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Kerala to Bali: My Travel Story

My Bali Story

Excitement. Anguish. Sadness. Hope. Happiness. These are some of the emotions I experienced before commencing my trip to Bali. It was around the time earthquakes and after-shocks were terrorizing Indonesia and to boot Kerala was experiencing its own share of natural calamity in the form of floods. Our whole trip, which we had planned much in advance, was compromised. Thankfully the infamous Kerala floods subsided and Indonesia calmed down temporarily in a week. We were able to take off after a change in schedule. The only downside was that we had to remove Gili islands from our itinerary as the place was still on the road to recovery.

This article is an account of my trip to Bali in 2018 i.e. my thoughts and experiences, Indonesian food and whether it would cater to Indian taste buds, currency help, flights, climate, hotels we booked in Bali and much more. So if you are someone from India, you might find my suggestions here more useful as everything is from an Indian point of view. More specifically a Keralite's point of view.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are my own. It is very subjective and might differ from person to person. Also, all the rates given are in Indian Rupees (INR).

Important: All the photos on this page have been taken by me and are copyrighted. Please do not re-use/copy the photos or content of this page without permission.

Bajra Sandhi Monument  © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

Bajra Sandhi Monument © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

Why We Chose Bali? Did it Meet Our Expectations?

These were the 2 main reasons why we chose Bali as our travel destination:

  • Natural beauty in abundance
  • Affordable international destination

So did it live up to these expectations? Pretty much. If you are from Kerala, the streets and greenery may seem closer to home. There were times when I felt like I was passing through the lush roadside fields of Palakkad and Thrissur. Some parts reminded us of Fort Kochi.

The climate is similar to Kerala's as well with lesser humidity. Some of the differences include better night life, quaint restaurants, beautiful architecture, branded shops and cleanliness. Even the shopkeepers take special care to ensure that their customers do not litter the premises.

Sunset in Bali © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

Sunset in Bali © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

Bali Flight and Trip Arrangements from Kochi (Cochin), Kerala

After selecting the destination, we had a travel agency arrange and manage a customized itinerary and hotel bookings for us. They also arranged an Indonesian travel guide who helped us in understanding the culture and places better. This made the whole trip a stress-free one for us.

We booked our Bali flights directly through Malindo Air without taking our travel agency’s help. We chose this airline because it had a better reputation than Air Asia (which offers the cheapest flights from India to Bali but is also notorious for its delays) and is more affordable than other carriers like Singapore Airlines, Silk Air etc. A round-trip (Kochi-Bali) flight on Malindo Air costs around 25k INR.

The con with booking a travel agency is that there’s a fixed schedule and you won’t really get to relax anywhere for too long. This was fine with us because we were there only for a few days and wanted to cover the maximum number of places as quickly as possible. But if you are someone who likes to experience a place at your own pace, then managing the whole trip yourself is the way to go.

Full Package Rate

Our total package came up to 60-70k INR per person (inclusive of the round-trip Cochin to Bali Malindo Air flight tickets which cost around 25k INR/person).

Of course, this price can increase or decrease depending on the hotels, airlines you choose.

My Malindo Air Experience

If you are like me, you look up reviews online to get a gist of an airline's services. I have to say I wasn’t very impressed with the reviews on TripAdvisor and other travel sites about Malindo Air.

My own experience was different though but then again this is subjective; as in what's okay for me, might not be for someone else.

We booked this airline for our Kochi-Bali round trip. We had a stop at Malaysia in between. Here’s my take based on key factors:

  • On-time Departure and Arrival?: Yes. I read a lot of reviews which complained about Malindo Air delays, but we didn’t face this issue.
  • Class: Economy
  • Leg space: Decent
  • Seats: Comfortable enough. We were provided blankets and pillows.
  • In-flight entertainment: It was available for each passenger from Kochi to Bali and also from Bali to Malaysia. But not from Malaysia to Kochi. So this kind of depends on your luck. Not all have an IFE installed in them. The IFE section (if installed) also includes a charging port and an earphone jack. Malindo Air provides you with earphones but I preferred using mine.
  • Food: Free meals are provided for economy class passengers. If you are someone with a large appetite, eat before you board. I was okay with the quantity served but I have a feeling someone with a larger appetite might find it insufficient. Meal options include veg or non-veg. The non-veg meals were fine. During each flight, we were served something different like biriyani or grilled chicken fillets or rice with Chinese styled chicken curry etc. But vegetarians had it tough. They only had chana masala with rice or chappati as an option. Needless to say, all the vegetarians in my family got fed up of chana masala by the time we reached back home.
  • A/C: Not very cold which was perfect for me.
  • Cabin crew: Pleasant
  • Flight time: It took 4 hours from Kochi to Malaysia and 3 hours from Malaysia to Bali. So total 7 hours. Transit time is extra.

Malindo Air Flight Video from Kochi to Kuala Lumpur

Transit Time at Malaysian Airport

The stop at Malaysia was for 1 hour on our way to Bali and around 6 hours on our way back to Kochi.

The Kuala Lumpur Airport (KLIA1) is huge and honestly the long transit time didn’t bother or tire us as we spent most of the time shopping, dining and just roaming around. I used my credit card to shop at Malaysian airport. There are a lot high-end luxury brands, branded coffee shops and fast food outlets. I got my absolute favorite Godiva chocolates from KL airport as this brand is not available in Kerala as far as I know. The chocolates taste like pieces of heaven and if you haven’t tried it out yet, I highly suggest you do.

Poll Time!

Visa

The good news for Indian passport holders is that visa is not required - provided your stay does not exceed 30 days. A visa exemption stamp, that cannot be extended, is given at the immigration counter which helps officials track the length of your stay.

More details are available here.

Hotels We Stayed In

SenS Massage and Spa Options © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

SenS Massage and Spa Options © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

Some of the Places We Visited and Things We Did

  • Dinner Cruise organized by Bali Hai Cruises – Denpasar

Chill and relax, enjoy live music, take in the beautiful Bali sunset followed by Indonesian dinner aboard a luxurious catamaran. Once the sun sets, you are treated to an Indonesian feast and traditional Bali dance followed by cabarets. I have to say the last part came as a shock to my conservative Indian family as the drag queens were in their element but we enjoyed it nonetheless. By the end, everyone including the dancers and the audience got onto the dance floor and partied the night away.

Bali Hai Cruise © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

Bali Hai Cruise © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

Traditional Bali Dance Before the Cabarets © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

Traditional Bali Dance Before the Cabarets © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

Party Time on Bali Cruise © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

Party Time on Bali Cruise © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

  • Barong Dance – Ubud, Bali

We witnessed the Barong dance at Ubud which represents the infinite battle between good (Barong) and evil (Rangda) in traditional Balinese dance form. The costumes are captivating and the storytelling is unique to Bali, laced with cultural representations. Leaflets are distributed to the audience to help us understand the story better.

  • Kintamani Volcano/Mount Batur

We had a stopover at mountain view restaurant at Kintamani which offered a perfect view of Mount Batur. Only Indonesian food is served here. The scenery and climate is amazing.

Mount Batur View From Kintamani Restaurant © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

Mount Batur View From Kintamani Restaurant © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

  • Tirta Empul Temple

The Tirta Empul temple is a Hindu Balinese temple visited by people of all religions. Taking a dip in its holy water is considering to be spiritually cleansing.

You might have to wear a sarong here (applicable for both men and women) if your outfit is too short. Unlike our Indian temples, photography is allowed inside most Balinese temples. You can also enter the temples in Bali wearing your shoes.

  • U.C Silver

If you are in the mood to shop for some handmade sterling silver jewellery, this is your place. But what makes U.C Silver truly stand out is its building architecture. The exterior is flooded with ethereal carvings, engravings and fun sculptures which can be a photographer's dream. Keep note, photography is allowed only outdoors and not inside the building where all the jewellery is showcased. We didn’t buy anything as they was super expensive but we did end up capturing lots of fun moments and portraits.

U.C Silver Entrance  © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

U.C Silver Entrance © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

  • Water Sports

Water sports are must if you travel to Bali. Gili islands offer the best water adventure sports but since we had to cancel it from our itinerary due to the recent earthquake, we made our way to Wira Water Sports at Klungkung. There are a number of activities you can try out here including parasailing, banana boat, jet skiing, flying fish etc. We couldn’t try out scuba diving as the organizers said the water is too dirty for that at the moment. So if you want to go scuba diving, I would suggest opting for some other place.

Wira Sports provides you with bathing and changing rooms.

  • Goa Gajah Elephant Cave

Goa Gajah Elephant Cave is located in Ubud and is noted for its intricate stone carvings, beautiful courtyards, small streams and fountains. Don’t go by its name, you will not find any elephants here except that one elephant statue just outside the main entrance. There is also a cave inside where Ganesha and Shiva idols are placed. Wearing a sarong is required here. We happened to see a snake skin just outside the entrance of the cave which kind of shook us up a little before we proceeded to enter. Yes, we made it out safe and sound! Didn’t spot any snakes.

  • Ubud Market

We spent half a day shopping at Ubud Market. This is the best place to shop for souvenirs, Bali rattan bags, knick-knacks, dresses, home décor, accessories and really beautiful dreamcatchers. You can get things for more than half of its quoted price, so don’t forget to bargain! The same things might be found online on Amazon for triple the price.

Dreamcatchers at Ubud Market © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

Dreamcatchers at Ubud Market © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

  • Pura Taman Ayun

A scenic, spacious temple surrounded with greenery and lotus-filled pools. You are required to wear a sarong here.

  • Tanah Lot

This was my most favorite place in Bali. The sunset view here is excellent and rejuvenating, so is the beautiful sea view, rock formations and the little clear water streams flowing by the sea-side. You will also get a chance to hold one of the heaviest snakes in the world here – i.e. the reticulated python. An amazing place to just sit back and unwind.

Tanah Lot © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

Tanah Lot © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

  • Bajra Sandhi Monument

Totally enjoyed the dioramas displayed here representing Bali history and its fight for freedom from the Dutch colonial rule. The ground hall consists of a library and exhibition halls. The 1st floor is where you can view the 33 dioramas. The top floor is a meditative hall offering a panoramic view of the Denpasar city.

Right next to this monument is a 3D interactive museum which we wanted to visit but couldn’t due to lack of time. So if you want to take some fun pictures, try to fit this into your schedule.

  • Bali Museum

A history and art museum with various artifacts on display.

  • Krishna Mall and Bintang Supermarket

Another great place to shop for souvenirs. You get a lot of stuff for cheap prices here – including perfumes, t-shirts, shoes, décor, bath salts etc. We did most of our shopping from Krishna Mall.

Bintang is a similar shopping mall where you can sample/buy Kopi Luwak and Bali treats like chocolates, snacks apart from the things available at Krishna Mall.

Decor Items at Bintang Supermarket © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

Decor Items at Bintang Supermarket © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

  • Kecak Fire Dance at Uluwatu Temple

This was perhaps the highlight of our tour. An amazing enactment of Ramayana by the energetic actors performing as Rama, Sita, Ravana and last, but definitely not the least, Hanuman who was the star of the show. He interacted with the audience, impressed us with his acrobatic skills and left us smiling with his playful pranks. In short, he made the whole event unforgettable, joyful and very special. Do not miss! Make sure to get there as early as possible as seats get filled up pretty fast and then you will end up sitting on the floor of the open theatre, which is not bad if you have no issue with it.

Uluwatu temple is located at a very scenic place. You can carry your cameras inside but the one thing to be wary of is monkeys. They weren’t all over the place like we thought they would be, but their presence nonetheless could not be ignored. We saw some monkeys snatching away cameras and caps. So be careful of their presence and avoid eye contact. They take it as a threat if you look directly into their eyes and are bound to attack you more or meddle with your things if you do so. In case they do take any of your belongings, I heard the temple people can help you out in getting it back by offering something in return to the monkey.

Things we missed out on:

  • A massage: Bali is renowned for massages at affordable rates. Try it out if you have time.
  • Gili Islands: This place is a sight to behold with pristine water bodies. Sadly we couldn’t go here because of the earthquakes.

Climate

We visited Bali during its peak season in August. The climate then was fairly similar to Kerala ranging from 25 degrees C to 30 – it was hot but less humid comparatively. You won’t need any sweaters, even at night, so you need not carry any with you.

Another Beautiful Bali Sunset View  © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

Another Beautiful Bali Sunset View © Copyright Kalpana Iyer

Things to Pack

For women:

  1. PeeBuddy – It’s a female urination device which helps women to stand up and pee. Very helpful and essential during any travel to prevent urinary tract infections in case you are faced with stinky, unclean toilets. I use this even in malls in India.
  2. Dresses - This is the time to get out your flowy dresses. You get a lot of dresses in Bali at affordable rates but if you are a conservative Keralite like me who isn't comfortable in revealing outfits, I suggest getting them from India itself.

For both men and women:

  1. Sunscreen, sunglasses, caps – anything to protect you from the sun. I really liked the Nivea Sunscreen Lotion. I have a very sensitive oily skin but this didn't cause breakouts or make my skin greasy at all.
  2. Travel adapters – Our Indian chargers work alright on most Bali plug points, but I needed a travel adapter in few cases when my phone charger didn't fit properly. So this is not exactly a necessity, but you can pack one just in case.
  3. Bali Belly remedial measures – Bali Belly is similar to Delhi Belly or any kind of traveler's diarrhea. I didn't face this but a few family members did. Always keep some medicines handy for such situations.
  4. Swimwear for water sports
  5. Dupatta/lungi and a stole – Sarongs are provided for free at temples but if you are someone who cannot wear used stuff, you can bring your own dupatta/lungi and stole to wear as sarong and sash. Most temples require you to wear them if your outfit doesn't cover your knees. This is applicable for both men and women.

Food

There are a lot of Indian restaurants around. We had some older people in our gang who weren’t exactly experimental with food. This made us frequent Indian restaurants even in Bali. Vegetarian food is available in plenty.

Indonesian food is mostly spicy with rice and noodles forming the base of many dishes. So if you are from India, you might not feel too lost while trying Bali’s local cuisine.

Public Transportation in Bali

The best way to explore Bali would be using a scooter. We didn’t rent any cabs, bikes or scooters at the place as we already had our own little bus to go about in. This was arranged by our travel agency.

I have heard you should be extra careful while renting vehicles. Take pictures of the vehicle right after you rent it including snaps of any wear and tear. This is to ensure that the agency doesn’t trick you into paying or fine you for a damage that was already there.

On the quirky side, we spotted some buses with shady stickers that displayed a woman’s silhouette next to a love shaped symbol. No prizes for guessing what might happen in there.

Money

1 INR (Indian Rupee) is approximately 200 IDR (Indonesian Rupiah). It doesn’t really take much for you to become a millionaire in Bali! You can lose this status quite as easily after shopping.

For Indians, a trick to use if you want to convert IDR to INR is to divide the whole amount by 200. For example, if something costs 10,000 IDR, divide it by 200 to get its approx. INR rate i.e. 50 INR. This helped us quite a bit during shopping.

Before travel, make sure to convert your INR at a local money exchange instead of the airport to get the best possible rates. We got ours done at UAE Exchange at Trichur. It was very hurdle-free and quick and all you require is an ID copy.

Not many exchanges in Kerala deal with IDR (like the UAE exchange in Trichur) so what you can do is convert INR to USD (United States Dollars) in Kerala and then proceed to convert USD to IDR in Bali at a local exchange there. We did the same on our way back to Kerala, i.e. converted IDR to USD at Bali and then proceeded to convert USD to INR at the local exchange in Kerala.

I didn’t bother converting my money to Malaysian ringgit while we were at Kuala Lumpur airport. I used my ATM cards to make payments instead.

I wouldn’t recommend using your cards to make payment in small shops in Bali as I have seen few people online narrating their experience on fraudulent card transactions. So to be on the safer side, use cash for street shopping and a card at branded outlets.

Earthquakes, Volcanic Eruptions and After-Shocks in Bali. Should You Cancel Your Trip?

There’s a chance of you getting ridiculed if you tell an Indonesian that you were planning to cancel your trip anticipating an earthquake. As there really is never a “safe” time to visit Indonesia. The place is often subjected to earthquakes, after-shocks and volcanic eruptions. Most of the time, it is hardly serious. People go about their daily routine as if nothing happened. We went shortly after the Lombok Island 2018 earthquake and were surprised to see Bali swarming with tourists. We took a chance and we were glad we did. No incidents happened while we were there. Just avoid the places which have been declared unsafe or still on the recovery process and you are good to go.

I have to tell you that I was ambivalent after seeing so many people on twitter announcing that they were cancelling their trips because of the earthquake. This was in total contrast to what the people in Bali were saying. Residents vouched for Bali’s safety and advised only to avoid earthquake-prone areas like Lambok and Gili islands.

In short, if you want a 100% guarantee that you will never face a natural calamity in Indonesia, then you might as well avoid the place altogether. But if you are as chilled out as the locals, I would say go for it without a second thought!

© 2018 Kalpana Iyer

Comments

Kalpana Iyer (author) from India on October 27, 2020:

I hope you get to visit Bali soon. It is a quaint little place.

Treathyl FOX from Austin, Texas on October 26, 2020:

I've always imagined going to Bali. I saw a movie once when I was a kid. LOL. Thanks for sharing your trip and that tip about the PeeBuddy.

Kalpana Iyer (author) from India on October 19, 2020:

Yes it is mostly advertised as a honeymoon paradise but there is so much more to it. It is an immersive experience, with nature's beauty in plenty. Thanks Peggy for commenting.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 19, 2020:

I mostly think of Bali as a place to honeymoon and be pampered. In reading your article, I can see that there is a lot to see and do while there. I enjoyed reading this again and thinking of how much fun and education traveling to distant places can provide.

Kalpana Iyer (author) from India on October 13, 2020:

Hi Denise! Thank you for taking the time out to comment. Yes, the whole Bali trip was a very exciting experience for me. The cruise was very relaxing.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on October 13, 2020:

What an exciting adventure. You seem to have seen many beautiful things. I think the cruse looked very fun for you.

Blessings,

Denise

Kalpana Iyer (author) from India on October 11, 2020:

Glad you liked it, Rajan! Thanks for commenting.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on October 10, 2020:

Thanks for this very interesting and useful travelogue. It will certainly be useful for those wanting to visit Bali from India.

Kalpana Iyer (author) from India on October 09, 2020:

Thank you, Alexander for taking the time out to visit and comment. Yes, Bali is a wonderful place. It is a place suitable for both - the savers and the spenders. If you want to splurge, there are enough luxury stays, posh restaurants and branded shops in Bali. If you want to save, there are many budget hotels, eateries and activities as well. I hope you get to visit soon, and I wish you all the best for your career!

Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on October 08, 2020:

I enjoyed the photos. I would love to visit Bali one day soon, once I have established my career.

Kalpana Iyer (author) from India on October 06, 2020:

Yes, Bali is a great place to visit. I hope you get to visit soon!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 06, 2020:

Kerala to Bali has become a popular destination over the years. You shared a great destination and I would love to visit.

Kalpana Iyer (author) from India on October 04, 2020:

Thank you for reading my Bali travel story, Nithya! It was one of my most memorable experiences. I would go back again if I could.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on October 04, 2020:

Amazing! I enjoyed visiting Bali through your article. Loved the photos, now I want to visit this beautiful place. Thank you for sharing so much information about your travel.

Kalpana Iyer (author) from India on September 29, 2020:

Thank you for commenting! It feels good to know you have visited Kerala too. I have always found a lot of similarities between Kerala and Bali.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on September 29, 2020:

Very nice article. I spent a lot of time in Kerala and also been to Bali. Your article brought my memories back.

Kalpana Iyer (author) from India on September 28, 2020:

Oh yes! I could see so many similarities. We thought Bali is like a modern Kerala. Green and lush, but with a good nightlife as well. We wanted to visit more places like the Gili Islands but could not because of the earthquakes.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on September 28, 2020:

You must have seen many influences of India on Bali. We visited there from Cambodia, and we enjoyed it so much.

Kalpana Iyer (author) from India on September 27, 2020:

Thank you so much! My Bali trip was one of the most memorable experiences for me. Totally enjoyed it even if we had to face some hurdles along the way with the earthquakes and Kerala floods.

Anupam Mitu from MUMBAI on September 27, 2020:

I loved your photography Kalpana. The pics are taken with the perfect angle.

Nice way to express your experiences of this travel.

We too got a few glimpses in your words.

Kalpana Iyer (author) from India on November 05, 2018:

Thank you so much for taking time out to read the post :) Glad you found it informative.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on October 30, 2018:

A very well written and informative article about Bali. You have included all the possible details, one need to know before traveling to this wonderful place.

I enjoyed going through and thanks for the virtual tour. Your pictures are amazing and do give us an idea about this beautiful destination.

Thanks for sharing your travel experience!

Kalpana Iyer (author) from India on October 25, 2018:

Glad you liked it :) Yes this tip was given by our tour guide. We didn't know about this either.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 24, 2018:

I enjoyed reading about your trip to Bali and your impressions of the place. Your photos were also fun to see. That is an interesting tidbit about not looking monkeys in the eye. I did not know that it made them feel threatened.