Friday, July 7, 2017

Basking in Bali: Day 1 at Bali Culture Guesthouse (2017)


Selamat datang di Bali!
Although 2016 was a quiet year for us in terms of holidays/travelling because both our boys were having their national exams, waiting on results and applying for schools, we kick-started the new year 2017 with a short getaway to the Island of the Gods.

The good news came when I was informed in the office that we will be having a company outing to where else but BALI! Even better was that we could bring our families along (we had pay for their airfare and extra room, if applicable). The decision to go through with the Bali trip was not easy even with the free airfare for me and free one room for 2 nights at a family resort knowing that Ira would have to miss 3 days on the first week of the start of the school year. We did need a holiday after the long, stressful (for the kids taking the exams), exhausting (for the parents having to DIY home improvement ideas) and challenging (Kelvin started on his first job) year. This was an opportunity so tempting it's difficult to pass up. Besides, it would also be a good bonding time for us, and also for family to meet my colleagues and our families to mingle.

I first heard about Bali during my years in university in one of my Tourism classes. We were talking about integrated tourism master plan and back then Bali was the perfect example given by our professor of a successfully implemented integrated tourism master plan. It was just natural for me (and I think most of the students in our class who had not been to the island) to want to visit the island. After all, to see it is to believe it, right? Sadly, I never got the chance to visit the island during university years.

Decades after came EPL (that's Eat, Pray, Love in case readers may have forgotten). A Julia Roberts movie about her soul-searching journey in Bali. I watched this with my soul sisters and we were inspired to do our own EPL quest sometime in the future - just the 3 of us. It's going to be the ultimate out-of-town-reflection-cum-food-trip with girlfriends. Years after watching the movie though, our plan has not materialized yet (although I have not given up on the idea).

So when the chance to go on a holiday in Bali came up, of course, I got all too excited. We've discussed with the boys after I confirmed with my boss that I was indeed included in the invitees list to go with the team to Bali (you see, I am only working part time for the company). Ira would have to miss a few days of the first week of school. Kelvin would have finished contract with his part-time job so it was just right on time.

By mid-November, we have locked in our air tickets via Tiger Airways which cost a little over SGD200. Choosing to leave on a Thursday and come back on a Monday as well as not having checked in luggage saved us a few hundred dollars in airfare. After confirming our flights, I have shortlisted and booked two accommodations through booking.com. And we were all set.

DAY 1: Thursday

We had an early flight leaving at 715am so we were at the airport by 530am still yawning and forcing our eyes open. We should have arrived in Bali at 955am but our flight was delayed. By the time we arrived at the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar at almost 1040am I was quite worried the person who was supposed to pick us up was not there anymore.

The moment I had wifi signal I immediately sent Wayan, the guesthouse owner who also arranges pick up/drop off service as well as tour around the island, a message to inform him of our late arrival. We arranged the airport pick up with him after making reservation at booking.com. Additional cost was IDR300,000.

The moment we exited the arrival hall I looked at the people standing by the barricade holding placards with names of guests they were waiting for, anxious to see my name. They were also in search of the guests they were supposed to pick up, checking how people would react upon seeing placards with names written in them. Then there he was, Wayan, waiving his placard with my name on it. I was relieved because he was still there waiting for us and sporting a huge, warm, welcoming smile.

After the introduction formalities, he led the way to the parking lot where his vehicle was waiting for us. He had some cold drinks ready in a cooler and handed one to each of us. We were really impressed with his service. We knew we were going to have a good time in Bali and we had just left the airport.

On our way to his guesthouse, he asked us what we wanted to see, where we wanted to go. We asked for recommendations specially food. So our first stop was a highly recommended place for babi guling special for our lunch. He left us there while he picked up his little girl from school and came back for us after.


Ibu Oka
Jalan Tegal, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia   
Telephone: +62 (0)361 976435
As we waited for our orders to be served, other diners/tourists arrived. Some looked like they have been in the island for some time while others looked like us, fresh from the airport. This restaurant must really be highly recommended.

Can't wait to dig in and have a taste of the famous Balinese babi guling.
Mari makan!
Babi Guling, or suckling pig, is the most famous Balinese dish. It is a whole pig roasted over file and cooked to perfection - crunchy skin on the outside and soft meat on the inside. This is almost the same as the Philippines' lechon which is also a famous dish for big celebrations so we were excited to try it. We checked the menu and ordered the Special (it must be good, right?). 


we ordered the special which has rice, a vegetable dish, blood sausage,
fried pork and of course, the babi guling
This dish cost IDR55,000.
Unlike our Filipino lechon, babi guling does not come with a sauce. This one we tried came with a vegetable dish which tasted like another Filipino dish - Bicol express, spicy but oh so yummy! The babu guling's skin was crunchy and the meat was indeed soft and chewy. The spiciness of the vegetable perfectly balances the fatty babi guling. 

The sausage intrigued us. It did not actually say on the menu what it was specifically just that it was pork sausage. The taste was quite familiar. Then we finally realized it was big's blood! 

overall, we were satisfied with the first Balinese dish we've tasted
and Kelvin's empty plate says it all.
After lunch, Wayan picked us up and we were on our way to our home for the night. The road to Ubud from the airport was busy with motorists - mostly motorcycles or hoppers which sneak up on you out of nowhere. As the roads were narrow, traffic jam can be a problem when travelling around the island.

I booked BALI CULTURE GUESTHOUSE for our first night because I wanted us to stay near the Ubud Town Centre where we could walk around in the markets and forest. The Guesthouse was one of the better priced accommodations and received nine-pointer (if not ten) reviews from guests. Bali Culture Guesthouse offers villas with shared pool and includes free breakfast. We got the bigger villa with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and paid IDR720,000 which is about SGD78. Now is that not great value for money?!

BALI CULTURE GUESTHOUSE
Owner: Wayan
Address: Jalan Raya Bedulu, 80581 Ubud, Indonesia
Contact number: +62 813 3827 2777

Welcome to Bali Culture Guesthouse villa - our home for the night.
The moment I saw this intricately carved Balinese door I was taken in by its beauty.

I just had to have a photo with it.
welcome to Bali Culture Guesthouse

Let me take you on a tour of the villa...
this is the outdoor dining/relaxing area overlooking the shared pool.
The boys couldn't wait to jump in.
Upon entering the main entrance is the open concept living room, dining room and bedroom area.
There is also a fully equipped kitchen. The villa is very spacious. 
There was cable TV and free wifi. And we were given a local mobile phone that we could use so we could call Wayan anytime if we needed anything or if we wanted to be ferried to and from the Ubud Town Centre.
displayed with pride at the top of the refrigerator is the Guesthouse's booking.com rating
which is quite high, if I may say so
this is one of the bedrooms with huge windows overlooking the pool.
With wooden furniture that everyone would love to bring back home.

This bedroom is located across the dining area, separated only by a curtain.
This was no issue to us at all.

one of the two bathrooms in the villa. this was the bigger bathroom.
The other bathroom is located near the kitchen/dining area.
After putting our stuff down and getting our swimsuits, we all headed outside for the much needed refreshing dip in the pool.
look who's first in the lounge chairs?!
feels great to be able to lounge by the pool while watching the boys goof around.
Really felt like a relaxing vacation.
couple photo op...
then we realized we were photobombed (unintentionally) by the boys
the boys doing their laps
R.E.F.R.E.S.H.I.N.G.
ready to go on a splashing good time
ready for our epic water fight... and the winners are.....
Before night fall we were all out of the pool, into the bathroom, then dressed up to explore Ubud Town Centre. Wayan provided free service to and from Ubud area. We thought we should have our dinner somewhere in the Ubud Town Centre and buy some snacks for the next day's trip, too. It was about 15 minutes drive to the town centre. He dropped us off somewhere near the town centre so we could walk around. 

if Amsterdam has its bicycles, Bali has its motorcycles/hoppers.
They are either roaming around the streets or parked along them.
Some long-staying tourists we've seen also prefer this mode of transportation.

we passed by this cafe with a funny sign (but rings true, sadly)

one of the many ornate Balinese gates around Bali.
This was the biggest we've seen so far.
huddle!

We ended up in the Ubud market and I was in my zone. I was all too excited to check out each and every crafty item in each of the stalls There were clothes, wood carvings, fancy stuff, homemade albums made from recycled papers. Kelvin got himself a leather bracelet for about SGD2. I could not decide whether to get a smaller or bigger album (and whether I would have any immediate use for it) and, as it started to drizzle, ended up getting none. We had to walk faster as we still wanted to see what other products the rest of the stalls had. Few more minutes and the shop owners scrambled to keep their products from getting wet as the rain started pouring. We had to look for a place to take shelter in and ended up finding an eating place just at the market entrance where we started off. 

For dinner, we opted to try local food again (with some items on the menu that Ira would like). We stumbled upon Tropical Paradise and decided to try out their Nasi Goreng Indo  (IDR57,000) and Nasi Goreng Sari (IDR59,000) while Ira went for the safer option chicken nugget.
in the end, Ira took the satay from our dishes as he loved the taste
we ordered fresh coconut (IDR30,000 / SGD3) which we saw some diners had.
It was huge! We had to share this one and still we almost couldn't finish it.
I personally liked the decor that came with it and brought it home as souvenir.
Tropical Seafood & Grill
Monkey Forest Street No. 3
Ubud, Bali


After dinner, we headed to the nearby convenience store to buy some snacks for the following day. Then we called Wayan to pick us up when it started to rain heavily again. 

That night, we settled our bill as Wayan said he was going to bring some guests around town for a tour the next day. We met his cute daughter and since we wouldn't be seeing him the following day, we asked if we could take a photo with them to remember our stay in their lovely guesthouse and their warm hospitality.

our family together with our gracious host, Wayan, and his daughter


Advantages of staying in Bali Culture Guesthouse:

  1. Price is very reasonable/affordable/worth more that what you pay for. Very highly recommended.
  2. Airport transfers can be arranged with Wayan for a fee.
  3. Villa facilities are commendable - spacious rooms and bathrooms, refreshing pool, supply of water, etc.
  4. Wayan provides local mobile phone.
  5. There is free wifi.
  6. Free transportation to and from Ubud town centre.
  7. Free welcome drinks.
  8. Hospitable, warm and friendly guesthouse owner and staff.


So on your next trip to Bali, do stay at Bali Culture Guesthouse. It is worthy to be included in your memories of the island of the Gods.


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