We recently spent one wonderful week in Bali and we couldn't be happier that we went through with our trip. We wouldn’t have had such a wonderful trip without the help of our resort and the wonderful staff of Komaneka Tanggayuda, Budi our cheerful airport pick-up driver and of course the lovely and always bubbly Dean, our tour guide. We spend 7 nights at the Komaneka T, and we loved the hotel to bits! Here is our review and pictures on TA.
And here is a rather long (I couldn’t leave the nice things out!) trip report:
It was about 10 degrees Celsius hotter outside the airport that inside and I thought I was going to melt right there, on the spot. Thank goodness there was a signboard among all the sweaty people with my name on it. The hotel sent a lovely driver called Budi to pick us up and he has been waiting for hours since the flight was delayed. Still, he greeted me with a smile and took my luggage. He had parked the Toyota under the shade (bless him!) and he had ice cold diet coke and mineral water and cold towels!
Since I was staying in Ubud after long thought, the journey from the airport to Desa Kedewataan, Ubud took us an hour and half.
According to Budi, this was the perfect time to visit Bali. The Balinese were celebrating their New Year according to their calendar, and this celebration called “Galungan dan Kuningan” lasted a week, when all the Gods and deities descend from heaven. Hence, there were quite a number of Barong dances and temple celebrations that week. The Balinese are very religious people, and they are very happy when a tourist wanted to learn more about them, so it’s ok to ask questions. More that ever, the Balinese like to talk and chat with tourists a lot.
We reached the Komaneka Tanggayudha at 4 pm, it’s off a main road at Kedewataan village. The staff greeted me with genuine friendliness and they were extra attentive during the whole stay. I was given villa 105, more pictures of it are in my Bali album. The room was designed in original Balinese style, with a small pond, garden, day bed and plunge pool outside the villa.
Since I was too tired to go anywhere else, I stayed in Ubud that night for dinner. The hotel provided free transport to Ubud Centre (junction of Jalan Raya Ubud and Monkey Forest Road) and dropped me off at Café Lotus. The café was right in front of Puri Taman Saraswati in Ubud and the views of the lotus pond and temple was magnificent. I had a lovely dish of Bebek Betutu (a Balinese traditional duck dish with herbs, I think!). That night, I received a call from Dean (www.baliwithdean.blogspot.com). I’ve heard great reviews about him as a tour guide from some friends, and I managed to book his car for 5 days to bring me around the island (must book in advanced since he is so popular!).
The next day, Dean came by. He spoke great English and shamefully compared to us still recovering from the lack of caffeine, shown up with a huge smile and a firm handshake. He decides to take it easy and allow me to spend the day leisurely in his comfortable, clean and air-conditioned (very important!) KIA. We drove to the rice terraces in Tabanan and walked around leisurely for hours. Dean showed me banana trees, flowers, rice, cows, a Balinese village, baby chickens and other “authentic inhabitants” of the island. We drove to Lake Bratan after that and decided to visit the temple Pura Ulun Danu, a temple dedicated to the lake Goddess. Our stomachs were rumbling like earthquakes, so Dean drove into a small restaurant called “Strawberry Stop” opposite the lake. We had strawberry shakes, strawberry pancakes and nasi goreng special. Then, I had my first taste of the incredible Balinese coffee called Kopi Bali. I made sure to ask Dean how they made the coffee and where to buy some home. It started raining. Raining is the wrong term, It was pouring and everything was flooding. It didn’t stop. We decided to go back to Ubud, since the whole island was drenched. The ride back took quite a while and we encountered lots of little landslides and flooding on the road. Back in Ubud, we got changed as soon as possible and hopped out for dinner at the Café Lotus again (man, how I love their food!).
The next day, we set out back towards the lake, since the weather had cleared up. We drove north and across the valley of Sayan and River Os, and made a resolution to complete the lake tour today. Lake Bratan is the second largest lake in Bali. The important temple of Pura Ulun Danu solemnly guards the lake We managed to wrap the Pura Ulun Danu tour up and drove up the mountains for a view of the lake. On the way there, Dean stopped a while to show us how feed the overweight monkeys with bananas and nuts, though most of the monkeys weren’t really interested. We take the forest road up to avoid the crowd of tourists. We get to a stop somewhere near the clouds and the views were magnificent. It was early noon, and we descended from Kintamani and made it further south for Tanah Lot. It was a blazing hot noon at Tanah Lot, especially with all the hot rocks. There was a postcard seller, and she followed us all the way from the car park to the temple, trying to get us to buy the yellow mouldy cards. She gave up in the end thankfully!
The next day, we drove up to Kintamani to snap pictures of Mount Batur and Lake Batur before it gets cloudy. Lake Batur is the old crater of Gunung Batur, a still active volcano next to it. It is located on the northern part of Bali. There is a hot spring right by the lake. You can enjoy the spectacular scenery of Lake Batur from Kintamani. Across the lake, only reachable by boat, lies the village of Trunyan, where the Bali Aga people live. We descend to Candi Dasa for lunch by the seaside. The town was rather deserted at that season and there were only a few tourists around. We left with a tummy full of fresh coconut and nasi goring and ascended along the coastal road towards Amed, a small fishing village east of Bali. On the way up, I encountered, very sadly, some of the poorest people in Asia, or most probably, in the world. The families and dogs live in a small wooden one-roomed shack on the hill. It’s very sad to see this part of the island although it reminds me of how blessed I am to have a good home, running water and electricity. Amed is also known for their salt harvest and its striving to be the next Nusa Dua of the island. We came down and back to Ubud and had a dinner of Nasi Campur and turmeric juice at Casa Luna (I still prefer Café Lotus though).
The following day was the last day with Dean, sadly. We decide to cover everything important today, mainly to head down south, since I haven’t witness the drunken bikini scene yet. Our first stop was at Tirta Empul, Tampaksiring about 20 km northeast from Ubud. Next stop was Gunung Kawi (Poet Mountain) with its 300 steep steps going up and down so it was a long hike and we saw tourists stopping on the steps to catch a breath and wipe the sweat. After the tiring climb back to the car, we drove leisurely south towards Mengwi and decided to take shelter from the noon sun in the cool gardens of Taman Ayun.
Welcome to the REAL World – Dean said as we were driving into Jimbaran. I saw six-lane roads, shopping malls, grand hotels, DSF Duty Free, Breadtalk, huge busses, traffic lights!! (There are not traffic lights in Ubud since everyone walks into the road wherever they wanted to and the others avoided) and the bakso sellers. OK, this looks like mini Singapore in building – I thought to myself. We stopped by a restaurant in Jimbaran called Ganesha for a seafood lunch that included grilled snapper, prawns, crabs, lobsters and cuttlefish. After 4.5 million rupiahs poorer and 5 kgs heavier each, we ascended with difficulty towards Pura Luhur Uluwatu. Dean’s Kia was already creaking and moaning for the extra weight, jokingly!!! he said. We reached Uluwatu shortly before sunset and encountered a huge gang of Japanese tourists. The monkeys there kept stealing sunglasses and cameras from the Japanese, we didn’t know whether to laugh or to pity them. We reached the pavilion and got seated for the Kecak Dance. Of all the dances seen on Bali today, the Kecak dance is perhaps the most dramatic. Taken from the Hindu epic Ramayana, the dance tells the story of Prince Rama and his rescue of Princess Sita, who has been kidnapped by the evil King of Lanka. The dance ended at 8pm and we drove back to the hotel. I said goodbye to Dean, since this was going to be the last time I’ll be seeing him this trip round, but I promised to be back again one day soon.
I decided to take the next day easy and try to visit the Ubud Market and Neka Museum. The good thing about staying at Komaneka Tanggayudha is that they provide free transport in an air-condiditoned car between the hotel, Neka Museum (free entrance included), Neka Art Gallery (free entrance), Ubud and Komaneka Monkey Forest Road (their sister hotel). I took the next ride to Neka Art Gallery and told my driver, Gos, that I’ll want to be picked up in two hours.
The Neka Museum proved very interesting, perhaps even more that the ARMA (Agung Rai Museum of Art). When visitors to Bali ask where they can see the finest examples of Balinese art, they are often directed to the Neka Art Museum. For someone looking to get an overview of the development of Balinese art, as well as the influences of foreign artists in Bali, there is no better place. The Neka Art Museum was founded in 1982 by Balinese artist and teacher Pande Wayan Suteja Neka (who is also incidentally the owner of Komaneka) who wanted to document the history of paintings inspired by the Balinese environment. The Neka Art Museum is neatly laid out and contains the work of Balinese artists as, well as other Indonesians and foreign expats. I came out to the pavilion after an hour and half to take a breath of fresh air and it started to rain. The pavilion opened out to the magnificent Campuhan valley.
I decided go down to the Ubud Market next. The market was a huge tourist trap for cheap and low-quality souvenirs, sadly to say. I was disappointed and walked into the Ubud Royal Palace and Pura Taman Saraswati for a few pictures. I came back out to the Café Lotus for dinner. This time, I had the dinner and dance package, which includes dinner and a 2 hour dance performance at the Pura Taman Saraswati. The dance was very feminine and beautiful (only lady dancers) and it featured a 4 part-program of a Balinese story.
I planned to visit Klungkung the next day. Budi and I drove south, towards the small town Bedulu right outside Ubud to visit Goa Gajah, the elephant cave. Unlike Dean, Budi is not a certified tour guide with license, so he could not follow me into the property, but he warned me about the touts inside, I start walking down but I didn’t find the cave as interesting as the travel guide mentioned. We continue south towards the kingdom of Klungkung to visit the Kertha Gosa Pavilion. After the heat and sweat, I decide to venture back into cool Ubud. Budi drops me off along Monkey Forest Road for some shopping. I managed to grab handmade beaded, beauty products, t-shirts, kopi Bali, Seri Wangi tea and a few bottles of Balinese Rosé wine. I walked down to the Komaneka Monkey Forest to catch the next ride back to the hotel. Since it was raining quite heavily, I took a look around the gift shop of the Komaneka and I realized that they did sell very high quality goods, much better than any along Monkey Forest Road. I came out 30 minutes later with more shopping bags! I had an appointment with the hotel spa that afternoon. I had booked a “Bali Royal” treatment package that included two hours of Balinese Massage, Lulur Ayu treatment (blend of Aloe Vera, Yam bean, and Chinese myrtle with essential oil of Kaffir lime and patchouli, and granulated rice powder scrub all over the body for smooth skin) and an aromatic herbal bath. The spa treatment was so perfect that I ended up with another manicure and pedicure :) The hotel had also prepared a lovely candlelight dinner by the pool for my last night there and I spent most of dinner talking to one of the staff cheerfully.
All in all, Bali was a wonderful experience for us all. Some label the island as the last magical paradise on earth, we cannot agree more. Most importantly, we wouldn’t have enjoyed the whole week only sitting by the beach with the other tourists. Although it was rainy season in Bali, the storms were short and offered cool relief from the heat and we enjoyed a very quiet and relaxing vacation without the huge crowd.
We will definitely be back!