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Old 12th December 2013, 21:53   #1
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Default Experiencing a bit of Enchanting Bali and Malaysia

It's been a while since I've written a travel report, a lot of short trips done over the past year but haven't gotten down to penning a report so far.

This is a travel writeup of our annual holiday (A term coined by my wife), like the rest of our trips don't count.

The whole idea started off with planning a 15 day road trip to the North East, lot of enquiries, itineraries etc. later my wife looks at the schedule and costing and says "We can travel abroad for this kind of moolah". So, there was a complete shift in the planning and we decided to take the plunge and book tickets for a foreign trip.

All bookings were made under 12 days of the travel dates as we were not sure of leave and work schedules, we could not take advantage of discounts for early bookings, but book we did.

We had some 15 days to explore some destination/destinations. So the decided destination was Bali in Indonesia travelling via Malaysia.

We had a friend who had recently landed a job in Malaysia and was staying in an apartment all by herself, so we decided to be her first visitors from abroad. So we split our holiday into 3 parts - Malaysia-Indonesia and then back to Malaysia before returning home.

We had booked all the flights from Bangalore via Air Asia, so far our experience flying Air Asia has been pretty decent.

Day 1- Departure Bangalore

Our flight was in the afternoon, we were in the airport well in time.After checking in and clearing security checks, we came to know that the flight would be late by an hour. So we waited over a pizza and our 2.5 year old daughter was super excited about the impending trip.

After a 4 hour flight we landed well past midnight at LCCT Kuala Lumpur. A long walk on the tarmac and clearing all entry formalities saw us in line for the pre paid cab.

The lady at the counter took advantage of the tired look on our faces and promptly issued us a token for a premium cab inspite of the board announcing it to be a Budget Cab counter, so we had to pay almost twice the normal cost, but we did reach our friend's house and crawled into bed.

Day 2 - R&R at KL

Since we knew we'd be landing at KL very late, we had decided that we will stay put in KL for the day and fly out to Indonesia the next day. We woke up quite late and met up our friend near her office for lunch and then decided to look around.

Some Views from the friend's apartment at Bangsar
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The malls were all getting ready for Christmas and were very colourful.

Christmas Decorations at Bangsar Shopping Center
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We soon returned as our child was sleepy and decided to rest for the rest of the afternoon.
We woke up to a wonderful evening skyscape
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The neighbourhood
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The apartment complex
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The 5th floor swimming pool
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We had planned to meet a local friend for dinner that evening, so we went to the nearby Bangsar Village which housed a variety of restaurants and shops

Bangsar Village
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At a Curio shop
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Family Pic
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After a wonderful dinner of the local cuisine we headed back home to prepare ourselves for an early start the next day. We had befriended the cab driver who agreed to land up at the apartment to pick us up early in the morning to the hour long ride to the airport.


....Contd.

Last edited by Lukeskywalker : 13th December 2013 at 23:46.
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Old 13th December 2013, 20:03   #2
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Day 3 - Bali here we come

Another early start and the long drive to the airport

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We reach the LCCT and as I have mentioned in my previous Malaysia travelogues, it resembles our Kalasipalyam Bus Stand, humungous crowds, long lines for everything from coffee to Immigration.
We join the crowds for baggage check in and then eat breakfast at our favourite Old Town White Coffee outlet.
Another long line to clear security and a longer one at immigration saw us at the boarding gates only to hear the familiar "flight delay" status.

The chaos at the boarding gates is something to be experienced, there are ground staff yelling out destinations like we see conductors at local bus stations, the same boarding gate caters to multiple flights, so we do not know which flight is being announced.

Finally an hour later we are dodging baggage trolleys who are on a mission to run down unsuspecting passengers who are frantically searching for their flight on the tarmac.

The flights too are disgorging passengers and boarding at the same time, there are Air Asia staff every 100 metres yelling out destinations to ensure you get on to the right flight, but for them, a passenger would be on a completely wrong plane.

We settle down in our seats and it's another 3 hour flight to Denpsar.

The Ngurah Rai Airport at Denpasar Bali
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We land in a swanking new airport and our pre booked car and driver are waiting for us. the moment we head out of the airport the rain comes down in torrents

A wet welcome to Bali says the weather
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We were very hungry and asked our driver Ketut to take us to a local restaurant for a late lunch.

We ordered looking at pics and some assistance from our driver
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By the time we were done with lunch, it was already 4 pm and our hotel was at the other end of town and a 40 minute drive, here it is worth mentioning that the traffic in Bali is very similar to what we experience here minus the honking, a 5 km commute can sometimes take as long as half an hour.

We had booked ourselves at the Marriot at Nusa Dua, it was a wonderful place and by the time we checked in it was dark, so we made plans for sightseeing with Ketut and he was to pick us up at 8.30 am the next morning for an entire day of sightseeing.

Our room at The Marriot
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Our daughter approves
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We decided to eat at the restaurant, though the choice was limited, the food was very tasty and the staff extremely friendly

Anvitha our daughter, begins her PR exercise
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A view of the pool at Night
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With that we end our day anticipating the treasures Bali holds for us the next day.

...Contd.
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Old 13th December 2013, 20:27   #3
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Default Re: Experiencing a bit of Enchanting Bali and Malaysia

Day 4 - Exploring Bali by Car

The day turned out to be bright and sunny when we woke up, the breakfast at the hotel was the usual huge spread and very filling, we filled our tummies to the brim as we did not know what was in store for us over the day, by 8 am we were ready and waiting for Ketut to turn up in his Toyota Innova.

We walked around the hotel for some pics

Ready to take on the day
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Posing in front of the hotel
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Some colour at the lobby
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A view of the Courtyard
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Promptly at 8.30 am Ketut arrives in his immaculately maintained Innova, he tells us that we will be seeing predominantly temples in Bali and a cultural show as well.

Nusa Dua area in Bali houses some of the finest hotels and is very beautifully landscaped,

Superb roads in Nusa Dua
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We were to see many of such wonderful statues
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Ketut informed us that our first stop for the day would be at an arts centre where we would witness the traditional Barong Dance performance. The Barong dance is akin to our Yakshagana in many respects, it is a skit played out from the Mahabharata accompanied by graceful dancers in colourful costumes and played out to some lovely music played on traditional instruments. Here are some pics of the Barong Performance

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...Contd.

Last edited by Lukeskywalker : 13th December 2013 at 20:30.
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Old 13th December 2013, 20:46   #4
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Some people were very interested...
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some were easily diverted..
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Some were plain bored
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A "responsible" caution board
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After the Barong performance, Ketut took us to a weaving and batik centre, here we could see the process of weaving handloom fabric and the Batik printing thereafter

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Some of the commonly found vehicles on the roads
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Some interesting stone art on the roads of Bali
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...Contd.
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Old 13th December 2013, 21:21   #5
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Next halt was at an art gallery, we were told that wooden artifacts, paintings and Silverware were the most sought after items in Bali, we decided to skip the silverware showrooms for reasons where we did not want the heart ruling over the head.

The paintings in the art gallery were so life like and exorbitantly priced

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My wife always was fascinated by the handicrafts of Indonesia, it was a dream come true for her when we were taken to a factory manufacturing the wooden handicrafts

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My wife went berserk and picked up a load of masks and trinkets to give away, the trick was in the bargaining, whatever the quote, one needs to ask for less than 50% of the quoted price, after some haggling the people at the emporium give in, albeit a pained look on their face, but it was just a charade, for we were to find out much later that the same stuff was available outside at a fraction of the cost. Lesson learned : Don't fall for the first showroom one visits or is taken. Our driver candidly admitted that he received a commission from the emporia but insisted that the quality was much better there compared to the "cheap" lookalikes elsewhere.

...Contd.

Last edited by Lukeskywalker : 14th December 2013 at 13:21.
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Old 13th December 2013, 23:22   #6
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Once we finished with the art gallery and the handicrafts factory, it was finally the time to visit the temples, Bali has innumerable temples, we were told that every village has a minimum of three temples, one each for the Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, and along with these, there are temples for family deities and temples protecting the clans in the villages. So as we travel on the roads of Bali, we pass temple after temple, but not all of them are on the tourist radar.

The first temple we were taken to was Goa Gajah or Elephant Cave temple,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goa_Gajah

This is a temple in a cave which houses our Ganesh, an unusual custom when visiting temples is that men have to wear a Sarong over their trousers, these are given by the temple autorities when buying the entry ticket and have to be returned post the visit, but what really makes it unusual is that footwear is permitted right upto the deity.

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Our daughter Anvitha makes some friends
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The sad parting
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Anvitha is fascinated by a Barong performance by some kids
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That's a costly affair
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Volkswagens
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After the temple visit, Ketut informed us that he'd take us to Kintamani, to view one of the few active Volcanoes in Indonesia Mount Batur, enroute we were stopped by cops doing a "routine" check, they stop the same cars everyday and we were let off for a pack of cigarettes given by Ketut.
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Batur

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Mount Batur as seen from Kintamani, the black patch is the lava flow
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The volcano view lunch
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Lake Batur at the foot of the mountain, its the largest crater lake in Indonesia
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One for memory
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After an overrated buffet lunch we set out for the final temple visit for the day, enroute some fresh fruit caught our attention
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...contd.
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Old 13th December 2013, 23:39   #7
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The last temple of the day was the Pura Tirta Empul known for its healing spring water

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tirta_Empul_Temple

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The gates of Tirta Empul
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The Holy Spring
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Anvitha seeks blessings
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The Presidential Villa on the hill
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Colourful Fish in the pond adjacent to the holy Spring
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We strike a pose
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As we walk out of this place we enter a most colourful market selling handicrafts and trinkets, the women running the shops pester you to strike a bargain, the wares so tempting that a second round of shopping happened

Cats have many lives here
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This sums up our mood perfectly
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Colourful Kites on sale
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Finally after quite an exhausting day, we spend close to two hours to traverse some 30 kms back to denpasar and then back to our hotel at Nusa Dua, as we get close, Ketut gets a call from his wife reminding him of some innoculation for his child, he profusely apologises and says he'll arrange for his brother to take us around the next day, he dropped us back at our hotel. Thus ended an awesome Day 4.

...contd.

Last edited by Lukeskywalker : 14th December 2013 at 13:19.
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Old 14th December 2013, 10:29   #8
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Day 5 - Rest of Bali

The day again dawned bright and sunny, Ketut's elder brother Wayan came to pick us up from our hotel, he too was a cheerful person and seemed more experienced, he asked us what we'd like to do that day and based on the previous day's outing we suggested the itinerary, there was a beach very close to our hotel but we had not even seen it, so we first decided to have a view of the sea for the first time after landing in Bali.

The beach at Nusa Dua
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A quick look and we were off regretting that we could not get into the water yet. The wife wanted to pick up souvenirs and so we were taken to "Krisna" a supermarket of souvenirs. The prices were extremely reasonable and they had a huge collection of T-Shirts, giveaways etc.

A circle depicting a scene from the Mahabharat
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Anvitha finds a new friend in a mall
Experiencing a bit of Enchanting Bali and Malaysia-121.jpgShopping done, Wayan decides to take us through the streets of Kuta, the most happening place in Bali, it resembles the streets of Goa with its colourful shops and hotels on one side and a lovely beach on the other. We were shown the places where the bombing incident took place some years ago.

Kuta Beach
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Yes, the beach is named so but not because of the dogs
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A drive past the beach and then Wayan starts the day's tour, he informs us that he will first take us to the Temple in a beautiful garden, it's called Taman Ayun.

http://www.balistarisland.com/Bali-I...yun-Temple.htm

We park and had to walk a short distance to access the temple, this was a beautiful place, the temple was set in a lovely garden.

Beautiful Balinese Architecture
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Picture in Picture
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After we had our fill of this fantastic temple, it was close to middday and Wayan said he'd take us for lunch at a scenic place overlooking paddy fields, we protested that we have enough and more paddy fields back home and we'd like to see more interesting things, but I guess our sarcasm did not get through to him and we were driven to a valley of paddy fields and another restaurant situated to face this and offering the standard overrated lunch buffet

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After lunch we were treated to some more rain, the best part on this trip was that it would rain every time we were inside the car but would magically stop by the time we got to an attraction. This time Wayan drove us along what seemed like a hill road, the elevation was not so much but it had started getting misty and cool. We arrived in dense fog to Ulun Danu or temple by the lake. the misty lake was Lake Bratan and the temple itself was jutting into the lake.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pura_Ulun_Danu_Bratan

It was a beautiful temple and the mist only added to its beauty.

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the weather was quite chilly here unlike in the plains where it was warmer, a few photographs later we were ready to head back to the plains.


....Contd.

Last edited by Lukeskywalker : 14th December 2013 at 13:33.
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Old 14th December 2013, 13:25   #9
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Post our visit to Ulun Danu, the running around from the past two days was showing and we were in a state of exhaustion, our bodies were fighting our minds which wanted to explore more, Wayan sensing that said he'd take us on a long easy drive all afternoon to see the temple on the sea or Tanah Lot.

Tanah Lot is probably the most popular of the Balinese Temples, this is a temple perched atop a rock which is in the sea. It is famed for its views of the setting sun, but we were not so fortunate as to witness a beautiful sunset as it was pretty cloudy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanah_Lot

This place by far was the most crowded of the temples we had seen in the past two days, the reason was clear, it was also by far the most scenic of all the temples we had seen.

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Lovely scenery to photograph
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The temple itself could be accessed after wading through water, it was clear that in high tide the temple becomes inaccessible. The crowds kept building up in anticipation of a view of the setting sun, but we decided to call it a day and head back to our hotel. Thus ended our exploration of Bali. We realised that 2 days in Bali isn't really enough to partake in all the wonderful offerings the place has, we barely managed to see and experience a few of the most popular attractions, we had not even wet our feet on the famed beaches and it was already time to leave.
It is important to note that in spite of hiring a car with a driver (it's the best way to travel) the traffic causes delays which means one ends up spending most part of the day in the car commuting from one place to another. Of course for the adventurous, there is the possibility of hiring a bike and exploring the place by oneself, but with a child, that was a non option for us.

We reached our hotel by 8.30 PM and paid off Wayan and thanked him for another wonderful day, we had to check out of the hotel by 8 am the next day to head back to the airport to explore another lesser known island which we had decided to visit on a hunch.

...Contd.

Last edited by Lukeskywalker : 14th December 2013 at 13:49.
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Old 14th December 2013, 19:01   #10
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Day 6 - The Island Paradise called Lombok

Both, our little daughter and my wife love the ocean, we were searching for lesser known getaways in Indonesia which would not be crowded and which would have good beaches safe enough for kids and accessible in this particular season as it's monsoon and many beach resorts in and around Malaysia too shut down. This is when we discovered a holiday destination in the island of Lombok which lies to the east of Bali and which was just half an hour plane ride away.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lombok

Here again we found a good beach resort to stay and on the 6th day of our trip, we flew Lion air to Lombok.

A short flight later we were walking through a noisy and crowded arrivals hall and took a prepaid taxi to our hotel.

The taxi driver did not know a word of English, but managed to communicate that the hotel was a hundred minutes away. The ride seemed endless and there was no sign of the sea for most part of the journey, we were getting tense as to what kind of place we had manged to land ourselves into when suddenly the road was running parallel to a wonderful looking coast. The island seemed very laid back and that's what we were looking for.

We had booked ourselves into Sudamala Suites and Resorts which was in an area called Senggigi, this place again was full of upmarket resorts by the lovely looking beaches.

We got a lovely room facing the ocean and the infinity pool right by our room, we could not have asked for more, since we were to stay here for 2 nights, we decided then and there that we will just stay in the hotel and not venture out anywhere for the next 2 days.

The Narmada Suite at Sudamala
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Infinity Pool

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Our room is the one on the ground floor
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The ocean was just a few steps away

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Ideal place to lounge and enjoy the views
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Anvitha, in her inimitable style wasted no time in making friends
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We had lunch at the restaurant and once again the cuisine was excellent and the portions large. We took a nap and woke up by tea time, the sky was not very clear and once again we were going to miss a sunset by the sea.

We just walked to the beach and discovered that the water was full of coral and so wading in deep was out of the question, but the waves were very gentle and there was enough sand for our daughter to play.

Met a fisherman and his catch for the day
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The sea kept changing colour as the clouds played
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The darker water is the coral and the lighter patches the clear sand
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A lot of sailboats were making their way to the shores
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And as dusk set in
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The deck by the beach, we spent a lot of quality time here
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The Sudamala by night

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The waterline was lit up at night and it looked awesome with the waves breaking
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One day gone out of the two days we were staying here and already we regretted not having planned to stay more, the hotel was superb, the food was very good, the scenery outstanding, what more could one wish for on a holiday. We also found out that we could hire a car or two wheeler for a nominal price, so we decided if we visit again we will hire a car to explore the island.

Dinner was a candle lit affair in the lovely restaurant and yet another day of the holiday went by. Everybody would agree to the fact that the days go by faster when you are on a holiday, that was exactly what we were experiencing too.

...Contd.
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Old 14th December 2013, 19:48   #11
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Day 7 - Just do Nothing day

Woke up early to watch the sea, twice when I looked out it was still dark, even when there was enough daylight, not a soul was seen around, I realised that this was a place where one does not go by the clock.

I thought I'll go for a walk on the beach, so camera in hand and barefoot, I set out. It was a wonderful feeling, the soft sand underneath one's foot with the gentle waves reaching you now and then, I passed by a few more resorts on the beach, a couple who had woken up early for a morning walk and a guy doing calisthenics on the beach.

Fishermen set out to sea
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A huge coral adorns the beachside entrance of a neighbouring resort
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The peaceful beachfront
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He seemed way too happy
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Surf's breaking
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Colour on the beach
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Caught a wave breaking over a small piece of Coral
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Art of war - Camouflage
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Black sand meets white foam
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This guy stood there for most of the day
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Finally back to enjoy a cup of tea
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With nothing else to do over the day, we frolicked in the pool and the beach till afternoon.

The little mermaid
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We ordered lunch by the deck and again it was snooze time, woke up and the sky looked promising in terms of a sunset, so I positioned myself by the beach front in anticipation.

My wife wishing that the holiday doesn't end
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Sure enough, I was rewarded with a fabulous display of nature's beauty for the next half hour
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It was both a satisfying as well as sad end to the day, satisfying because of the wonderful experience of rejuvenating ourselves, sad that we had to leave all this behind and return.

...Contd.

Last edited by Lukeskywalker : 16th December 2013 at 10:19.
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Old 14th December 2013, 22:44   #12
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Day 8 - Return to Kuala Lumpur

Another early morning start, we had a whole day of travelling, we had to first catch a morning flight to Denpasar, then a short wait, then again a three hour flight back to Kuala Lumpur. We were to reach KL by 5.30 pm.

Bidding Goodbye to Sudamala

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The Lion Air flight to Denpasar was on time, but the Air Asia flight from Denpasar to Kuala Lumpur was delayed by more than 2 hours, so we had a lot of time to spend at Denpasar airport,

So I got down to plane spotting
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Meanwhile Anvitha got down to making friends as usual
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Planes landing in the rain
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Finally we reach LCCT by late evening
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This time I clearly told the lady at the prepaid taxi counter that I wanted to hire a budget taxi and so got one, but I could see she was still up to her tricks of putting unsuspecting passengers on the premium cab and charging a bomb.
We reached Bangsar and chatted away with our friend about the amazing time we had in Bali and Lombok.
But we were not done with our holiday yet, back home when we were planning, we decided to see some part of Malaysia which we hadn't seen yet, we checked out some wonderful island getaways, but unfortunately most of the exotic looking places were in the midst of the monsoon and so were inaccessible by air and the boats were unpredictable.
It was then we thought, why not do a road trip in Malaysia, go to someplace which is not a coast and which is doable in a day of driving.

We shortlisted Cameron Highlands, in the neighbouring state of Pahang, it was some 245kms from where we were staying in KL and easily drivable in about 3-4 hrs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cameron_Highlands

I had checked out car rentals in KL from Bangalore, but had not decided on it yet, so a few phone calls from our friend's phone and I had a deal. The Perodua Myvi is a 1.3L hatch and it seemed to suit our requirements perfectly. I asked for a GPS unit and the whole package for 2 days with door delivery and pick up came to about 250 RM, an additional 200RM was the security deposit.
I asked for the car for around 10 am the next day and that was the end of day 8. A new destination beckoned.

...Contd.
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Old 16th December 2013, 11:18   #13
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Day 9 - Cameron Highlands

The car was delivered promptly at 10 am, since we had reached quite late the previous night and since we had been using Indonesian currency for the past few days, we realised that we were short on Malaysian Ringgits to pay for the car, so I needed to go to the nearby moneychanger at the Bangsar Shopping Center to exchange dollars for Ringgits.
But when I saw a franking machine with the guy who delivered the car I asked him if I could pay by card, that would save me the trouble of making a kilometre long walk to the exchanger, not only did the guy agree, but he also waived off the security deposit as he said he could not reverse those charges on a card payment. I just had to pay a 3% surcharge over the 250 Ringgit renatl amount.

Since we were ready and packed, in a matter of minutes we were ready to hit the roads. I just familiarised myself with the Garmin unit which was provided, punched in the destination and we were off.

The E1 Highway out of Kuala Lumpur
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I have never depended on a GPS unit completely, so it was a new experience for me to be able to follow instructions, but managed quite well and did good time covering the 250 odd kilometres to Cameron Highlands. I had been warned of the curvy roads up the hills, but the road was bliss compared to the hill roads we are used to driving here in India.
A short halt for lunch by one of the rest halts along the highway and we reached our destination.

The Lakehouse at Cameron Highlands
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This was an English Tudor house converted to a hotel and situated overlooking a lake, the place was magnificient, views enchanting.

The Lakehouse situated on a small hill
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A view of the lake, it was being dredged, else the lake would have been even more beautiful
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The superbly appointed room
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The grand staircase
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The grounds
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We were upgraded to a suite when asked for a room with a nice view. The staff again were very helpful and were delighted that we knew a smattering of Tamil. Checked into the room and after freshning up, we decided to look around the place.

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The quaint restaurant
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The views from our windows
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It was past tea time by the time we had settled in, we asked about the local attractions and were told there were strawberry farms, tea estates, butterfly parks and treks through the woods, none of them appealed to lazy us, so we decided to just drive around the next morning and do whatever we fancied enroute and not stick to a plan.

I would like to describe an interesting experience I had at Cameron, it seems foolish in hindsight but at that point it did not seem so.
As we were being led to our room a little earlier in the afternoon, I sensed someone walking behind me in the dimly lit corridor, I turned around and as expected there was no one. I dismissed the incident as a figment of my imagination.
We watched "Force 10 from Navarone" on TV over a room ordered dinner and we went to bed. Sometime late in the night (I thought we were asleep for a long time) I once again felt someone moving around in the room, I reached for the bedside reading light and could not find the switch which I had used to switch off the same, I switched on my mobile checked the time, it was 0:01 then shone it on the switch panel, the switch was gone, there was only a hole where the switch was!! I woke my wife and without giving reasons asked her to switch on her side of the light, she was fast asleep and grudgingly obliged, there was no one in the room, but I was pretty shaken up, I have never believed or experienced the supernatural, but here I was feeling weird. For the first time in my life, I let the light stay one and chatted with friends on whatsapp thanks to us being an hour and a half ahead and felt reassured. I must have dozed off sometime because I woke up with the light streaming through the windows and the bedside light still on.
It was morning and the first thing I checked was the switch on my side of the bedside light, it was there in it's place and it worked just fine !!

Now when I look back on the incident, I find it amusing, but trust me, on that night I had goose pimples on my hand.

...Contd.
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Old 16th December 2013, 11:40   #14
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 16th December 2013, 12:22   #15
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Default Re: Experiencing a bit of Enchanting Bali and Malaysia

Another superb travelogue along with amazing pics Lukeskywalker.

One of my friend just returned from Bali and he was all praise for the place, from your travelogue can understand why.
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