After our wonderful, but brief, time in LA, we headed back to LAX and made for Asia. We had a layover at the Seoul Incheon Airport, supposedly one of the nicest in the world, and certainly the best airport I’ve ever been to for passing a 10 hour layover. There was a lot of fancy shopping, and good-looking food, but what was most important to us was the presence of two “Rest and Relaxation Lounges” where we were able to find a quiet place to sleep on a day bed sort of thing and shower for free in nice clean individual bathrooms. We also had a delicious lunch of Korean food, and coffee from Caribou Coffee, a major surprise.
We arrived into Bali late in the evening, bought our visas on arrival, and headed right to our hotel. The next morning we were met by our friend Tawny and three of her friends and spent the day touring a couple of markets and visiting Ulu Watu water temple. In the evening we went to meet some friends of one of our travel companions at the Potato Head Beach Club, which, despite its low-brow name, was one of the fanciest bars any of us had ever been to. The exterior was made entirely of old wooden shutters and the interior was lined with many lovely seating areas that seemed like something out of an old British colonial club. In the center was a lawn and an area of large sitting beds opening onto a pool, and beyond to the crashing waves.
The next morning the other travellers left to return home and Bowen, Tawny, and I hired a driver to bring us up to Pemuteran, a small town on the far western end of the northern coast. One of the things we didn’t realize about Bali before we arrived is that there is very little public transportation. So, although many things are cheap, transportation ends up being very expensive to get from place to place, relative to taking a bus. The drive up was lovely and took us over the mountain and through the lake area. We spent two nights up on the coast, enjoying the beach and getting caught in a good, old-fashioned tropical downpour that flooded the streets.
After our time in Pemuteran we headed back to the mountain area for a kopi Luwak (coffee that has passed through the intestinal tract of a type of civet cat) and a day wandering near Danau Bratan, getting caught in two more downpours in the process (for more about food and drink, see Bowen’s post). Highlights included an interesting temple complete with birds and bats on hire for photos, a small market, and lovely botanical gardens.
From there we headed down the mountain to Ubud. Ubud is the cultural tourism counterpart to the beaches of South Bali, a lovely town, but very tourist- and expat-heavy. Our first full day there was Tawny’s last day, so we spent the day touring some markets and visiting a really beautiful temple carved into the sides of a small canyon. Part of what makes Bali so interesting is that, unlike the majority of Muslim Indonesia, it is about 90% Hindu. Everywhere one goes there are carvings and statues of gods, temples and spirit houses, and small offerings of a flower, a bit of rice, or some other small token. In the evening we joined a friend’s step-dad and a friend of the step-dad for dinner at a lovely restaurant out in the rice paddies.
The next day we moved out of town a bit to the villa where our friend’s step-dad lives for a few days of a more rural existence. His house is set out amidst the rice paddies and was lovely and calm, a welcome respite from the hectic life of staying in hotels. One day we hired a driver to take us around and got to see a Balinese dance and gamelan performance (pretty touristy, but mostly for domestic tourists), Goa Gajah temple, Gunung Batur volcano, and a farm and coffee/spice plantation. Other than that, we wandered around the town more, and sampled Babi Guling (roast suckling pig, and a name we came to love). One day we decided to wander into the village of Penestanan, near where we were staying. We were led by a local farmer through the rice paddies instead of along the road, passing rest-huts and flocks of ducks, and ended up outside The Mansion, a nearly deserted hotel and plastic surgery clinic, and walked from there to Café Vespa, where all the patrons were white and literally all but one group (and us) were using electronic devices to surf the web. We ate quiche and saw an ad for a ballet studio! Very bizarre. It felt like a scene out of a book. We were fortunate enough to be around for a friend from Pomona’s last night in Bali after a few years of working in the area, and so met up with him and some of his friends for some delicious ribs.
After Ubud we took a few days on the beach near the town of Amed. Along the way we stopped for incredible spicy fish in various forms at a warung (Balinese restaurant) off the highway.
After our beach-hang-out time, we headed back to South Bali for a night, and then headed to the airport to fly to Bangkok.