After spending the past two weeks exploring paradise on the Indonesian island of Bali, today I am greeting you from Bangkok, Thailand; where we arrived yesterday via one night in Indonesia’s capital city of Jakarta, in which Ben and I finally enjoyed a night in air conditioning at his parents condo. While the past couple of weeks has been a fun filled vacation, it wasn’t easy to get here . . .
Thursday May 22 I departed from Freycinet Lodge with tears in my eyes, yet a grin on my face in anticipation of a gentleman patiently waiting for me in Bali, rightly assuming I am en-route, though only slightly sure of my whereabouts through re-routed messages via my only consistent form of communication, my mother. The past few weeks in Tasmania, since I last wrote were absolutely amazing with a continuation of the usual nights of wine, poker, or gossip and more often then not a combination of the three; and of course, the occasional splendid adventures Tasmania has to offer. The Sunday before I left, the General Managers of the Lodge King and Suzanne Santiago, aka ‘The Big Bosses,’ invited Rodrigo from Chile and I on an amazing boat cruise 30 minutes across the bay to the France to Freycinet festival at the town of Swansee, as a fair-well thank-you to us for our work at the lodge over the previous three months. Though a wonderful morning and drunk afternoon, the highlight of the day was later that evening. A few days before I somehow charmed the head chef Konrad of the four and a half star lodge’s fine dining restaurant to let me, that waitress from Tennessee, spend my last evening off working for free in pastry, with his assistance, doing dessert prep and assembly of restaurant orders. Like a little kid in a candy shop, wearing former 6’4″ pastry chef Laura’s giddy-up and a slight buzz from the earlier festival, I embraced the role whole-heartedly and must admit it was by far one of my top five nights at the Lodge. We begun by making the dessert special of the night, a lemon tart with raspberry coulis and creme fraiche; followed by making the chocolate fondant and hot fudge sauce, both of which I gladly licked the spoon; and then reviewed how to assembly all the desserts on the menu before service began. Not long into the night I was dangerously left alone once I got the knack of pastry construction (swirls of sauces on the plate, cutting strawberries into flowers, etc), and as things got slow, embarked on a mission to sample every flavor of the gourmet ice creams and sorbets we have to offer. Twenty flavors later, most sampled at least twice to ensure my rankings were properly tested, I decided that macadamia, spiced apple with blackberry, and cherry coconut awarded the grand prizes.
While I SHOULD have arrived in Asia on Tuesday May 27th after relaxing four days in Brisbane, Australia. . . . . unfortunately my blonde roots invaded my global success; therefore three airports and two cities later I found myself not in Indonesia but once again in Sydney, New South Wales eagerly anticipating redemption after my missed international flight that morning instigated both a forfeit of two more tickets AND purchases of three more tickets. Embarrassingly, I confess full responsibility for my unfashionable and expensive juggling of the six plane tickets, but cannot help but highly question Air Asia’s assumption that I should know the difference between Brisbane International Airport and the Gold Coast Airport; though, before I attempt to make anymore excuses for waiting at the incorrect airport over 110 kilometers in the wrong direction, I think I will stop before I jinx myself from missing anymore international flights considering I have over eight more already booked.
Once I was finally in Bali, Ben picked me up from the airport and we headed off to Seminyak, a nearby area to the famous Kuta beach, where we gladly embraced free accommodation at the amazing open air villa of Ben’s childhood friend Woody. For two days/nights, we explored all the shopping (both designer and bargaining) had to offer, while dodging never ending hagglers whom begin to blend into one another after EVERY one asked, ‘Honeymoooon?! Special price for you!!’ Ben, much to my hesitation, rented a motorbike for the entire two weeks in Bali, but as it turned out ended up being a very convenient form of transportation to help hop from villa to beach to shop to eat and to anywhere else we desired. Other activities in Seminyak included surfing (Ben); tanning (me); and hanging out with Woody, his roommate Marco, and a visiting friend Chris, who managed to get bit by a dog, burned by a motorcycle, and punched by an Indonesian all in one night, ruining the game he thought he had.
On our third day in Bali we headed more inland to the city of Ubud for five days. If we thought we were in paradise before, we discovered even more in this quaint city of art galleries, handmade Balinese lace, Naughty Nuri’s nitty-gritty barbeque ribs, and especially at Gusti Garden Bungalows. Our first full day we took a guided half day bike tour along back roads through temples and villages; the second day we spent whitewater rafting through rice paddies and waterfalls with a crazy Indonesian that never stopped chanting, ‘ U-S-A’; our last two days getting lost walking among the rice paddies intent on breaking in our hiking boots for Nepal, but spending more time at the secluded organic restaurant we discovered amidst the farms; and somewhere in-between, my favorite experience so far, climbing the Volcano of Mount Batur where we ‘learn to cook egg on steaming fissure’ (directed brochure quote). At 2:30 am on our 4th night, a driver arrived to take us to the Volcano, where we begin our trek at 4 am to reach sunrise by 6:30, but seeing as our guide Wayan said we were ‘STRONG,’ we reached the sunrise point by 5 am, around the time Wayan also decided that we were going to do the ‘LONG’ trip. Guessing the new route entailed only a 20 minute more hike to the highest point followed by a complete loop around the crater, we soon discovered how wrong we were after Wayan penciled in the sand with his finger the nearby second crater we were also en-route to explore. The entire experience ended up being both a bit of a challenge and absolutely breathtaking, while also including literal surfing through ash on a few downhill slopes. From the top of the Volcano, you can see all the way to the nearby islands of Java and Lombok.
Amidst spending more days in Seminyak at Woody’s and me finally getting a case of ‘Bali Belly,’ Ben and I spent a few days on the small island of Nusa Lembongan. Even though the arrival of our ferry to the island was greeted by the Scooby Doo Cafe playing a James Blunt album on repeat, our bungalow on Dream Beach turned out to be a couple’s heaven for a splurge of $30 a night. Other random Bali tidbits and stories include endless mosquito bites; teaching Ben how to shop for jewelry, walk at my pace, and spot vintage clothing; loosing my eye glasses at beach, hello contacts; Ben getting stabbed by a sea urchin while windsurfing but feeling better after buying a white tank that reads ‘Jiggy-Jig’; me going crazy with a smart boyfriend that lacks any trace of a sense of direction; laughing at almost all signs, brochures, and menus due to their constant English miss-spellings; and best of all, the one brochure advertising rice paddy walking that actually had a line reading: ‘Maybe a farmer taking care of his cows will offer us a young coconut and you may wish to go to the Sangsan river to sample the holy water.’ I still can’t stop laughing at that line. =)
Alright, hope my account to Bali wasn’t terribly boring, and I strongly encourage a visit there if you get the chance. Though the food is only so-so, Bali is cheap, beautiful, and fun.