Monday, December 14, 2009

Magical Bali - View from Kintamani

I took a day trip and went all the way to the popular tourist spot Kintamani to catch the view of the volcano within Mt Batur. The trip took almost 3 hours but I must admit the view was breathtaking. The pic shows a volcano within a volcano. heh. The next time I visit Bali, I intend to do the trek to the top of the volcano which apparently takes only about an hour or two. Already planning my next trip. :)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Magical Bali

I spent the last week in Bali, kinda like my present to myself for completing the 10km run. It's my first time there and I wasn't really expecting much. But after 5 days, I must say that I quite like Bali and it might just become a reasonably cheap short holiday destination for me in the near future.

This trip had many 'firsts'. The 1st First was that this was the first flight to Bali for KLM after more than 10 years! So there was a mini-reception of sorts when we arrived at Bali airport. So here's a pic of a 'chee-ko' me with the 3 beautifully dressed ladies who welcomed the passengers from the flight.

This time, I decided to stay at Tanjung Benoa beach because I'd read that it was one of the better beaches and not as overcrowded as Kuta beach. The good thing is that the beach was certainly better than Kuta's and I could just relax away from the crowds. When I visited Kuta, the beach was filled with people and definitely not a place to just chill. However, the bad thing about staying in Tanjung Benoa was that it was kinda far away from the city centre where the shopping and 'excitement' is. It took about 30min by the hotel shuttle or about S$12 for a one-way taxi ride. I guess the next time, I might decide to stay in Kuta for the food and shopping and then move to a beach resort for a day or two to chill. Here's a pic of the beach just next to Aston Bali, the hotel where I stayed. Not bad, but the water was certainly not crystal clear and the sand was still kinda rough.

I took a day-trip to Lembongan Island, about 1hr away by fast-ferry or 2hr away by Sailboat. I of course chose the sail boat for the experience. Lembongan's beach and water was really wonderful. Clear blue waters and soft white sand beaches. This is definitely one place I'll consider staying at purely for the beach and activities.

At Lembongan Island, I attempted my 2nd and 3rd 'Firsts' of the trip. The 2nd First was I decided to try parasailing! It cost about US$20 and well.. this was one activity I never considered trying due to previous weight considerations. This time round, I threw caution to the wind and decided to give it a try. It was really exhilarating to be released into the sky with a parachute, being flown like a kite from the speedboat.

The 3rd First came about because I was still recovering from the high of the parasailing experience. When I returned to the pontoon where most of the activities were based, I saw a diving lesson being conducted. So I thought.. what-the-heck... I've already tried parasailing, so why not diving! So I paid my US$50, went through a quick 45min orientation and then went for my first ever diving experience. It was really quite unbelievable. The corals and fish were really beautiful and I've never had such an experience before. The diving instructor had bread hidden up his sleeve and he periodically sprinkled the bread in the water, attracting the fish to swim around us. Simply magical. I must say that I am tempted to pick up diving as a hobby but I know it's a pretty expensive past-time. Will think about that a little more. Here's a pic of me and my cheery instructor.

The last First isn't really a first coz I vaguely trying something like this maybe 15 to 20 years ago. But I certainly don't remember it being so fun. Heh. I decided to try Whitewater rafting. There were a few rapids to choose from so being a bit of a wimp, I decided to try the class 2/3 one first instead of the class 4 rapids. I shared the raft with a young couple from Shanghai and we had a great time rafting through about 10km of the river. My only regret after the experience was that I didn't choose the class 4 rapid for more excitement! Well, the good thing is that this leaves me with something new to try the next time round. :) Along the river there were many small water falls and here's one where the rafting guide let us off to take some pics.

The 5 days in Bali went by pretty fast. But it was most definitely a very memorable experience for me. The magic of Bali lies in the fact that the people are really very friendly and that there are really so many different things to do whether you want to just laze or go on some active experiences. The cost, while not cheap, is not prohibitively expensive and well, in comparison to places like Bintan, I think it's more value for money.

I think I left enough activities undone to warrant at least another one or two trips to Bali. :) Next time round, I'll want to try the tougher rafting, do the trek up to the volcano peak (Mt Batur) as well as maybe learn kiteboarding... :P

Well, it's back to work tomorrow. Surprisingly not dreading it. Maybe that's the mark of a good holiday.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

My First Ever 10km Run - 1h 17min 34sec

:D -

Friday, December 04, 2009

Surabaya - Epilogue

Been really busy since returning from Surabaya. There was a staff retreat to attend and then it was down to doing the admin for the selection of the next batch of participants for the programme I'm running in school.

As a closure to my Surabaya trip, I think I must mention my host family who took care of me for two weeks. Like I mentioned earlier, this is the first time I've stayed so long with a host family. It was a really interesting learning experience for me. The one thing which really impressed me was how hospitable they were and how willing they were to let me stay with them. I wonder why we don't have that culture in Singapore. It's usually extremely difficult to find host families in Singapore for our visiting students. Most cite that their homes are too small. In some way, I think it's kinda like insecurity on the part of the Singaporeans. It's really not about how big or small our houses are but about how willing we are to welcome another person into our homes. Someone mentioned to me that the reason she stopped hosting overseas students is because she had done it once and although the experience was very good, she was disillusioned when the student left and ceased all contact with her suddenly. She felt that such an insincere act really caused her to reconsider hosting future students. Personally, I guess I think it shouldn't really about what I can get out of it but what I can do to share my life with the exchange student.

Well, anyway, here's the happy family which hosted me! The Kusuma family!

From left, we have Fonita, Ming, Me, Mr Chen, Luci and Mrs Chen. The pic below shows the eldest daughter Susan and her husband Christian. Really friendly people. It's also interesting to see how the family unit is so strong within the family.

Here's the huge sitting room where I spent many evenings watching tv and chatting with the family.
Here's the all important kitchen where we had our breakfast and dinner. There was always plenty of food and I had to try very politely to tell Mrs Chen there was no need to prepare so much, especially fried rice for breakfast! I was constantly blowing my diet the first few days I was there. Speaking about food, I really enjoyed the Lemper and the Bak Pau... But I'm also glad to be back in Singapore.. no need to struggle with eating too much! In the pic is Chuan Kai, the RI student who was staying with the host family together with me.

Here's the bedroom with a large King-sized bed which I shared with Chuan Kai for two weeks. It was again a first for me to be sharing beds with anyone! Given my previous size, I've always had the luxury of being given a single bed since anyone who shared a bed with me would be seriously disadvantaged. heh.

One problem I had was the serious lack of vegetables in almost all meals (in school and at home). Most of the food that was served was fried or deep fried and I was really glad that at least for dinner, Mrs Chen would make sure there was a plate of vegetables. I was elated to be introduced to Hokka Hokka Bento which is a Japanese fast food restaurant. On top of their fried stuff, they had really good salad and soup! (see below).

On my second last day, I really indulged in two bowls of salad and two bowls of soup. The salad only cost 5000 rupiah each which is only about S$0.90 and the soups cost about 8000 rupiah which is barely S$1.50!! You don't know how satisfied i was downing the two bowls of salad...

And finally, we have the Atlas Sports Club... this was really a godsend. I was really happy to know that the gym was only about 30m from the house where I was staying. Although it cost me about S$18 each time I went, I was glad that I could keep up with some physical training while I was in Surabaya. It was near impossible to jog outdoors (I didn't feel safe and the roads weren't very wide and frequently had potholes) so I depended on the elliptical machines in the gym. Managed to visit the place about 4 times while I was in Surabaya. Seriously, it sounds weird, but I've never been so glad to find a gym. lolz.

So that's it for my Surabaya experience. For my host family, if you do visit this blog, let me say again a sincere word of thanks for taking care of me for the two weeks I was there. I can only hope I can reciprocate it in some way when you visit Singapore.