Travel Spotlight: Bali, Indonesia

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By June Ramli

Part One 

I recently went to Bali, Indonesia for a much-needed vacation. After working on my various startups tirelessly and completing one novel and self-publishing it on Amazon I decided it was time for me to reward myself with a much-needed break.
Nine days was all I could afford to give myself time off as I had many other commitments to deal with when it comes to my various startups. But back to Bali. The reason why I had the jitters to travel there was because of all the media coverage on how the foot and mouth disease was spreading like wildfire there prompting some overzealous farmers to suggest a complete ban from travelling to and fro from the country. This is what I hate about the Australian media, making a mountain out of a molehill. The foot and mouth disease is not as severe as the Australian media has made it out to be. Once on the island, it is practically non-existent and there is no mention of it unless one reads the Australian media as I did occasionally from time to time. But I had a swell time in Bali as I met two friend’s from my Malaysian days and also made a few new acquaintances along the way. In this column, I’d like to detail what I did here from the time I landed in Bali, Indonesia right up to the time I left the country last month.

Day One

I arrived in Bali rather late. Once at the airport, I was subjected to long queues at the immigration department. Bali had been inundated with many ‘bule’s (foreigners) as they are known in the Indonesian language. If I remember correctly, it took about two hours to clear the immigration queue. Once, I passed immigration, I left to get my bags. I met a guy who had carried my bags and put them on the floor from the baggage carousel. His sweet gesture had almost given me a heart attack as I thought my bags had initially gone missing. We spoke a bit and then I proceeded to leave looking for a way out so that I can meet my driver whom I had pre-booked all the way from Sydney, Australia. Once I was out of the airport, I saw many drivers there with placards with the names of the person they were supposed to pick. After more than 20 minutes of peeling through my eyes on each and every one of them, I finally found my driver. He was sitting down and my placard was just placed there. Another man signalled at my driver, and that was when I saw him after he had stood up. A rather elderly man, I decided to ferry my own luggage to his car, instead of allowing him to carry it.

My so-called ‘private’ swimming pool at Montigo Resorts Seminyak in Bali, Indonesia.

In the car, we chatted a bit, he told me that his brother was living in Malaysia. He reckons that his brother is already a Malaysian and adds that he has lost all contact with his brother since he moved to Malaysia in 1983. My heart cringes hearing this. His brother is probably living in Malaysia illegally or no longer living because obtaining Malaysian citizenship is almost impossible as a non-citizen. He also tells me that ShiShi the club near my hotel is the most happening nightclub in the whole of Bali.
We finally arrived at hotel Montigo, the hotel staff with a distinctively Malay look but has an Indian Goddess name – Krishna tells me that my reservation has received an upgrade. Krishna? I suddenly, remember the portrait of the baby Krishna that my grandparents used to have on their wall in Cherry Park, Ipoh, Malaysia. I am no longer going to be staying in a double deluxe room but I have been upgraded to a quiet area with my room overlooking a private pool. What! Why? But I accepted the upgrade and we soon made our way to my ‘home’ of four nights. Once inside the room, I realised it was a double bed and that the hotel room was more suited for newly wedded couples as the bathroom had no doors. Yup! I felt uncomfortable but it was too late to argue. The TV wasn’t working too and so I slept without watching any Indonesian TV that night.

My room at quiet area in the Montigo Resort, Bali.

Day Two

The next day, I woke up pretty early. In fact, I even had time to have a dip in the private swimming pool that was just in front of my room. As soon as I was done with my morning swim. I got ready for breakfast. I headed to the cafe and was greeted by this lovely Indonesian lady. I can’t remember her name. But on the last day, I remember her searching for me to say goodbye. We even hugged, the second time I came to Montigo, she wasn’t there anymore. Oh well. At breakfast, I remember stuffing myself silly with bubur ayam (rice congee). One of my favourite Asian staples. I wanted to order half-boiled eggs to eat with my toasted bread but unfortunately, Indonesians don’t know how to cook half-boiled eggs as the eggs turn out fully cooked. Anyway, I ate them, albeit slightly disappointed. Finally, once I was done with breakfast, I waited around at the cafe for my two appointments to show up. The first one was a digital marketing office based in Sanur. I waited for two people to arrive, one lady and a man. I buy them coffee and give them Australian chocolates as a way to break the ice. We spoke for about an hour and they left promising to meet up with me again on July 24. Sadly, the second meeting never materialises and as of now this company has completely ghosted me during my whole trip to Bali and I don’t really know why.
My second meeting, however, turns out to be fruitful. I met an American man who helped me kickstart my shoe business. I gave him some aboriginal print material to turn into shoes. We go to my room and he takes my shoe size and then he leaves. I go about my day, walking around the area, and waiting for my friend Hani from Malaysia to show up.

Time to say goodbye to sneaky moneychangers: I found a Maybank ATM at the Biku restaurant in Seminyak. This means that Malaysians visiting Bali holding Maybank ATM cards can withdraw Indonesian rupiahs using these local ATMs in Bali. As for the Australians, if you are a Commonwealth Bank user, there was a CBA teller I saw in Jalan Petitenget in Seminyak and as well as a bigger branch of the bank on my way from the airport to my hotel in Seminyak. Similar arrangements to the Malaysians, now many Australians can have the liberty of withdrawing Indonesian rupiahs in Bali using their CBA bankcards all thanks to these tellers.

She shows up a few minutes later, and we exchanged pleasantries and then head to lunch. We decided to try the Halal Kitchen Bali restaurant. A restaurant recommended by my cousin Abang Bob, a Tronoh lad who now works in Indonesia. Of course, we had to try it out. My friend Hani decided to take the lead on this one. We walked all the way to the restaurant from Montigo which took us almost an hour. LOL. Later on, she tells us that she thought the walk was 20 minutes but unfortunately, that 20 minutes was for a cab ride, the walk was much more. In total, we walked about six kilometres that day from our hotel to try the Assam Pedas there.

Yuni Komala, the other part owner of the Halal Kitchen Bali cafe in Seminyak.

But we got lost in between and decided to take a cab to get to the restaurant from where we were. It cost us 16,000 rupiahs for a two-second ride. Inside the car, the cab driver found out we were Malaysians based on our accents and then even took the chance to find out ways on how he could come to Malaysia and work. I can’t remember what we told him anymore but I remember giving him some advice.

Me and Hani at the Halal Kitchen restaurant in Seminyak.

Once we got to the restaurant, we were greeted with a familiar accent, the Malaysian Singaporean English accent. The owner of the restaurant is a Singaporean who is married to an Indonesian lady Yuni Komala, while their only customer at that time in the restaurant was a Malaysian girl who had just quit her job at Khazanah Nasional in Malaysia and had spent 28 days travelling the whole of Indonesia. She was at the tail end of her trip. In fact, she was leaving for Kuala Lumpur that night but was still at the restaurant chatting away with me and my friend Hani. I tried to get her contact details but she wasn’t very forthcoming in sharing them. Strange. Normally, Malaysians are very accommodating but this girl, who was half Chinese and the other half Malay, wasn’t.

Jobs are now aplenty in Bali, Indonesia now that the pandemic is at bay.

The Singaporean owner of the restaurant on the other hand has already added me on Facebook. We ended up chatting about everything under the sun, including Najib Razak and later switched the conversation to the Singaporean owner and spoke to him about why he decided to open a restaurant in Bali, Indonesia.

Hazrul Khan Abbas from Singapore is the other co-owner of the Halal Kitchen restaurant in Bali.

There he mentioned that it was because the rent for his shop was only USD5,000 per year. The other Malaysian girl there also echoed the same thing and said that Indonesians were very kind people, they hardly cheat, and even if they do, it would be for ten to twenty thousand Rupiah. There was utter silence when she said that and then we continued on until a man from the UK walked in and ordered some food. He was Afro Caribbean and he told us that he had been living on the island since the pandemic hit. No idea what he did for work but he did say that he visited Malaysia’s Redang Island for a dive and returned back to Bali. He left the restaurant as soon as his takeaway was ready. We finished up at the restaurant and took a cab to the Krishna Ole Ole mall to get some souvenirs for my nephew and niece in Perth, while my friend for her family in Kuala Lumpur. We went there on the advice of the locals who said that place won’t fleece us as the prices there were not exorbitant ‘and that you won’t get cheated.’ It was a rather big mall with heaps of ole ole but the quality was subpar. It did look like it was made in China but in fact, it was made in Bali itself. I ended up buying one dress and a Batik shirt for my niece and nephew and once we were done with our shopping we headed back to the hotel but not before having a pit stop at the nearby coffee shop.

Follow for part two of this article which appears on the site tomorrow.

The halal food at Halal Bali Kitchen cafe in Seminyak.

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