So, after a couple of weeks in Sumatra, Niki and I parted ways with Rick and Monique and headed to Bali together. We enjoyed our day at the KL airport – I know it sounds silly, but after awhile of being looked at like a celebrity while out and about and using filthy toilets and staying in beds that sometimes smell like the BO of an old Indian man, it’s so nice to walk into a bathroom (in the airport) and see seat sanitizer, toilet paper [gasp!], and soap at the sink. We reveled in our day, each spending copious amounts of time on the internet, browsing the duty free shop and gorging on western food (a tunafish sandwich!!). I guess our gorging on western comforts was a little unnecessary, as Bali is entirely different from Sumatra.
In Sumatra, people would come up to us, push their child towards us, in hopes that we would acknowledge them and say hello. When we passed a car on the road, or children in town, they’d point to their friends, or parents and get all excited that they saw a foreigner. Once, we were in a “taxi” and our driver kept honking to everyone saying that he had 4 foreigners – he had to show this off to everyone he knew. Compare that to Bali, where our plane was full of foreigners, mostly white 20-somethings heading for some fun in the sun in Bali. Upon arriving in Bali, the locals were absolutely shell-shocked at the Indonesia that we can now speak. Bear in mind my conversational ability is limited to “Nama saya Erin. Saya dari America. Apa kapar?” (My name is Erin. I’m from America. How are you?).
The other big shock was driving along the road to get to Kuta Beach, where all the backpackers and surfers frequent. It felt like everything I didn’t like about Cancun – western restaurants and shops. There was a Chi-Chi’s for crying out loud! I mean, why would anyone go to that restaurant in the states, let alone Bali? Well, we finally made it to the backpacker alleys where our “trusty” Lonely Planet promised us $4 rooms. As you can imagine, we were shocked to find out that after over 30 minutes of walking and numerous full places, that we had to pay $12. It’s ridiculously expensive, especially compared to what we were paying. The next day, we got up and found a place for $7.50 per night. At least our new place is just a stone’s throw from the beach, although our bathroom leaves much to be desired. It’s still expensive, but it is Bali.
We’ve been taking it easy while in Bali. Niki had an insect bite (we think) that got infected, so she’s had to endure going to the doctor everyday and having him squeeze pus out of it – basically it’s really painful, but she can’t go in the water. It’s ok, b/c it’s really easy here to lose track of time and have a lazy start to the day and then the next thing you know, its dinner time. Yesterday, we did rent motorbikes and went to Uluwatu, a beach south of here where the waves are just enormous! It was really fun watching the surfers catch great waves and do barrel rolls (see, I’m learning the lingo!). We incidentally had a proper introduction to the Bali nightlife, by staying out ‘til 7am on our first real night out.
Bali has been a welcomed, if more expensive, change of pace from Sumatra (which I absolutely loved). We did, however, eat one of the best meals of my trip in Bali the other night – for $4, we had mahi mahi with a creamy pesto sauce, sautéed pumpkin, pasta and a mixed drink. Such a great deal and honestly, such a great dinner.
After a few days in Kuta Beach, we decided to head for the hills (literally) and are now in Ubud. Ubud is the epicenter of Balinese culture and art. If you’ve read the book “Eat, Pray, Love” it’s where the author ends up staying here permanently, I do believe. I’ll update more in a bit.