After working out the travel and accommodation details, the third step of the process involves figuring out what to do. Usually Ling’s the person who plans the itinerary on our vacations including our most recent trip to Phuket, but I figured I’d give it a shot this time round.
Planning an itinerary is really a lot easier these days than before. The huge gamut of user-reviews and services operator web sites can easily overwhelm one’s senses, and it’s all helped by good search engines that specialize in the different information type one prefers to use e.g. user reviews, images, blogs.
Either way, my start point’s typically the same: TripAdvisor, from which I usually branch off to operator web sites where I get all the advertizing / marketing blibs, and http://images.google.com where I can get beyond the garden variety type of photos.
Bali isn’t called the Last Paradise on Island for nothing. OK, so maybe a lot of other places on Earth claim part of that title too, though maybe less on whether it’s the ‘Last’ place. That Bali is several times larger than Singapore means there’s a good balance: the place is big enough to offer a variety of attractions both man-made/run and natural, and it’s still small enough to allow for reasonable travel by car.
What doesn’t help though is that all the places’ names are in Bahasa Indonesia, and after a while, they all start to sound about the same. So it’s a bit of an effort putting together all the place possibilities onto my usual spreadsheets, and match them to their relative proximities to cut down on traveling time. There’s a bunch of places I’m very keen on seeing for certain, e.g. Pura Luhur Uluwatu during sunset (pictured from http://www.scenicworld.de/ in the entry here), the Jatiluweh rice paddy fields, Batur volcano and Lake Batur and Ulun Danu Temple.
There’re also day trip operators abound, for instance Bali Discovery Tours and Bali Adventure Tours, both of which are professionally run and are recommended online and in print. We intend to go white water rafting for certain or introductory diving (big maybe). Prices aren’t low though, and day trips are all SGD100 to at least 200 for the both of us. So, I’ve decided to go with private and solo operators, and they’re really native Bali or Indonesian drivers who operate their business literally out of their own cars. Basically, you work with the driver a customized itinerary and throw out the places you’re not interested in. Now that’s a great bonus compared to the larger operations, since in the latter’s case itineraries are fixed.
A list of recommended drivers shows up on TripAdvisor here, and some of them are so popular they get booked 6 months in advance. Their rates are, remarkably, all about the same range at 400,000 to 500,000 rupiah or SGD59-74 per day. Even their web and blog sites are all about the same orientation. They sell themselves, include patron testimonials, specify tour packages they’re offering, and present photos of happy groups they’ve taken. So, trying to distinguish one driver from the next hasn’t been easy at all, but they really seem all ok.
In any case, I’m about done firming up our arrangements with one such driver to bring us around for 3 days, and he looks like a reasonably solid and trustworthy fellow. We’ll know soon enough in eventuality.:)