Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Bali Retrospective.

I know it's been two weeks since I came back from Bali, and it seems a little weird to just now be writing about this, however, I have no excuses so just deal.  I think I am finally in a position to fully talk about my experiences in Bali.  It's not like they were bad, I just needed time to process my vacation.  I think the essential difference between this vacation, and so many of my other vacations was the intent with which I went.  My intentions were to relax and recharge.  Normally when I go traveling I plan on traveling hard.  I plan to see as much as possible in the least amount of time.  I plan on spending no more then 4 days in one place before I move onto the next.  This time, I spent 9 days in one place.  Not only that, but I spent those 9 days in a place where one of the primary things to do is sit around and relax.  However, I am only trying to give you all excuses for what seems like an out of the ordinary vacation experience for me. 

Enough of the time wasting, I guess I should get to the story.  Bali presented itself as a unique opportunity for me.  I had never before been to the Southern Hemisphere.  Not only that, but I've never traveled anywhere one could consider tropical.  Well, both of those things have changed now.  My friends and I arrived in Bali after a 7 hour flight from Seoul.  We arrived in Bali at 1 in the morning and proceeded to deal with obtaining our visas.  Most Southeast Asian countries require a full page visa to enter into the country, and Indonesia is no different.  Like most Southeast Asian countries, you can acquire this visa at the airport for the small price of 25 dollars.  After paying our fee to obtain our visa we waited in a rather long and warm line to get the visa placed into our passports and to be granted entry into the country.  This is where the adventure begins.  Tom and I had forgot/didn't know that the amendments pages at the back of our passport could not be used for visas.  I fully blame the Italian government for my misunderstanding because the airport in Palermo stamped the very last page of my passport which is for amendments.  However, being faced with the prospect of not being allowed into the country, our ever so nice immigration official informed us that for the small fee of 100,000 Indonesian Rupiah he would be willing to look the other way.  100,000 Rupiah roughly equals 11 dollars.  Now, myself being an upstanding citizen and world traveler was slightly taken aback at the thought of bribing my way into a country.  Well actually I wasn't, I was just surprised that in all of my travels this is the first time I've ever had to bribe an official.

With all of our bags collected and Tom and my bribes paid we walked out of the airport at 2:30 in the morning looking for our driver.  Our driver was standing outside for us and proceeded to drive us to our villa.  We arrived 45 minutes later and like the partial zombies we were randomly chose our rooms.  That night sleep came easily in my ridiculously awesome king sized bed.  The next morning we were treated to a welcome breakfast by our villa staff.  It was a simple meal, but after years of either no breakfasts or a quick breakfast, a simple continental breakfast was amazing.  After breakfast I decided that it was time for me to partake in one of my favorite vacation/summer activities.  I went for a swim in our private pool.  The plan for the day was simple: relax, do a little shopping, and then go to dinner.  The day was a success.  We went to a nearby supermarket to check on some things and managed to purchase some wonderful looking tropical fruit.  We purchased: mangoes, dragon fruit, durian, and several other interesting looking things.  When we returned I found myself back in the pool relaxing and spent the day swimming and reading.  For dinner we went down to the local beach and had a wonderful dinner. 

The fruit was the highlight of the day however.  Durian, for those that don't know is considered the king of fruits.  Either that or it's considered the most vile thing ever created.  I fall into the first category.  This fruit, while looking like something the cloud dude chucked at you in Mario Brothers, was awesome.  It did not smell bad, and the interior meat parts was a mix between custard and very ripe avocado.  It was simply wonderful.  I have to say that I was let down by the dragon fruit.  For something that is so colorful and awesome looking, it is rather bland tasting.  It tastes like a mix of banana and kiwi, but if you leeched all the flavor out.  It was ok, I was just expecting more.

The next day we started our sightseeing adventure with a trip to Tanah Lot temple.  This Hindu temple is located on rocks out in the ocean.  It is the most sacred sight in Bali and was epically beautiful.  The whole place was jet black volcanic rock and this temple was sitting on rocks jutting out of the ocean.  It's hard to describe the beauty of the area, luckily I have enough photos to do the hard work for me.  When we returned from visiting the temple we arrived with enough time for a quick soak in the pool before our massages arrived.  For ten dollars each we ordered our massages to our villa.  Well, all of us except for TC.  He decided to go run into Kuta to look for some things.  Our hour long massage was wonderful, and I could seriously get used to the Balinese style massage.  It is not so hard that it makes you squirm, but it is also not so soft you feel like you need another one.  After my massage at our villa my barber showed up to cut my hair.  I was rather shaggy and for 7 bucks I figured I'd let an Indonesian have a crack at my hair.  He couldn't do a worse job then the haircuts I get in Korea.  He honestly gave me the best haircut I've had since I left the states.  The only scary moment was when I realized that he was going to trim around my hairline and my ears by using a simple straight razor.  No, not the cool kind that barbers use, but the straight razors we use for opening boxes and stuff like that.  Talk about making you want to sit still. 

The next few days passed with several sight seeing/shopping trips around Bali.  We visited Ubud, which was about 1 1/2 hours away from our villa.  Ubud is known as the artists' colony of Bali, and it has honestly earned its reputation.  Everywhere you went were art galleries and shops selling artistic items.  There were also tons of shops and store which were selling tourist items, but hey, tourism is how Bali makes its money.  We came back to Ubud a second time to visit the Monkey Forest Sanctuary and to go to the nearby Elephant Safari park.  Ubud was a wonderful city, and if it were not so far away from the beaches and the waves then I would seriously consider staying there. 

On another one of the days TC, Nikki, Tom and I decided it was time to go get abused by the local waves.  Bali is known for surfing, and after fighting the waves where we went, I can see why.  We weren't even at a good surfing beach.  That however, didn't stop me from suffering the second worst wipe-out of my life while attempting to body surf.  Around noon the waves were breaking in should height water and were roughly 4-5 feet in size.  They were perfect for body boarding or body surfing, however, you couldn't get to them.  The reason you could not get to these waves was there was a secondary break at about stomach high water that took lots of effort to fight through.  It was really hard.  That afternoon as the tide went out, that secondary break became a knee high level break.  The water had retreated at least 100 yards.  While this made the primary break easily accessible, it also made it rather dangerous for those not used to being around waves.  The waves were still 4-5 feet, however now instead of being in relatively deep water, they were now coming in at waist height in sets of two.  You couldn't escape these things, and they dumped many people straight into the sand.  I was one of them, and while I was at no risk of drowning, it was still rather intense.  I saw one guy get dropped face first into the water from a height of about 7 feet.  My friend Tom also had this happen to him. 

On our last day of sight seeing we decided to go to another beach, however this one was known for snorkeling.  Sanur was a nice quiet little area that specialized in water sports that don't require or want waves.  Snorkeling, para-sailing, jet skis, wind surfing, etc.  We went there to snorkel.  Now, normally snorkeling would be lost on someone who is blind like me.  However, thanks to the wonderful refractive properties of both water and my mask, I could actually see quite well under the water.  There were fish everywhere, including a few things that I could not explain.  The puffer fish and clown fish were pretty awesome.  In all it was pretty great to go swimming around with the fishes.  It also serves as a nice reminder of just how magical the ocean can be.  With our time in the ocean coming to an end we went and visited a sea turtle sanctuary.  After lunch we decided to try and make our way to Uluwatu Temple to catch a Kecak dance.  Unfortunately the show was sold out when we got there.  We did however catch an absolutely stunning and wonderful sunset.  That and TC's glasses were stolen off of his face by a monkey which then proceeded to eat the soft plastic nose pieces.

Our last day found me laying around Nikki's mom's hotel room.  I had unfortunately fallen ill with a dreaded case of Bali Belly.  In simple terms I didn't want to be more then about 15 feet from a bathroom at any point and time.  I'll save you all the details, but that is part of the reason it took me so long to get this post up.  Our flight left Bali at 1 in the morning and we arrived in Korea at 9:30 in the morning.  After a bus ride which saw me spend most the time sleeping and praying my stomach would hold up I found myself back in my apartment.  August had arrived while I was gone, and I already missed the wonderful weather of Bali. 

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