Although the flight from Sydney to Bali is just under 6 hours, I ended up being awake well over 24 hours on Tuesday.
My flight left Sydney at 10am. Toots said to me the night before: “so, you’ll get to the airport at 8am [then she thought for a second] well, YOU will get there at 7am“
I booked a taxi from North Bondi to the airport at 6am, just in case there was any traffic, meaning I was up at 5am Sydney time. Of course there was zero traffic, I was at the airport just after 6.30am and the check in for my flight hadn’t even opened yet.
I was flying with Garuda Air, who I had previously never heard of but who are the national airline of Indonesia. I was super impressed with them, lovely staff, excellent legroom, fresh towels and bottles of water for everyone when you got onboard.
I was sitting next to a girl called Naomi who had just finished uni in Canberra. She was off to Japan to visit friends – she wasn’t getting there until sometime on Wednesday due to a 12 hour stopover in Indonesia. However she was making the most of her stopover by meeting up with some distant cousins that she’d never met before and they were showing her around Bali for the day.
We arrived in Bali at 1pm (3hr time difference from Sydney), and I had one of my first experiences of being met by a hotel at the airport. I reckon this must have happened when I was younger and holiday-ing with the fam, but not since I’ve been travelling independently.
On my flight from Sydney I’d suddenly remembered the little ‘pre-arrival’ stresses that come with getting to a new country, i.e.:
- Is there an entry tax?
- Do I have the right currency to pay the entry tax?
- Do I need a visa in advance (whoops bit late now!)
- Do I have the address of the hotel printed out for the taxi?
- Oh I’ll need to get some local currency to pay for the taxi…
- But what’s the exchange rate? (Damn I don’t have any wifi to check)
- How much should a taxi roughly cost to the hotel? I don’t want to get ripped off!
The vast majority of these worries were circumnavigated when I walked out of customs, saw a smiley driver with a board saying “The Amala, Seminyak” who took me to the air-conned car and furnished me with an iced jasmine green tea from a teeny tiny cooler box and a cold towel. Admittedly, I suspect he may have forgotten about these at first, because we had set off out of the car park when I asked if I could open one of the bottles of water in the car. He promptly performed an emergency stop in the middle of the traffic and presented me with the tiny cooler and the iced tea.
I spent the 30 minute drive from the airport to The Amala looking out the window and smiling to be back in Asia. The sloping tiled roofs, the bright random statues outside tile shops, every second shop offering a massage, the unique ‘Asian squat’ position that labourers hold whilst working which I doubt I could for 60 seconds, the absolute army of mopeds on the road (5000 new motorbikes are registered every month in Bali and Lombok!) and their erratic weaving between the cars. I love it!
When I arrived at The Amala I was greeted by the super friendly resort manager Amelie. They showed me around the hotel grounds and was struck by how incredibly peaceful it is! Set back only 50m or so from the huge main road but as soon as you’re inside you can’t hear any of that…in fact for the whole stay I think we only briefly glimpsed one other set of guests!
I was then shown our room, which had a nice personalised welcome touch 😉 but they also showed me the villa, to which I could upgrade for a pretty reasonable amount. Now the original room was lovely, but the villa was something else!
It was in a different part of the resort and the outdoor path you walked down to get there with its high walls and bamboo made me feel like I was in an Indiana Jones film.
The villa had its own private pool, complete with waterfall! A kitchen, an outdoor living room and bathroom with more bath oils than one could possibly imagine what to do with.
How could I resist? Naughty Caitlin!
So once they’d moved our welcome message, bamboo leaf by bamboo leaf from the old room to the villa (and also moved the “Doggy Doggy” towel creation – if you were wondering what that was….personally I thought it might be a turkey) 🙂 I got settled in the villa and then set off for my complementary ‘Welcome Massage’.
This was one of the best massages I’ve had in a very long time. My shoulders were still recovering from a painful Thai pummelling that I had in Sydney last week and I was apprehensive that this might be a repeat experience. But Geena the masseuse was wonderful, she definitely gave me more than me allotted 30 minutes, I practically fell asleep on the table I was so relaxed (and perhaps because I’d got up at 5am…)
By the time I had got clean and presentable post-massage it was almost sunset/dinner time. The hotel gave me a lift over to Potato Head beach club, where I was too late to get a sea-front day bed (and to be honest I’d probably have felt a little conscious lounging on one alone) but I got a table for dinner with views down across the lawn to the palms and then the ocean.
Dinner was a tasty squid-ink seafood linguine, and as is standard when eating alone the whole dining experience was over pretty quickly. I then had a drink and watched the (beautiful!) sunset. It was about 7.30pm and I was debating going back to the Amala and having a cheeky nap…James’ flight from Hong Kong wasn’t due to land until midnight, so I had planned to set off to the airport with the hotel driver at 11.30pm.
However just as I was debating making a move a guy came over and asked if he could join me.
When travelling alone I’d had to hone my snap judgement radar, and be able to decide pretty quickly what someone’s intentions were. It’s difficult finding the balance between not missing out on opportunities to meet new interesting people just because they’re a solo guy, yet still avoid ending up in potentially uncomfortable/dangerous situations.
He got a green all clear on the ‘Caitlin-stranger-danger’ scale and so came to sit down for a drink. He was an interesting guy who’d spent the last 15 years building up a business in California and he’d recently stepped away from it to travel the world and have some new experiences. Funnily enough he actually lived super close to where I’d stayed in Venice beach, and knew one of the Monkey-Ball beach volleyball guys.
So he kept me entertained for a couple more hours before I headed back to the hotel. By the time I got back it was about 10pm, I faffed for a bit and finally by 11pm decided I was totally exhausted, allowing myself all of 15 minutes for a power nap before setting off to the airport.
When we got their there were 2 flights landing from Hong Kong, one had arrived early and one was late. Sadly James’ was late and wouldn’t be landing until after 12.30. Patut (the hotel driver) and I waited patiently, and he let me fashion a welcome sign using his stencil 🙂
We finally all got back to the hotel about 2am 😳
Luckily we had nothing to do the next day except chill! Given James had been travelling for basically 2 days to get here he was snoozing so I took the opportunity to catch up on Monday’s bikini body guide workout which I’d missed. I’m on week 10 of 12 now but definitely going to re-start/buy version 2 when I get to the end.
Working out in 35 degree heat with ridiculous humidity was a challenge. Especially considering that the floor was marble so as soon as I got sweaty I was slipping all over the place (mmmmm). I came very close to falling in the pool at one point!! But it was was such a perfect reward to dive in once I’d finished.
We sunbathed at the villa for a while and then that afternoon we headed down to Seminyak beach where we stopped off at the other big beach club, Ku-de-ta, for an excellent sushi lunch.
The beach wasn’t quite how I expected it. The tide was in so there was relatively little actual beach. I’d also imagined that there would be far more restaurants and bars along the front to stop in but it all seemed to be big hotels, set a little back from the beach.
We ended up spending the afternoon lounging on a day bed at ku-de-ta. James attempted some surfing but the waves were pretty brutal, I went in just to have a splash around and got totally taken out (although disappointingly the go-pro footage makes them look tiny!)
And YES…for those of you who have been following the blog since ‘go-pro-gate’ (basically I lost go-pro-the-first whilst surfing in Nicaragua) I have replaced it with go-pro-the-2nd! I am still very amateur and end up with lots of videos of my face but I may attempt to make a little montage of the trip.
By the time I’d recovered from the ocean-bashing and removed sand from all the places that it shouldn’t be it was about 5pm so we decided to stay at ku-de-ta for the sunset. My buddy from potato head the night before actually happened to be there so he joined us briefly.
This was followed by a delicious dinner at the villa.
The next morning involved a bit more sunbathing. The layout of the villa meant that the pool and loungers got the morning sun until about midday at which point it became shaded by a tree. The perfect time to go for a stroll into Seminyak and find some lunch.
Seminyak is described as the ‘style capital’ of Bali. There were a few really cute boutiques as we walked down to the beach which helped it live up to its name. There were also quite a few RL Polo knock-off shops, and a little stall whose sole product was wooden penis keyrings, which slightly detracted from the charm 😉
There are also ‘offerings’ to the gods everywhere along the street. These consist of shallow bamboo leaf open lid boxes, containing an assortment of things including: flowers, spices, jewellery, cigarettes, sweets, food, chewing gum.
The problem is that there are so many of these all over the pavement that if you don’t watch your step constantly you risk treading on an offering and incurring the wrath of the gods.
We found a decent Indonesian place for lunch and I had tasty garlic prawns which were accompanied with a dish full of oil soaked garlic pieces 😋 (lucky James!)
I then pitched a beach run, which James thought was a ridiculous idea (in hindsight perhaps it was) so he set up camp at the Oberoi pool bar whilst I sweated out my body weight in the midday sun.
That evening we went for dinner at Ganesha restaurant in Jimbaran. The Amala organised our reservation and the restaurant sent a car to collect us for the 30 minute journey there 😍 again just simplified the whole process so much. I could get used to this 🙈
I had been fretting that perhaps the restaurant that the Amala had chosen wouldn’t be right on the beach. Or perhaps we’d miss the sunset. But it was all divine. We had fresh coconuts (with a cheeky dash of barcardi) and then you went to the front of the restaurant and picked your fish fresh from the counter, they’d then kill it (if required – I.e Mr lobster!) and grill it. Totally delicious and a great setting.
We had a couple in front of us where the man did not stop taking selfies/videos/timelapses literally from the moment they sat down until they finished eating. He kept suddenly spinning around on his unsuspecting girlfriend and taking close-ups of her trying to eat an ear of sweetcorn. She was understandably less than impressed.
We got back to the Amala relatively early, and the staff reminded us that James still hadn’t had his welcome massage. He kindly ‘donated’ it to me (I may have pinched him a bit to secure this) so off I trotted for my 2nd welcome massage in 3 days.
I alerted the masseuse to the fact that I had recently eaten an entire kingfish, and therefore it probably wasn’t advisable to press my mid-lower back too hard. She suggested I lie on my back and have a head/shoulder and feet massage, I happily obliged.
It was wonderful. Although I did feel a bit funny afterwards, which may be any/all of the beach run in the sun, the rum in the coconut or the lymph-draining during the massage.
The early night was good because I had dropped the bomb to James that our flight to Kuala Lumpar the next morning left at 6am!! He insisted that we absolutely did not need to get there 2 hours before. So although it stressed me out a bit I agreed that we’d only leave our hotel at 4am, positively a lie in!
I am writing this from the plane to KL, of course we made it, with plenty of time! Perhaps this is the turning of a new more chilled travelling leaf for me (unlikely!)
And what do the next 3 days in KL hold in store? Exploring the city, going to the Formula 1, and meeting up with my oldest friend Roseanna and her boyfriend Pele who are flying over for the weekend from Bangkok where they both live. Exciting times ahead!