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Bali for Couples

As we travel the globe searching for the best couple destinations for you, we have discovered one place you must add to your list, Bali. The delightful island is located on the southern end of Indonesia in the Indian Ocean. Getting there is simple. There are a number of direct flights right into Denpassar, Bali, or as we did, connect via Singapore or Bangkok. Balinese hospitality matches the weather: warm and inviting. English is widely spoken, and getting around is straight forward and affordable. Here are our 7 hints for driving in Bail.  Bali offers you a perfect setting to reconnect with your lover.

Beautiful Bali

Beautiful Bali

Bali Beaches

Where to start? The beach of course! The warm blue waters with their white sandy beaches offer couples an ideal setting to relax or if inclined, engage in snorkeling and other world-class water sports. We elected to make Kuta, on the southern tip of the island as our base. There are so many different options for hotels in Bali.   Of course if your pocketbook can handle it, a resort right on the water is highly recommended.   Here are a few beach ideas. The great thing about Bali, is you can wander and find your own Best Beach!

Bali Beaches!

Bali Beaches!

Kuta beach-Perhaps the most popular on the island. Can be crowded, but undeniably one of the best on the island.

Pemuteran– This dog-bone shaped by offers some of the best snorkeling and diving. The sea life and fauna have no rival.

Balian beach-If surfing is you thing, Balian is you place. With its ruckus waves, it is a grandstand to some of the best surfing on the planet. If riding waves is not your thing, there is no charge to enjoy the show as a spectator.

Ubud-An Artisan Paradise

One of our favorite places in the world is a little town in central Bali, an enclave of craftsmen and shops called Ubud.  Ubud is the craftsman capital of the island. To the north of town is a street line with handicraft artisan shops. You can purchase glass works, ceramics, and some the best woodworking we’ve come crossed. There’re items for every budget. Perhaps the most tempting is the intricate jewelry that the island’s craftsmen create. Each creation is a work of art.

Bali Cuisine

After playing all day in and the sun and sand you would likely have worked up an appetite. It’s time to take in some of the world-class Bali cuisine. The wonderful thing about Bali, is that it’s perched on the crossroads of the Asian Pacific area. There number of Thai and Vietnamese influenced restaurants. Fresh fruit and seafood are almost always on the menu. We highly recommend taking in the street food that is available on almost every corner of the island. We also unexpectedly had some of our best curry there as well.

Hiking

If hiking and exploring are your thing, Bali will not disappoint! There is a long list of trails and hikes for beginners to the more adventurous at heart. Every inch of Bali was made for Instagram. The lush green jungles and rain forests beg to be explored. Don’t forget to pack plenty of water as the islands tropical heat can certainly melt any advanced trekker.   Here are a few ideas for day hikes:

Mount Agung– This mountain is one of the most sacred sites for the Balinese. The trails are a bit rough and on the confusing side, but so worth it. If you have the cash for a guide, it would be a good idea. The views from the top are stunning!

Mount Batur– One of the “newest” attractions in Bali, it was formed by a volcanic eruption in 1917. The sunrise view from the summit is breathtaking. There is a caldera lake called Lake Batur in the crater. This is a great day hike… don’t forget to pack you lunch!

Side trips

The beauty of Bali is that it is centrally located and there are a number of wonderful side trips just a short flight away. One of our favorites is Borneo.

We elected take a short flight to Borneo. While we loved the ocean and culture of Bali… Borneo’s biodiversity is second to none. You can take in the orangutan park or if you’re little more adventurous head deep into the jungles of Borneo. There’re a number of resorts and camps you can go out on. We’ll like to go to the little lake in the center the island called Battang Ai. You have to take a boat across to an island in the middle of the lake. There are a number of different nature hikes and aboriginal village experiences. Our favorite was taking a waterfall adventure. The trek was pretty grueling but the reward was swimming under our own waterfall.  Check out our Borneo for Beginners post for all the details.

Beautiful Batang Ai

Beautiful Batang Ai

We given you a few ideas on how to make Bali your next couple vacation. There is so much to offer traveling couples, and with that the affordable costs it is a great selection for your next couple holiday.

Have you been to Bali? If so we’d love to hear some feedback on what your favorite parts. Just leave a comment below.

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Borneo for Beginners

The first time I heard the word “Borneo” it conjured up a mystical and magical place. The word somehow conveys more than just a place. Borneo captures the imagination. It sounds exotic, lush and extremely remote. This is only partly true. We found Borneo to be simple to get to, and every bit as exotic as we imagined. So what exactly is Borneo? First off, Borneo is not a country. It is an Island made up of three countries, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the sultan-ship of Brunei.

What and where is Borneo?

This may be a first.   If you have the time, please don’t follow our example. There is so much to see in Borneo, We took a side trip during our visit to Bali. As stated above, the island is no longer this remote and difficult place to reach. It is now a simple puddle jump from places like Bali, Australia, KL, Singapore, or even Hong Kong. Low cost carriers like Air Asia and Jetstar offer deeply discounted flights in and out of the two major states Sarawak (South) and Sabah (North).   Sabah is well developed for tourists and can be a bit crowded and overdone. The southern or Sarawak region is served by an airport in Kuching. If you are able, make Borneo your destination not just a side trip.

The Island of Borneo

The Island of Borneo

The City of Cats

Kuching is the regional hub for the southern portion of the Island which is controlled by Malaysia. Kuching translated from Malay means cats. And there are plenty of them.   Statues to the feline adorn every roundabout and building.   There are a number of nice hotels to be had in town. From there you can use this as a base to explore Borneo Jungles and caves. We elected to stay at the Hilton, as we were going to the Batang Ai Resort which is run by Hilton in the interior of the island.

The Long Journey to the Long House

Getting to the Batang Ai Resort is an adventure by itself. A driver in a van picks you up at daybreak and you wind you way out of Kuching into the Borneo countryside. Our driver was extremely knowledgeable about the area, having grown up in a traditional Borneo Longhouse. He commented on the changing farming practices and economics of the region all the while deftly piloting our van past wagons, animals, cars and other primates. The journey to the lake takes about 3 hours. We stopped for a short break about two hours into the trip. Finally we arrived at the lake. It is huge!   The banks are a deep red color. The water a deep blue. Pictures truly don’t do the colors justice. Our van driver dropped us off at the jetty and we walked our gear down the dock.   . The lake is in the center of the island and thus deep in the rain forest. While we were waiting for the boat, you could hear the jungle teeming with bugs, birds and wildlife. From there we loaded onto a power boat to cross the lake to the resort.

Beautiful Batang Ai

Beautiful Batang Ai

Arrival

Few hotels have the kind of arrival as the Batang Ai Resort. It is truly spectacular. The entire resort is perched on a gentle slope rising from the water. We landed our vessel and unloaded our gear. They do have golf carts to transport your cases to the lodge. You then begin the “hike” to the main lodge. The stairs do have landings so you can catch your wind in the humid and hot assent. The lodge has a huge covered portico entry. In the evening, we had drinks overlooking the lake in front of the lodge. You can watch bats and birds swoop in and out from under the awning to gobble up insects.

The check-in is standard fare. At that point you can select from a number of different activities to engage in during your stay. They have nature hikes, night walks, visits to local aboriginal Longhouses, waterfall picnics as well as blowgun training. If you are Diamond status with Hilton they are going to give you an air-conditioned two-story bungalow. The beds are a bit Spartan, but the rooms are tastefully decorated.

The Longhouse debacle

We spent two nights and three days at the resort. Our first full day, we embarked on a Longhouse lunch tour. We were assigned a guide, who happened to be a member of a local longhouse. She loaded us onto her dugout canoe and off we went across the lake. No one could have prepared us for the cultural experience that we were about to have. Borneo longhouses are communal living quarters, housing dozens of families. Each family has an apartment/room within the house. Down the center of the house is a large communal hall. Kids gather there to play soccer, old ladies visit, and men grab a smoke. Many longhouses around the lake invite tourists to stop in for lunch and a tour as a way to raise revenue.

When things started to go wrong

Enter the tourists…us. Our guide landed her boat, and showed us up the hill to the longhouse. We entered in, removed our shoes as is the custom, and our guide said she was going to work on lunch and left us with little instruction.   Needless to say, it was a little uncomfortable. We didn’t know what to do exactly. We walked down the hall way, smiled at the kids, and checked out the little trinkets they had for sale hanging outside the doors of the apartments. We walked end to end a dozen or so times. Minutes, then an hour when by. No sign of our guide. Other tourist groups and their guides came in, engaged with the residents and left. After nearly two hours our guide reappeared and we followed her into on the apartments for lunch. Mike is a very picky eater, and the lunch fare was “rustic”. A little boiled chicken, greens, and some watery rice. We did our best to be polite.

A little song and dance and vodka

Once we had lunched, we rejoined a group of tourists in the main communal hall to watch some native dance. In turn a man and girl did a traditional dance in native costume. The entire thing felt a little forced and lacked much depth. The general feeling was, lets get this over so the tourists can leave. Then the alcohol came out and folks got a little more energized. The bottle of strong libation was passed around, and spectators were invited to join in the native dance.

Longhouse dancer

Longhouse dancer

Then things got really weird

At the conclusion of the dance, the children, and the men that were not working came and sat in a half circle by us tourists. We were then told that we were to offer gifts to the residents. The guides from the other groups had prepared gifts of trinkets and a couple cookies that they handed out. Our guide had not prepared us for this. We really didn’t have anything to give. Needless to say, it was very awkward.

Then it got good, really good.

Once our visit to the longhouse was complete, we boarded our boat and headed back out across the lake. Luci and I whispered back and forth about how strange and uncomfortable the entire experience had been. We then worked our way back into a quiet cove in the lake. We disembarked and hiked back into the jungle. We heard water falling in the distance. We then found a beautiful swimming hole with a cascading water fall. It was paradise. There were lower and upper pools with cool water. It felt like heaven with the heavy heat of the jungle. The perfect ending to a difficult day for sure.

We must tell you, if you do your research like we do on TripAdvisior, you will see some shady reviews on Batang Ai Resort. We are telling you this is completely unwarranted. First off, the resort was built by the state when they elected to create Batang Ai Lake. It is a man-made reservoir.   It was massively overbuilt. The main lodge is huge, and there are a dozen or so “longhouse” styled lodges on the mountain side. Only a couple are used by the resort. As you walk past them, you can see where their AC units have been raided for spare parts. The staff is very young for the most part, many are from the local tribes that surround the lake. Their exposure to high-end customer service training is very limited. If you get a chance to single them out and ask for assistance, they will do any for you.   This truly is a special location and resort. Please set you expectations appropriately.

View from Batang Ai Resort

View from Batang Ai Resort

Our short visit came to an end the next morning. We motored back across the lake. The resort has become one of the places we will always think fondly back on. It is very remote. This is for sure. But the beauty of the lake, the dense jungle, our little longhouse adventure all made it an adventure we will not soon forget. We beg you, if you are able, make Borneo your destination.

Have you been to Borneo? What was your impression?

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