Bali mantra: ‘Eat, shop, chill out’

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ULUN Danu Beratan, Balinese Hindu temple on Beratan Lake.

It’s almost like automatic for most tourists to get into “Eat, Pray, Love” mode when visiting Bali, Indonesia. But first-timers to this famed Island of the Gods should also be aware that traveling here would more likely result in an “eat, shop and chill” experience.

TEGALLALANG rice terraces in Ubud

Surprisingly, going to Bali these days has gotten more convenient—and pocket-friendly—with the launch of Cebu Pacific Air’s direct Manila-Denpasar (Bali’s capital) flights every Tuesday and Saturday at the lowest one-way fare of P3,499 available all-year round.

Denpasar is Cebu Pacific’s second Indonesian destination after Jakarta, and its 20th international destination.

“With this new route, Cebu Pacific now caters to the air travel needs of a broader Filipino market,” said Candice Iyog, Cebu Pacific vice president for marketing and distribution during the send-off ceremony for the airline’s inaugural flight at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3.

NANDINI Bali Jungle Resort & Spa in Ubud is an idyllic place for honeymooners.

“With the direct flights to Denpasar, Bali, is a convenient and affordable option for leisure travelers, honeymooners, groups of friends or families,” she added.

The addition of this twice weekly Manila-Denpasar service to the ever-expanding Cebu Pacific network reinforces its commitment to provide air travel to destinations not easily accessible to most passengers, airline officials said. Cebu Pacific previously operated only four weekly flights to Jakarta.

Tourists from Bali who wish to make the most of their holidays can now add Philippines to their travel itineraries.

“The direct flight will also open more avenues for business collaboration as well as trade and investment opportunities,” said Iyog. “Last year, we carried close to 13.3 million passengers and, I am happy to say, we continue to succeed in enticing first-time flyers to venture outside their homes, by making our affordable fares available all year round.”

Consistent top destination

GORGEOUS Balinese batiks

Bali has consistently been one of the top tourist destinations in the world. Indonesian Ambassador Kristiarto Legowo, who was present during the launch, said that foreign tourist arrivals in Bali exceeded its target of 2.8 million last year. And, for this year, the goal is 3.9 million.

“One of the best things that ever happened to Indonesia is Bali,” said Legowo. “Opening the Manila-Denpasar-Manila via Cebu Pacific will help Bali achieve its goal. Likewise, it will give more tourists from Indonesia, including other nationalities who are staying in Bali, the opportunity to see the grandeur of the Philippines.”

Legowo saw the opening of the Manila-Denpasar-Manila route as an opportunity not only to enhance economic growth in Indonesia and the Philippines through the travel industry, but also to bring people from both countries closer.

LABHAGGA Pacung’s ground fish satay

“I am excited that Bali is now just within your reach,” Legowo said. “In fact, with Cebu Pacific’s promise to give low fares yet great value to all Filipinos who want to travel, Bali is just a smile away. As Cebu Pacific always say, ‘It’s time every Juan flies’… to Bali!”

 

Postcard-pretty

After a smooth four-hour flight from Manila, our group arrived at Ngurah Rai International Airport (also Denpasar Int’l Airport) with nary a hassle, except for the intermittent bad weather experienced that day—drizzly in the morning, sunny by noon, then heavy downpour by mid-afternoon till evening. It was bright and sunny, however, for the next couple of days.

Bali is home to about 3.6 million people and Hinduism is their primary religion. Going around town, one sees little temples inside people’s backyards. The little temples are decked with flowers, candles and food. People pray twice a day, every morning and afternoon.

European-inspired Le Meridien Bali Jimbaran

Bali prides itself for its postcard-pretty scenery—long, sandy beaches, rugged coastlines, scenic hills and mountains. Its unique beauty and charm also comes from the rich and colorful Balinese culture, as well as artistic and spiritual background. The people are especially warm and friendly.

Eat

This paradise offers varied activities for tourists. First, what to eat. There are numerous dining places in Bali that cater to one’s taste buds and budget—from fine dining to casual and al fresco by the shore.

Oceans 27’s Fruit Pavlova

Check these out:

If you have a huge appetite and prefer al fresco dining, go to The Pond Restaurant in Ubod and order a Balinese set menu of roasted pork ribs seasoned with local herbs and spices, served with Balinese chili dip, French beans, mixed veggies and steamed rice—all served in a humongous wooden plate. If that’s not enough, you can still order its famed crab cake with avocado salad and duck spring rolls dipped in liver sauce.

For a quick pit-stop lunch on the way to Ulun Danu Bratan Temple, Labhagga Pacung Restaurant’s buffet spread serves Bali’s staple food—fried noodles (bakmi goreng), ground fish satay with Balinese spices (saté lilit), fried chicken with buttersauce (ayam goreng mentega), beef meat with sweet soya sauce (semur daging sapi), prawn crackers, fried bananas and fresh fruits. The restaurant sits on a valley overlooking the highland paddy fields that look much like our own Banaue Rice Terraces.

Your trip to this idyllic paradise is not complete without enjoying fresh catch from the sea and eating by the beach. Furama Restaurant in Kuta specializes in grilled seafood platter, consisting of prawns, crabs, clams, squid calamari, fish, garlic kangkong, steamed rice and fresh fruits. The place is the perfect venue for a sunset dinner.

Balinese Kecak Fire Dance

More seafood delights, but prepared in an upscale manner, awaits famished tourists at Oceans 27 Restaurant and Bar (beach front), just behind the Discovery Shopping Mall in Kuta. Have your fill of either grilled salmon with hollandaise sauce or the juiciest sirloin steak. Both are served with pumpkin soup and prawn cocktail. A light and creamy Fruit Pavlova ends a wonderful meal.

For a “fiery” dinner experience, go Italian and check out Papa’s Café Kuta. Especially famous is its Kintamani Volcano Pizza that is shaped like a dome and stuffed with beef ham, spicy sausage, pepperoni and beef salami. It arrives at your table with blue flames on top. The pizza is paired with a cool Virgin Papa Colada.

Shop

Sukawati Art Market in Ubud should be your first stop for shopping after eating. Here you can find fabulous Bali batik, sarong, malong, souvenir items (key chains, ref magnets, can opener, bracelets, necklaces etc.) and authentic Balinese artworks and sculptures created by locals. Ubud is home to local artists.

Candice Iyog, Cebu Pacific vice president for marketing and distribution

Your US$100 is equivalent to 950,000 rupiahs, so it’s easy to be an instant “millionaire” in this country; it’s also easy to lose your moolah if you don’t know how to haggle.

“Most souvenir items sold in other tourist areas come from Sukawati,” said our tour guide Rudy. “It’s a place for bargain hunters.”

Sukawati is like Divisoria or Quiapo; it teems with interesting goodies and cheap merchandise. There are no price tags here, so it’s best to negotiate up from 50 to 60-percent off the actual price. Be extra patient to go around the alleys to find interesting items, such as small Ramayana paintings (P300 each), Bali shirts (P100), sarong (P80), malong (P160), batik dress (P400), sundresses (P150), shell earrings (P80), a set of five floral hairclips (P10).

Next stop is Ubud’s Monkey Forest Road. But unlike the tiangge-style Sukawati, most of the items in the stand-alone shops here are priced a bit higher. But the place offers better quality stuff—from textiles to clothing, metalwork to batik, bags, hats, scarves, gold and silver accessories, fans, antique decors and Bali paintings. Haggling is accepted.

A word of caution, though. Since you’re in the vicinity of Monkey Forest, there are monkeys who freely roam around, ready to jump at you anytime. But they will only do that when you’re carrying anything that’s dangling—shopping bag, bracelets, earrings, shades, etc. The chimps will think you are teasing them with food.

Another suggested souvenir shop, but more spacious, is the Rama Krisna also in Ubud. Prices are fixed, but the goods are a lot cheaper and the place is well organized. All kinds of souvenirs and pasalubong are available here, including food stuff (teas, coffees, biscuits, chips, chocolates, fruits), house decor (wood-carved figurines, shower curtain, ashtrays, clocks), garments (batik shirts and shorts), accessories (lipstick holders, handbags, bracelet, cloth slippers) and toys.

 

Chill

Chilling out in Bali means checking out must-see places in the island.

Monkey Forest Park in Ubud houses playful, long-tailed macaque monkeys (about a thousand of them) wandering in the sacred nature reserve. In Bali Hinduism, sanctuaries such as the Monkey Forest are usually in sacred sites, often surrounded by temples. The monkeys are believed to be protecting the temples from evil spirits.

You can have your photo taken with them. Some will even pose for the cameras and do tricks for you.

Monkey Forest was one of the locations in Julia Robert’s movie, “Eat, Pray, Love.”

Entrance fee costs 20,000 rupees (P80).

To better understand Bali culture, arts and beliefs, consider a visit to some of its sacred temples. There are more than 1,000 of them in Bali.

Two of the most-photographed temples are the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan or Pura Bratan, and the Uluwatu Temple.

Pura Bratan sits right at the edge of Lake Bratan and is dedicated to Dewi Danu, goddess of water. Built in 1663, this Hindu temple is used for offering ceremonies to the Balinese water, lake and river goddess. The temple, located 1,200 meters above sea level, is surrounded by lush greenery. It also has cooler air like Baguio City.

Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple is perched on a steep cliff that overlooks the gorgeous surf breaks of southern Bali. It’s one of six key temples believed to be Bali’s spiritual pillars. It’s here where you also get to watch the Kecak and Fire Dance presented daily by Balinese performers.

Kecak is said to be the most unique Balinese dance because, unlike all other Balinese performances, it is not accompanied by musical instruments. Instead, a chorus of about 70 shirt-less men imitate the sound of musical instruments to tell a love story (Ramayana epic), and provide sound effects. The name Kecak comes from the chattering “cak-cak” sounds of the chorus.

In case you’re tired from all the walking and sight-seeing, there are places where you can really relax and comfortably stay in. Two hotels actually stand out.

The multiawarded Nandini Bali Jungle Resort & Spa in Ubud (www.nandinibali.com) allows you to commune with nature and breathe clean, fresh air. Any wanderlust will find solace in the lush landscape, thick foliage and sheer quietude the resort offers the weary tourist at the end of a long, scorching day.

As you step into the hidden premises, you can watch a slice of life in Bali such as farmers working in the rice fields and banana groves.

Nandini, which means white cow, has 18 traditionally built “alang-alang” roofed villas nestled on a slope, and a swimming pool excavated from the hillside and elevated 15 meters above the descending forested river gorge beneath. A gondola (monorail) takes guests up the villas and down the jacuzzi and pool.

British actress Helen Mirren, American singer-songwriter Pink and Filipino crooner Christian Bautista were recent guests in this idyllic haven. The romantic setting has also become a favorite among honeymooners, mostly Europeans.

If you prefer a more cozy, classy and contemporary look and feel, Le Meridien Bali Jimbaran (www.starwoodhotels.com/lemeridien) should be it. Featuring 75 guest rooms, 35 suites, four penthouses and four villas, Le Meridien offers a magnificent view of the Indian Ocean and Jimbaran Bay. Each villa is landscaped with a large pool and loungers for guests who want some sun at different times of the day.

The hotel also features its signature 1,300 square-meter uniquely designed saltwater lagoon pool that is accessible from the ground-floor guestrooms. Le Meridien emphasizes its French contemporary design with touches of traditional Balinese. Its lobby is a veritable art gallery or an exhibit space with artworks created by foreign and artists.

For the latest seat sales and bookings, go to www.cebupacificair.com; tel. no. (02)7020888 or (032)2308888. Follow Cebu Pacific Air’s official Facebook and Twitter pages.

E-mail the author at vbaga@inquirer.com.ph

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