Our flight to Bali was at midday, a bit too late to make the most of any of the standard tours offered around the island, except for the sunset tours that included a seafood dinner at Jimbaran, and I didn’t want to do that because I have an on-off allergy to crustaceans. On the recommendation of Alison and Don of Adventures in Wonderland — who are such great people and who have such immersive travel experiences, I knew I could count on anything they suggest — I got in touch with Mr. Ketut Arta (artaketut[at]hotmail[dot]com) and arranged for him to pick us up at the airport, take us on a brief tour, then drop us off at our homestay in Ubud.
The plan worked out wonderfully. Our first stop was at central Kuta, where we picked up a few supplies.
Tip 1: Seriously, haggling tires me out, but it’s true: offer below half of the first asking price. I got a bag initially priced at IDR 495,000 for IDR 240,000 — and I suspect I paid much more than the lowest, lowest, lowest price the seller would have accepted.
We also stopped by an ATM where I became an instant millionaire.
Tip 2: The Bangko Sentral exchange rate for PHP 1 is IDR 0.0034. In Cebu (at Ayala), I got an exchange rate of 0.0049. Withdrawing cash over the ATM, the exchange rate was 0.00358, and that includes the bank’s service charge. When you travel, tell your bank you’re going out of the country, have them activate your international ATM access, then use the ATM to get local currency. (If that’s not possible, convert your PHP to USD then use the USD to buy local currency. It almost always works out better that way, second to withdrawing from ATMs.)
At my request, we stopped by Padang Padang Beach, a well-known surf spot that became even more famous because of Eat, Pray, Love. I haven’t seen the movie or read the book, but I thought it would be worth a stop, as it was along the way to Uluwatu. From the roadside, we climbed down a narrow staircase under the watchful eyes of a monkey drinking out of a plastic mineral water bottle. We were still in our flying clothes and were severely overdressed but we just had to satisfy our curiosity about the beach. We took a few photos then climbed back up, huffing and puffing a bit (and realizing we made the right choice not to climb Mount Batur in our current state of physical fitness).
Tip 3: If you’re from the Philippines, there’s a very good chance Padang Padang Beach will underwhelm. Not really a must-see unless you’re a surfer or an EPL devotee.
And then: Uluwatu. We paid IDR 20,000 to enter the temple and IDR 100,000 to watch the Kecak Fire Dance. The temple was beautiful and the fire dance was interesting, but what blew me away? The impossibly high cliffs. The endless parade of waves. And the sun, gracefully sinking lower and lower until it disappeared below the darkening horizon.
Tip 4: Uluwatu is best viewed at sunset but if you can’t go there on a sunset, go there whenever you can. The temple, cliffs, and waves are by themselves worth the long drive.
It was a 2-hour drive to Ubud after that, and a valiant fight to stave off sleep, but it was a good day. All throughout the tour, Ketut explained the Balinese Hindu culture and arts to us and answered all of our questions kindly and knowledgeably. When asked, he also gave us great recommendations on where to eat, where to have money exchanged, and what to do in Ubud.
Tip 5: If you’re looking for a guide in Bali, I would wholeheartedly echo Alison and Don’s recommendation of Ketut Arta. (There are many Ketuts in Bali — the explanation of which I accidentally discovered and will share to you later — so make sure it’s Ketut Arta. His email address is above, and his contact number is 08123616274.)
More of Bali in the next few days. xx
“First day in Bali: A personalized Uluwatu tour with Ketut Arta (plus a few tips for anyone traveling to Bali)” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved.