Wednesday, 30 November 2022

 

TRI-NATION TO SE ASIA

(BALI, PHILIPPINES & VIETNAM)

William Harry Davies has beautifully expressed the pleasures ignored by humans in his expressive Poem Leisure:

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows

 


 God of opportunities knocked our doors, when in a chance meeting with Veteran LtCdr Vineet Wason in early Sep 22, he invited Meena and I to join him and his better half Sunita for their Annual outing to one of the Karma Royal Resorts, of which they are a Life member. He made the Booking for Karma Royal in Bali (Indonesia) from 14-22 Nov. Then started our travel plans and booking of Air tickets, with assistance from his Son Sahil. Daughter Trisha from Manchester called up Vineet and suggested a bright idea of a couple of days each at Philippines and Vietnam on our return flight. Travel agents Dhananjay Chindarkar and Chandrakant helped us in procurement of Philippines VISA and Vietnam’s e-Visa. Bali was VOA (Visa on Arrival). The flight Tickets were Booked on Vietjet, Philippines Air and Air Asia costing about a Lakh for each couple. We’d carried about 800K USD each for recreation and Shopping.

SCHEDULE

14 Nov 22 DEP BOM : / 23:45….ARR HO CHI MINH 15 Nov/ 06:10  VIETJET 884

15 Nov 22 DEP HO CHI MINH / 08:15…ARR NGURAH RAI (Bali) /13:05 VIETJET 893

 

22 Nov 22 DEP NGURAH RAI (Bali) /01:00…ARR MANILA/ 04:55 PHP AIR PR5381

22 NOV 22 DEP MANILA/11:00…ARR BORACAY IS./12:05 AIR ASIA  Z2221

23 NOV 22 DEP BORACAY IS./15:50…ARR MANILA/ 1700 AIR ASIA Z2228 

 

25 Nov 22 DEP MANILA/ 022:30 … ARR HO CHI MINH/14:30 PHP AIR PR597

27 Nov 22 DEP HO CHI MINH/18:30 …ARR BOM/ 22:45 VIETJET VJ883

 

THE TOUR

Both onward flights rescheduled and delayed by an hour, were comfortable and manned by beautiful Vietnamese cabin crew. Although they had the masks on as per the current norms, albeit their smiles were evident by the glint in their eyes as they greeted us warmly onboard in their Red uniforms. Both flights were almost full. Flight transfer at Ho chi Minh was uneventful where we had delicious breakfast brought by Sunita. Our landing at Ngurah Bai at Bali just happened to coincide with the Arrival of delegates for the G-20 Summit that was scheduled for 15-16 Nov. So we were in for a grand traditional welcome by the local beauties in their tradition colourfully bright attire (Photos below). Although the Visa on Arrival was smooth, even as the Immigration Officer Nizad Welcomed us for our second Honeymoon, the Customs declaration being an online process took some time for us noobs. We grabbed a GRAB Cab and drove to Karma Royal Resort Candidasa located about 60 kms east of Denpasar on the Southern Coast of Bali. Enroute we picked up some Bread and light snacks from a small mall. The Karma Resort is housed at a scenic location by the Sea of SE Indian Ocean. (Bali incidentally had congenial trade relations with Ancient Kalinga empire, present day Orissa, that organises Bali Festival on the banks of Mahanadi annually in the month of Nov, well brought out by PM Modi in his speech to Bali citizens in the clip below.) We reached around 7pm after a 2 hrs drive from the Airport and were warmly welcomed by the Resort staff. The smart reception girl briefed us on the package they had to offer including the complimentary breakfast during our stay. The resort had a lovely swimming pool and the Wasons were soon seen in water waggling their limbs to rejuvenate. The Resort has 25 elegant Bungalows in a 10,000 sq mt plot overlooking the Candidasa beach. Our accommodation was a 2 BHK including a Kitchen with cooking facility. 

Day 2 (15 Nov) was dedicated to rest, recreation and planning and a visit to Candidasa Town closeby during noon in Resort’s Toyota. At the Town we firmed up a tour trip to Eastern Bali by a local Cab driver named Sopak who was of pleasing mannerism and agreed to take us around for Rs 500K(IDR), about Rs 2500/- for an 8 hrs trip the next day. In the evening we strolled on the beach and visited a small forest that housed elevated Tree Houses owned by Lady Tania. Her Father was a mariner and the German-Dutch couple decided to make Indonesia their home. She was born and schooled in Djakarta. After marriage to a localite, She inherited the large exquisite Forest Property. She invited us for the Musical program on Sunday at her premises. It was a pleasure to interact with her. We plunged into the pool in the evening to freshen ourselves in the warm water. Later we strolled out to a near by local restaurant owned by Lady Marta for a sumptuous Non-Veg meal. The food was delectable indeed and we were to be her regular customers for the next few days.    

Day 3 (16 Nov).  In the morning we went for a swim followed by Breakfast at the restaurant by the pool (Pics below). Sopak was at the resort at sharp 9 am with his Toyota. He drove us through the winding roads up small hills and took us to Tirthagangga, a mesmerising location in east-central Bali with large pools and step platforms where one could walk, feed the colourful large fishes, get snapped and visit the holy Temple (Pics below). The architecture was marvellous. An hour just slipped past unnoticed as we were on the road to our next halt Besakih Temple (largest Bali Temple) 30 kms away. This is were the Rain Gods played spoil sport with heavy rains, but could never dampen the spirits of the two ladies who hired Umbrellas to visit the temple. Our next point of halt  was a visit to Honey Bee Café farms. A cute lady took us around the farms on a step hill with a number of small wooden boxes on trees housing bee-hives, explaining the Bee culture and honey and coffee extraction process. She offered us complimentary Tea/Coffee/honey before taking us to her store shop. We thanked her for educating us on the Life cycle of the Bee. Next we came to Goa Lowa on the Coastal Road but gave it a pass as it was drizzling. By the time we returned back to resort it was 5 pm. We informed Sopak of a Rest Day next day called him for 18th Nov for Ubud Tour. In the evening we had a swim in the Pool and strolled out for Dinner at Marta’s joint.

Day 4 (17 Nov). The day was dedicated for local sight-seeing. In the morning we went to the Resort pool. Vineet ventured out for a swim at the adjoining beach before the assorted breakfast. After the afternoon siesta Vineet arranged for the Resorts Car drop to the nearby Candidasa town where we roamed around, strolled at the adjoining beach, enjoyed the hot and delicious chicken/egg soup from a road side vendor, walked in to a Money exchange for buying local currency and returned. The Dinner was at Marta’s.   

Day 5 (18 Nov). Sopak had sent his neighbouring Friend Rawedeng to chauffeur us for the tour to Ubud. This driver was too of pleasant manners. Here I like to mention that without exception all Balinese are charming with a polite nature. There are no beggars in Bali. Our first halt was at Ubud handloom factory, we did some window shopping and photo shoot before driving out for Goa Gajjah (the elephant Cave). Goa in Balinese means Cave, Gajjah is elephant. It’s a forested hilly location with a small T shaped dimly lit rock carved Cave of 3 local Deities including Ganesha. We walked the down-slop and up-slop winding rock steps through thick green foliage and a small waterfall. The fresh Coconut water we sipped was indeed freshening. On our way out we bought some magnetic mementos and Vineet and I bought some Balinese collared Shirts at the exit shops after a reasonable bargain. Our next point of halt was the Cherry of the Tour, the “Aloha Ubud Swings”. Although expensive, Vineet and I decided to treat our ladies to the thrill of their Lives. We went for the Package of Rs 1200,000 (IDR) including the flowing gowns they adorned on the 9 Varieties of huge swings with elongated thick Nylon/Polypropylene rope pendulums. The flowing gowns in Red and Yellow transformed our Ladies into real Queens (Pics). Vineet and I were offered a special treat of Tandem swing with our better halves. After the thrilling adventurous Swing treats, we stepped into the Butterfly Farm for a photo session. 3 hours slipped past unnoticed. By the time we left Ubud it was dark and started pouring. Our drive back home was in heavy rain, but Rawedeng was an expert at the wheel. Before telling him Sayonara at Karma, we fixed up a date with him for next day’s visit to Floating Palace and the Gate to Heaven. Since it was still raining, we had bread toasts for dinner in our rooms itself, prior hitting the bed early. 

 Day 6 (19 Nov). After the mandatory morning swim we had a sumptuous breakfast of juices, bread toasts, noodles topped up with Coffee. Rawedeng was dot on time at 1030 hrs at the reception to drive us around. He first drove us to a typical ancient Balinese Village where a tourist guide walked us through his village explaining their culture and traditions. Before departing we made a small donation for them. Enroute to Amlapuram Floating Palace we exchanged Dollars into local IDR currency. This place was built by the king of Karangasem in 1919 and has a white Palace with a few structures in in a medium sized lake. It was almost completely destroyed in the eruption of Mount Agung in 1963 but it has been restored. Taman Ujung is slightly larger than Tirta Gangga, with temples and architectural structures, as well as fountains . We walked up the stairs leading to a a small garden overlooking the palace from a Birds eye view about 100 ft high. After descending down, We strolled through the Balai Gili, the main white palace in the Lake connected with two bridges; a leisure place for the Royal family. The Gallery in the main Hall had large photos of the Royal family.  Taman Ujung is a lovely floating Palace where we clicked a number of Photos. Our next point of Halt was the Gate to Heaven.  Pura Lempuyang is a cluster of Bali temples located high up on Mount Lempuyang. These are some of the oldest, most sacred and well-regarded Balinese temples atop a high hill with winding 3km  steep road, that you are mandated to visit in their tourism buses. . The entry ticket is IDR Rs 100,000 (Approx Rs 500) per head including the bus ride. It’s on this mountain that you’ll find the Gates of Heaven, one of the most iconic and most instagrammable photo location of the world. Heaven’s Gate in Bali has been made famous by these images which show people, often in romantic poses, standing between the gates  nearing sunset with what looks like a pool of water in front of them and a blue mountain floating on clouds in its backdrop. It’s a pretty magical photo; Lempuyang Temple photo trick that uses a glass mirror below the lens of your mobile camera (watch the Photos below). The place is quite popular and abuzz with tourists. The waiting period for your turn is almost 2 hours, but worth the wait. We practised a few exquisite poses before our shoot individually and as couple aswell. Meena suggested the chucking of our Hats up in the Air at the culmination of our shoot, that drew a huge round of applause from the spectators. It was about 5 pm when we drove back to our resort, through forest with a short halt at a Monkey Park. When we reached the resort it was 7pm. We decided to relax on the next day (Sunday) and fixed up the Car for Monday afternoon for visit to Kuta and surroundings prior to drop at the Airport for our departure to Philippines past midnight on 22 Nov.    

Day 7 (20 Nov). Our morning attraction was a swim in the Resort pool and sun bathing at the beach front. Breakfast comprised Watermelon/Lemon juice, assorted cut fruits, bread jam-butter toasts, Omelette, Hot Tea/ Coffee. We relaxed in our rooms in the forenoon hours and went out for lunch in a local restaurant. The afternoon was programmed by the Resort for interaction of guests at the poolside over Hi Tea. We hit the bed early after a refreshing swim and Dinner at the breezy Poolside.     

Day 8 (21 Nov) Departure Day. We had spoken to and called Sopak, our first Chauffeur in the afternoon to visit Kuta and Denpasar. At 3.30 pm we checked out of Resort after penning down a handsome review of Karma. Ms BUDA was at the reception to see us of with her charming smile that’s captured in our group photos we clicked before departure from the Resort. Sopak drove us to Kuta beach south of the Airport, that prides in its colourful Beach Walk, beautifully lit elegant Mall that ranks amongst world-class Malls. Its adorned with eye catching and flowing colourful fish ponds snaking around the Mall. We did some window shopping before driving through the City, where we enjoyed a delectable meal prior to being dropped to the Ngurah Rai Airport of Denpasar. The cheerful Sopak was visibly elated at receiving a tip as we said Sayonara. We boarded our flight just past midnight and landed at Manila at 4.45 AM local time that’s the same as Bali’s Time-zone.

Day 9 (22 Nov) Arrival Boracay. We had to shift to Terminal-4 by Airport’s shuttle bus for our flight to Boracay-Caticlan. Prior to that we exchanged $100 for 5650 Peso for our 3 days stay in Philippines. We marvelled at the beautiful islands as we overflew those enroute to an hours flight to Godofredo Ramos Airport, Caticlan. At the airport we hired 2 Tuk-Tuks to reach the Northern Jetty. Located at Panay Island's northern tip, Caticlan offers natural attractions such as the Sanga-an River's clear waters and Lupo Lupo Lake's migratory birds. At the jetty we bought tickets for motorboat to ferry us across the clean blue Caticlan Bay to the Boracay Jetty. From there on it was once again a Tuk-Tuk ride to our Air Bnb host Annie’s Appt at Ocean view 10 Kms away, amidst the scenic location. The Flat on the 5th floor was well-kept and overlooked a lovely Golf course and the white sand beach. We couldn’t meet Annie as she was away to Singapore. Her house-help made us comfortable in the well maintained flat. We walked down to the llig-lligan, Pukka Shell beach and Cujo’s Key-hole in the evening and next morning clicking photos against wonderful backdrops.

Day 10 (23 Nov) Arrival Manila The next morning we called a Tuk-Tuk that took us to a few more beaches and the environment Mangroves prior to dropping us at the Jetty. The motorboat ferried us across the clean blue Caticlan bay to the Airport jetty. Another Tuk-Tuk ride with the cheerful local riders brought us to the Departure Lounge.  Departure Airport at Caticlan is at the North-western end of Runway, while the Arrival is on South-eastern end. We took a quick lunch in a Veteran’s Nostalgic Restaurant opposite the Airport, that was adorned with antique memorabilia of WW-II. The departure from Caticlan was uneventful and we touched down at Manila after an hour’s flight. On the approach Meena was fortunate to get a prized click of the Taal Volcano (Pic below) from her window. Outside the Airport we took a Cab from the authorised Taxi-stand  to take us to the Air Bnb lodge in Makati 9 kms away. The host here too was away and the house assistants welcomed us to a medium sized room with two double beds. We shifted to a bigger comfortable room. After freshening ourselves we strolled out and had a local meal (Rice-Chicken) in a near by restaurant prior to hitting the bed.    

Day 11 (24 Nov). The day was hot in Manila we rested in the forenoon and went for excursion to Rizal Park in the afternoon, one of the main attractions of Manila that is a memorial of Philippine’s Hero Dr Rizal. Later we ventured into the famous Robinsons Mall that was well decored in Christmas gaiety. Fruit salad that Sunita bought and we all shared was indeed delectable. We’ll never forget the our ride back to Makati, while the driver himself seemed to have got lost. Vineet had to take google help from a local boy’s mobile. We hit the bed early for next morning’s departure to our next destination in Vietnam.

Day 12 (25 Nov).   We had to fetch a local Taxi from the road junction about a km away as it was peak morning hours. The driver was kind and suggested the Skyway to avoid the office hour jams. We reached the T2 Terminal well in time for our 1230 flight departure to Ho Chi Minh by Philippines Air flight. Immigration was smooth with our eVisas in hand. The 3 hours flight was smooth and we landed at Tan Son Nhat at 1430 local time. Vineet and I exchanged 50 USD each for local VND currency for our 2 days halt, before boarding the Airport City bus that dropped us to 31 Duong Cach Mang Thang-8, about 7 kms away but took us 45 mins due traffic jams. The Air Bnb accommodation here was comfortable that was housed above the host’s Jumpo Kebab Restaurant. The Kitchen and washroom were separately provided in the adjoining flat. After freshening up we strolled in the Duongs (Streets) of Saigon, where we chanced to enter a Natraj Hotel owned by a Rajasthani gentleman Saurabh who welcomed us with a smile and even offered to host us free even as Vineet introduced himself being from SS Chittorgarh. The Indian meal was delicious that we savoured almost after 2 weeks. A reasonable discount was affected by the owner.

Day 13 (26 Nov).  In the forenoon we walked towards the Canal leading to the   Song Saigon River, spotted a KFG to savour a chicken Combo. Later strolled in the Saigon square area and a few Malls. The evening turned out to even more exciting and fun filled as we walked upto the Song river that wore a festive look. The river is tidal affected as it runs into the South China Sea. Walking along the bank we came across an elite drink promo Musical welcoming the tourists. The complimentary drinks were refreshing indeed and Vineet even exhibited his exceptional dancing shills amidst cheering applause of the spectators. We bought tickets for the Song river one hour cruise that give us an exceptional colourful view of what the marvel called Saigon is (photos & vids below). On our way back we witnessed weekender fetes at the Times/Saigon square with hundreds of young couples and children making merry. We too joined in. Later we walked back to Natraj for another delicious meal. It was a great day to cherish and carry the wonderful memories along.   

 Day 14 (27 Nov) Departure Day. A leisure day, as our departure was in the evening.  We lazed in the morning and went for a noon meal of a Gujarati super Delux Thaali at the nearby Gujarat Restaurant. The Thaali came at a snails pace, even as the Host msged us to vacate as the checkout time was 1100 hrs. Vineet had informed about our late checkout in the initial mail, but there was a communication gap. The Thaali was average and nothing much to write home about. After a quick bite we got some more VND exchanged and before packing our bags and taking a Taxi back for Tan Son Nhat Airport. Enroute we picked up some fruits from a Mall. The Taxi Driver was sweet natured but despite his poor knowledge of English dropped us at the Airport much ahead of our departure. We did some window shopping at the Arrival lounge. During checkin we were in for a surprise at the Vietjet counter as our tickets in fine print didn’t cater for checkin luggage and we had to pay for our 40 kg of total check-in luggage. Perils of economy fare tickets with hidden costs. Our tickets on the flight home at 1900 hrs departure were at the rear end of the Aircraft and the last few rows were occupied by jubilant vociferous Gujju group, who made their presence felt of a mini Gujrat flying from Saigon to Mumbai. The  night touchdown at CSMT Airport T2 was the best that we experienced of the 7 landing during the  tour. After the immigration check-out and grabbing our bags we departed with juppian-Pappiyan Sayonara; carrying with us tons of beautiful memories of a Super exciting Tri-nation tour of the SE Asian lands of beautiful people we shall cherish in footprints of Time.

Sha No Varunah

Jai Hind        

























          
       
























  
   







































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