When I went to Bali, I…
Met an Aussie couple in the check-in queue: shocked at my solo trip to Bali and heading on their honeymoon, they took me under their wing and treated me to a guest stint in the Qantas lounge & a list of “must do’s”.
Finished my holiday-starting-chick-lit book before the plane had even flown over the Australian coast.
Kept my head down & avoided eye contact with the airport “porters” at Denpasar.
Grabbed a visa, grabbed my bag & walked headfirst into the wall of humid heat.
Did a little inside dance when I saw my name on a sign, held high in the crowd of drivers.
Hit the road to Ubud with my driver Made (a second born). The first of many Made’s on my travels…
Tried to think zen and grit my teeth through my first experience of Balinese traffic. In the dark. Going up a mountain.
Quickly learnt that it’s every man for himself on the road. It might be chaos, but it’s sort of organised. Even the street dogs are in on it.
Arrived at the Honeymoon Guesthouse (don’t laugh…) right on midnight & was escorted quietly to my room.
Exhaled deeply into the silence. Relax.
Thought that roosters were only meant to crow at the dawn. Not in the middle of the night…
Awoke to that holiday feeling.
Enjoyed my first Balinese breakfast of Nasi Campur.
Took up residence beside the pool, with a pile of magazines and a big hat.
Quickly realised that there’s a small circle, right in the centre of your back, that cannot be reached when one is applying one’s own sun cream.
Laughed hard at the comedy of my sun cream dance.
Headed into “downtown” Ubud for some lunch and my first Bintang.
Walked smack bang into Mr Big from Sex and the City (a.k.a. Chris Noth).
Grabbed a bicep to steady myself. His bicep. Swoon.
Realised that though the need to look at your feet when walking (to avoid sink holes in the pavement) might mean I miss the view, it does at least mean sometimes you walk smack bang into hot celebrities. A different kind of view…
Quickly realised that I am not cut out for the bartering of Balinese shopping.
Slowly realised that I’m as naïve as they come and totally got suckered into a “hand made” item, that I then saw in every subsequent shop in town…
Hid myself in my mosquito-netted, four-posted, air-conditioned bed for an afternoon nap. Bliss.
Took in some Balinese dancing, while eating fried bananas beside a lotus pond.
Enjoyed a breakfast of Pandan Crepes and Palm Sugar Syrup. Divine.
Headed off to the Casa Luna Cooking School, jumping out of my skin with excitement.
Set off for a tour of the Ubud market, with the smile-iest man in Bali as our guide.
Onions. In bulk.
A big basket of turmeric. Who knew this was that it looked like before it went into a jar?!
So excited (and hot), I had to buy a fan.
The Balinese BBQ.
Chilli. Green. Lots.
Chilli. Red. Lots.
Duck eggs. Beautiful blue.
The colours of Bali.
Making the daily offerings.
Superwomen carrying bags of rice on their head.
On our way out.
Stomped back to the cooking school and sipped on iced red hibiscus tea, popped on an apron and got ready to cook.
Marvelled at the 200 year old, volcanic rock, 20 kilogram pestle & mortars we used to grind curry pastes and chilli sambals.
Inhaled the delicious smells of lemongrass & ginger, coughed and cried as we fried chilli and felt no guilt eating chunks of palm sugar.
Learned the most important thing in Balinese cooking is to find the right combination of sweet, sour, salty, spicy.
Ate a cooked-by-our-own-hands-feast fit for a hungry Aussie traveller, at a long table with other hungry food lovers.
Took advantage of Happy Hour and enjoyed a cocktail to cool off.
Started day three with a hit of Balinese (unfiltered) coffee.
Enjoyed a second day of cooking at Casa Luna, with more amazing food and incredible Balinese smiles.
Visited the Ubud Palace. What a door bell!!
Finally ate the one dish I absolutely had to try. Black rice pudding. I was not disappointed.
Spent an early morning walking through the rice fields.
Realised that I only made myself appear more of a tourist every time I moved out of the way for a motorbike, so just stood my ground and let them go round me.
Went all tourist and took about 100 photos in half an hour. Every grain of rice is different after all…
Arrived at my destination – an organic café in the middle of the rice paddies – and soaked up the serenity with a rosella iced tea.
Watched as my lunch (suckling pig) arrived on a man’s head, on the back of a motorbike…
Jumped in the car with Made (a different one) and sped down the mountain, towards the beach.
Arrived in Seminyak and headed straight for the sunset. And a Bintang.
Cringed at the intense security at all Seminyak tourist hot spots. I know why it’s there, but for some reason it almost makes you more scared.
Cringed even deeper at the Balinese taxi driver who kept talking about Australians loving “jiggy-jig”. Just drive Made (yes, another one).
Spent an entire eight hours by the pool, reading Shantaram. Dipping in and out. Of pool. Of book. Of life.
Discovered the wonderful Bali Deli and treated myself to a “floor picnic” in my hotel room – cheese, biccies, Bintang and CNN.
Got a secret thrill every time the young man at hotel reception called me “Miss Lizzie”!
Explored the Seminyak shopping strip and “invested” in $1 DVDs.
Spent my final night in Bali watching the sun set over the beach and drinking lychee cocktails.
Spent a few last hours lounging by the pool before heading to the airport and home to reality.
PS – not only was Bali a chance for me to relax, read, rest and restore, to learn to cook traditional Balinese food and enjoy the power of my own company, but it was the chance to cross two items of my 30B430 list.
PPS – with exactly a month to go before said milestone, I have tallied up my efforts so far and am slightly disappointed to report that I am sitting just below the half way mark. With time running out, I am making a concerted effort to scramble. My aim was always to complete at least 50% and I would love to get to 17. Fingers crossed. The countdown is on…