I'm back from another trip to Bali, my third time in three years. The first was in 2014 where I stayed 14 days and filled an A4 Moleskine sketchbook. Last year, I was traveled there with my girlfriend and stayed for a week. And this latest trip was a 5D4N. This is sketching trip and my travel buddies are James, Don and his wife Katherine.
Kat handled the accommodation and booked a 4-night stay at Lokasari Bungalows. It's actually a huge compound with several villas. The gardens inside are beautiful and well kept which is not surprising since this is Bali after all. Right at our balcony is a small pond with fish inside. It's really quiet and peaceful. Almost Zen-like, I would say.
We paid 3,500,000 Rupiah in all for the stay which I thought was a good deal. Each person came up to 750,000 Rupiah for four days (around SGD $75). The bed is good, bathroom is relatively clean and there's air-conditioning. The downside is there aren't any toiletries or even hooks to hang your clothes in the bathroom.
That's James sitting on the steps of a traditional Balinese doorway. Every morning, we would draw a sketch of the garden as it basks in the morning sunlight.
For this trip, I brought along three sets of watercolour, namely Van Gogh, White Nights and Gansai Tambi. It is only during sketching trips like this that I have ample time to review art supplies. Otherwise it would take me weeks to review each set. I managed to use each set for a full day of sketching and got a good idea of their quality. And I was also able to use the Arches Hotpress sketchbook that was bound by SPD. This is the first time I've used Hotpress paper and I love it! Paper quality of Arches is also top notch. I don't think there's another sketchbook that can match the one I have in quality. Anyway, the perfect sketchbook is always going to be one with your favorite paper. I've always thought that my favourite paper is the Fabriano Artistico but I might have a new favourite. Hotpress paper lends itself to a more stylize look whereas coldpress has a more textural look.
Just like the earlier trips, I rented a car with Nuris Car Rental. Their prices are reasonable. I've had good experience both times and see no reason to look for other rental services. I had planned to rent a jeep because it's cheap but this time we had to get a larger Toyota Avanza that was recommended to me since there were four passengers. It cost 200,000 Rupiah daily. I spent 300,000 Rupiah on petrol and that was enough to last me 5 days. Kat said that she had hired a driver with car for 600,000 Rupiah in one of her earlier trips. Driving in Bali is not for the faint hearted. Traffic is busy. It's like walking in a busy shopping mall.
James and I only planned the itinerary while we were at Changi Airport Terminal 1 waiting for the flight. AirAsia usually cost around SGD $250 to Bali and it's really worth the money.
The first location for the first full day is Mount Batur, a volcano that's supposed to be active but you won't see any activity. We parked at a cafe with a view of Lake Batur. The best time to visit the volcano is probably from 9am onwards. That's when the fog starts to clear and you can get a good view of the lake. There are many cafes and restaurants along the volcano rim. However, so far, I've not found one that has really great food, either while I'm there or through online reviews. If you know of any restaurants with good food and a view, do let me know.
After the morning sketch, we drove down to the lake. We turned right and traveled close to the water. Along the way, someone on motorbike followed us for a good portion of our journey. It turned out he's promoting boat trips on the lake. He followed us for quite a long time even though we had already made it clear that we were not interested. You see these salesmen on motorbikes at Nusa Dua as well but they will sell you diving trips.
We stopped at this public carpark at a jetty to sketch. Occasionally, there would be boats docking and people would return life jackets at the shelter where we were. Many dropped the life jacket near James probably because he looked like a local. People are generally friendly and would come and look at what we were drawing.
From far, I could spot a restaurant with tables that go out into the lake. That would be a good place to sketch a view of the shore.
In the afternoon, we drove down to Tegalalang and had lunch at Rice Terrace Cafe. Places with the best view of the terraced rice paddies are below the road level. I wasn't too impressed with the food there as well. The satay rice I ate was alright, nothing special. It's best to just eat elsewhere and have a drink here instead.
The three sketches above were coloured with Van Gogh watercolours. They are priced between student and artist grade watercolour paints. I find Van Gogh's quality to be quite good, comparable to more expensive Winsor & Newton, Schmincke or Sennelier sets.
Goa Gajah is also known as the Elephant Cave. Entrance to the cave looks like a mouth.
The two fountain ponds in Goa Gajah aren't as beautiful compared to those from Pura Gunung Kawi Sebatu or Pura Tirtha Empul. You should still go down the steps if only to see the huge black fishes in the water.
Gunung Kawi Sebatu is a small temple with a few ponds and water fountains. I don't think this is a well known temple because there aren't many tourists. It's not easy to find this temple because there are several location markers on Google Maps and obviously not all are correct. This is the real location. However, if you do find it, you'll be greeted by beautiful ponds with crystal-clear water. At the largest pond, you can feed the fish (5,000 Rupiah ~ SGD 0.50) and watch they gobble the food with their big mouths.
The three sketches above were coloured with White Nights watercolours and the ones below with Gansai Tambi. White Nights is a really affordable and for the price I'm really impressed by the intensity of the paints. Gansai Tambi's colours are more pastel-like, some would refer to this as being chalky.
On the third day, we had breakfast at this cafe called Made Becik Wareong. This is the cafe I frequent during my previous trips because I stayed within walking distance away. The dishes are simple but cooked really well. It's really value for money. The place is in front of a padi field and the interior design and ambience is lovely.
We had an early breakfast before making a 1.5 hours drive to Pura Ulun Danu Beratan. Along the way up the mountain, we saw more terraced rice padi fields.
Pura Ulun Danu Beratan is a compound of several temples. The most famous would be the two on the lake near the shore. The first thing that surprised me was how crowded the place was, just like Tanah Lot and Pura Uluwatu, the other two famous temples of Bali.
We spent a short time here for sketching before we went back to Ubud central for lunch.
We had a quick lunch at Cafe Lotus before rushing off for our massage. Food at Cafe Lotus is nothing special but the view of the lotus pond and temple is probably worth your time. The temple is open to all so you don't really have to eat at Cafe Lotus to see the lotus pond.
After our massage we had dinner at Dirty Duck Diner, a place known for their crispy duck. Food is good and if you come during daytime, you can see the padi fields that are inside the restaurant compound.
On the last day, we had our breakfast at Gloria Jeans Coffee before we had to return the car at Kuta. We were there at 8 plus and there weren't a lot of cafes open for business yet. Most shops open during tourist hours.
Obligatory sketch at the airport.
Overall, it's a fulfilling trip but I probably won't be visiting Bali anytime soon as I've already been here 3 times. The place, especially Ubud, gets busier every year. On this trip, I saw so many Caucasian-like tourists and only a handful of ASEAN ones. Bali is like an exotic paradise, a magnet for those tourists. Within Ubud itself, you can see so many businesses in the tourism industry, such as cafes, restaurants, spas, vehicle rental and souvenir shops. The tourists vs locals ratio in Ubud is probably be 1:1.
I gave myself a target to complete the 40 page sketchbook but managed to only complete 28 pages. I'll leave the sketchbook blank until the next time I do go back to Bali again. It would be cool to see what has changed years later.