Bali – Kuta Paradiso Hotel Bali

 

Kuta Paradiso Hotel Bali

For the 5 days that we spent in Bali, we stayed in only one hotel and that’s Kuta Paradiso Hotel Bali, which is located at the South Bali, Kuta. I reckon most people would choose to move from place to place as they travel in Bali, just to experience the different types of accommodation such as resort, villa, spa, etc. For us, it was a conscious decision to stay put at a resort and not to move every other day. In hindsight, we should have chosen to stay in one of the villas for 1~2 nights and saved us a few hours of traveling each day.

What’s great about this hotel is definitely its location; centrally located in Kuta area. If you turn right upon leaving the hotel, you will reach the Discovery Mall in 5 minutes. If you turn left, you will reach Kuta square in about the same time. Shopping, restaurants (Chinese, Japanese, Western, Seafood, etc) are easily available in the vicinity of the hotel. If you head towards the back of the hotel, you will reach the famous Kuta beach in less than 5 minutes. Really, I couldn’t ask for a better location than this. 🙂

Our super big double super-singles bed

The hotel staff helped to join the 2 beds for us

We booked the room via one of the online travel sites and the system didn’t allow us to specify our requirements very clearly then. We wanted a king-sized bed, but were given 2 single beds. The hotel staff, however, was very kind and helped us to put the 2 single beds together so that it became a super king-sized bed. Kudos to them for their great hospitality and affability.

A good spread of food

Good variety of condiments for the porridge

Egg station

Local Balinese Delights

Tropical fruits served in a fruit carving bowl

Snake fruit, or Salak

On one hand, the front-desk staff was very helpful and made special arrangement to accede to our request for the room configuration. On the other hand, they were also very “inflexible” in some of their policies.

Breakfast was included in our booking. However, it was only for 2 people per day and we had 4 in each room. In other words, 2 of us from each family ( remember that we had 2 families? ) won’t be able to enjoy the complimentary breakfast. Even though we had a total of 4 nights x 2 guests x 2 rooms = 16 vouchers, we can’t swap or combine our vouchers. The hotel’s policies are very rigid and it’s strictly 2 guests per day, based on the breakfast vouchers which were dated. Despite our appeal and reasoning, the front-desk simply refused to budge.  So much so for “customer service”, eh?

Anyway, we tried our luck the next morning and we gave them our daily voucher for 2, but with 4 of us walking into the restaurant. Guess what? It worked cos they didn’t even bother to check ! We did that for the next 3 mornings and the success rate was 100%. Now, your mileage may vary and please don’t quote me if you are caught for trying to “smuggle” into the restaurant.

As you can see from the photos above, their breakfast is very good and they have a very good spread  from International to Chinese to the local Balinese food. It’s your loss if you can’t enjoy the breakfast. 🙂

Carvings like this are very common in Bali

Besides a good breakfast spread, the hotel also has a very nice swimming facility. We spent a fun morning on our last day at the pool; playing water games such as basket-ball and volley-ball. These games are available on a first come first serve basis and there is no formal rental process for the balls – finders keepers, losers weepers, simple as that. But do remember that we are all civilized people and thus let’s share our “loot” when you are the “finder”. Sharing is, afterall, one of the virtues that we want to teach our children, right?

Nice pool

How about a game of basket-ball ?

I am not too bad, eh ?

Pool volley-ball ?

Yes, I got the ball …

Generally, I like the hotel. It’s spacious. It’s centrally located amongst the amentities like shops, pharmacies, money-changers, restaurants, malls and perhaps most importantly, the Kuta beach.

Kuta beach in the morning

Kuta beach with its myriad of activities like para-sailing, kite-flying and surfing.

Temples are found everywhere in Bali, beach included. Thus, if you are also into photography, do spend some time in the early morning walking around the vicinity of the hotel and be in awe by some of the architectures.

A typical Balinese temple

A peek into the backyard of rich family

A small temple at a road junction

Ok, that’s all I have for my 5 day trip in Bali. I am sure I will be back to this beautiful island again and next time, I shall stay in a villa ! 🙂

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Bali – Ubud Monkey Forest

We have quite a few members in our group who are terrified of monkeys, let alone close encounters with them. So you may have guessed, the Monkey Forest was not in our original plan. But since we had some time before our dinner at Jimbaran, we managed to convince them to go for it anyway. As it turned out, the experience wasn’t as daunting as we had imagined. In fact, I find the monkeys were not as aggressive as those in Uluwatu. Just relax, don’t bring any food and walk through the forest quietly; leave the monkeys alone and they will leave you alone too. I think you will be fine, really.

Entrance to the Monkey Forest

As with most other attractions in Bali, there is an element of integrity when it comes to admission charges. After we bought the tickets at the entrance booth (see photo above), there is no more gates or check-points. In fact, I had the tickets intact with me even after I left the forest. Sometimes, I really wonder will anybody know if I didn’t buy the ticket or I bought insufficient tickets? Since the charges are quite reasonable and of course we are people with integrity, we bought the full tickets. 🙂

 The so-called “forest” is more like a park; no dirt tracks and everything is very well maintained. For that matter, we didn’t even see any monkey poops on the pavement. Instead, we saw monkeys everywhere.

A baby monkey

Looking at how these monkeys behave sometimes put us (as human beings) to shame; at least they know how to treat each other with respect, look after each other and perhaps more importantly, not afraid to show their love, affection and care for each other openly. Human beings, sometimes, are too skeptical and often double guess each other’s well intentions. Sigh.

Monkeys grooming each other

A family

And did I mention before that temples are everywhere in Bali? So right in the centre of the forest is yet another temple. This temple was locked and although I could see devotees inside, I couldn’t get in.

A temple inside Monkey Forest

Now, for those who are afraid of monkeys and don’t believe me when I said you will be alright if you leave the monkeys alone, take a look at the photo below. These are my travel mates who are afraid of monkeys and see how excited (or brave if you like) they have become? LOL.

Who can resist the cute monkeys ?

It’s gonna be kinda weird if there is no “monkey business” in this forest/park that is full of monkeys, right? Fret not. For the more adventurous ones, you can buy some bananas from the store at the entrance and have a ball of time with the monkeys. You can take a look at the photos below to get some ideas. 🙂

Fun

This monkey conveniently sat on this tourist’s shoulders to eat the banana … LOL.

 

A group photo with the local kids

Image Source: monkeyforestubud.com

Useful Information – Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary:  

General Information:

  • http://monkeyforestubud.com/index.php
  • Open hours: 8.00am to 6.30pm daily
  • Address: Jalan Monkey Forest, Padangtegal, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia (80571)
  • Admission Charges: There is a nominal entrance fee (something like IDR15,000 if I didn’t remember wrongly)

 

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Bali – Luwak Civet Coffee Farm

It started to rain when we were at Mount Batur. Despite having spent (or rather wasted) one hour taking shelter in a souvenir super-mart (warehouse),  the unrelenting rain showed no signs of stopping. We had to make a decision – to continue with our itinerary in the rain, or to go back to our hotel and call it a day. Reluctantly, we chose the former.

Inside the coffee plantation

Our guide brought us to a local coffee plantation, Satria Agrowisata, which is more like a setup to provide education and coffee/tea tasting than a plantation. Don’t expect to walk between rows of coffee trees. Instead, there will be many different types of plants, spices, fruits, etc planted along the pathway with proper identification for you to improve on your general knowledge. 

It was rather unfortunate that the weather wasn’t permitting and we didn’t explore the plantation as much as we would like to. Nevertheless,  we had a good time at the plantation, sipping our hot coffee / tea while enjoying the greenery (in the cold). 

A hut with a visual display of the coffee making process

We spent quite some time in this hut (see photo above) where the process of the coffee making was displayed, including a demo and hands-on if you like.

Just slightly beyond the hut is the main store where we got to taste the different types of tea and coffee (Ginseng coffee, Bali cocoa, Ginger tea, Rosella tea, Lemon tea, Lemon grass tea, Rice tea, Vanilla coffee and many more). And yes, you will get to taste all of them. Of course there is no free lunch (or tea/coffee in this case). The samplers are generally very nice and you can buy them from the store. Although the prices are generally quite expensive, I am not sure if you could get them elsewhere or in the super-mart. We bought quite a few packs back and the taste is quite authentic.

Free Samplers for Tasting

Nice ambience for coffee / tea tasting

Luwak coffee (or Civet coffee) as you know, is the most expensive coffee in the world. There are tons of information out there in the Internet if you are keen to find out more about this “amazing” coffee. Although coffee is part of my daily diet, I am not a fan of Luwak coffee, simply because of the way the coffee is being prepared or processed. 🙂

This is the infamous Asian Palm Civet cat that produces the world’s most expensive coffee

According to the plantation guide, their Luwak coffee is produced by wild Civet cats and not those in captivity. These wild cats have free access to the coffee berries in their plantation to pick the best berries. These coffee berries will eventually passed out of their bodies pretty much intact. Every fortnight or so, the farmers will then go into the forest in search for their feces and will bring them back for processing. Does it sound yucky? Yes, it sure does…

The forest where the wild Civet cats reside

Dried feces of the Civet cat

The smaller coffee bean is the one that was passed out by the Civet cat

While all the other samplers were free of charge, Luwak coffee was not. We paid about USD$5 for one small cup of Luwak coffee just to try. Surprisingly, none of us liked it. Contrary to what most people said, I find the Luwak coffee is more bitter and it’s also a little sourish. Is it worth the price? Let’s put it this way, I will take the Singaporean Coffee-O any time.

 

It’s time to go

Useful Information – Luwak Civet Coffee Farm : 

General Information:

Admission Charges:

  • Free

Estimated traveling time by car:

  • Mount Batur  Luwak Civet Coffee Farm: 20 minutes

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Bali – Tegallalang Rice Terrace

Tegallalang Rice Terrace, which is situated in the northern end of Ubud, offers some stunning views of a rice terrace and is a good photo-stop before our next destination, Mount Batur. It’s only a short distance from Ubud centre and if you would like to have a quiet and tranquil morning or afternoon tea, I would strongly recommend this place to you.

Tegallalang Rice Terrace

Tegallalang Rice Terrace

On a hindsight, there are two things that I regretted not doing when I was at the rice terrace. I should have allocated more time (two hours would be nice) to go down the muddy path into the terrace. I saw people doing it and some of them also got a local villager to bring them around the terrace (for a small fee / tips). Secondly, imagine sipping a cup of coffee by the beautiful rice terrace. Can life be better that?

Due to some poor planning (and probably research) on my part, this shall always remain as one of my greatest regrets for this trip.

Tea houses overlooking the rice terrance at the background

This farmer is perpetually there all the time, just to pose with tourists for a small fee / tips.

There are many shops selling souvenirs and handicraft by the road

More shops. Remember, bargaining is a must here.

Some say Bali has one of the most beautiful rice terrace in the world. Most beautiful? That I am not sure. But most photogenic? I can attest to that; just look at the perfect postcard photo with the old farmer!

Useful Information – Tegallalang Rice Terrace : 

Admission Charges:

  • 20,000 IDR per car

Estimated traveling time by car:

  • Ubud  Tegallalang Rice Terrace: 20 minutes

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Bali – Mount Batur (Volcano)

 

Let me make a confession first for I know once this post is published, it’s going to be public information and the truth will be out. My family trusted me with the planning of the itinerary and yet there’s something which I didn’t tell them. But there’s definitely no hiding anymore; that Mount Batur (or Gunung Batur) is actually an active volcano!

It erupted almost every year in the sixties / seventies (1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1976) and the last time it erupted was in the year 2000. When will it erupt again? Is it dangerous to visit an active volcano? I don’t know but the idea of  visiting an active volcano sounds exciting, doesn’t it ?  

Ok, enough of pulling your leg. Actually those recent eruptions were considered minor ones. It should be relatively safe to view the volcano from a distance and I am glad we made it back safe and sound. 🙂

Mount Batur

Lake Batur, which is a crater lake formed more than 20,000 years ago

It was a rainy day and the thick cloud spoiled the view

There are many restaurants in Kintamani which offer a bird’s eye view of Mount Batur and most of them serve buffet lunch. Since we did not have any preference, our guide brought us to a restaurant which he claimed to have one of the better views of Mount Batur. It was only after our trip that I realized that this restaurant (Tepi Danau, Rumah Makan) has very bad reviews on tripadvisor, especially on their exorbitant prices. However, we only paid about 100,000 IDR each, which was quite alright. I suspect our guide might have something to do with our reasonable pricing. 🙂

Inside Tepi Danau restaurant

We may not be caught in the (tourist) trap, but there is no denying that the quality of food was quite bad. The variety was ok but most of the food were cold and flies were all around us. On the whole, don’t expect too much from the food, just enjoy the weather and view, and you should be fine, or at least not grouchy. Just another tip for you.

Below are some of the food selection for your reference.

Cold, cold and cold

Useful Information – Mount Batur : 

Weather:

  • Note that it is much cooler up in the mountains and thus do get ready a light jacket / sweater.
  • During our trip in December, I guess the temperature was between 15°C to 20°C.

Admission Charges:

  • 50,000 IDR per car
  • Buffet at 100,000 IDR per adult

Other information:

  • There are many other activities that one can do in Mount Batur, e.g. Sunrise treking tour, Hot Springs and Cycling. We didn’t opt for any of these adventurous activities as we preferred a more relaxed itinerary. 🙂
  • I was told that the hot springs is a very nice experience. Overnight stay is preferred but not necessary.

Estimated traveling time by car:

  • Tegalalang Rice Terrace  Mount Batur: 40 minutes

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Bali – Wood Carving Village (Mas Village)

Nearly every native of Bali is an artist, in one form or another. This is especially evident in Ubud area where there are art and crafts aplenty, ranging from paintings to wood/gold/silver carvings to batik printings. I am not a person who appreciates art but I have travel mates who are. Thus for this trip, we planned to visit some of these artists at work.

Our first stop was the gold / silver carving village. I was actually quite disappointed as it was more like a shopping trip than educational one. We didn’t see anybody doing their usual craft. Instead, we only saw cabinets of gold and silver accessories selling at ridiculously high price. There were no demonstrations, no guides and nobody doing any craft. We left the place in less than 10 minutes.

Luckily our next stop was much better where we were brought to a family in the wood carving village. There was, at least, a spokesperson who brought us around his work-place and made some introductions to his craftsmen, all of whom are his cousins. He also introduced  the various types of wood and their characteristics, but I was just busy enjoying the architecture of the house while my travel mates were the better students. ◕ิ‿◕ิ

A family of wood carvers

Is artistic talent hereditary? I think it can be learned. For this family of wood carvers, every single member of the family started wood carving at a young age and by the time they turned into adults, they would have picked up a trick or two from their seniors.

The two tones on this piece of wood is natural

Their skills and control of strength are simply amazing

Young children start their wood carving training with animals like these

These are more advanced carvings

Another wood carvings with lots of details

More variety

Art is generally a family business in Bali and many family members (children, uncles, aunties, cousins, etc) typically stay together within the same compound, which is typically self-contained with temple, rooms, farms, and so on.

This man is the head of the household

This is the master bedroom for the grandparents

 

A group photo in front of one of the bedrooms

Useful Information  : 

Artist Villages:

  • Wood Carvings: Mas Village
  • Silver & Gold Carvings: Celuk Village
  • Stone Carvings: Batubulan Village

 

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Bali – Kecak Dance Uluwatu Temple

Planning for a family trip with people of diverse interests has never been an easy job. I would love to visit all the temples and watch every dance performance in Bali as each of them presents an unique opportunity for photography enthusiasts like me. However, I am sure I would be faced with a group of grouchy and sulky mates if I had really planned the itinerary my way. 😦

So if I had to choose only one dance performance for the entire trip, I think the Kecak dance at Uluwatu Temple should be it. This dance is a combination of ancient ritual, dance, drama and even has a sense of humour in it. These, plus the backdrop of a setting sun over a cliff, makes this performance one of the  most spectacular ones. 

There are 5 acts in the drama where it started with how Sita (wife of Prince Rama) was captured by another king, Rhawana, and the entire rescue process. Like I said earlier, there is also humour injected into the show as there was a scene where the Monkey King made fun of the audience. It doesn’t really matter where are you seated, in case you think that the upper few rows are “safer”, as the Monkey King  will randomly pick his “victim”. 🙂

It’s full house every day, as I was told

As you can see, the theatre is quite small

The almighty Thor was not in a good mood that day and he sent rain crushing onto us shortly after the show had started. Although the performers were very professional and continued with the performance, the audience were not prepared to brave the rain. We didn’t finish the show, FYI. Sigh.

Grand entrance by the performers

No musical instruments were used in the performance. These forty-odd men just chanted “chak chak chak” throughout the entire performance

Prince Rama and his wife Sita entering the enchanted forest of Dandaka

Prince Rama and his wife Sita

Movement and facial expression are 2 very important aspects of Bali dance

Sita captured by the demon King Rahwana

Key characteristics of Bali dance – bend knees and back, keeps shoulders wide open.

The Monkey King Hanoman

The Monkey King Hanoman making fun of the audience

 

This was the final act we saw before we had to disperse due to the rain

Useful Information – Kecak Dance at Uluwatu Temple :  Admission Charges, Rules and Advices:

  • Adult 70,000 IDR
  • Child 35,000 IDR

Performance Hours:

  • Kecak Dance at 1800 hrs daily

Rules and Advices:

  • It’s free seating and do go earlier (20 minutes should suffice) if you want the central view
  • I didn’t see any restrictions on the usage of cameras. In fact, my DSLR should be quite prominent and I didn’t get any warning. So I guess it’s perfectly alright to use camera during the dance.
  • Sarongs are required to enter the sacred area
  • Women who are having their period can only go until the steps of the temple
  • Loose items such as glasses, sunglasses, handbags, etc should be handled with care. Leave them in the car if possible. Monkeys snatching these items from the visitors is a common sight. I witnessed a tourist’s pair of glasses being taken away from a monkey. See my previous post for evidence. *** You have been warned ***
  • A lot of vendors will be selling you food like bananas and peanuts to feed the monkeys. You DO NOT HAVE to buy from them. In fact, these items are “monkey-magnets”.

Estimated traveling time by car:

  • Pandawan Beach  Uluwatu Temple: 30 minutes

 

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