Bali Tour Guide – Do You Need One

So you are planning to visit Bali and trying to decide if you need a Tour Guide.  The first question you need to ask yourself is “what do I want to see in Bali?”

If you plan to spend your time in a resort, and only venture out for an occasional meal, then perhaps you don’t need a tour guide.  If you are staying in Kuta and plan to party all night and sleep all day, a tour guide might not be important to the success of your holiday either.

However, if you want to take in as much as you can of Bali’s many amazing sights, then you should be seriously considering which tour guide, or driver you intend to use.

There have been some unfortunate cases where visitors to Bali have had unpleasant experiences with their tour guide.  This can happen.  There are some Bali visitors who suggest hiring a car and doing your own thing.

“After the disaster with our driver, I would suggest hiring a car and seeing what you want to see at your own pace”, said one unhappy visitor.  “You will save a little money and not have to worry if you are being cheated.”

Serious consideration should be made before you decide on this option.  The roads are terrible.  They are generally quite narrow, and mostly full of potholes.  The other problem is the traffic.  Bali’s roads are full of cars, motorbikes, buses and trucks, without any clear rules.

Although road accidents are not common, trying to understand the rules can be difficult.  Years ago when I was in a car and puzzled by people continually pulling in front of us, I asked my driver to explain the rules.  He turned to me with a smile on his face and replied “no rules”.

If you decide to drive yourself, you will have the added problem of trying to find the places that you intend to visit.  Road signage is poor and if there is a sign, chances are you will not see it because you will be too busy trying to dodge traffic.

Using a good local tour guide or driver can save you a lot of time, and a lot of stress.  More importantly, he will know the sights that are worth visiting, and the hidden back roads that will make you trip just that little bit more exciting.

If you are an experienced independent traveller, then hiring your own car is worth considering.  If you are in Bali to relax and enjoy yourself, have an expert drive you, and sit back and take in the sights.

First Visitors from Website

Last week was an important week for me.  I had my first clients that came to me from my new website.  Elizabeth and Jo from Singapore contacted me after visiting and spent 4 days in Bali during the week.
The first day I met them at the airport.  The second day we did a half-day trip to Monkey Forest, Tanah Lot Temple and Bali Cultural Park.  On the way to the Monkey Forrest we stopped to take some photographs of a rice field that is nearly close to harvest.  We picked some rice and I explained how to tell when it is ready for harvest.

Thank you Elizabeth and Jo for trusting me to be your driver and tour guide in Bali.  I enjoyed showing you my Island, and hope you enjoyed your visit.  I hope you will come back again.


Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt in Bali.

Julia RobertsSony Pictures Entertainment will later this year film the Bali scenes of the screen adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s best selling autobiography, Eat, Pray, Love(EPL).

Julia Roberts stars as the book’s narrator, and Brad Pitt and Dede Gardner will produce the film.

The book, which traces Gilbert’s search for identity across four countries following her divorce, topped six million sales in the US alone.  With shooting in New York, Italy, Delhi and Bali, the film of the bestseller is expected to be a blockbuster at box offices around the globe.

Director, Ryan Murphy, is currently scouting locations in Gianyar, Karangasem and Jimbaran, with much of the filming planned around the hillside village of Ubud.

Source:  Jakarta Post

Bali Driver – Can You Trust Them

Bali is a great place to visit.  There is so much to see and do, and the people are extremely friendly.  Unfortunately visitors to Bali are the continual target for con men and scammers.

It is well known that there are some money changers that offer high rates and then by slide of hand, short change you a few notes.  It is common in many situations where the locals will take advantage of the unsuspecting tourist.

It is no different with drivers and tour guides in Bali.  There are some who appear great people on the surface, but are flat out dishonest.

“He was all friendly, nice and helpful initially but all this is nothing but a disguise to con us,” says one dissatisfied tourist.  “He lied to us, and to think that we treated him like a friend is really disappointing.”

How do you avoid getting ripped off?  One experienced Bali traveller suggests,” in Bali its ‘buyer beware, so the best idea when hiring a driver is to hire him for 1 day and pay him. Then if you like the guy get him for longer.”

If you are hiring a driver that works from the hotel you are staying at, chances are the hotel has done all the necessary background checks.  You can usually trust these guys.  The hotels reputation is on the line if they do not perform.  The problem is that you usually pay a premium price if you use the hotel driver.

The best way to find a good driver is to use the Internet before you leave home, and check their testimonials.  The people who are prepared to post their business on the net can ill afford to run a shady operation.

As in any foreign country, the best advice is to be careful.  Do not place all your trust in someone you have only known for 2 hours.  Make sure you are paying a fair market price, and that your driver does know his way around the Island.

For every dishonest Bali Driver there are many, many good ones.  Just don’t let one of the bad ones ruin your holiday.

End to Ubud Muggings

Police in the arts community of Ubud hope they have put to an end to a recent spate of purse snatchings with the arrest of Wednesday, of a 28-year-old man.

A police spokesman in Ubud said the man had committed crimes in a variety of locations in the Ubud area, including Goa Gajah and Tegalalang. Police also reportedly found sums of money and a camera in the man’s possession at the time of his arrest and are searching his rooming house in Denpasar for further clues in a series of muggings targeted at female tourists in Ubud.

Reproduced with permission of Bali Discovery Tours.

Global Recession – No Way

Sanur SunsetBali visitors grow as Australia displaces Japan for top spot.

Foreign tourist arrival to Bali in April 2009 totaled 179,879 representing the best April on record for Bali tourism and 21.94% improvement over April 2008 (147,515).

View cumulatively, the first four months of 2009 saw 645,061 foreign tourists come to Bali, an increase of 8.15% when compared to the same period last year (596,469).

As predicted by, April 2009 also saw the historical unseating of Japan by Australia from its top-ranking as the largest source market for Bali. Through the end of the first four months of 2009 Australian arrivals totaled 102,179 – increasing 30.08% as compared to the same period in 2008. Meanwhile, reflecting their troubled national economy, Japanese visitors decreased 7.45% for the first 4 months of 2009.

Similarly, South Korea, which is traditionally Bali #3 source market, declined to a #5 ranking as that nation’s economy faltered and arrivals dipped 5.62% over the first four months of 2009. Taiwan which has long been Bali’s #4 market, is now relegated to the #7 position.

Reproduced with the permission of Bali Discovery Tours.

What your Bali Tour Guide won't show you – Cockfighting

One of the secrets of Bali that your tour guide will not show you is the illegal practice of cock fighting.

The Indonesian government made all forms of gambling including cock fighting illegal in 1981.  Prior to this, big time professional events in large public arenas were a daily occurrence throughout the island.  The big events are a thing of the past, but cock fighting is still very much alive in Bali.

The existence of cock fighting is more confusing when realising it becomes part the Balinese Hindu religion.  A major part of the religion is to make offerings for many different good and evil spirits.  Visitors to Bali would be aware of some of the offerings placed on the ground and at temples.  There are some ceremonies that require a blood sacrifice.  At these ceremonies, cock fighting is legal.

Cock fighting and betting on the result, has been a popular obsession with Balinese men for generations.  Many forms of gambling in western societies are anti social, but cock fighting is quite the opposite.  It is a very social event.

Many Balinese men own one or more fighting cock.  They are kept in rattan cages and fed high quality food to develop muscle.  The cages can often be seen on the side of the road during the day, to make the birds used to noise.  In the afternoon you will see men sitting in groups, chatting, and grooming their birds.

The fight is called tajen, a word derived from the steel blade tied to the cock’s leg, taji.  So complex and mysterious is the sport of cockfighting, that there are around 75 words used that are not used anywhere else in the Balinese vocabulary.   There are also beliefs that certain coloured cocks should not fight certain other colours on particular days depending on the phase of the moon.

The men and their birds assemble at the location of the event.  By the temple if it is a legal event, or some more obscure place if it is not.  The preliminaries involve much noise and colour.  The owners or handlers need to find an opponent and then fix the bet.  This is a very time consuming activity.  After 3 or 4 pairings have been made which is considered one set of matches, the preparations for the fight begin.

The blade or taji is fixed to the cock’s leg.  This is done by a third person, a specialist, not the owner or handler.  It will be fixed in different positions, depending on the size and weight of the cock.  There are many unusual stories about the taji that lends more intrigue to cock fighting.  It is said that menstruating women should not look at or touch the taji.  Some say that the taji should only be sharpened in the light of the moon.  Undoubtedly there are dozens of different myths from village to village.

Before the fight can commence, the side bets need to be made.  The cocks are brought into the ring and the referee announces the central bet that was previously established between the owners.  This is where the chaos begins.  Yelling, arm waving and hand signals go on around the ring while the wagers are set.  This too can take some time.  Another interesting point is that the wagers are made in ringgit, a unit of money used by the Dutch many years ago.  Nowhere in Bali is the ringgit quoted other than at the cockfights.

The fight itself also has some complex rules.  It usually only lasts a few minutes and the fight is over.  All side bets are paid with money being tossed and handed around the ring.  The owner of the winning cock takes the entire central bet, and also the body of the losing cock.  It will not be wasted.

Cock fighting has been a popular obsession with the Balinese for generations.  With the intrigue, the mystery, excitement, and colour, it will continue to be part of their lives for many more generations.

Deadly Drop – Wine Kills 21

Two Britons have died after drinking rice wine laced with methanol, in what appears to have been an attempt at a mass poisoning on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Alan Colen, 59, suffered a painful, drawn-out death on Saturday after buying an adulterated bottle of local wine, known as arak, from a roadside stall hear his home in Canggu, North Kuta.

Rose Johnson, 48, a British-born painter based in Phoenix, Arizona, died early yesterday in the eastern Sanur area after drinking from the same batch of poisoned arak.

Mr Colen, who has lived on Bali for 13 years, and Ms Johnson, who was holidaying on the resort island, are among 21 people who have died in the past week from alcohol poisoning.

Bali Black Out

At about 6 pm Sunday night the entire Island of Bali lost power.

The blackout created panic at some shopping centers, whose generators could not work automatically, such as at the Carrefour at Sunset Road.  The blackout also created traffic jams at a number of intersections as traffic lights did not work.

The cause of the problem is unknown, but power was back on by about 9.30

All of Bali’s power is supplied from Java.

Who the Hell is ……. Antonio Blanco?

Antonio BlancoAntonio Blanco was born in Manila, Philippines to Spanish Parents in 1911.  He was educated at an American school and later studied in the National Academy of Art in New York.  During his early years he concentrated on the human form and was fascinated by the female body.

He travelled extensively throughout the world before landing in Bali in 1952.  The King of Ubud gave Blanco some land to set up his home and studio with his wife, a celebrated Balinese dancer named Ni Ronji.  They lived in their mountain retreat, barely leaving it for the world outside.

Blanco became the most famous foreign artist to make Bali his home.  Art lovers sought after his work, and he was recognised worldwide.  He continued to create fantasy portraits of beautiful women until his death in 1999.

Before he died, Blanco started building his museum.  Dramatically, he died just before its inauguration.

Today the Blanco Renaissance Museum is open to the public, and is a popular tourist destination in Ubud.   Stroll through the magnificent gardens, visit the family temple, and enjoy the work of this world-renowned artist.  The studio remains undisturbed, the unfinished painting still on the sunken easel.

Blanco Museum

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