BY: Deepika Shetty
SINGAPORE ABROAD IN BALI WITH...
Occupation: Freelance copywriter
Length of stay: Two years
They say Bali has it all. Paddy fields, lakes, beaches, mountains and temples.
Its natural beauty and relaxed pace of life is what drew freelance copywriter Patricea Chow-Capodieci to the 'island of the gods'.
She finds travellers to Bali these days are more interested in discovering, preserving and promoting local culture and customs. 'You will find them volunteering at many foundations here. I find they are more interested in spiritual and holistic travel rather than the usual shopping and clubbing. I think the island is welcoming a different phase of tourism now, more of eco-tourism and eco-lifestyle.'
She finds Bali the perfect place to live and make new friends while appreciating the island's rich culture and traditions. She moved to Bali with her husband Roberto Capodieci, 34. He is an IT consultant and their four-month-old son Antonio Weilong was born there.
The best way to get around is...
On a hired car or motorbike. Prices begin from 40,000 rupiah (S$6) per day for a motorbike, and from 120,000 rupiah per day for a car.There is no good public transportation system. Taxis, even those that charge by the meter, are one of the most costly in Asia.
The best way to explore the place is...
By motorbike, because traffic is quite crazy and it can get quite dangerous trying to move around on a bicycle.
The best time to visit Bali is...
From May to end August, when humidity levels are slightly lower and there is always a cool breeze throughout the day and night.
Which places really excite you?
I love Bali's natural settings. Just gazing at the expansive rice fields scattered around the island brings a kind of serenity that I simply cannot describe. My husband and I have travelled to various scenic places in the world and been to a couple of tropical islands that have loads of greenery, but there is an aura about Bali.
My favourite place is Ubud, famously known as the arts and cultural heart of Bali. There is an abundance of art evident through painting, photography, dance and sculpture.
|If it is traditional dances you seek, Bali has lots to offer.
There is also culture as seen through the daily offerings, weekly temple ceremonies and local cooking, as well as history that lives through the palaces and museums of Ubud. I also love the serenity of Lovina in the north, which has clear water off black-sand beaches, so you can gaze down and see colourful corals. I also like having dinner comprising grilled fish and seafood on the beach of Jimbaran Bay.
Where does one start in Bali?
Balinese are extremely hospitable and many of them are very happy to invite people to observe how festivals and ceremonies are celebrated in their home or at the village temple.
If you show genuine interest and have respect for their beliefs, they will extend the invitation without you having to ask. I have been fortunate to witness the ground-touching ceremony of a newborn baby and a traditional Balinese wedding within a family compound.
There is always a holy day every other week and the people will don their traditional dress, head to the village temple with offerings and spend the day and night there.
Do not leave Bali without visiting...
The Royal Palace in Ubud. While you cannot enter the rooms, you can still see the splendour of the place through its architecture, intricate pattern carvings on the doors and ornate furnishings in the compound.
Any key festivals to work into one's travel plans?
Plenty. The annual Bali Art Festival in June and July. Ngaben, the Balinese word for cremation, is a purification rite which frees the spirit from its temporary earthly house and facilitates its journey to its next existence. This happens every mid-July in all the village temples but the biggest ceremony is at the Royal Palace in Ubud.
|Experience a purification rite, Ngaben.
Early July also sees the Bali Kite Festival on the beaches of Sanur at Padang Galak.
In early August, there is the Sanur Village Festival filled with food, shopping and cultural activities. And in October, there is the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival. This year, it will host various authors including celebrated Indian writer Vikram Seth.
Between July and October, there are bull races in Negara. This is not for the faint- hearted. The bulls are decked with accessories and hitched to makeshift chariots in pairs. They are steered by jockeys who drive them by hitting their back with a sharp nail attached to a leather strap.
Any festivals one should avoid?
Do not visit during Nyepi, which is the Hindu New Year. This is determined by the lunar cycle calendar and it usually falls in March or April. It is a day of silence and stillness. Hindu Balinese meditate and fast on this day. Thus, for 24 hours from midnight, people do not leave their home compound - the shops are closed and the island is plunged into darkness as no electricity is used.
Where can you find the best bargains?
Most tourists end up in Ubud market to buy sarongs, sundresses, sandals, bed spreads, blankets, ikat weave table mats and houseware. But I would recommend going to the Sukawati market which is a lot less crowded and has more variety. Remember to bargain.
Where to go for bargains also depends on what you are looking for. There are shops selling a wide variety of lampshades in Jalan Raya Andong near Ubud. If you are looking for silver and gold ware, then you must make a stop at Celuk. For stone carvings, the best stop is Batubulan, which is on the way from Sanur to Ubud.For boutique shopping, stop at Seminyak. As for wood and mask carvings, the best selection can be found in Mas-Ubud.
Do not leave the place without...
Trying the spare ribs at Naughty Nuri's (Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Ubud, tel: +62-361-977-547), and the smoked duck at Arie's Warung, along the soccer field of Ubud.
For traditional food, you have to try nasi campur, nasi pecel, bebek goreng and babi guling, all available at many warungs and restaurants in Bali.
|Tuck in to delicious nasi campur.
The best breakfast is at...
The Bali Marina Restaurant (www.balimarina.com/restaurant.php, tel: +62-361- 723-601) in Benoa.
They have a selection of Indonesian breakfast (usually nasi goreng ayam or bubur ayam), Continental breakfast (eggs, toast and bacon) and healthy breakfast (muesli with yogurt and milk) sets from 35,000 rupiah and up. What I also like about this place is that it is very peaceful. Another of my favourite breakfast haunts is Tutmak in Jalan Dewi Sita in Ubud, which is an eatery at a corner among a line of shops lining one side of the soccer field. They have a breakfast special of toast, rosti, eggs and bacon that is hard to resist.
Where can you get the best dinner?
Depends on whether you are going high-end or budget. Warung Sobat (tel: +62-361-738-922) in Jalan Batu Belig offers both European and Indonesian dishes.
CasCades restaurant at Viceroy Bali (Jalan Lanyahan, off Jalan Raya Andong, Ubud, tel: +62-361- 971-777) has fine Continental dining. Round it off with a Grand Marnier souffle.
I like the chicken kebabs and beef mouzaka at Mykonos Greek Restaurant (Jalan Laksmana 52, Seminyak, www.mykonos-bali.com, tel: +62-361-733-253).
Also try the restaurant at Desa Seni village resort (www.desaseni.com, tel: +62-361-844-392), located just before the Canggu Club in Jalan Kayu Putih. The vegetables, fruit, herbs and spices are grown in its organic gardens. Highly recommended are the canggu salad - pomelo tossed with bonkot flower (a local flower), gorgonzola cheese and vinaigrette - and sea bass seasoned with porcini mushrooms and served with roasted eggplant.
Your favourite drink is...
The Black Eyed Girl cocktail, which is a concoction of Kahlua, frangelico, Baileys Irish cream, cream and amaretto served in a long martini glass. You can get it at the CasCades Bar (tel: +62-361-971-777) at the Viceroy Bali in Ubud.
What is the coolest place to chill out?
The most popular is bar and restaurant Ku De Ta (www.kudeta.net at Jalan Laksmana 9, Seminyak, tel: +62-361-736-969). It holds the coolest and most stylish events, both private functions and theme parties open to the paying public every weekend. An alternative in the area is Hu'u Bar (Jalan Raya Petitenget, www.huubali.com, tel: +62-361-736-443), which moved from Singapore to Bali in 2001. It is a bar, restaurant and club with an ambience reminiscent of the Indochine restaurants at Empress Place.
For jazz lovers, check out the live performances from Tuesdays to Sundays at Jazz Cafe (Jalan Sukma, www.jazzcafebali.com, tel: +62-361-976-594) in Ubud. You can choose to have dinner or just drinks there as the musicians perform. There is a small entrance fee of 25,000 rupiah that goes to the musicians.
What is there to explore?
Surfers will like Nusa Lembongan, one of the three islands in the Badung Strait off the east coast of Bali, for its three well- known surf breaks: Playgrounds, Lacerations and Shipwrecks.
There are also several spots for diving and snorkelling around this island. These include Crystal Bay, Gamar Bay, Manta Point, Ceningan Wall, Toyapaket, Blue Corner and Lembongan Bay.
There is also Nusa Lombok, which is less developed and less busy than Bali. Indonesia's third largest volcano, Mount Rinjani, with the crater lake Segara Anak and a natural hot spring, are found on this island.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on August 24, 2008.