Archive for March, 2013

Back from Bali

March 23, 2013
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Nusa Dua beach at 6am with the tide out.

I have just returned from 10 days in Bali and it is most definitely not the reason why I haven’t been updating this blog much – that’s just sheer laziness! There have been so many interesting Chinese related news articles that I have been meaning to write about, alas!

I would prefer to say that I had just returned from Indonesia, it sounds so much more exotic than Bali. Bali is, like my brother-in-law put it, “the Gold Coast with passports,” and man, is that the truth. For the non-Australian’s, the Gold Coast is long section of beach just south of Brisbane (in the State of Queensland). It is one of Australia’s most popular holiday destinations for Australians – kind of where you go to when you want nothing more than to drink and lie on a beach – two very popular Australian pasttimes – particularly for the typical yobbo. The name Gold Coast is taken from the fact the sand is golden yellow – it’s also known as Surfers Paradise for its waves.

Bali is like taking the above description and mixing it with South East Asia. It’s hot, there’s nice beaches, plenty of drinking, and of course, plenty of Australians. Initially we were looking at going to the Philippines, and then Malaysia, and we thought, we simply want a cheap, hot destination for a pool holiday, and well, Bali is close, so decided to check it out. We figured Bali would be cheaper than the other two options.

It is definitely close, with a direct flight from Melbourne clocking in around the 5 hours 20 minute mark. And it was definitely HOT, with one Balinese local describing the island as having two temperatures: hot and hotter. But it was not cheap. In fact, unless you’re eating all meals in the outside restaurants, and the same with the drinks, you’re looking at very close to Australian prices (ie: expensive).

Of course, this holds true for most countries I have visited. If you eat in your hotel, you’re going to pay for it, but I can say for a fact, Thailand was a lot cheaper than Bali in this regard. In addition, you don’t always want to have to go into the streets for your lunches and dinners. Sometimes it’s nice just to stay by the pool all day, ordering food to you, ordering cocktails and the like. It’s a pool holiday afterall!

We stayed in three different places. First up was the Laguna resort in Nusa Dua. Second was the Seminyak Resort and Spa in Seminyak, and finally we splurged a bit and stayed for two nights at the Anantara, also in Seminyak.

The Laguna was lovely, if not lacking a bit of character. It was one of those resorts designed to be all inclusive, in that once there, you don’t need to leave. This is great if you’re European (which most of the guests were incidentally), but if you want to get out and explore a bit, not so good. There were some shops nearby, and a largish shopping centre named Bali Connection (which I swear was just 5 shops repeated 50 times over), but overall, it was just lacking something, and it was very expensive. Cocktails were $16.00 AUD a pop, and the mojitos were mediocre at best, even at this premium price. The 5 dollar shopping centre mojitos were far tastier.

The beach at Nusa Dua was quiet as there was a coral reef there. Waves would break quite a distance from shore, until high tide when the main beach became quite lovely for swimming. In the distance there was a terrific view of one of Bali’s volcanos.

Seminyak was a very different experience. This bustling area is one of Bali’s new tourism growth spots, with resorts and villas everywhere. When standing on the beach, I counted no less than 7 large cranes behind the palm tree horizon – new resorts were sprouting up everwhere. Across the water, an almost constant stream of planes were taking off and landing – Bali thrives off its tourism.

The Seminyak Resort and Spa was a nice hotel, located right on the beach, with an amazing infinity pool set right above the sand. The beach here was the polar opposite of Nusa Dua, with some seriously large waves crashing against the shore. The sand was volcanic grey and home to a surprisingly number of articles of rubbish. While it was nice bobbing in the ridiculously warm Indian Ocean, the vibe is somewhat killed when you’re constantly picking your way in between chip packets and pieces of plastic.

The Seminyak Resort and Spa had a really nice room, and the grounds were decent enough, but the lack of a proper bar area killed it a bit. It had one of the fabled swim up pool bars – but that was it. There was nowhere to sit around this bar, and by the time it was happy hour (5-7pm), the water was in shade and actually kind of cold. Thailand wins on the bar front – with both places we staying having awesome areas to just hang out, watch the sun go down and sup cocktails. All three places in Bali failed in this regard.

The Seminyak also has this chapel located bang in the middle of its ocean front property. This place could have made an excellent restaurant, bar or effectively anything else – but no, it was just a chapel. Complete waste of space in my opinion.

The final place, the Anantara was what I thought would be the best of the three, but was merely just as good. This is classed as a boutique resort (aka small), occupying a small patch of ground, further down the beach from the Seminyak. The Anantara did have a much better vibe to it however. The main draw here are the jacuzzi’s set into the balcony, which despite taking like 40 minutes to fill, were kind of cool I have to admit. Our first night here was a disaster, with some works in the hotel keeping up awake literally all night – and on complaining the next day, we were moved to a higher level, which thankfully, was quiet.

While each hotel was nice, the common trend was they lacked character – something the Thai hotels had in spades. The one thing that bound them all together however, was the staff – the Balinese (or Indonesians, period) were just like the Thai’s – friendly, helpful and always an absolute pleasure to deal with. While Bali is not the kind of place I could see myself returning to time and time again, if i had to, the Balinese people themselves would be a big part of this.

Overall – I liked Bali. I didn’t love it, but I liked it. As usual, I found it interesting to see the differences between the local culture/people compared to the other parts of Asia that I am familiar with. I love Asia, and being back there was an absolute treat. Once more, I have returned home with pangs of wanting to move back there. And once more, upon returning home, drinking water from the tap feels like wrongtown.

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Sunset on Seminyak beach

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The Seminyak Resort and Spa infinity pool

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