Bali Day 3

We went on a full day tour today. We were picked up from our hotel at 9am and we got back at about 4pm. Kind of disappointing.

When we first booked the tour, we were told by the front desk that it would be IDR700,000 for two persons. It was only after the fiancée asked about other costs and fees did they inform us that we would need to pay for our entry fees into the temples. It doesn’t sound like much and we thought it was no big deal. I mean, we have a guide, a driver, a vehicle… right? Wrong. We only have a driver and a vehicle. No guide. We’re basically just paying for a taxi for the whole day.

So the itinerary is planned for us but we probably could have gotten a better deal with the driver who drove us from the airport to our hotel on the first day. He told us he is charging only IDR650,000 for the whole day. This tour we got? IDR700,000 for less than 8 hours. Granted, itinerary is planned and we don’t need to think of where to go.

However, since we were paying for a tour, we thought we were getting a guide as well. Instead, what happened was the driver drove us to the ‘attractions’ and basically just waited for us in the car park. The attractions themselves were actually ‘meh’. They were interesting, sure, but since we didn’t have a guide, we couldn’t really appreciate the place and its significance.

First stop: Goa Gajah. The elephant cave. Ticket price of IDR15,000 per person. Now, this was our first stop and only after arriving there were we asked by our driver if we had brought along sarongs. Apparently, we were supposed to be decently dressed with trousers/jeans. I had on a pair of shorts and thus, not decently dressed for a temple visit. Okay… I’ve been to Angkor Wat and there weren’t such rules and regulations… Anyway, I bought one sarong since we were going to be visiting other temples. And here’s where I kind of screwed up. I could have rented one at the entrance of the temple. Instead, I bought one for IDR40,000. The fiancée got mad at me for being a sucker. oh wells. She was trying to haggle with them but I thought since we were going to visit other temples today, I should just buy one for the whole day. Turned out I couldn’t be more wrong. The temple itself was a cave. A very very small cave. Didn’t take a photo inside since no flash allowed. What did we see inside? Some lingas and a statue of the elephant god.

Second stop: Tampak Siring. The Holy Spring Water Temple. Ticket price of IDR15,000 per person. This was actually good. This was where I also got to use my sarong again. There were two pools in this place. The first pool is open to the public for bathing and washing. We saw a few devotees bathing. The next pool is closed. Viewing only. I think this is the main spring water. We saw bubbles in the pool and we thought it was where the spring water is welling out from. Not a bad place.

Third stop: Coffee Plantation. This was unexpected. No ticket price. We didn’t expect to visit the plantation as it was not in our itinerary. However, our driver took us and we were happy we got to see it. So our driver took us around the plantation and he showed us the coffee tree. He also showed us some cocoa trees and the luwak! He said the luwak is where the term kopi luwak came from. Apparently, these animals would eat the coffee cherries and it will digest and ferment the fruit in its stomach, pooping out the coffee beans and these beans are what will be used to make these special coffee. We got to taste a few teas and coffee however, the kopi luwak cost IDR50,000 a cup. We had one cup to try. Both the fiancée and I aren’t coffee connoisseurs so the only thing we could really distinguish was that the coffee was smooth and not sour or acidic. Apart from that, I don’t really find it special.

Fourth Stop: Penelokan. View of Mount Batur and Lake Batur. Ticket price was IDR65,000 for both of us as well as vehicle parking I think. The view was nice. That’s all really. Nothing you could do there. Just admire the view and then off to the next stop.

Fifth stop: Besakih. The largest temple compound in Bali. Ticket price was IDR35,000 for both of us as well as the vehicle. HOWEVER, THIS PLACE IS A FUCKING RIP OFF! Seriously. On the drive to the Besakih, our driver warned us to be wary of the local people as well the guides. At first, we didn’t know what he meant. Heh. When we arrived, we found out why he warned us. The minute we arrived, we were pressured to purchase some offerings for the temple. Okay, I bought one. It cost me IDR10,000. I thought it was cheap at first. I mean, hey, we were going to visit a temple and if I had to purchase some offerings, why not just purchase one right? Anyway, that was just the beginning. We walked to the entrance where we gave our ticket and someone inside the information booth told us that a ceremony was taking place today and that to enter the temples proper, we would need a guide. He then showed us a guestbook where tourists had written their names and the ‘donation’ they made. So apparently, we had to pay for a guide to enter the temples as well as make a donation. The guy at the booth said we should take a look at what other tourists paid and take that into consideration of how much we should pay. The other tourists were paying upwards of IDR700,000! WHAT THE FUCK. No way. I mean, we already paid entry tickets! The fiancée tried to clarify with the guy. She asked:”so this is just an approximate amount? We could pay any amount we want?” The guy said yes. So we paid IDR20,000. He then said:”okay madam. This is the donation? How about the guide fee?”

I think it was at that point that we both got frustrated. We ignored him and said we don’t need the guide. When we reached the temple courtyard, we were kind of harassed by a local. He kept referring to himself as a guardian of the temple and that to enter, we need to pay US$10. When we said we didn’t have that much, he lowered his price, all the while pointing to other tourists and saying “look sir, madam. Other tourists have guides and that is why they can visit the temples. Pay me and I will bring you up to the temples and be your guide” In the end, we put our foot down and just left the place. That was truly a bad experience marring this trip. I could live with the fact we didn’t have a proper tour guide. I could live with the fact that the entrance fees weren’t included in the price of the tour. But this price gouging? We already paid the entrance fee! Might as well have told us upfront that to visit the temple we need to pay upwards of IDR700,00 from the start and we wouldn’t have to waste time even visiting the place. What a load of bull.

Sixth stop: Bukit Jambul. Viewing of rice terrace. Free. This was okay… Stopped for lunch at a small warung. But really, this was just a stop to look at rice terrace fields. Then off to Klungkung.

Final stop: Klungkung. So apparently this is a city. The attraction is the old Court Justice of the Old Kingdom. Nothing much to see here. Again, the fiancée and I thought if we had a proper guide, this would be more interesting. Along the way, while we were in the old Court Justice, the fiancée got interviewed by a few students.

Final thoughts: I wasn’t really impressed by the whole tour. I think it was because I felt cheated. If it was only a driver driving us around and no guide, I feel like the hotel should have let us know beforehand. Their information booklet clearly stated an english speaking guide and a safety driver. Oh well.

Something to take note of in future. Note to self: the fiancée is always right. Especially when it comes to clarifying in advance details of the trip.

Bali Day 2 (ii)

We visited the Ubud Palace as well as the Blanco Museum in the morning. We set off around 9am and walked up our street. Walking to Ubud Palace took about 15mins. The Palace looked really small though. We couldn’t actually enter the palace so I don’t really know if it was small but as the only place tourists could enter was the courtyard, I’m basing it on the size of the courtyard.

We saw little boys and girls learning the traditional Balinese dance. Looks interesting but we didn’t stay long. Too many tourists taking photos and distracting the boys.

We decided to walk further to visit the Blanco Museum. It took us another 20mins to walk from the Ubud Palace to the Blanco Museum. The museum’s entry fee is IDR80,000 (S$8) and it has a little bird park. The birds’ wings were clipped but they were not chained to anything. Since they couldn’t fly away, they were just left out there. Most of them were just chilling on the trees. I even had one perched on my forearm. Most of the artwork featured in the museum were about nude Balinese dancers. Antonio Blanco, the artist, had as his model his future wife. He eventually married her and settled down in Bali. Overall, I enjoyed my visit to the museum.

After the museum, we just walked back and had lunch. Was quite disappointed about the food. The one dish I like was the crispy duck dishes. They actually give you half a duck even though the duck is smaller than the ones I’m used to in Singapore. The babi guling however is a disappointment. Very thin slices (about 4 slices…) and nothing else.

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel to rest. The rest of the day was just spent walking to look for a good place for dinner.

Anyway, tomorrow, we will be having a full day’s tour so I will try to update with pictures.

Bali Day 2

So, yesterday was Day 1 in Ubud, Bali.

We landed at about 12.30pm in Denpasar International Airport yesterday afternoon. From the airport to our hotel in Ubud, it took us roughly about an hour’s taxi ride. The taxi ride costs us about IDR350,000 one way. That’s roughly S$35. Considering it is about an hour’s ride, I guess it is reasonably cheap compared to the taxi fares back home.

Our hotel is called Yulia Village Inn and it is about IDR4,000,000 for 4 nights’ stay. It’s okay. I am not going to compare it to places like Royal Scott Plaza or Marina Mandarin or even Banyan Tree Bangkok. I mean, size-wise, Yulia Village Inn is definitely bigger than Studio M or Bay Hotel. The wi-fi is so-so. No bath tub in my room but then again, the fiancée and I don’t really use the bath tub in the other hotels anyway.

Bali is on the same timezone as Singapore so that kind of make things convenient. I don’t need to mentally add or subtract hours if I want to call home. The fiancée thinks otherwise though. She said:”dear, you know what this means? it means that we don’t get extra time in Bali!”

Yesterday was a pretty chilled day. We went to visit the Monkey Forest as well as the Dirty Duck Diner. I will post some pics taken in Monkey Forest later. The Dirty Duck Diner is huge! It has several dining halls and we took the one way out to the back, overlooking a paddy field. On their menu was their signature crispy duck. We shared a half duck (IDR125,000) as well as snails on mushrooms (IDR65,000). The fiancée felt that the sauce on the mushrooms was too sweet for her. The duck was very crispy (well, it wasn’t called ‘crispy duck’ without reason) and very very juicy. I thought it was really good. Just when I was musing to the fiancée that the duck must have been very fresh or something, we saw a flock of ducks walking in a straight line up and down the paddy field. So that’s where the crispy duck came from… yum!

The itinerary for today would be just to wander along the main street and sight see. Tomorrow, we will be having a full day tour where we would be visiting Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave Temple), Tampaksiring (Holy Spring Water), Penelokan (Mount Batur and Lake Batur), Besakih (the largest temple in Bali), Bukit Jambul (Rice Terrace) and finally Klungkung (Old Court Justice of Klungkung Kingdom). Will update with pictures tomorrow.

CELTA (ii)

I’ve just booked an apartment on Airbnb (it’s really just a room) and I am all set to head to Bangkok this November! All that is left is to purchase the plane ticket and my travel insurance.

I have paid a US$600 deposit to my CELTA centre to reserve a place for me. Never having made an overseas bank transfer before, I’m kind of worried that they may not have received my money. That seriously would not be fun. I will check with them within the next two days as I assume bank transfers do take some time. This is the first time I have even heard of SWIFT.

This feels even more nerve-wracking than the time I bought the engagement ring. How so? At least the ring is something tangible. The deposit? No idea if I did it right. If I did it right, that means I still need to transfer the rest of the course fees by October 16. If I did that wrong…? I don’t even want to go there.

I don’t think I can sleep tonight.