Pullman Legian

Like most West Australians I have made countless trips to Bali. Each time a new hotel and new experience. Unlike any other trip, this was one with the number one priority of luxury and relaxation. Staying at the Pullman Legian was a no brainer.

We arrived to a grand foyer of absolute luxury. A shiny marble floor, large wicker lounges which were occupied by waiting guests and an open space overlooking a tropical garden being set up for the evening meal. Almost every night of the week there is a theme night offered to the guests on the lawn which is between the kids pool and the day spa, enveloped by the towering hotel rooms which make you feel as though you are in your own private oasis. That night, it was the seafood buffet; followed by a BBQ buffet; then a kids movie night on the lawn with giant beanbags and popcorn, and finally an Italian buffet. The event I have been preparing for my whole life.

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The hotel is quite large so it can be quite difficult to remember your room number but no matter where you are located there is a wonderful view. Ours overlooked a small garden with giant palm trees and hammocks, I mentally reserved which one I would be spending my time in. What I loved most about the hotel is all the secret and wonderful spots to relax with a book, some music or anything else you desired. One such other place was the rooftop pool. Set directly above the reception, towering over the resort was the infinity pool. The ocean to the left and mountains to the right, complete with a bar and sun loungers the resort became a place you didn’t want to leave.

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The welcoming atmosphere of the staff, hotel and facilities (did I mention that there is a small mini mart within the resort?) makes it accommodating to families, couples, singles and devout bookworms like myself.

Bali’s hidden gem

When my alarm went off at a startling 1am I instantly regretted my decision to see Bali for all it’s glory. I had, what seemed like in the moment, stupidly signed up to climb a live volcano in the dead of the night, arriving at the peak in time for a beautiful sunset. I booked the Mt Batur climb through Bali Trekking tour http://www.balitrekkingtour.com/ and was greeted with the familiar Balinese smile in my hotel reception at 1:30am. It took 2 hours to get to the the base of the mountain and accompanied by a guide from the tour company and a local guide we set off on our exciting adventure. We started in the natural forest on the Balinese mountain, surrounded by houses, farms and temples. This was the easiest and most calming part of the climb. We left the blanket of the forest and started our ascent on the natural rock formation of the mountain.

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Mt Batur is an active volcano which had its last eruption in 2000, wiping out an entire village and its residents. At the peak the enormous crater created by this eruption is visible and one becomes aware at just how powerful mother nature is. When you climb Mt Batur you are climbing a powerful formation that both creates and destroys life in an instant. Locals know that they are living on a ticking time bomb but the incredibly fertile soil is worth the risk. You become very in touch with nature with each grueling step and struggle that you overcome. The climb is not the easiest. You will need to have a reasonable level of fitness. I have hiked many mountains, volcanoes and canyons in my life and I can honestly say this was the hardest. That being said, when you finally make it to the top and are able to take in the breathtaking panoramic views of Lombok island, Mt Agung (the tallest mountain in Bali), Lake Batur, the destructive crater and Bali Sea, the 1am wake up doesn’t seem so bad anymore. It is in that moment that you realise just how small we really are.

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We made it to the peak in an hour and a half, however, we waited around in the cold for roughly an hour before the sun even began to rise so you have the luxury to take your time if need be. Because the mountain is active the local guide digs into the dirt and cooks a breakfast of steamed eggs and banana, and the steam is a welcome relief from the freezing wind rolling in from the Sea. When you are ready you start your descent, for me this was just as difficult as the climb, if not more. From the peak until you reach the forest it is a steep decline, part volcanic ash which makes you almost ski down the side of the mountain, the other part steep rock that is coupled with gravel. The guides are there to help, so don’t be afraid to reach out for a helping hand. They are happy to oblige.

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To say that you are exhausted when you finally make it to the bottom is an understatement. There is not a single word to describe the tiredness your body feels, and nothing can prepare your legs for the soreness that follows for days afterwards. Although, every step that I successfully made put a smile on my face, an experience not undertaken every day that is truly a once in a lifetime adventure that needs to be high on your list of things to do when you visit Bali. The plus side is you have 2 hours to nap in the car ride back (depending on where you stay) and you return to your hotel around lunchtime which gives you the whole day to do nothing but relax, which is the greatest thing to do in Bali after all.

Tips:

  • Eat some breakfast and have some coffee to keep yourself awake it is a long drive to the mountain and an equally long climb to the top. It was roughly 4-5 hours before we even got our breakfast so I am glad that I packed my backpack with a lots of snacks.
  • No need to weigh your bags down with water. The company provided a bottle on arrival at the base of the mountain and the opportunity to buy drinks is available at the top. In fact, someone hikes all the way up with you just in the hopes that you will buy a drink from them, you feel so compelled to do so. Besides you don’t want to drink too much that you need to go to the bathroom, there is absolutely no toilets anywhere.
  • Take money to buy the drink from the companion, they quickly trek back down in the hopes to catch another group to follow up to the top. You will also want to tip the guides and driver. We tipped them 100,000 rupiah (roughly $10AUD) each.
  • Take a jacket, believe me take a jacket! Take a very warm jacket. At the summit before the sun rose it was the coldest I had ever been in my life.
  • If you feel a bit unsure about making this trek then investing in hiking boots and poles will definitely put you at ease. There were times both in the climb and descent that I struggled. It was steep and and very raw in the formation of the path. At times is was unsteady and slippery but every time I needed help the guide reached out his hand to help me. Every time.

http://www.balitrekkingtour.com/mount-batur-trekking/

Enjoy!

Bali restaurants that don’t disappoint

Last weekend was my birthday (yay), and it was also a long weekend in Western Australia (double yay). So my husband decided to treat me to an extended weekend in Bali because he’s amazing and I have been working my little butt off lately. It was a well deserved 5 day break from the rat race. Those 5 days were intended to be very relaxing with nothing but eating, drinking and poolside reading occuring, throw in some exploring and adventure and you have my entire trip. Bali often gets a bad reputation, news reports of people becoming ill and even dying from the food and alcohol seemed almost a common thread last year. I know people who are fearful of visiting Bali because of this.

So I have compiled a list of my favourite restaurants in Kuta and surrounding areas that are tried and tested, so mush so I make an effort to visit as many of them as I can whenever I am in Bali. In no particular order.

Kitchenette– I have written about this place before, and for good reason. The restaurant is set up in a vintage kitchenette style with home-made style offerings on the menu. You can build your own salad or pick from their sandwich, pasta, omelette or crepe selection. Be sure to try their home made lemonade and lychee iced tea served in mason jars. Open 9am-11pm most days. http://www.ismaya.com/micro/read/kitchenette

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Ultimo and Rumours– Probably the BEST restaurants in Bali. I have grouped them together because they are owned by the same group and are situated very close together, a few buildings separating them. Ultimo will deliver speedy, tasty, cheap Italian food that will leave you incredibly satisfied. Be sure to make a booking (last booking at 9pm). Open 4pm until late. http://balinesia.co.id/indexbali.asp

Rosso Vivo– Another Italian restaurant (no prizes for guessing my favourite type of food). The Head Chef is Italian so he has a pretty good idea of what he is doing. No word of a lie I CRAVE their Greek salad and Bruschetta, It’s THAT good. Lunch specials will get you a decent meal for roughly $5-10 AUD. Open 7am until late. http://www.kutaseaviewhotel.com/bali-restaurant/

Frankenstein’s Laboratory- This is comparable to Dracula’s on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Except this is a bit more interactive. Realistic, gruesome face painting is offered and cocktails come in IV bags to share, or drink on your own. There are 3 shows with your dinner at 8:30, 9:30 and 10:30. Open 5pm-12pm. http://www.frankensteinslaboratory.net/

Rock Bar– You won’t exactly get a sit down meal in this place but what you will get is one of the most spectacular views as you watch the sunset over the ocean. As the name suggest the Rock Bar is situated on the rocks, over the ocean. A range of finger food is offered as well as a fully stocked bar. Be sure to get there early to secure the best spot (the sun sets around 6pm). Open 4pm- 1am. http://ayanaresort.com/rockbarbali/

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Shelter Cafe- My friend told me about this place because our first hotel didn’t have breakfast with our accommodation, being vegetarians we never find enough value for money in a buffet anyway. I forgot about this place until our last night. By then we had moved hotels which had breakfast included so I had two breakfasts that day and am so glad I did. We first stopped at Nalu bowls which is a part of and directly below Shelter Cafe, we placed our order for the Nalu bowl (a mix of super healthy, awesome ingredients blended together to make a smoothie like ice cream, all topped with home made granola and bananas) and then headed upstairs for some coffee, a table and a view. This place not only had a delicious and healthy breakfast, good coffee, and soy milk, it had an awesome atmosphere. Open 7:30- 5pm. However, the Nalu bowls sell out quite quickly so best to get there early. http://www.sheltercafebali.com/ It can be a little difficult to find. We followed the directions given on the Nalu bowls website  http://www.nalubowls.com/   If you jump in a cab and get them to take you to Queen’s Tandoor in Seminyak, then look for the sign pointing you down the lane.

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Enjoy x

Bali or Thailand

Both are so similar and both are so cheap so how do you decide which country to travel to? Never fear I have done the research for you. Thailand was the first overseas trip I went on with my fiancé. I took him there as a birthday gift when he was 21, so it will always hold a special place in my heart because of this, however, both countries have their positives and negatives, it all depends on what you want out of your holiday.

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Food- I am a big lover of Thai food and certainly overindulged on it the entire time I was there, and boy is the Thai food in Thailand out of this world. You will not want to eat it ever again unless you are eating fresh Thai food in Thailand. On the other hand, every restaurant that I ate at in Bali blew me away, the price, the taste and the service was exceptional. It tasted like I was eating fresh, real food. See my previous post for a few recommended restaurants or send me a message and I can suggest some more.

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Accommodation- Our Hotel in Phuket, Patong Merlin, was just fantastic. 4 swimming pools and large rooms with a mountain of food at the Breakfast Buffet. The staff also spoke excellent English. I am yet to find a Hotel in Bali that truly blows me away but I know there is certainly an abundance of them, if you are willing to pay the hefty price. Both countries are home to luxurious tropical island resorts, it all comes down to a matter of budget but at the end of the day The Best Western in Kuta Beach, Bali is the best budget hotel I have experienced so far. See previous post to find out more about this hotel.

http://www.merlinphuket.com/patongmerlin/

http://www.bwkutabeach.com

The Spa treatments- Both countries are on par cost wise but I found in Bali I got a lot more “sweet jesus this is amazing” moments for my money. Again see previous post for my favourite Spa recommendation in Bali.

The streets- In Phuket there is a very distinct sewer smell that you cannot escape no matter where you are and it is something you do have to prepare yourself for and deal with. It is certainly a lot cleaner in Bali. The market stalls in Thailand are very expensive and the people more aggressive and reluctant to haggle. Bali has better quality clothing, albeit 85% for females, at a much cheaper price. You can average around $4 Australian per item. It is safe to say that battling the street markets in either country can become tiresome and only handled in small doses.

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Activities- I found there was a lot more activities on offer in Thailand. We had a very full on schedule in Thailand and found very little leisure time because of this. Bali is great for surfing and if you are an active person either country will offer you something to do whether it be surfing, hiking a volcano or kayaking in the Adaman Sea. Both countries offer family activities such as Elephant riding and Waterparks. There seemed to be a lot of issues or concerns about renting scooters or jet skis in Thailand and I did not get this impression in Bali, although I rode a scooter with a driver to avoid any problems.

So there you go, it probably didn’t help much as both are so similar, but in a nutshell. Bali has cheaper hotels, markets stalls and drinks. Thailand has cheaper food and a bigger range of activities. For me if you had to choose between the two I would tell you to choose Thailand because visiting Phi Phi Island is something you NEED to do in life, or it cannot be truly complete.

 

Bali’s best

After a few hards days relaxing I have compiled a short list of Bali’s best.

Accommodation- I used my $50 agoda.co voucher to reduce my accommodation cost at Best Western Kuta Beach to $177 for 4 nights. The rooms are modern and clean, albeit small. The breakfast buffet offers an extensive selection of Asian food with a small amount of Continental choices, although the egg station is good and the staff are friendly and helpful. The beds are extremely comfortable and even though located in an alleyway with a few bars it is not too noisy if you request the fourth floor. The hotel has a rooftop pool and bar which offers semi panoramic views of Kuta Beach. For budget accommodation there really are no complaints.

http://www.bwkutabeach.com

http://www.agoda.com

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Relax- Bali has many spa’s to offer its travellers and it is one of the reasons why people keep on coming back. There is one Spa in particular that I keep going back to because as they say “when you are on to a good thing, stick to it”. Smart Beauty and Wellbeing Centre on Jalan Pantai Kuta is a good thing. I always try and book in with Sari if her hours permit but otherwise the staff are all fantastic and speak varying degrees of english. They always remember you and greet you with a smile. I find their prices reasonable, although slightly more expensive than some salons you really do get what you pay for, especially in Bali.

http://smartspa-bali.com

Food- Whenever I travel to Bali not only do I look forward to relaxing but I also look forward to not having to cook. Again when it comes to food, and especially in Bali, I am willing to pay that little bit more for quality and piece of mind. Two stand out restaurants so far have been Kitchenette at Bali Beachwalk and Ultimo’s in Seminyak. Kitchenette is a rustic style kitchen which sells healthy, hearty and delicious meals. You can build your own salad or eat one of the many delicious meals off their menu. They offer delicious crepes with amazing flavour combinations that would give all the restaurants in Paris a run for their money.

http://www.ismaya.com/micro/read/kitchenette

As someone who see’s themselves as an Italian in a past life I can honestly say that the food at Ultimo’s is some of the best Italian food that I have ever eaten, my mouth is watering just thinking about their mushroom gnocchi. I suggest booking a table as this restaurant is always full spite its large seating capacity

http://balinesia.co.id

It would not be a trip to Bali without a trip to Potato Head in Seminyak. Pool bar, infinity pool on the ocean, cocktails, French and Balinese restaurants, these photos speak for themselves.

http://www.ptthead.com

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Happy travels (or should I say eating)