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Tag / holiday

It’s time to continue documenting the remainder of my Bali trip while the memory is still somewhat fresh.

After spending a night at Kuta and two more nights at Sanur, we moved to Ubud.

Located at central Bali, Ubud is about one and a half hours away from Kuta on a cab, which in Balinese traffic, only covers around 35-40 kilometers.

Night at Jalan Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali
Night at Jalan Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

The most happening place in Ubud must be Jalan Monkey Forest, a street filled with many hotel/hostel/home stays, restaurants, art galleries, and touristy shops. It is a (mostly) narrow one way street with cars that travels no faster than you could jog.

The relatively higher elevation of 200+ meters above sea level and the abundance of greenery at Ubud gave the place a slightly cooler and more pleasant temperature and than the coast.

Sri Bungalows with lush green padi field at the back
Sri Bungalows with lush green padi field at the back

We checked into Sri Bungalows located on Jalan Monkey Forest and paid US $60 via agoda.com for the room that had a King size and another Twin bed. The wifi only works for one device at a time, but it won’t be a holiday if you constantly have to be on the internet, right?

At the back of the hotel (which was a series of “bungalows” with 4 rooms each, 2 on ground & 2 on 1st floor) is a swimming pool, and next to the swimming pool are lush green paddy fields. I’m not sure if these are real farmer’s paddy fields or they’re there only for the hotel guests, but they’re sure beautiful and very relaxing just to stare at.

artsy stuff all over Ubud
artsy stuff all over Ubud, all for sale

All along Jalan Monkey Forest and a few streets around it, there are art shops. Many many art shops. Ubud is the art and crafts hub of Bali, and it may as well be the art & crafts hub of South East Asia. Throw a stone in any direction at this place and chances are you’ll hit a painting.

You can find art pieces from from 100,000 IDR cheap paintings to works done by famous Indonesian artists that fetches a small fortune.

monkey forest at Ubud, the prime tourist attraction
monkey forest at Ubud, the prime tourist attraction

Monkey Forest (naturally located at Jalan Monkey Forest), also known as the Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal, is a sanctuary with over 500 long-tailed macaques roaming about in the forest among the trees and temples.

mom, elder sibling, and baby monkeys
mom, elder sibling, and baby monkeys

Entrance to Monkey Forest is 20,000 IDR (exchange rate was at 10,000 IDR to 3.40 MYR at time of travel). You get a small guide map and plenty of advertisements. There are 2-3 entrances into the sanctuary, and ticket counters are right next to each of them.

There are villagers selling bananas, peanuts, and other fruits you can purchase to feed the primates.

obviously these westerners were braver than me with the monkeys
obviously these Australians were braver than me with the monkeys

It doesn’t take more than an hour or so to explore the entire Monkey Forest. There were certainly a lot of monkeys, and some of them quite daring too if food is presence. Fortunately, the monkeys are non aggressive for the most part.

I didn’t dare letting these tailed cousins sit on my lap or climb on me, but some of these Aussie tourists were more daring. (I still remember how hard the monkey bit me while filming for Project Alpha at Tambun, luckily its teeth were filed)

and I tried the famous cafe Lewak, Haze thought it was gross
and I tried the famous cafe Luwak, Haze thought it was gross

We also stopped by a Bali Pesto Cafe along Jalan Monkey Forest cos they serve Kopi Luwak. For those who are not familiar with this special type of coffee, do read:

Kopi luwak, or civet coffee, is one of the world’s most expensive and low-production varieties of coffee. It is made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) and other related civets, then passed through its digestive tract.

More about that in the wiki entry of Kopi Lewak.

This cup of kopi luwak cost me 46,000 IDR including tax, which translate to something like 1.5 cups of Starbucks.

I had it black and did not add any sugar, and true to its reputation, the coffee wasn’t very bitter and carry a pleasant aroma. It pretty nice coffee, but I don’t see the what the hype is about though.

Then again, I couldn’t be 100% sure that the coffee they served me was in fact, kopi luwak. Will try it again next time. 😀

how you transport chicken in Bali
this is how you transport chicken in Bali

And after that 3 dogs on motorcycle photo in the last picture of Kuta post, I shall end this post with a photo of this chicken transporter Haze managed to shoot while we were riding on the rental motorbike around Ubud.

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.

Pulau Aur is one of the Southern most diving destination in Malaysia, as a result, the island is probably more popular to Singaporean than the average Malaysian. Which explains why Gab, who used to work in Singapore helped organize this trip right after our Redang Project AWARE dive trip last September.

The operator was FWS, and we stayed at Pulau Aur Diver’s Lodge.

Journey to Pulau Aur
the journey to Pulau Aur via Mersing

Racheal who missed the Redang trip due to illness was able to join us on the last dive of the season with her boo Norman. Terence, Gab, Irene, Horng, and myself fit into 2 cars and started our journey to Pulau Aur on Thursday evening, taking advantage of the holiday on Friday (Deepavali.)

While the road journey is only some 360 KM, the east-west bit was through old trunk roads and thus it took a good 4.5 hours to get there while driving relatively speedy. This is evident from Irene’s constant exploit of the poor IKEA soft toy to cover her face over the windier part of the track.

Port Cafe by Mersing Jetty
Port Cafe by Mersing Jetty

We arrived at Mersing just before midnight, parked the car and took care of supper in the TSH (tourist slaughter house) looking restaurant that is the Port Cafe. As it turned out, food wasn’t all too expensive at less than RM 10 per plate, and the nasi goreng Cina was exceptionally tasty too!

boat transfer from Mersing to Pulau Aur
slave style boat transfer from Mersing to Pulau Aur

The boat to Aur left Mersing just past midnight. There wasn’t any real seating space on this boat, there were 2 “decks” of sleeping space instead. If you’re like us and got on the boat late, all there’s left would be the rear upper deck that has about 3cm headroom.

The experience was a bit like sleeping in a coffin, except there’s an additional falling hazard and the aircond was too cold. It was still fun though, I slept through most part of the boat ride, bliss!

the resort at night, we arrived before day break
the resort at night, we arrived before day break

We reached the resort before sunrise. Being ushered down the boat onto another platform in the middle of water while still super woozy was certainly an experience. The resort wasn’t even really in sight at night, it felt like we were on set for Pirates of the Pulau Aur or something, that sorta woke me up.

Pulau Aur Diver's Lodge
Pulau Aur Diver’s Lodge does look a lot more inviting in daylight

This is the view of the resort taken from the small jetty that’s only good enough to park a sampan (shallow water). The seating area’s for moonlight BBQ dinner, with Narcosis bar on the left. There are altogether 18 rooms in 9 different semi-d chalet.

Our rooms were located on the 2nd level and it was already too high to climb after exhausting dives. I’d appreciate an escalator around here, but the view is fantastic though.

breathing compressed air - bliss!
breathing compressed air – bliss!

Diving is done from the very same boat that we took from Mersing. We set up our gears and left them on the big boat, but going to and from the diving boat to resort had to be done via the sampan. A bit of a hassle but we weren’t really complaining.

nudibranches at Pulau Aur
nudibranches at Pulau Aur

There were 9 dives scheduled in 2 days, I did 8 and skipped the last night dive mainly due to exhaustion. Over here there was no time to do anything else, it was dive, eat, dive, eat, dive, eat, dive, eat, and with some naps in between.

This was really a proper diving trip, there weren’t any activities for snorkelers.

we take a sampan to the bigger boat before each dive
we take a sampan to the bigger boat before each dive

Besides the platform, Pulau Aur Diver’s Lodge does not really have a beach. There were, however, two very short stretch of beaches at each side of the resort accessible via the very poorly maintained wooden bridge (one of which already completely destroyed). The resort owner explained that maintenance of these bridges/walkways are done by the Malaysian government…

tranquilizing seascape
tranquilizing seascape

Since it was the last dive trip before season ends, the water condition was not exactly the greatest. We were in fact pretty lucky to not have to deal with any thunderstorm or crazy huge waves when we had to be under or on the ocean.

Visibility, as a result, wasn’t too great either, and most dive sites had mild to strong current, not particularly friendly to beginners.

Terence with his new gear, weird sea creature, color-coordinated Rachael
Terence with his new gear, weird sea creature, color-coordinated Racheal

That said, we still had pretty decent dives that could have been even better if not for the fact that our Dive Master somehow always think that fighting the current head on is such a great idea.

There were the usual suspects under the sea – several types of nudibranches, bat fish, cleaner fish, clown fish, baby baraccuda, puffer fish, angel fish, and so on. Horng even spotted a cuttlefish!

Our hope of swimming with a whale sharks though, will have to wait for future trips.

food at Pulau Aur Diver's Lodge
awesome food at Pulau Aur Diver’s Lodge

The food at Diver’s Lodge was really way better than our expectations. We had moon light buffer dinner the first night, and really awesome BBQ dinner the second night. There were unlimited grilled prawns, beef, squid, cuttle fish, and so on. I still miss the sliced fried potato there.

Even the lunch/tea time food were pretty good, fried chicken, fish, and of course, that awesome homemade donut with Hershey’s chocolate sauce.

earth is 70% water, don't always be land bound :D
earth is 70% water, don’t always be land bound 😀

I think I’m done with diving for 2010, next year we’ll get the girls to learn diving too! Kerol, Kim, Haze, Diana and more (and also the return of Gareth), can’t wait!

Before earlier this year at Sipadan and Mabul islands, my previous diving trip was Redang, way back in 2005. After the very first dive at Mabul island, I realized how much I actually missed diving and promised that I would do it perhaps 4 times this year.

I guess I over achieved, it is June and I’ve went on 4 diving trips already. This time at Redang island, it was a trip organized by Terence to con our buddy Horng in getting his PADI Open Water certification.

turtle at Redang
Terence chasing the green turtle

Together with Haze, Kim, Kerol, FA, Joe (went to Tenggol with), and dive instructor Edvin from OceanXplorer, we started our journey just after midnight from KL to Kuala Terengganu on Friday.

The drive took a little less than 7 hours, which proved to be a bit of a mistake in scheduling. As our boat does not leave till past 9 am, we ended up having to spend over 2 hours at Kuala Terengganu for breakfast. Should have left at perhaps 1:30am instead to optimize the journey and catch more sleep prior.

haze, FA, kim, kerol at Merang Jetty
Haze, Kerol, FA, and Kim. bottom rigth: 2 vagabonds found on the boat

In contrast with the departure point to Tenggol at Dungun where there were perhaps half a dozen people heading to the island, Merang Jetty was absolutely packed. There were tourists representing all continents, a cacophony of foreign languages and various local accents served as white noise while we board our relatively comfortable boat.

A little less than an hour later, we arrived at Redang.

KY & Haze, Joe with his cam, Horng and Edvin
KY & Haze, Joe, Horng getting his PADI certification by Edvin

While Tenggol was a hidden paradise, Redang felt more like a well oiled machine all prep up for tourists.

Boat load of people being herded to the resort registration counter like sheep by hounds, tractors hauling your luggage, loud PA system announcing snorkeling time, and huge dining area not entirely unlike school canteen.

Eagle Ray at Redang island
freaking lucky Horng, Eagle Ray on his first ever dive

Having said that, while I don’t particularly like the commercialization of the island, it does have advantages some can’t live without.

There’s projector with Astro showing world cup, convenient store, pub by the beach with dance floor and all sorts of alcohol, and even eateries offering pretty awesome Cantonese noodle and lor mai kai (glutinous rice with chicken).

Terence, Horng, KY, Joe geared up for diving
Terence, Horng, KY, Joe,  diving at Redang on 2nd day

I did 5 dives at Redang, the first was the shore dive in conjunction with Horng’s very first compressed air breathing experience in the ocean. We saw a magnificent spotted eagle ray!

nemo, cleaner fish
puffer fish, nemo’s cousin, and cleaner fish on my fins

The second dive we did was with the resort’s dive operator at the site just a couple minutes from the beach. The dive turned out to be pretty forgettable, not a whole lot to see and a tad too many divers at the same time. I did manage to get some cleaner fish to service my fins though 😀

Luckily quite a lot of people left the island on Sunday (our 2nd day). The lesser crowd was a blessing, and though not related, the diving was much better too.

blue fish, more nemo, moray eel
blue coral fish, moray eel, more nemo, blue spotted sting ray

Our second dive at Tanjung Tokong dive site had the best visibility I’ve ever experienced, we could see well over 30 meters. It was like diving in 1080p HD quality.

We ended up visiting a lot of nemo in our 5 dives. There were other usual suspects like moray eel, trigger fish, cleaner fish, shrimp, puffer, porcupine fish, green turtle, and blue spotted sting ray. There weren’t a lot of nudibranch though.

Unfortunately, there were also some signs of coral bleaching due to the warm ocean temperature, hopefully that will reverse itself in due time.

shrimp, ikan kembong, porcupine fish
another eel, ikan kembong?, cleaner shrimp, porcupine fish

While the diving weren’t superb, they were still pretty enjoyable. The excellent vis at Tg. Tokong was a savior, and of course the feeling of being in water with total freedom and almost total quietness was always something I love.

Kim and Kerol did a discovery dive with Ed and totally loved it, I think there’s probably more certified divers in #porkgang next year. As it stands, all the guys are certified divers, and none of the girls are. Lets change that soon guys!

Mine’s at the pristine beach on Tenggol island. 6 dives yesterday and today, now waiting for sunset, dinner, and a night dive.


sand, sea, bliss!

Still no whale sharks, but we have at least another dive tomorrow before heading back to civilization.

How’s your weekends?