I didn’t know much about Bali before we decided to come here, but The German was intrigued by a coworking refuge he read about and we had the chance to overlap with some friends from SF. People always speak about Bali as being a relaxing, spiritual place (except for Kuta, which is the party city filled with drunk Australians, apparently).
When we were in Melbourne, we overheard an Australian guy telling his friend how he met a healer in Bali who educated him on his past lives. He went on to gush about how he felt so enlightened about his current relations, as his past life was obviously influencing the way he interacted with people. What was his past life? I thought he said “tyrant”, but The German heard “pirate”. Either way, it certainly painted an interesting picture of what kinds of people we might encounter.
We planned to spend about 3 weeks in a couple different spots:
- Phase 1: playing tourists in Seminyak
- Phase 2: staying at a “coliving & coworking” refuge in Ubud
- Phase 3: rendezvous with our friends at a luxury hotel outside Ubud
Getting a flight from Melbourne was easy. There wasn’t a good option for using miles so we went with the cheapest possible ticket. JetStar is about as budget as they come – luggage is charged by the kg and no complimentary anything (if you want water, you can get it from the back yourself). The reviews online are overwhelmingly awful so we braced ourselves for long lines and a horrible 5.5 hour flight.
Despite it being low season in Bali, the Dreamliner was nearly full of Australians headed on holiday. Though the seats were quite cramped (easily the narrowest seats I have ever experienced), it was otherwise not as bad as we envisioned. So yet another reinforcement that it’s best to go in with low expectations (and a couple glasses of wine).
We made the mistake of not buying SIM cards in the airport. In hindsight, 12GB for $7 was more than reasonable, but our flight landed at 12:45am Melbourne time so we weren’t thinking clearly. Instead, we wound up bartering with some guy in a shop the next day who had to trim the SIMs using what looked like kiddie scissors. A few days later (with help from someone at the hotel) we discovered that mine was expiring in a few days (it was supposed to last for 30) and The German’s barely had any data on it. This is certainly not the most expensive mistake we’ve made, but next time we will be sure to buy them at the airport.
Our Hotel in Seminyak
I spend quite a bit of time researching where to stay to make sure we get the best value for our money. It’s a complex mix of Trip Advisor, Hotel Tonight, AirBnB and Expedia. The German often teases me about this, but it usually results in us getting an unusually funky pad/saving money.
Yet again, I have to sing the praises of Expedia (which I only started using at the beginning of this trip). They usually have the best prices on hotels, and we have used them enough that on rare occasions we get some extra perks. In this case, it was a complimentary upgrade at The Amala Hotel.
Our room was so large we thought they were touring us through the spa. Here is part of the outdoor bathroom:
The hotel only has 15 rooms (I think?) and since they will deliver breakfast to the room at no extra charge, we rarely saw anyone else.
The outdoor bathroom and tropical climate meant dealing with more bugs than I would have liked, but otherwise, our biggest problem was that the tree was constantly dropping leaves in the pool. (Life is so hard!)
I chose Seminyak as it seemed to be a popular destination and was close to the beach. Bali isn’t known for its beaches, but apparently the waves are good for water sports and Seminyak is a popular surfing spot.
The main roads had sidewalks (always a delightful surprise in southeast asia!) so it was pretty easy to walk around. Even though the shops looked very modern, there was some kind of shrine or temple every 3 or 4 buildings so it was an unusual mix of old and new.
The main streets had a lot of clothing shops (you can get a lot of clothing at a fraction of what it would cost in the US or Europe since it is made here) and a lot of places selling silver jewelry. Otherwise, it was restaurants, day spas, and tattoo shops.
While we did have one decent meal, overall the food wasn’t especially good. Labour is cheap and plentiful, but alcohol is heavily taxed and it seemed like getting nice produce was a challenge.
There were a lot of dogs wandering around, especially in the evenings. They don’t seem to be strays as they have collars, but they don’t obviously belong to anyone nearby. As I stopped to take a photo of a temple, a couple medium-sized dogs came running and barking (and not wagging their tails), so I decided to move along quickly. And then on the way back to the hotel, a little dog (kind of like a large chihuahua) came running up out of nowhere, bit me on the calf and then ran off again. (Thankfully, the skin wasn’t broken and I have had a rabies shot.)
So in other words, we weren’t exactly falling in love with Seminyak. That said, we really enjoyed lazing around our lovely room and having a fairly easy transition into this new country (SIM card experience notwithstanding). Though it is rainy season, the dramatic thunderstorms mostly happened at night so it was nice to watch the lightening from our mosquito-netted nest.
Yoga & Bali
Yoga is everywhere, and classes are very cheap. (Our hotel offered them for around $3.50 for 90 minutes.) The first class I took left me sore for days, which The German found so intriguing that he decided to accompany me to the next one. Neither of us are especially bendy, but it did feel good afterwards…. at least I thought so. The German kept claiming “everything hurts” and struggled with basic movements like sitting up.
I am not sure why yoga is so popular here, but I suspect it is related to the predominantly Hindu population. The island is full of temples and there are a staggering number of shrines.
They believe that pretty much everything has some kind of spirit in it, and there are many rituals designed to keep balance between the spirits, humans, and nature. For example, each shop or house places a daily offering of flowers and rice in a small palm leaf basket on the curb or doorstep. This is to thank the spirits for peace, and also an expression of gratitude that they have enough that they can afford to make this offering.
You see them everywhere. And while they start off as colorful adornments, they wind up strewn across the sidewalk or the side of the road. I suspect the wandering dogs also serve as a clean-up crew.
So while I think Seminyak was an easy transition into Indonesia, I am looking forward to Ubud which I think will feel very different, and am intrigued to see what this “coworking refuge” is all about…