Lilypie - First Birthday

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bali Trip "Sun, Sea and Surf" - Day 5: The End!

Day 5 (5th of May, Tuesday)

View from our hotel

This was the only day we woke up naturally after a sound night of sleep (睡到自然醒)! Haha... that was how "relaxing" our island trip was...! We had no agenda today, basically just check-out at 11a.m., go shopping at Sukawati market then head back to Denpasar to catch our 3.35p.m. flight.

Breakfast. I had a yummy banana pancake with honey! Next time when I have kids, I'm going to make them pancakes and waffles every week! ^__^


After breakfast, Xuan and I went out to buy some Balinese dark chocolate and coffee at a minimart. I tried to find FHM magazine but couldn't see any. Btw if you're in Indonesia you must get your hands on one, the FHM girls there are damn hot and the magazine itself is so explicit! It would have been a great souvenir for my boyfriend. I also missed out on Bali postcards! Darn, should have bought 'em when I saw 'em cheap at Tanah Lot...

When we got back to the hotel, I was lazing at the lounge when suddenly I saw candles and cakes!!! My friends had planned a pre-birthday surprise for Chen Jie and I! Awww... that was so incredibly sweet! Thanks guys...!

My face so white from sunblock and Chen Jie looks like half-awake...
What a memorable birthday in Bali!~

The famous "Death by Chocolate" - recommended by the Leong twins

~.~ Bali Memories 2009 ~.~

It's been such a long time since I'd been for a vacation with my friends (the last one was Taiwan 2005) and I really, truly cherished this rare opportunity to get together especially since all of us started our work-life and they are based in KL while I am at Penang.

Special thanks to Chen Jie for preparing the fun-filled and ADVENTUROUS (上山下海) itinerary. And to Kak Waan for booking our lovely hotels!~

As we boarded the flight, some of us felt sad at the prospect of going back to continue facing the uncertainties at work, our 1BlackMalaysia, or simply just because our vacation, our day in paradise had ended; while some like me felt happy and relieved to be going home to recover from the heat, albeit a bit worried about passing through the heat sensors at the airport.

Dear friends, thanks for the memories. And may this Island of the Gods linger in our memories for a very, very long time to come.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bali Trip "Sun, Sea and Surf!" - Day 4: Hiking at Gunung Batur

Day 4 (4th May, Monday)

The alarm woke us up at 2a.m. We groggily changed into our tracksuits and gathered at the lobby by around 2.30a.m., ready for our adventure. After an hour or so, our Avanzas reached the foot of the mountain and by 4a.m., we were making our way under the cover of darkness toward the peak of Gunung Batur.

According to Wikipedia, Gunung Batur is an active volcano, but I'm not sure when was the last time it erupted? The first part of the terrain was a gentle, upward slope, flat for the most part, but slightly difficult to walk on the loose volcanic sand. It was a brisk walk, especially with the guide and Nic keeping up the pace in front. The second part posed a real challenge - it's not called Gunung Batur (rocks) for nothing! We started hiking up a very uneven trail filled with sharp, craggy rocks on both sides. Our mountain guide beckoned the girls to the front so that it would be easier to guide us. The third part - here our guide said, "Now we begin the steep part" - was as steep as Bukit Jambul, minus the helpful man-made steps! The mixture of soft sand and loose rocks on the trail made it very hard for my feet to grip the surface, and I was hanging on to my guide for dear life. Any mis-step, and Jack and Jill fell down the hill! Here it started drizzling, and my guide was rushing (and dragging) me faster all the way... "cepat! cepat!"... he didn't wanna get wet! =_='''

We reached the first peak of Gunung Batur at 5.45a.m., just before sunrise! My hiking exercises up BJ and Penang Hill had done wonders again. During the 1 hour 45 mins hike, I was able to control my breathing and pace very well, and I felt good, despite my illness. At this time everyone had reached the top, except Xuan! "Would he be able to make it?" was THE QUESTION on everybody's mind... and after 10 mins, we saw him emerge, drenched from the rain! *Applause*

The first glimpse of sunrise

Dawn break - Hau tries to slim his face by sucking in his cheek!! x_X

We were waiting and waiting for a perfect sunrise but the fog came instead...

The sun just couldn't shine through the fog... our guide asked us to climb to the second peak on the left to gain a better view... and we all said "No!"

Group pic with Nyoman, our driver - I love Leo's San Francisco fleece sweater, it kept me so warm in the freezing dawn...

The money we paid for the climb was inclusive of breakfast - coffee, bread, hard-boiled eggs and banana! There was a small hut at the top with kitchen, but no toilet! Guess what Nicholas left at the top... @_@

The descent...

A picture's worth a thousand words! See how slippery it was?? Hau almost fell... but no...

I fell!!!!! And cried like a baby somemore... ;-(

I was going down on my own, with my guide already far in front, when my right knee suddenly gave way (already weak from falling too much while skiing in the States), causing my left knee to crash on the sharp rocks! So painful!! ;-(~~~~~

One more for the camera! I think I took this before my fall...

Can you believe we climbed all the way up there? To where the dense fog is centered...

That's Gunung Agung and Lake Batur.

OK, enough adventure for the day. We went back to the hotel and zzz for a while... then woke up to go for the famous IBU OKA BABI GULING in Ubud town!!!

Four of us ordered all the 1, 2, 3, 4 food choices

Xuan looking at his Babi Guling

Hau looking at his Babi Guling

Nic posing for the camera with his Babi Guling

Last but not least, me and my very own Babi Guling...! ^__^

Large piece of Babi Guling (before cut and served...)

OK to tell the truth it wasn't that fantastic after all... I think our 烧乳猪 is a much better version of this... even yesterday's Bebek Bengil roast pork ribs beat this!!

4 Ipoh-yan... I can't believe I've known 2 of these guys for almost 10 years now!!

After we had our swine fill, we crossed the road to the Ubud Palace just opposite. Entrance is F.O.C. What I can say of the Ubud Palace is, the king must have been really frugal way back then...!! Now, the Palace also doubles as a hotel.


Sacred idols are wrapped with sarong

Uncle, say cheese!!

One of the nice sculptures in Ubud Palace - 同甘共苦?

Next stop, shopping at Ubud Market! This is where I bought most of my souvenirs. Next trip, I'll come back for paintings and sculptures!!


Aunty blessing the stalls...

Barong

Angels in the sky

In the evening, we ventured out of our hotel for our long-anticipated massage... which... didn't turn out so well because we didn't know we had to book in advance!! So some of us, like Hau, went for a luxurious hotel massage of which he described in full glory to us... while the rest of us ended up having a not-so-great time in a not-so-great spa... sigh... I also couldn't try the salt-water swimming pool which is one of Greenfield Hotel's main attractions because it would mean, literally, adding salt to the wound! Next time, NEXT TIME I will go!!! >.<


Stopped for a while to view this beautiful lotus pond nearby our hotel

This was our non-fabulous spa: Lulur Sehati or something like that. Sigh, see the place also lost appetite already... :-( Oh well, I had my traditional massage + body scrub + body milk mask + milk bath + manicure package for only RM50...




These were the beds on which we did our massage...

While getting my manicure done I was chit-chatting with the 2 masseurs, a girl and a guy (the guy seemed rather effeminate).

Guy masseur: Oh! Why do you have a wound?
Me: We went hiking to Gunung Batur in the morning, to catch the sunrise. Have you been?
Guy masseur: *flicks his hand* No, never!
Me: Why not?
Guy masseur: Oh I just don't like these kind of stuff...
Me: =_='''... how about you?
Girl masseur: Never been to Gunung Batur yet... don't plan to go!

OMG! We just spent a morning doing something even the locals wouldn't do! *sweats*...

At night my fever was acting up again so I just joined them for dinner for a short while and went back to my room to sleep... sigh... wet blanket again!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bali Trip "Sun, Sea and Surf!" - Day 3: Tanjung Benoa and Ubud

Day 3 (3rd of May, Sunday)

Today the sun was up and the skies were clear. It was a perfect day for water sports! We had our final breakfast in Hotel Kumala Pantai. Breakfast for me was a jam-and-butter croissant, and lots of fruit and yoghurt cos I was sick. Then, we shopped around Legian beach (I bought lovely beaded slippers for RM8!), took a group pic at the driveway and left for Tanjung Benoa beach, Nusa Dua.

However despite the heavy anticipation, the long, hot trip in our Toyota Avanzas left us feeling woozy and a little less-than-enthusiastic as expected.

Anyway, this Tanjung Benoa is like a really hot spot for water activities. There were many photo albums of famous people playing water sports there. After some price-haggling, we decided on parasailing, diving and boating to Turtle Island. I regret not going for parasailing, it cost less than RM30!

The beginner dive was also really cheap - RM80 per pax inclusive of equipment, divesuit, FREE VIDEO DVD and lunch - what a bargain, and much cheaper than my first dive trip at Pulau Payar, Langkawi! So I decided to brave the fever and go diving afterall... *do I hear some applause?!*

But first, Turtle Island. We took a 15-mins boat ride to reach the little island - a small-sized captivity zoo of sorts.

There were dozens of turtles - gigantic and small - here, all waddling inside the murky enclosure. This one is 80 years old already! Poor ancient being... trapped... :-(... Btw I noticed that turtles look perpetually pissed off. I think I would be too, if I'm supposed to be an endangered species and not being mollycuddled/manhandled by thousands of tourists!! X-(

Xuan the Brave dancing with the Snake

Hau and my pet Iguana named Joey

I love this iguana! It's so clever... Hau stretched out his hand and it clawed its way to sit smugly at the top of his hat! I so wanna bring it home... aww... btw I am bluffing Eng Heng that I actually bought it as a pet... I guess he doesn't read my blog... so... shhh :-X

Bat... not zzz in the daytime? This one's definately a dude.

And the crowd favorite... Harry Potter's white owl - Hedwig

And now, off to save the world...!

And so I went diving. Before this I practically crashed at the table at Turtle Island while the others were drinking Coke and flirting with the 'ibu'. I was feeling really flushed and feverish and my entire nasal system was like clogged and I was debating heavily in my heart whether to risk my life underwater. Hau was repeatedly asking me, wanna go? wanna cancel? But I was just too sick and tired to even attempt an answer at him.

At the same time I was thinking, oh, what the heck, at most it would be only 10 meters and I could easily eject from my diving apparatus and reach the surface in no time at all (<--- Btw this is what my divemaster told me the last time I went diving.) And I also had my past diving experience with me, which was kind of a relief. Soon, I was on the deck, with my diving apparatus on. For a second, that familiar chill/ hesitation like "What the hell am I doing here?" washed over me, and before I realised it, I was "helpfully" pushed over by one of the 'anak kapal'. The divemaster took hold of my hand and directed my face downwards. Where were the beautiful corals and fish? All I could see was a school of boring coloured fish (pardon me, fish) swimming around and that didn't excite me much... not up to the extent of making me forget all about my diving fears. I also found it quite hard to breathe/equalise because, like I mentioned earlier, I had a flu. Before we plunged deeper, I heard the divemaster adjust something on my apparatus and mutter something like "You have a lot of pressure".

The divemaster brought me to a coral island and laid me on the coral like a butterfly on a flower. He waved "no, don't touch those" to a bunch of innocent-looking enough sea anemones and swam upwards to take photos of me while I waved stupidly at him and did V-hand signals for the longest time ever (Then afterwards I knew he was actually taking a video of me). Not long after, my other companions Chin Sen and Xuan joined me on the coral rocks and I felt soothed by their presence. I was still too much focused on my breathing and didn't really enjoy the whole diving experience this time. :-(

One more coral island later and after teasing at Nemo with my bare hands, we were ready to emerge to the surface. I climbed up to the boat, feeling wildly nauseatic and ready to throw up by the side of the boat. Luckily I managed to control. So we decided not to snorkel for another half hour and returned to the island.

I had actually managed to temporarily cool off my fever after the diving trip! And I was starved... but first, I needed a bath!! But there were no bathrooms there, only a public shower area! And with so many Indon men standing around... What the heck... paid so much for this and yet have to bath publicly in the very open area... damn rugi... X-(

After my bath (I don't care, I used my Bath & Body Works coconut shampoo and SLOWLY took my time to bathe...) it was time for a nice meal of fried noodles! Brought back the energy to me...

And last but not least, a fun group pic at the beach!! ^___^


Ubud

Strangely, we were chatting all the way from Tanjung Benoa to Ubud and not sleeping... :P

It seems that the Balinese people are incredibly devoted to their religion, Hinduism. A chat with the driver revealed that the normal folks are willing to spend up to 250 million rupiah (about RM80k++) to build a house temple, in their house, to worship the Supreme God. That's equivalent to a Honda City here! And yet, their other priorities in life are kept simple and bare. There are also few cases of theft in Bali as the locals believe deeply in karma. Security is of utmost importance in a popular tourist spot such as Bali. This is something Malaysia must take note of - to first eradicate the vicious Mat Rempits that bring so much harm to locals and tourists!

After checking into our lovely Greenfield hotel by the paddy fields, we ventured out for dinner. Greenfield - book through email at info@greenfieldubud.com

The hotel provided us transfer to Ubud town. Dinner was at Bebek Bengil, or famously known as the Dirty Duck Diner! Beautiful place, romantic ambience and delicious food.


Crispy half-duck

BBQ roast ribs


Great times, great friends \:D/

After a few rounds of Kak Waan's precious card game 'Category 5' in Chen Jie and Chin Sen's honeymoon suite, we retired early to bed that night as we would be waking up at 2a.m. later to hike Gunung Batur! Zzzzzzzz...

My mattress... ^__^ Btw our room was not air-conditioned...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bali Trip "Sun, Sea and Surf!" - Day 2: Kuta beach & Temple Sightseeing

Day 2 (2nd of May, Saturday)

The next day, we woke up early for the breakfast buffet after a sound night of sleep despite the gigantic lizard fixture on our bedroom wall. We had no time to lose! What precious little time we had in the morning was to be spent on the beach - rushing into the sea's embrace and sunbaking on the beach!!!

Legian Beach - just outside our breakfast area. This beach is an extension of Kuta beach.

Waves were high. Kuta is not known as a surfing heaven for nothing! I didn't try surfing, unlike Chin Sen and Nic, and I regret now. :-( Well, there's always a next time since flying to Bali is so cheap.

There was a guy walking around asking whether we wanted to get some hand-drawn tattoos done. We rejected a few times, but finally gave in! :-P Hau got a lizard motive, Kak Waan a butterfly, and Chen Jie a tiger one.

My first henna tattoo. Like it? It gives me an itch now, maybe I'm allergic to henna or something! :-( The words were supposed to be "Bali", but I changed them to "Leo". I missed him in this romantic place! Being naughty, I couldn't resist running into the sea before the painting had dried. As a result, my tattoo was smudged by my long hair and while posing with Nic... :-(... the tattoo artist look pissed!! What the... is it so hard to redraw? And somemore in the end he charged me and Hau a total of 20,000 rupiah for the additional fixes.

While getting "tattooed", it rained!!! We all hurriedly squeezed under the two umbrellas... luckily it was not long before the skies cleared. At 11a.m., Chen Jie, Christy, Xuan and I had to leave for the temples, while the others remained at the beach because Nicholas wanted to get a tan. Sigh, I wish we could have spent more time basking at the beautiful beach! But on the other hand, I was really glad I chose to go temple sightseeing which was on our itinerary anyway. I wanted to spend time delving into the cultural heritage of Bali, because their unique Hindu belief and architecture are what makes Bali all the more mythical and enchanting...

Pura Taman Ayun

Our first stop of the day. Pura Taman Ayun, which means "most beautiful garden", was one of the holy temples built in 1634 A.D. by the king of Mengwi - the 2nd kingdom of Bali. It was noon and the weather was very, very hot and humid. The temple grounds were unshaded and we were walking under the direct sunlight...

Candi Bentar or 'split gate' of Taman Ayun - they have these curious gates all around Bali

Gateway to the inner courtyard of Pura Taman Ayun. Our guide, Nyoman, told us that the gates would only be open for visitors during temple festivals. There was a plaque beside the gate forbidding women to enter the gates during their menstruation period.


Nyoman gave Christy and I each a fresh frangipani flower. :-)

Statue at the gate

And now for some creative shots...! ^__^

Leaves of the frangipani tree framing the bright blue sky

The Journey of the Frangipani Flower - 1 (鸡蛋花故事系列 - 1)

The Journey of the Frangipani Flower - 2 (鸡蛋花故事系列 - 2)

The Journey of the Frangipani Flower - 3 (鸡蛋花故事系列 - 3)

There are many shrines in the courtyard, and a waterlily moat. The shrines depict Mount Meru by having many layers in odd numbers - 3, 5, 7, 11. The higher the number, the holier the shrine.

After being exposed under the midday sun, we desperately needed a cool drink, and a bite. We went to the food stalls selling 'bakso soup' (chicken meatball soup with rice) directly opposite Taman Ayun temple.

The chicken meatballs were starchy and unflavourful. Note: not recommended!

We continued our journey to the next temple at the Bedugul Highlands. Along the way, we stopped at a cool hillside place (temperature was something like Fraser's Hill) to view the beautiful rice terraces.

There was even a little fountain! Like in a dream...

The hotel overlooking the rice terraces is Saranam Eco-Resort and a room there costs around RM200 per night(?). I thought it incredibly sarcastic for the so-called 'eco-resort' to have a very dirty dumpsite at the stream just beside it, leaving a black mark on the eco-tourism the resort is promoting. After earning so much, shouldn't they have a social responsibility to clean it up?

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan

This is a temple dedicated to the water goddess Dewi Danu, located by the banks of Lake Bratan in the Bedugul Highlands. The weather here was extremely lovely!! A refreshing change from the extreme heat at Pura Taman Ayun. This temple was built by the same guy who built Pura Taman Ayun.

The beautifully designed courtyard opens up to Lake Bratan.

Behind me is Pura Ulun Danu Bratan. The mountains were covered in mist. It was a bit chilly, and I covered up with my sarong. I bought this sarong 7 years ago from Pulau Redang.

There was a little jetty where boats were used to ferry tourists across the lake. Although this was not really an 'attraction', there were many wannabe 'models' here... jumping on the shaky little jetty and throwing back glances for the 'professional photographers'. OK, I'm one of them... haha... I had one very 'leong' shot where I lifted my sarong to the wind... you can visit my Facebook for it, I'm not going to show it here for obvious reasons... :-P

Catwalking at the gardens of Pura Ulun Danu Bratan... poser... kekeke

One group photo with the lovebirds - Chen Jie & Christy

Tanah Lot temple

Time seemed to pass by very fast and it was time for us to meet up with the other group to watch the sunset at Tanah Lot temple (海神庙). Even if you skip all the other places, this temple is definately one of the must-visits in Bali!

Visitors halt at the entrance at the left; only priests are allowed to enter the holy site.

Sunset at Tanah Lot - The sky changed into a myriad of colours as the orange glow dipped under the horizon. Onlookers gathered in throngs with their cameras to worship the setting of the sun. The colours intensify and get more beautiful after the sun has set, bathing the landscape in purple and blue as the waves crash below, transforming the entire scene into a piece of heaven on earth, too beautiful to describe.



Utterly satisfied after the captivating sunset, we headed back to Kuta area for dinner at Poppies restaurant. Poppies is located in a quiet alleyway and has a very romantic and hush-hush ambience about it. Most importantly, the food is delicious! Must try if you are in Kuta area!


Six of us ordered the 'Rijsttafel' (Rice Table) to share. According to the menu, it is a 'truly magnificient feast of small tasty portions of Indonesian delights from all around the East Indies. This was the colonial Dutch way of sampling the best food from Indonesia.' Xuan ordered the King Prawns while Chin Sen ordered Nasi Campur (again!!).


Left: pork satay, Center: fish satay, Right: chicken satay

Throughout dinner, I was feeling feverish due to the different weather conditions throughout the day. As we traversed through the streets of Kuta, I was in no mood for bargaining/shopping. And by the time we reached the Hard Rock Hotel, I was half dead with a bad flu and swollen throat. Oh no, I'm so sorry for acting like a wet blanket. :-( Again, here we split into half where 5 of us took a van back to our hotel, while Nic, Hau and Xuan went for a drink in some pub.

Hard Rock Hotel - I love this quote!!