Day 2: 13/07/09: Discovery Kartika Plaza Hotel, Discovery Mall, Gang Poppies 2
1) Discovery Kartika Plaza Hotel: great location, decent facilities, a bit overpriced for what you get. Request a room away from the disco, unless you plan to party all night yourself.
2) PT Kuta Central: reliable money changer.
3) Watch those sunsets; they go fast.
Woke up late, around 10 am; still in time for breakfast, which ended at 11. We wandered down to the breakfast area (and the grounds are just as beautiful, if not more so, in daylight), where we ordered one Indonesian set (nasi goreng, fried egg, fresh fruit and coffee/tea) and one Western set (toast, margarine, jam, 2 eggs, fresh fruit and coffee/tea). Breakfast was pretty decent, though nothing to write home about. We checked out after that, and wheeled our trolley bags down Gang Puspa Ayu (which, in the daytime, is a very pleasant tree-lined alley) over to...
Discovery Kartika Plaza Hotel
which was HUGE after the little Dayu Beach Inn. Enormous fountain in front of the main entrance, cavernous high-roofed reception hall, sweeping view of the sea.
We were promptly checked into room 3088, in the right wing (even numbers are located in the right wing, odd numbers in the left wing) - look out for the gong at reception which the receptionist uses to signal the bellman! The room was quite nice, with all the usual things one expects from a business-class hotel (safe deposit box, mini-bar, tea/coffee-making facilities, etc) as well as a (slightly distant) sea view from the balcony. There was a rain shower (though the water pressure was rather low, and it turned out to be more of a heavy drizzle shower), but no bathtub, in the gray marble bathroom.
The funniest thing here had to be the picture hanging just above the toilet in the bathroom, depicting a Balinese girl with a flower in her hair, clad only in a towel and a regal expression of startled affront. It was her expression that really did it, I think, and The Husband and I pretty much fell over laughing every time we walked into the bathroom, because we honestly felt like we ought to apologise for walking in and surprising her!
(One final bathroom grouse: the sink didn't drain very well, which was a minor inconvenience; possibly it was the Curse of The Offended Bathroom Princess.)
The priorities for the afternoon were: acquiring a pair of local SIM cards, visiting a money changer, getting The Husband a coat, preferably in time for his meeting, and finding a source of drinking water.
We walked over to Discovery Mall, where, appropriately, we made a number of discoveries. We discovered that the mall had no supermarket, we discovered that PT Kuta Central did not have a branch there, and we discovered that the IDR that we had consisted of old notes, which were not acceptable in Periplus, where we tried to buy a map.
Went to Mandiri Bank (in the same mall), where we watched the news as we waited in line to get our notes exchanged. There was a feature about school orientation programmes, and new students coming in, and then a middle-aged lady appeared on the screen, labelled “orang tua”, which surprised us as that means “old person” in our variety of Malay, which is a rather odd thing to label someone in an interview, and besides, she didn't look all that old. After a little thought, we agreed that it probably meant “parent” in Bahasa Indonesia.
Finally got our map from Periplus, then went up to the DIY/electricals shop on the 3rd floor, where we bought SimPati SIM cards at 57,000 IDR each, including 15,000 IDR of value (I believe, in hindsight and on further reading, that we may have been overcharged for these – didn't expect that, in a large mall).
We inquired after the location of a PT Kuta Central branch at the information counter in Discovery Mall, and were told that there were a couple within walking distance, though in opposite directions (one northwards towards Kuta, and one southwards away from Kuta). Walking out of Discovery Mall, we were approached by an official-looking fellow who turned out to be a timeshare tout (the likes of whom we've encountered before, of all places, in Singapore). Naturally, we won the grand prize, and naturally, we would have to go and attend a 2-hour talk in order to collect it, so naturally, since we really did have other things to do, we told him nicely no thanks, and you're welcome to give our grand prize to someone else.
(Note that if you go with friends or a partner, only one of you will win the grand prize, which is intended to add a layer of verisimilitude to the whole charade. Okay if you've either got several thousand USD to spare, don't mind spending 2 hours listening to a sales pitch, or both.)
As it was pretty warm, and we thought it in our best interests to get where we were going as soon as possible, we hailed a passing Bluebird taxi, leaving the slightly disappointed tout in our wake. The taxi driver, Marcel, was pleased to find that we spoke Malay, and on learning that we'd be making a trip to Ubud come Friday, offered his services, and his phone number. We asked to be taken to PT Kuta Central, where we changed money while Marcel waited, and then he took us to Poppies 2, so that we could look for Janoko Tailor.
We found Janoko, but they were very busy, and a suit would take at least a week, which we didn't really have, so we tried Liza Tailor a little up the road, a friendly little family establishment with kids lounging about watching TV. They had a couple of suits lying around that customers had ordered and not collected, and one of them fit The Husband almost perfectly. One of the women's jackets almost fit me, too, so they said come back in an hour, and we'll have them altered. So we got a man's jacket and pants, and a woman's jacket, for 725,000 IDR.
We hadn't had lunch yet, and wandered down Poppies 2 in search of food. Eventually we stopped at a semi-crowded warung (if there are people in it, the food must be at least okay), Warung Jegeg Bulan, and had a nasi campur that came with the most wonderful satay, done in a style we hadn't previously encountered - almost like teriyaki, sort of a sweet soy sauce, but with more spice. (I think this may have been Satay Madura, but I'm not sure.) We also had a plate of rice with some kind of pork, possibly babi kecap, which was tasty but not particularly exciting, a fruit lassi and a mango juice. All in all, a very decent meal indeed, for around 60,000 IDR.
Heading back to Liza Tailor, we tried on our clothes, only to find that a little more alteration was in order. Asked to come back in another hour, we walked out of Poppies 2, towards the Bali Bombing Memorial, where we paid a moment of quiet respect for all the lost lives, wishing them and their loved ones well, wherever they were.
My brother and his wife (who do not live in Singapore) had been to Bali on their honeymoon in 2006 - however, The Husband and I had somehow never seen their photos, nor heard about their trip. Anyway, we called them and asked them before we left, what's good to eat? And he said, KFC. We said, wait, what? And he said, KFC. According to him, KFC in Bali is particularly tasty, and they had had a meal somewhere near the memorial. So I said, okay; just for you, and just because you recommend it so highly, we will go and eat KFC. (In case it isn't clear, this is definitely not something The Husband and I would normally have done otherwise, since we like to eat as locally as possible when we travel.)
Alas, there was no KFC near the memorial site, so we explored the roads a little more, I bought a couple of t-shirts which I really liked (40,000 IDR each) and a rayon blouse in a similar design (30,000 IDR), and we headed back to Liza's, where our clothes were ready. Having more or less completed our tasks, we decided to walk back rather than take a taxi, so we passed through Gang Ronta, eventually connecting to Gang Poppies 1, and checking out some of the accommodation and shops along the way.
A girl in one of the shops managed to guilt me into buying a sarong, rather overpriced at 60,000 IDR (She started at 80,000 IDR; I didn't haggle too much, and even at this price she still behaved like I was robbing her blind). It was quite a nice sarong, at least, and I managed to avoid buying more than one.
At some point, we exited the maze of alleyways onto the famed Kuta Beach, thinking to walk back to the hotel that way. I don't think I've ever seen a more crowded beach in all my life. There were people carrying surfboards, flying kites, lying on sarongs in various states of undress, reading, playing football - you name it. (I loved that there were offerings on the beach, too.)
We set off towards the hotel, striding purposefully along the sand - this didn't deter a few hundred (okay, maybe about six) vendors from coming up to us and asking us if we'd like a tattoo.
Eventually, we reached Discovery Mall, where we headed for the mini-mart and bought bottled water and batteries for our camera. Was thrilled to find the Johnny Andrean hair salon just next to the mini-mart, as I'd been wanting a haircut for a couple of weeks, and had been looking forward to getting one in Bali, despite dire warnings back in Singapore from at least 3 separate women (but that is part of another day's report). Headed back out to the beach to watch the sunset; considered taking a seat at Black Canyon Coffee, but the music was loud and annoying, so we continued on down to the beach proper, where we found a nice place to sit, bent down to spread out my new 60,000 IDR sarong - and looked up to find that the sun, with astonishing speed, had already vanished behind a cloud bank. It might have been disappointing, if it hadn't been so funny. So we enjoyed the sky, and whatever it was that passed for a sunset, for a while, then returned to our hotel room to freshen up before dinner.
Thinking it would be a good idea to settle in early, we didn't plan on going any further than Discovery Mall for dinner. Decided to share a couple of pieces of KFC, just for my brother's sake, and then see if there was anything else to eat in the mall later. You know what? My brother was right; the KFC in Bali really is better. But what I liked most were the begedil (potato patties) that you could order as a side dish (no whipped potato in sight). We also had a lychee float, which was soft-serve ice cream in an a lurid green soda - sweet, artificial, and not half bad, for all that.
We then headed up to the food court, where all the stalls seemed to be selling the exact same thing, and eventually ended up at a place called Solaria, where we had a mie bakso (not bad) with an avocado juice, beautifully presented with lashings of dark syrup around the sides of the glass. Now, I like avocados very much, and I understand the traditional way to serve them in Indonesia is with palm sugar. So I was expecting palm sugar; and what I got was - chocolate syrup. Um. No. Not a good combination, at least not in my book.
Back at the hotel, we made inquiries about wireless access. This is free for all guests, but they will issue you a username and a password that changes periodically, so when it stops working, all you have to do is ask for a new password.
Returning to our room, a cockroach awaited us, crouching comfortably on one of the bed cushions. It was a smallish one, and simple enough to carry the cushion over to the balcony and shake off the offending insect, but, y'know - cockroach.
The wireless access worked fine, if rather slowly. The Husband made the happy discovery that his programme did not begin until 1 pm the next day, and spent some time reviewing his material. I, on the other hand, made the mistake of checking my email, and ended up spending entirely too long attempting to sort out matters of varied importance.
By this time, a throbbing, thumping noise was evident. It wasn't so much the sort of noise you hear, as the sort that vibrates deep into your bone marrow through whatever surface you happen to be occupying. We guessed that this might be from the Musro Club and KTV disco just behind our room, which is part of the hotel complex, and contemplated the possibility of asking for a new room, without disco music (or cockroaches).
It was late, though, by the time we were finally able to go to bed, and we were tired enough to sleep through the noise, so the disco didn't bother us as much as we thought it might, and we slept okay after all.