Bali in a Coconut Shell

Indonesia does not share the same views on efficient immigration as Thailand and Singapore. Getting through customs took two hours.  This includes the part where you have to pay 25 USD simply to enter the country. Whatever, I’m in Bali I thought. Then I looked around and scoped the people. I’m going to put on my pretentious hat….I thought I would see all of these beautiful, earthy,  yogi’s. What I saw was America and Australians finest. Mullets, missing teeth, a cut off Skynard t-shirts  and even one looker with sweat pants hiked up so high they were now daisy dukes. WTF are these people doing here?
Eventually I got through customs and arrived at my “hotel” for the night, the Gong in the south, Ulu Watu. It’s run by a typical Balinese family. When I walked in, the father was dressed in white and throwing holy water on the grounds. Unfortunately and fortunately, they gave away my room. Instead of a basic twin bed I had been upgraded to an apartment with a living room, dining room, huge king size bed and ocean view terrace. Score! In the morning I enjoyed coffee and ocean breeze before I headed to the beach to sunbathe on the sandy cliffs, watch surfers and waste the day away. In the afternoon I went to the seaside temple and fought off the monkeys who were trying to defend their territory and Asian tourists who wanted their photo taken with a white American girl.
After sunset, Balinese dad drove me to Sanur where I planned to meet up with the girls. We chatted and I was surprised to hear that he has never left the island. This is typical for a lot of Balinese considering the hefty air ticket expense. In Sanur we were hooked up with another huge room and terrace and I splurged on a pedicure and foot massage while I waited for the girls.
The next morning we took the boat to Nusa Lembogan and did nothing the whole day. This is a little island an hour boat ride west of Bali known for seaweed farms and mangrove trees. Believe it or not, there was another girl from Michigan on the boat. It was my favorite leg of the trip. Laying on the beach, listening to the bar play Jack Johnson, reading, swimming in the infinity pool and enjoying our gorgeous beach bungalow that we only paid $30 for. Our 2nd day in Lembogan was spent snorkeling in the morning and biking the island in the afternoon. We weren’t prepared for the hills which was comical to the passers by who intelligently rode motorbikes. It was a fantastic way to see rural Bali and a few of the secluded beaches. Sadly, our plan was to leave the next morning.
We thought it was a joke when this little fisher boat pulled up to our hotel. Nope. This was going to take us back to Bali. We braced ourselves with sunscreen and Marjorie took a motion sickness pill. Fortunately, we survived and washed ashore our first black sand beach. From there we hit Ubud and hiked through rice terraces, which are truly works of art. After a couple strenuous days we felt it was time for massages, milk baths and body scrubs. So we paid $15 and spent the evening at the spa. The next morning was spent visiting Ketut Liyer, the famous palm reader from Eat, Pray, Love. I could write a whole separate blog about that experience, but I’ll summarize. Basically he told me I was good, pretty, smart, lucky and a good driver. What a waste of $15.
Then the real adventure began. We rented a car and drove to the north city of Lovina. The cars are right hand drives and they use the other side of the road but fortunately, Marjorie is well versed having lived in South Africa. The drive was picturesque and included more rice terraces, a ride up a volcano, a crater lake and many surprised Balinese. I guess they don’t see three white girls in a green car that often. Lovina was a tad disappointing considering the dirty beach so we only stayed there a day before heading to Balian Beach for our last evening. There we splurged and stayed in a huge guest house with ocean and rice field views. The last day was spent like a lot of the others – laying at the pool, reading and napping.
Bali is a magical place. I went to there expecting to find the “balance of worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence” just like Elizabeth Gilbert did. I didn’t and the reason is because I already have it and visiting Bali just just made that clear. But I did find a great vacation and a fun adventure with two great new friends.
This Sunday I am off to Beijing to conquer the Great Wall with one of my favorite partners in crime, Holly.
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