Unfortunately my first visit to Bali was short lived when I got struck down by flu. So I decided to visit again to see why Bali is such a popular tourist attraction among West Australians in particular. Fortunately, while on our flight to Bali from Singapore, we missed the earthquake which struck Bali. We didn’t know about the quake until another must of hit or there was aftershocks on the way to the hotel. Our taxi driver suddenly stopped in the middle of Kuta Square and told us to get out quick. Everyone was out of the shops and standing on the streets and even when we got to our hotel, a lot of people were standing in the car park. Later I read the news on the net and saw the damage that had been caused by the quake. On our travels we didn’t notice any particular damage except to Carrefour Plaza which had huge cracks in many places on the walls of the huge complex and roof tiles missing.
We settled in to our hotel at Harris Resort on Kuta Beach. I had previously stayed at Harris Hotel & Residences Riverview Kuta which was excellent but was not in a location close to main tourist centres by foot. Thus, I changed to a more convenient location on the beach. The hotel is a lot older and was quite good but needs an upgrade. It didn’t seem as clean as the other hotel but the staff were just as polite and friendly. The buffet breakfast was just like last time – an excellent spread and delicious. Nevertheless, we had a pretty good stay. I love the refreshing juices they serve.
After settling in we decided to venture out for the night and see if we could find a good place for dinner. We went for a walk down Poppies Lane II. There weren’t a huge amount of people around but there were still stalls open selling their wares which was mainly surf stuff. We did come across a lot of bare chested young Aussie men with beer in hand carrying on like louts. Obviously drunk and some riding scooters, it didn’t make for a good look and made me feel ashamed to be an Australian. Such behaviour wouldn’t be tolerated in Singapore where they’d probably cane you nor would it be tolerated back in Australia. It’s a shame the nice Balinese people have to put up with such people and it left quite a bad taste in my mouth. Fortunately, the rest of the trip did get better which I’m glad to report.
The next day we headed out and ventured down Poppies Lane II again, but in the day time. Wow, what a difference a few hours makes! This place was thriving with tourists and locals all trying to get you their patronage. Many of the stalls are similar to one another so there isn’t a great degree of variety. There’s plenty of scooters along the narrow road available for hire. Given a lot of the roads are quite narrow and there’s a lot of traffic, it doesn’t take too long to see that travelling by scooter is the quickest way to your destination. However, if you sit in the front seat of a taxi and watch in amazement at the flow of traffic, especially the swarm of scooters weaving in an out of the traffic, it might also look like the quickest way to end your life! However, unlike Perth, there is no road rage. There is an understanding among all and somehow, among the chaos, the traffic flows smoothly. It’s really amazing.
Back to Poppies Lane II. Yes, it’s an interesting experience. We did buy a few things and bargaining is part of the shopping experience. The Balinese love it and it appears like they’re having fun. We didn’t notice all that many eateries and they didn’t look that inviting but maybe once you step inside, the food and experience might actually be completely different. I can’t actually comment as after eating a lot of Asian food, we stuck mainly with Western food at the malls.
Once we finally reached the end of Poppies Lane II you come out on to Legian Street which replaces the stalls with plenty of shops and the scattering of pubs and cafes (Warungs). A lot of traffic and heaps of tourists. The pavements are anything but uniform and quite narrow. Watch your step along here and keep an eye out for the side lanes where a scooter suddenly emerges and joins the procession of traffic. We also noticed the Bali Bombing Memorial site which commemorates the lives lost in the fateful terrorist attack exactly a decade ago. A taxi driver told us the restaurant which the bomb exploded at is still ground zero and has not been cleared or rebuilt to this day.
We walked around for a long time and somehow ended back at the hotel. This included a walk along Kuta beach which is so picture perfect. Unlike Perth, as you near the beach there isn’t that salty smell in the air. The place is tranquil and there are pretty good waves so I can see why it’s probably popular among the surfers. There were a fair few people about but I didn’t see many Aussies, instead many locals.
The next day we also went for a wander down Poppies Lane I which is similar to Poppies Lane II and is much the same. Money changers are all around if you do need to change cash but if you see a rate that is too good to be true, it probably is. Count your money carefully. I do hate the currency. Just a a few hundred dollars leaves you with a thick wallet which becomes hard to shut. I guess you feel pretty rich!
I particularly enjoyed some of the shopping malls we went to. Discovery Mall is one which is a large mall featuring Marks and Spencers and Sogo, which is a large department store. We found there was lots of variety and a lot of different styles of clothes which you don’t see in Australia. Of course, things are generally cheaper and they also happened to have sales so that made it even better. Very clean, benches to sit down upon and lots of eateries. The location isn’t too far away but the heavy traffic ensures you will be stuck in the air conditioned taxi for up to an hour. One can at least enjoy the interesting sights and surrounds and chat to the taxi driver who generally try to convince you to enlist their services for the next day so they can take you on a full day tour. Not a bad option but not this time around. A few taxi drivers are quite young and speak very good English so they would give you a better experience and tour.
Discovery Mall isn’t completely Westernised with shops selling traditional Balinese goods too. There are a lot of Western fast food joints in the mall and all around Kuta. Bread Talk was here too so we got our tray and pair of tongs and picked up some delicious bread creations to enjoy for later. Discovery Mall is interesting in that there are steps along either side where you can go straight to the second flour. We noticed in the department stores there’s plenty of staff about. It’s as if each staff member is assigned to a small area so no place in the store isn’t manned by a salesperson.
I was intending to visit Carrefour Plaza but our taxi driver told us it was closed as a result of the quake. Instead, we headed to the lovely and tranquil Nusa Dua resort which has lovely manicured gardens and arrived at Bali Collection after a longish trip. Bali Collection is comprised of a bunch of shops and plenty of restaurants. It isn’t a mall. You walk outside from one shop to another, entering the air conditioned shop, having a browse, maybe picking up a few things, and then exiting in to the fresh air. It can get quite hot and really humid at times but apart from one day, it generally wasn’t too bad. My first visit here in February was really humid. I remember Bali Collection having more shops. Maybe we took a short cut and missed out on some. Either way, it’s an interesting shopping experience. The shops are a little pricier but you’re bound to find something to your liking.
Another shopping place of interest is an Indonesian shopping brand, Ramayana, which has their own store in Denpasar. The department store was large with the first floor womens, second mens, the third a supermarket and food court, and the fourth a kids zone with arcade games. There’s heaps of clothes with varying styles and they are so cheap. Unfortunately, a lot of clothing is a bit too small. Traditional Balinese wear is also sold. It’s not a mall per se like Discovery but gives you something different.
The last shopping area is Kuta Square which was just up the road from our hotel. It’s a collection of shops that line the road with lots of eateries and tourists of course. One of the other Indonesian branded stores is Matahari. We decided to drop by and see what they offered. It’s a pretty good store offering a good selection of clothes and shoes at excellent prices. I managed to pick up some items here. A lot of the surrounding shops in Kuta Square are surf shops or shops you probably might have encountered at the other malls like Discovery. After popping into a nearby restaurant, Little Italy, to enjoy some delicious Italian fare, we walked along Kuta beach and back to our hotel.
A stay at Bali cannot be enjoyed without a traditional Balinese massage so I did have one at my hotel which is an experience in itself. Really amazing and relaxing. I could have nearly fallen off to sleep.
Well my stay at Bali came to an end and it was time to head back home. I’ve had a lovely stay at both Bali and Singapore. Bali is a lovely place, the people are so smily, happy, gracious & polite. They are a gentle people and I hope things improve for the island and the quality of their lives. It certainly makes one appreciate what one has in life.
Read the following posts of the places we ate at while in Bali.