My Bali Trip Part 2 – Ubud Day Trip 1

Upon checking into IZE Seminyak Hotel as featured in part 1, Mrs SOL and I decided to look for a tour to visit nearby town, Ubud, for our day 2 in Bali.

Why Ubud?

Ubud, pronounced as ‘Woo Boot’,  unlike Seminyak and Kuta area, where they have pretty much urbanised to attract tourist, Ubud stays pretty much the same, offering its original Balinese taste. It is well known for its art and culture in where, you can find things like Batik painting, silver/ gold jewellery making and stone craving.

One of Eat Pray Love scene taken in one of the traditional market in Ubud

One of Eat Pray Love scene taken in one of the traditional market in Ubud

If you have watched Eat Pray Love, a film adaptation from the novel written by Elizabeth Gilbert, you will have a sneak peek on the beauty of Ubud. Eat Pray Love featured Julie Roberts ended up in Bali seeking a balance from meals, prayer and love.  In the story, the cultural and spiritual atmosphere in Ubud allowed the protagonist  in attaining a new peace in her heart.

Package Tour Selection 

We decided to engage a driver for a day externally rather than from IZE Seminyak hotel as the price difference is huge! A day tour to Ubud cost us USD$30 per day (12 hours) versus a USD$80 (10 hours).  I will provide the details of my driver below if you wish to engage his service. Overall, we felt that he is a nice and responsible driver.

When planning for a one-day trip to Ubud, try to set off early. A good time to start the day trip will be at 8 am.

1. Batik Painting Exhibits and Shop 

As mentioned in Part 1, Bali’s traffic condition is really bad. It took us a painful 2 hours ride to reach our first stop! We were relieved as it gives us a temporary respite from the slow moving traffic.

Ok, let’s start talking about my first stop. It was a visit to a batik shop named Sari Amerta. First, we entered a pavilion, which they showcase some tools that are used in batik processing. We were approached by a shop attendant, and she roughly introduced to us the process.

Batik Process

The process of Batik processing

Stamps for Batik Stamping

Stamps for Batik Stamping

Sewing lady at work

Sewing lady at work

Touching up on the outline

Touching up on the outline

The highlight of this place is not on the exhibits.  Very little time was spent on explaining batik painting as they were eagerly waiting for us to spend in their shop which carries a wide range of batik painted items such as scarf, shirt, blouse and etc.

The shop that carries a comprehensive batik products.

The shop that carries a comprehensive batik products.

Overall, I felt that this place operates more like a shop than for educational purposes. Although a visit to this place will give you a general idea on batik processing, but you can give this place a miss unless you are really looking for batik painted stuffs.

2. Batuan Temple

Our next stop is to visit the Batuan Temple located in the middle of Batuan village, along the main road to Ubud.

Batuan Temple

Batuan Temple. The two long pillar represent a split gate named Candi Bentar

Batuan Temple is a beauty to look at. With traditional Balinese architecture and ornaments around the temple, it provides tourist a true Balinese feel. Balinese temple is also known as Pura, is the place of worship for  the followers of Balinese Hinduism.

From our driver, we get to know that majority of Bali people is Hinduism. This actually comes to me as a surprise as I thought like most of Muslim-majority Indonesian, they should be having Islam as their religion. Instead, I learned that about 83.5% of Bali’s population follows Balinese Hinduism

They are very religious people, and will give their offering to their god twice a day (day and evening) in the form of a squarish box. Not only that, our driver joked that every house is like a temple, as in every house there will be an altar that they will pray to every day.

Prayer Offering

Prayer Offering – members.virtualtourist.com

Once arrived at temple parking area, you will find yourself in an ancient building called Wantilan. It looks like an open hall  which villagers use it for learning any Balinese dances.  It is in this same hall that you will be wrapped up with ‘kamben’ (a traditional Balinese costume) with assistance from the locals before you are allowed to enter the temple. It is a must for you to wear ‘Balinese kamben’ to show your respect. To my fellow Singaporean readers, I would like to say it resembles a Sarong.

The admission is free. However, the local people will expect you to make a donation of any amount of your own wish to support the maintenance of the temple. There is a simple donation box provided for you to put in your donation followed by a book that you have to write your name and amount donated for recording purposes.

Mrs SOL making her donation

Mrs SOL giving her donation

Batuan Temple like most temples in Bali are divided into various zones which are Nista Mandala (outer zone), Madya Mandala (Middle Zone) and Utama Mandala (the holy zone).

After crossing the road, enter the temple via the Candi Bentar, you will reach the first zone of the temple known as Nista Mandala aka the outer zone. This zone presents you an open field which can be used for religious dance performances, and provides additional space for preparations during religious festivals.

In this same zone, you will also find a high entrance Balinese Gate called the Kori Agung, which is flanked by the many guardian statues that give the gate its unique structure. The Kori Agung symbolised the gateway which is the exit and entry for the gods. Besides the Kori Agung, there will be two small doors for temples visitors to enter and exit to the temple’s Madya Mandalya aka middle zone.

With our Sarong

Picture taken with our ‘Kamben’ in the entrance area

Batuan temple’s Madya Mandala is spaciously designed. This second zone holds the facilities of the temples which you will get to see many small pavilions erected for various purposes such as meeting, performance and etc.

Mrs SOL managed to get her hands-on practice on Gangsa, a type of Balinese musical instrument, housed in one of the pavilions.

Hands-On session with Balinese traditional musical instrument - Gangsa

Hands-On session with Balinese traditional musical instrument – Gangsa

In the third zone, Utama Mandala, is the holiest zone in the temple.  In there, there is a building called Padmasana which is a place of worship to Sang Hyang Widhi aka Acintya, the only one Bali Hindu’s God. Our visit time coincided with their offering time as we got to witness villagers doing their round of offering around the area.

Villagers taking care of the temple, carrying offerings on top of their heads

Villagers taking care of the temple, carrying offerings on top of their heads

Mrs SOL and I were given the opportunity to give our offering too. By following the instruction closely by the the local villagers, we were told that we could ask for a long lasting blissful marriage. 🙂

Giving our offering

Giving our offering

In conclusion, we felt that Batuan Temple is definitely worth a visit. For your visit to Ubud, I strongly recommend that you put it as one of the items in your itinerary.

3. Lumbung Sari – Coffee Plantation

After temple visiting, we were brought to a coffee plantation named Lumbung Sari, famous for its production of Luwak coffee.

Lumbung Seri Coffee Plantation

Lumbung Seri Coffee Plantation

The famous Luwak coffee or civet coffee, refers to coffee made from the seeds of coffee berries that prior been eaten and then defecated by the Asian Palm Civet. Luwak coffee is said to be premium coffee due its unique processing method.

Firstly, the civet being selective in their diet, they will only consumed the better coffee berries. This is followed by passing through its digestive system  which aids in improving the flavor. Finally, the beans are then excreted out of its body through defecation.

The coffee berries

The coffee berries

The coffee beans that were defecated out by civet. Call it a Poo Poo Coffee -.-

The coffee beans that were defecated out by civet. Call it a Poo Poo Coffee -.-

After proper treatment and washing, the beans are ready to be roasted

After proper treatment and washing, the beans are ready to be roasted

Roasting Coffee

Roasting the Luwak Coffee

Although I would say this place is like another “tourist trap” just like the batik processing shop we visited earlier, but the experience we had is unlike the previous as we really did enjoy ourselves. The tour guide was very informative in his explanation by  giving a comprehensive overview of the Luwak Coffee and the other kind of plants they grow in their plantation.

Cinnamon Leaves

Cinnamon Leaves – We were told that the use the bark of the cinnamon tree as a stirrer for their luwak coffee to enhance the taste

Cocoa Plant

Cocoa Plant

I think the highlight is that we get to see a live Luwak. I don’t remember spotting one in the Singapore Zoo.  It is quite an active cat and it makes the photographing of it a challenging task. After numerous NGs, the best picture I taken is shown below.

Live Luwak

Luwak aka Asian Palm Civet

After a tour around the plantation, we were treated for free tea and coffee tasting session. In addition, we  also opt to purchase a cup of Luwak coffee for Rp. 50,000 (~SGD5) to experience the taste. Do note that this purchase is optional, which means even without any purchase, you still can get to taste the other teas and coffees for free.

The Teas and Coffees that we had tasted

The Teas and Coffees that we had tasted

Free Tasting

Free Tasting of teas and coffees with a cup of Luwak Coffee

In conclusion, this place is worth a visit. Although Mrs SOL and I are not a big fan of coffee and tea, we still enjoyed the informative tour pretty much. Learning is always fun, isn’t it?

Let’s take a break…

Ok, I guess this part is getting a bit lengthy, and I have decided to break it into 2 parts.

So dear readers, if you have enjoyed what you read, please do stay tuned for the next update which I will share with you our delicious lunch at Sawah Indah followed by a visit to the Monkey Forest and lastly the beautiful sunset that we witness at Tanah Lot temple.

For ubud day trip 2 click here.

Cheers~

My Bali Trip 2014 Part 1 – Arrival and Review on IZE Seminyak Hotel

Hello Readers!

I am just back from my virgin trip to Bali!

From our friends, Mrs SOL and I have heard good review about the beautiful beaches, resorts and even food that Bali has to offer. Therefore, we have been so looking forward to this trip since the day we booked our air tickets online.

Beautiful Sunset of Bali

Beautiful Sunset of Bali

Batam or Bali?

Bali indeed is a beautiful island and a beach-lover paradise. If you were to ask me to compare Bali to Batam based on my own experience, I would say Bali is more commercialised and touristy whereas Batam is more laid back and simple. To put it simply, I would like to put it this way:

1. Batam – Ideal for a short getaway. Family and friends’ retreat. Price is reasonable.

2. Bali – A comprehensive holiday (4 to 7 days), Honeymoon, graduation trips etc. Prices are expensive.

We love Bali!

Ok let’s go back to Bali. Although it is an island, but it is much larger than you can imagine.

Among Singaporeans and beach lovers, the popular spots will be Seminyak and Nusa Dua. Both areas can offer you a beautiful beach with famous resorts that you can sojourn in.

As for the rest not to worry,  you can find yourself immerse in Balinese arts and culture in Ubud. For scenic seeker, you can visit Tanan Lot and Desa Candikuning.

Arrival in Ngurah Rai Airport

Frankly speaking, initially, I did not expect much for an Indonesia’s airport. However,  Nguarah Rai international airport changed this impression of mine, and I must comment that I was quite impressed with the layout of the airport and how it can provide a comfortable experience for the tourist despite much of the place is still having work in progress. I believe once they get the airport to be fully renovated, it will be able to provide tourists a greater premium feel, by having more shops and facilities opened for everyone.

I would like to advise all readers who are planning to visit Bali especially on a free and easy trip, to get a prepaid card in the airport. Once you have done with the passport and luggage check, you will walk to the arrival hall where you will see local drivers holding cards with names on it, seeking for their guest.  At this hall, spot for a small counter located on the right just before you enter the DFS shopping. They are selling the card for Rup. 200,000 and this gives you 3.5 gb of data and 95,000 worth of calling credits.

The prepaid card that you should get when you are at the arrival hall

The prepaid card that you should get when you are at the arrival hall

You will find this card useful when you are trying to navigate your way, looking for any place of interest nearby. You will also find it handy when you need to call your driver/ tour agency to book a tour, etc. and yet not incurring a large amount of roaming calls charges.

IZE Seminyak Hotel

Traffic condition in Bali is quite bad. Somehow it will make you appreciate the COE bidding system in Singapore. The travelling speed can ranges from moving very slowly to not moving for a couple of minutes now and then. Seldom, you can drive more than 70km/hr especially during the narrow roads in Seminyak area.

Because of the traffic condition, the journey took us 1 hour to reach IZE Seminyak hotel from the airport, which according to Google map, it is 12 km apart, supposedly estimated to be just a 15 minutes drive.

It was quite a pain for both of us to endure the jerky ride.  The good thing was that we were greeted by the friendly staff of IZE Seminyak when we arrived.

It is only at night that I could manage to take an overall picture w/o the busy traffic blocking

It was only at night that I could manage to take an overall picture of the hotel w/o the busy traffic blocking

1. Location

IZE Seminyak markets itself as a chic and modern hotel, located strategically in the action of all the happening pubs and restaurants, and also in the heart of the lively and fashionable street of Seminyak. Indeed, they lived up to their promise, the location of this hotel is fantastic. Once you exit from the hotel, you will find yourself surrounded by restaurants and retail stores.

The street where the hotel is located in. To be precise it is call Jalan Kayu Aya

The street where the hotel is located in. To be precise it is call Jalan Kayu Aya

2. Room

The room we booked was the simplest – deluxe room. There are various other options that you can choose from such as a deluxe room with Jacuzzi, deluxe room pool (come with a separate swimming pool exclusive to all deluxe pool guest), club room and club suite.

For our stay, Mrs SOL and I had decided that a deluxe room will be sufficient as we will be spending most of our time outdoors. Therefore, we just need a comfy room for us to lodge in, to retire after each eventful day will be sufficed. Furthermore, we booked another accommodation for our second last day in Bali (which I will do a review with later subsequent post too~), which cost a bit higher than IZE Seminyak for its more resort setting (near to the beach, secluded and peaceful).

40 Square Meter Room

40 Square Meter Room. I like the day bed!

Room 2

The bathroom is well equipped, clean and not too cramp

3. Facilities

Although being a relatively small hotel compare to those villas and resorts, it still has the necessary facilities cater to the general tourist which are Gym, Restaurant and a rooftop pool. What I felt IZE Seminyak is lacking is a spa salon although they do provide a free transport service to their sister hotel, The Amala, for spa treatments and related services.

Rooftop Swimming Pool

Rooftop Swimming Pool

The pool exclusively for deluxe room and gym on the right

The pool exclusively for deluxe room and gym on the bottom right

4. Breakfast

Breakfast is something I felt IZE Seminyak could do better. Although they do provide limited selection of variety each day (on their buffet section offers local delights, breads and fruits), but your main dish (which you have to order with the staff on duty) remain the same for the 3 days that we stayed in there.

The restaurant named Meja

The restaurant named Meja

Breads and Fruits Corner

Breads and Fruits Corner

Cakes

Cakes

Breakfast Menu - It stays the same for our 4 days of stay.

Breakfast Menu – It stays the same for our 4 days of stay.

Conclusion

I would recommend IZE Seminyak if you decided to plan an economical trip. A deluxe room would probably cost you around SGD$130 per night, including breakfast and tax. This will save you quite a bit for your shopping, spa and massage expenses. It is situated in an ideal location, surrounded by retail shops and F&Bs.

However, do take note on the trade off for being surrounded by pubs.  In the night, it will get a bit noisy (or happening if you like it) on the streets, which in your room you still can hear people singing and cars moving. The party can possible last till 1am! So if you are a light sleeper or you are a person who dislikes disturbance while you rest, you should really reconsider your choice.

Other than that, IZE Seminyak is definitely a good choice for the party lover, shopping addicts and beach lovers (15 min walk to the Seminyak beach).

That’s all for part 1. Do stay tuned for part 2 in which I will share about our one day trip to Ubud. 🙂

Cheers~

Stay with IZE

Stay with IZE

Details

IZE Seminyak Hotel

Jalan Kayu Aya (Laksmana – Oberoi) No. 68
Seminyak, Bali – Indonesia

VIEW THE MAP

Tel: +62-361 84 66 999
Fax: +62-361 84 66 988

Email: bliss@ize-seminyak.com
Website: www.ize-seminyak.com

Revamp to Bus Services in Singapore

Bus

There will be a revamp to our bus services in Singapore. Investors of SMRT, SBSTransit and Comfort Delgro look out!

Few weeks ago, The Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced a change to our public bus sector. This change refers to the government will own the buses, as well as the infrastructure such as depots. This kind of system is not novel. It has been successfully implemented in countries such as London and Australia.

Under this new system, the government will collect fares, and pay the operators for providing the service. LTA will contract out 9 packages from 2016 to 2022 which seeks to issue tender for operators to provide bus service and maintenance if awarded the contract. The tenure will operate for a period of 5 years, with the possibility of a 2-year extension after which the road package will be put up for new tender. Under this new system, the government will collect fares, and pay the operators for providing the service.

Commuters will stands to benefit from this scheme

This change is aimed to improve our current bus service standard. The government will set a new standard and determine the routes.  One of the benefits for commuters is that the new standard aim to achieve greater efficiency by reducing the waiting time to be less than 10 minutes for at least 50% of bus services. Not bad.. but I wished it can be 100% instead. =P

New entrants are expected, and this will inject competition into the bus service sector. Therefore, by having healthy competition, the incumbent operators will be motivated to strive harder,  so to secure a tender renewal.

Why it might be beneficial to current public transport service companies?

Private operators will be on asset light operation model where they don’t have to worry about managing physical assets anymore. If you follow closely on their annual reports, you will have already known that bus operators are making operating loses every year. Using last year figures, SMRT and SBSTransit suffered a loss of $28.4 millions and $14.3 millions respectively.

Under the new model, the government will own all the buses as well as infrastructures such as depots, the bus service operator will be asset-light, taking depreciation off their balance sheet. Currently, SMRT assets are estimated to be at $250 million whereas SBS  Transit valued to be $800 million. Maybank Kim Eng estimates the two operators’ profit next year will rise by 18-22% under this new model, if they retain their current market share.

Is there any downside to the current public transport service companies?

As this whole new system purpose is to inject competition, the possible downside will be a risk of losing market share. With more players entering, the bus service provider will have to buckle up to make sure their service is up to the standard.

Conclusion

No matter is good or bad, commuters will be the winner. We are can expect better service from the providers.

As for investors, is your own call in which operators you think will benefit the most under the new model. Have an understanding on how this new system will affect the company balance sheet and its financial health, before putting your money into buying their shares.

I will be looking forward to this change both as a commuter and an investor.

Cheers~ 🙂