Last week we went island hopping, and headed over to Bali to escape the jungle for a few nights. I had an extensive shopping list in hand (much to Barry’s delight), so we packed lightly with just 15kg of baggage between us, and took the seaplane out of here. The seaplane isn’t very spacious to ride in, and getting into a seat requires bending and folding – much like a piece of origami. It’s also unbearably hot inside, but as much as it’s a relief to break free of it’s confines after a trip, I always enjoy the short but scenic flight to Lombok. As the main purpose of our trip was to gather some supplies, and my DSLR camera is a little on the heavy side I had to leave it behind – so without further ado, I present some of my best iPhoneography. We purchased a Cudo voucher a couple of months ago for our accommodation at Nyuh Villas, Seminyak thinking we were getting a good deal. The voucher was for a three night stay for two people in a private pool villa (apparently valued at $1479), for $699. Out of curiosity, before we left last week, I checked out the rates for similar stays throughout various weekends in May and I made the discovery that if we had booked just days or weeks in advance (as opposed to months in advance using the voucher), we would have saved ourselves over $100 on accommodation and still received all of the same inclusions that our Cudo voucher boasted. (Daily breakfast, welcome drink, cold towel, 2 daily bottles of mineral water, a fruit basket, free wifi, return airport transport & 1x 60 minute massage each). In summary, the Cudo voucher was overrated in our opinion. Seeing that the voucher included complimentary transfers to/from the airport, and as we were keen to avoid the chaotic scene of numerous drivers all competing for our attention at arrivals, I had been sure to confirm with Nyuh that there would definitely be someone there waiting for us at the terminal when we arrived. In fact, I confirmed this fact several times, ensuring that they had our flight details and knew we would be arriving at the domestic terminal, not the international. When our flight from Lombok was delayed, I took the time mid journey to update them of our new arrival time just incase our transfer got tired of waiting for us and left. I was assured that the transfer would be waiting at domestic arrivals for us.
As you might have guessed, there was nobody waiting for us when we arrived. We walked around, checking all of the signs with names scrawled on them but there was no “Mr Barry”. Barry rang Nyuh and explained that we had arrived, and again we confirmed that we were waiting at the domestic terminal. We were assured that our transfer was there. We waited and waited. And waited some more. I said to Barry ‘bet you anything they’re waiting for us at the international terminal’, and within 10 seconds we were approached by an apologetic Nyuh uniform wearer bearing a sign saying “Mr Barry”. “So sorry, I wait for you at international terminal”. Of course you did. Sigh. On our (eventual) arrival at the villas, we were greeted with a coconut, some tropical fruit and cold towels. Barry made the mistake of displaying some of his best Indonesian at reception, and unfortunately for me – the rest of our introduction and tour of the facilities was carried out in Indonesian. I went along with it, nodding where it seemed appropriate and inserting a few words from my limited Indonesian vocabulary where possible. My bluff was called though, and I had to confess “saya tidak mengerti” (I no understand). Shortly after our welcome we were delivered afternoon tea. Our voucher promised that we would enjoy daily afternoon teas with traditional homemade Balinese cake throughout our stay. We were delivered some deep fried banana daily, but we’re still unsure exactly what homemade Balinese cake is like. The villa itself was very private, clean and well attended. The floor to ceiling doors opened up to our own pool that was surrounded by tropical gardens. The bed was extremely comfortable and a welcome change from the hard boards we call a ‘bed’ here in the jungle. The villa had an outdoor shower, and a beautiful big bathroom complete with a bathtub on centre stage. Each night I used the air conditioner to transform summer into winter inside the bathroom, and indulged in a hot bath. Well at least that’s what would have happened if the taps over the bathtub had produced more than a trickle of water. It took well over an hour to half fill the tub, and by the time I lowered myself into the water it had already cooled on every occasion. Still, lying back in a tub inside a beautiful, spacious bathroom is a luxury I haven’t had in a while and I wasn’t discouraged. We enjoyed a huge breakfast beside our pool every morning. Rolling out of bed with bed hair, and showing up to breakfast in pyjamas without as much as a glance in the direction of a mirror has it’s advantages, and digging straight into a feast of bacon and eggs, fruit, yoghurt, croissants, danishes, pancakes and fresh juice was perfect. However, the real highlight here was the bacon. Real bacon. Do you even know how long it’s been? We couldn’t remember. The ‘bacon’ occasionally available to us here is a very poor substitute for bacon, and it usually requires an archaeological excursion to the depths of an unmarked freezer – hidden away out of site so as not to offend any muslim shoppers. Another inclusion our voucher boasted was a heavenly one hour Balinese massage each – ‘performed by the trained staff at the onsite day spa’. At the same time I updated the villas of our delayed arrival time on day 1, I also attempted to book our spa treatments. We were looking forward to some pampering after a day of travelling, but unfortunately I was informed that by the time we would arrive the spa would be closed. It was suggested that maybe I would like to book for another time. Over the course of our stay, we made several attempts to schedule our spa visit – each time we were told that the spa was closed. In the end we gave up on getting an appointment at the ‘onsite spa’, and we sought out a reputable spa nearby.
We passed many hours at Sundarai Day Spa, over the course of our visit to Bali. I subjected myself to an Ayurvedic massage, an aromatherapy foot bath, a full body scrub, a Balinese massage, and a facial. Sundari was very well priced, clean, and the therapists were friendly, professional and evidently trained in the various styles of massage offered. During our travels around Indonesia, we’ve visited a few spas and I’ve often requested an Ayurvedic massage from the list of treatment options. Sometimes my massage has felt much more ‘Balinese’ than ‘Ayurvedic’ and upon comparing notes with Barry after the treatment I’ve learned that his ‘Swedish’ massage also felt similarly ‘Balinese’. We concluded that the only differences between the listed treatment options at some spas was the spelling, and the price. Given the lack of fresh, healthy and appealing food available to us here on this island, I was looking forward to a little bit of fine dining. We’d been given a recommendation by a fellow seaplane traveller, and our first restaurant stop was Sardine. Here, overlooking beautiful rice fields, the service was faultless and the food was amazing. A grilled vietnamese style quail, cress & organic greens with ginger sesame dressing was the perfect way to start off a couple of days of indulging! My favourite place to eat and shop in Seminyak is at an organic grocer/cafe called Down to Earth. I don’t visit Bali without a trip to this shop. The menu at Earth Cafe is amazing, and the meals are fresh, organic and nutritious. I have been craving a decent salad for so long, that when the salad Barry ordered was accidentally delivered to me, I had already inhaled a great portion of it before anyone realised the mistake. When my dragon bowl arrived soon after – again, I tucked right in before it occurred to me that I should take a quick photo. I barely put down my cutlery for a second, snapped this photo and started filling my mouth again. It was so good. And those vegan samosas – delicious! Another food highlight was a visit to Ginger Moon. The food was tapas style, so we shared salt ‘n’ pepper squid, crumbed barramundi steamed buns, hoisin duck dumplings, an amazing bbq chicken pizza, bbq beef ribs with green papaya, coconut, peanut salad… we ate until we were uncomfortably full, and then we rolled out of the restaurant onto the road. We decided to aid our digestive system in processing this huge meal by heading off in the general direction of our villa on foot. When we eventually decided to hail a taxi, we found that we were in for a real treat. Our driver was singing at the TOP of his lungs, ‘never mind, I’ll find someone like youuuuuu…. I wish nothing but the best for you toooooooooo”. In a (rare) moment of silence, I commented on how good his English was. He informed me that he learned English by singing karaoke, then confessed that he’d just had some magic mushrooms, and burst into song all over again.
Another food stop worth mentioning was Taco Casa – we felt like Mexican, and stopped in here for a quick meal before a spa appointment and we weren’t disappointed. The food was so cheap, but fresh and delicious. We both had an 8 layer burrito, and I don’t think a word was exchanged between us until after we’d both eaten our last bite. Another restaurant we made a return visit to was Petitinget, having had dinner here on a previous visit to Seminyak. On that first visit to Petitinget, I ordered semolina flour papardelle, slow braised lamb, tomato & thyme ragout, with parsley gremolata, and pecorino. It was a meal my tastebuds have never forgotten, and for this reason Petitinget will always be on my list of places to visit in Bali. This time though, we stopped here for lunch to break up the shopping and after a huge breakfast at the villas just hours before, these rice paper rolls were a perfect light lunch. So good. With shopping and stocking up on supplies being the main point on our agenda, we visited a couple of shopping malls – Discovery Mall, and Mal Galleria to try and knock the bulk of the list off in one location. If I’m really honest, I don’t enjoy shopping in Bali at all and it’s always made worse by the knowledge that I’m dragging someone else around who hates shopping at the best of times. The malls can be crowded and hot. The streets are full of cars, taxis and scooters weaving in, out and around each other. Crossing to the other side of a crowded road can be nearly impossible at times. It’s dirty, and if you stroll along looking sideways at a shop window for too long you are likely to fall down an open drain or trip over a pile of loose bricks. Everywhere you go, there is always someone trying and rip you off, sell you drugs, scam you or snatch your bag. Did I mention that it’s hot?
And then, should you happen to step inside a shop (if only to get out of the sun for a minute), there’s the relentless hassling, and the haggling. I don’t enjoy the whole process, but I participate because don’t appreciate being ripped off (and I like a bargain). Barry prefers just to pay the amount the seller first requests, so he usually walks away embarrassed when I put on my poker face and commence my bartering sequence. Shopping like this quickly becomes tiring though, and it’s always nice to browse some of the more upmarket shops in Seminyak where the sales assistants generally leave you alone. Another way to avoid the all of the hassling and haggling is to visit a place like Geneva Handicraft Centre where everything is clearly labelled with a fixed price. Normally I like to make the effort to buy from the local people at the markets, but sometimes I just don’t have the stamina and it’s nice just to wander around and browse without the constant pressure of ‘you buy?’. Geneva Handicraft centre is huge and lined with shelves filled with every type of handicraft item imaginable – a great place to buy souvenirs, or in our case – some homewares for this jungalow! One of the highlights of our shopping trip was an unplanned visit to Lucy’s Batik – a shop we wandered into late at night on our walk back to the villas from Ginger Moon. I spotted a quilt in the window that I decided I could put to good use in covering the hideous, stained lounge we’ve been supplied with in our jungalow. The girls in Lucy’s Batik were very friendly and while the prices were all marked in this shop, I was making a rather large purchase of a king sized quilt and an assortment of cushion covers, so I thought there was no harm in asking for a special price. Barry chimed in at this point pulling out some of his best Indonesian and straight faced humour combined, asking for a local price because we live in Sumbawa. The girls were laughing hysterically – whether at his attempt at Indonesian, or at the concept that this ‘Bule’ (foreigner) thought he was a local after three months of residence I’m not sure.
Barry proceeded to entertain the shop attendees, while I tried to make some decisions about cushion cover colours/sizes. His audience was growing, and I could hear him telling the ladies in Indonesian that he was waiting a long time for istri (wife), and that ‘any time shopping time’ is ‘banyak masalah (many problems)’ for him. Several girls crowded around urging him to be patient, all the while giggling and spreading out even more merchandise for me to peruse. When we eventually checked out, one lady took great pride in announcing the discount she had applied, which saved us the grand total of $4 on $112 worth of items! We really do know how to barter! After this last minute purchase of the (somewhat weighty) double sided king sized quilt, I became a little concerned about getting all of my luggage back to this island. Our bags were both well over 10kg, so we decided to pack Barry’s bag with the essentials and if we had any problems with checking in my bag, we could leave it to be delivered home another day. We did have to pay excess luggage on our flight from Bali to Lombok, however at 55c/kg it didn’t break the bank. It turned out that the seaplane wasn’t going to be delivering us back to the jungle after all, but rather a helicopter – and there were no weigh in issues at all. I was excited to go on my first helicopter flight, and it couldn’t have been a more scenic route! Upon arrival back to this lazy island that we call home, I immediately felt more at ease. The pace of life here at Sumbawa is much slower. Instead of hoards of taxis, scooters and cars there are herds of cows. No beeping horns, just the clanging of cow bells at they amble along beside the road. The air is cleaner, the views are uninterrupted and for the most part – the beauty of this island is unspoiled. We’ve both decided that we’re done with Bali for now, and if we do return there in the future it will be to a less known area where we can get to know the ‘real’ Bali. For now though, we’re staying put. Every trip away reminds us that there is no place like home – even if it’s just a little jungalow in a remote corner of the world!