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2014 Birthday Dive Trip – Indonesia : Bali

I has been 2 years since my last dive trip and I was getting so rusty. The coming of Jevriel and Amber restricting me for scuba diving made those desire increasing intensive. Hotels.com happened to be having some promotion and I saw a good deal for a Bali accommodation. The period happened to also be around my Birthday so we made this a year end getaway cum my Birthday trip, which granted me the special request of incorporating scuba dive into our holiday.

2 years is quite a bit of time and I have always place safety as a priority, and thus decided to go easy with myself for the coming dives. After having read and research on the various dive schools and dive sites around Bali, I settled for Atlantis, a dive school operated by French. I have 2 days set aside for diving, and I picked 2 easy sites – Padang Bay and Tulamben. The latter is a popular dive site with the famous USS Liberty wreck.

Day 1
We boarded a late plane and arrived Bali at 8pm. Normally I would not have wasted a whole day and to pay an accommodation just to rest but Bali has a vibrant nightlife, thus it does not matter even if we touch down late a night. Having read from blogs that have warned about those unscrupulous taxi drivers touting at the airport, I was prepared to fend them off and to bargain for the right price. I managed to obtain a list of estimated pricing from the internet and had an idea how much I should be paying for from the airport to my hotel in Legian.

When we collected our luggage and exited the arrival hall, we were greeted with a mass of taxi drivers. I simply ignored them and walked towards the “official” taxi counter and asked for a ride to Legian. I was quoted IDR80,000 (SGD8.50) but the price I was advised from the internet was only IDR55,000 (SGD6). Without 2nd thoughts I walked off and headed out from the airport. The rest of the taxi drivers swam towards us like hungry bees. Each of them trying to offer “special discounts” that were all above the initial IDR80,000 I was quoted, and it just became more expensive as I walked further out from the airport. Eventually I had no choice but to turn towards the “official” taxi counter. It was late at night and these drivers would not budge, when knowing that people just wanted to head towards their accommodation for the night. I could sense a smirk when the counter staff saw me asking for the ride again, and he replied “so now you want it”. We took the ticket and walked with the appointed driver towards the taxi. Do note that you DO NOT pay the counter staff. Always pay the driver when you ALIGHT. No payment should be given to anyone before that. Amber was telling me off that I was taking unnecessary risks and wasting time just to save SGD2. To me, its not that, cause SGD2 is really nothing in my eyes. It is the attitude and the cut-throat culture of many such countries that really turn me off. After all, I grew up in Singapore, a country without these nonsense. Nevertheless, we arrived safely at our hotel – Legian Paradiso Hotel. On by the way, we only paid SGD195 for 4 nights of stay, making it only SGD50 per night – dirt cheap!

It was kind of late and we needed to wake up at 6am the next day, thus we did not wander far enough and only explored shops within the proximity of our hotel. Dinner was at this place known as Mama’s German Restaurant. We had sausages. They were rather good and we knew that we would be back again for dinner.

 

Day 2
The dive school had arranged to pick us up from our hotel at 7am. At Atlantis, I paid for both days of my dive (USD268) and did the fitting for my dive suits and BCD. I had with me some personal equipment, of which some were totally new and unused since Jevriel’s 1st month newborn shot. We were a small group of 3 divers with a petite french lady instructor. The ride to Padang Bay was around an hour and by late morning we were all in the water. I was paired up with the instructor while the other couple made a pair. Though I have my advance licence and clocked 20+ dives in the past, it was really not enough. Together with 2 years of no diving, I struggled throughout the entire 1hr dive with buoyancy. To made things worse, I noticed water droplets in my underwater casing around 20 minutes into the dive. By the time we were into 40 minutes, the amount of droplets in my casing had formed vapors and it somehow smoked my screen. I should have known that it was best for me to turn off the camera to prevent any further damage due to this leakage. However I could not resist the temptation of capturing the dive. By the time we surfaced, my camera went haywire and the memory card was dead………

During the 1st dive, I saw reef sharks, moral eels, lion fishes, nudibranchs, and some other interesting fishes. However I was unable to show any of these to Amber since the memory card was dead. Given that, my 2nd dive was without the camera and that gave me lesser distractions and more focus on my buoyancy, which still turned out to be fucked up……….. This is exactly the reason why they say you need to keep your skills (not that I was very good to began with) with at least a yearly dive. For the 2nd dive I saw some octopus. It was my first time seeing one in the open sea and they are simply amazing creatures. Even more fascinating that those cuttlefishes I had seen in Puala Dayang. The octopus was aware of our presence and it changed its skin tone and texture within a blink of an eye, to fit its surrounding. It does live up to the name as the master of disguise.

It was already late afternoon by the time they dropped us back at our hotel. I took a real good bath and gave my equipment a thorough wash, before soaking them into a pool of water for a few hours. This was to make sure that any residue of salt water was removed completely. I finished cleaning up by 5pm and having more time tonight, we decided to walk towards Kuta beach. We started walking in a direction where I believe would led us to the destination. A check on Goggle Map showed that we were heading in the opposite direction, so we made the necessary detour. This was where I started to recall how the iPad and Goggle Map had helped us greatly in our recent Japan trip.

It was roughly a 20 minutes walk before we gotten to step on the sand. By then the sun was setting and we were in the twilight zone. The waves at Kuta is really strong, which explains why this is one of the favourite spots for surfers. We strolled down by the beach line and came across a shopping mall. Eventually we settled our dinner in a restaurant by the beach. I couldn’t remember what Amber had for dinner. I had steak and our dinner came up to IDR340,000 (SGD36), which is relatively cheap.

It started to rain when we were about to head back and we flagged a cab. I insisted for the meter to be turned on. The driver gave me some stupid reasons why he couldn’t and I said that I would get down if the meter was not working. He then reluctantly turned it on. I had my Goggle Map turned on to ensure that he did not purposely take a longer route than needed. You really cannot and should not trust these people. You can refer to this guide on what to look out for when boarding a taxi in Bali. I will only board a BlueBird taxi but this night I did not due to the rain. When we arrived at our hotel, the driver locked the door and demanded that I paid extra. I said I would only pay what was shown on the meter but he insisted that there were some special charges at night and all sort. I was tired to argue (although I could and all I needed was to catch the attention of our hotel’s security guard) and gave him what he wanted before asking him to fuck off. The ride was IDR20,000 (SGD2.10) and I believed he tried to ask for a further few thousands IDR, which would be just a few cents in SGD. Not that it hurt anything to me but I just didn’t want to waste my time with these people. I mean I can understand that life hood can be tough in their country and foreigners are normally loaded and willing to spend when they are on holiday. However I would gladly gave a decent tip if the driver was honest. In fact for the remaining rides of this trip, I stuck to BlueBird and had given all those drivers tips for being honest. So my point is, I can afford that additional amount. Those are coffee money to me. Just be nice and I will offer my appreciation in return.

PS: My camera memory card was dead during this night but it came back to life on the 4th day of this trip. Below are some of the photos taken on this day. 

When I struggled with my buoyancy I decided to do video instead of photo, as the latter would requires me to have good buoyancy in order to get sharp shot in limited lighting. As you can see from my video, my buoyancy sucks and I was panning all around. Much of the video was cut as the camera was swirling around while I tried to adjust my buoyancy. What was left was nothing much really. The ending clip was a reef shark that I spotted but I did not dare to move in closer, and the zoom-in was not too clear.

 

Day 3
This is another early morning where we took a 3 hours ride to the northern part of Bali. I did not bring my camera along since it was broken, which to my much regret as Tulamben is much better than Padang Bay. Not that my camera would have worked but more so that I should have switched it off yesterday when I observed those droplets forming in the casing. Nevertheless the dive was worth the 6 hours journey (to and back).

We were with another dive instructor and a different group of divers. The USS Liberty wreck is done via shore entry from a dive resort. In fact it would have been really nice to be staying in this region of Bali. You would get the peace and beauty of the surrounding, just that you would missed out on those happening clubs and beaches at Kuta. Therefore where you stay in Bali really depends on what kind of holiday experience you are looking for in Bali.

The shore was filled with stones and pebbles. The other divers were using slip-on fins and were wearing booties. I was using the normal fins and only had a skin-sock. It was so much pain for me to walk on those stones. Imagine those weight of my tank and equipment resting all onto my feet while those stones tried to pierce through. It reminds me of those foot reflexology mat that send excruciating pain throughout the entire feet. This was where I made a promise that I will get myself booties and slip-on fins before my next dive trip. Some money just aren’t worth saving, yeah.

Once in the water we followed the instructor along the outer area of the wreck. There was a “cleaning station” where shrimps would tickle and pick off particles from our hands and mouth. The instructor removed his regulator, held his breath, and let the shrimps crawled into his mouth for some cleaning action. I could not show Amber any of this since my camera was out of action. We then went one round the wreck before heading into its structure. It was not really an enclosed wreck so you do not really need to be trained in wreck diving to maneuver within its compound.

For this dive, we came across the cleaning shrimps, eels, sea snake, stingray, nudibranchs, and a turtle! Beside those octopus yesterday, this turtle was also a first time open sea encounter for me. We followed it for a while and observe it up close. I was probably just less than a meter away from him but nothing could be captured when my camera was sitting back in the hotel. Oh my, the feeling was so much like the Red Sea encounter in Egypt.

We surfaced and took our lunch in the resort before heading to our 2nd dive site, a place not far from the resort. They call it the coral garden. It was again an excruciating painful shore entry with my thin layer of skin-sock. I couldn’t really remember what we spotted in this dive but I know there were plenty of things to see. We swam past a “sunken temple” where this area was filled with those Budda statues and temple decorations. I later asked the instructor if that was really a sunken temple and he said it was man-made. They dropped those things to create a “playground” for the fishes. Nevertheless it was such a nice experience.

With that I finished my 2 days of dive in Bali. The overall experience was great. It was much better than those dives I had in Malaysia. It really does worth the money and effort to travel further for better dive sites. I hope I can do more of such dives, and probably even better dive sites. The next dive I have in mind is to return for Bali in August 2015, where I would get to see the Sun Fish. I would likely do the the Manta point as well.

We went back to Mama’s German restaurant for dinner and followed by massage. Oh my god, the massage in Bali is dirt cheap. Seriously dirt cheap to the max. A package of 60 minute massage + ear candling for me, and a 60 minute foot reflexology massage + ear candling for Amber, added up to a total of IDR305,000 (SGD33). In Singapore, a 60 minute massage alone would have cost a minimum SGD45. What we had enjoyed would easily cost SGD140 in Singapore. We promised ourselves to indulged in another day of massage.

 

Day 4
We slept past 10am and was near to noon when we stepped out of the hotel. Breakfast-Lunch was at a nearby restaurant and we had squid, vegetable, fried rice, satay, drinks for only IDR159,000 (SGD17). Again dirt cheap for the amount of food that we had. The rest of the day were spent in shopping centers before we retreated back to Legian for another round of massage. Having heard that Kuta is a happening place with all those clubs and party scene, we decided to take a walk down the Kuta-Legian lane. Along Jalan Legian is this popular club known as Sky Garden. Around Sky Garden are many other clubs where the party scene comes to live. We were not really into clubbing or drinking mood so it was just a walk-around for us. Having seen enough, we picked one of the massage parlor and each had a 90 minute of package, which again added up to only IDR230,000 (SGD25). Yes, it was dirt cheap until. With that we had a great night rest.

 

Day 5
Our flight back to Singapore would depart at 1pm and we had until 11am to check-in. Having just a short morning, we did not wander far but had some coffee at a nearby cafe, chillax and watched the morning unfold in that stretch of Bali. It was really a very nice feeling when everything was slow and in my own pace. It felt like retirement. Woooooo. I want to have such feeling everyday when I retire. Finally we bid Bali farewell, knowing that very soon I would be back for more dive experience. Overall, I like this place, except those taxi drivers.