Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bali Trip - Day 1 - Welcome to Bali!

A day of firsts. This is the first time that we are travelling with our kid anywhere apart from India;  the first time we are visiting Indonesia;  the first time that we are crossing over the equator to the southern hemisphere; and to top it all off,  the first time that I have ever planned a trip in 1 day.

The day started off on a wet note, with rain lashing Singapore. My daughter for once wanted to sleep in,  but we had a flight to catch! After waiting for the cab for ages,  we took the bus down to the airport.  The previous flight trips were chaotic, but since my daughter had grown up quite a bit,  she was all excited about the flight. She even managed to find other planes crisscrossing the skies and slept for most of the 2.5 hour journey, while we were overwhelmed by the ease with which we reached Bali.

Bali is supposed to be an island paradise with a lot to do. I did manage to get a packed itinerary for a week within 1 day. Bali's airport is in an equally idyllic setting, right up on the sea shore with waves lashing at the end of the runway. The airport itself is beautifully crafted in rich Balinese tradition,  which made me wonder how many man days would have been required for building the airport.

Once inside the airport though, chaos seemed to reign. For some reason, they dont accept the local currency Rupiah for providing visa on arrival,  so visitors have to shell out USD.  I had asked my wife to stand in the winding queue for the immigration in the meantime and soon I was regretting my decision as I could not locate them in the maddening crowd. Chennai Ranganathan street is the closest I have been to in terms of the crowd. Queues are vaguely defined, and some people seemed to be more equal than others since immigration officials were escorting them with minimum fuss. I was already drawing parallels with India when I again lost my wife and kid in the crowd. After nightmarish scenes, almost 2.5 hours of jostling in the queues, witnessing low level scuffles and finding my better halves,  jeez was I glad to get out of the immigration counter! Luggage and customs were literally another long winded affairs, but experience did help. Taxi system is probably the best feature of the airport and was a seamless affair,  although I was asked to pay the driver once I alight, which rang alarm bells as I was half expecting him to say "sorry no change" and swallow Rp 25 grand!  However,  although the old uncle who drove the taxi did say that, he did ask me to check with the hotel reception whether they had some change,  thankfully saving a bit of money in the process. Bali's streets were rich in heritage and the same as something I would associate with a small town in India.

Hotel Ananta Legian is a decent 4 star hotel in the middle of nowhere,  although supposedly close to the beach (yet to verify). The staff showed us a glimpse of Balinese hospitality,  which was lovely. By the time we settled down, it was way past sunset, so we just went out for dinner.  The hotel restaurant did not have any vege options, so went out. Queens Tandoor in Seminyak seems to be quite well known for Indian food, so we gave it a try.

For a pricey meal of north Indian fare,  we couldn't spend much time to relish the food, given our daughter was about to nod off. The breads were a bit too stiff for our liking, but the service was excellent with typical Balinese captivating smile and hospitality that made the Rp 250k worth it. I can't remember the last time we had such a service. Even if we dont see much of Bali, and going by today's story I wouldn't bet against it, I would at least like to enjoy the Balinese hospitality for a few more days. That was the most refreshing thing today. We have stacked up for tomorrow from one of the numerous 24 hour convenience stores in Seminyak/ Legian so that we can venture out. Even the hotel staff warned us not to drink the tap water, so mineral water is a must have. So much for today and hoping for a better tomorrow!

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