anything they fancy (tassels, mineral water bottles, sunnies, etc.). You are also cautioned against petting the monkeys as they are wild animals. In the above photo Wayan pets one, when my sister started doing it, too, (monkey see, monkey do, haha) the monkey snarled at her and we ran away laughing. But if someone had gotten hurt, it would be a totally different experience altogether. So stay on the side of caution and don't touch the monkeys.

Isn't this baby monkey too cute?
Here's a prime example of how the monkeys will grab anything they find attractive and in this case, it's a mineral water bottle. A monkey jumps out of nowhere and grabs it...


...then tuns its attention to an onlooker who wanted a photograph. The monkey tried to grab his sunnies but the lady in the former photo waves the mineral water bottle in its face, the perfect distraction and the monkey loses interest.


There are two entrances to Uluwatu and it would take about an hour if you walk from one end to the other, and there's also a mini forest where about a hundred monkeys guard the temple against "evil spirits."

the gorgeous Indian Ocean
We didn't stay to watch for Kecak Performance (entrance fee is IDR 100,000/pax) but went straight to Jimbaran Beach for dinner instead.

JIMBARAN BEACH 

This would be the perfect location for a sweet romantic dinner with your loved one, or in my case, my sister who paid for my trip :) Jimbaran Beach features a long coastline with calm waters, rows of restaurants offer fresh seafood and you can eat with the sea breeze blowing through your hair and your toes digging into the sand, with a magnificent view of the sunset. I loved this part because it was so serene and so detached from the city.


Wayan highly recommended Ganesha Cafe so I went ahead and ordered the Red Snapper (grilled), Mussels (cooked in butter), steamed white rice, calamari, veggies, and some drinks. Very similar to Dampa in the Philippines, you choose what you want and pay per weight.


Everything was just glorious -- the seafood was sweet and fresh, but the mussels cooked in butter and herbs were the standout dish for me. It really was a filling meal and I would highly recommend heading to Jimbaran on your first day for the good food and spectacular view. Honestly I forgot how much we spent here (I had lost the receipt) but I think it was one of the more expensive meals we've had in Bali. 

On the way back, we had to contend with major traffic (felt like I was back in the PH) but we asked Wayan to drive us back to some RipCurl outlets (haha). 


We arrived in the hotel at around 8pm but we still went around Kuta Square and had coffee (that I wasn't able to document as well). Day 1 was pretty much predictable doing all touristy things and stuff, but one thing's for sure we were already starting to love Bali's chill vibe. 

More on our Bali adventures in the next post, we're headed to Ubud!

Click to read about our other Bali adventures here: http://bit.ly/BaliChronicles
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Today's expenses: 

Home36 Condotel for 6 days: Php 12,500~
Cost of whole day van rental, petrol, and driver: IDR 500,000
Driver: Wayan Sudarma +62-821 47478575

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