Monday, April 1, 2013

BALI 101 - INTRODUCTION TO BALI

GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT ~ BALI is a holiday destination in Indonesia everyone wants to go to. One of the facts that visitors should know is that the majority of its population are Hindus who are very religious and they practice the religion in their everyday lives. You have to see with your own eyes to believe how pious these people are. This place is the centre one of the world's most popular spots, so you will find tourists in just every nook and corner of the island.


As usual, it helps a lot to do some research before going. At least, you can have some background knowledge of what to expect. Other that travel guide books, blogs prove to be very helpful. After reading numerous entries of people who have been to Bali, I found out that in the end, everybody went, saw and did almost the same thing.


CURRENCY ~ Once you are in Bali, you will suddenly become a millionaire doing business transactions in thousands and millions of Rupiah (known as IDR). It might be a bit confusing having to get your exact notes right. As for Malaysians, the easiest way to calculate the real conversion value when buying or paying something is by dividing its price by 3. For example, IDR100 000 is about RM330.00. Our guide advised us to change our money only at authorized money changer outlet to avoid being cheated (but we did that earlier in Malaysia).


with Pak Dwi, our guide for five days, in front of the rented car

GET A GUIDE ~ To make your life easier, you better get yourself a guide. Unless you are an adventurous person, then you could rent a car or a motorbike to explore the island but the place is small but overpopulated with foreigners and locals. The roads are always congested and at some parts, the roads are going uphill and downhill with sharp bends which require tremendous skills. For Muslims, you might need assistance to find halal restaurants and places to perform your prayers when you are on the road.

I was only communicating with my guide via e-mail before going. He would suggest the itinerary based on the number of days I would be staying and I could still ask for any modifications to the suggested plan. And for one thing, the price was reasonable. For the 5-day stay in Bali, my friends and I had to pay about RM500 for the service provided.. On the fourth day, we started our road tour as early as 3:00 a.m. and only arrived back at the hotel by almost 9:00 p.m. and the price charged for that long day of long distance travel was still alright.

By the way, you might not get the same guide you are communicating with. He might be booked by other group so he would pass the job to his other friend. But not to worry, you will still get the same package at the same rate.

If you are looking for a guide, please do not hesitate to contact me. (I am not taking any commission.)
 


AT THE AIRPORT ~ [ARRIVING] When we arrived at the airport, there was a big crowd. The queue was long and there were only three immigration counters operating. Then there was this airport staff asking people whether they wanted to clear the checkpoint faster, something like a VIP lane, by paying a certain amount of cash. I was not sure whether this was legal or not, but it should be much easier and quicker if you are in a hurry. {DEPARTING] - Do NOT spend all your Indonesian money you have before leaving. You have to pay the airport tax first before departing and it is IDR 150 000 per person. I am not sure what will happen when suddenly you realize that you have run out of cash to pay the tax.


LANGUAGE ~ For Malaysians, there should not be any language barrier as Indonesian language is very similar to Malay. However, there are words which you might not be familiar with but communication is always possible. Staff counter at the hotel or salespersons are always bilingual and helpful, and I found that many tourist guides are able to speak more than two languages. People here are also very friendly and it looks safe to walk around town even if you are on your own at night. The danger of the stalls operators knowing that you are Malaysians is that they will start pestering you to buy their goods on sale (like at the stalls at one of the temples) either  they could communicate and persuade you easily OR Malaysians are the people who like to buy souvenirs hence they have become the target. They would go to the extend of holding your hands or forcing you to hold the items just to get your attention. (TIPS TO AVOID IRRITATING SELLERS: walk very quickly and never establish eye contact with them.)

FOOD ~ The easiest and most common halal restaurants for Muslims will be "nasi padang" outlets and some operate 24 hours. However, the price would be a bit costly for a simple lunch. For a plate of white rice, like in the picture above with a glass of orange juice(known as "es jeruk"), you will need to pay about RM10 which should be considered cheap as we had paid more for similar lunch somewhere else. I wonder if tourists are charged extra for everything purchased.

OTHER NECESSITIES ~ (1) Always bring your cash around. You have to pay to enter the beach area, or the waterfall, or the temple and even to see the rice terrace - nothing is free here in Bali. From what I can remember the only place that gave free access to the visitors was Padang Padang Beach. (2) Bring along your sandals/slippers as well as your running/walking shoes as the activities vary. There will be a lot of walking to be done. One time you might be climbing up a hill and at another time, you would want to walk or run along the long stretch of sandy beach. 



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WATCHING BARONG DANCE
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