Hello Bali

Bali. A lot of tourists. 
And people like us who ran away from CNY by the planeloads. LOL!

The airport we flew into was spanking new having only opened its doors to international crowds in October 2013. We checked in at the Daluman Villa in Seminyak very early in the morning on the first CNY day. It was new too, comfortable, clean and very pretty. Like most accommodations in Bali, the villa we were in had a personal pool, living area, bedroom and a generous rain shower clad bathroom. Of cos, there is a also TV with a myriad of channels, and free wifi. All the nice things urbanites crave for when off to seek their wee bit of tranquility while still tethered.

There were two days we travelled with hired drivers who spoke decent English. Charges are reasonable, about Rp. 400,000-500,000 per day (10-12 hours). They drive more than guide, and so the degree of knowledge that gets to you is dependent on the experience of the driver. We went around the northern and southern parts of Bali with the drivers, covering Mt Batur, a Luwak coffee plantation (Lakshmi I think it was called), Ubud and its arts and crafts cottage industries of batik, painting, silversmithing, stone carving, and wood carving. We also made our way to Denpasar, Tanah Lot, Jimbaran for seafood, Nusa Dua for massage, and trolled the streets of Seminyak, Legian and Kuta. Not bad for a short trip.

Along the way, we had Bali’s famous but overrated Babi Guling (aka suckling pig) and Crispy Duck. The pig skin was way too hard, though the flesh was tender; The duck was fried to death, though crunchy. Either way, I wouldn’t have any of them again. There is really nothing to brag about.

We also tried our first cup of Luwak coffee, extracted from the goodness of civet cat poop. The undigested coffee beans, that is. The reason why this cuppa is so darn pricey is cos the beans are top quality. Civet cats are a picky bunch and eats only best beans. They somehow are able to ferment these beans with a special enzyme they have in their tummies to enhance flavor. What eventually emerges is atas coffee beans that get transformed into a mild tasting coffee which is rather pleasing to the palate. But I am not quite sold on this. Brazilian arabica pleases the same way, without first going through the intestines of an animal.

Some Recommendations:

Our villa! Mangosteens served during breakfast were perfect, no bruises and the flesh was firm & sweet .

A hole-in-the-wall cafe in Seminyak called the Revolver. Walk too quickly and you’re likely to miss the entrance. Amazing food and good coffee from an aromatic blend of beans from 4 different estates – 2 Indonesian, Columbian and Jamaican.

Our drivers, they do airport pickups and dropoffs too for about Rp. 130,000 per way:

 

[First published: 4 Feb 2014]

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Going home, bleh

10.50am: Waiting room@Bandung International Airport
We are seated In a small area with freezing cold air rushing out of a standalone aircon unit at least 10 meters away. People seating nearer have jackets on !?!
There is really nothing to do except sit and fiddle with whatever electronic gadgets we have with us. A bad habit of city slickers. So I decided to do something productive – like write down all the addresses of the factory outlets we visited the past two days for future reference before I cleanly forget.  SJ gave me 5 mins on his 4s to get it all in, cos if he didn’t have it back by then he’d self-destruct with unspeakable force of vile boredom. I say, #%^*”. So I dug out my iPad. He says, #%^*”. Lol!

11am: Still waiting…
There are only two waiting lounges at this airport – the one on the left and the other on the right. We are in the right one. Heh, pun intended. Passengers of AirAsia dwell in the other, and they just got paged to board. Then there are always strange people who, despite the tiny area serving just two flights, they forget which one they are on. So the two or three funnies got paged by their names to hurry up and get the crap on their plane. Why on earth they are siting with us – I do not know.

11.25am: Yay!!! We now go wait in the plane!

 

[First published: 22 Sep 2013]

Bandung Factory Outlets

If you google enough and do some homework beforehand, you’ll find information and recommendations on the FOs in Bandung. You will realize as you read that there are only 3 main areas, about 20mins apart, where the FO-seekers can lurk. Opening hours are usually 9.30am to 8.30pm weekdays; 9am to 9pm weekends & public hols. Here they are *drumroll*…

Jalan Setiabudi 
Rumah Mode (41 Jalan Setiabudi)
Fashion World (43 Jalan Setiabudi)

Jalan Riau
Heritage (63 Jalan Riau)
The Secret (47 Jalan Riau)
Passion (36 Jalan RE Martadinata)

Dago
The Uptown (123 Jalan Ir H Djuanda)
Blossom
Grande

If you are only dedicating a day for FOs, my top 3 recommendations in order of merit would be: Rumah Mode, Heritage, Secret. They have the largest selection of brands like zara, hilfiger, banana republic, nike, h&m, a&f, ralph lauren, espirit, dkny, bebe, hermes, superdry, loft, calvin klein, armani exchange, longchamp, and can hold their own against some of the units in the US outlets. But you don’t get blown away. If you are trawling with men in your posse, Rumah Mode is the best option to keep them occupied. And they have a nice range of overcoats too – from trench to leather to here-I-come-Antarctica!

Authenticity of the higher end brands is suspect. Go try everything on before purchasing. sizes printed on the clothes sometimes don’t mean a thing. Cuts may differ for the same item and sometimes pockets appear where they should not – I’d suggest you do not place all your trust in your eyeballs, some sense-making is useful too. Like I said, proceed with moderated expectations.

There are cafes either next to or around the outlets, so you can rest your weary legs and arms after emerging triumphant with your loot. There are also street stalls if you are game for a bellyache or two. I tried their durian ice-cream – you essentially get what looks like durian slushee, with a piece of durian complete with thy large  seed, buried inside. Not bad for a hot day. There are a lot of things to see. We tend to scan and lock in on our targets. So if you shop like us, one day is enough, but two days is comfortable.

 

[First published: 22 Sep 2013]

Bandung Shop Fest instead

Our annual US shop fest was not to be this year cos we are opting for the tropics. Wildlife, tea plantations, and the beaches will take precedence at year end.


Not that we make appointments to shop in the US – that sounds kinda pompous. But we visit family, and hang around the outlets in a scheduled manner. The discounts are just mind boggling and too good to pass up. And the visit always comes complete with a meal at Cracker Barrel. *drool*


Anywho, in the absence of that, Bandung is actually a pretty decent option. Satisfies my 3 golden rules of a getaway ; fast, cheap and good. It’s a 1.5hr flight away from SG, prices of goods and services are typically two-thirds less and the quality doesn’t differ from expectations*. 
I’m a happy consumer!

(*A caveat: it is not The US of A, so moderate accordingly)


More on Bandung coming up…

[First published: 22 Sep 2013]

 

Batam Seafood with Fireworks

I had a blast last week with money – lots of it and none belongs to me! Heh. That was when we got back from our weekend jaunt to Batam with the usual suspects over the Hari Raya weekend, and I waltz into like two presentations and a week’s worth of seeing figures fly past my face. The week felt like an eternity! Saturated is the word.

That aside, that weekend past was fabulous. There was a whole new side to the Batam I’ve seen so many times over – we discovered Wey Wey Seafood at Harbour Bay and Spa Secret near Nagoya. For some reason, the cab drivers in Batam call it the secret spa in hushed tones *wiggle eyebrows* – and, no, no, it’s clean.

There were 4 of us at Wey Wey by the sea and we ordered some really yummy cereal prawns, assam fish head, fried sambal squid, their special, delish fried garlic chicken and the obligatory vegetables to make-up for all the guilt and cholestrol, all for the royal price of S$42. With drinks of course. Good eh?

And because it was the eve of Hari Raya, we were treated to a two-hour long fireworks display – from the residents over the river yonder. I didn’t know where to place my eyeballs – on the seafood or the pretty sparkles above me, but I managed to enjoy both. *grin*

To top it all off, we went there on a deal from groupon – $49 per head with everything in, and even if you throw in the taxes and weekend surcharges, it’s a deal.

What’s really not to like about living in Singapore?

 

[First published: 29 Aug 2012]

A Bintan Weekend @ Angsana

So we were at Angsana Resort & Spa in Bintan one weekend in August with both sets of parents. It was a spur of the moment trip that the parents gamely tuned into, and so were treated to a different weekend than the ones we usually have.

 I didn’t think they found Bintan or Angsana terribly exciting, which is quite right because there really isn’t much to do. Other than wandering out to Pasar Oleh-Oleh (a village market where local trinkets and souvenirs may be procured) for lunch and to see the sorry excuse for a mall next door for S$5 per person, we spent all our time within the confines of the resort.

It was, however, particularly amusing to watch our parents make small talk with the locals at lunch, with brave attempts at a convoluted mix of English and Bahasa Indonesia. Like gossiping villagers. Much of the idle chit-chat had to do with the ayam penyet (a tasty indonesian dish of smashed chicken and rice) we would have liked to have for lunch (but didn’t get to eat because it was not on their menu, but available at another restaurant next door *rolls eyes*) and the discounts to be had if we had called the restaurant in advance for lunch reservations (which would have included transportation and effectively halved our costs – if only we had known earlier *double rolls eyes*).

Then surely, we would never miss an opportunity at the spa. The experience was better than what I had stored in memory. One of the masseuses was extraordinarily chatty; she made a point to get feedback about her service and mention her name every chance she got. Angsana must offer real carrots to encourage them to provide good service for recommendations in order for her to be that way. That garrulous lady must top the list rather often. They serve an interesting snack after the massage – carrots (pun not intended) with plum powder and hot tea. We usually have guava with that powder, but it is a new alternative that would appeal to most palates. A 90min aromatherapy massage like that will set you back US$70++ for one.

Just before we left for the ferry that took us home, we had a blast battling it out with table tennis. I dropped almost every ball I could, but it was the sterling performances by the Dads that took us by surprise (and made me feel so ashamed; but what I lack I made up for in ball-picking skills)! SJ reminded me to add that, despite playing against well-performing rivals, he emerged the winner. Last man standing. Heh.

Angsana recently renovated and has promotions on and off. We enjoyed good room rates with US$50 room credit when we made the trip.

 

[First published: 30 Sep 2011]

R & R in Batam, Riau Islands

Because our favourite spa haunt is a mere hour ferry ride away and is such an easy trip, we find every excuse to visit as often as is deemed necessary. Nothing like a nice massage to gently knead away aches and lets us escape into lavender scented bliss, finding peace. Precisely because of this, Tea Tree Spa at the Holiday Inn, Batam is hallowed grounds for us. For the price of a 90min long spa session in Singapore at a reasonably well-established outlet, you get an overnight stay with breakfast, return transport, and a 2.5hr long spa –at a very good spa – in Batam. How great a deal is that? It’s simply irresistible.

There is another good option – Tempat Senang Resort & Spa, run by a nice caucasian couple. The rooms here are extremely interesting and luxurious – each one is of a different theme and there is even a treehouse, though small in number and on the pricey side. Their beer-can chicken which was offered for dinner is simply to die for. Oh, and they’ve a pretty impressive library of DVDs that you can rent for free or stick the thumbdrive that comes together with your room key into the computer’s hard drive to download. Of course you have to return them in the end!

For each room booked, there’s a 3-hrs spa package that comes along with it. I must say that the spa experience was mediocre at best, and I was horrified to find a big wild lizard peeking at me when I was washing the cinnamon scrub off myself at the outdoor shower. I was in and out in a flash, and made sure the door was tightly shut behind me!  But the property was nestled in a nice jungle-ly nook, next to a golf course. So it comes with the territory.

We also like to run around the shopping complexes while we are there – Megamall, Nagoya and a new one Habourfront Mall. Our staples include Ayam Penyet (crushed fried chicken with rice and a side of tofu and soybean cake) for lunch, JCO donuts & latte at tea-time, Matahari Supermarket for munchies, gum, buah keluak nuts, occasionally a movie (nice theatre at Megamall) and the other shops for a variety of trinkets & knick-knacks.

Super good for a weekend getaway!

 

[First published: 25 June 2011]