Going on a vacation is a happy occasion but the happiness index could quickly head south when holiday goers fall prey to crime. Many years back, I had my wallet stolen while in Paris and another time I lost my wallet while shopping in Medan.
The experience was anything but pleasant. It would be a hectic realignment of itinerary and frantic phone calls to settle the serious matter at hand to add to the loss of personal items. This is definitely an unwanted distraction.
But falling prey to some other crimes could be much worse. We are not talking petty crimes like pickpockets or about carelessly leaving our wallet and mobile phone on the table in a café or a restaurant creating our own crime. There are crimes that are so serious that will not only cut short travel plans but terminate them.
We should be conscious of the fact that there are criminal elements every where in the world that specifically target tourists to rob them or even kill them during such attempts. Such calculations should be factored into out travel planning and do proper research about the destination where we wish to visit and the accommodation where we wish to stay.
Recently, a group of female tourists from Taiwan were robbed while they slept in their villa in Pattaya. The news report gave the impression that it might be an insider job. From the way they were checked into their accommodation till the time when they reported their loss to their hotel where help wasn’t given to report the matter to the police, this just doesn’t smell good.
We got up early to have our breakfast as we had an appointment with the health centre for some treatments done. The buns we bought the night before were still very fresh. We had no lack of beverages as the hotel was very generous in providing coffee and teabags for our convenience. After getting breakfast out of the way, we got ourselves ready for our spa treatment booked the night before.
When we reached the health centre next to the swimming pool, the staff were ready. Special detox drinks were offered and some explanations given. We were then ushered into our couple’s room. Wife had a facial while I had a body massage. The treatments were good and we enjoyed some pampering before getting ourselves ready for our flight home later at night. There was also a happy hour 20% discount for treatments done between 9 am and 1 pm. So it was a really good deal. When everything was over, we quickly went back to our room for a quick shower and returned to the hotel restaurant for lunch. This was because the hotel was unable to accommodate our request for late check out. So we had to rush a little that morning. However, the hotel did promise to provide us with a hospitality room for an hour in the late afternoon for us to shower and change before we depart for the airport. Well, this was truly a good gesture and we took the offer.
So lunch was back to the same restaurant but this time we didn’t sit next to the pool with the heat from the high noon sun. We sat in the restaurant and had a quick meal in order not to be too late for checking out of our room.
After lunch we hurried back to our room and packed our bags and went straight to the lobby front desk and we were not late. Well, the bill was under IDR 900,000 for our spa treatments, lunch and dinner where we enjoyed 50% discount for meals as Accor members. Again, this was great as we managed to spend a lot lesser than budgeted and we truly enjoyed this 5 star hotel stay for the night and its premium services. We then left our bags with the hotel and went out for more shopping.
We went back to Kuta Square and walked a little further and before reaching Discovery Mall, we went into those side streets selling clothes, shoes and souvenirs. These shops basically sell pretty much the same stuff in all those streets stores in Bali. We didn’t buy anything but went further down the street towards the beach and there happened to be a procession underway with people in robes and traditional costumes walking along the beach. Balinese are seriously religious and you will often find them performing religious ceremonies quite regularly.
Having nothing much to see after that, we went back to Kuta Square and entered Matahari to park ourselves there for a few hours, shopping in an air-conditioned environment rather than haggle with street vendors. In fact, stuff from Matahari could be a lot cheaper without having to put in effort to bargain over prices, especially with the many special offers during weekends such as buy 1 get 1 free or buy 2 get 1 free and so on. So wife went around looking for stuff and I after walking one round around the store, conveniently located a bench to sit down to fiddle with my phone to pass time.
Time flew quickly and it was time to head back to our hotel to use the hospitality room. We made our way back, and again the sun was hot that day, so we looked forward to a good shower after this yet another shopping mission accomplished. We got our bags from concierge and collected the key to another hotel room and went for a quick shower. Though the room was pretty much the same, the condition of this room was not as good as the one we spent the night before. Nevertheless, it was kind of the hotel to provide us with a room and facility to clean and freshen ourselves before we leave the hotel for the airport. Once done and it was still too early to head for the airport, we returned the key to reception and left our bags with concierge again and went out for dinner.
This time we went next door to Mercure Hotel for dinner to enjoy the 50% discount for Accor members. The restaurant is just a level above the roof top swimming pool and has a commanding view of Kuta beach across the road. With the coming sunset moment, some diners would be reserving a table beside the swimming pool to witness this event and thereafter follow by a candle light dinner. Again we ordered our food and while enjoying our dinner when the food arrived, watched the enchanting moment of the splendid sunset painting the sky with different hues of pink and orange as the sun bowed out into the distant horizon.
With this final meal for our trip done, we went back to our hotel next door to use the washrooms and rested awhile in the huge hotel lobby.
Finally, it was time to go. We collected our bags from concierge and requested the hotel staff to get us a bluebird taxi to the airport. When we reached the entrance, one of the hotel staff offered to send us to the airport with the hotel’s vehicle asking for just IDR 100,000. From experience, we know that taxi fare from Kuta to the airport cost around IDR 70,000. As the hotel was providing a clean and nice SUV, we took up the offer instead of waiting for a bluebird taxi. Though the airport was not far away, with the heavy traffic in Kuta area at night, it took us about 30 minutes to reach the airport.
The new airport was quite busy at night. Since we had already made our online check-in, and with no check-in luggage, we got our boarding pass from the Jetstar counter rather quickly. Unfortunately, airport tax of IDR 200,000 each needed to be paid separately and there was only one queue, so this slowed down passenger flow which otherwise, we could get through to immigration with one lesser hassle. After this came the scanner counter before the immigration counter and all bottled water and empty water bottles would be removed from passengers. Finally, we made it to one the long queues for immigration to process our passports. Eventually, when we were cleared of the entire process, it was a welcome relief where we could be free again to roam the new airport and wait for our flight home. So it would be good to get to the airport early just in case being held up longer than expected during peak hours and having trouble boarding flights to the next destination.
This new airport has many restaurants and shops. However, I didn’t notice any water dispenser and so even bringing empty bottles into the airport would be of no use. We were left with no choice but to purchase overpriced water from one of the shops. The good news is that you may bring the water bought from the airport to board the plane unless you are flying to Australia.
In addition, the airport is very clean with plenty of seats at boarding gates and free wifi works very well. Once getting through immigration, the mood would be very much more relaxed with plenty of space to roam, shops to see and cafes and restaurants for a bite or a meal, unless you are in a rush to catch a flight where the gate is about to close.
By the time we were given green light to board our flight home, we were already half asleep. Getting on board the plane was rather quick, and we were soon ushered into sleep mode. The flight home was uneventful as well. As we were sleeping during flight most of the time, it seemed too quick when we were greeted by the announcement from the pilot for a warm welcome home. Making our way through our familiar Changi airport brought a sense of accomplishment with yet another rejuvenating time chalked up without having to break the bank or tear a hole in our pockets. Will be looking forward to our next trip to central Vietnam in May, planned since September 2014.
By the time we opened our eyes, it was already mid morning. We were too lazy to get up early to go to the beach to catch the sunrise like we did the last time. The sleep was really good and needful to catch up on the broken sleep from the overnight flight the day before.
As we were given two cakes from the hotel, we didn’t have to go out for breakfast. Coffee and tea were available and so we tried to eat as much of the cakes as we could and took it easy for the morning watching TV and getting ready to move to our next hotel in Kuta beach area.
Near noon, we went back to our regular restaurant on the beach for another nice lunch relaxing by the beach. Food was good and the air fresh enjoying every moment watching the world go by on the beach. After lunch, we packed our bags and checked out after 1 pm. Our total bill came up to be under IDR 650,000 for 2 lunches and 1 dinner with 50% discount for Accor AdvantagePlus members, plus a 30 minutes head and shoulder massage, which was pretty good.
The hotel helped us call a bluebird taxi and sent us on our way to our next hotel, The Kuta Beach Heritage Hotel, right in the middle of Kuta beach area. We were really happy with our stay at this Novotel hotel. All the staff had been respectful and friendly, serving guests with a smile.
Soon we got into our taxi and was on our way to town. We reached our hotel in under an hour and cost around IDR 140,000.
The Kuta Beach Heritage Hotel may not look impressive on the outside but once inside the hotel, the feel was totally different; a 5 stars hotel no doubt and service was impeccable. The hotel is strategically surrounded by fast food outlets, shops and major shopping malls within walking distance. Kuta beach is also just right across the road.
Service from front desk staff were efficient and professional. Refreshing cold drinks and cold towels were provided without being asked. Check in took less than ten minutes and we were on our way to our room.
The room was equally impressive, clean and bright, with a huge bed that could probably sleep even four persons. There is a small balcony overlooking into the carpark of another hotel beside our hotel. With our room in tip top condition and with nothing more to request from housekeeping, we made our way to our shopping mission.
After exiting the hotel, we turned left and Mercure Hotel was next door and not far ahead was the famous Hard Rock Café Hotel. Following the road up turning left and crossing over the other side of the road, we soon reached Kuta Square in around 5 minutes. We did not linger over here as our first destination was another 5 minutes walk up the road to Discovery Mall. It was quite a hot day so we quickly entered Sogo once we reached Discovery Mall for some air-conditioning we badly needed. By the way, the water theme park is right across the road from Discovery Mall.
Wife went shopping for stuff and I browsed around near the sports section. Managed to buy another pair of Addidas court shoes for our daughter which was on offer around IDR 250,000. After an hour of shopping in Sogo, we left and explored the huge mall and bought more sports stuff from Sports Station above Sogo. Soon we were done with Discovery Mall and we headed back to Kuta Square to shop at Matahari.
We spent quite some time there and my wife continued with her shopping. As I didn’t have anything else to look at, I parked myself in one of the benches to wait for my wife to finish her shopping for stuff for herself and our girls. By the time we left Matahari, it was already close to 5 pm. So we went back to the hotel to rest awhile and enjoy our nice and comfy room.
When we arrived at the hotel, we headed first into circle K mini mart right below the hotel entrance to buy more bottled water before going to our room. It was a welcome relief to be back to our room after a tiring day of shopping and exposing ourselves to the scourging heat from the afternoon sun. It was good to stretch out on our huge, firm and comfortable bed to watch TV for a short while.
Evening came so quickly and we were on our out for dinner. We went to the top floor restaurant for dinner as Accor members enjoy 50% discount dining for two. The hotel was serving BBQ buffet dinner but we didn’t like seafood so we ordered from the a la carte menu.
We were sitting near the infinity pool overlooking Kuta beach watching the setting sun in the far horizon and enjoying the gentle sea breeze of the evening. Food and drinks were really great after a hot day. There was also happy hours discount for their signature drinks in the evening. So we took our time to unwind enjoying our dinner and watched Kuta area light up.
After dinner, it was time to venture out again for some night scene. We left the hotel, turned right this time and walked about 5 minutes to visit Beachwalk Shopping Mall. The mall was beautifully lighted up at night with many restaurants and the usual high end branded shops, a very comfortable place to roam and spend time in the cool of the evening. We just did some window shopping and look around for interesting stuff.
Before going back to our hotel, we stopped by a bakery to buy some buns for our next day’s breakfast. We didn’t not intend to have buffet breakfast as we had already booked our spa treatment in the morning and didn’t wish to go with a bloated stomach. It started to drizzle a little as we walked back and soon we were back to our hotel.
Before going to our room, we went back to the roof top pool side lounge for our welcome drinks for Accor members. Cocktail drinks could be without alcohol upon request. Soon our alcohol free drinks arrived. While resting our tired legs, sipping refreshing cocktails over a star-lit swimming pool was another little indulgence for this part of our rejuvenating break.
Finally we made it back to our luxurious room. So it was time to slack out on bed and watch TV again with more than 60 channels to explore. Really loved our comfy bed with plenty of space for the two of us between the clean white sheets and two pillows each. Nothing beat stretching ourselves on bed after a tiring day and looking forward to another day of fun as we slumbered into dreamland as the night got older.
This was our first break of the year 2015. Jetstar was having an offer not to be missed in January. So wife and I decided to take a break and booked return tickets to Bali at S$91 per person plus airport tax in Indonesia at IDR 200,000, about S$21, for a short 2 nights stay in March over a weekend.
Departure flight was 2.30 am and arrival at Bali was 5.20 am. Return flight was 10.45 pm on a Saturday night and arriving Changi airport at 1.20 am Sunday. This allowed us to take advantage of 3 full days in Bali.
As Accor AdvantagePlus members, we usually book hotels from the Accor group of hotels during special offer. For the first night, we booked Novotel Hotel at Benoa, which is a beach front resort. The hotel for second night was Kuta Heritage Hotel strategically located at Kuta beach area convenient for shopping before returning home. Cost for a night stay at each of these 4 and 5 stars hotel was around S$75 each during a 50% sale.
Day 1 – Singapore to Bali Nusa Dua
Since this was just another short trip, we travelled light and took it easy with no check-in luggage. Had supper at Terminal 3 food court before heading to board our flight for Bali shortly after midnight. Early morning flight to Bali was uneventful and managed to catch some sleep.
Arriving in Bali after 5 am was not too crowded with passengers during such early morning. We didn’t take long to clear immigration and soon exited departure gate. Turning left just before entering the small duty free shop, there is a taxi counter on the right of the entrance. There should be a sign board indicating the cost for taxi fare to different locations. Unfortunately, it was not there when we arrived. So tired visitors approached the counter and took whatever prices they offered.
By the time we asked about the cost for Tanjung Benoa, we were quoted US$30 which was ridiculous. They then offered IDR 300,000 after we rejected the offer. We likewise turned down the offer and left. We had visited Bali a few times and remembered the cost for a cab to our hotel in Benoa was only around IDR 150,000. We reckoned they were trying to take advantage of tired tourists arriving early morning.
So we went into the duty free shop but didn’t find anything worth buying. After exiting the shop, there were touts offering to take us to our destination which we turned down. After buying a big bottle of mineral water at one of the convenience stores, we sat on a bench to rest and wait for daylight. Another tout came along and asked about our plans and we told him we did not require his service. Instead of leaving us, he sat beside to us to wait for us to proceed to out next destination.
We gave up and entered a café to have breakfast and he still sat outside waiting for us which was really annoying. Anyway, we took our time for breakfast and enjoyed using our phones with free wifi to check up on news and other stuff. It was too early to check into our hotel and so we were in no hurry to take up any offer from those touts hanging around the airport.
When it was about 7.30 am, we left the café and went through the duty free shop and approach the taxi counter again. This time, a board was put up to show the taxi fares for different destinations. We got our taxi driver and the taxi fare was IDR 175,000.
On the way, the taxi driver asked whether we preferred to take the toll road which cost another, I believed, IDR 10,000 which might cut travelling time by perhaps 10 minutes. I declined as the morning traffic was light and furthermore we were too early to check into our hotel anyway, so we would rather take our time for the journey. Finally after about 45 minutes, we arrived at our familiar resort which we had stayed previously.
The staff were still as friendly and helpful. Refreshing drinks and cold towels were given while we sat and waited for check in procedures to take its course. Pleasantly surprised, our room was ready and we were allowed to check in barely 9 am. Initially we thought we might have to hang around somewhere in the resort or head to the beach to chill out while waiting for our room. We went to our room across the road at the garden’s wing which was quieter and also cheaper.
It was great indeed and after checking everything was in order, we head straight to bed to catch a few more hours of sleep.
After the short nap, we went to our favorite beachfront restaurant across the street for lunch. It was sunny but windy and indeed a refreshing site for a relaxing meal. Wait staff were all friendly and helpful and soon our food arrived.
We took our time to soak in the atmosphere and inhaled the fresh air carried by the gentle sea breeze as we enjoyed our lunch watching the activities on the beach. Though the condition of the beach was no longer as good as it used to be, it was nevertheless still a peaceful and relaxing place to spend time watching the world go by.
The hotel had a free activity to bring hotel guests for an excursion to a turtle farm in the afternoon. So after lunch, we went back to our room to get ready.
Before we went out for the excursion, we took up the Jetlag treatment offered by the hotel at IDR 99,000 for a 30 minutes neck and shoulder massage to get us into shape for the 2 hours event.
The massage was really good and it was a good way to release tensions built up in our muscles during the overnight flight to Bali. After the treatment, we were given ginger tea which fired us up.
Still early, we then took a leisurely walk around the hotel ground and the beach to wait for the turtle farm tour.
At 3.30 pm, we gathered at the hotel lobby and waited for the staff to bring us to the turtle farm. It happened that there was just another family of four with 2 little children going for the excursion. So there were only 7 persons in the group including the hotel staff who was a great guy to lead us for the activity.
Along the way, we encountered cats and dogs and even cows as we walked through the rural area to reach the turtle farm.
Unfortunately, the little girl was afraid of dogs and so the hotel staff carried her part of the journey as her dad was already carrying her little brother. It was an arduous 40 minutes walk under the hot afternoon sun and we finally arrived at the farm.
There are three turtle farms in the area and this activity is actually called turtle island tour. A few years back when we stayed at this Novotel resort, we did not walk to the farm. We took a boat ride from the beach to reach there.
Nothing much had changed as we recalled our previous visit few years back. There are turtles and even other animals on the farm to keep visitors happy for a closer encounter with the animals. These farms are actually rescue centres to raise the turtles and release them back into the sea when they are ready.
Besides turtles, there is also a huge python where visitors can handle and take pictures with. Another star attraction is an eagle for picture moments with visitors where this eagle will perch on one’s hands or shoulder.
After the visit, we took the same route back to the hotel. By then, we were quite exhausted and completely drenched. So that was a good time to go for a swim in one of the three pools at the resort. Just couldn’t describe the joy of floating and drifting on the sparkling water accompanied by the gentle caress of the ocean breeze.
There was one more thing we intended to do on the first day, which was to visit Bali Collection, a shopping and dinning complex in Nusa Dua nearby. So we went back to the beach front restaurant for a quick meal in order not to miss the shuttle bus.
The meal was still as enjoyable as our lunch though there was no sunset to catch this side of Bali. After dinner, we went to the lobby lounge to have our welcome drinks, which we could select from a range of drinks on a menu. Wife and I ordered different types of coffee and then got ready to head out for some evening shopping.
Novotel Hotel is located at the tail end of Tanjung Benoa. So when the mini bus arrived, it was empty and only 4 of us from Novotel boarded the bus. By the time the bus made its way to other hotels along the way, it was quickly filled. The journey to Bali Collection took about 20 minutes and soon we arrived and made our way into the complex.
Security was tight to ensure visitors had a safe and pleasant time dinning and shopping. Bali collection looks better at night when it is lit up. The ambience is much better and much cooler in the evening.
There are many restaurants fighting for tourists’ dollars and most have live entertainment to lure in diners. Some even offer free ride back to their hotels in the vicinity.
Shops sell mostly branded stuff so things are not cheap here. We had been here several times and we knew what we were looking for and so we went straight to Sogo to look at sports shoes and bags where they usually had special offer for sports products. While we were choosing different shoes, we took pictures of the various pairs of shoes and bags on offer and sent the pictures to my son back home using wifi from Starbucks located in the same building in Sogo for him to decide which to buy. We managed to buy a pair of Adidas X-trainer and a Converse bag for our youngest son for his school use at less than IDR 500,000 for both when there was a discount of over 50%.
Happy with our shopping, we went to Gate C outside Sogo to wait for out shuttle bus before 10 pm, which was the last bus for the day. The bus was already there and it started to drizzle so we went up the bus to wait. Soon, the bus was packed. Fortunately, it was not pouring when we reached our hotel.
When we went back to our room, we were surprised to find some chocolates and flowers on the bed for us from the hotel. There were also 2 cakes on the table, one for me as Accor member and one for my wife’s birthday on that day. The hotel was indeed thoughtful and went out of the way to please repeat visitors, especially Accor members. We were also offered late check out the next day till 5 pm.
Anyway, we had already booked another hotel at Kuta area for the next day for more shopping and so we wouldn’t be staying till 5 pm the following day. After the activities packed day, it was time to switch off and conserve energy for the next two days of fun. The bed was so comfortable and in no time we were gone into the our snoozed world of bliss.