Bali, A Traveller's Journal
28th July, 2003
pm: Still in the office attending to last minute
work. Same time tomorrow I shall be in Bali, lying on a
deckchair with a tall drink by my side, palm trees swaying,
the blue waters of the pool shimmering, the roar of the
ocean waves lilting me into gentle slumber... Better stop
daydreaming as my wife is calling me to get home now or
I won't have a packed suitcase to carry with me! Reporting
time is 9:30 pm. We are traveling with 11 friends and there
are two children with us.
am: Malaysian Airlines is great for bargain prices
and not-so-great when it comes to providing basic in-flight
services. Now I for one quite like airline food and at 30,000
feet I get pangs of hunger at frequent intervals. But even
with this rogue appetite, I shy away from Malaysian Airlines
food. Suffice it to say that Dhaka - Kuala Lumpur service
leaves a lot to be desired.
29th July, 2003
0600 am: Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Everyone heads for the nearest Deli France outlet to gorge
on croissants and coffee.
am: Off to Bali.... It's a 3-hour flight from KL
to Denpaser. We are twenty minutes from landing and flying
over two volcanic mountains in the middle of the blue seas.
One has a crater filled with light green volcanic substance
looking like key lime Jell-O, it's an amazing sight. Indonesia
is a country of 17,000 islands, so you cannot go wrong here
if you are looking for a beach holiday!
pm: We are all huddled around the airport money
exchange booths. My wife takes out two US $100 bills to
convert to Indonesian Rupiahs. The lady behind the counter
scrutinises the notes & returns them. We go from counter
to counter in vain. Later, we find out that apparently US
$100 notes issued in 1996 and earlier are widely unaccepted
in Bali. They prefer newer notes, as the older ones are
more likely to be fakes. Travellers Cheques are okay though.
Anyway, US $1 gets you Rupiah 8,500 so instantly we are
pm: Driving from the airport through the Jimbaran
area heading towards Nusa Dua-Tanjung Benoa beachhead where
our Hotel is located. The notable beaches around Bali are
Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Sanur, Tuban, Nusa Dua, Jimbaran.
Kuta is a haven for the surfers and the backpackers and
Nusa Dua for the upscale market and those preferring exclusivity
reception at Grand Mirage Resort and Spa is overwhelming!!
We are greeted by Balinese women dancers in traditional
dresses garlanding us with flowers. Professional photographers
are clicking our pictures (to be sold to us later) and resort
staff are scurrying around treating us like VIPs. The Sales
Manager, Jacob Johannes, my contact man greets me with a
hug. The Bangladesh flag is flying next to the Australian,
Canadian and American Flags at the entrance. A Balinese
orchestra with gongs, drums and xylophones play Balinese
music. I feel like Captain Blythe from the "Mutiny
on the Bounty" ! We bask in the attention and enjoy
our 'elevated' status!
can tell how accustomed the Balinese people are towards
tourists and the leisure industry in general with the way
they extend their hospitality. Then again, the Bali bombing
has had a tremendous effect on the economy too. The hotel
is a good example. Two years ago these resorts in Nusa Dua,
Tanjung Benoa, Sanur and Jimbaran boasted full occupancies
and the high rates were non-negotiable - making Bali an
expensive holiday option. Today we are serenaded to our
rooms and that too at a fifth of the price.
30th July, 2003
10.30 am: Nothing like casual conversation
around the breakfast table late in the morning. Endless
trips to the buffet table and eating at leisure.
pm: Off to the beach to do some serious snorkeling.
The coral reef starts almost right out of our beachhead,
and the water is so clear you can count the lobsters on
the sea bed. The waves get a little choppy and we quickly
put on our life jackets. Masks, snorkels, flippers are ready
as we set anchor in the middle of the sea. Of all the coral
I have seen over the last seven years, Bali's wealth of
underwater life is absolutely the finest around. There is
an abundance of marine life and coral in the strangest of
shapes and sizes and in the most breathtaking colors can
be seen off the shores of Nusa Dua, a mile into the sea
from our hotel. The feeling of being at one with nature
is a high that cannot be compared to anything else...
pm : Bali has an abundance of places to eat. Sharif
knows the best place in town for seafood. We have two mini-buses
at our disposal, fully air-conditioned 4WD jeeps which we
can keep as long as we want. At US $25 per car, transportation
is cheap. We are off to Jimbaran beach, the place for seafood
but also a huge tourist haunt. The roadside restaurants
operate literally on the beach where tables are set on the
sand and waves come up to your feet. A wandering mariachi
band appears and they are serenading us; they look Oriental-Latin
(must be of Portuguese descent). I ask the quartet to play
Gypsy Kings and they do great covers of "Volare"
& "Djobi Djoba" & Santana's "Oye
Como Va". Bali's nightlife was legendary until the
bombing of the "Sari Club" in Kuta last year.
We hit the nightspots of Kuta but the crowd is relatively
thin. We are at the "The Bounty", a 3-storied
building shaped like an old pirate ship. The sheer fact
that the Bounty is opposite the now demolished plot where
the "Sari Club" once stood leaves you feeling
a little uneasy. While passing by the club we notice the
numerous messages, flowers, candles, stuffed toys and t-shirts
left there by sympathisers, friends and family. It all feels
somewhat surreal ..... 200 Australians, British and local
party-goers died in that blast and it is a haunting reminder
of how a serene and tranquil place like Bali can become
the centre of such violence and bloodshed.
31st July, 2003
7.00 am: Today we opt for a full-day cruise
to Nusa Panida, an island one and a half hours away from
Bali. A specially priced package of US $ 35 per person includes
return transfers to the "Quicksilver" Catamaran
Jetty. Breakfast on board, buffet lunch and afternoon tea,
free snorkeling, water slides, banana boat, jet-ski etc.
The "Quicksilver" is a state-of-the-art vessel
resembling something out of a sci-fi movie, carries about
200 people and sails at 50 knots. The cool wind in my hair
and face is exhilarating. An hour later we are entering
the bay off Nusa Panida Island, a fjord with cliffs on both
sides and the colour of water changing to emerald. Waves
are smashing against the rocks and sending white spray up
30 feet in the air. It is a picture perfect sight. The Quicksilver
docks onto a platform in the middle of a lagoon, this is
a huge pontoon for 200 people looking out at the shore of
a remote fishing village with few inhabitants. The platform
has a dining area, a sun deck, plenty of space to lounge,
an underwater observatory, a 20 feet high spiraling water
slide, provisions for snorkeling, scuba diving and other
water sports, showers - very organised. The buffet is fantastic
- BBQ seafood, wide variety of salads, meats, Chinese and
Italian food. There really is plenty to eat and do all day
long. The cruise is definitely worth it, an unforgettable
1st August, 2003
11:00 am: We are off to do a spot of shopping.
It should be mentioned here that Indonesian teak is one
of the finest in the world. The workmanship is also truly
outstanding, from antiques to modern designs. Our driver
takes us to a furniture store in Nusa Dua. The prices are
amazingly low and it's hard to keep temptation at bay.
pm : Our driver Beno joins us for a local lunch
at a roadside restaurant. He fills us in on the local Balinese
culture. Predominantly Hindu, the Balinese are proud people
who claim that they are a world apart from the rest of Indonesia.
The cuisine here is quite different from what you will get
in other parts of the country too. Though “Padang” food
is pretty much what we eat, it's sweeter and richer here;
cooked mostly with coconut sauces. Zarah my wife asks Beno
to take us to a beautiful spot in Bali, somewhere that's
revered by the locals as much as the tourists. So we are
off to the Ulawatu cliffs and the temple of Rudra. It is
a 30-minute drive to the hills of Bali passing by the beautiful
campus of Bali University against the backdrop of mountains.
On the right we pass by a large empty stretch of land overlooking
the sea. This huge expanse is walled and said to be the
most expensive property in Bali. It is owned by Tommy Suharto
and he will build one of the most expensive hotel properties
in Indonesia here.... right after he gets out of jail that
pm: We reach the Ulawatu Temple and it is on the
edge of the highest cliff in Bali. The island's panoramic
view can best be seen from here. Tourists are allowed to
walk the grounds, but not up to the temple, leading to the
edge of the cliff where you get to see some of the most
amazing sights. The view really is quite breathtaking --
a sheer drop, aqua waves crashing onto the sides of the
cliff, the temple sitting on the highest point... However,
do watch out for the many monkeys in the sanctuary. They
are very forthright and have a passion for anything shiny.
will snatch! So guests walking in are required to take off
jewellery, watches, glasses -- anything that might attract
pm: It's decided, we are going to paint the town
red tonight! The ladies have been pampered at the spa. The
men are relaxed and have indulged in the complimentary beach
massage courtesy of Grand Mirage Resort. Tonight we throw
caution to the wind , tonight we leave a mark on the very
nightlife of Bali!!! But first, dinner at MYKONOS, suggested
by our Hotel photographer who's Turkish. This Greek / Mediterranean
restaurant is on Seminyak beach. We get down to some “taramasalata”
(fish eggs blended with mayonnaise and olive oil) served
with pita bread. The entrees are truly a treat for the taste
buds -- be it Turkish Kebab, Souvlaki or Moussaka. A brilliant
meal costing just over US $16 per person, with drinks and
am: It's time to hit "KAMA SUTRA", the
hottest discotheque in town. This huge building has the
coolest crowd and a kicking live band. Though I am a blues
and rock lover, I pretend to be hip and make all the latest
hand gestures and act 'cool' . The night gets hotter and
wilder and Bali rocks! We make a name for ourselves as the
band gives a shout-out to the visiting Bangladeshis.
2nd August, 2003
am: We have extended our stay by one night. Actually
you need seven nights in Bali to just get a feel of the
place. A few of us are going back to Seminyak street this
morning. We saw all those lovely shops last night and we
want to explore them today. We land up at the 'Home of Treasure',
a quirky looking shop selling lifestyle products on Seminyak.
The American owner/artist goes about showing his one of
a kind artifacts in glass, wood, rattan, stone, ceramics.
The latest soundtrack from "Chalte Chalte" is
playing on his stereo, which makes the shopping even more
weird. I feel like I am in Mumbai. The guy has great stuff
and we pick up some unusual things. Last night, I had noticed
a "Spaghetti Jazz" signboard -- written in the
same manner and with a saxophone just like the one we have
in Gulshan -- on this street. It had intrigued me, so we
decided to check it out. I see this man sitting there, he
looks awfully familiar. We stare at each other and I realise
it is Mario Ciccone. Mario and his wife Antonella are the
Italian couple who set up "Spaghetti Jazz" in
Dhaka. He jumps up and we are both completely taken aback!
Mario cannot believe it's us as he sits us down for the
next two hours to catch up while we order some of his excellent
food. He calls Antonella over to surprise her and we go
through the latest gossip in Dhaka. After a bite of Antonella's
Tiramisu and two hours of chatting and a shot of Grappa
we are back on the streets of Seminyak.
pm: Tonight we try the Moroccan Restaurant that
we read about in a 'Things to do in Bali' magazine. "Khaima"
is on Seminyak Street too. The place is lively and crowded
with customers, giving you a feel of a 'souk' in downtown
Marrakesh. Waiters in Moroccan outfits scurry around with
trays of delicious looking food. The owner, Idris, suggests
the chicken tagine with lemons and lamb tagine with sausage
along with seven vegetable couscous for entrees . Two Indonesian
belly dancers set the place on fire by running to the middle
of the room and sashaying to the sounds of Middle Eastern
music! I join them for a spot of belly-shaking... The dinner
is scrumptious, the atmosphere crackling as we retire to
the makeshift tent inside the restaurant with cushions and
hookahs ready. The owner has set up the area to replicate
an oasis and we smoke apple-flavored tobacco and nibble
on Baklava . This is a great way to end the evening.
morning we will be packing our bags and heading for the
airport, all of us wish we had stayed longer. There's so
much we didn't get to see and do. Going to Ubud for shopping
and sightseeing, the volcanoes, the other beaches... Bali
grows on you, there is a seductive charm about this island
which is addictive. Maybe it's the laid-back lifestyle or
the warmth of the people, but something makes you want to
linger....... Beautiful Bali, we will be back.
writer is a Travel Consultant and Managing Director, Travel