Mount Agung a safe once in a lifetime Bali opportunity

by Maarten Rol

Mount Agung in Bali has been pretty much in the news, but unfortunately mostly not in a positive way.
That is understandable. Many travelers are afraid that:
- They will not be able to get home due to a cancellation of their flight;
- Their whole vacation might be cancelled;
- They will not be covered by insurance;
- Lava will be flowing down the streets (yes, some watch too many disaster movies).

Of course, news sells better with tales of pain and disaster. But, is it really a threat or …?

Mount Agung before eruption - view from Villa l'Orange

Mount Agung before eruption: view from Villa l'Orange - Big picture

Mount Agung before eruption - view from Villa l'Orange
Mount Agung before eruption - view from Villa l'Orange.

It is a tremendous once in a lifetime opportunity!
What happens in Bali right now is a huge attraction elsewhere in the world. When a volcano erupts in Hawaii, local accommodation books out very quickly. Also, because people want a great vantage point to see the might of Mother Nature, tours to the popular volcano hotspots sell out fast.
And now you can find just that in beautiful Bali with Mount Agung. Businesslike as they are, the Balinese run daily tours to the Mount Batur which is at a safe distance, providing very spectacular views to this natural phenomenon.
So right now, Mother Nature is handing you, your friends and your family a fantastic once in a lifetime opportunity to see, feel and hear safely the power of an active volcano.
To experience a live volcano is on the bucketlist of many people.

Volcano eruption
Volcano eruption.

But how about the flights to and from Denpasar?
Lombok provides the closest airport to Ngurah Rai near Denpasar. However, this airport is likely to be affected by the ash cloud too. So this airport will probably also experience cancellations and closures.
The next best option is to go to Banyuwangi in Java. From Denpasar it is only a four-hour drive and a short ride on the ferry. Near the port in Banyuwangi is a train and bus station. This station provides services to major cities like Yogyakarta, Surabaya and Jakarta. All these cities have plenty of choices for flights in and out of Indonesia.
Moreover: travelling this way will give you a wonderful opportunity to see a lot of other interesting parts of Indonesia!

Mount Agung on November 26, 2017
Mount Agung on November 26, 2017.

The facts with the eruption of Mount Agung.
There is an eruption going on at Mount Agung. This volcano is one of many volcanoes in Southeast Asia, nick-named the “Ring of Fire”.
Many active volcanoes form together a string in the Indonesian Archipelago, from Papua New Guinea to Sumatra, over a distance of more than 4,000 km.
During the last century around fifty of them have erupted. This is all caused by the movement of tectonic plates in the crust of the earth. As plates move toward and slide under another, the hot material in and under the crust rises up towards the surface, where it can erupt in the form of volcanoes.
At this time, any potential danger is contained within a range of 10 kilometer from the crater of Mount Agung. Everybody should stay away from that evacuation zone.

What is the Indonesian government saying?
Bali Tourism Hospitality spokesman Dewa Gede Ngurah Byomantara has stated that only 2 percent of the entire island would be affected in the case of a volcanic eruption.
According to him:
- “The volcanic activity at Mount Agung should not affect other tourist spots”;
- “Three major tourist spots have felt the impact of the rumbling volcano, namely Besakih Temple, Tulamben Beach and Tirta Gangga”;
- “Those who enjoy hiking could still go to Mount Batur, Mount Batukaru or Mount Abang. The rest of Bali is open for business.”
Angkasa Pura, the Ngurah Rai Airport manager, has advised travelers to check their visas. If they want to avoid an overstay fee, they should get a so-called “Surat Permohonan” or permission letter from their airline to avoid paying this extra fee.

Mount Agung seen from the beach on November 28, 2017
Mount Agung seen from the beach on November 28, 2017.

Extra information
To view Mount Agung and its surroundings at sunrise, before the eruption, there is a nice short video on YouTube.
The Bali Tourism Board also is a great source of information. The Board was formed by nine Tourism Associations in Bali on 1st March 2002. Its main aim is to build and develop a better and sustainable tourism industry in Bali and Indonesia. The Board is responsible for generating a better quality of life for the local community.
The Earth Observatory of Singapore provides in-depth information of what is happening at Mount Agung right now.

Mount Agung seen from a village on November 28, 2017
Mount Agung seen from a village on November 28, 2017.

To conclude:
Mount Agung is offering a wonderful opportunity to see the might of Mother Nature in its purest form. It can be admired from a safe distance. Traveling problems can easily be mitigated and will show you wonderful parts of Indonesia that you probably would never have found in another way.
But please be aware that this great and free opportunity might not last long!

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How to survive the mosquitoes in Bali

by Maarten Rol

August 6, 2017
If there is one thing that can ruin your holiday, then it is constantly getting stung by mosquitoes.
There are a lot of them in Bali, in some areas more than in other. Visitors do not need to be afraid of catching malaria, as it hasn't been found in Bali. However, dengue fever is a possibility in Bali and you do not want to catch that either.
Komang has had it and it really hurts to the bones.
Also, when you are sitting in a nice restaurant in Seminyak, these nasty creatures will be looking for you, mostly under the tables. They can really ruin your fun.

A little theory.
At the University of Wageningen in The Netherlands there has been quite a bit successful research on mosquitoes.
First: it's the female mosquitoes that sting, not the male. The male mosquitoes live from nectar and plant fluids. This is the one time you don't want to be popular with 'the ladies'.
When you are stung, the mosquito takes just a few drops of blood. The blood is too thick for the mosquito however, so it injects a little fluid to make the blood thinner. And this stuff is where the itching comes from. For some people the immune system just gives a more fierce reaction than for others and will result in a bigger red spot and more itching.
Second, mosquitoes are very good at smelling. And sorry, there is not much you can do about he way you smell. It has to do with the bacteria on your skin. The important involving factors here are: your health, stress level and it's hereditary.

Mosquitoes, how to survive them in Bali
Mosquitoes, how to survive them in Bali.

So OK, but what can I do about it?
First, there are many stories of simple methods that will not work. Washing with anti-bacterial soap helps only for a very short while. Also eating a lot of garlic or drinking a lot of beer will not help at all, contrary to what many people think.
What does help: take DEET with you. In The Netherlands you will be able to buy it with a concentration of 40-50% at the ANWB-stores, brand: CarePlus. There are variants with a lower concentration especially for children.
It is very effective and also helps against other nasty insects like ticks (but I haven't had those in the many times that I was in Bali). The Dutch military also use it when they go to countries where there are a lot of mosquitoes, because of its effectiveness. In other countries you will be able to find variants in drugstores. We have tried to find it in Bali, but only found it in products with a low concentration of max 14%, which is not nearly as effective.

The people who do the maintenance of villas sometimes try to get rid of the mosquitoes if there are too much. By fogging the shrubs around the villa they kill them. Fogging is a mild word for getting nasty chemicals on the insects, so don't be around when they do that. In our experience it helps just a little.
At night mosquito nets round the beds are handy. You can select Bali villas on our website that provide these nets.
And just in case you are stung: take AfterBite with you or some other brand, that will quickly reduce the itching.

As always: prepare. Our advice: take DEET and AfterBite with you when you come to Bali.
You will be happy to have it with you!

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Surfing in Bali - Tips & Lessons learned

by Maarten Rol

Apr 18, 2016
A lot of our customers come to Bali with their kids and one of the questions we are asked is “What kind of entertainment, besides having fun in our villa and pool, can you recommend?” Well, especially for kids, the Indian Ocean is a source of great fun. And one of the most popular things to do is surfing. However, everybody has to learn the basics…
A surfing school we can recommend is the UP2U Surf School. Managed by its Australian owner Paul, it is located on the wonderful Legian Beach.

Surfing, after a lesson of the basics
Surfing, after a lesson of the basics

It is very easy to make an appointment through UP2U’s website, and their booking confirmation features good advice regarding sun protection and other things.
The day starts by meeting at the appointed time, which is important because of the tide. Make sure you’re not late!
What I liked is not only the way they teach and practice the technique, but also the way they point out all the aspects regarding safety. And when you go into the ocean, there is one teacher for every three students, so there is a lot of individual attention.

And when you've been busy surfing for some time!
And when you've been busy surfing for some time!

I personally have taken a surfing lesson with them, but it was a bit of a confrontation because of my age. Having done quite a bit of windsurfing in the past, I thought that would be helpful. Mmmm, not really.
For me the day involved more swimming than surfing, but I was amazed to see how quickly they taught the younger people how to surf. And the parents: they can enjoy a nice cappuccino or cool cocktail at the Azul Beach Club next door.
So: do you want to have fun on Bali? Go surfing and treat yourself to some good surfing lessons, you will not regret it!

Sunset at the wonderful Legian Beach” height=
Sunset at Legian Beach

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Diving in Bali, eye to eye with a giant barracuda

by Maarten Rol

Oct 30, 2015
Indonesia has a lot of nice diving spots and Bali is not an exception to that rule. While I consider myself just an amateur, I have been lucky to taste the fine underwater scenery on some of the wonderful spots. Like Menjangan Island and the famous diving hotspot at the Liberty wreck in Tulamben.
There are quite a few qualified diving centers who will be happy to help you with guidance, gear and transport. We had positive experiences with the French-owned Atlantis International on the Jalan By Pass Ngurah Rai in Sanur, which is a 5 Star PADI Certified IDC (Instructor Development Center).

Diving at Tulamben
Diving at Tulamben

Ehhh what? Liberty wreck?
For those who do not know the story of the Liberty wreck: In World War II a so-called Liberty Class ship was torpedoed by the Japanese and its captain put it on the beach of Bali in order to save it. Years later the ship glided under water during a violent earthquake. People started diving there around 1979 when they discovered what a fantastic diving site it is. A day of diving there can be a combination of going to the wreck and diving at the beautiful coral gardens close by.

Moorish Idol fish at Tulamben
Colorful Moorish Idol fish to be seen at Tulamben

Nowadays Tulamben has become pretty crowded, as it attracts divers from all over the world. So if you decide to check it out, make sure you arrive very early. The water is most of the times clear, but there may be plankton depending on season, current and weather.
When you arrive there, the small women of the village will take the heavy bottles on their head (sometimes two at one time!) and carry them to the beach. Do not consider being polite by doing it yourself: they do it for their living and it will not be appreciated that you take their source of income from them! Getting in the water may be a little bit difficult with the waves and the stony beach, but as soon as you are under water things will be fine.

Large Grouper at Tulamben” height=
Large Grouper at Tulamben

The last time I was there a lot of beautiful fish could be seen. However, my heart almost stopped when I looked around one of the corners of the Liberty wreck and my face was only centimeters from a giant barracuda of over 2 meter length. Those teeth are enormous! Luckily it wasn’t interested in some foreign meat.

Want to prepare yourself for some fantastic diving and looking for a fine read?
I can recommend “Diving Bali - The Underwater Jewel of Southeast Asia” by David Pickell and Wally Siagian. It is a book from Periplus, maybe you will be able to get it in the Periplus book store that can be found on Ngurah Rai Airport.
It is already quite some time in my possession, so I do not know if it is still for sale.

By the way, a nice place to start from is the award-winning Villa Casis in Sanur, at walking distance from the beach, which can accommodate 2 till 12 persons! Also our other villas in the Gianyar area are located very conveniently for diving at Tulamben.

Huge barracuda at Tulamben
This huge barracuda cost me quite a bit of air from my tank!

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The Banjar Hot Springs

by Maarten Rol

Sept 14, 2015
A nice, and not so well known place to visit during a holiday in Bali is the Banjar Hot Springs. Situated in the north of Bali just under the village of Banjar, these hot springs (Air Panas Banjar in Google Maps) offer a tranquilizing look into the history of Bali. The word Air, pronounced as 'a-eer' (the 'a' like in father) means water, while Panas means warm or hot.
When travelling from places like Seminyak or Canggu, it is best to reserve the whole day for the visit as it will take you some time to get there. It is a trip that can be combined very well with a visit to Lake Beratan with its beautiful temple on the lakeside.
Sometimes, when there is a market (pasar) in Banjar, it will cost a little extra time to pass the pasar when you travel by car, but it is not a big deal because the people are accustomed to make way for the visitors.

Main Pool of the Banjar Hot Springs
The Main Pool of the Banjar Hot Springs

After parking the car you will walk around 200 m to the entrance. The roadside is busy with small merchants who will try to sell you their goods. In the weekend the springs will be pretty busy, as they are very popular with the local people.
At the entrance a small fee must be paid by the tourists. For that you can stay the whole day, if you like. In order to change, there are small cabins and for a modest fee your valuable belongings will be guarded.

Side Pool of the Banjar Hot Springs
The Side Pool of the Banjar Hot Springs

The water in the main pool is emerald green and contains a lot of iron. The main pool is large, but not deep. Next to the main pool there is a shallow side pool with traditional ornaments, that are similar to those found in many temples, and from which the warm water flows into the pool.
Next to one of the other sides of the main pool you will find our favorite place. Warm spring water flows from pipes attached to the wall, some 3 metres above. As a result of this, a warm invigorating massage is received as the water splashes down on neck, shoulders and back. Every time we are in the hot springs, we enjoy this massage again and again!

Massage by the Banjar Hot Springs
Water Massage!

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Golf in Bali: the Nirwana Golf Course

by Maarten Rol

July 23, 2015
A lot of the people who come to Bali are passionate golf players. Among all the stuff that is being unloaded from the airplanes that have landed at Ngurah Rai airport, one can see a lot of golfing bags.
And is Bali a fine place to play golf!
There are four 18-hole courses and one 9-hole. And the Nirwana Golf Course is one of those very beautiful, but also challenging 18-hole courses. It has been designed by Greg Norman and boarders the Indian Ocean in the Tabanan region. While some holes are actually played alongside the ocean, there are a lot of holes where you can hear the waves crashing on the shore. The ocean also provides some coolness in the tropical heat. But mind you: some of the greens are really killing.

Nirwana Golf Club Clubhouse
The Nirwana Golf Course Clubhouse

When entering the clubhouse you will find everything is just the way you would expect in a top quality golf club. The elegant caddies receive an intensive training before they are allowed with golf players on the course. Rest assured that they know every inch of the greens and will practically "talk your golf ball into the hole".

Nirwana Hole 1
The Nirwana: Hole 1, with one of those very able but modest caddies

I still remember the first time coming up to the famous hole 7, which offers an unparalleled view of the Tanah Lot temple. It makes things a bit difficult: concentrate on the challenging hole ahead, or enjoy the breathtaking view?
At that time there were four Aussies playing just ahead of me and as I was alone, they politely invited me go first. Pretending being happy with their offer I entered the tee and felt very lucky when the ball went over the ocean onto the green. The Aussies applauded and with a "Well done!" I left with the caddy for the green. They should have seen the sweat that was between my shoulder blades! If I recall well that has been the only time that hole 7 went well in one time: there must be quite a few of my golf balls on the ocean floor...

Nirwana Hole 7
The Nirwana: Hole 7, before the shot...

Our villas in Kediri, Villa Iskandar and Villa Atacaya are quite close to the Nirwana. From Seminyak en Canggu the ride is a little bit longer, but very acceptable.
The Nirwana Golf Course is not cheap, but if you are an avid golfer, we think you really should put this one on your bucket list!

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Breaking news: no more visa on arrival for 45 countries!

by Maarten Rol

June 18, 2015
Great news for people coming to Bali! That is, from 45 countries and territories world-wide.
This week the Indonesian government at last finalized a regulation that was announced already some time ago. For tourists coming from 45 countries and territories their travel to Indonesia is now visa-free, effective as of June 12, 2015.

This means, more specific, visa-free entry on arrival for a maximum of 30 (thirty) days and only for tourism purposes. The day of arrival is counted as the first day, and the day of departure from the country must be latest on the 30th day.
Citizens from several states as well as the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations could already come to Indonesia visa-free, but now the complete list of visa-free states and territories has become:
Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam.

There are five international airports where the tourists of the 45 countries and territories can enter Indonesia visa-free: Hang Nadim in Batam, Juanda in Surabaya, Ngurah Rai in Bali, Kuala Namu in Medan and Soekarno-Hatta in Jakarta.

Visa-free for tourists from 45 countries and territories
Bali visa-free for citizens from 45 countries and territories!

Originally this regulation was scheduled to be in effect in April 2015, but apparently it has taken some more time to implement.
Australians will still need a visa to enter the country, although tourists can buy one on arrival.
The new regulation will mean a cheaper entry in Indonesia. For tourists of the above-mentioned countries the booth for obtaining the visa can probably be skipped; the customs check-in however will remain practically the same.

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View our Bali holiday villas in Indonesian language!

by Maarten Rol

May 18, 2015
Over the past months Komang and I have been working very hard on translating our website into the Indonesian language, Bahasa Indonesia.
There are a lot of people in the world that talk English, but for the people coming from Indonesia it is definitely easier to be able to read our pages in Bahasa.
So when that decision had been made, Komang and I have started with the translations. It has been quite a bit of work, but now we are happy with the result. The villa descriptions are still in English, but we will gradually translate them all in Bahasa. Please be patient, we need some night rest too... ;-)

Villa Mona poolside
Villa Mona - Poolside

For May and June 2015 we have great discounts on some of the wonderful villa's on our website, as shown on our homepage.
If you are with a large family or group of 10, we can recommend Villa Mona in the center of Seminyak. The price per person per night is only USD 51! And for that you are staying in a beautiful paradise with top service and daily breakfast included.
And villa Damai Manis is for 6 persons even a little less than USD 50 per person if you rent it for a minimum of 10 days, also with daily breakfast included. We think it is a real bargain for this amazing villa on the island of the Gods!

And if you like our pages in English or Bahasa Indonesia, please Like or Share!

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Is traffic on Bali dangerous?

by Maarten Rol

April 29, 2015
People often ask us how it is to go around on Bali and, is it safe? Well, you have options here.

First of all, you might go on foot. Note however, that whether a walking distance is short or not, is quite personal. Certainly when the temperatures are not what you are accustomed to. For everyone this is different, depending on age, physical fitness etc. Our villas that are within "walking distance to the beach", are always within 500 m from the beach. We think this is an acceptable distance for the average person with an average fitness.

If the places where you are further away from your destination, it is almost always very easy to get a Blue Bird taxi. And when you are in a villa, the Villa Management will be happy to get one for you. They are cheap. We always advice people, when they take the taxi, to go by the official meter and not make a deal with the driver on the price. The drivers will try that every now and then, but only because they can earn something extra. Nonetheless, we consider these taxis dependable and trustworthy.

For young people wanting to explore things a little further away, renting a motor bike may be an option. But be beware that the driving is quite a lot more hectic than in your average western country. And the driving is on the left side, to which people from a lot of countries are not accustomed. When this is your piece of cake: always make sure you rent a motor bike with an insurance. Also compare prices in order to get a fair rental price and try to familiarize yourself with the motor bike at first in a place where it is not too busy.

A lot more comfortable, but of course also a bit more expensive, is to rent a car with a driver. Note however, that a car with a driver for a whole day will be very cheap compared to a western country. The benefits are that you can relax, look in amazement at the way some young local dare devils on their motor bikes slalom through the traffic and you will arrive at your destination without your blood pressure going through the ceiling. Yes, sometimes the traffic can be pretty frantic.
But the good thing in Bali is: nobody gets angry and everybody stays calm. You will arrive at places where you will be amazed how the traffic from another street slowly pushes forward until somebody leaves a few millimeters of extra space, a signal for them to weave in. And no angry faces, no shouting, no middle fingers going up etc. It can be truly entertaining when you come from a country in Europe, for example.

Traffic knot
Gordian traffic knot

Last year we watched in amazement as we became part of some Gordian knot, when people from different sides tried to go first. And there were traffic lights! A young western woman on a motor cycle next to us was shaking her head in amazement as everything came to a stand still. But without any problems and a little extra movement here and there, the knot was untied in the friendly Bali way, as always!

Gloves for a beautiful skin
Gloves in the tropical heat

One more small detail: nowhere in the world you will see women drive on motorbikes as elegantly as in Bali. And when you are surprised to see them wearing woolen gloves in the tropical heat: they want to keep the colour of their skin as light as possible because that is considered more beautiful!

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The amazing story of Wayan the volleyball player

by Maarten Rol

April 15, 2015
It must have been in 2008, about the third time that I was on Bali, when I met Wayan. At that time he was working for a company providing taxi services on Bali. He was recommended to me, as I was looking for someone who could bring me to the fine spots of Bali, without being afraid that he would take me to the places where he could earn a little bit extra for bringing a tourist there.

Wayan proved to be a very reliable driver, carefully moving around in the hectic traffic of Bali in the more well-known touristic hotspots. So I became a regular customer for him, as there was a lot I wanted to see.
One day when driving through the lush green countryside of Bali the conversation turned to other things. "Wayan, do you do some sport, like badminton?" Like most foreigners I know that Indonesian people excel in this sport.
Wayan told me he liked to play a little bit of volleyball. I had already noticed that he was longer than me, which doesn't happen too often in Bali. "Oh, I see. Is that for fun, or do you play in some sort of competition?" "No pak (meaning sir), I play a little bit of competition."
Being a fan of a lot of sports, I thought that it might be nice to see a volleyball match in Bali. "Is it possible for me to see you playing?", I asked. He laughed a bit embarrassed and said "A no pak, that is not so interesting". After pressing him a bit, he told me he would play a match on the evening before I would return to Europe. I decided that it would be a pain as I had to get up around 4 AM on the morning after the match, but there would be enough time to sleep on the plane, so yes, I would like to attend his little volleyball match.

On the evening of the match we drove in the dark to the place where he would play. Because of the twisting roads I didn't have the faintest idea where we went in the dark. We arrived in a town, where there appeared to be some kind of a small volleyball stadium in the open, with a lot of lights illuminating the pitch black gravel court. There were crowds of Balinese people in the streets. After getting out of the car, we walked up to this stadium. A lot of people approached Wayan and wanted to shake his hand. And by that time I knew that this modest guy hadn't told me the whole story...
It appeared he was one of the players of the Bali volleyball team and as such some kind of a local hero.

The volleyball stadium

And did I have the time of my life that night. I went in with the players and was not allowed to pay the regular entrance fee. During the match I was asked to sit on the bench with the team. I am pretty sure that I was the only non-Bali person in the whole small stadium, where hundreds of people enjoyed an unbelievably spectacular match of two high ranking teams in the top division of Bali. Being very different from western style volleyball, it was very much an attacking game, top entertainment. And the players were like made out of rubber, the way they jumped.
Looking at the photos: guess who won the match?

The Volleyball Team

It appears that volleyball is an extremely popular sport in Bali, which you will not read in any touristic magazine. If you go to Bali and are a sports fan, I can recommend going there, as it really is great fun. And the way the commentator shouts his encouragements during the game over the loudspeakers...

Not playing in the Bali team anymore and only doing some recreational volleyball with his friends, we are still close in touch with Wayan. And he is still the dependable, modest and very able driver.
Now, you guess who is going to pick you up when you rent one of our villas? You're right, that's when you will meet Wayan. And who, if needed, can help you with a sightseeing tour. We can vouch for his dependability.

By the way: did you have a look at the villas? At this point there are for those who can decide quickly some villas with a discount in April 2015, like Villa Damai Manis, Villa Sophia and Villa Puri Temple, as long as they are available. All coming with our top service. See yourself lazing by the pool with your favorite cool cocktail in your hand, relaxing in paradise....

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