Bali, Diving and More…

by Mike on October 21, 2012

I landed in Denpasar mid-day and rushed to purchase a visa on arrival USD because I’ve heard through the grapevine of travels that lines(queue) can be long.  After purchasing the visa, I was greeted to a bearable line at passport control.  I think the total time spent on both lines was a half hour – not too shabby considering the stories I’ve heard.

After, I obtained some cash from an ATM near baggage claim.  With local currency in hand, I scouted the area for a convenience type store because whenever I visit a country I’ve never visited before, I always make a habit of buying something small from an airport store because:

  • I get familiar with the denominations of currency when I receive change.
  • I’m less likely to get ripped off by an airport worker than a cab driver.
  • It breaks up the larger denomination bills.
  • I get an idea how expensive things are.

I ended up buying a 500 mL bottle of water costing 5,000 IDR or about fifty US cents.  Based on that purchased I ascertained that Bali is relatively inexpensive.

Next, I had to get to my hotel.  I had a night booked at the Bali Hyatt located in Sanur, which I wrote about here.  I was offered fares for 200,000 IDR equivalent to $20 USD.  Now for a 40 minute cab ride in the Western world that would be reasonable, however this is Bali and things are cheaper as evident from my water bottle purchase.

I counter offered for half – 100,000 IDR.  The driver balked stating the reason of traffic and couldn’t accept that price.  I then walked to other taxi drivers and asked them how much for a fare to Sanur, this one driver replied 150,000 IDR.  I stood firm to my previous counter offer of 100,000 IDR.  He came back with 120,000 IDR.

Based on these two counters offers, which took a matter of minutes, I realized that the first offer of 200,000 IDR was too high – a rip off price specifically for gullible tourists.  In the end, after a bit more haggling, the first cab driver who offered 200,000 IDR agreed for a 100,00 IDR fare to Sanur.  I later found out that a 100,000 IDR was indeed the fair price.  I hate when cabbies try to rip off unsuspecting people, I guess it’s just the nature of the business.

FIRST THING FIRST

I didn’t have any other reservations for my time in Bali so my first order of business was to reserve a room in Amed to do what I came here to do – diving.  A friend who visited Amed several months prior recommended Wawawewe II.  Without any other alternatives, I reserved a room at Wawawewe II.

Amed being 2.5 hours by car, I needed a way to get there.  According to Lonely Planet there are buses running in Bali, but with my limited time, I didn’t want to waste any.  I ventured out of the hotel and approached several tour/adventure booking counters to inquiry about transport to Bali.  Keeping in mind that Amed is about a 2.5 hour drive I expected to pay 3 to 4 times more than the cab fare from the airport to Sanur.  It turns out the going rate was 400,000 IDR to 450,000 IDR.  I agreed for something in between and was off to Amed the following day.

ARRIVAL IN AMED

I would rate Wawawewe II as a good value for the money.  The villas had individual outdoor showers and bathrooms.  So if you don’t like geckos peering in, this isn’t the place for you.  The room itself was adequate, but nothing to exaggerate about.  The pool and the view from the pool is what made this place for me. The food is all reasonably priced.  Some of the local dishes can be bought for a dollar or two cheaper at Warungs(a small family owned restaurant in Indonesia) out in town.

Pool at Wawawewe II

Family owned store in Amed

Family owned store in Amed Note: shelves in front is the gas pump

Rented a scooter in Amed

Rented a scooter in Amed and cruised outside of Amed

Buying gas from a family owned store

Purchasing gas from the most adorable girl

DIVING IN AMED

After checking in, I asked about diving.  One of the workers handed me a brochure for “Euro Dive,” which I found expensive for Bali.  So, I stepped out of the Wawawewe II property and searched for another dive shop(there are a lot of them in Amed).  About 70 meters from Wawawewe II, I walked into Bali Reef Divers – the first dive resort I found.  I spoke to Tom sitting behind the desk.  Tom was a Belgium National working in Bali as a dive instructor.  He spoke many languages and I felt confident in his shop and the workers he had.  So, I committed to meeting him the next day for two dives.  His prices were much more reasonable – 660,000 IDR or $64 USD at the time of this writing.

The morning of my first dive, we were packing the van for a 40 minute drive to Tumlaben to the popular USS Liberty Wreck followed up by a reef dive nearby.  There were other divers in the van, but they had their own agenda as well as their own instructors.  One couple was obtaining their open water certification.  While another person was going for his Nitrox cert and one women was finishing her open water dives.  There was a mix of skill level.  The two sites I was told were easy with relatively mild currents(if any) and calm waters.

I was paired up with a local dive master who’s English was pretty good.  There was nothing about his English abilities that made me feel uncomfortable if an emergency occurred.  Besides, there’s no verbal communications underwater anyway – it’s all gestures anyway.

The visibility in Bali was close to 15 meters, which is 60-70% of the best case scenario.  Can you believe that?!?  I’m only a novice diver and I can’t imagine what it would have been like if visibility was at it’s full potential.

Marine Life in Bali

Marine Life in Bali

Garden of eels in Bali

Garden of eels in Bali

Amongst fist, diving in Bali

Amongst a school of fish

I managed to get in 4 dives total in two days.   Between each dive each day, we had an hour and 15 minutes to let the nitrogen dissipate from our system.

SPOILED

Not only was the marine life and visibility great, there were porters who were paid a wage by our dive company to carry our assembled air cylinder and BCD to the beach and back, leaving us only to carry our mask and fins.  Life was tough!

I enjoyed Amed quite a bit so much that I extended my stay there.  I’m pretty sure it was the peaceful and serene view from the pool that cemented my decision.

ONWARD TO UBUD

After Amed I traveled to Ubud, which is located inland.  I didn’t have a place to stay in Ubud, I knew there were a lot of choices when it came to accommodations and wasn’t too concerned.

At Wawawewe II, I met a solo traveling middle-aged woman from Maui who was traveling to Bali basically to hit the “reset button” in her life after her divorce.  She had plans to travel to Ubud the same day as I did and we agreed to split a cab fare to save some cash.

Without a place to stay in Ubud, the cab driver highly recommended Artini 2 which was the same hotel my friend recommended.  Needless to say, I ended up staying at the Artini 2, which did not disappoint.

Artini 2 in Ubud, Bali

Artini 2 in Ubud, Bali

My time in Ubud was spent next to this thing:

Pool at Artini 2

Pool at Artini 2

I did make my way out to see some rice fields and the monkey temple.

rice fields in Ubud, Bali

Rice fields in Ubud, Bali

Monkey Temple Bali

Monkey Temple Bali

OTHER THOUGHTS ON BALI

I understand that the locals have to support their families.  Since tourism is one of the leading industries in Bali, catering to tourist can be a lucrative way to make a living.  Some locals sell trinkets and souvenirs while other offer services such as taxi services.

All these are perfectly legitimate.  The aspect that irks me is the constant solicitation.

Solicitations are tolerable once in a while, but having to constantly hear “taxshi, moto bike, transport” from the moment you set foot out of your hotel until you return is beyond annoying.  It takes a bit a patience to listen and politely decline offers.  For anyone visiting Bali, just be prepared.

DEPARTURE TAX

I was flying to Singapore on KLM flight 836.  Line at passport control wasn’t long at all.  Additionally, people leaving Bali via air are required to pay a departure tax of 150,000 IDR or in my case $20 USD because I didn’t have 150,000 IDR.  At the time, 150,000 IDR is more like $15 USD, the governing bodies really try to squeeze every bit out of you if you don’t have the local currency.  Normally, departure taxes are built into the “taxes and fees” portion of the airfare, but apparently it’s not in Bali.

Departure tax counters in Bali

The “shakedown” counters for tourists leaving Bali

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