If you are a Bruneian travelling to Bali, add two days to your itinerary. Don’t get me wrong: Bali is worth two months, not just two days. But there’s another reason: The only flight available from Brunei flies you into Bali at about 10 pm and flies you out of Bali at 7 am. Pretty odd timings for a Bruneian traveller.
Although almost all of places in Bali are jammed by tourists, every first-time traveller wants to spend few days in Kuta and Seminyak. Every other place in Kuta and Seminyak is either a shop, an eatery or a hotel. So at any time, you are at most 100 meters away from a lodging place. But odd hours of arrivals and departures in and out of Bali made us book our accommodation in advance on those two days. We chose to check into one of the nearby airport hotels that provided free shuttle service to and from the airport. We also had work meetings for two days in Grand Mirage Resort in Nusa Dua. Therefore accommodation on those days was also booked in advance. We had two more days at our disposal and we chose to stay in Seminyak. We stayed in Villa Kayu Raju which was recommended by a friend for a day. The other day was at the Four Points by Sheraton. The Grand Mirage Resort looked very popular with families with kids in particular. It also had access to the beach. The villa accommodation had a private plunge pool for each villa, big enough for a refreshing swim. The bedroom upstairs had a Jacuzzi too! Our fourth accommodation, Four Points by Sheraton turned out to be an interesting surprise. Although initially disappointed with what was a ground floor offering with a view of a wall, it turned out to be the best thing. We had waterway access right next to the balcony leading to the swimming pool.
Jln Pratama in Nusa Duo is lined with many beachside resorts. Each resort has its particular offering customised to different nationalities. If you are an avid traveller, you’ll also notice many restaurants and massage parlours, beauty salons and money changers with their shops on the streets opposite to these resorts. We had fantastic food and cocktails in one of these restaurants. Whereas other restaurants charge additional 15% tax on your bill, this one: Atlichnaya, 50 m away from the Grand Mirage did not have extra tax. The friendly restaurant staff offered us a welcome drink and complimentary corn fritters. Customers reviews posted on side walls of this restaurant were all rave about the cocktails this. This restaurant did not accept credit card saying that the machine had broken. This can be an irritating experience for some in case you are not carrying cash.
The resorts on this stretch of Nusa Dua offer a free shuttle to a shopping mall named Bali Connection. Spas, restaurants and some shopping make your evening worth in case you are bored of the standard resort experience. I saw some unique and interesting paintings for sale in shops in Bali Connection. I was amazed at the quality of cotton and rayon the apparels had: soft and soothing. I bought a wooden statue for my home; a simple but creative design, and very light. Judging from the location of the Bali Connection, my guess is that this place must have been a factory outlet before.
Taxis in Bali are something you need cash for. My resort too had a money changer but the rate was far too low. So I decided to try one of the money changers on the stretch of the road near Grand Mirage. The rate they displayed outside their shop was reasonable. The man asked me what currency I would like to change and then told me to wait for 15 minutes. After some time he came back to the counter and displayed an equivalent Indonesian rupiah for my BND. He then handed me the rupiah to count. Until this point everything was perfect. He took back the rupiah and asked for my BND. After I gave him my BND, he gave me back the rupiah I had counted. When I again counted the rupiah he had given me, I realised that it was less than what I counted earlier. I brought it to his notice. He said he has taken the commission, which he never mentioned throughout the process. I took my BND back from him and decided not to fall prey to his cheating.
We had one more experience worth taking a note when we were shopping in the Seminyak mall. As we stepped out from one of the shops in the mall, suddenly out of nowhere a couple approached us and asked us about a restaurant. The man introduced him then told us that he is from Dubai. His wife asked me where I am from and began asking questions where I lived in that city. She was well groomed and good looking. She completely engaged me in the conversation. Meanwhile, the man started talking with my friend. The man showed my friend USD and asked my friend if he had some. Being nice, my friend took out his wallet and exactly that moment he became aware that something was not right. He said that he did not have any USD. The man then turned to me and looked at my purse and asked if I had any USD. Well, I did have some! With a glance, my friend warned me not to open my purse. Seeing this, the woman smiled back at me and within no time the pair walked away and disappeared from our sight.
When I looked back at the incidence, I wondered what this might have led to. In the hindsight, I realised that this couple must have been waiting for us to come out of the shop. Hardly into the conversation and they threw names of few world cities and the accompanying lady began talking about one of the cities, the moment they knew I am from one of them. For a few moments, we felt like we were hypnotised. Both, my friend and I wondered that how could we give in although for a few minutes, to completely unknown couple. But then I thought about my usual circumstances. I live in Brunei, a place where I am all the time in the safe environment, which kind of has made me at ease — and maybe too relaxed.
In Brunei, I haven’t had an incident since we’ve been here. It has been a pleasure to meet new people and engage in small talk with them. Naturally, I’ve lowered my guard. However, I am happy that we recognised our mistake of engaging in a conversation with strangers in a foreign country quickly, especially when it was about money.
Bali is a tourists’ paradise. People go to Bali to relax, feel good about them and most of them want to be grateful being in such paradise. People do not want to spoil their experience. Sometimes this idea of being nice gets stretched beyond limits! And it happened during our dinner at a for us to order our food and drinks. I told her to come back after 5 minutes since I needed time to think about my order. She insisted on waiting at my table until I placed my order. She was young, and I found it unusual but just decided to ignore it, deciding it was more a childish foible than anything malevolent. During one of my weak moments, she asked my name. She searched for my on Facebook, and liked my public posts and sent me a message introducing herself. Her Facebook profile showed that she had over 4000 Facebook friends and she claimed to be from New York which was not true.
I do not know her intentions, but they certainly did not appear to be innocent!
This incident again made me give a check on myself. How come in two incidents-one after the other- I acted so naïve? I guess that the picturesque beaches, the laid back vibe of tourists and impressions of “Eat, pray and love” have the capacity to make us lose our mind when in Bali!
So now, back to Seminyak area where we stayed for two days! The entire stretch of road- about 5 Km from Kuta to Seminyak is lined with dining and upscale fashion boutiques of apparels, shoes, swimwear and bags. The highlight of Seminyak is its beach. It’s a public beach but not crowded. The white sandy beach stretches far as far as eyes go. The beach looks fashionable with people dog walking, jogging and surfing while showing off their tones bodies. It’s favoured by surfers because of high waves. Even if you are not a swimmer, you will enjoy seating at the edge point on the beach where waves reach and soak you during the tide. It is also famous for its breath-holding legendary sunsets. We went to the beach on two evenings and witnessed completely different sun setting panorama. One evening the entire sky cape took on a surreal red-orange hue after the sunset. The other day the sky was clear blue until it became dark. The reflections of clouds were so clear making it difficult to draw a line between the real and reflection.
On the same day we decided to rent a bike and ride all the way to Kuta. Actually there was no need to have a Google map as the road is straightforward, but I insisted upon having one. So before we set on our bike, we bought a local data card. (You need to be careful here too which shop you ask one for. We enquired in one of shops and realized the shop owner didn’t have any to sell: He will go somewhere else to bring it for us and thus overcharge us. We bought the data card for half the price from an adjacent shop.) The streets of Kuta and Seminyak are super busy, tight and tricky to drive. You cannot afford to be polite on the road in terms of following the driving rules in case you come from places like Singapore or Europe. Else it will take forever for you to reach the destination. During off-peak hours most of the restaurants have offers like buy two and get one free drink. During the two days in Seminyak, we ate at four different places. We were never disappointed with the service or food anytime. In Kuta, we ate at a German restaurant called Mama. We spent our last evening in Kuta and did some shopping in a mall. I was looking for a swimwear and had tried many boutiques shops in Seminyak. Finally, it had to be the Discovery Mall with a multi-brand departmental store to get what I was looking for. That evening we enjoyed our dinner in upscale restaurant Bamboo Bali which is right opposite to the Discovery Mall. It’s popular amongst the Western and Australian crowd. When I compared the prices at Bamboo Bali with other restaurants where we ate, the difference was threefold. But I think it is worth if you enjoy the live music which is played in the evenings.
All the places we stayed in Bali had interesting water features. Every restaurant we visited-upscale or an average-had wood-inspired earthy décor. All accommodations, deep in the alleys like Four Points by Sheraton or right on the main road like Grand Mirage, offered free shuttle service to the nearest shopping area. Bali is definitely a place I would look forward to going often. If you are also looking for soothing sights and sounds along with tranquillity and peace, Bali is a place you should look out for.