Malaysian Food Blog, Travel, Diving & More

Category / Indonesia

While Bali isn’t exactly a dining destination, there are several “must eat” places on the island. One of them is Ibu Oka’s Babi Guling at Ubud, partly made famous by Anthony Bourdain, the person whose job I wouldn’t mind swapping with.

Babi Guling Ibu Oka at Ubud, Bali
the new branch of Babi Guling Ibu Oka at Ubud, Bali

For those unfamiliar with this dish, Babi Guling literally translate to “rolling pig”, and has it’s name taken from the way the pig is prepared – by puttin the smallish pig on a stick and keep rolling it over coconut husk fire. The pig must previously be stuffed with shallots, garlic, galangal, lemon grass and dried shrimp, among other things. This is to add flavor while removing any pungent “pork” smell.

2 sets of bali guling with rice
2 sets of bali guling with rice

We visited the branch of the original Ibu Oka Babi Guling, a cleaner and bigger place with proper table and a much airy environment.

One reason I choose this location at Jalan Raya Desa Mas is that we had passed the restaurant on the way to Ubud and hence I knew how to get there, and secondly, the original place has been written to death and there is no need for yet another article for it, I suppose.

soup, rice, and the chili paste with a kick
soup, rice, and the chili paste with a kick

We arrived there at around noon on a weekday, the place had a healthy stream of diners, but no huge crowd as you would find at the original warung.

We ordered a set with rice, vegetable, pork roll, fried meat, sausage, and pork skin for IDR 30,000 and another set with rice, “complete meat”, and soup for IDR 50,000.

and yes, fanta remains very popular at Bali
and yes, fanta remains very popular at Bali

To be honest, I can’t tell what the fuss is about. The meal turned out to be very average for me (but in the case of Bali, above average), the meat was a little too gamy and still carry a bit of pungent smell. The skin was too tough, the sausage too is something I wouldn’t order again, it was a bit too “unrefined”. Our roast pork and Chinese sausage triumph this any day.

That being said, the soup was rather tasty, and with a bit of their spicy chili paste, the combination of meat and rice was decent too.

Still, all that hype, it was a bit of a let down.

Perhaps the next time around I”ll try the main branch to see if there’s any difference, but for now, babi guling isn’t one of my must-eat item at Ubud, but I’ll still eat it if it wasn’t out of the way.

Babi Guling Ibu Oka 2
Jalan Raya Desa Mas,
Ubud, Bali 80571
GPS: -8.530454, 115.271631

One of the most important item on our itinerary for Bali is scuba diving. Bali is one of the few places in this part of the world where there is almost a guarantee that you’ll dive with the otherwise very elusive Manta Rays, and there’s also a good chance in spotting the biggest bony fish in the world – the weird and wonderful Mola Mola, also known as Sun Fish.

leaving from Sanur to Nusa Penida
the beach at Sanur before heading to Nusa Penida

Prior to the trip, I did some research on the various dive centres at Bali (and there were a lot of them) and arrived at no conclusion, so I asked Edvin for suggestion and Bali Scuba was recommended, it turned out to be a good one, so thanks buddy!

Diving at Nusa Penida
the three dive sites at Nusa Penida that we went to

There are many dive sites in Bali offering very different diving experiences. There’s the USS Liberty wreck at Tulamben, white tip sharks that is common at Gili island, muck diving for macro photography at Seraya, and more.

However, since my goal was to see Manta Rays and Mola Mola, I chose Nusa Penida as my destination.

boat transfer from Sanur to Nusa Penida
Bali Scuba is located at Sanur

The dive center charges US $145 for three boat dives at Nusa Penida, and the package comes with hotel transfer, drinks, and a lunch served on the speed boat. Equipment can be rented at extra charge, and extra wet suit is recommended (5mm wet suit rented at $5).

To tag on for snorkeling only, the fee was US $50, Haze does not dive yet, so she went aboard for a snorkeling trip, that was the initial plan anyway.

manta ray at Manta Point, Nusa Penida
abundance of manta rays at Manta Point

We left Sanur at around 9 in the morning and our first dive was at the famous Manta Point, located at the Southern part of the island.

Even before jumping into the water, there were already sightings of those gentle giants swimming close to the surface.

2 mantas in a mating dance
2 mantas in a mating dance

I was wearing the rental 5 mm wet suit for the dive, and spent over 40 minutes in the water that was 22-23 Celsius. A bit too cold for me, but bearable, a hood and extra thermal guard would probably be a good idea.

My previous coldest diving temperature was at Aquaria KLCC, but 22-23 Celsius is a big difference with 24-25 Celsius.

the graceful devil ray
the graceful devil ray

The dive though, was definitely worth it. While the water at Manta Point wasn’t particularly clear and there were even debris (some banana leaves, plastic wrappers and such from offerings made by boatmen), the sight of these huge fish was amazing.

There were probably over a dozen mantas at the site and some were doing their mating dance too. A fantastic dive for sure.

mola mola at Crystal Point, Nusa Penida
mola mola: hello, diver: say cheese!

The second dive was at Crystal Point to hunt for the elusive Mola Mola.

The dive master said it’ll be cold on this dive, so I put on two wet suits this time (Haze has already abandoned snorkeling after being shocked by the 23 C water temperature at first site), but it was not nearly enough for the 17 Celsius water temperature at this site.

It was FREEZING! It was so cold I think I’d need at least a thermal layer, 2 wet suits, gloves, hood, and probably socks too.

But we saw two mola mola, so it was definitely worth it. I only managed to take four photos in the 20+ minutes we were underwater. I was shaking too much to operate the camera, basically.

Other than the temperature, the current at Crystal Point is also something to be reckoned with. There is sometimes a down current that can pull inexperience divers towards the deep slope, you need to always stay close to the coral & dive master and monitor depth constantly. A Japanese diver with another group was seen being pulled by the current while we were doing our safety stop and our DM had to help him out.

Crystal Point is definitely only suitable for those who have a bit more experience in diving.

underwater seascape at North Shore
underwater seascape at North Coast, Nusa Penida

We had lunch on the boat, took a bit of rest and then moved to the 3rd dive site of the day. This time at the much warmer North Coast of Nusa Penida. The operator usually would have a repeat at Crystal Point as third dive if you don’t spot any mola mola on first attempt.

North Coast offers drift diving opportunity, and after the two very cold water, I was happy we agreed to do something relaxing for the final dive.

then we meet another mola mola at 37 meter
then we meet another mola mola at 37 meter

And as luck would have it, we met another mola mola at this site. The dive master did mention that while there is a chance to see the sun fish here, it is exceedingly rare, we were very lucky.

The photo taken here turned out to be almost exactly the same as the one from previous site, and I think a couple of us accidentally went a little too deep chasing mola at 37 meter.

scorpion fish at north coast, nusa penida
hey look, a scorpion fish

After the encounter with the sunfish (lasted but a few minutes), the remaining dive was a more leisure and less interesting affair. There were scorpion fish, moray eel, and more coral fish. We finished the day after 40+ minutes underwater.

It was tiring, and definitely a very rewarding day diving at Nusa Penida.

The photo below is an ariel view of Waterbom at Kuta, Bali. Yes, those are the awesome water slides from the big tower amongst the tropical trees.

waterbom bali
ariel view of Waterbom park at Bali

On our first day at Bali, we spent half a day at this water park. The park has more than 17 water slides, from the pretty relaxing Superbowl to the super thrilling Boomerang and Climax, there’s something for everyone. Check out the 1 minute video to get an idea of what’s at Waterbom.

In the video, Boomerang was probably the scariest of them all. Climax though, is an almost vertical slide that drops you down at a speed of up to 70 km/h. That was scary, and unfortunately camera wasn’t allowed on that slide.

Some rides required a tube (single or double), some a sled mat, and others without any protection.

loads of fun time, plus some over priced food at waterbom bali

Park entrance is $26 USD per person, and you can pay that in IDR equivalent too. There are also locker and gazebo facility for extra charge. Meals are at least 3 times the price of what you’d expect from outside (though the fried rice I ordered were plenty delicious), but hey it’s a theme park.

We had an awesome half-day at Waterbom, and I think it is a place worth visiting for the thrill seekers. I only wish that the water slide tower comes with an escalator, repeatedly walking up to some 4-5 stories high can get tiring after a while.

Again, watch the video, and check out what we did for the rest of the day at Kuta too.

After a day spent at Kuta beach, we moved to quieter part of Bali at Sanur.

Sanur is some 15-20 km North East of Kuta, in anywhere else that would be a pretty short distance, but at Bali it means a good 30-45 minutes on a taxi, the traffic was that bad.

get pass the cow before you get to tropical bali hotel
you must get pass the cow before you get to Tropical Bali hotel

There were 2 reasons we moved to Sanur.First,  the dive center for the dive trip is located at Sanur (tho they will pick you up from Kuta too), and secondly, it is a quieter part of Bali. While Kuta is a very vibrant tourist laden area, Sanur is a lot more laid back and mainly occupied by locals.

the swimming pool at Tropical Bali Hotel
the beautiful little pool at Tropical Bali hotel

We spent two nights at Tropical Bali hotel at Sanur, a very small home stay style hotel that is run by a French couple who were used to be in the restaurant business. The hotel had only 10 rooms, two blocks of four rooms arranged in an L shape facing the pool, and another two in the same block as the reception area where the couple lives.

The hotel is located some 100 meters or so off Jalan Padang Galak via a dirt road that is next to a corn farm complete with cows and chicken. These are the real farmers and not those make-pretend type that is there to beautify a resort.

our hotel room
our very tastefully done hotel room

The room was tastefully done, with high ceiling, air conditioning, hot shower, and everything was almost brand new too.

Every room also has a balcony to itself where breakfast is served every morning. You get a choice of local breakfast, English breakfast, or international breakfast. The photo below is our English breakfast on the day just before we went off to Nusa Penida. The operator was kind enough to make breakfast for us by 6:30 am knowing that our pick up was at 7 am.

hotel breakfast, served individually
hotel breakfast, served individually

For other meals, the hotel provide delivery service (complete with the menu) and only charge another 10% on top of the bill. We ordered take out for dinner once and they served it with hotel’s plates & cutleries on the same table at the balcony, it didn’t feel like take-out at all. A very nice touch.

Other than the remote location (which is actually a plus point if you like to just chill & zen) and slowish WIFI, I can’t say enough good things about Tropical Bali Hotel. If I go to Bali again, I’d like to stay there again for sure.

We found Tropical Bali via Agoda and paid $52.47 per night, a steal for this kinda service and quality.

ikan bakar pencar at Sanur, Bali
ikan bakar pencar at Jalan Padang Galak

On the first night at Sanur, we walked some 15 minutes on Jalan Padang Galak to have dinner at Ikan Bakar Warong Pencar. The journey itself was quite scary, the street was mostly unlit and all you can see is the occasional motorcycle headlights as they come close and swung by.

We would have been totally chilled with that if not for the incident where we got mugged just over a year ago. In retrospect, it might have been a better idea to call a cab instead.

smashed eggplant, prawn skewer, bbq clams
smashed eggplant, prawn skewer, bbq clams

At Warong Pencar we had half a duck (ducks in Bali is always very small), smashed eggplant, prawn skewer, and bbq clams.

The duck was a flavorful but a tad chewy, eggplant came with the standard “ayam penyet” sauce which I love, and prawn was quite delightful too. The clams though, came with some sort of soya sauce which kinda made it taste a bit too fishy for our liking.

Overall it was still a decent meal and cost us only some 100,000 IDR. There’s even a facebook page for Warong Pencar!

Kuta is one of the de-facto touristy areas that most who goes to the island of Bali will visit. It is a sort of a bigger version of Batu Feringghi in Penang, with more tourists, more stalls, more activities, and bigger waves.

Not coincidentally, this was also the ground zero of Bali bombing that happened in 2002, though there seems to be no lingering effects from that tragic incident 9 years ago so far as the tourism industry goes.

Kuta Beach at Bali
surfing lessons are offered at every 10 meter on the beach

Other than sun bathing and looking good in your bikini, one of the more popular activities on Kuta beach is surfing and wake boarding. You can easily get a surfing lesson from eager locals who almost looked Hawaiian, minus the accent.

We did not bother doing it, the wave wasn’t particularly big that day, and even if I managed to master the trade, then what? Your mileage may vary.

Pendawa Hotel, quite strategically located
Pendawa Hotel, quite strategically located

We stayed at Pendawa Hotel for a night at Kuta. It’s a 2 star place that is not too hard on the wallet at USD $46.75 via Agoda.

The room is air conditioned, uncarpeted, clean, and has a balcony facing the tastefully shaped swimming pool. The toilet, however, came with a bath tub that is already slightly stained. Not exactly awesome, but hey, it was less than USD $50.

street arts at Bali
street arts, not sure if those three are admirers

The hotel is located inside an alley directly opposite Discovery Mall, which is situated right by the beach. The mall has your typical KFC, Pizza Hut, and even Roti Boy. Yes, Roti Boy!

The alley is only as wide as a car, and wears plenty of rather tasteful graffitis (no huge cock or ahlong stickers, thankfully)

KY was here
obligatory picture of myself by Kuta beach

Before heading to the beach, we actually spent a few hours at Waterbom Park. It was loads of fun actually, but there will be another post complete with GoPro videos dedicated just for it. As soon as Haze gets the video done, that is.

cremation at Kuta beach, Bali
cremation process right on the beach, hmm….

I snapped the photos above without knowing what actually happened. It looked like some sort of religious rituals at the time, with groups of people gathering, and some open burning going on.

Only later I found out (from a local) that these were actually cremation process, strangely, there seems to be no one crying. If this was a Chinese thing, there’d be plenty of drama (even if we have to fake it)

chicken satay by Kuta beach
chicken satay by Kuta beach

Our first meal at Bali was from this satey stall by Kuta Beach, hotel breakfast notwithstanding. We had to wait for a good 15-20 minutes before it was our turn, business was brisk at this little stall operated by a pair of old couple.

yes, it was yummy
yes, it was yummy

The chicken satay comes with quite a bit of ketupat, but instead of peanut sauce that we’re familiar with, there is a type of pretty spicy sambal as condiment instead. It was plenty tasty, and cost us 10,000 Rupiah if I remember correctly.

At time of travel, 10,000 Rupiah was RM 3.60.

A can of chilled Coca-Cola goes for 8,000-10,000 IDR. Yes, everyone is a millionaire in Indonesia.

braid your hair
hair braiding and temporary tattoos services are offered everywhere

There were plenty of hair braiding, padi-manicure, and temporary tattoo services along the beach. Haze did hers for 50k IDR. Initial asking price was 100k IDR, but in Bali you have to bargain for everything, and we probably could have gotten it even cheaper if patience is one of my traits.

The lady worked expertly on her hair, and the whole thing only took some 15-20 minutes.

KY & Haze at Bali
we don’t take lotsa picture together, but when we do, it’s with pink sunnies

Now with the camera and her braided hair, we looked properly touristy. This is a recipe to get slaughtered, but you only travel so often, so what the heck.

bakso, porky goodness
bakso, tastes only as “good” as it looked

Near the art market by Kuta Beach, we found a stall operated by a guy with lousy hairstyle selling bakso – one of the so called must-eat street foods in Bali.

As we looked plenty touristy now, the bowl of bakso cost us 20k IDR, though you shouldn’t really pay more than 10k IDR or a bowl of meatballs, meat paste, crackers, and vermicelli noodle in soup. It didn’t taste as good as I thought it would be. I’d prefer it to be a bit less starchy and with more meat in those paste/ball.

this is how you transport 3 dogs on a motorcycle
this is how you transport 3 dogs on a motorcycle

On the way back to the hotel, we also saw this pretty impressive feat – just a guy going on a motorcycle ride with his 3 sausage dogs, the puppies were basically just holding on to dear life while the guy trolls around on his Suzuki.

Yes, these are things you see at Kuta.