Friday, May 10, 2013

Hi, Bali. Hi.

We left our hotel very early to catch the 7:10 flight to Bali; like our other flights throughout SE Asia, it looked like it was surely going to be late, didn't seem like there was even a plane to board, but then all at once everyone was lined up and boarding and the plane took off exactly on time. It's so funny the way it works, a quick dash. While we were waiting at the airport, Marc went to get me some coffee and came back with a quick-improvised to-go cup. He said the person at the coffee shop didn't have such a thing, and when he explained it the guy smiled and put together something that would work: a plastic cup wrapped in a paper napkin, then slid inside another plastic cup. It worked, and it was so typical of the Javanese people we met: an easygoing willingness to help.

The flight from Java to Bali takes just about an hour, and the scenery is stunning. Western Bali is so mountainous and forested, and the clouds collect around the mountaintops. We saw puffs of smoke coming out of one -- clearly a volcano. As we started making our descent, we saw no land underneath us, and we were so close to the water for a second I thought we were making a water landing of some kind, and then all at once there was the runway. LaGuardia is like that too, but this was so dramatic.

isn't that gorgeous? western Bali
The drive from Denpasar (the capital of Bali) to Ubud takes about 45 minutes, though it took us much longer because of heavy traffic. The airport is under renovation; they are building a giant new terminal to handle all the tourists, I guess, and there were major new roads being constructed in Denpasar. Tourism in Bali is thriving. In fact, that's the reason we weren't too keen to come here. But what a mistake we would've made, to miss Bali. There certainly are places that are thick with tourists, and undoubtedly some of the big places on the southern coast are party central. But Bali is so special, there's just a different feeling in the air even at the airport. It's lush, it's kind of mysterious, it's living inside art. Stone carvings, wood carvings, ikat and batik, every surface embellished and decorated, even the decorations are decorated.

Our hotel, Alam Jiwa, is far and away the most amazing place we have ever stayed. Ever. Out of everywhere we have visited in the world, out of the wonderfully sweet places we've stayed, this beats them all. And our room is only $85/night, and it includes a giant breakfast, afternoon tea, and free taxi service anywhere we wish to go, any time we wish to go. The welcome drink was a delicious smoothie of fresh tropical fruit, easily the best we've ever had. And now, our room. We walk through a wonderful gate, down some stairs, past drooping flowers, over fish ponds, to our giant double doors. Inside, an enormous room, a giant bathroom and a beautiful veranda hanging over a rushing stream, and facing a rice field.

that's the gate we walk through to come down to our little place
These little arrangements of fresh flowers are everywhere -- three in our room
afternoon tea: ginger tea and chocolate cake
beautiful flowers EVERYWHERE

and beautiful vegetation
water is an important part of the landscape
bougainvillea everywhere
the pool

When we arrived, we had a reservation for two nights only. We'd decided to come here and then figure out the rest of our 9-day Bali stay, but after seeing the place we just wanted to stay here the whole time. The hotel owner has a few other properties, all just like this one, including one on a nearby island where the snorkeling is supposed to be good. So we went to the reception desk to see if we could extend our reservation here and book on the little nearby island. WELL.

The man we spoke to was older, in traditional dress with a head wrap and kamben (erroneously called a sarong), and when we explained what he wanted he pulled out a giant and complicated booking log and figured it all out for us. We'll be going to Gili Trawangen in a few days, then returning to Ubud. When we come back, we'll be staying at a different of their properties, and he got this little twinkle in his eye when we asked if it was just as good as this place. He said the people are not nice there, and we took a second to realize he was teasing -- the other place is the original property, and the rooms are smaller. But he said we can just sleep there, just leave our bodies there and keep our spirits and souls here. Come here to swim, to eat, to spend the day, and just sleep there. He was adorable, laughing easily but so smart and quick. When we were leaving for dinner, he was sitting on the steps playing a harmonica. He told Marc that people at a nearby property heard him playing Oh Susannah and ran over to him and gave him $100 to buy a new and better harmonica, because his was from China.

For dinner we got a reservation at the Melting Wok Warung -- apparently a difficult thing to score, especially after 6pm. The driver dropped us off at the steps of the restaurant, which belongs to a Lao man from Vientiane and his French wife. The food was incredible. I had a Thai chicken salad and Marc had prawns, basil and noodles, and our dishes were spicy and complex and some of the best food either of us has ever had. We got desserts too -- creme caramel with coconut sauce for me, and coconut cream crepe with brown sugar for Marc. Amazing. Then they called the hotel for us, and the car picked us up.

Marc's dinner
my dinner
Breakfast on our veranda this morning . . . how many more ways can I say amazing? Two men delivered breakfast to our room, carrying two giant trays of food. Banana crepes (mine with lemon and honey, Marc's with coconut and brown sugar), fresh fruit, dark Balinese coffee, croissants, the sound of the river below and a breeze drifting through the flowers and trees all around us. We have landed in paradise and never want to leave.

banana crepe with lemons and honey and cinnamon
banana crepe with coconut and cinnamon
Today we're exploring Ubud, though the sky is dark and heavy with big black clouds. We are so glad we accidentally came to Bali. And the best part, for me, is that I get it. I understand Bali.


  1. This post makes me want to hop on a plane and be in Bali. Immediately! I am so glad you have found a place you "get." And I love that along with everything else you have described they serve afternoon tea. Yes, it sounds like paradise.

  2. Yes! Hop right on a plane and come to Bali, and stay at this beautiful place. The afternoon tea is wonderful -- today it was lemon cake and ginger tea. So delicious. :)

  3. I love hearing how happy you are and how it all worked out!! The place sounds AMAZING! SO SO happy you understand Bali now. It sounds like this place is exactly what you both need. I want to jump on a plane to Bali too! We just made reservations for a long weekend right after July 4th in Asheville at the B&B we stayed in last year. It's not Bali but I'm still excited :)

    1. Getting away is wonderful, wherever you're going! Asheville is so beautiful. I hope y'all have as wonderful a time as we are having. xo


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