Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bali Trip - Day 2 - Southern Bali

Today started off just like yesterday ended.  I did not think we will get too much done. Although we had done much of the preparatory work yesterday,  we were slow off the blocks.  After a leisurely breakfast, I enquired about a private transport only to realise to my horror that none were available.  I went outside the
hotel to find some transportation option. Although there was one tour operator right opposite the hotel,  and he tried his best calling up 10 different people,  he confirmed my worst fears that people usually book a day in advance,  so nothing was available.  Distraught,  I was thinking of negotiating a fixed price for a taxi (or teksi in this part of the world), when the receptionist gave me a piece of good news that she had found someone.  Although the quote was in the higher end of the spectrum at 500k for 8 hours, I did not have much of an option to negotiate. While waiting for the SUV to arrive, I decided to avoid a similar fate tomorrow by booking a private tour with the operator next door, which would take us north and then east to our next hotel in Candidasa.

So finally we were off with a seemingly friendly driver at 11.15am, quite late by Bali standards. Our plan for today was to cover Southern Bali, including Uluwatu, Sanur and Tanah Lot. I was surprised at the amount of traffic on a Monday late morning here, but thankfully it dissipated after the airport.  The ride to Uluwatu was a lovely journey in itself,  winding through mountain roads, through a fairly big university and polytechnic,  through the undulating but well maintained roads. One such road literally went down and up like a roller coaster! Thankfully our driver didn't drive like one.  He kept a nice conversation going, be it our shared Hindu culture or differences in food habits,  briefing about the significance of all the good and great about Bali.  I wondered if I will ever be able to describe Chennai or Singapore with such enthusiasm.

At Uluwatu,  we were warned enough and more about the monkeys, but there were hardly any apart at the entrance.  We quickly avoided the self styled temple tour guide who was keen to show us around (and ask for some fat bucks at the end). We had the first glimpse of the roaring and majestic Indian ocean at this southern most tip of the Island. With gusty winds it was difficult holding onto both my kid and the umbrella that the driver kindly lent us. Another point that we realised is that although the sun seems to be belting down and is very bright,  the actual temperature is  lower around 29 degrees.

Next stop was a quick stop on the way to admire the surfer beach of Padang Padang with its dashing waves and decent sized beach by Bali standards, which has mostly cliffs. Our driver was almost tired searching for a vegetarian restaurant on the long drive to Sanur, so we gave him a break by having take away lunch from McDonald's @ Sanur. We went to a nice cosy Batik weaving place and learnt a little about the process of making Batik, although the main reason for going there was shopping.  Dresses for kids were expensive though.

A comparatively short 1 hour drive later, we were in Tanah Lot, a must see location with a beautiful seashore temple and a glorious sunset. This reminded me a lot about Mahabalipuram.  I started noticing facets of the Balinese architecture,  such as the unique construct of the temple gates,  as if someone had sliced a gopuram in half with a big sword. We were literally blown away by the gusty wind and the spray from the ocean. Near the temple,  we were drenched by the ocean waves and were completely elated.

It appeared that you can catch the sunset from almost anywhere, every place offering its own unique view and serenity that can only be experienced, not described in words. We personally preferred the main temple itself, although due to the crowd and the kid, we chose a restaurant at the end with a full 300 degree view of the ocean.  The sunset was glorious,  but we were a bit shortchanged due to the cloudy weather,  making the sun appear to set in the clouds rather than in the ocean. Due to our strategic location, we were one of the first out, and just about made it back to our dinner by the 8 hour limit set by the tour company.

We chose to have dinner at the Gateway of India at Jalan Abhimanyu, a stones throw away from Queens Tandoor. Although the ambience was not that great, resembling a local dhaba,  the quality of food was
comparable and slightly cheaper at about Rp 200k per couple.  Service is where they were way above the more posh Queens, with the staff babysitting most of the time to allow us to have a less rushed dinner. The serving was also rather generous. Better pick for anyone looking for a decent Indian meal. It was only a short walk to the hotel, although it appeared longer with a cranky kid wanting to sleep. I wanted to quickly change some money on the way since I spotted some genuine authorized money changer (PVA authorized). However, that only minimizes the risks of cheating,  as if I wasn't sharp with my maths, I would have got swindled to the tune of Rp 800k (about 100 USD). Do your calculation, be the last to count your money and always use your own calculator. Tips from the Internet that proved very useful indeed.

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