Bali – the trip that I have been postponing since 2017…6 years later, we finally made it there. It was a long way from Boston totaling 27 hours in travel time (Boston to Hong Kong 15 hours, 7 hours layover in Hong Kong, and then a 5-hour flight to Bali). But I was lucky enough to find availability to redeem only 50,000 Alaska Airlines miles to fly in Cathay Pacific business class and that was a huge difference to survive the long-haul flight!
The angled lie-flat seat wasn’t the best business-class seat that I had ever flown but it was comfortable enough for me to get 8 hours of sleep!
I loved their amenity kit which was actually useful except for the toothbrush, it was rough and cheap quality.
I was looking forward to trying out their Asian menu!
I was hoping for their famous wonton noodle soup but they didn’t have it, instead, I chose the laksa noodle soup. The fish balls were surprisingly chewy and flavorful. The soup base was rich but too little. The shrimps were typical frozen headless shrimps. For the drink, I picked the Hong Kong style milk tea and it was so good that I had 3 cups throughout the flight!
Jason ordered the cod with ginger and he said wasn’t as good.
For dessert, I got the black forest mousse and it was very good and not too sweet!
Since our flight was at 11:45 PM, they served a quick dinner instead of a full-blown three-course meal that would take hours to finish so people could actually get to sleep. After dinner, I spread out the mattress pad and went to sleep. Whereas, on the Qatar Airways flight, the flight attendant came and prepared my “bed”. Qatar Airways’ service, food, and products are definitely up a notch versus Cathay Pacific.
I had a good 5-6 hours of sleep and woke up, it was getting hot in the cabin and someone near us was snoring loudly sighhh. I went to the bathroom and one of the flight attendants greeted me and asked if I would like some hot pastries. I said yes and Hong Kong-style milk tea, please 🙂 The hot pastry was crunchy and actually pretty good.
After my quick snack, I watched a movie and before I finished that, I fell asleep again. The next time I woke up, it was only 3 hours remaining till landing yay!!! I think the biggest difference for me after flying in business class a few times this year is that in economy, you wake up and you realize you only slept 2 hours and have 10 more hours to go! Whereas in business, you wake up and you realize you only have 2 hours to go so better order more food!!!
It took a while for breakfast to be served, even though the menu said they’d serve 2 hours prior to landing. The chicken congee was soooo good with all those gingers, very comforting! The dim sum, on the other hand, was just so-so. The mango smoothie was okay, I guess fresh mango is not in season.
We arrived in Hong Kong at 3 AM and the airport was empty…all the stores were closed and even the Cathay Pacific business lounges were closed until 5:30 AM. Fortunately, one of the Plaza Premium Lounges was open at that time and we were able to access it with our Priority Pass. The lounge was filled with people sleeping! We hung out there till 5:30 AM and walked over to the Pier Business Lounge, it is a huge lounge with a noodle bar.
I found it odd that the lounge opens at 5:30 AM but the food wasn’t available until 6 AM. The menu at the noodle bar:
I tried their famous wonton noodle soup, the wontons were delicious but small portion…only 2 wontons each. I am never a fan of the noodle used in wonton noodle with a hint of soap. I later found out that you can actually order only wontons in soup without the noodle in that case it has 3 wontons. The chicken siu mai wasn’t good, I don’t get why they didn’t use pork to make it as that’s the traditional way.
Since we spent a good 4 hours in the lounge, I think I had 3 bowls of wontons. At last, I want to try out their “dan dan mien” so I ordered that. It was peanut sauce-based and spicy, it wasn’t the same dan dan noodle that I had in Boston.
I kept up to date with the weather conditions in Hong Kong, apparently, there was a typhoon nearby. Our flight was at 10 AM and they escalated the category to a category 8 typhoon around noontime so we were so lucky to get out of Hong Kong before that!
Our flight from Hong Kong to Denpasar, Bali. I chose the Cathay Delight drink this time, it was as thick as a smoothie and refreshing but I don’t like sour drinks so only 1 is okay.
Same angled lie-flat seat but the plane condition looked old and worn out.
A lot of interesting Asian items on the lunch menu:
The braised beef was interesting with taste of aged mandarin peel.
I picked the curry chicken, the flavor was good but the chicken meat was dry.
Jason ordered the grilled lamb and he said it wasn’t as good as the lamb he had on Qatar Airways.
After 27 hours of travel, we finally arrived Bali!!! The customs and immigration lines weren’t so bad if you obtained the e-visa in advance (it was a pain to apply online because their website is so buggy: https://molina.imigrasi.go.id/, you had to attempt a few times to get it through) and fill out the customs form online to get the QR code (your airline should provide the link to do that a few days prior to arriving). After we went through customs, there were ATM machines along the long hallway. I didn’t realize that their ATM machine has a cap of 2.5 million Indonesian Rupiah (around $160 USD) and the machine specifically said if you need more than that, you’ll have to do it in multiple transactions. I didn’t want to risk my bank thought it was a fraud with multiple transactions, so I took out only 2.5 million. Plus, I could withdraw more once I get to Ubud town. Boy I was so wrong, the ATM machines in town have even lower limits, usually 1 million or 1.5 million!
For a couple traveling together, 2.5 million rupiah cash should be plenty, most if not all restaurants take credit cards (Visa and Mastercard, only higher-end ones take American Express), markets and convenience stores take credit cards, and some attractions like Bali swing. Many temples are cash-only but the entrance fees are minimal. Our private driver takes cash only and since I was traveling with a group of 8 people, entrance fees added up quickly. I had to make daily trips to ATM machines!
After we got out of the arrival hall, look at how many drivers waiting for their customers! It took a while to find ours with my name on the card. I booked our driver through Kadek Sutisna (email@example.com or WhatApp: +62 81916305884), I guess he owns the company or has a few drivers partnering together. Our driver was actually Putu: +62 881038094640, we communicated via WhatsApp a few days before arrival to confirm the itinerary and pick-up logistics. His English was fine to communicate via text and verbally. We paid him 1.25 million per day (8-10 hours, additional hour at 100k/hr) due to our large group of 8 so he had to rent a larger van to accommodate us. I tipped him 250k each day (from what I read from Tripadvisor, people suggested 100-150k tips and 50k for lunch). For airport pickup and dropoff, no need to tip – airport to Ubud cost 450k per car (up to 4 people) since we arrived in 2 groups of 4 and from Sideman to the airport, it was 1.1 mil for the van to accommodate all 8 of us.
The ride to Ubud was around one hour due to traffic and the roads were mostly one lane per direction shared with tons of motorcycles. I booked Villa Teratai through Marriott’s Homes & Villas for $2116 for 4 nights. I was comparing different villas and most of the newer-built ones have one common issue: the road to the villa is super narrow and often one lane is shared by both directions so it is difficult for bigger vans like ours to get in. I picked Villa Teratai because it’s not that far from Ubud center and its beautiful pool:
The villa is surrounded by trees which gives it nested in a forest feel. It was peaceful and quiet compared to the busy Ubud center.
It has two spa beds too!
My other complaint besides the narrow road was that the kitchen, living room, and dining room had no AC so it wasn’t comfortable to hang out there.
Each room has AC and its own bathroom! One of the five bedrooms in a similar layout:
Only this room has a bathtub located outdoors:
We arrived at 6 PM and I made a reservation for dinner at the famous Dirty Duck Diner (Bebek Bengil) at 6:30 PM so we headed out right after. Peter and them arrived earlier so I arranged for the host to meet with them and did all the check-in paperwork at the villa. For transportation to town for dinner, we used Grab. It’s like Uber which is widely used in Southeast Asia. What I like about it is that the price is fixed at the time of booking regardless of traffic. It accepts credit cards and we can tip via the app too so no need to deal with cash. Just remember to verify the car’s license plate before you get in…there was one instance that which the license plate didn’t match but it was the same driver (from the photo), he said he got a new car and hadn’t had a chance to update the info…
The ride to town/restaurants was on average 55k rupiah and I tipped 5k so less than $4 USD total, cheap and convenient. We didn’t have an issue with drivers (smaller vans) accepting our ride and driving the narrow road to our villa.
We arrived at Bebek Bengil in Ubud and surprisingly the restaurant was half empty, although it’s a big restaurant! I ordered the fresh coconut juice – it tasted too young 🙁
One benefit of traveling with a larger group fo friends, we get to try out many dishes. THe appetizers we ordered: the spring rolls were good
The fried calamari was just okay.
Bebek Bengil is famous for its crispy duck so a must order. I found their duck very lean (I guess range-free duck) so after frying, not much meat, and can be dry. The skin was crispy and flavorful, however, I much preferred the Cantonese-style roasted duck!
Peter also ordered a fried chicken, he tend to order multiple mains to fill him up and because each dish was so cheap. He thought the fried chicken was much better than the crispy duck.
Dinner for 8 people with multiple appetizers and drinks total: 2.5 mil around $156.50 USD. They automatically added a 10% service charge so no need to add extra tips. I found many restaurants in Bali included an 8-12% service charge so make sure you double-check the bill to avoid double tipping! After dinner, we walked along the street to check out some shops but many shops were closed. FYI store closes at around 9-10 PM. There wasn’t as much late-night shopping as I thought for Asian countries. We walked by a beautiful door, probably the entrance to a temple? It was dark and not many street lights on this street.
After 15 minutes or so, we decided to head back to our villa to rest. We ordered a ride on Grab and there were plenty of cars around so we didn’t have to wait long for our car. We couldn’t wait to explore and see Bali the next morning!