Back In Bali: The First Leg to Balian Beach

After a very hectic month in Pangkalan Bun (Kalimantan) with Bu Arfa, I am back in Bali to spend 2 weeks with friend & fellow PEPS teacher, Marg (Mrs Roberts). We have been planning this Bali Tour for over 12 months. Part of me is delighted that our time together is finally happening and another part of me is concerned because this part of my trip had always been so far in the future and now that it is here, it brings home the fact that my travel time in Indonesia is slowly and inevitably passing and I am well over the half way mark. I now have 2 months before heading home!
I arrived in Bali the day before Marg, which meant I could get a few important jobs done. Firstly but not most importantly, I put my washing in at the laundry which was conveniently across the road from our hotel, (The Flora Hotel in Jalan Bakung Sari, Kuta). I chose this hotel for several reasons, one of which was the great price from Booking.com and the other was that as I am not familiar with this end of Kuta anymore, I was keen to have the opportunity to reacquaint myself. The room itself was really lovely and we had a balcony that looked over the swimming pool so consequently we slept to the sound of a waterfall all night which was so relaxing. On my morning walk, I discovered how close I was to Kartika Plaza (Matahari), a Buddhist temple, my favourite internet/phone credit shop and SDN Kuta 1 (Kuta Primary School # 1; which probably means the oldest primary school in Kuta). My only complaint about this area is that all the restaurants are aimed at tourists and what’s more; Australian tourists, which meant 24/7 AFL! Had no idea until Marg arrived that it is Grand Final time! Imagine being able to eat out in a restaurant and watch the footy on an enormous screen!!
My remaining 2 jobs I had to get done were of equal importance! The first was to contact my visa agent, Bu Evi, from Rami. My visa runs out on the 9th October, so I needed to get my passport to her a week beforehand. Her office is in Sanur but thankfully she was planning to visit Umalas, so she offered to meet me at my hotel! I was all ready for her when she arrived, or so I thought, and then when handing over my passport and a passport sized photo, I realised that I had forgotten the money! It costs Rp1,250,000 for each renewal. Once I had quickly raced up to a nearby ATM, I was able to also hand over the money. This cost is largely the fee she will pay the Department of Immigration! The actual cost for having an agent do the paper work is minor and well worth every Rupiah! The Jakarta office already have copies of my sponsorship letter, Pak Agung’s KTP (identity card) & his KK (kartu keluarga) from my visa extension last month. My visa will have to be renewed every month in Bali now until I head home.
The 3rd and final job I had to do was to meet Wahyu so he could drop off our car. I asked for the smallest car they had and this is what we got:

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It was great seeing Wahyu again, even though it was very brief and I felt very guilty about not offering to drive him home but I was feeling nervous about the return trip and finding my way back to the hotel alone! He was very sweet and waved off my apologies!
So once all my jobs were done, I headed out to the airport to meet Marg, although it felt odd leaving the car at the hotel and taking a taxi!! Her flight came in at 6pm and not knowing how long it would take to clear customs, I didn’t want her to loose faith in my driving skills on her first trip with me in the car. The roads to the airport have all changed too with the new airport almost finished and on top of that the idea of navigating in the dark made it very easy for me to decide to go by taxi!
With the APEC conference due to start any day in Bali, the new Denpasar airport has been racing against time to be completed in time for the delegates arrival. The international arrival section of the airport opened a couple of days ago and no doubt they are trialling it to troubleshoot ready for next week. Just waiting outside in the lobby was impressive. Everything smelt new and of fresh paint. There is still a lot of work to be done but even still I was very impressed. The arrivals appeared through a double set of glass sliding doors and then before they get to the throng of drivers holding up placards with family names written on them, they are in an open space complete with money changer, ATM’s and a Telcomsel booth so you can either buy a sim card or buy phone credit! This area also gave the new arrivals a chance to take a few deep breaths before facing the hoards to scrutinize each of the signs bearing the various family’s names.
As Marg had spent the whole day traveling, we headed out for a quick dinner. We walked passed all the restaurants for Australian tourists and found a place called ‘Warung Madura’. There I was able to introduce Marg to Soto Ayam and afterwards she told me that chicken soup was just what she had felt like! No matter where you order Soto Ayam, it will be different but the basic ingredients are chicken stock and shredded chicken. This soto was totally delicious because it also had thin noodles, cabbage, bean sprouts, sliced egg and fried onions which we topped off with a squeeze of lime juice. Now if you are a regular soto fan, you must be saying by now, “But aren’t those ingredients always in soto?” and the answer is a definite ,”No”! At the airport in Jakarta, I ordered my usual ‘soto tidak pakai daging’ (soto with no meat) and the waitress was horrified! She asked me again and again if I was sure and when she brought out my bowl of clear chicken stock, I understood her amazement! Bu Valentina and I still get a giggle out of that meal, especially when ordering soto together!
Marg and I headed out the next morning after a great sleep, to do some shopping before setting off to Balian, the first stop on our driving tour. Mag wanted some crocs, so I took her for a walk to where I last remembered buying crocs in Kuta (near the Kuta Beach main entrance) and there was no sign of them. So instead we wandered down to check out Kuta Beach which as always these days, was beautiful. Cleaners were out in full force sweeping the sand and at one point a front end loader passed by with the front scoop chocker block full of rubbish. It headed off towards the far end of the beach and I lost sight of it somewhere near the airport runway. I just had to hope the rubbish was being disposed of appropriately! Being Kuta, I would be very surprised if it wasn’t. There weren’t many westerners on the beach, but there were several groups of domestic tourists, sitting on the sand relaxing and enjoying the soft white sand (rare in Indonesia).
We then visited the shop I now get my internet credit from when in Bali. As usual the 2 girls there in shop were fantastic. Marg got an XL sim card for her ipad and I topped up my XL sim card (Rp 100,00) both of which are packets for 3 gigs and will last a month. I also had a protector screen finally put on (Rp 50,000) and Marg bought an adaptor for her classroom ipad mini so she could connect it to the smart board via the VGA cord. It cost Rp 60,000. Marg also bought an ipad pen! As always, a very satisfying visit! Next time I will take a screen shot of the shopfront!!
We were now set to begin our car tour of Bali! We packed the car up, and headed off, somehow getting to Jalan Sunset thankfully because once I was there, I had my bearings! This first leg was going to be the toughest. I haven’t driven in Bali since 2009 and the traffic now is much heavier. I was also getting to know the car, which is much longer than I am used to. So we took it very slowly and carefully and I was surprised how enjoyable it was to be behind the wheel again. We were heading westwards towards Balian Beach, following the highway which takes you to Jakarta eventually. Consequently, there were trucks of all sizes playing leap frog along the way all trying to get to the front of the pack! I was happy to poke along, sitting behind a truck, letting it forge the way and thus avoiding the leap frogging of the traffic coming towards us! The only aspect of driving I found nerve wracking was spotting the traffic lights. At most intersections were line markings regardless of whether there were traffic lights, and so using them as an indicator was pointless. The further out from Denpasar, the traffic lights got smaller and smaller and blacker and blacker and if that wasn’t enough, some of them also had a broken globe which had yet to be replaced! At one point I almost drove through an intersection because the red light globe was broken and by the time I realised that I needed to stop, I stopped over the solid white line marking! I couldn’t reverse back as I had a truck behind me, so I nervously waited for the light to turn green so I could get moving before attracting the attention of any traffic policemen! Our only other adventure we had involved getting petrol. We stopped at a petrol station just out of Tabanan and asked for Rp100,000 worth. From the drivers seat, I watched the bowser meter rotate to Rp100,000 but when we drove off, I realised that somehow the petrol attendant had diddled us as the petrol gauge only rose a tiny bit. This was confirmed the following day when we put in Rp150,000 and filled up the tank! No idea how the bowser attendant could keep the meter rotating yet turn the petrol off! No doubt most of that money went straight into his pocket! So from now on, I will get out of the car and watch them as the car is filled up!

We found Balian Beach

20131004-135253.jpgvery easily and the instructions we had been given to get to Surya’s Homestay were also extremely easy as that too was well sign posted. Our room there was very spacious and both beds had mosquito netting and a portable fan! Even though there was a group of young European surfers staying in the end room, it was very quiet and while sitting or lying in bed, we could hear the waves crashing on the beach. We went down and explored the beach in the evening which was beautiful as we luckily timed it to see the sun setting! There was a beautifully shaped rock in the water which looked more like a ship and with the sun setting behind it, we got some great pictures!

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On the beach was a group doing partner yoga and we later realised they were from the nearby Balian Yoga Retreat. What a perfect location for that! We also, the following day, went for a walk and discovered a pathway leading to the retreat which we took and at the very end found a gate into the retreat. Inside we discovered a deserted compound with a gorgeous pool decorated with a mandala, a eating area which overlooked the amazing scenery as well as other buildings all set in a beautiful tropical garden. Back on our walk, a open bus passed us and we recognised the couples from the beach, so guessed they had again been enjoying another beach yoga session!
I absolutely loved Balian Beach. Lots of beautiful walks,

20131004-135608.jpglovely and quiet countryside and also Putu and Wayan from Surya Homestay were the most welcoming hosts and were the icing on the cake! Our breakfasts were amazing and included Balinese coffee with a pancake or a plate of fruit. We couldn’t choose between pancakes or fruit so ordered both at little extra cost! The added bonus at Balian was the night market on the main road right next to the turn off. Our first night we enjoyed martabak and cap cai for dinner! Marg agrees that martabak is one of the most delicious foods available! Another convert!!
Each day at Balian we did some day trips and on each we invited my dear friend Kadek and her family. We first took Marg to Medewi Beach which we all agreed was nowhere as nice as Balian although no doubt, surfers wouldn’t agree! For non surfers, Medewi has little going for it. The beach is rocky and rubbish was everywhere.

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20131004-135813.jpgKadek & Made
After a brief walk up the beach collecting shells for Putu (to be used for a school project – kerajinan), we headed home for a delicious home cooked meal of kangkung (water spinach), tempeh, saur (grated coconut fried with spices)and nangka (jackfruit). Our drive home at night was not fun and had not Marg been looking out for our turn off, I would have driven straight passed it!
Our day out the following day was to Marga, my Mum’s village. I was extremely relieved to finally get an answer to my inbox message to my cousin Didik asking for his fathers phone number. I rang Kak Badra immediately to check that it was okay to drop in to see Mae Made (my aunty) and was delighted that not only was it okay, but Mae Made would be there. She alternates between Denpasar and Marga, due to health issues. We collected everyone from Pengeragoan and headed back to Tabanan with a full car. The avanza was perfect for transporting friends! We had also ensured that Putu & Kadek had taken a motion sickness tablet before heading off however forgot to take them with us so our return journey was not so enjoyable for poor Putu! The road from Tabanan to Marga was horrendous with millions of potholes and thankfully Kadek & Ketut recognised the road because it was largely unfamiliar for me. At Marga, I found the turn off to our banjar (like a mini suburb) easily and stopped right outside the gang (lane) leading up to the family compound. No major changes here however once I headed up the gang and turned to enter the compound I was gobsmacked! Gone were the simple row of rooms that I have stayed in many times and in their place was a very fancy and traditional Balinese building complete with ornate brick work and carved wooden doors and windows. The transformation is breath taking.

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20131004-135926.jpgLooking totally incongruous next to the family temple which is still very shabby and badly in need of a face lift as well as the original kitchen by comparison. The family bale though fits in well as it isn’t quite so old. A lot of money has been spent on the rebuilding of the bedrooms and I am not sure if this was mainly done for Didik’s upcoming wedding which appears to be set for sometime next year. We didn’t stay too long as I was not keen to do any more night driving than I absolutely had to. We tried another road on our return and it was much smoother and consequently quicker and so we dropped in really quickly to our homestay so Kadek could see it and then we dashed back to Pengeragoan to drop them home. The last leg was in darkness however as we had our bearings, was much easier than the previous evening. We dropped in to the night market for an es buah which finished the day off perfectly!
The next morning, we packed up the car and headed off for Munduk.

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One thought on “Back In Bali: The First Leg to Balian Beach

  1. Yes Balian is a gorgeous place. So glad it seems to be still mostly off the beaten track. Was Surya on the medewi side of river or tabanan? In the picture where it looks like a boat…..thats because it is a boat! Made out of concrete if I remember rightly. Its been there for aeons.
    How brave of you to drive! Look forward to hearing more about that. All the best with the visa ….xxtrees

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