Everybody needs a vacation, right? Why don’t we head south of the Equator, way down in the tropics, to beautiful Bali?
If you scrounge around on internet sites like Cheapo Air you can get a ticket for a bargain price. Go in April, the rains have stopped, but the tourists haven’t arrived in their barbaric hordes. Accommodations are affordable, dirt cheap by American standards, and you can eat for less than $25 a day, even less than that if you are satisfied with simple, local fare.
I like Asian airlines. For this adventure we booked Cathay Pacific all the way. The service is pleasant, the food edible (mostly), and the attendants are all pretty Chinese ladies. Yes, yes, that is so lookist, and sexist, and passe’. Sue me.
This is a picture of our airplane.
It does take a while to get to Bali. From our house in the California foothills it takes 3 hours to drive to the San Francisco International Airport, another three hours sitting around in the departure lounge, then 14 and 1/2 hours non-stop, bucking head winds all the way, to Hong Kong, another 3 hours in that surreal glass, steel, and chrome megapolis.
Grab a Hong Kong snack and a few ZZZZZZZs.
Board a smaller Cathay Pacific airlines for the final 5 hour hop, right over the top of Borneo, to the Denpasar Airport in Bali. How long have we been moving? About 28 hours. I put the last leg of the trip to good use by trapping the Balinese gentleman in the seat next to me and persuading him to begin my lessons in Balinese language.
You should always land in a foreign country speaking a few basic phrases, just to get you out of the airport, capiche? Yes, no, thanks, no thanks, good morning, afternoon, evening, and pleased to meet you or whaddup or some other greeting. It’s especially nice to have a smidge of social grace when you stand in front of the immigration officers.
Out of the airport, finally, and into a cab to the hotel. Our friends, Gil and Kathryn (AKA The Mighty K), had just returned from a Balinese jaunt and were able to recommend a nice (by which I mean clean, cheap, and air conditioned) hotel near the airport in the tourist “mecca” of Kuta.
When we arrived at Green Garden Beach Hotel, there to greet us, in all her glory, was Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning, literature, and the arts. Om Saraswati. What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?
Kuta, adjacent to the capital of Denpasar, is the town where those awful bombings happened a few years ago. Kuta is noisy, garish, and rather dirty. There are a zillion bars, clubs, and massage “opportunities.”
You will notice right away that the traffic is just terrible. This turns out to be true all over Bali. Everyone owns a motor scooter or cycle of some kind.
Traffic laws are . . . improvised. Driving is aggressive, a perpetual near-collision style. The lanes are narrow, there are no shoulders or parking spaces, people just stop whenever and wherever they want. You will see three of four people stacked somehow on a single mo ped. I saw a man driving one-handed through traffic with a new born infant on his shoulder. I am not making this up. (I always thought it took two hands to drive a scooter. Guess not.) No helmets, except for tourists who, sans helmets, will get pulled over by the totally corrupt Balinese cops and asked to make a “contribution.” Pray to the traffics gods that protect dumb tourists.
Bounce out of Kuta as soon as you recover from your flight.
CJ is recovering quite nicely in the hotel pool.
During our 48 hours in Kuta we grabbed a run through the pre-dawn streets (a great way to get to know a place), we procured his-and-hers Balinese traditional massages (get you minds out of the gutter), and we got to know the hotel staff.
Here is CJ with the matron who managed the hotel.
This is Henry, our concierge, our “man.”
Henry set up our escape from Kuta with one of his friends, Chun.
We were heading to the inland city of Ubud, but decided to let Chun drive us round about to see the temple at Uluwatu and the beaches at Sanur.
Uluwatu is on the southwestern tip of Bali. Here’s the thing about Balinese temples, of which there are many thousands. You can not enter the temple unless you are appropriately dressed in sarong and sash. Don’t worry, the temple attendants are happy to rent you the necessary accoutrements.
Holy Elephants, saronged and sashed, we are about to enter our first Hindu temple!
Down a twisting tropical path (think Indiana Jones) with monkeys pacing us through the tree tops, the Uluwatu temple comes into view.
I am instantly jolted by a blast of energy. My eyes fill with tears. I am grinning like a billboard for tooth whitener. It is a moment of profound recognition. A welcoming.
It’s hard to talk about this stuff, but I suppose I shall, later. That’s what this trip is about. Oh, did I forget to tell you that part? Too late, pals.
We’re here to find our inner Bali, or maybe our inner self while in Bali. Something like that.
You can see that I look totally smashed, “Blissed out” as we used to say back in the day.
But for now, let’s just groove on Uluwatu.
I mentioned the monkeys earlier, long tailed macaques, the most successful, widespread, and numerous primate species on the planet, next to humans. But we’ll just call then monkeys.
Here is a monkey giving me the stink eye.
These Uluwatu monkeys are particularly larcenous. They will steal anything loose, purses, backpacks, cameras, earrings, and their favorite, sunglasses. If you fall victim to their malevolent high jinks, you will need the services of a professional mediator, one of the Balinese lads sitting on the wall laughing at you. For a fee, these enterprising boys will negotiate with the monkey for the return of your belongings. Don’t wait too long to pay the fee. If the monkey looses patience and gets pissed, it will twist your shades into a mangle mess and then throw them at you. Cute.
Back in Chun’s car we head up the coast to Sanur, or “Snore” as it is called by certain wags. We had lunch and moved on. Sanur is shabby, the reefs long-gone, and the atmosphere, indifferent.
Here’s a Sanur boat.
Here’s the Sanur beach.
Let’s get out of here and find Ubud, the real capital of Bali, the center of art, dance, and them most likely place to find something truly exceptional.
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