Bali, Indonesia: February 2016

Yet again, we originally planned to go somewhere else.  This time we planned to go to Palawan in the Philippines but we decided against it because John’s girlfriend, who was going to fly over from Seattle and join us, had been there before.  So when we were brainstorming we were talking about Palawan but when I found out Joy had been there I said that we should go somewhere else.  Then we looked at each other and at the same time said ‘Let’s go to Bali.’  So we booked tickets to Bali.

Bali is an amazing place.  Okay yeah, there it is again- you’re probably thinking “okay yeah Warren whatever – you say Cambodia is amazing, Hong Kong, and now the same with Bali?  Be original for once..”  Well I feel that I’ve been lucky in the places I’ve chosen so far to visit.

Unfortunately for me, there is no easy way to get to Bali with Star Alliance so we flew Garuda, which was actually a great flight although I didn’t get any miles for it…

Bali is also the epitome of a tourist trap if you aren’t careful where you go.  Millions of people visit every year, and practically everything they do is tourist related.  One of our drivers even told us that Bali has a disproportionate representation in the Indonesian government due to the amount of money they rake in every year due to tourists.

So on to the trip.  We fly in to Bali and land late afternoon and get picked up by the hotel at the airport.  It’s raining.  Upon further investigation we find out that it’s the height of monsoon season.  Great.  Lovely.  Rain is fun though right?

The three of us make it to the hotel and our friend Kyle has already checked in.  Back in November when I flew home for Thanksgiving, I stopped in San Francisco to interview a potential team member for our program here in Korea, and he ended up being a good fit so we hired him.  In talking to each other before he came over, he said he was looking to travel to Bali to hit some surf so we decided to split a villa together.  We got a 2 bedroom villa that had it’s own private pool, it was pretty cool, not to mention reasonably priced!

The compound has a restaurant as well, and given the fact that it was late and we were tired, we decided to just eat at the hotel restaurant.  They had Indonesian cuisine, as well as stuff like hamburgers.  And then they had happy hour, which was buy one get one free but here’s the catch – buy one get one isn’t necessarily a thing they do with the check, they literally bring out 2 drinks for you.  At the same time.

We also decided it was a good time to exchange money, so I exchanged $200 and got about a billion Rupiah back.  Almost literally.

Off to bed, and the next morning I wake up and check out the surroundings… It was a pretty nice villa, I really enjoyed staying there.  The pool literally goes underneath the house.  The entire first floor is also open air, with only the bedrooms being air conditioned.  It’s really fine because it’s a great temperate climate.  Speaking of climate, this marked the first time I had ever been in the southern hemisphere, and the first time I had ever been that close to the equator!

So on to the mistake.  As usual, we did zero planning for the trip.  I do this on purpose because nobody ever wants to have a plan, right?  Right.  So we ask the front desk at the hotel where we can go snorkeling.  Apparently they know people so we get picked up 30 minutes later in a van to go snorkeling.  We get driven to literally the textbook definition of a tourist trap where we are ushered to a table to choose our “activities” from a menu (not making this up) and then haggle on price on how much it’s going to cost.  There’s parasailing, jet skis, snorkeling, scuba, the helmet thingy where you dive underwater but wear a giant helmet, and a bunch of other crap.  Plus, there are a billion people there who have also been conned into taking the van to this beach.  So we only want to do snorkeling and the guy is pissed that we don’t want to do more, but I’m not about to do dumb activities that I don’t want to do in the first place… so off we go to snorkel.  It had just rained so the water was choppy, and they take us out to a floating platform and give us goggles.  Plus we’re surrounded by a bunch of other boats and floating platforms so it’s like, don’t swim too far from the boat otherwise you’ll get run over…

We left as fast as we could and went back to the hotel, where we swam in our own pool.  Later we got sushi and generally just enjoyed each other’s company.

Next day.  Still raining.  But we were smarter and decided to stay away from super touristy stuff, so we had a van take us out to Ubud which is a smaller town much further inland to do some “activities.”  We went ATV-ing and rafting.  Kyle decided to go surfing instead so John, Joy, and I went on this excursion.

They had us put on wet weather gear and pay, which in hindsight we should have asked how much it was because we had to literally pool all our cash together in order to pay – didn’t realize it until we had gotten there!

We followed a bunch of trails and went through a couple of mud pits for probably almost two hours.  It was exhausting, it’s not like ATV’s have power steering!  We drove through the jungle and went up to this ridge where you can look out and see a pretty clear view of the landscape.  It was awesome.

They were also kind enough to have lunch be included!

Okay so on to the next adventure.  White water rafting.  To get to the launch point we had to climb down about a thousand steps, which were all uneven, in this narrow ravine.  It was definitely treacherous but… It’s all about the story right?  So we get down there, get into the boats, and shove off.

This was my first rafting experience.  And so far, it’s been the best!  The water was the perfect temperature, just the right amount of rapids, nothing too crazy, and best yet was the guide who was just all around really awesome.  I also think he was drunk/high, because he kept on trying to capsize the boat, but that’s another thing in itself… The river we rafted down is in this ravine/gorge, which is walled with just beautiful scenery.  Rock outcroppings, trees, plants, greenery, it was amazing.  I wish I had photos, but our phones were of course in a waterproof sack.  Oh well, mental imagery is enough for me.

We were dropped off in a rice paddy and made our way to the street, a ways up out of the ravine.

Surreal.

So how do you top that?  Honestly those few hours made the entire trip, cost and all, worth it.

Well you can top it by going to a resort I guess.  Which we did.

The W has a retreat within walking distance of our hotel, so we went to check it out for dinner.  In a word… Stunning.  We made it right before sunset, and the W is right on the beach, so we got to watch the sunset on the beach while walking through the water on Valentine’s Day.  Which was great for John and Joy I suppose, if anything it made me realize how amazing being single is because you only have to pay for yourself when it comes time to pay the bill at dinner 😛

The W has a few restaurants, so we decided to check out their “seafood” one.  They also have an international cuisine restaurant, which we checked out the following day… But more on that later.  What better way to spend a Sunday evening than at an open air restaurant right next to the beach as the sun is setting?

The restaurant was having a special, where you get 7 or 8 tasting courses for some sum of money so we decided to do that.

This icing thing came in the middle of the meal… As a palette cleanser or something.

Maybe it was because it was a special occasion, maybe because God created credit cards, or maybe because I’m a host of bad ideas but this $175 bottle of champagne happened.

And this is the restaurant at night:

Sure dinner was amazing, being in Bali was amazing, but more importantly being in Bali with people I can call good friends is even better.  I’m thankful I was able to share the experience with my friends, and live in the moment with them.  Traveling is great, but traveling with friends is 100 times better.

On our last day in Bali, we had to check out of our villa around 12PM, so we decided to go back to none other than the W to pretend to be guests so we could use their pool.  So of course it backfired and we still got asked what our room was, so Kyle said “oh we just checked out” and the guy still asked for our room number…  So after he weasled his way out of that lie we ended up having to sit in the lounge area instead of by the pool but we were still able to use the pool and beach access which was nice.

This was the first full clear day in Bali.  Clear blue sky.  Which also means sun.  So I guess I didn’t think about it at the time but the ocean does have the tendency to wash off sun screen… But even still, swimming in the ocean was an amazing experience.  I can’t remember a time where I’ve swam in the ocean where the temperature is literally like bath water, it was so comfortable.  I didn’t realize until a few hours later that oh wow… I’m starting to get sunburned…  By the time I realized it, it was too late.

We stayed through dinner, where we tried the international restaurant which was also on par with the first.

We eventually made our way to the airport for our redeye (again, great life choices) and I was dying from sun burn.  Horrible. Horrible sunburn.  2 advil, 2 ibuprofin, and 2 melatonin later… I was passed out in the very back of the plane across two seats for the duration of the whole flight.

I’ll be visiting Bali again.

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