I am writing this from a luxury resort located in the North Western tip of Bali- the Mejangan Resort. Though it took almost four hours to arrive here from the beach side town of Legian we were staying in earlier, I have to admit this is as close to paradise as I have ever found. In fact, the whole island screams paradise.
Bali, a Hindu enclave in the heart of predominantly Muslim Indonesia, has been attracting tourists from all walks of life for years. As early as the 1930s, when Bob Koke and his wife decided to stay in Bali and open a small hotel on the shores of Kuta Beach. By the 1960s and 1970s, Kuta beach had become a staple stop on the hippie trail, attracting backpackers, surfers, and artists to this day.
I arrived in Bali on Sunday night and was transported to the All Seasons Hotel located a block back from Legian beach. I met up with Michelle, who was relaxing on the balcony after a long rough two weeks of teaching in Nepal. We both headed out to explore the area and wound up at a cute little bungalow style restaurant where I had my first taste of Indonesian food; Satur Lampur equals delicious!
The next morning while we were getting ready to go out and hit the beach the whole room started shaking profusely when I finally realized it was an earthquake. Being that Bali is in the “ring of fire”, prone to earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned at first. It also is not comforting to know that my initial reaction should it have really been an emergency was to freeze with my hands held in the air and my eyes looking like a deer in headlights. Good to know.
After confirming with the hotel staff that it was indeed an earthquake, we laughed it off and hit the beach where we haggled a surf lesson from two locals who somewhat resemble the stereotype of what guidebooks warn of as “Kuta cowboys.” Nevertheless, they were harmless…and helpful. I had tried surfing two other times; once in Hawaii where it took me about 100 tries to finally get myself up on the board, and another time my friend tried to teach me at Robert Moses, my local beach. This time seemed easier, and more fun. Luckily for us, the waves weren’t that big, and after about 3 tries I was able to get myself up and surf. Thought I have to admit it is exhausting; my arms still hurt as I’m typing this.
After a rough hour of surfing (read sarcasm), we worked our way down the beach to Roberto’s Beachside Bar, which is essentially a cooler, Roberto, and eight plastic chairs on the beach; perfect.
Slightly buzzed from taking in the beach atmosphere, we started to make our way back to the hotel and stopped off for Balinese massages at a local spa. The massage cost six dollars! I could easily move here.
That evening, we had an awesome Indonesian meal of huge portions at Warung Yoghya, a little open café down the block from our hotel. The meal cost next to nothing and the food was outstanding. After dinner, we decided to haggle some local scooter drivers (lack of better word) for a ride down to Kuta Beach, which is supposed to have a hopping nightlife and shopping. As I zipped through narrow lanes, called gangs here, holding on for dear life to the back of my driver, I found myself wondering, like I often do, what am I, a grown woman doing zipping along on the back of a bike in the middle of Asia. And then, the typical answer I give myself; having fun, that’s what!
The stores in Kuta were filled with all sorts of local Balinese crafts, wooden masks, and elaborate kites.
To be honest, Kuta was a little too loud and touristy for my taste, so after some window shopping, we hopped a cab back to Legian and called it a night. The next day, we were picked up early and drove for about 3 hours to the eastern side of the island. We were scheduled to go scuba diving in Tulamben Bay; a first for me. I was excited and scared at the same time. When we arrived at the dive spot, we were given a short briefing, which made me slightly nervous because I was having a hard time understanding our guide. Before I knew it, we were out in the water, practicing breathing and clearing the mask. After an initial panic attack, or two…or four, I eventually started to go down, attached to the guide for dear life. Before I knew it, we were at the site of the USS Liberty, a World War II shipwreck that sits about 50 meters off the coast of Bali. Floating through the shipwreck with thousands of fish was a pretty amazing experience. After lunch, we were able to go for a second dive, where we touched down at the bottom and our guide had us practice clearing our masks under water. Again, I was somewhat frightened at first, but he was very patient and good teacher, and I definitely would go diving again.
After a long trip back to the hotel, we made our way to a beachside restaurant that specializes in seafood and Italian and enjoyed a nice waterfront meal.
Today, as mentioned earlier, we arrived in West Bali National Park, a little haven of paradise on the other side of Bali that most tourists don’t get to. I haven’t done much of anything here, but so far, it’s pretty perfect.