Although Denpasar is widely panned in the guidebooks as dirty, noisy and unenjoyable (and Kuta is better how?) we found it to be an interesting place to spend a couple of days wandering about the small alleys north of Jl. Gajah Mada and checking out the markets.
We stayed at Nakula Familiar Inn on Jl. Nakula. If you are coming into Denpasar by taxi, get the driver to turn onto Jl. Gajah Mada then take the first left over the bridge onto Jl. Kartini. Jl Nakula is about 400m north of the intersection on the right hand side.
Nakula Familiar Inn is a well run, clean and friendly place with exceptionally helpful staff. We got a large room for 75,000RP (including tax) that contained 2 large king singles, fan, private bathroom with flush toilet and also had a small private balcony. The guesthouse does reasonably expensive (but large) breakfasts and has a large collection of books and magazines that you can swap for books of your own.
There are a large number of internet places in Denpasar. We found a good place for 5,000RP/hr on the street continuing on from Jl. Nakula on the other side of the intersection of Jl. Nakula and Jl. Arjuna, just past the excellent Toko on the corner.
BRI and BNI Banks have branches and ATMs on opposing sides of the intersection of Jl. Gajah Mada and Jl. Arjuna. The post office is (apparently) somewhat inconveniently located about 2km south east of Jl. Gajah Mada on Jl. Panjaitan, near the monument.
The warung next to the internet cafe close to Nakula Familiar Inn was closed for Hari Raya when we were in town, but the staff at Nakula Familiar thought that it did pretty good chinese food. The small warung (no.9) on the left hand side of Jl. Arjuna about 50m from the intersection with Jl. Nakula is an excellent place for cheap eats and does the best Es Jeruk we had in Indonesia .
The bakery (Roti Candi) on Jl. Nakula also does an excellent selection of cheap pastries which make a good breakfast on the go.
The Restaurant Atoom Baru on Jl. Gajah Mada (opposite the market) has an extensive menu at reasonable prices, and serves supercold beer.
The Matahari Department Store is located Jl. Sartika, and across the road is Robinson's. The Bali Mall is located closer to Jl. Gajah Mada on Jl. Diponegoro, and on the otherside of the road 100m further away from Jl.Gajah Mada is the three story electronics mall, which is a good place to stock up on memory cards etc for cameras and computer peripherals.
There are two large markets on the south side of Jl. Gajah Mada straddling either side of the river a block before the intersection with Jl. Kartini. They have the usual selection of knock off clothes, watches, the odd annoying tout and a large selection of fruit and veg, especially at night. The flower sellers on Jl. Sulawesi with their baskets of colourful flowers make for a good photo oportunity.
The Museum Negri Propinsi Bali is located just off Jl. Gajah Madah on the far side of the large park by the intersection. Due to Hari Raya we were limited to a tour of the grounds, but it is meant to have an interesting collection of relics, arts and other cultural pieces from around the island.
Conveniently situated next to the museum, this large central temple is one of the busiest in Denpasar. You are allowed in if appropriately dressed (i.e. long sleeve shirt and pants or sarong and sash).
Kuta / Legian
The so-called notorious haunt of boozing aussie football teams on holiday, cashed up tourists and budget backpackers, Kuta (especially given recent events) currently has quite a subdued feel to it.
If you are concerned about security then Kuta is an easy day trip from Denpasar, with a taxi costing between 30 - 40,000RP depending on traffic.
If you want to stay for a few days, the accommodation options are practically endless, from cheap backpackers haunts on Gang Poppies I and II to 5-star resorts.
We stayed at Kodja beach bungalows on Jl. Pantai Kuta, a quiet, slightly rundown place with large airy rooms from 70,000RP (including tax) set around a fantastic deep swimming pool.
Apart from the mass of stalls flogging fake surf labels, $10 rolexes, belts, bracelets and DVD's there is a large number of shops selling quality locally made crafts and clothes, although you will have to bargain hard to get a good price. Surprisingly, the touts are pretty relaxed (especially given the apparent lack of tourists at the moment).
The main beach is excellent for swimming or learning to surf, and there are a strip of makeshift bars setup under the palms at the top of the beach where you can sit in a chair and watch the sunset over a cold beer.
Restaurants and Bars
As with accommodation, the options are virtually endless and there is a range to suit every taste and budget (or lackthereof).
The cheap eats are your generic pizza, pasta, with a couple of Indonesian dishes thrown in type places and are generally found on Poppies I and II. The restaurants along Jl. Legian generally cater to more cashed up tourists.
We had especially good Indian food at Gateway to India on the corner of Jl. Pantai Kuta and Jl. Legian, across the road from Bemo Corner. The Bamboo Corner Cafe on Poppies I also did pretty good breakfasts for 10,000RP.
Ubud is a very pretty town about 30km north of Denpasar. Due to time constraints we only had a day to tour Ubud and the surrounds, which, as anyone who has visited the area is hardly enough time to do the area justice.
As we didn't stay or eat in Ubud there aren't any accommodation or restaurant listings for this section, rather the following is a list of some of the worthwhile attractions we visited. As we were on a tight schedule we hire a travel and driver for the day in Kuta for 250,000RP including petrol.
A small cave cut into the side of a hill surrounded by a temple complex. The mouth of the cave is an intricately carved demon's head, with the gaping mouth providing the enterance to the cave. Inside is a rectangular chamber about five meters long that houses a small shrine and some small remains of effigies of hindu gods. Opposite the cave is two large bathing pools and a small covered pavillion. Goa Gajah is open from 9am to 5pm . The enterance fee is 3,100RP and includes hire of a sarong which is compulsory to enter the temple.
Yeh Pulu is a small carved rock face about 1km away from Goa Gajah. From a lay point of view the reliefs appear to represent scenes from everyday life rather than having any religious significance (the small statue of Ganesh being the only exception). The carving of the woman peeking out from behind a doorway is quite creepy, especially when viewed from an angle.
Adding a little 'life' to Yeh Pulu is the seemingly mad elderly lady who appears to delight in lifting her shirt above her head before insisting on showering you in holy water and getting you to make a small offering to Ganesh, laughing loudly all the while.
Access to the carvings is down a well paved concrete path through some rice fields. Admission costs 3,100RP and opening hours are 8am - 5pm daily
Tirta Empul is a large, interesting temple complex in excellent condition set around a large bubbling spring. The spring feeds into a large bathing pool, next to which is a large in-ground pond housing some very sizeable goldfish. Admission to the temple costs 3,100RP which includes hire of an obligatory sarong and sash. The temple is open to the public between 9am and 6pm daily.
Gunung Kawai was without a doubt the highlight of the attractions we visited around Ubud. Once you have braved the guys flogging sarongs (you can rent one for 1,000RP at the top of the stairs) follow the path down the side of the hill to the river. Not only is the temple complex itself quite large and well preserved, but the valley setting with undulating rice terraces plunging steeply to the river below is spectacular.
On either side of the river are 10 large shrines cut into the cliff. In the main temple itself on the far side of the river is a small maze of rooms and passages cut into the rock face.
Once you have braved the (very) steep climb back out of the valley there is a smart cafe serving cold drinks on your left that has panoramic views of the surrounding area. If you buy a drink you can also use their bathrooms for free!
Access to the temple costs 3,100RP and sarong hire an additional 1,000RP. A small beer in the cliff top cafe will set you back a very worthwile 12,000RP.
Sacred Monkey Forest
Located to the south of Ubud, another fitting name for this place would be the angry, greedy monkey forest. After paying the 10,000RP entry fee you come across a central square populated by a large troop of black and grey monkeys who are especially adept at sniffing out food, even when stuffed in a backpack.
Bring a bunch of bananas and be prepared to dole them out very rapidly, thes little guys are hungry don't like to be kept waiting! Watching the monekys scrap over food or trying to steal sweet potatoes off the rangers is an entertaining way to spend an hour, just keep an eye on what is sneaking up behind you.
Strictly speaking Tanah Lot isn't anywhere near Ubud, but it was our final destination of the day before heading back to Kuta, hence its inclusion here.
Tanah Lot is one of the most famous and easily recognised monuments in Bali . Around the temple itself perched on the rocky outcrop (you can walk out to the base of the temple at low tide, but you can't enter the temple itself) are a number of other temples on the headlands.
Tanah Lot is quite pretty, although it is often difficult to get good photos because of the haze from the sea spray. The large crowds and seemingly endless number of touts equate to a less than serene sunset but it is still well worth a look. Entry to the foreshore area is 3,300RP per person. After you have got a ticket ignore the 'temple this way' signs as they simply lead you on a circuitous route through a horde of stalls flogging your standard tourist trinkets. Instead, head straight down the road running perpendicular to the carpark.
All of the long distance buses depart from the Ubang Terminal in Denpasar. You can apparently take a 'VIP Tourist Shuttle' from Kuta but the trip is a long one and spending 15 odd hours in a minibus with 9 other tourists doesn't sound like an especially fun way to travel. Even this shuttle will most likely go via Ubung.
Executive class buses (the large Mercedes ones with aircon, bathroom and decent seats) are the way to go for this trip. You can book these buses in Kuta, but as you will pay 10 - 20,000RP extra for the ticket and have to go to the Ubung Terminal under your own steam you might as well book your ticket at the Terminal itelf and save yourself some cash. The ticket offices in Kuta are useful for finding out when the buses depart from Ubung, which at the moment is between 2pm and 3.30pm .
Take a taxi from Kuta to Ubung (about 20 minutes, 40,000RP) and aim to arrive about 2 hours before the buses are scheduled to leave. During public holidays etc it is probably a good idea to get a ticket a couple of day in advance of your intended date of departure.
At the terminal ignore the guys offering to help you get a ticket as they only make things more expensive. The ticket booths on the right hand side of road past the enterance are where the various bus company ticket reps reside. Their various destinations are advertised in their windows.
We got tickets from the Sedya Mulya office for 170,000RP which got us comfortable seats on a bus with aircon, pillows and blankets, the ferry crossing, and a large but simple buffet dinner about 2 hours into Java. The 15 hour trip was completely hassle free and we arrived at Yogyakarta Bus terminal (which is a 40,000RP taxi ride south of the city) reasonably well rested at 8am .
From the terminal ignore the transport touts and head back out to the main road the bus entered the terminal from. Grab a metered taxi to your destination into the city.
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