To the beautiful island of Bali

TL;DR

How to reach:

There are a few carriers which have connecting flights to Bali from India.

  • Air Asia via Kuala Lumpur
  • Tiger Air via Singapore
  • Thai Airways via Bangkok

Among these, Air Asia is generally the cheapest and has a lot more flights from Kuala Lumpur to Bali.

Where we stayed:

Ubud – Sri Ratih Cottages.
Kuta – Rama Beach Resort and villas.

Our Itinerary:

Day 1: Reach Bali by afternoon. Transfer to the hotel in Ubud. Rest of the day at leisure.
Day 2: Local sightseeing on bike . Visit ARMA museum in the morning. After lunch, visit Tirta Empul temple and Gunung Kawi in Tampaksiring.
Day 3: North Bali tour by taxi (full day) – Taman Ayun temple, Coffee plantation, Jatiluwih rice terraces, Pura Ulun Danu, Gitgit waterfalls, Lovina beach.
Day 4: Mt Batur sunrise trek. After breakfast, local sightseeing(Ubud palace). Later, transfer to Kuta. Day at leisure.
Day 5: Morning at leisure for water activities. Visit Tanah Lot temple for sunset.
Day 6: Morning at leisure for other activities or shopping. Visit Uluwatu temple for sunset.
Day 7: Leave from Bali.

Must visit places:

Pura Ulun Danu, Taman Ayun temple, Rice terraces, Mt Batur sunrise view, Tanah Lot temple, Uluwatu temple

Places that can be given a miss, if you are short on time:

Tirta Empul, Gunung Kawi, Gitgit waterfalls, Lovina beach, Ubud palace

 Activities to do:

  • Sunrise trek
  • Surfing, Sea walk/scuba diving
  • Try a Balinese massage
  • Watch a Balinese dance performance

Overall cost of this trip: Rs. 75,000 for 2 people(excluding flights).

Full blog

Nestled in between thousands of islands in the Indonesian archipelago lies this small Hindu island of Bali. The beauty of this island lies not in the beaches but in the diversity it provides to its visitors. It’s known for surfing, ancient temples, palaces and even has active volcanoes and wild jungles. It has white sand beaches in the south while you can find the black sand beaches in the north and west. If you are looking to travel to an island just for the beautiful coastlines/beaches, this is not the destination for you. Unlike other popular South East Asian destinations like Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, Bali is fairly less visited by Indians. Most air carriers don’t operate a direct flight from India to Bali. Even if they do, they are very expensive. A normal return ticket from Bangalore to Bali with a single stop over would cost 35k per person which is fairly expensive for travel within Asia. Therefore it’s not surprising that most Indians stay clear of it. In fact, among all of my friends, I know of only one person who had travelled to Bali before.

Our planning for this Bali trip began in the November of 2013, when AirAsia came out with an offer of 5,000 Rs per person return trip between Bangalore and KL. Even though we had no prior plans to go to Malaysia, considering the offer price, we did go ahead and book it for travel dates in November 2014. That was a full one year in advance!! That kind of sounded ridiculous at first, but then we realized, even if we cancel the tickets, it would not be too much of a loss. Until this point, Bali was still not in our plans. We started making plans for places to visit in Malaysia. It was only a month later, when AirAsia was offering cheap tickets between KL and Bali that we thought of visiting Bali instead of Malaysia. After booking return flights between KL and Bali, we had spent 20k overall for the flights between the two of us and with 6 nights to plan for.

The traditional Bali tour packages you can find on MakeMyTrip and other websites are mostly only flights + hotels booking with the expectation that you will explore things on your own. This is because Bali is a small island and it is very easy to rent a two-wheeler for around 250-300 Rs per day and explore things on your own. Contrary to many blog sites mentioning that you need an international drivers license to drive there and that you get harassed by policemen if you don’t have one, you can hardly spot a policeman on the road and your driver’s license from India will work as is. Ubud, located in central Bali, is regarded as the cultural centre of Bali and provides for calm and serenity, missing in the busy beaches of Kuta. It is famous for arts and crafts and is your best bet to access some of the most prominent places of interest in the north and east. A visit to Bali would be incomplete without visiting Ubud. Considering we had 6 nights to plan, we decided to spend 3 nights at Ubud and 3 nights in one of the beach towns. People usually choose between Kuta (south-west), Seminyak (west), Nusa Dua (south-east), Sanur (east) and Lovina (north) depending on the type of visit. Honeymooners are better off choosing Nusa Dua as it is less crowded, beaches are more beautiful and peaceful. Kuta is more of a party place, famous for surfing and bustling with activities to do and so we decided to spend 3 nights here.

1 year is a long time to wait from the time you booked your flight to the time you board it. After intricate planning over this period on what to do and where to stay, we zeroed in on our hotels and booked them. We decided to stay at ‘Sri Ratih Cottages’ in Ubud and ‘Rama beach resort’ at Kuta. Since we were flying AirAsia and it did not provide a connection for us from Bangalore to Bali, we had to get our Malaysia visa as well. It cost us slightly less than 4,000 Rs per person for that. We got it done through a travel agent in Jayanagar (Trawellday – Google it!). They were quite good and didn’t ask for anything other than passport and filled application form. Indonesia of course provides visa on arrival for Indians at the cost of 30$ per person. I believe Malaysia also has started visa on arrival for Indians now, but costs around 100$, so better to get it done from here. Besides, this is multiple entry valid for a year so you can choose to travel again to/through Malaysia on the same visa.

We had a 3 hour lay over at KL airport. The KLIA 2 airport seemed either oddly built or ridiculously large because you end up walking a lot just to get to immigration counters. The immigration itself did not take much time. Since we were not connecting, we had to get our bags, go out of the airport and check back in. When you come out of the airport, you come across a big complex which hosts a lot of places to shop and eat. If you have time to spend, this is where you should be. We were in a hurry and hence went back directly to check in. The food options for vegetarians outside is supposed to be good. There was not much options inside. While going to Bali, food was not much of a problem. It proved a little tricky while coming back. After a slight delay on our flight to Bali, we finally reached Bali at around 2 pm. Visa on arrival was fast enough and they do provide change in dollars.

Our first hiccup of the trip came in the form of our baggage being missed by AirAsia. On enquiring, we found out that the baggage was still at KL airport. After they promised to deliver it to our Ubud hotel by 8 pm that day, we left for our hotel by a cab. Ubud itself is slightly far off from the airport compared to other destinations in Bali. It took us almost an hour to reach our hotel and cost us 250,000 Rupiah. Best place to get a taxi from the airport is to come out of the airport and take one parked outside. Again, they will ask you for more, but you need to bargain to get to this rate. Alternatively, you can choose to opt for pick up from hotel which costs mostly around 300,000 Rp from Ubud. The best taxis in Bali are supposed to be the ones run by bluebird group which run on meter. Best currency to carry to Bali is Dollars as it fetches very good exchange rates compared to Rupee. It works better than getting Rupiah from India. Needless to say – on arrival at Bali airport, make sure you exchange only for what is necessary (say 100$) as the exchange rates are better outside. You can also choose to pick up a tourist sim outside the airport which costs about 150,000 Rp for 1GB 3G data and some talk time. It’s the same cost outside as well.

On arrival at the Sri Ratih Cottages, we were very hungry and had our lunch as it was already nearing 4 pm. Since our baggage was not there and we only had our cabin baggage (which was largely incomplete), we couldn’t do much. Therefore we decided to take it easy and rest, till our baggage arrives. Our hotel rented us a two-wheeler for 50,000 Rp per day. We switched on our GPS and 3G and made our way to a restaurant near Ubud market. The dinner was fulfilling and the most we could hope for, on that long and tiring day struck by bad luck. When we came back to our hotel by 9 pm, our baggage had still not arrived. We went to bed wondering if this misfortune would ruin one more day of us.

The next day, as we woke up, we were disappointed to find out that our bags were still not delivered. We went and bought some necessities from a nearby super market. We decided to not let the missed baggage ruin our day and left to start exploring Bali. One of the things Bali is famous for is its Art. They say your trip would be incomplete without visiting one of the numerous art museums. We chose to visit the ARMA(Agung Rai museum of art) that morning after breakfast. The entry fee itself was little steep, cost us around 80,000 Rp per person. After going through all of the artwork, we realized that we really are not art buffs and this place was not for us. Nonetheless, the place itself was very well maintained with wonderful gardens surrounding the 2 buildings hosting the arts and offering very good views of the rice terraces beside it. They also seem to host a resort inside the property. The ticket to the museum also includes a free drink at the ARMA Cafe.

ARMA
ARMA

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While we were at the cafe, we got a call from our hotel that our baggage had arrived. At last, the good news that we were waiting for! We were delighted to hear this and headed back straight to the hotel.  On our way back, we managed to find a bunch of small stores exhibiting wooden art. We decided to buy a couple of them as souvenirs for back home. Needless to say, you need to bargain (start with at least 30-40% of what they quote) to get a good price. But you will find that the prices are much cheaper than what you pay back home.

Back at the hotel, after collecting our baggage, we freshened up and decided to try the complimentary massage offered to us. After a relaxing 15 min massage, we were ready to explore more of Ubud and its surroundings. Our next destination was Pura Tirta Empul (Holy water temple). This famous Hindu temple was about 20 km from our hotel. The drive to Tirta Empul from Ubud was quite serene and peaceful. It takes you through the villages of Bali with greenery all around and rice fields along the way. After about an hour’s journey on our bike, we finally reached the place. All temples in Bali mandate that you cover your legs with a Sarong. This was no different, but they do provide you with one for free. The temple itself is more than 1000 years old and dedicated to Lord Vishnu. On entering the temple, our eyes first caught a glimpse of a pond with colourful fishes. We spent some time feeding the fishes and then checked out a few shops for some souvenirs. The main attraction of the temple – the holy spring – was quite a sight with lots of people waiting for their turn to get in. This spring is believed to have been created by Indra and is considered by the locals as holy water with healing powers.

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Feeding the fishes
Holy spring at Tirta Empul
Holy spring at Tirta Empul

Our next stop was the Gunung Kawi temple. Gunung Kawi comprises 10 rock-cut shrines that are carved into the cliff. Following the directions on Google maps to that place led us to a dead-end. On enquiring around, we found a local guy who asked us to park our bike and offered to take us to the temple by foot through the rice plantations. This route, he said is the back entrance to the temple and you had to walk downhill to reach the temple. After walking for 15 mins, we realized that the climb back might be too difficult for us and hence we decided to head back. But, the experience of walking through the lush green rice fields was something very unique and memorable indeed. Apparently most of the western tourists prefer this route to the temple, but there was still another route on road to reach that temple and he guided us to that.

On the way to Gunung Kawi through the rice fields
On the way to Gunung Kawi through the rice fields

We then reached the main entrance and started climbing the 300-odd steps down to the temple. On route to the temple, you will get some very nice views of the rice terraces by the side. After spending few minutes at the temple, we headed back.

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Gunung Kawi
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While climbing down to Gunung Kawi

The sun was about to set and we still had our journey back to Ubud. On reaching Ubud, we decided to get ourselves pampered with a Balinese massage. On enquiring at a few places near the Ubud market, we finally settled for one which was offering us at 100,000 Rp. An hour-long massage was quite relaxing and exactly what we needed after all the climbing we did to reach Gunung Kawi. On our way back, we finished our dinner. The plan for the following day was to do a tour of the north Bali in a cab which we had booked earlier in the day.

The following day we woke up early and got ready to explore the North Bali. We had booked a cab the previous day for 600,000 Rp. Our driver, Wayan, first took us to the Royal temple of Taman Ayun (Garden temple in the water). This impressive complex stands on an island in a river, its inner temple surrounded by a moat. They say this place can get crowded with bus tours later in the day and so you should aim to go early in the morning to avoid the rush. The first thing that strikes you about this place is the roofs in the temple which is visually appealing and typical of Bali temples. The temple opens only to the Royal family and we can only walk around it. Still it was a good experience and the garden surrounding the temple was very well maintained.

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Taman Ayun temple
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Taman Ayun temple

After spending about 30 mins at this place, we hit the road to try out some Kopi Luwak. There were many coffee plantations on that route and we stopped at one. The caretakers of the plantation led us inside and explained how the famous Kopi Luwak is made. The animal – Luwak, apparently has a knack of picking the best coffee cherries and eats it. They then clean its poop and process the beans which ultimately gets sold as the costliest coffee in the world. Later, they led us to a place where they exhibited different flavors of tea and coffee for tasting. We ordered a cup of Luwak coffee just out of curiosity which cost us 50,000 Rp. Just be careful when you order for coffee in Bali as people generally don’t use milk in it. We also bought a small packet of lemon grass tea from their store. Generally, it’s best to avoid buying stuff from these kind of places as they are kind of a rip off.

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Trying different varieties of tea/coffee

Moving on, we proceeded towards the famous Jatiluwih rice terraces. You can find lots of rice terraces in Bali. But the sheer size of this one with the endless green streaks of rice fields one after the other surely makes it the best. We spent about 10 mins here clicking photos and then proceeded towards the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan.

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Jatiluwih rice terrace

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is the most famous attraction of Bali and every travel package to Bali would use it as a poster image. It is a water temple situated on the shores of Lake Bratan. The view of the temple in the lake and with mountains and mist in the backdrop makes for a breathtaking experience. We spent a lot of time here taking multiple photos from different angles. It’s a pity we couldn’t go to the other side of the temple into the lake from where the poster pictures of this temple get taken. If you rent a boat, you probably can but we didn’t do it.

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Pura Ulun Danu Bratan

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Gitgit waterfalls

After having lunch at one of the restaurants beside the complex, we made our way to the Git Git water falls. The falls is actually a collection of several waterfalls of varied shapes and height. The one we chose to visit had well-made pathway with steps built almost till the waterfall itself. The walk from the road to the falls is about 20-30 mins and you will find numerous stores offering beverages and shopping opportunities for handmade work.

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IMG_6617Our last stop on the tour was the northern tip of the island – The Lovina beach. The beach is famous for its black sand and dolphin spotting. They say “Think dolphins think Lovina”. If you manage to reach here very early in the morning, you could manage to spot dolphins in abundance jumping in and out of water. We were quite excited to visit the beach as this was our first time seeing a black sand beach and there are not many places in the world boasting of having one. Unfortunately, we could not spend too much time on the beach as the black sand tends to hold a lot of heat and it becomes quite uncomfortable after a while. It was a pity we could not stay till sun set.

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Lovina beach

The journey back to our hotel seemed very long as we didn’t stop anywhere and the traffic was bad. On reaching hotel by late evening, surprisingly, we still felt fairly fresh and not tired at all. We decided to visit the Ubud market again to scavenge for something nice to buy. While we were there, we also finished up our dinner. We finally headed back to our hotel by 9 pm and went to bed knowing too well that it will be a very short sleep before we wake up again.

It was November 9th. A special day for us as it was our marriage anniversary – marking 2 wonderful years of togetherness. Since we were short on time in Ubud and were due to check out from our hotel that day itself, we knew it wouldn’t be a relaxing one. In fact, far from being relaxing, we woke up and got ready by 2 am as we had planned to do a sunrise trek of Mt. Batur. Our driver, Wayan, picked us up from our hotel. He had also brought some bread and juices with him for us to consume before the trek starts. We had agreed for a sunrise trek package with him for 550,000 Rp per person which included transport to the base of Mt. Batur, guide charges, transport back to hotel, Ubud palace and drop to our Kuta hotel. Mount Batur is an active volcano, with its setting in the heart of a huge crater 14km in diameter. Adjacent to the volcano is the large crescent-shaped Batur Lake, all surrounded by the high walls of the crater rim.  It took us about an hour and half to get to the foothills of the mountain. There were a lot of cars already parked suggesting some people had already started the trek. Wayan hooked us up with a guide who led us on the path to the top of the mountain. The initial part of the trek was not too steep. We followed our guide for almost an hour stopping a few times in between to catch our breath and to drink water. On reaching the difficult part of the trek, which looked quite steep, my wife got nervous about the difficulty ahead. When our guide mentioned that it would be at least an hour more of difficult trek, we decided to head back as it looked improbable for us to finish it. Though we didn’t finish the journey to the top as planned, it was still a very adventurous experience for us – our first trek[rather half-trek 🙂 ] together. I am still very proud of my wife for having agreed to do this difficult trek in the first place. For a non-trekker, it was a very good attempt indeed. Since we had time before the sunrise, we decided to go to a viewpoint in Kintamani village and wait till the sun comes up. We found a restaurant with a direct view of Mt. Batur and the lake in front of it. We ordered for coffee while I adjusted my camera and tripod to capture the sunrise. After a little wait, the sun eventually showed up. It was quite a spectacle with sun rising between the 2 mountains with the lake in the foreground, well worth the wait. We slept all through our journey back to the hotel. On reaching the hotel, we got ready, had our breakfast and checked out by 11 am.

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Mount Batur
Sunrise
Sunrise

Our next destination was the Ubud palace. The palace is situated very close to the Ubud market and so we decided to check it out along with spending some time at the market. There was nothing special about the place. Compared to some of the other temples we had visited in the previous 2 days, which were much grander and beautiful, this turned out to be a bit of a dud. We then visited the market looking for some last-minute shopping from Ubud. My wife did manage to buy some interesting stuff for very reasonable prices. At last, we bid farewell to Ubud and made our way to Kuta.

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Ubud palace

Our hotel, Rama beach resort, was situated very close to the airport and hence, took us about an hour from Ubud to reach there. The check in time was 2 pm and there was still some time left, so we had to wait a while to get our room. When we finally got the keys to our room, we were pleasantly surprised to hear that we had got a room upgrade. As if the knowledge of our special day was in the air and the receptionist could sense it somehow, but we were far too delighted with this good fortune that we didn’t ponder too much over how it happened. The room itself was very cozy, an individual villa by the pool, with delightful interiors and facilities. Our bike was also arranged by the hotel.

Our cottage
Our cottage

It was time for lunch and we went to this Indian restaurant called the Queens Tandoor nearby which served us some very good food. After lunch, we decided to pamper ourselves to a massage. Ah! It was so relaxing! We then spent some time by the pool at the hotel and later went to the beach beside our hotel for sunset. Since the beach was very close to the airport, we could see a lot of flights landing and taking off from the airstrip that was protruding into the sea. There seemed to be only 1 runway and we could see it getting clogged due to traffic, with multiple flights stacking behind one another trying to take off.

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The sun had finally set and we went back to our hotel to get ready for our special dinner that we had booked at an Italian restaurant nearby. The restaurant – La Cucina – was part of the hotel called Discovery Kartika Plaza and was rated very high for its food and service. We managed to get a private gazebo (candle-lit) overlooking the beach. The dinner was quite memorable, and the restaurant did justice to our special day with the quality of food and the service it offered. This was by far our most adventurous and memorable anniversary day yet.

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Anniversary dinner at La Cucina

The next day, after an awesome and heavy breakfast, we decided to check out the Kuta beach and also some water activities. Kuta beach is famous for surfing and so I decided to give it a try. There were a bunch of locals on the beach with surf boards waiting to train tourists like us. We struck a deal of 1 hour surfing lesson for 150,000 Rupiah. My wife was not feeling too adventurous and instead, decided to rent a sunbed (for about 50,000 Rupiah) and wait while I surf it out. My instructor gave me a few tips on the technique to be followed and made me practice the manoeuvres a couple of times before we hit the waters. As I ventured into the rough sea with him with a surfing board in hand, the excitement in me was quite palpable – little did I know that time of the difficulty of it all.  After multiple attempts of carrying the heavy surf board into the sea, waiting for the wave to hit me, trying to ride on the wave, drinking some sea water in-between and finally ending up disoriented on the sand, I finally called it quits 30 mins into the exercise. Though, it was quite an experience and I would definitely try my hand at it again if given a chance. Tired and feeling all salty, I went back to my wife only to find her too busy getting her hands manicured – quite relaxed and in a complete state of bliss! We then decided to head back to the hotel and get some rest.

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Kuta beach
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Surfing at Kuta

After a late lunch, we left for Tanah Lot temple. It was about 30 km from our hotel and took us about 45 min to reach on bike. Tanah Lot is the sea temple built on a large offshore rock which has been shaped continuously over the years by the ocean tide. It’s best to visit this place during sunset as it is located on the west coast of Bali and the sun setting over the temple into the sea behind it is quite a sight. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day and we could not quite catch the sunset in its full glory.

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Tanah Lot temple
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Tanah Lot temple
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A cliff at Tanah lot

When you visit Tanah Lot, do check out some of the stuff they sell on your way to the temple as they seem to offer variety of merchandises at very reasonable prices. After coming back to the hotel, we were not in the mood to go out for dinner again and so we dined at the restaurant in our hotel before hitting the bed.

The following day, my friend and his wife joined us for breakfast at Rama. They had arrived late last night and had booked the same hotel for their first 3 nights. After breakfast, we had planned to do Sea walk at Sanur, while they were not too keen on it as they had already done that in Thailand. So we decided to part ways for the morning expedition. As they were new in town, we gave them our sim card and asked them to use the 3G data to navigate their way around while we banked on preloaded maps showing the route to a dive center at Sanur. The dive centres in Bali are located mostly in the east coast with Sanur and Nusa Dua being the 2 most famous ones. We found Sanur to be closer for us and hence we chose that. After 30 mins of ride to Sanur, and a few more minutes figuring out which shack in the Sanur beach offered us the best price, we changed our clothes and got into a boat which took us to the dive spot. We had agreed for a deal of 450,000 Rp per person for the sea walk in which we would spend about 20 mins inside water. We had undertaken scuba diving beginner’s course before when we went to Andaman Islands, but this was our first time doing a sea walk. Once we were inside the sea, they provided us with food for the fishes to feed. At one point, we were swarmed by hundreds of fishes from all over, contending for our offering. It was quite a different experience from scuba diving as we did not have to bother too much about the technique and pretty much could concentrate on the colourful fishes surrounding us. Overall, it was a much smoother experience, it’s a pity we did not get any underwater shots of that. We drove back to the Kuta area and had lunch in one of the restaurants there.

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Sanur beach
Sanur beach
Sanur beach

It was about 4 in the evening and we synced up with our friends again with the plan to visit the Uluwatu temple and the surrounding area. It took us about an hour to reach the temple. This temple, like Tanah Lot, is another sea temple built at the edge of a cliff projecting into the sea. The temple itself is nothing to write home about but the view of the cliff from the side is something to die for, especially during the sunset. You can catch the view of the cliff from either side and so, do check out both views. Beware of the rouge monkeys who try to snatch any item remotely resembling food, including water bottles. The temple complex also hosts Balinese dance performances every evening for 100,000 Rp which apparently is good. We decided to give it a pass since we were short on time. The sea water below the cliff seemed crystal clear and so any beach in general around that area is something to check out. After the sunset, we headed to one of these – the Padang Padang beach. Unfortunately, we were a bit late to the place and it was too dark for us to make out the beauty of that beach.

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Uluwatu Cliff temple
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Sunset at Uluwatu
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Uluwatu temple
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Uluwatu temple after sunset

We then made our way to the Jimbaran bay in search of some beach side dining options. When we reached the bay, we could see a chain of restaurants offering beach side tables one after the other. The view was very pretty indeed. Unfortunately, none of the places were offering anything remotely vegetarian and so we had to return back without much luck.

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Jimbaran Bay
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Candle lit tables @ Jimbaran

We finally found a place to dine on the other side of Kuta which offered us some delicious Indian food. On our way back to the hotel, we decided to check out a few places offering temporary tattoos as our wives were interested in getting one. But all the tattoo places were closed and so we returned to our hotel having decided to go back the following morning – which probably would be our last bit of adventure in Bali before we board our flight in the afternoon.

The next morning, we were back at the tattoo place again as decided the previous night where my wife got herself a dolphin tattoo. She also managed to shop for few things in the shops nearby with whatever limited time we had in Bali. We finally checked out of the hotel by 12 pm, got into a bluebird taxi and made our way to the airport which was a short distance ride from our hotel. One final thing I want to mention before I bring curtains to this blog – We had to pay a fee of 200,000 Rp per person as departure fee. This is the fee you pay for your first time departure from Bali. Make sure to account for this when you exchange your dollars to Rp. After switching flights at KL, we finally reached Bangalore on what seemed like a very long journey back with all of our luggage intact! 🙂 What seemed like a disastrous tour in the making on the first day when we lost our baggage, eventually turned out to be quite memorable and enjoyable in the end. There are many things to love about Bali – the hospitality of the people there, the wonderful hotels we stayed in considering the price we paid for it, the relatively low cost of living, the relaxing massages and the diversity of experiences it offered us – all made for one fantastic trip. I would highly recommend Bali to everyone who would be interested in visiting a South East Asian country.

 

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