July 9, 2007

A seaside jaunt


After our delicious Balinese lunch, we climbed into Gusti's car and headed west towards Bali's famed coastline. As much as we loved charming and peaceful Ubud and it's colorful tapestry of mountains, rice fields and art galleries, there is another side to Bali that warrants at least a few day's visit. But since we didn't have a few days left, we settled for some highlights.

I had no more than a sneak peak at this beautiful coastline that wraps around the island but it was enough to make me understand why sun-seekers and surfers the world over love it here. This part of Bali reminds me quite a bit of Boracay in that it is divided into seaside neighborhoods with multiple personalities and price points, a la Stations 1, 2 and 3.

Seminyak, which I am told is like Nusa Dua on the eastern coast, is for the true hedonist and the discerning traveller. This is where you go if you're Brangelina or just want a first-class hideaway. Spa resorts are juxtaposed with chic designer boutiques and elegant restaurants.

A little too flashy and glam for you, maybe? Head south until you step onto Legian sand where, while still patronized by the affluent crowd, the snob appeal is turned down a notch. It is classy, yet hip. Think Ibiza with a spruced-up set. For most it's the happy medium.

Slowly encroaching into Legian territory is Kuta beach, which is like Legian or Boracay or (enter name of any popular beach here) on steroids. It is a surfer's paradise, where everyone comes for the cheap rooms and cheap eats and the all-night boozing and partying. It is generally loud, frenetic and overly crowded. Hawkers cram the tree-lined path next to the road selling refreshments and souvenirs. Across the road from the beach is a multitude of budget-friendly establishments and alleys leading to hostels. The beach is no less beautiful though and we were fortunate enough to catch our last Bali sunset here (photo below) before heading to the airport.


the beach at Legian


the beach at Kuta

Gusti took us to a spot where Seminyak meets Legian. He waited in the car while we strolled on the sand, marvelling at the huge waves. The beach seemed to stretch into infinity on either side of us. I walked further out, letting the surf roll around my ankles, surprised to discover that the water was cold.

A man was soaking up the sun with his shirt shielding his face, a couple held hands as they walked along the shore. Up ahead were some sarong vendors and a kite salesman but other than that it was barren. Making you feel like you were on someone's private island.

We hiked up the dunes towards the popular La Lucciola, a classy beachfront restaurant recommended by an Australian lady we met. It was mid-afternoon and we had some time to kill before heading to Ulu Watu temple for the sunset so we had some cocktails. Rina & I shared a gorgeous prosciutto, apple and gorgonzola pizza topped with arugula. It was thigh-slappingly good! I washed it down with a blueberry margarita, which turned out to be very interesting.

We climbed back into Gusti's car and travelled south along Jl. Legian, a road that runs parallel to the shoreline from Seminyak in the north to Kuta in the south. We drove past trendy boutiques and art galleries that were soon replaced by souvenir shops, internet cafes, surf gear shops, hostels, karaoke bars, more souvenir shops, eateries, a Starbucks, and a couple of fastfood joints. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out we were in Kuta country.

Bikini-clad girls and guys wearing nothing more than board shorts and flip flops filled the sidewalks, among them Indonesians from Java selling their wares and plying their trade, yes that of the fleshy kind included. Gusti pointed out the vacant lot where the bomb went off on Oct. 12, 2002 killing over 200 people. Those who lost their lives are honored with pictures on the perimeter wall and at the memorial across the street. I felt deeply saddened for the innocent people who met their fate here and said a silent prayer for them as we drove away.

Ulu Watu cliff

We arrived at Ulu Watu and Gusti advised us to wear the sarongs we brought around our waist. Men and women alike were required to wear sarongs and if you didn't have any on you, you could rent them at the gate. This time Gusti came along yielding a long stick, acting not only as our tour guide but also our bodyguard against the agressive monkeys inside the temple grounds. We had been pre-warned about the vicious creatures so we removed all items of jewelry and I left my sunglasses in the car.

The Pura Luhur Ulu Watu is a multi-tiered structure of thatched roofs and is one of Bali's directional temples. It is perched precipitously on a cliff where it wards off evil spirits from the southwest. It is especially famous for it's unique sunset. A stone wall snakes along the cliffs on both sides of the temple. We walked along both walls, enjoying the view of the temple from both sides. Gusti rapped his stick on the ground to scare away the monkeys who dared approach us. Whenever one got too close, he protectively shielded us from it with his body and hissed at it while waving his stick menacingly. We felt safe. The other tourists were not so lucky. A guy next to us had his sunglasses swiped from his face and I spied a monkey running away with someone's camera case.

The sunset was indeed spectacular! The temple was silhouetted against a sky painted shades of pink, purple and red. It was a shame we couldn't stay longer for the Kecak or ancient fire dance. We still had to drive to Jimbaran for dinner and we didn't want to end too late. We had a 6 am walking tour of the rice paddies the next morning.

Ulu Watu by sunset

Sunset at the Pura Luhur UluWatu

We capped the night with a lovely seafood dinner under the moonlight. Jimbaran Bay dining is an experience highly recommended by all the Bali guide books and websites. Dining here is all about the choices. First you have to choose from the many restaurants and shacks that line the bay, (and there are many so we let Gusti decide for us), then you choose your meal from the abundance of live seafood flapping and wriggling on beds of ice or swimming in water tanks. Then your 'catch' is weighed and the price per kilo is negotiated until you come to a mutually beneficial agreement. We opted to have everything grilled though you can ask for it to be steamed or fried as well.

With a welcome fruit drink in our hands and a complimentary frangipani tucked behind our ear, we followed our waitress to a wooden table by the water's edge. The place was packed. Down the bay were more restaurants and more tables as far as the eye can see. Tiny lights flickered out in the water, fishing boats carrying live loot. Close by, a roaming band was doing Van Morisson's Brown Eyed Girl. Later they moved to the group of Australian ladies next to us and got them to sing-along to Down Under by Men at Work. They were a riot!

We had ordered with our eyes, more shrimp, squid, fish and steamed veggies than we could handle. As we began to eat, we were faced with yet more choices. What sauce to dip what in? Lemon butter, garlic mash, sambal, kecap manis, kecap asin, decisions decisions! We tried them all, then like mad scientists we mixed different sauces together. We enjoyed every morsel, dancing in our seats as much to the beat of the music as to the tingle of delight with every bite.

prawns on the grill

Fresh seafood at Jimbaran Bay

sunset at Kuta beach

And this concludes my Bali series. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I loved to relive it by sharing my stories. :)
Kaya Ayu Beach, Kerobokan, Legian
Tel. 62-361-730838

Gusti Made Merta
"Taxi Driver and Tour Guide to anywhere in Bali"
Mobile: 081-338 759 321


Diane said...

wow. i can only hope to someday follow your footprints around the globe!

nina said...

I really enjoyed your Bali series. Love the pictures talaga. Looking forward to you next trip :D

Belinda said...

What breathtakingly beautiful photographs! Amazing scenery, and what a dream location. :-)

ScroochChronicles said...

Beautiful sunset pic!!! Because of your "Bali Series" I am now rethinking next year's sojourn. Was planning a trip to Cambodia. Now I'm having second thoughts. Again..BEEEYOOOTTTEEEEFOOOOLLL!!

joey said...

The first photo is my favorite :) You really are an inspiration to go out and explore the world! I loved the Bali series...and I'm looking forward to your next destination!

oggi said...

Wow! Everyting is beautiful! The pictures (I especially like the cliff), the essay, the food, and the frangipani!:D
I also love the new look of your blog.

christine said...

Diane, someday why not? After you've taken care of your responsiblities at home and have something left over, live your dream. :)

Thanks Nina, so glad you did. :)

Hi Belina, thank you! A dream location it truly is. :) The best thing about Bali is that there's something for everyone.

Hi Scrooch! yay! I hope you get to go. I've helped convince an entire family (my brother-in-laws) to make that their trip this month and they're all going. I'm so excited for them! But Cambodia would be wonderful too, in fact that's my regional destination next year. :)

Hi Jo! It's such a great feeling to know that my posts inspire others to travel. Really. I am such a big believer in the 'education' of travel that I wish it upon everyone. :) One of my most favorite quotes is from St. Augustine: "The world is a book and those who don't travel read only a page." So so true.:)

Thanks so much Oggi! The new blog look is actually not complete. It's kinda in transition, I'm waiting for the actual design. :) But I'm glad you already like it! I really prefer a white background, I find it makes the posts easier to read and makes the pictures pop out.

tutubi said...

a tourist heaven that is

saka na lang ako punta dyan...may iba ako gusto puntahan kailangan unahin :)

ang dami tao sa beach. i prefer yung lonely planet ones :)

Ben said...

I can imagine you make an ideal travel companion, not to mention fun! You have such a passion for discovery that's utterly contagious. You also know how to perfectly mix off-the-beaten path and standard attractions. Seriously, think about being a travel consultant.

rowena said...

My god Christine! The photos!! It makes me want to jump right into them, roll around in that sand and sip foofoo drinks while watching the sun go down. I'm stunned. The eats were something else...ordering with your eyes?!! Lucky, LUCKY, you!

bea at la tartine gourmande said...

What a great escape you have had here!

rina said...

I truly enjoyed that final blog on your Bali series! The pictures were amazing as well! I hope I could write and take great travel photos the way you do. What keeps you inspired in doing such a great job?

Am looking forward to your future travels, and future blogs =) More power to you Christine!

christine said...

Tutubi, that's whats nice about Bali's beaches. They have secluded ones, not so secluded ones, and crowded ones. :) Pili ka nalang doon.

Ben, wow, thank you for that! :) I'd love to help people out in planning in their trips, in fact I already do. But I don't know if I could do it as a career. It's not easy! And yes, I like to do the requisite tourist attractions but I find I prefer going off the beaten track. There's so much more to discover down those roads. :)

Hi Rowena! That's how I feel when I look at your photos! Especially your latest ones of Portugal. You're lucky too! :) thanks!

Hi Bea! Yes it was, I have to say. It exceeded my expectations. Bali is a cliche, wonderfully so! :)

Rina, you are so sweet! Thank you for that super nice comment. :) Of course you can write and take great photos too, If i can, seriously! Anyone can! Thank you so much. :)

Rasa Malaysia said...

I really love Bali and wish I own a home there one day...Ulu Watu is simply breathtaking and the grill seafood on Jimbaran...totally my cuppa tea. Next stop is Malaysia for some seriously good foods. ;)

nicely said...

I am dying to go to Bali! Nice photos! Kudos!

christine said...

Hi Bee, oh I'd love to own a home there too! I was fortunate to try fantastic Malaysian food during a trip to Kota Kinabalu last February that I subsequently posted about. I love the fusion of cultures reflected in your food, every meal was a delight! :)

Thanks nicely! :)

Pille said...

Wonderful beach!!

ginny said...

Loved your post Nens, as usua;!

christine said...

Hi Pille! Yup, it sure was pretty wonderful. :) Thanks for dropping by.

Thanks Gins! :)

Anonymous said...

After Bali, where next?
Give us a clue! =)

christine said...

Haha next one is a local trip to a city in the south to shoot some rapids. ;)