Well, the planning AND the trip to Bali are now in the past and I now find it very difficult to put into words the experience. We landed into Denpasar on the 4th of July and were quickly through customs and found our driver Surya.
After the 90 minute nerve racking ride up to CD we arrived at Villa Gita around 4:30 pm. After just only reading a couple of reviews of it on TA I was most apprehensive about our accommodations. We turned onto the road that Villa Gita is on and I got very nervous after seeing rubble from a backhoe on the drive in. However upon stepping inside all of my anxiety immediately was gone. The place was AMAZING! I will do a proper review of it on TA with pictures and all.
Our friends arrived very late the same night and we woke up to the most beautiful view of the Lompoc straight. The first day in Bali we simply did some walking through Candidasa and relaxed at the pool. The staff too at Villa Gita was amazing.
On day two we took a boat the Pusir Putih (white sand beach). On the way to white sand beach we stopped at a couple of islands to try our hand at spear fishing. This is much more difficult then you could imagine. After I was unsuccessful I snorkeled while Made Billie caught a couple of fish. Upon getting to white sand beach they asked where we were going to grill the fish, at a warung on the beach or back at the villa for dinner. Instead we gave the two fish to Made Billie who was more then appreciative!!! After all, he caught them! After lounging on the beach for a few hours (and heading into the local village there to buy a chicken for a cock flight- I will elaborate later) we headed back to Villa Gita via boat.
Day 3 was spent relaxing at the villa soaking in the rays. The weather was absolutely fantastic, it only rained for no more then 30 seconds the whole time we were there.
Day 4 Surya picked us up at the villa and we headed to Tulamben. After a bit more then an hour to Tulamben I quickly found a dive shop (I couldn’t believe how many there were there) and I was in the water and on the USS Liberty wreck less then 30 minutes later. The dive site was SPECTACULAR! My dive master had said that the conditions were actually pretty poor by their standards but at 25 meter viz I was in heaven. One thing to note for western divers, they use BAR instead of PSI in Bali (I brought my own equipment). So please study up before going there. It was a bit difficult as I wasn’t as knowledgeable on BAR as I should be and my dive master didn’t know the conversion to PSI. All said this dive was easily one of the best I have done! As the other 3 with me weren’t divers I only opted for 1 dive. 20/20 I wish I had been a bit selfish and done 1 more dive on the wreck. After all, my wife and friends were quiet content sitting on seawall sipping Bintangs!
After Tulamben we headed to Tritta Ganga. As we were there during Galugan TG was packed. I am still trying to figure out the origin of the place but it is visually stunning. We had lunch at the restaurant there (a bit pricey) but the view over the pools and out to the ocean is something that I will never forget, amazing. After a late lunch we headed back to the villa.
DISCLAIMER- WE WENT TO A COCK FIGHT TO FIGHT THE CHICKEN WE BOUGHT. WHILE SOME PEOPLE WILL BE DISGUSTED BY IT PLEASE READ AS IT REALLY SHED SOME LIGHT ON THE TRUE BALIENSE CULTURE WHICH I LEARNED SOME AMAZING THINGS FROM.
Day 5 again we spent lounging around the villa and in the town of Candidasa. This was the night of our cock flight. We were met by two Balinese friends who escorted us to the local village. After walking maybe a half mile through dirt roads we arrived to the fight. The place where they host the fights was lit only by one fluorescent light. All of the men were huddled around the fight(s) while the women cooked in the back ground. Cock fighting in Bali is everywhere as evidenced by all of the chickens in the cages around the island. We were required to wager rupiah on our chicken. It is customary for the person with the wining chicken to keep the losing chicken and to cook and it eat it that night. My friend and I decided that even if we won we would donate both chickens (the living and dead) to the local village. Our chicken ended up losing so we donated our chicken the traditional way. These fights are not nearly a gory as one would imagine and in the end it there was something really beautiful about it (gasp, I am an animal lover). This experience was not any worse then watching a chicken get its head cut off. The people were actually extremely grateful for our presence (we were obviously the only tourists there) and treated us in a way that I could only hope to treat people that are guests of mine.
Day 6 our driver picked us up at 9:00 am and we headed for Goa Lawah. The bat cave temple was pretty spectacular. We only stayed about 30 minutes and headed to Ubud. With the two ladies in the group they were hoping to find some nice shopping. They were disappointed in that the prices in the boutiques were expensive! My wife tried on a couple of sun dresses (in a fixed priced store) but at nearly $40 each things were more expensive then here in the States. We walked in a a good number of stores but found the experience to be about the same everywhere. We had a nice lunch (two actually, I had to go to Ibu Oka). After Ubud we headed to Tanah Lot. We went just to have a quick look which we did and headed back to Candidasa. My wife found tons of similar dresses in CD for $6-$8 US which she was just as happy with.
Day 7 and 8 again we spent lounging around the villa. My friend and I did wake early to go fishing with our friend Made Billie at 0600. While nearly every boat but our pulled in a Mahi Mahi it was a bit of a disappointment. However, just being on the water for 4 hours enjoying a great view of the island of Bali was well worth it.
The last day we departed out of DPS around 4:30 pm thus had our driver pick us up early and headed to Kuta. While I understand that some people love to be in the center of action I personally have been to Kuta before (think Cancun, South Beach Miami, Waikiki etc…) The whole time I couldn’t help but think, “I am so glad we didn’t stay here”! We walked the beach, did some shopping, had lunch and then headed for the airport.
In summary, Bali is most definitely one of the most amazing places I have been if not the most! This island to me is all about the people, the traditions, and the culture. We immersed ourselves in the Balinese lifestyle and in the end were handsomly rewarded. As an example, we tired to learn the language and use it while we were there. I couldn't believe how the locals responded, they were blown away every time that we gave our best effort of Balinese!! We met many great people who in the end we consider friends. After a little over a week in Candiasa we knew probably more then 40 people by name. My wife was teary eyed departing the villa and we will definitely be back! While it is not a short trip from the west coast of the USA we plan on taking our kids on the next trip, I can’t even imagine what my children can learn from the Balinese. If it is even 1/10th of what I learned from them the trip will be a success. Thanks for all the input on this forum as it really helped shape the vacation we were expecting and in turn received.