Monday, October 31, 2011

Getting from Bali to Singapore (and return)

by Cristina | September 13th, 2011  

Singapore is a city-state in Southeast Asia, well known for its cosmopolite feel, exotic food and many shopping opportunities. For those not used to the high humidity, Singapore will be quite a test. The temperature is high year round and it rains daily.

Quick summary

While there are ferries between Bali and Singapore (with a stop in Batam), it takes a long time to cover the distance and there are only 2 ferries a week departing from/arriving in Bali. Therefore, the only way to get between Bali and Singapore is the 2h 35 min flight. There are plenty of airlines connecting the two places, so make sure to shop around.

Changi Airport (airport code: SIN) is the main airport in Singapore, a major aviation hub in Southeast Asia. It is hub for Jetstar Asia Airways, Silkair, Singapore Airlines, Tiger Airways, Qantas and Valuair. It currently serves more than 100 airlines flying to over 200 cities worldwide.

Flights from Denpasar (Bali) are run by Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia AirAsia, Jetstar Airways, KLM, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and Valuair. On large booking engines (eg. Kayak) , you can book one way flights from US$207 on Garuda Indonesia. However, if you search for flights directly on the airlines’ websites, you can find one way flights from US$80 on Jetstar Airlines. The flight time is 2h 35 min.

Generally speaking, you’ll get the best value if you book the flight 2 to 4 weeks before departure. But exceptions can be found, particularly when you can find a last minute deal.

Technically you take the ferry from Bali to Batam and then to Singapore, but there is a big problem. While there are quite a lot of connections from Batam to Singapore, there are only two boats a month from Bali to Batam, which means your travel plans will really have to depend on the schedule.

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Getting from Bali to Jakarta (and return)

by Cristina | September 14th, 2011  

Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia and is located northwest of the island of Java. The Big Durian offers a lot of things to do and many put the city on their must-visit list while in Asia. Since Bali is located quite close to Jakarta , many travelers chose to travel between the two cities when working their way to mainland Asia or to Australia.

Quick summary

The Bali to Jakarta route is served by plenty of low cost carriers which makes flying really affordable. Single tickets start at US$30 and you can get between the two places in about 1 ½ hours.
But many budget travelers choose to travel either by a combination of bus, ferry and train or by bus and ferry. It does cost less than flying but you’ll be traveling about 24 hours (if there aren’t any delays).

Soekarno Hatta International Airport (CGK) is the main airport serving Jakarta and the island of Java. It is hub for Batavia Air, Cardig Air, Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia AirAsia, Lion Air, Merpati Nusantara Airlines, Republic Express Airlines, Sriwijaya Air and Wings Air.
Direct flights from Denpasar (Bali) to Jakarta are operated by Batavia Air, Citilink, Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia AirAsia , Lion Air , Merpati Nusantara Airlines, Sriwijaya Air and Wings Air. The cheapest flights are offered by Indonesia AirAsia and start at US$60 one way. The flight time is 1h 40 min. Return flights start at US$125 per person, on the same airline.

You can use a mix of bus , ferry and train to get from Bali to Jakarta.
First you need to travel from Bali to Yogyakarta, Malang, or Surabaya. This can be done by bus and ferry.
Buses to Yogyakarta leave each evening from Ubung Terminal in Denpasar. It takes about 15 hours and the bus ticket also includes the ferry crossing (over Rp200,000 / US$23 per person).
Buses to Surabaya leave from the same terminal. The ticket includes the ferry crossing and the total travel time is 8 to 10 hours. Prices start around Rp150,000 / US$17.25 per person.

From Yogyakarta you can take the morning train to Jakarta. The price for the express train is around Rp300,000 / US$34.50 per person and the total travel time is 8-10 hours.
From Surabaya you can take the Express train to Jakarta, either during the day (departure at 8 a.m.) or during the night (departure at 8 p.m.). The total travel time is 10 h 30 min. The fare is about Rp200,000 / US$23 per person.

>>read more about The train from Jakarta to Yogyakarta

The alternative is to take the bus and ferry from Bali to Jakarta. Tickets can be bought from the travel agents in the town(s). Two companies operate on this route: Lorena and Pahala Kencana (buses depart Denpasar at 6:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.)
The total travel time is about 24 hours but the buses are clean and you are also offered two meals. Delays can and will occur (sometimes even up to 10 hours). The price is about US$30 per person.

It is possible to rent a car and drive from Bali to Jakarta, but you’ll also be taking the ferry. So make sure to consider the price for crossing with a vehicle. The total travel time is about 21 hours. For your safety, do consider taking some breaks along the way.


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Bali in January

by Cristina | September 13th, 2011  

There aren’t many events taking place in January but if you are on a low budget and always wanted to visit Bali, take advantage of the low airfare and come here. It’s humid and rainy, but that shouldn’t stop you check out the sights.

January is part of the wet season and , as a result, is one of the rainiest months in Bali. This doesn’t mean it will rain all the time, but it will rain almost every day (usually in the afternoon). It’s not a suitable month to visit Bali if you plan to engage in outdoor activities, such as mountain climbing, mountain biking or hiking. Otherwise, just pack some rain gear and you are good to go sightseeing. Temperatures range between 17C and 30C and the humidity is 75%.

>>read more about the Weather in Bali

Since January is part of the low season, expect to find affordable airfare , especially if you book slightly in advance. Finding a cheap hotel is also easy and now you can even book hotels which would usually put a big hole in your travel budget. If you prefer a hostel , you’ll be able to find very good rates.

The weather isn’t exactly good for sunbathing, especially if you are unlucky to visit Bali when it’s windy and cloudy. But it’s possible to enjoy some sunny days and you can plan some activities around the beach.

January is a good month to visit the sights. If rains catches you off guard, you can always hide in a temple, museum or in a shopping mall.

Early January is busy as the New Year celebrations continue during the first days of the month, especially in places where foreign tourists like to spend their time.

In January, the Balinese celebrate Pager Wesi, a holiday dedicated to Sang Yang, the creator of the universe. There are important celebrations on the island.

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Bali Beach Hotels

by Cristina | September 21st, 2011  

Bali is one of the most sought-after vacation destinations in the world. Honeymooners and those looking for a relaxing escape usually prefer to stay close to the beach and have as many facilities as possible available in the hotel. Thankfully, it’s not hard to find hotels which offer spa facilities, as well as massage centers and private pools.

Here is a list of mid-range and luxury hotels located either right on Kuta or Nusa Dusa beach or close to these beaches.


This 3-star hotel is located just 5 min walk from Kuta Beach and offers a lovely setting for your vacation. The modern rooms are located around the outdoor pool. The hotel also offers a spa and a restaurant. There’s free parking and wi-fi. All rooms have AC, TV and a minibar. Breakfast is included in the room price. Pets are not allowed in the hotel.
During November 2011, prices start at US$73 per standard double room per night.


This 4-star hotel is located right on Kuta Beach and offers free parking and wi-fi. The hotel offers an outdoor swimming pool, a spa and a fitness center. All rooms have TV, AC and minibar.

During November 2011, prices start at US$99.14 per room per night, excluding breakfast.


This 4-star hotel is located right on Kuta Beach. It offers an outdoor pool and a spa. The Balinese-style rooms have balcony, TV, mini bar and tea/coffee makers.

During November 2011, prices start at US$109 per deluxe double room per night, including breakfast.


This 4-star hotel is located 165 ft from Kuta Beach and offers an outdoor pool, a fitness center and a spa. The hotel also provides free shuttles to Discovery Mall. All rooms have flat-screen TV and work desk. There’s free wi-fi in the lobby and restaurant. The room prices include the buffet breakfast.

During November 2011, prices start at US$110 per superior double room per night.


This 5-star hotel is located on a private stretch of beach along Nusa Dusa. The hotel offers a private pool, a spa, free parking and free wi-fi. All villas feature fully equipped kitchenette, minibar and an open-air bath. Breakfast is included in the villa price.

During November 2011, prices start at US$554.18 per one-bedroom villa per night.


This luxury hotel offers a private beach, a golf course, a fitness center, a pool and a massage center. All rooms have flat-screen TV, safe and ironing facilities.

During November 2011, prices start at US108.04 per deluxe twin room per night, excluding breakfast.

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Palestinian Struggle at a Crossroads Again

By Dawoud Abu Lebdeh

The Israel-Hamas prisoner exchange was an emotional moment for thousands of Palestinians who were reunited with family members they had not seen for years. But it came at a price. Some of the public perceive the prisoner release deal as an achievement for Hamas’ militant approach, a success story that Palestinian diplomatic efforts and negotiations with Israel have not yet been able to deliver.

The prisoners swap came only a few weeks after all eyes were on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as he stood before the United Nations General Assembly and submitted a request to recognise Palestine as a full and permanent member of the international organisation.

One of the reasons that Abbas had decided to go to the UN was his belief that diplomatic work would bring better results to the Palestinian people than armed resistance. The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) leadership is convinced that renewed violence would bring disastrous results for the Palestinian cause. Whether or not the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) diplomatic approach will trump Hamas’ militant route now depends to a large extent on the international community’s response to the Palestinian bid at the UN.

For now, it looks pretty certain that the bid at the Security Council will be met with a veto by the United States. Despite this, the Palestinian leadership continues to pursue efforts to enter Palestine as a non-member state in the United Nations through the UN General Assembly. It is also working to enter Palestine into other international organisations, such as UNESCO and the World Trade Organization, and to gain recognition by the European Parliament. These latter efforts are aimed at arriving at the UN General Assembly vote with the largest number of recognitions by international organisations possible, which will in turn put pressure on the countries that do not presently recognise Palestine.

Many political leaders around the world criticise the new Palestinian policy, calling it unilateral. Yet they have not suggested any alternatives to the Palestinians to secure their rights apart from a return to negotiations which, in over 18 years, have achieved nothing for the Palestinian people.

The UN bid represents a loss of faith in the negotiation process at this stage, and a decision by the PA leadership to transfer the struggle from Ramallah and Jerusalem to international forums, thereby placing a greater responsibility on the international community. Now the international community must show the Palestinians that there are concrete outcomes and real rewards for their diplomatic efforts.

The day Abbas made his speech at the UN, thousands of Palestinians filled the streets calling for a two-state solution in which a Palestinian state exists next to Israel along the 1967 borders. This is considered a great compromise in the eyes of the Palestinian people for whom recognising a state of Israel within the 1967 borders means giving up on 78 per cent of historical Palestine. But will the international community understand how important it is to build on this momentum?

Whether it will be in the Security Council, the General Assembly or any other international organisation, support from any of these actors for Palestinian diplomatic efforts will empower those who are working towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict and encourage the Palestinian street to support the two-state solution.

This could be a critical crossroads. The prisoners swap has shown people that Hamas’ tactics can yield results. If the Palestinians feel that both the path of negotiations and diplomatic routes fail to achieve results in the near future, they could easily lose faith in the non-violent approach.

The international community must show the Palestinian people that they support their quest for a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders and, by doing so, demonstrate that they support those who believe in negotiations and diplomacy as a way to solve the conflict and achieve peace.

Dawoud Abu Lebdeh is a Palestinian living in East Jerusalem. He is project manager at the Center for Democracy and Non-Violence and one of the founders of the Watan student movement at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Filed under: Opinion

Teen Violence Linked to Sugary Drinks

Researchers say they have found a “shocking” association – if only a statistical one – between violence by teenagers and the amount of sugary drinks they consume.

High-school students in the US city of Boston who consumed more than five cans of non-diet, fizzy soft drinks every week were between nine and 15-percent likelier to engage in an aggressive act compared with counterparts who drank less.

“What we found was that there was a strong relationship between how many soft drinks that these inner-city kids consumed and how violent they were, not only in violence against peers but also violence in dating relationships, against siblings,” said David Hemenway, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

“It was shocking to us when we saw how clear the relationship was,” he said.

But he stressed that only further work would confirm, or disprove, the key question whether higher consumption of sweet sodas caused violent behaviour.

The new study was based on answers to questionnaires filled out by 1,878 public-school students aged 14 to 18 in the inner Boston area, where Hemenway said crime rates were much higher than in the wealthier suburbs.

The overwhelming majority of respondents were Hispanic, African-American or mixed; few were Asian or white.

Among the questions were how much carbonated non-diet soft drink, measured in 12-ounce cans, the teens had drunk in the previous seven days.

They were also asked whether they drank alcohol or smoked, carried a weapon or showed violence towards peers, family members and partner.

What emerged, said Hemenway, was evidence of “dose response,” in other words, the more soda was consumed, the likelier the tendency towards violence.

Among those who drank one or no cans of soft drink a week, 23 percent carried a gun or a knife; 15 percent perpetrated violence towards a partner; and 35 percent had been violent towards peers.

At the other end of the scale, among those who drank 14 cans a week, 43 percent carried a gun or a knife; 27 percent had been violent towards a partner; and more than 58 percent had been violent towards peers.

Overall, teens who were heavy consumers of sugary fizz were between nine and 15 percentage points likelier to show aggressive behaviour compared with low consumers, even when ethnicity and other confounding factors were taken into account.

This is a magnitude similar to the link found, in previous research, with alcohol or tobacco.

Hemenway said the study had included a couple of questions aimed at taking a children’s home background into account, including whether the teen had taken a meal with his family in the previous days.

As it was only intended as a preliminary investigation, the questionnaire did not ask what kind of soft drinks the teens consumed, he said.

“This is one of the very first studies to examine” the question, said Hemenway.

“We don’t know why (there is this strong association). There may be some causal effect but it’s also certainly plausible that this is just a marker for other problems – that kids who are violent for whatever reason; they tend to smoke more; they tend to drink more alcohol; and they tend to maybe drink more soft drinks. We just don’t know.

“We want to look at it more carefully in following studies.”

The study, published in a British journal, Injury Prevention, will revive memories of the “Twinkie Defence,” a US legal landmark in which a killer successfully argued that his behaviour had been swayed by eating junk food.

The defendant in this case, Dan White, had been charged with homicide. His lawyer’s successful pleading led to conviction of a lesser charge, of voluntary manslaughter.

Several studies elsewhere have established a link between very high sugar consumption and lack of social bonding or irritable and anti-social behaviour.

Some diet research has also pointed the finger at the lack of micro-nutrients as a source of aggression, but this work is still in its early stages.

Filed under: Health

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bali in November

by Cristina | September 12th, 2011  

Nowadays the weather is very unpredictable, especially when we talk about November in Bali, which , technically, marks the start of the wet season. Depending on luck , you might experience hot and sunny days…or just the opposite. Still, it’s hot and humid. Don’t plan to do any mountain climbing or biking, but don’t be afraid to enjoy the outdoors. Sure, it might not be the perfect time to soak up the sun on the beach all day, but Bali has so much to offer than just cocktails and tanning.

November falls during the beginning of the wet season. The temperatures are warm and the heavy downpour usually lasts during late evening and night. But you might also be lucky and experience only sunny whether when you visit Bali in November. Temperatures range between 25C (avg low) and 30C (avg high).

>>read more about the Weather in Bali

Since you’ll be traveling during the low season, the airfare is typically cheaper but it’s a good idea to book slightly in advance. It’s also easy to book an affordable hotel room and the budget travelers will probably prefer a hostel .

Unless you want to do mountain climbing or biking, the November weather shouldn’t interferer with your plans. You can spend the day soaking up the sun. Sure, it’s just as possible to be not so lucky and catch some cloudy days while in Bali. But, when that happens, you can check out the sights, the temples, pay a visit to the shopping mall or enjoy some relaxing spa treatments.

It’s possible to practice all water sports, so don’t be shy and try snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking and canoeing, among others. November is still a good month for surfing in Bali.

Bali International Jazz Festival takes place in November and features performers from all over the world.

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Foreigners Targeted in Immigration Sweep

DENPASAR

Two foreign nationals are facing investigation for suspected immigration offences.

American Philipe Escane was visited by immigration officials at his address in Padang Griya in West Denpasar under suspicion of conducting business on a social visa.

Meanwhile, another man, Aaron Reddy, whose nationality has not been revealed, but who lives in Banjar Tegal Buah, is under investigation for allegedly working as a musician while not in possession of a work permit.

Reddy reportedly recently married a Balinese woman from Kintamani named Sukma, who was living with him in Tegal Buah.

Sukma told officials she was unaware of the details of her husband’s immigration status, but said that he was working as a musician in Kuta.

Haerum, a spokesman for the Denpasar immigration office, said that it was often difficult to keep track of visa abuses by foreigners living in Bali, some of who were married to locals.  He asked for community participation in trying to identify offenders.

“We ask for the active participation of the community, especially neighbourhood community heads, to help monitor expatriates in their areas,” he said.

The men were identified and summoned for questioning during a wider sweep of foreigners living in Denpasar this week, but Haerum said that besides Reddy and Escane they had identified no other offenders.

“Earlier we examined a foreign national from the Czech Republic named Ester Samsonova who had a visa sponsored by the Indonesia Arts Institute (ISI) in Denpasar. It was a social-cultural visa,” said Haerun, who added that Samsonova appeared to be in Bali for genuine educational reasons.  Four other foreigners living in the same boarding house were not present when the officials visited.

Elsewhere, a British citizen living on Jl Nusa Indah on a social visa was found to be a bone fide retiree.

According to officials nine immigration offences by foreigners were recorded in Denpasar last year.

Government spokesman AA Made Sumarjaya said most of them were misusing their visas for work or business.

Filed under: Headlines

Getting from Bali to Australia (and return)

by Cristina | September 13th, 2011  

Those who travel within Asia will, at one time or another, travel between Bali and Australia , or the other way around. Australia’s airports offer at least some flights into Bali operated by low cost carriers, which are excellent choices for those on a budget.

Practically, there is only one way to get between Bali and Australia: by plane. Ideally, you should choose an airport located closest to Bali , rather than fly into a larger hub, which is too many hours (and too much money) away. The reason for this is that once you are in Australia, you can choose to travel by land to the destination.

Quick summary

There are two airports to choose between if you want to get to Australia fast and not spend too much on a ticket. The flight time to Darwin is about 3 h and the rates start at US$97. And the flight to Perth takes 3h 40 , with rates starting at US$127. Sure, these are rates valid for the end of the dry season in Bali and the start of spring in Australia.

Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport (SYD) is a major hub for Qantas and a secondary hub for Virgin Australia and Jetstar Airways. It is the busiest airport in Australia. Direct flights from Denpasar (Bali) are operated by Garuda Indonesia, JetStar and Virgin Australia. Flights start at US$409 one way for an adult on JetStar. The flight time is 4h 45 min.

>>read more about Flights to Sydney

You can also fly from Bali into Brisbane Airport (BNE), which is also hub for Jetstar Airways, Qantas, Virgin Australia and Pacific Blue. Direct flights between the two airports are operated by JetStar, Strategic Airlines and Virgin Australia. The cheapest fare is offered by Virgin Australia and starts at US$459. The flight time is 5h 40 min.

>>read more about Flights to Brisbane

Perth Airport (PER) also receives fights from Bali. The airport is hub for Strategic Airlines, Alliance Airlines, Cobham, Network Aviation, Qantas, Skippers Aviation and Skywest Airlines. It is the fourth busiest airport in Australia. The direct flights from Bali to Perth are operated by Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia AirAsia, JetStar Airways, Skywest Airlines and Virgin Australia. The cheapest tickets are offered by Indonesia AirAsia and they start at US$127 one way. The flight time is 3h 40 min.

>>read more about Flights to Perth

There is also the possibility to fly into Darwin Airport (DRW) , which although it’s not among the top five busiest airports in Australia, offers excellent rates for connections to/from Bali. Indonesia AirAsia and JetStar operate flights between Denpasar (Bali) and Darwin and the rates start from US$97 one way (on Indonesia AirAsia). The flight time is 2h 55 min. Generally speaking, the fares are comparable to those into Perth.

>>read more about Flights to Darwin

There are also direct flights from Bali to Melbourne Airport (MEL) and Adelaide (ADLS) but the fares are high (from US$446 one way on Virgin Australia, respectively from US$630 one way on the same airline).

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Reform Without Regime Change in Morocco?

By Moha Ennaji

Influenced by the events in Egypt and Tunisia, Moroccans have been demanding political and constitutional rights that would give citizens greater influence in government affairs. But unlike their neighbours, Moroccans have not made large-scale calls for regime change.

This difference should not be seen as complacence. Instead, it stems from a desire to hold on to the monarchy while simultaneously applying pressure for democratic reform.

The monarchy is deeply rooted in Moroccan culture and enjoys a great deal of legitimacy. In fact, since taking power in 1999, King Mohammed VI has effectively implemented several reforms, most notably guaranteeing women greater rights and equality with men, and establishing the Equity and Reconciliation Council in 2004 to document cases of forced disappearances and arbitrary detention during the former king’s brutal reign.

In a speech earlier this year, King Mohammed VI responded to the demands of protesters by starting a reform process that will lead to a separation of executive, legislative and judiciary powers. Within the executive branch, the government is comprised of the prime minister and ministers and is accountable to the legislative power represented by the parliament. The judiciary will become independent from the legislative and the executive branches. These reforms will empower the cabinet, parliament and judiciary – and ultimately the people.

The King also announced the implementation of a series of reforms that would enhance individual liberties, human rights and gender equality. He recognised Amazigh, the mother tongue of Moroccan Berbers, as an official language alongside Arabic, another of the protesters’ demands.

Instead of resorting to force to quell the movement, as was the case in other Arab countries, the Moroccan government relied predominantly on peaceful talks and negotiations. And after several months of dialogue between various activists and political parties, on July 1 a new constitution was voted in by the vast majority of the population.

New amendments ensure that the kingdom will, in a year’s time, be transformed into a parliamentary monarchy with free and fair elections. Further decentralisation will shift more power and resources from the political centre to the regions. This means that the constitutional revisions will empower regional councils that are directly elected by voters.

The most-heralded reform is that the prime minister will be appointed from the party that wins parliamentary elections and be given authority over the cabinet. The constitution specifies the shift of executive power from the king to the prime minister in that the latter will serve as the head of the executive branch and be fully responsible for the government, the civil service, as well as the implementation of the government’s agenda.

The reform process will begin with the creation of electoral laws that regulate free and fair legislative elections, the first set of which are currently slated for November 25.

The main challenges for the reform process are slow economic growth, soaring poverty and corruption in many sectors, contrasted with the urgent need for jobs, better education and adequate healthcare. But so far the ministries of finance, employment, health, education and communication have been slow to respond.

For the protesters these reforms are insufficient because the King would retain significant executive powers, such as the authority to select the prime minister from the party that wins the most seats in parliament. He would still lead the army and appoint the government ministers and ambassadors, as well as preside over the cabinet when issues of security or strategic policies are at stake. He would also continue to have the power to dissolve parliament and maintain his position as “Commander of the Faithful,” the kingdom’s Islamic spiritual leader.

Those unsatisfied with the proposed reforms include the February 20 protest movement, which boycotted the vote and are calling for the boycott of the upcoming November 25 elections. They claim that the constitutional review won’t help the Berbers’ political marginalisation in what they believe is an Arab-dominated government and that the official recognition of this language is merely a symbolic gesture. And the opposition believes that the changes will not transform Morocco into a European-style constitutional monarchy, which is their ultimate goal.

Morocco’s various political parties, civil society organisations and media believe that the new constitution will have far-reaching results, but will take much work to ensure constitutional changes be implemented effectively and widely. They have faith that the King will embrace this challenge in consonance with the February 20 movement’s call for the rule of law, the values of citizenship, freedom, social justice and democracy.

Moha Ennaji is an author, consultant, professor of cultural and gender studies at Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University and president of the International Institute for Languages and Cultures in Fez, Morocco.

Filed under: Opinion

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bali Beach Hotels

by Cristina | September 21st, 2011  

Bali is one of the most sought-after vacation destinations in the world. Honeymooners and those looking for a relaxing escape usually prefer to stay close to the beach and have as many facilities as possible available in the hotel. Thankfully, it’s not hard to find hotels which offer spa facilities, as well as massage centers and private pools.

Here is a list of mid-range and luxury hotels located either right on Kuta or Nusa Dusa beach or close to these beaches.


This 3-star hotel is located just 5 min walk from Kuta Beach and offers a lovely setting for your vacation. The modern rooms are located around the outdoor pool. The hotel also offers a spa and a restaurant. There’s free parking and wi-fi. All rooms have AC, TV and a minibar. Breakfast is included in the room price. Pets are not allowed in the hotel.
During November 2011, prices start at US$73 per standard double room per night.


This 4-star hotel is located right on Kuta Beach and offers free parking and wi-fi. The hotel offers an outdoor swimming pool, a spa and a fitness center. All rooms have TV, AC and minibar.

During November 2011, prices start at US$99.14 per room per night, excluding breakfast.


This 4-star hotel is located right on Kuta Beach. It offers an outdoor pool and a spa. The Balinese-style rooms have balcony, TV, mini bar and tea/coffee makers.

During November 2011, prices start at US$109 per deluxe double room per night, including breakfast.


This 4-star hotel is located 165 ft from Kuta Beach and offers an outdoor pool, a fitness center and a spa. The hotel also provides free shuttles to Discovery Mall. All rooms have flat-screen TV and work desk. There’s free wi-fi in the lobby and restaurant. The room prices include the buffet breakfast.

During November 2011, prices start at US$110 per superior double room per night.


This 5-star hotel is located on a private stretch of beach along Nusa Dusa. The hotel offers a private pool, a spa, free parking and free wi-fi. All villas feature fully equipped kitchenette, minibar and an open-air bath. Breakfast is included in the villa price.

During November 2011, prices start at US$554.18 per one-bedroom villa per night.


This luxury hotel offers a private beach, a golf course, a fitness center, a pool and a massage center. All rooms have flat-screen TV, safe and ironing facilities.

During November 2011, prices start at US108.04 per deluxe twin room per night, excluding breakfast.

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10 Days in Indonesia: Itinerary Ideas

by Cristina | September 20th, 2011  

Bali is one of the most famous places to visit in Indonesia. It is totally different than the rest of the country and offers a wealth of culture, beaches and friendly atmosphere. You can spend an entire 10-day vacation in Bali but it’s also worth it to check out some other places in Indonesia as well.

This itinerary starts in Bali , explores some of its landmarks and the takes you to Lombok for a day. Then you’ll enjoy an active day on Kanawa Island before heading to the capital of Jakarta, from where you’ll fly back home.

Itinerary assumptions:

fly into Denpasar (Bali) fly out of Jakarta use the public transport and limit the use of domestic flightsstay in 2-3 star hotels

Arrive in Denpasar . Spend the rest of the day exploring at least one of the temples located in the city. Pura Maospahit is definitely a good choice. It’s an ancient temple, with history dating back to the 14th century. Much of it was destroyed during an earthquake but there are some original parts still standing. Enjoy some traditional food at dinner.

Travel to Ubud and check in at the hotel. On your first day, take a bus to Tegallalang area and enjoy the lovely scenery, with the rice terraces and the green hillsides. Come back to Ubud and explore the Monkey Forest. Then, in the evening, check out the Jimbaran Seafood stalls and make sure to enjoy some traditional Balinese foods.

On your second day here, take the morning bus to Kintamani area. Spend the day soaking up the atmosphere and the scenery. Mount Batur and Lake Batur are popular spots for the tourists but totally worth your time. Enjoy a relaxing evening.

>>read more about 3 Days in Bali: Itinerary Ideas

Before departing for Lombok, spend some time at the Badung Central Market, which is at its best in the morning. Buy some treats for the long journey ahead of you.
Board a bus from Denpasar to Padang Bai (1-2 hours, depending on the traffic). Now take the ferry from Padang Bai to Lembar (Lombok). The journey takes about 4 hours.
Spend the rest of the day soaking up the atmosphere and checking out the area.

>>read more about Getting from Bali to Lombok

In the morning, head to Tanjung A’an, a lovely area near Kuta Beach. It is famous for its sand which looks like pepper. Arrange with a guide (preferably someone recommend from the hotel or a travel agency) to take you to the 3 famous waterfalls located close to Lombok. The first one is on the slopes of Mount Rinjani, the second one is a further 1 hours walk and the 3rd one is the hardest to get to and requires some climbing experience. Spend the evening relaxing at the hotel.

From Lombok, take the public bus to Bima. Then board the mini bus to Sape (about 2 hours travel time). Now board the ferry from Sape (Sumbawa Island) to Labuan Bajo (West Flores). This part of the journey takes about 8 hours.
Enjoy dinner and get a good night’s sleep.

Prepare for a day in the nature, burning some calories. It’s best to arrange with a local guide, preferably recommended by the hotel staff or a travel agency. Before leaving, don’t forget to pack some food for the day.

Kayak to the Kanawa Island (about 2 hours) and then walk up the hill for some lovely views of the area. It is also possible to snorkel here.

Fly from Labuan Bajo to Jakarta. The flight time is 1h 35 min on Merpati. Please note that it’s not possible to book the flights on the very well known booking sites. You’ll have to do a bit of searching.

Now that you’ve arrived in the Big Durian, check in the hotel and start to explore this large city. There are plenty of museums to visit , including the National Museum which houses large collections of prehistoric, ethnographic and archaeological artifacts. Don’t miss “Monas”, Jakarta’s best known landmark.
You can also visit the Istiqlal Mosque, which is the biggest mosque in Southeast Asia.

>>read more about Cheap Flights to Jakarta

In the morning, explore the Pasar Baru, a market dating back to the Dutch colonial era. There are quite a lot of stores to check out and, with a bit of luck, you can find interesting and cheap things here. Then, for a unique shopping experience, stroll the Jalan Surabaya, which houses the open-air antique market.

Spend the rest of the day playing bowling and enjoying karaoke, which is one of the favorite ways to spend the time with friends. Or you can check out one of the many shopping malls.

Before heading to the airport for your flight back home, make sure to sample some of the street food.

Photo credits: Ulun Danu Temple in Bali , Kuta Beach , Kanawa Island , Jakarta antique

Bali in November

by Cristina | September 12th, 2011  

Nowadays the weather is very unpredictable, especially when we talk about November in Bali, which , technically, marks the start of the wet season. Depending on luck , you might experience hot and sunny days…or just the opposite. Still, it’s hot and humid. Don’t plan to do any mountain climbing or biking, but don’t be afraid to enjoy the outdoors. Sure, it might not be the perfect time to soak up the sun on the beach all day, but Bali has so much to offer than just cocktails and tanning.

November falls during the beginning of the wet season. The temperatures are warm and the heavy downpour usually lasts during late evening and night. But you might also be lucky and experience only sunny whether when you visit Bali in November. Temperatures range between 25C (avg low) and 30C (avg high).

>>read more about the Weather in Bali

Since you’ll be traveling during the low season, the airfare is typically cheaper but it’s a good idea to book slightly in advance. It’s also easy to book an affordable hotel room and the budget travelers will probably prefer a hostel .

Unless you want to do mountain climbing or biking, the November weather shouldn’t interferer with your plans. You can spend the day soaking up the sun. Sure, it’s just as possible to be not so lucky and catch some cloudy days while in Bali. But, when that happens, you can check out the sights, the temples, pay a visit to the shopping mall or enjoy some relaxing spa treatments.

It’s possible to practice all water sports, so don’t be shy and try snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking and canoeing, among others. November is still a good month for surfing in Bali.

Bali International Jazz Festival takes place in November and features performers from all over the world.

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Getting from Bali to Lombok (and return)

by Cristina | September 13th, 2011  

Lombok is an island in Indonesia, part of the chain of the Lesser Sunda Islands. It is separated from Bali by the Lombok Strait. Lombok is what travelers consider “unspoiled Bali”, with pristine beaches, lovely waterfalls and a volcano overlooking the island. It’s still not overrun by travelers and thankfully the island still retains the traditional way of life. While there are expensive hotels here, those are the exceptions as most accommodation is cheap and traditional.

Quick summary

There are three ways to get from Bali to Lombok: by plane, by high speed ferry and by public ferry. The backpacker’s way is definitely by slow pubic ferry. For under US$5 you can get between Bali and Lombok in about 4-5 hours.
If you are in a hurry, then consider flying. Since airfare is comparable to high speed ferry ticket, it’s definitely worth it to travel in about 35 min between the two places.

Selaparang International Airport (airport code: AMI) is the only airport serving the island of Lombok. Flights to/from Denpasar (Bali) are run by Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia Air Transport, Lion Air, Merpati Nusantara Airlines, TransNusa Air Services, Trigana Air Service and Wings Air.

On large booking engines (eg. Kayak), you can find one way tickets from US$154. The flight takes 35 min and is operated by Garuda Indonesia. However, if you run a search online, you can find flights from Bali to Lombok for fares starting at US$28 one way, on Lion Air. Even flights from Garuda Indonesia can be book for fares starting at US$78 one way. But please note that the fares are time sensitive and you can book cheaper flights if you wait until two weeks before departure. Otherwise, expect to pay from US$78 one way.

There are quite a lot of ferry companies running services between Bali and Lombok.

Blue Water Express fast boat runs services to Lombok from either Serangan or Padang Bai. Boats from Serangan depart at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. (this one makes a stop in Padang Bai), while the boat from Padang Bai departs at 11:25 a.m. The travel time is between 1 h 15 min and 2h 30 min.

Rates start at IDR 690,000 / US$80 one way if you depart from Serangan and IDR 590,000 / US$68.44 one way if you depart from Padang Bai. Children (age 3-12) get discounts (IDR 590,000 / US$68.55 from Serangan, IDR 490,000 / US$57 from Padang Bai respectively).

Cheaper alternatives can be found. For example, Ocean Star also runs services from Padang Bai to Lombok. Ferries leave at 8 a.m. and arrive at 10:30 a.m. and the rates are Rp. 660.000 / US$76.56 one way for adults and Rp. 350.000 / US$40.60 for children (age 2-10).

Narooma fast boat services runs ferries from Benoa Harbour Bali island to Lombok. Ferries depart daily at 8 a.m. and arrive at 10:30 a.m. Rates are Rp. 680.000/ US$79 one way for an adult and Rp. 480.000 / US 55.70 for a child (age 2-10).

If you purchase a return ticket, from any company, you’ll get a discount.

The public ferry is the cheapest way to get between Bali and Lombok. Ferries depart from Padang Bai (East Bali) every 2 hours and they also carry vehicles. There are departures between 9:20 p.m. and 9:50 a.m. The travel time is between 4 and 5 hours. The prices are really cheap compared to the high speed ferries. Adult rates are IDR 31,000 /US$4, while children pay IDR 19,000 / US$2.20 one way.

Photo credit

Getting from Bali to Singapore (and return)

by Cristina | September 13th, 2011  

Singapore is a city-state in Southeast Asia, well known for its cosmopolite feel, exotic food and many shopping opportunities. For those not used to the high humidity, Singapore will be quite a test. The temperature is high year round and it rains daily.

Quick summary

While there are ferries between Bali and Singapore (with a stop in Batam), it takes a long time to cover the distance and there are only 2 ferries a week departing from/arriving in Bali. Therefore, the only way to get between Bali and Singapore is the 2h 35 min flight. There are plenty of airlines connecting the two places, so make sure to shop around.

Changi Airport (airport code: SIN) is the main airport in Singapore, a major aviation hub in Southeast Asia. It is hub for Jetstar Asia Airways, Silkair, Singapore Airlines, Tiger Airways, Qantas and Valuair. It currently serves more than 100 airlines flying to over 200 cities worldwide.

Flights from Denpasar (Bali) are run by Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia AirAsia, Jetstar Airways, KLM, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and Valuair. On large booking engines (eg. Kayak) , you can book one way flights from US$207 on Garuda Indonesia. However, if you search for flights directly on the airlines’ websites, you can find one way flights from US$80 on Jetstar Airlines. The flight time is 2h 35 min.

Generally speaking, you’ll get the best value if you book the flight 2 to 4 weeks before departure. But exceptions can be found, particularly when you can find a last minute deal.

Technically you take the ferry from Bali to Batam and then to Singapore, but there is a big problem. While there are quite a lot of connections from Batam to Singapore, there are only two boats a month from Bali to Batam, which means your travel plans will really have to depend on the schedule.

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What to Eat in Bali: Famous Indonesian Foods

by Nick | September 15th, 2011  

Balinese food is somewhat different to Indonesian food in that it often includes pork items (lawar, babi guling etc.) and tends to more pedas (spicy) and less manis (sweet) than Javanese cuisine, which has a wider range of sauces.

However, authentic Balinese food is rarely enjoyed by the tourists as it’s seldom served in hotels and restaurants. The staple daily food is rice, accompanied by vegetables and a small amount of fish or other meat. Of course, condiments are always used.

The food most tourists see as Indonesian food comes from Java. Here are some popular dishes from Indonesia, that you might get served in Bali.


Ayam goreng – fried chicken, often served with rice and lalapan.


Bakso – spicy meatball soup. This dish is influenced by the Chinese meatballs.


Bakmi goreng – fried noodle, meat and vegetables.

Botok daging sapi – spicy minced beef, tofu, tempeh and coconut milk.


Bubur ayam – chicken porridge. Served at the pasar pagi (morning markets).


Cap cay – mixed fried vegetables (originally a Chinese dish, similar to the Cantonese style).


Es campur – fruits, gelatin, chocolate sauce, milk with shaved ice.


Gado gado – steamed cabbage, bean sprouts, potato and other vegetables served with peanut sauce.


Kangkung – water spinach (a popular, stringy vegetable).


Krupuk – prawn crackers in a range of sizes, served with nasi campur.


Lalapan – raw vegetables (green beans, cabbages, cucumbers, mint leaves) served with sambal. Accompanies ayam bakar and ikan bakar (grilled chicken and fish).

Lontong – Steamed rice compressed into a roll, inside a banana leaf. Often served with sate ayam at street-side sate vendors.


Lumpia – spring rolls containing diced carrot, bean sprouts and other items. Semarang Java is famous for lumpia.


Nasi campur – the national dish. Means ‘mixed rice’ and is a portion of steamed rice with an assortment of meats, vegetables, tofu, tempeh and hot sambal.


Nasi goreng – fried rice. The most common Indonesian food item served in tourist warungs and restaurants. Often served with a fried egg on top.

Nasu putih – white rice. Other options include nasi kuning (yellow rice) and nasi merah (red rice).


Pisang goreng – fried banana. Popular at local markets where you can get 4 small fried bananas for 1,000rp.

Rijstaffel – rice table. The Dutch colonial version of how to serve Indonesian food. Many dishes with meats, fish and vegetables.

Rujak – Indonesian fruit salad made from unripe papaya, apple and other fruits. Served with chili, salt and caramel.

Rujak petis – fruit and vegetable salad with spicy peanut and shrimp sauce.

Tahu goreng telur – an omelette with tofu.


Sate – sometimes called ‘satay’. Small strips of meat cooked over charcoal. Javanese sate vendors sell sate ayam (chicken sate with peanut sauce) and sate kambing (goat sate). Balinese sate vendors often sell sate babi (pork sate with a deliciously tangy, spicy sauce), especially outside ceremonies. Generally a Balinese sate vendor will sell you 10 pieces for 5,000rp.


Sayur bening – spinach and corn soup.

Urap-urap / urap timum – vegetables in shaved coconut and chili. A Balinese dish which is a pleasant surprise when found in a warung.

The best ways to explore Indonesian food are to:
1) Visit a night market and try some things.
2) Have lunch at a warung popular with locals, pointing out items you’d like to try.
3) Stop at the road side for some sate or other local snack.

Photo credits: Ayam goreng , Bakso , Bakmi goreng , Bubur ayam , Cap cay , Es campur , Gado gado , Kangkung , Krupuk , Lalapan , Lumpia , Nasi campur , Nasi goreng , Pisang goreng , Satay , Sayur bening

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bali in January

by Cristina | September 13th, 2011  

There aren’t many events taking place in January but if you are on a low budget and always wanted to visit Bali, take advantage of the low airfare and come here. It’s humid and rainy, but that shouldn’t stop you check out the sights.

January is part of the wet season and , as a result, is one of the rainiest months in Bali. This doesn’t mean it will rain all the time, but it will rain almost every day (usually in the afternoon). It’s not a suitable month to visit Bali if you plan to engage in outdoor activities, such as mountain climbing, mountain biking or hiking. Otherwise, just pack some rain gear and you are good to go sightseeing. Temperatures range between 17C and 30C and the humidity is 75%.

>>read more about the Weather in Bali

Since January is part of the low season, expect to find affordable airfare , especially if you book slightly in advance. Finding a cheap hotel is also easy and now you can even book hotels which would usually put a big hole in your travel budget. If you prefer a hostel , you’ll be able to find very good rates.

The weather isn’t exactly good for sunbathing, especially if you are unlucky to visit Bali when it’s windy and cloudy. But it’s possible to enjoy some sunny days and you can plan some activities around the beach.

January is a good month to visit the sights. If rains catches you off guard, you can always hide in a temple, museum or in a shopping mall.

Early January is busy as the New Year celebrations continue during the first days of the month, especially in places where foreign tourists like to spend their time.

In January, the Balinese celebrate Pager Wesi, a holiday dedicated to Sang Yang, the creator of the universe. There are important celebrations on the island.

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Getting from Bali to Australia (and return)

by Cristina | September 13th, 2011  

Those who travel within Asia will, at one time or another, travel between Bali and Australia , or the other way around. Australia’s airports offer at least some flights into Bali operated by low cost carriers, which are excellent choices for those on a budget.

Practically, there is only one way to get between Bali and Australia: by plane. Ideally, you should choose an airport located closest to Bali , rather than fly into a larger hub, which is too many hours (and too much money) away. The reason for this is that once you are in Australia, you can choose to travel by land to the destination.

Quick summary

There are two airports to choose between if you want to get to Australia fast and not spend too much on a ticket. The flight time to Darwin is about 3 h and the rates start at US$97. And the flight to Perth takes 3h 40 , with rates starting at US$127. Sure, these are rates valid for the end of the dry season in Bali and the start of spring in Australia.

Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport (SYD) is a major hub for Qantas and a secondary hub for Virgin Australia and Jetstar Airways. It is the busiest airport in Australia. Direct flights from Denpasar (Bali) are operated by Garuda Indonesia, JetStar and Virgin Australia. Flights start at US$409 one way for an adult on JetStar. The flight time is 4h 45 min.

>>read more about Flights to Sydney

You can also fly from Bali into Brisbane Airport (BNE), which is also hub for Jetstar Airways, Qantas, Virgin Australia and Pacific Blue. Direct flights between the two airports are operated by JetStar, Strategic Airlines and Virgin Australia. The cheapest fare is offered by Virgin Australia and starts at US$459. The flight time is 5h 40 min.

>>read more about Flights to Brisbane

Perth Airport (PER) also receives fights from Bali. The airport is hub for Strategic Airlines, Alliance Airlines, Cobham, Network Aviation, Qantas, Skippers Aviation and Skywest Airlines. It is the fourth busiest airport in Australia. The direct flights from Bali to Perth are operated by Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia AirAsia, JetStar Airways, Skywest Airlines and Virgin Australia. The cheapest tickets are offered by Indonesia AirAsia and they start at US$127 one way. The flight time is 3h 40 min.

>>read more about Flights to Perth

There is also the possibility to fly into Darwin Airport (DRW) , which although it’s not among the top five busiest airports in Australia, offers excellent rates for connections to/from Bali. Indonesia AirAsia and JetStar operate flights between Denpasar (Bali) and Darwin and the rates start from US$97 one way (on Indonesia AirAsia). The flight time is 2h 55 min. Generally speaking, the fares are comparable to those into Perth.

>>read more about Flights to Darwin

There are also direct flights from Bali to Melbourne Airport (MEL) and Adelaide (ADLS) but the fares are high (from US$446 one way on Virgin Australia, respectively from US$630 one way on the same airline).

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Getting from Bali to Jakarta (and return)

by Cristina | September 14th, 2011  

Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia and is located northwest of the island of Java. The Big Durian offers a lot of things to do and many put the city on their must-visit list while in Asia. Since Bali is located quite close to Jakarta , many travelers chose to travel between the two cities when working their way to mainland Asia or to Australia.

Quick summary

The Bali to Jakarta route is served by plenty of low cost carriers which makes flying really affordable. Single tickets start at US$30 and you can get between the two places in about 1 ½ hours.
But many budget travelers choose to travel either by a combination of bus, ferry and train or by bus and ferry. It does cost less than flying but you’ll be traveling about 24 hours (if there aren’t any delays).

Soekarno Hatta International Airport (CGK) is the main airport serving Jakarta and the island of Java. It is hub for Batavia Air, Cardig Air, Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia AirAsia, Lion Air, Merpati Nusantara Airlines, Republic Express Airlines, Sriwijaya Air and Wings Air.
Direct flights from Denpasar (Bali) to Jakarta are operated by Batavia Air, Citilink, Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia AirAsia , Lion Air , Merpati Nusantara Airlines, Sriwijaya Air and Wings Air. The cheapest flights are offered by Indonesia AirAsia and start at US$60 one way. The flight time is 1h 40 min. Return flights start at US$125 per person, on the same airline.

You can use a mix of bus , ferry and train to get from Bali to Jakarta.
First you need to travel from Bali to Yogyakarta, Malang, or Surabaya. This can be done by bus and ferry.
Buses to Yogyakarta leave each evening from Ubung Terminal in Denpasar. It takes about 15 hours and the bus ticket also includes the ferry crossing (over Rp200,000 / US$23 per person).
Buses to Surabaya leave from the same terminal. The ticket includes the ferry crossing and the total travel time is 8 to 10 hours. Prices start around Rp150,000 / US$17.25 per person.

From Yogyakarta you can take the morning train to Jakarta. The price for the express train is around Rp300,000 / US$34.50 per person and the total travel time is 8-10 hours.
From Surabaya you can take the Express train to Jakarta, either during the day (departure at 8 a.m.) or during the night (departure at 8 p.m.). The total travel time is 10 h 30 min. The fare is about Rp200,000 / US$23 per person.

>>read more about The train from Jakarta to Yogyakarta

The alternative is to take the bus and ferry from Bali to Jakarta. Tickets can be bought from the travel agents in the town(s). Two companies operate on this route: Lorena and Pahala Kencana (buses depart Denpasar at 6:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.)
The total travel time is about 24 hours but the buses are clean and you are also offered two meals. Delays can and will occur (sometimes even up to 10 hours). The price is about US$30 per person.

It is possible to rent a car and drive from Bali to Jakarta, but you’ll also be taking the ferry. So make sure to consider the price for crossing with a vehicle. The total travel time is about 21 hours. For your safety, do consider taking some breaks along the way.


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