Choosing Bali Tour Packages – A Solo Traveler’s Dilemma

Bali was the last stop of my solo backpacking trip around Southeast Asia, and my biggest dilemma when I arrived was choosing among the plethora of Bali tour packages offered. What made it more difficult was that I can’t find any group tours that a solo traveler can join, which means I need to go on a private tour.

With dwindling travel funds, I couldn’t afford to take multiple Bali tour packages and had to settle with just one. But which one? I figured I’d just get the one where I’d get to visit its famous landmarks.

north west bali tour package

The tour I got focused on Bali’s north west side covering sites like Taman Ayun, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, and Tanah Lot.

taman ayun bali 1

The driver picked me up from the hotel at 10:00am, and within an hour, we reached our first destination – Taman Ayun.

Taman Ayun

A few minutes walk from the parking lot, we entered a manicured garden. I then learned from my driver that Taman Ayun literally means ‘temple in a beautiful garden’.

taman ayun bali 2
Taman Ayun is considered a family temple where the ancestors of the Raja of the Mengwi Kingdom and other gods are honored.
taman ayun bali 3
Pura Luhuring Purnama

We walked further and entered an elevated split gate – a distinguishable Balinese doorway – to reach the Pura Luhuring Purnama which is the holiest courtyard in the temple complex.

***

It was already lunch time when we left Taman Ayun. And since I haven’t had pork for almost a couple of weeks (I came from Malaysia before coming Indonesia), I asked the driver if we can drop by one of the warungs along the way so I can eat babi guling.

I was expecting it to be similar to our (Philippine) version of lechon, but the spiciness caught me off guard. I’m not a fan of spicy food, so I wasn’t able to finish the meal. 🙁  

Also, I probably got ripped off because I paid IDR50,000. I later learned that babi guling usually only cost around IDR25,000-IDR30,000. -_-

***

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan

Moving on, about an hour and a half away from Taman Ayun is Pura Ulun Danu Bratan.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan Bali 2

Located 1,231 meters above sea level, it was the perfect respite from Bali’s humidity. It was even a bit foggy when we went.

There’s an expansive and well-maintained park, but I find it quite odd that it looks like a mini zoo (with bats and python you can take a picture with for a fee) within the temple grounds.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan Bali
The iconic Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is set on the beautiful Beratan Lake.

On a clear day, the lake is mirror-like; beautifully reflecting the temple and the surrounding hills.

Jatiluwih Rice Terraces

jatiluwih rice terraces bali

When our car pulled up at a parking space in front of a restaurant overlooking the paddies, I thought to myself “Wait, this is it?” You see, I’m from The Philippines and rice terraces are not exactly a novelty in my country, so I found it quite underwhelming.

I was also kind of expecting that we’d go in the actual Jatiluwih, and not just admire it from afar. Needless to say, there was nothing much to do here, so I asked if we could go to Tanah Lot.

COFFEE TASTING at sari amerta luwak coffee (one bali agro)

Because it was still early, the driver suggested that we drop by a coffee farm first for coffee tasting. He said there was no pressure to purchase.

coffee tasting bali
I can’t exactly remember the correct order, but pictured are: Mangosteen Tea, Red Ginger Tea, Bali Cocoa, Lemongrass Tea, Ginseng Coffee, Coconut Coffee, Ginger Tea, Bali Coffee, Lemon Tea, Cocoa Spices, Rosel Tea, Vanilla Coffee, and Luwak Coffee.

We did a short tour of the coffee farm first before the coffee tasting. Then I was presented with a dozen sampler of their products.

I actually liked a couple from this bunch and was planning to bring home some, but got turned off by the price. I decided to just buy one from the supermarket close to my hotel. :p

tanah lot

Not too far from the coffee farm is Tanah Lot.

tanah lot bali

This Hindu shrine is perched atop an outcrop in the sea, but devotees doesn’t seem to mind the crashing waves and ‘guardian’ sea snakes (according to my driver).

We were supposed to wait for the sun to set, but there were too many people so I asked the driver if he has any suggestions. He said we could go to Seminyak Beach.

seminyak beach

seminyak beach bali

Seminyak Beach is lined with posh hotels and high-end restaurants, so it’s less crowded than the rest of the beaches this side of Bali.

seminyak beach bali 2

While Philippine beaches are far better than Bali’s (yes, I’m biased), there’s no denying that their spirituality, culture, and way of life is unlike any other in the world.

seminyak beach bali 3

I know I’ve barely scratched the surface, so I am aching to see more of what the Island of the Gods have to offer.

I’d probably bring a friend along when I return, so we can fully enjoy other Bali tour packages such as Kintamani Tour, Ubud and Goa Gajah, Uluwatu Temple Sunset and Kecak Fire Dance, and Bali’s East (Tirtagangga) tour.

Have you been to Bali? Which Bali tour packages did you like the most? Please leave a reply below.

Instagram-Worthy Swimming Pools You Should Check Out

With the rising temperature, I’m sure everyone’s itching for a summer getaway. And if you’re like me who loves lounging by the pool, then here’s my personal list of Instagram-worthy swimming pools you should check out.

Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens & Spa

You’ve probably seen it on TV a lot lately, and I totally get why it’s often featured.

This infinity pool within Loreland Resort boasts of sweeping views of Laguna de Bay and Metro Manila

Bring your girl friends or your partner and avail of their spa services for the ultimate R&R.

Luljetta's Hanging Garden & Spa Infinity Pool Continue reading “Instagram-Worthy Swimming Pools You Should Check Out”

Review: Swiss-Belhotel Rainforest Kuta

Swiss-Belhotel Rainforest Kuta is located along Bali’s Sunset Road. It has a very unassuming facade, and looks small from the outside. But I was pleasantly surprised when I entered the lobby as it has a very tropical vibe – a very stark contrast to its commercial-looking exteriors. They didn’t name it ‘Rainforest’ for nothing.

Love that palm leaf-like ceiling fan!
This is how the lobby looks from Oak Restaurant

5 Itineraries to Help Kickstart Your Southeast Asian Adventure

Ever since I got back from my month-long Southeast Asian trip last August 2014, some friends have expressed their interest of doing the same, but don’t know exactly where to start.  

The thing is, when people ask me for my itinerary, I’m a bit hesitant to just give them what I used because it is customized according to MY traveling style. 
I found that it has changed over the years. I no longer feel the need to pack as many attractions as I can in day, and would prefer to pay more for convenience rather than sacrifice comfort for the sake of sticking to my budget. 

I also traveled solo, so my expenses were inevitably bigger than usual. And the only tickets I had pre-booked on sale were my Manila to Bangkok, Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and Bali to Manila flights. The rest of the flights, I booked when I was already on the road.

I actually traveled for 32 days

Continue reading “5 Itineraries to Help Kickstart Your Southeast Asian Adventure”

Review: Courtyard by Marriott Bali Seminyak

It was the last two days of my month-long Southeast Asia trip, and I’ve had the privilege of spending it at the newly-opened Courtyard by Marriott Seminyak.

I traveled from Ubud, and despite being new, my taxi driver didn’t have a hard time finding the hotel. It’s located just a few minutes away from Seminyak Beach and high-end beach clubs, and a stone’s throw away from restaurants, shops, ATMs, and foreign exchange.

As if going through airport security, security officers and a K9 inspected the taxi thoroughly. Guests were also required to pass through a metal detector, and the bags, through the scanner. I noticed this is a standard in Marriott properties as guests’ safety and security is of utmost importance.

Lobby

The cheerful staff welcomed me, and offered a welcome drink and cold towel. Check-in was quite a breeze too.

By the way, if you’re a Marriott Rewards member staying at selected Marriott properties, you can skip the queue by checking-in/out through the Marriott Mobile App. How cool is that?
Pool Bar
Didn’t mind waiting because I had this view
 

I arrived earlier than the official check-in time, and had to wait a bit for the room to be ready. While waiting, Melinda, one of the front desk associates, chatted with me and shared some info about the hotel. We also talked briefly about my trip.

Immediately noticeable from the lobby is the Pool Bar.

If you think the pool is small, well, think again. It’s actually a three-tiered pool with a lagoon-shaped main pool in the middle, and a more shallow, almost wading pool-like part towards the end, which is perfect for kids.
 
I arrived on a very sunny day, and the pool was glistening. The bright blues looked so inviting it made me want to jump in.
Wading pool with daybeds
I was given a room on the ‘upper ground floor’. Like most rooms, it has a private balcony overlooking the pools. Not satisfied with just a view of the pool? You may also book rooms with pool access.

The room may be modest in size, but the amenities are complete.

I love the clean lines and the freshness that the room exudes. It’s simple, but tastefully decorated.
 

The closet, though small, has ample space for your things. Bathrobes, slippers, and electronic safe are also found inside the closet.

The writing desk has a number of universal power outlets, and was easily my favorite spot. I spent most of my time here catching up with work. I just wish there was more space between the desk and the closest as it could be a nuisance sometimes.

The complimentary WiFi was fast, and didn’t require the usual annoying alphanumeric password. You just need to enter your room number, your last name, and voila!
Natural fibers were incorporated in some of the furnishings to somehow give the room a tropical vibe.

Of course there’s the usual coffee and tea making facility, mini bar, and complimentary bottled water that were replenished daily.

The bathroom was spotless and very spacious – almost half the size of the room, actually.

It has a separate toilet and bath, and the bath is fitted with a rainshower head, which is always a plus point in my book.

Toiletries, grooming kit, and towels were aplenty, and were replenished/replaced daily.

Buffet breakfast is served at Seminyak Kitchen which has a casual and cafe-like feel.

They serve fresh salads, cold cuts, cereals, eggs, noodles, and Indonesian and Western fare among others. My favorites are the freshly baked pastries, fresh fruit juices, and ice cream. And, get this, they serve breakfast all day!

Seminyak Kitchen

Since I have an early morning flight back to Manila, I decided to pre-arrange the airport service with the hotel. And when the front desk staff found out that I need to check out by 5:00 am and wouldn’t make it to the buffet breakfast, they made sure I’ll have a breakfast box ready when I check out. They filled it with Danish pastries and bottles of fruit pastries. It was a really sweet and thoughtful gesture that I have never experienced anywhere else. 🙂

Courtyard by Marriott Seminyak successfully blends the comfort and security of a hotel, the playful yet relaxed ambience of a resort, and the personalized service of a bed and breakfast.

What it lacks in Balinese design, it makes up for in Balinese hospitality.

It was definitely a sweet ending to my trip.

 

K

 
 
Jalan Camplung Tanduk No 103 SP,
Dhyana Pura, Seminyak, Bali, 80361 Indonesia
Tel: +62 361 8499 600
Facebook: Courtyard by Marriott Bali Seminyak