We came home last Wednesday night, safe and sound, from our trip to Bali, Indonesia.
We arrived home tired, suffering from jet lag, deeply tanned and loaded down with souvenirs and memories of our unforgettable visit to the South Pacific.
As you may recall from a recent column, we were scheduled to take a vacation trip to Bali, Indonesia. And, boy oh boy, did we ever do that and then some.
Within a 17 day span, we were in Carson City, Reno, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Singapore, Denpasar, Nusa Dua, Benoa, Jimbaran, Sanur, Kuta, Mengwi, Alas Kedaton, Tanah Lot, Batubulan, Celuk, Mas, Ubud, Tampaksiring, Batur, Kintamani, Besakih and then back in Singapore, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Reno and Carson City. Wow!
Our trip began late on March 13, when we got a ride to the Reno Airport. Then, there was the quick flight from Reno to San Francisco.
At midnight, together with almost 400 other passengers, we boarded a Singapore International Airlines 747 Megatop jet and took off for the South Pacific. I very naively thought that we would fly straight across the Pacific Ocean to Bali.
Wrong! We flew non-stop on a circular flight path for 13.5 hours from San Francisco to Hong Kong. That flight was via Anchorage, the Bering Sea, Siberia, Russia and China. In China, we flew over Shenyang, Beijing and Wuhun.
In Hong Kong, we had a layover and then a two hour flight to Singapore, Malaysia. After a layover in Singapore, we boarded another SIA jet for a 3.5 hour flight over the South China Sea and to the east of Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam to Denpasar, the capitol of Bali.
By the time we finally arrived at the Melia Bali Sol Hotel (a five-star hotel) in Nusa Dua, Bali, we had traveled a total of 33 hours, crossed the International Date Line and our Bali time was 16 hours ahead of Carson City time.
Talk about being numb with fatigue and time changes.
Bali is a totally different world that has to be experienced to be appreciated.
It is a gorgeous, lush, tropical, volcanic island, one of almost 13,000 in Indonesia, eight degrees south of the equator.
The temperature was about 90 degrees in the daytime and about 75 at night. The weather was warm and humid with an occasional rain, heavy at times.
Bali has a population of more than three million people, with the predominate faith being Hindu, distantly followed by Muslim.
According to that Hindu faith, April 4 is a "quiet day," one of Bali's holiest days of the year. On that day, Hindus do not travel, stay indoors, do not eat, do not turn on their lights, husbands and wives do not sleep together, etc. Tourists are to remain in their hotels, to stay off the streets and beaches and the airport is closed.
Bali's major industry is tourism and it's economy would have to be rated as poor.
The current money exchange rate is about 7,200 Balinese Rupiahs for one American dollar. This makes for some very attractive purchases from an American point of view. Here's some examples of our costs:
1. We rented a taxi and its driver for the entire day on two different occasions to go sightseeing. The cost each time was R100,000 or about $13.88 American.
2. We rented a canoe with outriggers, two men, snorkels, face masks, fins and flotation devices to snorkel at two different reefs. The cost was R100,000. The color and variety of the fish and sea life at those two reefs was overwhelmingly and breathtakingly beautiful.
3. Enjoying my favorite, daily lunch of noodles, vegetables and chicken (Bakso) from various Balinese food vendors. The cost was R6,000 (.83).
4. Buying a sarong as a souvenir. It cost R20,000 ($2.77).
5. Picking out a straw, conical hat for me for R8,000 ($1.11).
7. Taking a taxi from Nusa Dua to Benoa for dinner. It was R15,000, one way ($2.08).
8. Having a dinner of fresh red snapper, vegetables, French fries and soft drinks on the beach in Jimbaran for about R46,000 ($6.38) for the two of us.
9. Eating dinner on a small, narrow, side street in Nusa Dua. We had fried vegetables, noodles, chicken and hot tea for a total cost of R12,000 ($1.66).
My top memories are:
-- The countless vendor stalls located everywhere we went in Bali. You can buy everything from sandals to sarongs to assorted fruits to ice-cold soft drinks to wooden carvings to fancy art work, etc.
However, it all requires bargaining.
The rule of the thumb for Bali bargaining is to take the vendor's opening offer and divide it by one-fourth to get your opening counter bid. The two of you should finally arrive at a mutually agreeable final figure of about one half of the opening vendor value.
-- The unbelievable traffic volumes on the crooked, narrow, poorly-maintained streets and roads, complete with thousands of motor scooters. Quite often you see a man, his wife and two children, all precariously perched on one scooter, darting in and out of the heavy traffic. The Balinese drive on the left side of the road and traffic signs are at an absolute minimum. I never once say a sign indicating the mileage to another location.
-- The friendly, courteous, polite, helpful, neat-looking and happy Balinese people. We never once had a feeling of being uneasy, even in some very poor and rough-looking areas where we were the only Caucasians. Language was not a serious problem as everyone spoke some sort of elementary English.
-- The huge variety of animal, bird and sea life in that area. We saw all types of birds, fish and strange-looking sea creatures. The most impressive for me were the monkeys and fruit bats in the monkey forest in Mengwi, the huge Komodo Dragon lizard that crossed the sidewalk while we were on our way to the pool one morning and the nasty looking, yellow and black-striped, poisonous sea snake that I saw while wading in the ocean. I must have looked like Fred Astaire tap dancing when I left that area.
-- If you are looking for a great place for a vacation, put the island of Bali, Indonesia high on your list. Where else can you spend 17 days on vacation at a total cost of $2,000 for everything?
-- Bet Your Favorite Pigeon
Bet your favorite pigeon that he can't tell you where Bali is located.
If he says, "It is located roughly south of Viet Nam and China, east of Java, west of the Philippines and just north of Australia," you are in deep trouble.