Travel Spotlight: Bali, Indonesia

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By June Ramli

Part Two

Dailystraits.com editor June Ramli details her recent nine-day trip to Bali, Indonesia on this site’s maiden travelogue. Got a spot or a country you’d like us to explore? Be sure to get in touch with us at editor@dailystraits.com on the next steps.

Day Three

This was another free and easy day. Hani and I head out to the shops nearby our hotel in Seminyak. We first head out right after breakfast to look for our rattan bags. We head to the Seminyak mall. There we had to wear the mask and were asked to check in using a phone. I come out of the mall with a rather interesting-looking Arjuna-inspired necklace. I wear that right away and then we head out not before stopping at Starbucks to get my green tea latte. 
The day goes by with us both checking in at the Montigo Spa and we were supposed to go to see the Kecak performance at Pantai Melasti in Uluwatu but didn’t go in the end as we were late. The staff at the hotel advised us to abort our plan as they told us that we won’t make it in time for the performance if were to leave the hotel at 5 pm. One of the staff said the jam would have been horrendous. So, we changed our plans again and decided to head to Jimbaran for some nice dinner. My friend had sussed out a restaurant on Google but once we got into our Gojek, we ended up going to Ganesha, a restaurant recommended by the driver. I think he makes a commission by sending us there. He even waited for us in the parking lot while we ate and finished our dinner. Dinner was ok, but the view was awesome. We sat right next to the beach and saw some Australian kids swimming till sunset. One restauranter had to come and warn the kids to come out as it was too dark to keep on swimming. The kids finally relented and stopped swimming. Meanwhile, my friend and I demolished what we could of our dinner. I gave my friend the liberty of ordering dinner. She ordered ikan bakar (grilled fish), sotong goreng (fried squid), some sayur (vegetables), udang galah (king prawns) and rice. We ate and I paid for the dinner in full. It was about 800,000 rupiahs and we soon left for ‘home’ with our taxi driver who was a Muslim. While he was driving us back to the hotel, the Adhan (the Muslim call for prayer) rang loud and clear on his mobile phone. That was how I knew he was Muslim. Once we got back to the hotel, we both went back to our respective rooms and called it a day. While I was in my room. I felt a bit funny. Unfortunately, as I was coming from Australia my stomach was now only used to the very best of standards when it comes to food. Hence, I suffered a severe bout of stomach ache that night.

Bali, Indonesia.
The view from our table at the restaurant in Jimbaran, Bali, Indonesia.

Day Four

The next morning, I vomited all my dinner out. Three times. I managed to clean the area up but I soon realise that I should be careful with what I put into my mouth from there on. I texted my friend, she replied that she was fine and didn’t have any adverse effects from that dinner. God damn. I then cleaned myself up and headed to breakfast. After breakfast, I headed back to the room for some rest and relaxation. My friend on the other hand goes roaming around in Seminyak and stops at Kim Soo, an Australian-owned cafe in Jalan Petitenget for some coffee and carrot cake. I was there the day before to buy a white rattan bag for my mother. I saw the owner, she looked like a mix of Elle Mcpherson and some other actress, I can’t recall anymore. I ask the Indonesians there if she owned the store and they confirmed it. Bosses just have some kind of demure on them and I have the knack of just sussing them out by just looking at them. She wasn’t friendly and did not flash her Aussie smile at me. Despite that, I still bought stuff from her cafe. Hani then heads back to our hotel and I join her at the Montigo Spa. The lady at the spa named Yuni takes pity on me upon hearing about my stomach problems and offers me some ginger tea and some ointment for my tummy. My friend had earlier offered me some pills but I just refused to put anything in my mouth without a prescription from a doctor. But I was fine with the ointment or Minyak Kapak as we call it. After putting on the ointment, I felt slightly better. My friend soon leaves for the Shampoo Lounge to get her hair done. She had to leave early because she made an appointment at 3 pm. Just before I left the spa, I told Yuni where I had food the night before, she told me that it was a famous spot for seafood and that she knew someone who worked there as a security guard. Oh well. I guess I was just unlucky. I ordered a Gojek to join my friend at the Shampoo Lounge and ended up doing some coconut hair treatment. On my way there, I spotted a cool dress while inside the cab but because I was late, I proceeded to head to the salon. Once at the salon, I was asked to take my clothes off and told to place them in the bag and I had to walk around the salon in a strapless sarong. I felt uncomfortable because there were men there in the salon as well. My hair gets done after two hours but I am not happy with the way my hair has been blown. I pay and my friend calls a Gojek. We soon head to the shop to get my dress. I am happy with the pit stop because the dress looks great on me and it was a size S too. The lady tells me that the designer is from Brazil and she has six boutiques in Bali.

At the front gates of Handara which is now one of the most sought-after photo spots in Bali.

It was quite a pricey dress but what the heck, I am on holiday and I have no idea when I will be back in Bali again and so I buy the dress without much hesitation. It was not cheap, about AUD100 but I still purchased it because it was handmade in Bali. Once we were done with our shopping trip we headed to Biku, a restaurant nearby our hotel and to my surprise I find that the owner is an Australian lady. I should have gone and interviewed her but you know, I was still recovering from my bout of food poisoning. Besides that, I wasn’t too keen on making small talk that night. I ordered Soto Ayam, a famous Indonesian and Malaysian cuisine. I didn’t finish my meal but I remember it being yummy. What I loved about this restaurant is the live music. I remember seeing a lady playing the flute. She looked like she was from South America, my friend and I think she is from Argentina and to me she looked a bit like Angelina Jolie. We end the night with some chocolate cake. By the way, Biku has some nice cakes. I couldn’t finish the cake at the restaurant and I decided to take it back with me to the hotel room. Once we arrived closer to our respective rooms, we hear loud music. It does not stop until the wee hours of the morning. Our hotel is next to Potato Head Beach Club, a long-standing discotheque in Bali but I think the music was coming from one of the hotel rooms. Mind you, I was sleeping in the quiet area and it was so loud. But somehow, I manage to sleep through it.

Day Five 

I woke up the next morning and had the leftover chocolate cake for breakfast. This is my friend’s last day at the hotel. She leaves for Malaysia mid-morning while I check out and move to Bedugul to stay a couple of nights to practice golf at the Handara Golf Resort. We then head to breakfast, my friend meets me and gives me a bunch of stuff, among them is her hand sanitisers. She tells me to write a review of her product. We finish our meal and just before I leave the restaurant to head back to the room, a very sweet Indonesian lady comes out and hugs me, cause she knew it was my last day at the hotel today. I was touched. I can’t remember her name but she was very sweet looking. My friend checks out and we bid each other goodbye. After she has left for the airport, I go back to my room and get all my bags packed and check out from my hotel room for one final time. I wait in the lobby for my long-time buddy Shan to show up. I see a bunch of Indian guys in the lobby. I thought they were Malaysians. I make conversation but unfortunately, it turns out they were from South India. Then my friend Shan who has been living and working in Indonesia since 2015 shows up. We then head somewhere to meet his friends for lunch.

From left, Shan, Liza, her son Li, Liza’s husband Hanan, Jihye and me.

I forgot the name of the restaurant but I remember the surroundings looking like a school. I ordered a Salmon pizza which I shared with my friend Shan. At lunch, Shan introduced me to his friends, an Indonesian couple (Liza and Hanan) and their son Li and a Korean lady name Jihye. Little did I know that Jihye would be my best friend for the rest of my stay in Bali. Once we were done with lunch, I said goodbye to my new friends and Shan and I head up to the mountains. I remember donning the mask and sleeping halfway through the journey. We finally arrived at the Handara Golf Resort in Bedugul and I check into my room. I am not impressed. My room is dusty and the decorative flowers placed on the table are layu (withered). I proceed to send a WhatsApp to my friend – complaining. He manages the place so he gets the housekeeping to come over and clean the room for me and replaces the withered flowers. I also noticed that my brand new shower caps were all torn even before use. LOL. Despite being pissed, I head out to dinner with my friend Shan because I am literary there to catch up with him and at the same time to brush up on my golf. At dinner, we laughed the whole thing off and chatted like the good old days. After dinner, Shan gives me a ride on his scooter back to my hotel room. I called it a night. The whole area is situated near a dense forest and so it is pitch black at night. As I was staying alone, I decided to sleep with the lights on. Despite that, I had a restful sleep. My stomach didn’t give me much problem throughout the night. Thankfully, the ointment that Yuni had given me earlier had worked.

Bali, Indonesia.
Handara Golf Resort in Bali, Indonesia.

Day Six

The next morning, I got up, prayed and got dressed for breakfast. I met my friend Shan for breakfast and then we chatted a bit more. Some hotel guest comes over and talks to him but never acknowledges me. I thought to myself, how rude. Asian men! Next, my friend heads off for his meeting and I go down for a walk at the golf club. I met a white lady there, I try to make conversation with her. I asked her ‘what’s the walk like, and she replies with a forced smile ‘it’s good.” I soon realised that the hotel is littered with Russian guests and the lady was probably Russian. My friend who is the general manager of Handara also realises this and has brought in a German lady to teach his Indonesian chef how to make a mean Russian cuisine to appease his Russian guests. Many Russians have tasted the food and complimented it. Another thing I like about Handara is their hot chocolate. As a hot chocolate lover, it’s absolutely the best I have ever tasted. Once I am done with my walk and photo-taking session, I head to the cafe for my welcome drink. It is some hot lime drink.

Handara’s version of the humble pisang goreng (banana fritters).

And then someone comes and greets me and asks me if I am ‘Miss June’ and introduces himself to me as Chandra. He tells me his designation in the hotel. He apologises for the way I discovered my room. He then proceeds to tell me that he was working on getting me upgraded to the presidential suite. I didn’t think much, I just said ‘yes’ and he said my room would be ready in a couple of hours. My friend Shan then sends me a WhatsApp message telling me that he has booked a five-hour golf lesson with one of the clubs’ esteemed golf trainers Pak Komang and said that I would be accompanied by my newfound Korean friend whom I had just met for lunch a few days ago. Superb. We had our first lesson that same day and it went well. After my lesson, I headed back to my new room, which was a major upgrade from my last room and after our golf lesson was over, Jihye told me that she would meet me up for dinner. I said okay. At dinner, I decided on having Japanese cause the tempura looked good while Jihye got herself a plate of nasi campur (mixed rice). We chatted so much and Jihye bought me dessert which was pisang goreng (banana fritters) and then we paid and called it a night. Once I got into my new and improved room, I got scared because there were a lot of noises coming from the next room, I called the security guard and asked him point blank if the room was haunted and he said no but despite that, Jihye my new found friend of two days spent the night with me. She slept on the couch. LOL.

Day Seven

When I woke up the next morning, Jihye was nowhere to be found. I proceeded to text her and she replied by telling me that she would meet me at breakfast but instead I ended up having breakfast alone as I had arrived late. I remember sharing my table with a Russian couple.
The whole breakfast spot was packed to the brim and so they had no choice but to join me at my table. I was alone anyway, so I didn’t mind. 
After breakfast, I met my friend Ibu Suzy. She is someone I had acquainted with on WhatsApp in 2018. My friend Shan introduced me to her when I wanted to get some rattan bags from Bali, Indonesia. She bought the bags and even sent them to me here in Sydney, Australia. We met up briefly in the morning but that meeting had to be cut short as I had a golf lesson to attend. 

Ibu Suzy (right) in deep conversation with her architect.

I caught up with Jihye at the golf course. We practised for an hour and after we finished our class, the three of us including our golf instructor Pak Komang headed to the cafe for lunch. We joined our friend Shan whom we found working in the cafe that day. It was at that lunch outing that I ended up having Balinese coffee for the first time and loved it to bits. And that was when Shan informed us that he would be taking us out for dinner. I said okay and by then my newfound friend Ibu Suzy had texted me and invited me to join her and her friend to meet her architect at a nearby restaurant. She had earlier told me that she and her Australian husband was building a house near the golf course. I said okay and she comes over to my hotel to pick me up, and the three of us head to a nearby restaurant to meet her architect. Once that meeting was over, she sends me back to the hotel and tells me to contact her when I returned to Seminyak on my last day in Bali. I had earlier told her that my flight to Sydney was late at night, in the wee hours of the next day and so she had offered to house me for a few hours while I wait to board my flight as she was normally based in the city. I was elated and told her ‘yes’ and that I would be in touch with her in a couple of days. We hugged and parted ways.

From left: The writer, Scott, Shan, Utami and Jihye just before heading to dinner.

Once back at the hotel, I went back to my room to freshen up myself a bit and then headed to the cafe where my friend Shan and Jihye was waiting for me. As soon as I walked into the cafe, I saw them seated with a couple- an American businessman named Scott and his partner, Utami. After a bit of chit-chat and photo-taking sessions, the five of us headed out for dinner separately to another place nearby our hotel.

Shan Ramdas of Handara Golf Resort speaks exclusively to DailyStraits.com at Rekreasi in Bedugul.

Shan, Jihye and I head to Rekreasi, in Bedugul and there I was introduced to the owner Pak Agus, who reminded me of my favourite Indonesian singer Broery Marantika.
Apparently, this Bapak (gentleman) had worked in Coffs Habour in Australia for 10 years as a chef before deciding to return to Indonesia for good.
Anyway, his restaurant was developing a kind of alcohol (arak) and was working on commercialising it under the brand name ‘Rekreasi.‘ He had asked me to try it. I said okay but the drink was too strong for me. However, I remember it tasting similar to tequila, though.

The arak (alcohol) which is going to be commercialised into a full fledge brand known as Rekreasi.

The Bapak even had a friend join us who was from Guangzhou, China named Yan Li whom I found very interesting.
She does spearfishing and also paints fish during her spare time which I think is her way of dealing with the grief of killing innocent fish with her spear gun.
She tells us that she loves to swim and often swims at the lake nearby which is between 50 to 200 metres deep.
God knows. I enquired about the sharks and she looks at me confused.
There is no such thing as sharks or anything in the lakes of Bali.
I am in awe of her bravery as she often swims alone.
She even tells us that the water in the middle of the lake is clean and manis (sweet). WTF! LOL.
We finish dinner and head back to the hotel. I slept alone that night but with the lights on.

Day Eight

The next morning, I met Jihye at the cafe for breakfast.
The cafe was not as busy as the day before.
I decided to interview Jihye about her thoughts on Handara.
She obliges and we head back to the golf course for one last time.
After a short lesson, we proceed to the course for a mini-game session.

From right: Pak Komang and Jihye.

It was nice. Once we were done with our golf lesson, we headed to the Handara cafe for one last lunch. After lunch was over, I excused myself and went back to my room to pack and settle my final hotel bill.
I decided to check out from the hotel one day earlier because I reckon it would have been better for me since my flight to Australia left from the city.
As Bedugul is two hours away from the city centre which was where the Ngurah Rai International Airport is situated at.
The night before, I had booked myself a room at the same hotel I had left earlier which was Montigo in Seminyak.
Why that hotel, you might ask?
Because they were the easiest to book as they already had my details in hand and I had their number on my mobile as well.
For one night they had billed me AUD200, whatever, I had no choice.
So at 3 pm, Jihye and I headed to the city for a night out with my other newfound friends which I had surprisingly received an invite to the night before while I was on my way to Rekreasi for dinner.
The sweet couple (Liza and Hanan) that I had met at lunch a few days ago with Jihye had invited me to join them at the Forge in Seminyak for a night out alongside other new acquaintances.

Me and Jihye heading to Seminyak after I checked out from Handara.

The food at Forge was awesome. I tried oysters for the first time and had loads of mocktails.
In Sydney, I lead a very boring and mundane life.
So, this outing was nice.
I found out that the Forge is a bar cum restaurant in Seminyak owned by some bule.
By the time we were finished, Jihye decided to stay the night with me cause I told her I wanted to go clubbing.
She said okay, and that she would accompany me.
I told my friend Shan about our plans.
They were supposed to go up together to the mountains that night once dinner was over.
He said okay but he couldn’t join us as he was working.
Mind you Jihye didn’t bring a single change of clothes. LOL.
This was a spontaneous plan.
She is a cool cat, that one.
I finally went back to my old hotel, checked in and dumped my bags in the room and left again back to the Forge.

At Forge, from left Shasha, Jihye, Liza, me and an American lady from Alabama.
At Forge, from left Sasha, Jihye, Liza, the writer and Amber from Alabama.
Take two with the same cool crowd.

At the Forge earlier, I had met this wonderful Indonesian lady Sasha who told me to come back to the restaurant once I was done with my check-in and that we could go out clubbing later that night.
For some reason, I said okay.
The last time I went clubbing was in 2019 so this was a long overdue visit.
Before that, Sasha calls one of her acquaintances, a bodyguard to chaperone us at the club.
She paid for the whole thing and once inside the club, she even paid for all our drinks.
She was nice to me and was very kind to Jihye as well, although I think they both had known each other before.
We had a great time, the night ends and Sasha sends us back to our hotel by cab.
Jihye bunks in with me at the hotel.

The writer and Jihye (right).
Bali, Indonesia.
Jihye in Seminyak.

Final Day 

Today is my last day in Bali.
We woke up to have breakfast and once that was done we headed to Seminyak beach which was near the very famous Petitinget Temple near my hotel.
I was so thankful that Jihye was with me, otherwise, I would have been all by myself, the whole time.
But one split decision the night before to go clubbing changed the whole landscape for me.
We then proceeded to go and buy Jihye a bikini and chilled by the private pool for some hours.
I had lunch at the Montigo hotel and then we were back at the pool to chill some more.
I had a late check-out that night at 8 pm as my flight was at 1 am the next morning.
After we were done with the pool, Jihye and I headed to the nearby cafe for some dinner and then we went back to the hotel.

Bali, Indonesia.
The shoes that I made while in Bali, Indonesia.

By then my newfound American friend had returned with my shoes.
I paid him and told him that I would circle back with more information soon.
I have yet to do that, it has been more than a month.
But he did tell me that he was heading to Turkey this month.
We said our goodbyes and he leaves.
Jihye and I then leave and go back to have a final look at my hotel room.
I finish up my packing and head down to reception to check out.
While I was checking out, the Montigo hotel staff had taken the liberty to present me with some Balinese coffee.
I must have been a stellar guest.
Anyway, this was a good hotel and I intend to go back there soon.
They were very nice to me throughout my entire stay there.

Thank you for such great hospitality Montigo Resorts.

Finally, my newfound friend Ibu Suzy arrives at the hotel and takes me out for my second dinner at the Bubba Gump-inspired restaurant in Kuta.
After dinner, she sends me to the airport.
My entire nine days in Bali were jammed packed with a myriad of activities, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
This was my third visit to the islands of the Gods but my best one yet.
I hope to have Bali in my life on a more permanent basis and I hope that it would happen through my shoe business. God willing.

Me and Ibu Suzy at the Bubba Gump restaurant in Kuta just before sending me to the airport.

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