Merles family holiday


WHEN: July 26 - Aug 1, 2001. Three nights in Tuban/Kuta and 3 nights in Ubud.
WHO: Husband, myself and our 6 yr old daughter.

AIRPORT: We arrived at night (around 9pm) via Cathay Pacific. Breezed through immigration and customs. Was given a short-stay visa of 60 days. Don't
know if this is true for all nationalities. Not one porter approached us. Can't explain why (could it be that I have that warned-by-bali-travel-forum look on
my face). Departure was a different experience though (I'll talk about it later). Didn't exchange money at the airport since I planned on doing that in Kuta.
Our hotel pick-up service was right there outside with a sign bearing the hotel's name (Rama Beach Cottages) and ours. The 2 hotel personnel who picked us up
were very gracious. Short drive to Rama Beach (aka Rama Baruna) hotel in Tuban.

HOTELS: First 3 nights at Rama Beach Cottages (Tuban). For the rate we paid ($57 nett a night - peak season rate), it was a pretty good deal. I booked through the internet (the lowest I found).
The deluxe cottage we had was pretty roomy (it's like having your own little house). Each cottage has its own front porch, hot/cold shower,A/C, TV, mini ref,king size bed, small receiving area with
rattan/wicker love seat and coffee table, spacious bathroom, plenty of storage. Although plumbing shows its age, everything looked okay. The hotel grounds is nicely landscaped. The swimming pool is very nice (there's a kiddie pool where I stayed with my daughter
most of the time, but my husband swam the rest of the pool everyday and he gave it a thumbs up. The free buffet breakfast was more than I expected --- fresh fruits (papaya, watermelon, honeydew, pineapple), bread, nasi goreng, breakfast meat (different every day, from sausages to ham), broiled tomato, fresh tea and cofee, omelletes cooked to your order.
Their orange juice was watery, typical instant-juice drink taste (the only breakfast item that didn't pass my 6-year old's taste test). I have no problem recommending this hotel to anyone considering the proce range. My biggest complaint was the mosquitoes. I guess
we could have lit a couple of mosquito coils every night to keep them at bay.

Our last 3 nights were in Ubud Village Hotel (Monkey Forest Road). It cost us about US$98/night. When we first walked the grounds to get to our room, the first word that came out of our mouths was WOW! The concept of making it like you're
staying in a village truly made it an exotic stay. Well landscaped grounds. The room has its own private front porch, the room was roomy, king size bed and they even surprised us with a well-made twin matress on the floor for our kid.
The room is equipped with a mini-ref, ceiling fan, A/C, TV (very few channels, mostly Indonesian, CNN was the only Engish program). The most awesome feature was the open air bathroom. Marble (granite?) tiles, tropical plants. The open shower didn't fancy
us that much because it took forever for the hot water to kick in and the shower head splattered water everywhere it made a mess and the tile floor hazardously wet. Thank goodness for the tub with a hand held shower head. The hotel staff suppled us with fresh towels and cleaned
our room everyday. They also give us a mosquito coil every night. Free buffet breakfast was included, almost same selection as Rama Beach's, but for some reason I liked the Rama Beach's better. The hotel's location is another awesome feature. Centrally located, within walking distance to almost
everything. They have a small pool with a swim-up bar. We liked the pool at Rama Beach's better.

DRIVERS: Never had any luck contacting the forum's highly recommended driver, Agung Suta. He never replied to the email I sent from the US. Tried to phone while we were in Tuban, no luck there as well. Called his mobile, a lady answered but she only spoke Indonesian, so I almost had a conversation
with her. I gave up on Agung Suta. I approached the Taxi Counter of Rama Beach and booked an English-speaking driver that will bring us to Ubud, with side trips to Denpasar gold shops, Goa Gajah (Elephant Temple) and Tegalalang rice terraces --- all for 250,000 rupiah. Our driver was Putu Agus, a very nice young
fellow, spoke decent English, very eager to please. He drives a Toyota Kijang (w/ A/C). He became my instant interpreter when shopping for gold earrings at Hasanudin gold shops in Denpasar. We left Tuban at 10:30am and said our goodbyes in Ubud at around 4pm. I gave him an extra 55,000 rupiah.

For transport from Ubud to the airport on our departure day, I hired Made (fullname I Made Dirga). Met him in front of Ubud Village Hotel, on Monkey Forrest Road. He wanted to charge 100,000 to the airport for an early 6am pickup.
I bargained down to 80,000. He's nice and gracious and eager to please. He speaks little English, but was enough to carry on a meaningful conversation. I gave him 100,000 rph when we parted ways.

MONEY EXCHANGE: Our first exhange on 07/27, the rate was 9900 rph to US$1, and the rate dropped everyday. The exchange rate in UBUD the day we left was down to 9000 rph. We used PT Centrals in Kuta most of the time.

SHOPPPING: Was a delight. Shopped at the Matahari, Kuta Square, Kuta Kidz, Indigo Kids. Bought souvenirs and a few grocery items at the Matahari. Didn't have the time to shop at the Art Market. Here's a sampling of the things I bought and their prices.
Girl's sundress and matching hat at Indigo Kinds --- 93,000
Girl's sundress at Kuta Kidz (size 8) --- 54,500
Girl's 2pc swimsuit (size 8) --- 59,500
Ladies leather shoes (black Marijane style) --- 79,920 (after 20% off)
Ladies 2pc suit (rayon, I guess), blazer (lined) --- 110,000
and matching pants (not lined) --- 69,900

In Ubud, we shopped in Central Ubud only, Monkey Forest Rd, Jln. Hannoman, Jln. Raya.
Sarong in Ubud (the most inexpensive I found) --- 20,000
Men's silk shirts (Hawaiian style) --- 30,000-40,000
Girls' patchwork sundresses 4 for --- 200,000
2 framed 16" x 16",oil on canvas,artist:Koss --- 350,000
3 pairs gold post earrings, 18kt (70%),
each at 0.7, 0.73 and 0.8 grams ----------------- 180,000 for all 3

MASSAGES/SPA: The highlight of my Bali experience. My husband got a traditional 1-hr massage at Rama Beach hotel spa
for about $17 ($15 listed price plus taxes). I waited till we got to Ubud. There, I made a spa holiday out of our 3-day stay.
On Ubud Day 1, went to Milano's for a Mandi Lulur (1 hr 45 mins of pure ecstasy) for 80,000 (that's only about US $8, unbelievable!)
Milano's didn't have water then, so they transported me to nearby Verona's (same owner), same menu (almost), same prices. My husband (when it's my turn
to baby sit) gets a traditional 1 hr massage from the same place for 50,000 rph. The next day, I got a 1-hr hair cream bath at Milano's for 50,000. In
the afternoon, I tried the nearby Maria Beauty Salon for a 1.5 hrs facial for 50,000 rph. On our last full day, I went to Bodyworks for a Mandi Lulur (1 hr 45 mins) 100,000
followed by a hair cream bath (1 hour) for 75,000. At this point, I realized I made the mistake of having only stayed in Bali for 6-nights/3-days.

All clothing items off, with a sarong for cover, face down, Mandi Lulur started with a short accupressure from the soles of the feet up to the shoulders, I guess to loosen things up and warm up the therapist's hands. Then with sandalwood oil, an entire body massage, from
toe to head. Herbal body scrub followed next, then yoghurt all over. After a short while, I was led to the tub of warm water with fresh flower petals. At Veronas, I was sent to directly into the tub, with body scrub and yoghurt still on my body, rinsed me, and left me
for 20 minutes with a small plate of fruits and a hot cup of ginger tea. Bodyworks did it slightly different, with the attendant rinsing the body scrub and yoghurt off me before sending me to the tub, and leaving me for 15 minutes (no fruits nor tea). After tub time, I dried
off (the only thing I did myself) with a towel, then the attendant applied lotion all over.

Hair cream bath is another heavenly experience. Starting with a shampoo, followed by a scalp massage, then avocado cream is applied and more head/scalp massage. Then, nape and back massage with sandalwood or rose oil. After that I sat back for hair steam. While the hair
is getting steam treatment, the attendant then massaged my arms and my hands. I then got a hot towel wash to wipe off the oil. Then, the hair was rinsed and blown dry. Aaahhhhh! For a solid one hour (even more I think), there was not a
single moment that I was not massaged. Not a single minute was idle. And all this for less than US$1! Believe me, I'm already agonizing here just reliving the experience.

EATING: Eating/dining at Poppies in Kuta (awesome garden setting), S.A. Cafe in Tuban (cheap, but food wasn't that spectacular), Cafe Wayan in Ubud (another awesome garden setting). Heard much about their desserts. They were good , but I've had
better cakes back here. I told my husband that while in Bali, I will eat only Indonesian dishes, and not order anything that resembles American, Mexican or Italian. I know I can get superb Mexican and Italian food back here at home, but not good
authentic Indonesian cuisine. And so, I Nasi-Goreng'ed myself until I can't look at another plate of Nasi Goreng. Ate Cap Cay (Indonesian chop suey), sate ayam, mie goreng, gado gado, tempe, fried whole fish (mmmm, yum!), banana pancakes, banana fritters,
papaya, mangosteens, pineapple. No Bintang nor Arak for us, since we don't drink. Surprisingly, no Bali Bellies either.

OTHER ACTIVITIES: We spent the 2 full days in Kuta just shopping, eating and lounging around. Glad that we went to Ubud, for we definitely found a different Bali there. More relaxed, exotic, more Bali. The Elephant Temple and Tegalalang rice terraces
were close by that we were able to make side trips on the way to Ubud from Tuban. Beware of the unofficial guides at Goa Gajah (elephant temple). They will start out with a friendly chat and offer to explain some of the stuff in the temple. My husband (as usual)
gladly hooked up with one and followed his lead. I have to follow with our 6-yr old of course, and while at the end of the trail, in the wooded back part of the area, charged us US $5. Not willing to fall prey to this operandi, I said to him that he should have
mentioned this to us before he even started. I gave him 20,000 rph and walked away.

Legong Dance at the Ubud Palace (25,000 per person, free for our 6 yr old). Highly recommended. I sent my husband and daughter to Monkey Forest while I got a massage. I don't like monkeys in the first place so I wasn't really interested anyway (or was it another pathetic
excuse to get away for a massage, hehehe). What does my husband think of the Monkey Forest? He said that if you haven't seen monkeys in person before, it's probably worth it, otherwise, you can miss it. Keep your hands in your pockets at all times, or the monkeys will
do it for you.

DEPARTURE: Departure fee for each and every traveller was 75,000 rupiah. As soon as we exchanged our first US dollars, I immediately stashed 225,000 rph for the 3 of us and stored it with
our passports in the hotel's safe deposit box. At the airport, when I asked my husband to get one of those big luggage carts, he came back with the luggage cart and 2 porters (uniformed, with IDs). I gave my hubby "the look" and
he explained that while he was getting the cart, the porters stopped him and said "no, no , porters only". Anyway, we only had one big piece of luggage and 4 small carry-on size. I knew then my dear husband, unbeknownst to him, was ambushed.
So we went through xray and by the time we made it to the Cathay Pacific ticketing counter, I was not surprised that one of the porters will not leave us and insisted we pay him 1500 rph per piece of luggage. With me blurting out "What! Excuse Me!", my husband
quickly gave 4000 rph to the porter, who immediately left before I could utter another word. I calmed down when my husband put things in perspective when he said, "Hon, it's only 40 cents".

Will I want to go back again? Definitely. There's too much that we didn't get the chance to see nor do. But there are other places in the world to see also, so it might not be as soon as I want it to be.