Off the trip to Bali

So, what happened was, I finally quit my job. Had a 3 weeks of much needed break before starting at my new job. Naturally I had to go somewhere, and Bali being my most fav island escapade, therefore off to Bali I went. Prior to Bali, I went to Jakarta for 4 days. Did some shopping, feasting and sight seeing. This time around I opt to use their train service as my hotel is situated near Sudirman train station. Went to Taman Ismail Marzuki, which hosted their local theatre, cinema, art gallery, book store, planetarium and spaces for various cultural performances; ideal for the likes of moviegoers and theater lovers. I didn’t manage to catch any of the shows there though due to the limited time I had. Getting there is relatively easy btw, from Sudirman station, take the train to Manggarai and change the train heading to Jakarta Kota, but get down at Cikini station. From there there’s plenty of taxis and bajaj that’ll take you to Taman Ismail Marzuki.

Sudirman station

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Cinema poster. This movie however wasn’t release yet .

I came back to KL on Saturday night. Sunday was spent on car and iphone repair works, laundry, last minute packing, a WEDDING and rushing off to the airport AGAIN at 2am! Phew! Didn’t manage to sleep that night but did doze off for a bit on my early flight to Bali. The views from the window plane were beyond beautiful early in the morning. Couldnt bring bulky dslr on this trip, hence this mediocre picture FML.

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This time around I didn’t plan much about the itineraries. I had a week to kill there with nothing much on my schedule. I was busy at work before and this trip was kinda unplanned for me, hence the hefty plane tix and nothing much on schedule. What I know was that I definitely gonna go to Padang Bai to swim and laze around at Bias Tugel beach. And also I would repeat Uluwatu this time. This was gonna be my first time in Padang Bai and third time in Uluwatu. As usual my first stop in Bali was Sanur. I love its night market that’s got plenty of delicious and cheap halal food. Perfect for traveller on a budget like yours truly. Pasar Sandhu is located at Jl. Danau Tamblingan. Gotta say that the food and vendors were pretty much the same since last time I been here in 2012.

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The next morning I headed out to Padang Bai. Like my previous visit, I use public transportation to get around. Not many people know this but the best way to move around between far out places in Bali is via bus. From Sanur to Padang Bai it’d cost me IDR75,000 via Perama Bus. Apart from Perama there’s Sarbagita bus service which is ideal if you need to move around to nearby places in Bali. Sort of city bus service. Initially Sarbagita was set up to cater to the tourist’s demand but sadly it’s not really popular with the tourists. Bad marketing, perhaps? I really hope these bus services stay as I really dont want to resort to using supir service.

Padang Bai

Padang Bai serves as a port to the neighbouring islands of Lombok and the Gili sisters. And for the more adventurous, yes there are ferries to Komodo island too. There are two beautiful beaches in Padang Bai; namely Bias Tugel beach and Blue Lagoon (which was featured in Eat Love Pray movie). Both requires a bit of trekking to get there. Blue Lagoon beach is tad bit smaller and further than Bias Tugel, and most of the people opt for motorbike to get there. I chose my accommodation that is nearest to Bias Tugel, but still it needed a bit of trekking to get to the beach.

And you wonder why would anyone fascinated with this hidden beach?..

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Bias Tugel beach

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Blue Lagoon beach

Diving in Padang Bai

Of course, I didn’t book diving trips prior because I wanted to look around on the price and availability of diving trips offered along Padang Bai area. Lesson learnt from diving trip back in 2012, dont rely on only dive trips available on the internet. Often times (though not all) the dive shops are run by the westerners and not by local people, hence the hefty price charged for dive trips. Thus this time around I decided to shop around for dive trips before securing any dive package. It didn’t take a long search though as I was quite impressed by the dive stories told by local instructor, Imade Widana or more fondly known as Pak Wi. He runs a small dive shop near to the port.

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Price per dive is about RM100 (nego for equipments) and of course, depending on the sites. Diving at sites that are further from the port is more expensive. And it’s better to at least possess an advanced diving license prior to diving in Bali as the currents are pretty rough there. But then again, dive sites in Padang Bai are relatively calmer than those in Nusa Penida (possibility of underwater currents at Crystal Bay site). Pak Wi is definitely a macro expert. He has the flare of spotting tiniest sea creatures, some were even smaller than an index finger. So if macros are your fancy, then go look for him in Padang Bai.

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Uluwatu, Bali

This place is the absolute epitome of beauty. I dont mind settling down at this place, marry a local and grow a farm. Heh.

Basically we decided to spend a night in Uluwatu after googling the many beaches around Uluwatu. There are few beaches that caught our eyes, namely Suluban, Padang-padang and Dreamland. You can google the pictures of these beaches and yes, all of them are very nice. Mainly for advanced surfers, as the waves can get very high therefore very dangerous for novice surfers.

Anyways I booked Bali Bule Homestay for Rp. 350k. No doubt the most expensive, but the nicest place that we stayed in Bali. Uluwatu is a huge place, obviously there are other homestays and guesthouses around the area. However not many are listed on the internet, and due to its seclusion, we had doubts on whether we were able to get a room for the night had we not place any booking. That explains why we booked Bali Bule Homestay. Nevertheless we were happy with this place,  huge room (able to fit 4 pax), clean toilet, comfy bed, and of course, a swimming pool 🙂 It is also a walking distance to Suluban beach.

Sunrise was pretty early in Uluwatu..as early as 5am. We woke up real early and headed to the beach at about 7am. Apparently the people there were also early risers, especially the surfers aiming to catch the big waves. To get to the beach we had to ask the locals along the way. To get there we had to climb down the steep stairs alongside cafes and bungalows. It was truly a different experience for us.  We spent approx. 2 hours swimming the natural ‘pool’ at the beach. By the time more and more surfers started coming and wading the water waiting to hit the waves. The waves started to appear around 8ish..and it was really fun watching those guys (even few kids!) surfing. Maybe soon we’ll learn to surf..perhaps perhaps 😀

 

Feast on the pictures below

Kecak dance

Kecak dance

Sunset at Uluwatu

Sunset at Uluwatu

Sunrise at Suluban Beach

Sunrise at Suluban Beach

The natural 'pool'

The natural ‘pool’

The stairs leading to the beach

The stairs leading to the beach

Fariza the fish

Fariza the fish

Random surfer dude

Random surfer dude

Find the hidden Fariza

Find the hidden Fariza

Here comes the waves

Here comes the waves

This is Bali Bule Homestay

This is Bali Bule Homestay

Told ya I love the pool

Told ya I love the pool

Padang-padang Beach. If you could see there are surfers waiting for the big break in the middle of the ocean. Awesome.

Padang-padang Beach. If you could see there are surfers waiting for the big break in the middle of the ocean. Awesome.

Ubud, Bali

I spent the morning of third day in Bali by swimming and lazing at the pool. See I’m being a morning person only during vacations, waking up at 6am to swim and getting ready. Things that I don’t normally practice at home. Oh in Bali 6am its like 7.30am Malaysian time..something like that. It gets hot and sunny before 10am.After breakfast and getting ready, Fariza and pak supir came and fetched me off to Ubud. It was about 1 hr 30 mins from Legian to Ubud. Ubud has greeneries and lush surroundings, very pretty. Saw a frame that was hang on one of the shops saying that Mr. Obama had spent months in Ubud back in 1993 to write his book. Can’t blame him, as that place definitely has something to offer for every traveler.

We shopped around at the Ubud art market. I bought (too much of) incense sticks, aromateraphy and massage oils, scrubs and body butters. We also bought a few pieces of traditional sarongs and batiks and also silver jewelleries. Had a bit of strolling at the area, surveying the guesthouses and spas, for future reference.

On the way back from Ubud we stopped at Sukawati market for souvenirs. Usually the traders would take the stuff from this market and sell them around Kuta at marked up prices. Yes Sukawati market resembles pasar borong and one would only go there to buy souvenirs and t-shirts. I dont think I’ll come again to this place in future. It was tiring having to argue, bargain and fight off the persistent traders whom kept on shoving their items on your nose. Oh well, for the love of the people back home, we’d persevered.

Paddy field

Pura

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pura

Near the art market

 

 

 

Sanur, Bali

“Sendirian, mbak?”

I was often asked this question by the Balinese there. I had to explain that my friend and I both stayed at different places during our first & second day in Bali. I chose to stay in Sanur as I had a diving trip the next day. My friend was in Legian. Sanur is the closest city to Nusa Penida, accessible by 40 mins boat journey. It is a small town with a somewhat non-existent night life. I was lucky I was able to witness the people in Sanur celebrating Melasti (cleansing ritual) on that day (13th Nov 2012). The Balinese ladies were all geared in the traditional kebaya and the men in sarongs. Even the kids too.

Kids all dressed up looking pretty during Melasti

Stayed in Little Pond Homestay for Rp. 200k (with a/c and hot water) as the other rooms were full. I dont use a/c that often so that is not a requirement for me. Lunch was nasi padang and I had my dinner at the local night market, or Pasar Sindhu. There were  stalls mostly selling foods and juices and a few stalls selling the traditional garments. I didnt buy any, only mee goreng and es teler for dinner. Total cost was Rp.17k, about RM5.40. Bloody cheap and tasty.

Durian juice?

Es Teler (crushed ice, avocado, jackfruit, jellies, condensed milk)

Locals at the market

Went back to Little Pond, had a swim then slept.

Little Pond Homestay

Diving at Nusa Penida, Bali – pictures

Of the pictures that I took while on the diving boat :-

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We were able to see Mount Agung from our journey back to Sanur

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Clear water at Ped / SD

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One of our boatmen manhandling the boat 🙂

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Sanur beach

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This is Bali Scuba

I didn’t have proper diving equipment with me, i.e BCD, reg and mask. Therefore I had to resort to renting those from Bali Scuba. Glad to say that I didn’t encounter any problem using those rented equipments, as in there was no problem of water getting into the mask / reg, as I have often encountered when using the dive shop equipment in Malaysia. So I could say that my diving was a pleasant one, despite the rough water at Nusa Penida.

Diving in Nusa Penida, Bali

What I remember most:

  • Freezing water
  • Beaaaauuutiful reefs and marine life
  • Drift diving, less effort 😛
  • Strong currents that could kill
  • No manta rays, no mola-mola 😦

Nusa Penida is an island southeast of Pulau Dewata Bali (I heard the stewardess referred Bali as Pulau Dewata, somehow it got stuck in my head). Its an inhabited island with the people mostly doing seaweed plantation as their means of living. Its a beautiful hilly island with coastal cliffs, different from what I’ve seen in Malaysia.

To get there you’d need to ride a 40 minutes speed boat from Sanur in Bali, but most of the time only divers go there.

Why Nusa Penida?

“There are more than 20 identified dive sites around the island, the most notable including Crystal Bay, Manta Point, Toyapakeh, Suana Bay and Malibu Point. The rich waters around the three islands support no less than 247 species of coral and 562 species of fish.

Many dive operators based in Bali and neighbouring Nusa Lembongan offer specific dive trips to Nusa Penida. Special attractions include fabulous Mola Mola (Oceanic Sunfish) in season and large Manta Rays year round. Mola Mola are migratory fish and most likely from July to October although sightings are reported all year round. There is diving available here for beginners but most of the dives require a decent level of experience as currents are strong and unpredictable.”

-an excerpt taken from Wikitravel

I really wanted to see manta rays and the nearest dive site that I could go to from Msia is Nusa Penida in Bali. Thus when Airasia has offered a promo tix for only RM166 return, I grabbed it fast; bought in Feb & travel in Nov.

So I booked a dive trip with Bali Scuba (upon searching over the internet, this one provided me with an affordable rate, some other dive operators even quoted in GBP!). Initially we agreed on diving at Manta Point, Crystal Bay and SD sites for USD145 exclude the equipment charge.

A little insight on dive sites at Nusa Penida (taken from Dive the World and Bali Scuba websites) :-

1. Manta Point (South Coast area)

Here the sea is quite shallow, cool and can have strong surge. The water is often quite murky too due to the plankton which attracts mantas, often in small groups. The manta rays come here to feed and often stay for quite a while, seemingly oblivious to the attentions of observant divers. If you give them space then you can watch them circling about for most of the dive in depths ranging from 18 metres up to the surface.

2. Crystal Bay (channel between Nusa Penida and Nusa Ceningan)

Crystal Bay is perhaps Nusa Penida’s best dive site. It is located in the south west of the island and features a shallow bay, carpeted in corals. The bay provides shelter from current and is a good place to start your dive. Apart from the superb corals in the bay, the big attraction here is that this area is a favourite spot for mola mola, which gather to be cleaned on the slopes of the reef just outside of the bay.

3. Ped (North Coast area)

Ped is the most popular dive site on the nearby Nusa Penida north coast, as it tends to offer currents milder than some of the other sites at Lembongan. Healthy low lying hard coral reef banks slope gently to 20 metres, then down to 40 metres. Occasional manta rays and schools of chevron barracuda add to the rich variety of smaller fish which seem to prefer the calmer waters of Ped.

4. SD or Sekolah Dasar (North Coast area)

The most dived area of Nusa Penida, and rightly so. Rich & healthy stands of coral which are home to an amazing variety of reef fish. Good coral diversity, including long spiraling Wire Corals, Tables and Domes. A great place to see Mola mola in season, and the best drift diving in Bali. This entire North Coast is one long stretch of healthy reef with at least five distinct dive sites.

So I went there on 14 November, which means the mola-mola or sunfish season is over. Oh well. Mola-mola is  migratory by nature, so they’ve probably migrated to colder water somewhere, perhaps Australia. And yes, no mantas as well.

“Airnya jelek sekali”, that’s what I was told by Bagong the Dive Master. Said for the past four weeks the water at Manta Point has been very murky; vis. is about 1m only. Oh well, never mind that. There are always other opportunities, plus the reefs and topography of the island are beautiful, hence resulted in a rewarding experience for me.

Bali Scuba team picked me up at my guest house at around 7.30am. After settling the balance of payment plus rental and inspection of the equipments, we were then transferred to a large boat to start our diving. There were only 3 lady divers (me, J from Seoul and Maripe from Manila) with 2 DMs. As J and I have about similar logs – < 30, we were grouped together with Bagong as our DM. Maripe has about 100 logs (!) so she was coupled with another DM. Its funny that all of us are from different nationalities but we have similar passion in travelling. Maripe has been saying that we were bunch of crazy girls doing crazy things independently, but both J and Maripe are the crazy survivors! J has spent one year doing RTW (oh how I wish I could!) and Maripe is a single mother of 3 kids, the eldest is 15 (!) and she’s a physician in a province area in Philippine.

Prior to this dive trip, I have been doing research on the dive sites at around Nusa Penida. Crystal Point terrified me a bit, as there were divers drowned in the area, with the most recent case reported in August 2012. Everywhere that I read there are warnings on the condition of the water at the dive point; strong current and very cold, with temp reported up to 16c. But determined (and out of curiosity) that I was, I made a point that I should at least experience it as I was hoping to see mantas or mola-mola there.  Bagong assured me, saying that an advanced diver should be fine there, for as long as I follow him and practice safe diving, as in don’t dive further that 20m, etc.

But oh my god I was seasick..haha I never thought that I would be sea sick as I am used to the sea conditions. I puked 4 bloody times in Crystal Bay alone, both before and after diving. Crazy. J was not sparred too, in fact she was a lot worse that I was. Nevertheless lucky for us that we had an awesome dive there despite of the nausea and headache. Oh as I was warned about the freezing water there, I put on a 5mm shortie on top of my 3mm suit. I felt huge, heavy and restricted, as I am used to diving with only tops and shorts. Upon descending I have felt the strong current fighting my way down, but luckily I had no problem equalising and made it to the bottom of 12m. After that everything else was forgotten and nothing seemed to be significant anymore; my mind was shifted to exploring the beautiful reefs and at the same time trying to locate any interesting fishes. Still, I was hoping that we could get lucky and spot mantas. And then the water turned cold. Damn it was freezing,  I wished I had gloves with me. Interestingly the water temp changed few times, warm to cold and back to warm again. Alas we could only managed to dive around 35 mins as our air was running out; fighting the current and the cold temp made us consumed more air. Safety stop was a bit challenging too as I kept on fighting the  current pushing upwards. Yes guess what, I vomited again after we were back on the boat. Damn you currents!

Next dive was drift dive! Yes this could be fun..I’ve never done any drift dive before. I was feeling bit better this time at the next point, Ped. Had no problem equalising, it wasn’t a deep bottom; kinda like shallow then  moved to deeper bottom. I like Ped instantly..very pretty underwater life, effortless dive that I didn’t have to do much kicking to move, the current pretty much brought you along the way. It was rather hard to stop and look at the creatures, as you were being drifted. The downside is when I kept on going deeper than 25m, that I had a bit of narcosis surge (I had felt narcosis before when I was doing my Advanced OWD training). Bagong kept on calling me asking me to move up and maintain at his level and at one point we switched position where I was heading the direction, J was on top of me and Bagong behind me at about 5m-10m away. Gosh it was difficult to switch back to position myself behind Bagong so we remained in that positions throughout the way. I saw puffer fish, giant ass moray, white color scorpion fish, lobster (!), trigger fish, etc. Nice, very nice dive.

After that we had our lunch break on the boat. J was feeling really sick, that she kept on vomiting. But this is a very determined girl; still wanting to dive our last dive at SD. Cool beans. Luckily we were told that SD point is also a drift dive, nothing too rough like Crystal Bay. True enough, I had fun diving at SD point, or rather, drifting away 🙂 But I had a bit of trouble equalising at the beginning, so Bagong and J had to wait for me down below. After that everything was fine and I was able to dive at ease. I think I enjoyed SD the most, eventhough its not as pretty as Crystal Bay but this is less effort for us divers. Again, I was separated far from Bagong as I somehow took the lead. The current was quite strong and we were drifting really fast that it was hard for us to stop and pause to look for creatures. Our air consumption in both Ped and SD were better so we were able to dive longer. And oh, the water is cold in SD. I didnt know this but I had already stripped the 5mm shortie since the dive in Ped..so I was shivering a bit in SD. But it was okay with me, I really had fun there.

We finished diving at about 2pm and we were transferred back to Sanur. If God’s willing I will come back again to dive and witness the majestic mantas and mola-mola, probably during their season. Or I could go to Tulamben or Amed or Gili islands. Perhaps?