Archive | April, 2016

Singapore & Bali in 8 days

26 Apr

SE Asia is a travellers paradise – nature has showered its goodness on the region, its reasonably economical and everything works with clockwork precision.

Singapore is normally the 1st international destination for most Indians. Then they graduate to Bangkok, KL, Phuket, Krabi, Langkawi, …… we did all of this and it was now time for Glorious Bali.

Unfortunately there is no direct flight from Bangalore to Bali, so we planned a trip Via Singapore (3 nights at Singapore & 5 nights at Bali). We have been to Singapore many times – but the city always beckons – Singapore can  be described in a few words – small, efficient , safe & a perfect place for a family holiday.

You can spend a relaxed week at Singapore that includes a few days at Sentosa –  in the 3 days that we had we wanted to focus on the the new attractions – sights we had not been to before – Universal studio, Gardens by the Bay & the fascinating Art & Science museum – and with children a trip to the Singapore Zoo & Jurong Bird Park is a must. (Other attractions include Night Safari, Duck Boat, Little India & Chinatown, The Science Centre, The Red Dot Museum, A walk by the marina bay and the Merlon & the underwater park in Sentosa are worth a visit.

Gardens by the bay was the highlight of the visit – two giant air conditioned  indoor canopies that house a world of greenery. We were lucky to see the Tulips in full bloom and it was a riot of colours.

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The recently opened Arts & Science museum is also fascinating –  a 1500-square-metre digital universe, where 15 spectacular art installations are brought to life and evolve in real-time through visitor presence and participation.

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Universal Stuido is a key attraction for the kids – it has the following 7 theme parks – New York, Sci – Fi City, Ancient Egypt, Madagascar, Far Far Away, Water World and the Lost World.

I felt that the clock had not moved since 1999 when I first visited at LA. Its the same set of rides and shows – hardly any evolution. You can spend a day if you want to visit every ride – but we were there by 930 and left by 3. (The fast track tickets helped us beat the Q). The scariest ride here is the Battlestar Galactica – it can really shake you up

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We also managed to walk down Clark Quay and have dinner with some friends – the Quay is the party zone area – we left by 10 PM but this is where you can party till early morning

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We stayed at the Grand Hyatt at Scotts Road / Orchard intersection – very centrally located. Distances in Singapore are 10 – 15 min by car to almost all attractions – the Bird park is located farthest ( 30 min drive) – but is soon expected to move next to the Zoo

Other Basis Information 

  • Silk Air has a convenient morn 950 AM flight from Bangalore that lands Singapore at 430 PM
  • 1 Sing $ ~ INR 50
  • Cab Fares vary from $ 10 – $20 ( Airport to Hotel ~ $20)
  • Indian Food – not a problem – head to Little India
  • Tickets for the attractions cost from $25 – $50 / person , book online in advance you save money and avoid the Q

2nd Leg of our  tour : Enchanting Bali

On day 3 we took the 630 PM evening flight from Singapore to Bali – its a 2 hrs 30 min flight , and landed at 9.50 PM. You don’t need Visa at Bali and your passport is your entry – you can zip past immigration in 10 min and reach your hotel in 25 – 30 min. The airport is at Denpasar, located in the south of the island.

Bali is Not a City . Its a province of Indonesia which is located between the islands of Java and Lombok island, Bali island is also commonly referred to as The Island Of Thousands Temples, The Island of Gods, and Bali Dwipa, Bali also has several small islands including the island of Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan Island, Nusa Ceningan island, Serangan Island and Menjangan Island. Its a bit like Goa and distances between tourist attractions can be as far as 2 – 3 hrs.

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Background on Bali & Indonesia

Indonesia is an Archipelago with over 2000 islands of which less than 50 are populated. It was a Hindu & Buddhist country in the 600 – 1200 period before the conversion to a Muslim state started happening. It was colonised by the Dutch for ~ 250 years and was under Japanese control for a few years during the 2nd world war. Indonesia is the worlds largest Muslim country. They share the same language and script with the Malaysians.

Bali has strong Hindu roots – Mythology says that the great Sage Agastya is supposed to have travelled to Bali & Java to spread Hinduism 10 – 15,000 years back. 90% of Bali is still Hindu and the area is dotted with thousands of temples. Shiva , Vishnu & Uma are the main deities – and  a lot of what they do is linked to the Ramayana and Mahabharata, but the festivals they celebrate are different from those in India. Would be wonderful to do a research on how Hinduism spread & flourished in  Cambodia , Vietnam , & Malaysia thousands of years back.

(More info on bali here : http://www.baliglory.com/2012/10/bali-history-about-island-god.html)

We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Resorts at Nusa Dua which is at the Southern part of Bali. Within Nusa Dua there is a gated enclave designed like a park that houses most of the large resorts – Westin , Hilton , Hyatt etc.

The Grand Hyatt is a sprawling 650 room beach front property with rooms and villas. It is an oasis of peace and tranquility. Quality of rooms and service was excellent. Rates are comparable to the 5 Star rates in India.

Bali has a sense of energy balance – the place is blessed , you can feel the vibes. The people are calm and relaxed (not restless like in India) , soft spoken and seem to be at peace with themselves. there is a sense of contentment and joy and it was wonderful to soak in this environment for 5 nights.

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Tourists come to Bali and spend weeks and months – but if you have 4 days here is a itinerary to follow

Day – 1 : City Tour  9 AM to 6 PM

  • The Goa Gajah or the elephant cave
  • Artisans Village
  • Plantation walk
  • A Visit to a Mount Agung – A live Volcano that last erupted in 1996 (View it from a  Distance – Trek takes 1/2 a day)
  • Shopping at Ubud (Lunch at an Indian Restaurant – Queens)
  • Monkey Forest

A temple supposedly built by sage Agastya – it was excavated recently. 

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Mount Agung – one of the active volcanoes in Malaysia

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An organic farm that grows Cocoa, Coffee , Spices – they served us a tray of over 5 different types of coffee .

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Day – 2 : City Tour 9 AM to 7 PM

  • Butterfly park
  • Jatiluwih Rice Terraces (UNESCO World Heritage site) *
  • Hot Spring
  • Floating temple (Pura Ulun Danu Bratan)
  • Tanah Lot – Sunset
  • The other 2 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Bali are the Pakerisan Valley & the Taman Ayun temple ( We did not have the time to visit these beautiful places)

A 2 hr drive from Nusa Dua our first stop on day 2 was a small but pretty butterfly park.

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The Jatiluwih rice terraces are located in a hilly part of Bali – the weather is cool and pleasant and it feels like a hill station. The undulating greenery is soothing to the eyes. Spend some time here and take a relaxed walk by the rice fields and be with nature – its calming & serene. Not very crowded as getting here takes almost 3 hrs.

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Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, or Pura Bratan, is a major Shivaite and water temple  The temple complex is located on the shores of Lake Bratan in the mountains near Bedugul.

Built in 1663, this temple is used for offerings ceremony to the Balinese water, lake and river goddess Dewi Danu, due to the importance of Lake Bratan as a main source of irrigation in central Bali. The 11 stories of pelinggih meru dedicated for Shiva and his consort Parvathi. Buddha statue is also present inside this temple.

Lake Bratan is known as the Lake of Holy Mountain due to the fertility of this area. Located 1200 m above sea level, it has a cold tropical climate.

Its a beautiful temple with landscaped gardens and a large lake – we reached here in the evening around 4 PM and it was a wonderful sight.

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The Tanah Lot temple is best visited at sunset or sunrise. It was built and has been a part of Balinese mythology for centuries. The temple is one of seven sea temples around the Balinese coast. Each of the sea temples was established within eyesight of the next to form a chain along the south-western coast. This temple reminded me of the Shore temple at Mahabalipuram and the fact that maybe the Pallavas or their descendants had some influence in the design and construction of these temples at Bali.

In addition to Balinese mythology, the temple was significantly influenced by Hinduism. At the base of the rocky island, venomous sea snakes are believed to guard the temple from evil spirits and intruders. The temple is purportedly protected by a giant snake, the temple complex has a snake park.

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The Bali temples are well marketed but are no comparison in size, stature and design to what we see in S India.

Day 2 was a long trip and we were back only by 730 PM

Day – 3 : At the Resort , Shopping and the Devdan Show

With 5 pools, 5 restaurant , amazing green landscape and a great beach we had to spend one day at the Grand Hyatt Resort and most of day 3 was spent there.

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Right next to the Resort is a beautiful mall called the Bali Place where we stopped by for some shopping and late lunch and in the evening visited the spectacular Devdan show.

This is a live 2 hr show ( like a Las vegas show) with light & sound effects that presents the different art and cultural treasures of the Indonesia archipelago. A well choreographed program it was indeed a sight to watch. ( Tickets are expensive ~ 80$ / person)

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We ended the day with dinner at an Indian restaurant and felt like a millionaire as the bill was 1 M Indonesian Rupiah. ( that is about $ 70 or Rs 5000)

Day – 4 : Cruise to Lembogan island and water sports 

The last day was a cruise to the Lembogan Island – this is about 1 hr from the Nusa Dua harbour. You spend the day here – its a picnic, you leave the resort at 7.45 AM and are back by 5 PM  . Activities include snorkelling, diving, Aquanauts, kayaking & banana boat. The package includes vegetarian lunch (and we were pleasantly surprised to get good vegetarian food)

The girls were brave enough to go diving while we experimented with Aquanauts. This is the easy way to go to the seabed (10 metres) as you get down with oxygen masks to see the flare and fauna below. Kids above 9 are allowed.

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That brought us to our last supper and the chef was kind enough to prepare a meal of paratha , dal and curry for us ( Food at Bali & the Hyatt is a bit challenging for vegetarians and the Balinese dishes are not as nice as the Thai ones – during the trip we were mainly on Pasta / Pizza )

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That brought us to the end of a lovely 8 day trip. I am thankful to the weather gods and all the people who helped in making the trip successful – the travel agents in India , the tour operators in Bali (Bali Hai Cruises who managed all the bookings for us msuwitra@yahoo.com), my brother who helped us in Singapore , the friendly tourist guide Karma in Bali, the staff at The Grand Hyatt at Singapore & Bali , the kids who were wonderful all thru the trip, for SQ that took off and landed on time , to the immigration officials where the lines were zipping and our friends from Mantri – it really helps to go on a holiday as two families – its a lot more fun.

A big Thank You to all for a memorable trip.

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PS : Additional contact for car booking – we did not use this since we were a group of 8 and had booked a van – but was strongly recommended by our friends for a family of 4 : Driver Name Abbe +62 878 60570999