Exotic Bali Trip with the Lee’s
My wife, Michelle, and I have always wondered what it is about Bali that our daughters, both Nadia and Natasha, seemed to love so much. Our hesitation in going was because we are neither beach nor party people. We thought partying was all that lured people to exotic Bali; so why waste time??
Lee Bali Trip tl;dr
- Flew Malindo Airlines
- Agung drove us around
- Stayed at Sapu Lidi Resort
- Bali is linguistically similar to Malaysia
- Kopi Luwak is over rated
- There’s a lot of temples everywhere
- Lots to see and do other than party at the beach
- Watch Out for Unlicensed Money Changers
Getting Ready for Exotic Bali
We decided to find out for ourselves with a short side trip to Bali during our time in Kuala Lumpur. Already being in Malaysia for our annual Chinese New Year trip, we bought tickets at a discount airline Malindo Airlines. It cost us less than $100 USD each for the 1.5 hours flight to the Denpasar Airport in Bali. Since we flew from KL, there wasn’t too much of a temperature change that we had to adjust too; both were just as hot each other in the mid 80’s!
I had made arrangements for a personal driver a week before we left so that we could go anywhere we wanted. I found Agung online and checked out his credentials and previous guest’s comments. I then negotiated a price with him and we were set. Agung was a friendly young man waiting at the airport with our names on a placard. Oh, one thing I made sure before I confirmed Agung as our appointed driver, was that his car was air conditioned; that was a good start.
Ubud is about 1.5 hours away from the airport but we were hungry. So Agung stopped at a food outlet in nearby Denpasar for noodles at a shop that we liked. There were a few words that we immediately recognized form our Chinese background:
- Mie | Noodles
- Bak | Pork
Since we were fluent in their national language (Bahasa Indonesia) which is 90% similar to the Malay language, communication wasn’t a problem for us. And surprise of surprise, the stall owner spoke our native Hokkien dialect! We felt so at home and enjoyed delicious noodles for dinner.
Home Away From Home
We stayed at Sapu Lidi Resort, which is a hotel I found on Tripadvisor. Nadia stayed at another hotel called Tegal Sari, which we wanted to do too, but unfortunately they were sold out. I chose this hotel based on the recommendations and the price (about $50 USD per night) and the appealing pictures. She also stayed at the beautiful Villa Blubambu in Kuta… Maybe the next time we feel like partying?
It was almost midnight by the time we arrived at the hotel. After checking-in we followed the hotel bell hop for about 5 minutes to our room down dimly lit paths, and over a small bridge. I started to wonder if I made the right choice.
As luck would have it, we ended up at the door to private villa that a shared pool with another villa. Our room was luxurious and very spacious centered around mosquito net covered king sized bed. There was also a bottle of water there waiting for us. And did I say it was air conditioned too? Because it was!
The bathroom and toilet was a large room by itself but only partially roofed and well appointed:
- Spa / Shower
- Hanging Racks
- Assorted Plants
- Usual Toiletries
Be forewarned that since the bathroom is partially open air that there could be bugs, mosquitoes and geckos about. I did not see any mosquitoes or geckos myself but there were some bugs in the sink. And if you are worried about peeping toms, rest assured that it was not a problem for us. On the other side of the privacy wall was nothing but padi (rice) fields in nearly all directions.
Night was a restful one with the cicadas chirping us to sleep! The next morning, Michelle found out that she needed a hat to use the facilities! The toilet was facing East and the sun was shining down on her at 9 AM, while on the toilet! Imagine yourself on the throne, looking cool in a hat with your sunglasses!
Their included breakfast was served in the onsite restaurant that was a 5 minute walk from our villa. The restaurant had a nicely thatched roof with an open air view of the surrounding padi fields. The morning meal was continental but you could order some other cooked foods like omelets, fried rice, noodles, or eggs which was equally included.
In the daylight, we could see that we had walked through some lush vegetation the night before. The Sapu Lidi Resort’s landscape was all very lush and tropical.
Agung had told us that he would not be able to drive us himself, as he had already promised his family to be with them for a religious festival. The festival was called Galongan and he wanted to spend the next few days with them. Through our conversation, it turned out that Agung was not only our driver but an enterprising young man who owned a few vehicles and employed several drivers.
He said he would be sending his most experienced English-speaking driver, Wayan, in the morning to take care of us. We found Wayan waiting in the lobby for us, with the same vehicle from the night before, ready to take us sightseeing around the island.
We tried their curry chicken dish “Ayam Taliwang” dish. One of their best known dishes is “Babi Guling”, a roast piglet dish served with rice. The most famous Babi Guling restaurant in Bali is Warung Ibu Oka 3 Babi Guling, which has 3 outlets. Try to be early, lunch would be ideal, as they will run out of food by late evening.
Another well known dish is “Bebek Bengil” (literally dirty duck) is a famous crispy fried duck dish. Rest assured that it is not because they cook unwashed ducks! As the story goes, ducks had flown into the restaurant leaving a dirty mess, and the rest is history.
Word of Warning About Money Changers
We had an experience worth mentioning so you don’t have to go through it yourself. Like anywhere else, if you travel you will eventually need local currency. In Bali you will find money changers all over the place. There are both licensed ones and others. “Others” will advertise rates that seem too good to be true.
Our driver had warned us about such money changers. We tried them out for ourselves at a place that was advertising an exchange rate of $1 USD = 13,490 Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) when the going rate was probably around 13,200.
Reality Check: the extra 290 rupiah is just about two cents!! We stepped into this hole-in-the wall shop, gave the guy $200 USD which should have given us 2,698,000 rupiah.
The guy counted out 26 pieces of 100,000 rupiah notes and some other small notes.
He piled the 26 pieces together and then said he did not have enough small change so he needed to give some change back to us. At the same time, his accomplice walked up and said he had the change. I picked up the pile of 100,000 rupiah notes not thinking to count them out. Our driver asked for them so he can count them.
He counted only 20 notes!!
If I had walked out it would have been over; I would have been short 600,000 IDR and would not have realized it until much later! The guy had successfully performed a sleight of hand and would have deceived us out of 600K Rupiah!
Our driver returned the IDR’s to the cheater, who was embarrassed being caught red handed, in exchange for our $200 USD!
That was exactly what our driver had warned us about although initially I could not understand why he advised against using these unlicensed money changers!
We went to the licensed changer and got the 13,200 exchange rate.
By the way, when you are shopping at the larger souvenir shops, you can ask if they will change your USD too. Sometimes, rates are good sometimes, not so good.
Worthy of a Visit
Bali is worth a visit whatever your taste. If you like the beach and fun, you have it. If you like culture and exploration of local customs and beliefs, you can do that too. Or if you want to hang out and not do much, except to browse around the local scenes and enjoy the local cuisine, it’s OK to do just that. And it is not too expensive if you stay away from the touristy beach areas of Seminyak and Kuta.
The locals are very friendly but nevertheless, as with traveling anywhere else in the world, be wary and prudent. Even among sheep, there is always one that is black. Have fun, a couple Bintang, and a massage or two!
You’re always in store for a good time when you’re in Bali!
Which trip did you really enjoy?