Sunday, May 31, 2015

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A Cultural and Scenic Treat – Bali : Journey and Logistics




Another international sojourn – new stamps on passport, another addition to currency collection, a long vacation, excuse of guilt-free fast food gulping - all true but not the real reason of the excitement that encompassed me when planning for this trip started. This was once in a lifetime trip for altogether a different reason – it was my honeymoon trip. Well don’t get too inquisitive as this is the only place this word or anything related to it gets a mention. Before getting to the trip, let me also take this chance to credit Priya, my wife, for coming up with the destination which was completely off my radar while making the bucket list of potential places we could get away to. It was her who suggested Bali and we researched through things started falling in place to seal it as final deal (one may successfully argue that I had limited options after that)!!

Now, once the destination was set, began the preparatory phase which probably was more cumbersome this time than usual for obvious reasons. What helped was my earlier experience with MakeMyTrip during the Nepal tour (read more at Enchanting Nepal ) and slightly higher level of confidence in their tour management compared to what my friends may have wanted me to believe. So I called in their customer care to make an enquiry and was politely informed that the group tours and even the honeymoon tours they book were not available for the day we wanted to start. However they offered me a customized package which technically provided me with more flexibility in terms of planning. Though the initial itinerary they sent me was far from what I would have liked, the MMT office in CP (right where I live) did help a lot. I finally made an appointment with the MMT travel advisor and visited their office for a detailed planning session. We started with their backbone structure of day trips, itinerary and hotel listings. But that was only the starting point. I wanted things planned to the last detail and was sure that the advisor would be irked beyond limits by the time we end the session. But in all fairness, the person’s patience impressed me. Infact, from that day until the trip started, I called the guy almost every other day making (maybe unreasonable sometimes) requests but the poor chap did bear with me. Once the itinerary was fixed, we finalized the hotels which itself took considerable research. After all the fuss and fun, there was finally a point when we both agreed that things were set. A week before leaving, I contacted the airline and hotels independently to verify that they had our bookings and were aware of the plans to avoid any last minute surprises. Another set of effort went into working with the hotels to ensure the relevant setup of rooms to commensurate the occasion. With all this preparatory baggage, apart from our actual one, we left Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on a late night Thai Airways flight.





Our first stop was going to be Bangkok, obviously only as a layover. After about four and half hour flight we landed at Suvarnabhumi Airport of Bangkok and were left to explore the airport for more than 3 hours. Even with the vast expanse of the airport inviting us, our first concern was to inform the couple of anxious families back home about successful first leg of journey. No matter how much or how frequently you travel, one thing that remains constant is the anxiety back home of your landing. So before we could realize that the airport had free wi-fi coverage, we found internet terminals for public usage and dropped messages back home. Later we did use the wi-fi for internet telephony to provide a more credible proof of our well-being. Once this was over and we had located departure gates of our connecting flight, we began exploring the airport which was big but not huge by many standards. However there were more than enough options for a window shopper to delve and get lost. The prices seemed reasonable for souvenirs and we gradually made up our minds on what to pick during our return journey.







It was another 4 hour long flight separating us from our destination and we boarded excitedly another Boeing 777 jet to help us cover this separation. As for the Thai Airways, it was functionally a full fare carrier and provide for all necessary requirements. The check-in process was smooth and we were allowed to block our seats online much before the journey. The flights were clean and maintained and seats were comfortable. The flexible headrest capable of being adjusted based on individual requirements did provide adequate support. However, I found that their fooding standards for special meals were at the least not best in the industry. No, we were not special creatures or aliens taking an interplanetary trip – all we had requested for was an Asian vegetarian meal. To all fairness, they had allowed us to choose the meal option online and also provided the meals specially packed for us. However I have been spoilt in that aspect by the Cathay Pacific, that through it’s generously thought over hospitality makes you feel at home. While Cathay specifically makes it a point to carry specially packed sandwiches and other snacks if there is someone with special dietary requests onboard, all Thai could offer for periodic munching was baked peanuts. Nevertheless, it was overall a good flight and was even devoid of strong turbulence we faced during first leg.





At about 2 PM Indonesia time we touched down at the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali. After disembarkation we proceeded for the immigration which was a relatively smooth process. We were required to present our passports and boarding passes along with return flight tickets. The price was USD 35 for each passenger. Other currencies were also being accepted based on airport currency exchange rates. The officers were friendly and courteous. We then picked our baggage and proceeded to the green channels at customs where we were asked to submit the customs declaration form provided in the flight. As we exited the arrivals building of the airport, before leaving the premises there were two critical kiosks we were looking for – currency exchange and sim cards. We exchanged few (not exactly) dollars at the Mandira Bank counter. The best way to manage currency issues is to pick USDs in India and then convert to IDRs in Bali rather than looking for IDRs back in India. Exchange rate at airport is obviously not one of the best but relatively decent and the difference from best that you may get reliably in the country is about 200-400 IDRs which is like 2 INRs for each dollar. Next we picked a SimTel sim at their kiosk as that is the only available option. Our guide later informed us that they have the best network coverage across the island. They provided a package for 250K IDR with 30 minute ISD calling and 3 GB 4G internet access.







Once the basic logistics were in places we preceded to the area where all those who had come to receive people were waiting and we found our guide – Anga, a perfect gentleman and a great guide – waiting with our name tags. He got us to our vehicle and accompanied us to the hotel. The 03 minute drive from airport to the hotel was not a normal glance through the city but an informative description of the island, its culture, basic precautions to be taken and introduction to what lay ahead of us. As the car pulled at our hotel, we were all set for 7 days of unlimited fun in this Asian island.



This is first in series of three articles from our Bali Trip. The next two parts would be coming up soon.

Did you like the pictures or was there too much text? Little on knowledge or lacks the personal touch? Tempts you to visit the place or took it off your dream list? Whatever it is that you are feeling right now, do not forget to give put down in comments as your feedback and views – for or against :-)



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