So this blog has been virtually dead the last couple of weeks; there was just too much going on - a hastily finalized trip to Bali (booked a year ago, but was in constant jeopardy of not pushing through), a last-minute one-day trip home the weekend after, and work in between all of it. I am ashamed to admit that to this day I have not yet finished unpacking my bags for *both* trips. The horror. But in my defense I went back to work immediately after. No rest for the weary.

But anyway. Bali.

To be honest I didn't even know it was the setting of the "pray" (or was it love?) part of Eat, Pray, Love. (Side Note: I have a certain fondness for the movie because it was what I was watching while my plane was circling over NAIA in futile attempt to land, only to make an hour-long emergency landing in Clark to refuel before flying back to Manila. This was a JAL flight from Tokyo, and I have never been more thankful for in-flight movies on demand.) Heck, I didn't even know where Bali was; I just assumed it's in one of the neighboring Asian countries, otherwise the fare wouldn't be so cheap. Geography was never my strong suit. Thankfully I didn't have to do any planning (thank you Curlers!). All I had to do was show up in the airport with my carry-on (no check-in luggage for the broke) and a couple million rupiah.
Bali Tip #1: Change your money beforehand. 
That way, you enter the country a millionaire! Seriously, though, all those zeroes can be confusing for the uninitiated, and unfortunately some local money changers (and merchants too!) try to take advantage of this fact. There have been more than a few rip-offs and attempted rip-offs in this trip, so just be warned.

Me and my milyens

The first thing we noticed about Bali is how eerily similar it is to the Philippines - from the intense midday heat to the crazy traffic. I might as well have been in Cebu, with all these people speaking in a language that I do not understand, but is somehow familiar. It is remarkably cleaner, though. And the wind is refreshingly cool! There is a strange overabundance of flags on display, as if to remind me that hey, this is Indonesia, you crazy tourist you. We did visit within weeks of their National Day, so that should explain things.

There seems to be a lack of public transportation, so we had to arrange for a van - there were 9 of us - to pick us up from the airport. Our driver is Pak Gede, and at first I thought Pak was his first name (how unfortunate!), but apparently that means "Sir". He was also our guide of sorts as we visited the usual tourist-y spots, and he even managed to get us some discounts *wink*.

Bali Tip #2: Arrange transportation beforehand, if you plan to go places. 

There is an option to rent motorcycles, I believe, but I assume you want to get out of this country alive. Make sure, above everything else, that the airconditioning works, because you are going to be stuck in traffic a lot, and the heat can drive you nuts. I'm not particularly fond of visiting tourist spots; the crazy crowd, the overpriced goods, the elbowing for a good camera angle - it's all too much stress for what should be a relaxing vacation. To be fair, though, Bali has the most incredibly picturesque temples, and if you concentrate hard enough to ignore the thousand other people watching the sunset with you, it's absolutely breathtaking.

Bali Tip #3: The Internet is your best friend.
There are tons of things to do in Bali apart from the requisite temple-hopping, and they're almost always cheaper when booked in advance online - and I'm talking as much as half off the walk-in price. As far as I know, no downpayment is necessary, so it's not like you're taking a big risk by making advanced reservations.

A lot of the activities are relatively cheap (even compared to Philippine prices), which is why my unadventurous self ended up parasailing.

Super short (it was over in like two minutes!), but definitely sweet. ^^
We went snorkelling afterwards, but the marine life was a bit lackluster, so I decided to spice things up with a grand panic attack while in the water sans lifevest. No idea how that happened, but no matter how hard I try to calm down my body just wouldn't. It's something I'd have to explore and come to terms with in the future, along with a newly-developed fear of flying (which merits a different blogpost altogether).

As if the trip wasn't action-packed enough, we also decided to give whitewater rafting a try. We were apprehensive because the deal we got off the internet was so heavily discounted, there had to be a catch.

Thankfully everything went fine. Okay, so our guide knew very little English. But he did manage the boat well (we never got stuck on rocks or anything), and we did very little paddling tee hee.

Bali Tip #4: Clip your toenails, woman!
Three necessities for whitewater rafting: strap-on slippers (so they don't fall off into the river), a rashguard (so you don't get lifejacket tan lines), and toenails clipped as short as humanly possible. I cannot stress that last one enough - on the rest stop we saw this one lady who had to be attended to because the entire nail got ripped off her big toe. Well, no, actually to be precise it's still attached at the base, so it was standing on a ninety degree angle to her foot like some bloody flagpole. It still makes me cringe just thinking about it. So do yourself a favor and trim those nails.

My performance-level scream for a not-so-performance-level drop

Bali Tip #5: Stop. Breathe.
I've never really been the kind of tourist who has the need to have her picture taken with every single landmark and street sign; I don't quite understand the mad dash in trying to visit all the tourist spots in as little time as possible - if all I'm getting is a short glimpse of all those places then I might as well save my moolah and just google them. Sometimes it's the simple things that end up being wonderful, but we risk skipping over them with the preoccupation over the must-sees and the must-dos.

For instance, we spent a good part of one day waiting in line for the famous babi guling - Bali's version of lechon de leche, recommended by no less than Anthony Bourdain. That's an hour of traffic, an hour of lining up, and we ended up eating inside the van on takeout containers en route to the next tourist destination. It was... nice.

But the single most awesome gastronomic moment of my entire trip I came upon almost by accident. It was sublime - walking along the beach, sand between my toes, watching the waves crash upon the shore with astounding force, one hand holding someone else's, the other clutching a freshly-grilled corn on cob slathered with this amazing, amazing spicy sauce. *sigh*

Now, on to the next ;)

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