August 9, 2010

Family Vacation - I found Bali better than Phuket

I have been telling all my friends that I liked my 7 night vacation in Bali a lot. I liked it better than Phuket. Though I wont say I liked it more than Maldives trip as I guess Maldives was my first vacation with my wife.

Now though some of my friends and colleagues have asked me what you liked so much in Bali and why it's better than Phuket. I have replied them what ever came to my mind then. Now It's almost a month so if I still feel Bali is better than Phuket for a family vacation then I guess I have been right and it's not the infatuation(If I may use the word) with Bali. Let me try to put down things that we liked so much in Bali.

[1] To start with the weather. I was there in July end and it was quite hot here in Singapore with frequent bouts of showers. During the day in between the showers sun is scorching the earth.. In Singapore it's more of tar road and the high rise building around it. Though I know most of us are in our dingy cubicle with a/c on so don't feel this but on few days like week-ends and if you move out and cross some open area for lunch outings in between office then you will agree. I was expecting something similar over there in Bali. After all it's just about 2 hours of flying from Singapore to Bali. Both are islands in with some other small islands which seems like a walking/swimming distance when viewed from airplane window. But when we landed in Bali in early evening that was not to be, weather was nice, pleasant, cool bridge. In the back of my mind I felt I guess that's so because it's evening time and it could have rained early on. Tomorrow would a hot day as it's in this part of the world. But this tomorrow never came and we were back to Singapore. Then just a day before leaving for Singapore I asked one of the local on the beach - Is this how the weather is over here in Bali most of the times. He told me more or less YES but some times it's hotter. May be I was lucky to have booked the holiday in right season then. But then I came on and did some googling and found indeed Bali enjoys similar weather in terms on temperature round the year. Check this simple non technical link which captures the temperature, rain, humidity and sunshine - things that makes a place weather wonderful or awful !!

[2] Next would be people. Other natural or even man made wonders will follow but I feel local population, their attitude towards tourists and towards each other make a difference. Local population is mostly Hindu but then it's a bit different form of Hinduism then what you will see in the land where most of Hindus in the world reside. I guess Hinduism must have taken shape as well in India, Nepal and I guess to some extent even Srilanka/Myanmar and what's Pakistan and Afghanistan today. Sadly today Af-Pak region is known in the world for radical Muslims instead of being associated with moderate Hinduism. Anyways for that matter even some view Indonesia[Bali is part of] also in similar light. However local population their eschew radicalism and hate it as it has hit their bread & butter twice. If you all remember Bali have been bombed twice in past as this heavenly island is frequented by tourists which doesn't go down well with radical thinking.
People are very welcoming and soft spoken. Not just soft spoken but even their behavior and action reflects this flexibility and accommodating nature of the local society. I guess LA too has great weather but I wont the Yankees good set of accommodating and soft spoken people. Taxi drivers, Local souvenir shop-keepers, Staffs working at eateries and restaurants, Beauticians and masseurs at Spas and Massage parlors, all are very warm and nice people. You will love to frequent their outlets.

[3] Next would be the beaches and glorious sea-views, Volcanoes, Serpentine Hills, Lakes the top of the hill, Lakes beside the Volcano, Sea facing cliffs, Sun-sets from the cliff top into the wavy sea, Temples on the those cliffs, Temples in the sea, Temples inside the lakes, Dinner on the beach. These are things I enjoyed over there during my stay. I know there are host of similar stuffs that I didn't try. Like what every beach vacation spot offers - all kind of sea sports. But above stuffs that I mentioned was amazing. I loved being at those places.
In fact there are numerous beaches in Bali which are just great. Sea surfers love coming to Bali for sea surfing. you will find people of all ages rushing with surfing boards on bikes, motor-bikes, cars etc... Two beaches I liked most are :- Beach in Nusa Dua - Opposite to Bali Connection. This is a rocky beach - Water moves about 200/300 meter depending upon whether it's low tide or high tide. Good thing is that it's smell rotten when water retreats like beaches in Singapore. Go to any of the beaches in Singapore including Sentosa and it smells awful when water is receding. At Nusa Dua beach you can start seeing lot of small creatures coming out and moving into the clean rocks exposed by receding water. You will start seeing people trying to catch them for food in poodles of water left behind. You will love to see how slowly the water is moving forward to drown the rocks with incoming wave or going back depending upon at what time you have arrived. 2nd beach I liked most is named Dreamland beach. It really felt like a dream land. Just one big wave with blue-green water and then you are in relatively calmer seas. Full white sandy beach - with cliffs on both side protecting/marking the beach. Sea curves and you can see the houses perched on the hills as if any objects falling from the house will definitely hit the waves in the sea. I don't like entering into salty sea water - I hate the itchy feeling because of salty water. But this view soul satisfying. In fact I started looking and thinking is there a possibility that I can own a house on the hills facing the beach. Though when I researched that Indonesian law doesn't allow foreigners to buy landed property, at best you can lease property over there.
First time view of Volcano was great. Technically it's an active Volcano but it hasn't been smoking for last 5+ years. Last time it spewed ash and lava was about 70 years back. Still from the near by hill when you see it - you can see all the black lava around from the crater. Chilly wind hitting you as it's on top of a hill about 2 hours drive from Nusa-Dua/Jimberan area where most of the tourists prefer to stay. There is a lake beside the volcano. If you are not there at right time then you can't get a good view of the volcano as the cloud covers the crest. Lunch is a definite there facing the volcano. There are 2/3 good restaurants facing the volcano.
When you are standing on the cliff facing the sea and warm, moist, humid air hitting your body. It's a amazing feeling. Sun setting down.. Sky looks reddish, water ahead down looks greyish black, water immediately below looks greenish and bluish depending upon the rock structure below. It takes some courage to look immediately below because of the height of the cliff you are on. Especially if you are a Hindu and them you would have come out of the ancient temple on the cliff hanging into the sea, you feel the nature's motherly nature and beauty of the nature's creation. You can feel the might of nature. There is a local dance program there on the cliff. Whole package and combination makes it just fascinating and gets entrenched in your memory. You feel so satisfying on your journey back to the hotel from this place. It's like a feeling that entire Bali trip was worth it just because of this sight seeing visit.
Not to forget dinner on the Jimberan beach. There are number of restaurants lined upon the beach. Ambiance is still totally non-commercial. Normally at such a place you see restaurants folks trying to get customers. Here it's nothing like that. You just walk over into one of them and it's you will not sit in the rooms but on the open sandy beach. There is very limited lighting along the beach. Most bright thing would be the stage where some local dance and music would be ongoing. You can sip your drink along with it take in some local culture music also be sinking in to you. After the dance you will prefer to turn 180 and face the sea instead. Lot of colorful flickering lights in the sea as I guess many night fishing and boat dinner programs are organized for the tourists. Near by you can see waves crashing on the shores and breaking into white lathers out of otherwise darkness in the sea. This dinner is like more for thirsty soul than for the body. And so it really didn't matter if I was vegetarian sitting in restaurants famous worldwide for gourmet seafood.

Coming to my Phuket trip which was more than a year back in May of 2009. Phuket has all of this minus the temples, sea facing cliffs and Volcanos. Phuket has hills too but not as elegant as you see in Bali with step framing being practiced. There too sea is great for surfing. In fact it know as a little more notorious and so surfing should done by experts mostly. Hills are there too - I remember the view from the hill. It's still very clear in my mind. I was biking towards Potong beach from Mai Khao where I was putting up at Mariotts. From one location very close to Potong beach, view is awsome. Clouds on the one side and greenish sea on the other end. Potong beach has it's own commercial sporty business charm but Dreamland beach in Bali makes you feel majestic. I guess two things unique to Phuket and can't be found in Bali would be :-
[1] Dance by Elephants. Full one hour program with dinner being served.
[2] Caves and lagoon in the sea. This was a nice exp for me and my kids. Specially towards the end in the evening you can see in the Andaman sea light flashes in water if you splash. I think this is unique to Andaman sea in Asia.

I am going for my next Bali trip again next year I guess. And may be Phuket too as it's a nice expensive spot but costs just a dime for me.

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