What else can I say about Bali that hasn’t already been said over and over again by people who have visited the island and found themselves lost and completely enamored by it? We flew in from Singapore in themorning and what greeted us was nothing at all like I expected. Yes I’ve read Eat Pray Love; wikipedia’d and Lonely Planet-ed Bali like crazy; and have likewise spoken to people who have been there so you would think I’m already sorta in the know and there’s very little that could surprise or excite me about the trip.
Until our driver Yus (a very affable fellow, that Yus) took us on a quick city tour and I found myself unable to contain my awe as I stared open-mouthed (the look I had on was quite embarrassing actually and I’m glad it didn’t show in any of the photos!) at the temples and resorts we passed by…
From the airport, Yus first took us to a beachside restaurant called Blue Marlin. The restaurant offered a nice view of the beach (name escapes me at the moment) and the huge waves which scared me a little but the surfers obviously loved – but that was all. Food was overpriced and the steamed crab that we ordered didn’t have much meat. An anorexic crab was what I called it after seeing that it barely had anything in it to satisfy our gnawing hunger. Good thing there was vegetables and the soup was at least good. Oh, and just before food was served, an all-male singing group with guitars and a violin, went over to our table and serenaded us with Robbie Williams’ Angels and James Blunt’s You’re Beautiful which I’m hoping they chose because I am both and not because of the tip we gave them. Oh maybe they did choose the songs appropriately because the tip came much much later. Good job, Blue Marlin singers!
Though still a bit famished after our disappointing lunch, we decided to move on with the rest of the tour so we can make it in time for our, ehem, romantic dinner at the villa. Yus drove us to Padang-Padang resort where there’s a Ripcurl surfing competition happening. We only stopped for a few minutes on the bridge where we have a good view of the surfers and onlookers but didn’t really go down to where the real action is. Instead, we took a few photos and admired the view from the top.
From Padang-Padang, we drove up to Uluwatu to check out the temple. For an entrance fee of Rs 3,000 per person, you get an amazing view of the ocean (not sure if it’s the Indian ocean or something else altogether) from the cliff where the temple is actually perched on. Those of us who were wearing short dresses and shorts were asked to wear some very colorful cloth, sarong-style, as a show of respect to the place and the spirits that dwell there.
Now I gotta tell you about the monkeys. They’re all over Uluwatu temple! You’ll see them on tree branches, on the ground, on top of the temple walls – eating, ALWAYS eating! Which I found extremely cute and their carefree ways one might say are enviable – until one of them snatched my shades from my head and ran off with it! For a moment there, those monkeys didn’t seem very cute anymore. Can’t blame them entirely because Yus warned us rather sternly to keep our shades out of sight because the monkeys just love to snatch them and I, of course, didn’t listen. Good news is, I was able to get it back. Rather, one of the locals retrieved it for me for Rs20,000. Which got us into thinking that maybe, just maybe, those little furry fellas are in fact in cahoots with the shades and what-not-retrieving locals and they each get a banana or peanuts for a certain amount of tip. Lol. But those monkeys were really cute and the view from the Uluwatu temple is certainly one for the books – or postcard, at least.
After seeing what must have been a hundred or more monkeys, it was time to go to Heliconia Villa – our very fancy home for the next three days. But not before passing by Kuta beach first…for the sunset view.
Now as you know, I am huge fan of Boracay and its sandy white beaches and Kuta beach is definitely nowhere near Boracay in the powdery sand department. But I still found Kuta to my liking – especially with the hot surfer dudes and chicks on the prowl. And the whole Kuta stretch, I grudgingly admit, is by far more structured and organized than the chaos that has now become of my paradise island Boracay. And the sunset, ohmygaaaad, the sunset! It’s everything that I could ever want in a sunset. Too bad we didn’t have a bottle of beer or a glass of wine to make the experience more enjoyable.
From Kuta, we finally made our way to Seminyak district where Heliconia Villa is located and what greeted us when we walked into the villa was like a dream – a dream that smelled of flowers and incense and with rose petals strewn all over the place…from the pathway, to the private pool, to the outdoor bar and kitchen and living area, all the way to the bedroom and the bathroom which had an ivory white bathtub in the middle filled with warm water and, what do you know…more red rose petals!
What followed after that was a flurry of pre-wedding, actual wedding and post-wedding activities. Not mine, of course, but the reason why we wound up in Bali in the first place was to attend B’s friends’ wedding. It was my first time to attend a French wedding and it didn’t at all seem any different from the few weddings I’ve attended – except that the officiating priest in Uluwatu, though Catholic, did not go through the elaborate catholic mass ceremony and instead officiated only the exchange of vows and the putting on of the wedding bands. The wedding place itself was like a little slice of heaven perched on the side of the cliff with the great view of the Indian Ocean below. It was so romantic that it’s quite easy to comprehend how and why couples can fall in love all over again just by being there.
After the wedding, the guests were requested to be at the wedding dinner at Villa Mathis which is a good ride from our villa. Food looked amazing but only B had a taste of it as I was still quite full from the late lunch we had. I helped myself to a glass of red wine though which warmed me up a little bit. We were talking to this French couple and their lady friend but I would only be able to pick up a word or two and the rest, well, B would translate for me. They didn’t speak English much you see and my French, of course, is practically non-existent! But it was fun and the two French ladies, though in their late 30s or early 40s look extremely good and sexy that I couldn’t help but wonder if nature would be just as gentle with me when I get to their age. Fingers crossed.
The following day was our last day and the only time we would ever get to spend alone and away from the milling crowd. We woke up early, had our breakfast, and headed down to the beach. I was already starting to develop painful heat rash all over my body but I was determined to lie on the beach nonetheless. The sun was beating down on the Seminyak beach so hard I was nearly roasted by the time we decided to pack our beach stuff and make our way back to the villa to grab a quick lunch and surrender to the expert hands of the Balinese masseuse for a 2-hour massage and body scrub.
It was one kind pampering I will never forget! The massage was very relaxing and the body scrub, although at times very painful because by this time my skin was already inflamed with heat rash, felt just as heavenly.
Finally, it was time to leave Bali and at that point, I was torn between wanting to stay for a little bit more and going back to my home country which I have missed so much while I was away. Our Bali trip was beautiful but somehow it felt like a lot of things were missing to complete the experience only because I didn’t get to soak in the island in my own terms. I didn’t get to eat local food; didn’t get to scour the shops and galleries which I would have wanted to do; didn’t get to run around the island as much as I had hoped. Come to think of it, I still have a laundry list of things I want to do next time I’m in Bali. I’m thinking maybe traveling to the island solo would give me an entirely different perspective of Bali and everything it represents. I am definitely going back.