Sunday, May 1, 2011

My 4D3N Holiday at Bali - Introduction

This is definitely not Sci Fi related but even as scale modelers, we too need our holidays now and then, especially if you have been stuck with your daily monotonous routines. Unfortunately I am one of those that hate going to faraway places, since an overseas tour vacation package would only mean three things:

1) I need to wake up at un-Godly hours for the tours 
2) Most of these places don't have Internet access, and
3) Dreading the thought there's going to be a lot of walking.

Well, I am overweight, smokes, and feel totally unfit for such endeavours ... that was my excuse anyway. So when my wife INSISTED we go to Bali, I told her 50,000 Wild Banthas couldn't drag me there. Its amazing how a mere cold stare from the wife can make you change your mind in an instance.

So off I went to Bali on 27th April 2011 for a 4 days and 3 nights excursion, and before I left, all I knew was that Bali was a beautiful Indonesian Island somewhere in Indonesia, but now that I am going, just where the heck is that island? A quick search via google maps revealed ....

Ooooo, there she is. Its basically directly under Sarawak/Borneo and the first thought I had was ... OK, I'm heading toward Earthquake alley. Of course I've never been to Bali, so I had a lot of assumptions what Bali was going to be like, beautiful beaches with primitive facilities etc etc .... Now that I've been to Bali, boy, was I right and wrong.

Bali simply put, is BEAUTIFUL. Its amazing how so many things can be packed inside one tiny little Island. I love the culture, the scenery's, the people, and its like there are so many things to see and do there. 4D3N was simply not enough. And whatever stress I had literally vanished the moment I step down from the plane.

And I have to share this with all of you. If you're planning to take a vacation and you want to go to a far away exotic land, give Bali a chance. Its really a happening place. When I was there, I was also surrounded by Australians, Britains, Americans, Swedes, Germans, Japanese, Taiwanese, Mainland Chinese, Koreans, Singaporeans, Malaysians, and more. I mean WOW, this place seems to have more tourists than locals. Its no wonder Bali depends heavily on Tourism to survive, and they have some of the best vacation spots in the world. I've always seen pictures of these places, but its totally different when you are there.

So in tribute to what I have experienced there, I want to share my trip detailing my 4 days and I plan to use lots of images (since a picture can say a thousand words, and seeing is believing). But before I do that, here are some interesting facts about Bali in case you were curious.

Bali is one of 17,000 island paradise located at the end of the Lesser Sunda Islands between IndonesianJava to the West, and Lombok to the East. It is part of Indonesia's 33 provinces with a population of 3.9 million people (as at 2010). Over 90% of Balinese adhere to the Balinese Hindu religion and the remainder are Muslims. Don't let the religion mixture fool you, as a lot of the population there are very friendly.

The Island is populated with 9 different Hindu sects, the Pasupata, Bhairawa, Siwa Shidanta, Waisnawa, Bodha, Brahma, Resi, Sora and Ganapatya. Each sect prays top their own specific deity Godhead  and heavily influenced by the Chinese culture. The island itself is divided into several different regions separated by their respective sects, hence providing something different to see wherever you go.

In modern Bali today, most of these sects have intergrated so well together that they now form 9 Administrative Regions.
  • Badung, capital Mangupura
  • Bangli, capital Bangli
  • Buleleng, capital Singaraja
  • Denpasar (city)
  • Gianyar, capital Gianyar
  • Jembrana, capital Negara
  • Karangasem, capital Amlapura
  • Klungkung, capital Semarapura
  • Tabanan, capital Tabanan

Bali is actually a very small island, as she measures only approximately 153 km (95 miles) wide, and spans for 112 km (69 miles) from north to south. The highest mountain there is called Gunung Agong (King Mountain) with a height of 3,142 meters, and is still an active volcano among its 5 other non-active volcanic peaks. Taking the trip there can be a little harrowing as either side of the road leads to a 45-70 degree steep cliff drop. Yup, the roads are literally located at the tip of the hills, and they are very narrow for a two way traffic system. I wouldn't recommend driving there unless you feel you got something to prove, and its better to use a guided tour and a driver. To view the scenery alone literally makes up for all the inconvenience. Its majestic to say the least, and sure makes you feel insignificant.

A little history about Gunung Agong, on March 17, 1963, the volcano erupted and its pyroclastic flow literally wiped out nearby villages, killing well over 1,500 people, many of whom were caught offguard and were unable to escape. To this day, none of these people were ever recovered. Debris were sent up as high as 8-10 km into the air. Cold Lahars from the eruption killed another 200, and a second eruption killed another 200. The locals say the mountain erupts once every 100 years, but to be on the safe side, those that survived the eruption rebuild their lives, this time placing their homes far away from the mountain and on higher ground.

Its interesting to note that Volcanic rocks were used in the construction of a lot of the temples as well as many of the dwelling houses in Bali, and sculpts using these rocks can be expensive. I had wanted to take a few "samples" home but was told you can't take any volcanic rock out of Bali unless you have a permit.

Bali lies in the tropics, so that means this place can get hot and humid real fast, and cool and cold, depending on the seasons and wind change. It is recommended that you carry a bottle of mineral water as you'll find yourself drinking a lot.

There are many places you can visit, and the main town of Kuta has seen so much progress that it is fast becoming a concrete jungle filled with shopping complexes and hotels. Some areas are congested with touts and scammers overcharging tourist for souvenirs. As advised by our tour guide, you will need to hard bargain with these people to get a fair price, and much to my dismay, after purchasing some of these souvenirs thinking I got them for a real nice low price, I see similar items selling elsewhere at an even lower price. So I guess you really need to shop around. And beware of imitation goods. A lot of the so called "branded" goods sold there are imitations. My best advise I can give you is to get a hold of a good tour guide and driver, as they know where you can get the best deals and original goods.

Here are a list of cities and destinations you can check out when you're in Bali


  • Denpasar — a bustling city, the administrative centre and transport hub of the island but not a major tourist destination
  • Candidasa — a quiet coastal town, the Bali Aga and gateway to the east coast
  • Kuta — surfer central, by far the most heavily developed area in Bali. Lots of shopping and night-life and the centre of lower-end party culture on Bali
  • Jimbaran — sea-side resorts, a nice sheltered beach and seafood restaurants south of Kuta
  • Legian — located between Kuta and Seminyak; also the name of Kuta´s main street
  • Lovina — beautiful black volcanic sand beaches and coral reefs
  • Sanur — sea-side resorts and beaches popular with older families
  • Seminyak — quieter, more upscale beachside resorts and villas just to the north of Legian, with some fashionable upscale restaurants and trendy designer bars and dance clubs
  • Ubud — the centre of art and dance in the foothills, with several museums, the monkey forest and lots of arts and crafts shops 

Other destinations

  • Amed — an area of peaceful, traditional fishing villages featuring black sand beaches, coral reefs and excellent diving
  • Bedugul — nice lakes in the mountains, a golf course, the botanical gardens and the famous Ulun Danu Bratan Temple
  • Bukit Peninsula — the southernmost tip of Bali, with world class surfing, great beaches, and the can't-miss cliff-hanging Uluwatu Temple
  • Kintamani — active volcano Mount Batur, great mountain scenery, cooler temperatures and fruit growing
  • Mount Agung — highest mountain in Bali and the mother temple of Besakih
  • Nusa Dua — an enclave of high-end resorts and a long, golden sand beach
  • Nusa Lembongan — good diving, snorkeling and surfing and a great place to relax
  • Nusa Penida — wild, rugged and untamed and as off-the-beaten-path as you will get in Bali
  • West Bali National Park — trekking, birdwatching and diving in Bali's only substantial natural protected area 

Unless you have nerves of steel, I wouldn't recommend anyone driving there. Sure there's lots of places where you can rent a car or a bike, but the roads there are so narrow that almost everywhere someone at the opposing side is eating into your lane, or bikes taking up half the road. And you will need to overtake in a very dangerous manner just to get across. The remarkable thing about this is that to the local people, driving like its every man for himself is normal, and its amazing in my 4D3N being driven all over the place, I never even once saw an accident. And I have already lost count at the number of times my heart skipped beats when I see an oncoming truck heading towards our MPV and turning off at the last minute. My driver didn't even flinched.

Motorcyclist are in over abundance here since its cheap buying and maintaining a bike. And a lot of these riders don't wear any helmets, and over 80% don't have a license. So imagine if you were in a rented car and accidentally hits one of them .. YIKES!

The best way to see Bali and move around would be to get yourself a local Tour Guide and a Driver. Think of this as your personal guide and driver for the duration of your holidays there, unlike a group tour where you travel around with a bunch of strangers in a bus and literally live by the schedule. A personal tour guide ensures your comfort and security/safety. Their rates are not too expensive and the charges are all inclusive along with the use of the car. Rates of course differ according to low/peak seasons. Our guide looks a lot like a young Harrison Ford at an angle, very humble and he was sincerely concerned about our comfort and safety. I know its his job but he really went that extra mile for us.

You'd most probably travel around in an MPV if you got yourself a driver (I was told that 98% of all MPVs you see in Bali were purchased for Tourist usage). There are many advantages to having your personal guide and driver - for one you don't have to worry about parking (its hell out there) and the guide can also serve as your photographer whenever you need a picture taken with your sweetheart (you no longer need a stranger's assistance and risk having your camera stolen).


Here's our guide posing with my wife (MPV in the back ground). They waited patiently for us at the airport and was with us throughout our holidays there. The guide is the man in the centre and his name is Sika. His English is excellent and this man is about the most polite and patient guide I have ever met. He is also very knowledgeable about Bali and its history. In fact, Bali has quite a range of guides that are able to converse fluently in many languages, ranging from Japanese, German, Korean, Swedish, and even Mandarin. I saw and heard some of these guides at the restaurants and was amazed at how fluently they were conversing with the tourists under their care in the tourist native tongue. The man on the far right is Anang, and to me, despite the harrowing experience of Bali's traffic, this guy drives like a professional, and ensures your luggage and valuables stay safe in the MPV.

In the event any of you decide to go to Bali, look them up as I highly recommend these gentlemen services. Sika can be reached at (HP) 081 337 092112  (email)  or Anang (HP) 081 353 313330

And talking about cars in Bali, I saw this (its a Daihatsu) at one of Bali's infamous peak hours jam.

This particular model is sold in Malaysia under the Perodua banner as the MYVI, and its the best selling car in Malaysia today, but I only saw one Daihatsu variant in Bali.

The most popular car in Bali are all mainly compact Japanese cars, and the most popular model would be the Honda Jazz. That car is seen all over Bali. Compact cars are the norm there due to the narrow roads, while continental makes like Mercs and BMWs are strictly for the rich, and I mean SUPER rich. The disparity between rich and poor is clearly segregated in Bali.


I spoke to my guide regarding the 2002 terrorist attack which killed over 200 people, mostly Australians, and it was indeed a sad chapter in Bali's history. The perpertators were not Balinese but mainland Indonesian terrorist who used Bali's tourist location to create an impact for their cause. What these terrorist didn't realise is that when they attacked the tourist, they also attacked their own people in Bali. No one in Bali supports these acts of violence.

While no one can ensure any future attacks will happen again, the Balinese do look forward to tourist visits and welfare since tourism represents almost 90% of the population's bread and water.  They have to as whatever happens to the tourist, they get the brunt of the effects. My advise is not to hang out in popular water hole areas with ongoing parties, but explore Bali's unique offerings. Afterall, a pub or a bar are readily available at your own home.


Here are some rules you will need to adhere to if you plan to visit Bali:

  • Use only reputable Travel Guides (you can get them from respectable travel agents, or you can contact either Sika or Anang).
  • Make sure you have a valid travel insurance. Very important for that just in case scenario.
  • Do not bring any drugs there. Like Malaysia, if you're caught, you will most probably face a death sentence.
  • Make sure you have sufficient medication brought from home. I'm sure there are a few but I only saw one pharmacy there. Access to these can be inconvenient.
  • Never leave any important documents unattended. Always keep them close by, or you can opt to entrust your guide to safeguard them.
  • Make sure you have enough rupiahs to go around. Its prudent to bring some of your local currencies there as well. We initially changed RM1,000 (USD$338) for 2.8 million rupiahs and found out it wasn't enough on the fourth day. The little we spent here and there actually took a chunk off our budget abd believe me, Bali has plenty to offer. Good thing I had some RM currencies on me.
  • While its easy to rent a bike to travel around, you will need to be aware that the traffic rules in Bali is nearly non existent. Be careful out there.
  • When shopping, always haggle for the price. If you're offered a certain amount, counter offer them half that value as most of these are usually overpriced. You'll be surprised as you tell them no and turn away when they relent to your price. And do remember these people are poor and are also trying to make a living.
  • Bali is a tropical paradise, meaning its going to get hot and humid. Make sure you have access to your mineral water bottles. You will need to pay if you seek drinking water elsewhere.
  • Respect the temple rules. If you see a sign that says "DO NOT ENTER : WORSHIPERS ONLY" means unless you're a devotee and praying there, don't go in. And don't take pictures of the priest during their worship. Its akin to taking a preacher's picture halfway through his sermon.
  • Cows are sacred in Bali (Hindu religion). Remember that.
  • Try to stay out of any procession's way. There's bound to be a few and I saw about 3 processions taking place during my visit.
  • Donate some rupiahs to those places you have visited. The amount may be small but it goes a long way to helping these people.
  • Bali is a place filled with traditionally cultured people so for heaven sake don't walk around naked (its OK to go topless for guys and we ain't going to complain if any women wants to follow suit)

And the most important rule, make sure you enjoyed your stay and have explored Bali to your hearts content before you go home. I just found out 4 days is not enough.

Coming soon - Day 1 of my Bali Holidays 


  1. Really a nice spot for vacations thanks for sharing you amazing memories I really enjoy read and pictures

  2. Thanks. It truly is a beautiful vacation spot, and something different if you're from the city. I highly recommend Bali for anyone who wants exotic holiday destinations.

  3. Thanks for the sharing..
    I'm going to Bali this end of this February and will rent a car (self-drive!!). I haven't been to Bali before and this would also be the very first time I'm travelling alone.

    I love adventure so I believe that travelling alone and self-drive will put this trip on an even exciting one.