Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bali is Adorable

Bali is adorable. As long as you stay away from the beach. Most people who visit Bali book a beach holiday in Kuta. They hang around the pool and drink cocktails, listening to bad renditions of "Raindrops Keep Failling on My Head" and "My Heart Will Go On" droning from the speakers in the bar. They do this because the "promenade" in Kuta is not that interesting and in some places downright dirty.

The main street in Kuta is indescribably jammed with cars and motorcycles and tourists dodging the cars and motorcycles. There are security guards at the larger hotels and restaurants who try to help cars out into the madness, but pedestrians are largely left to their own courage and speed getting across the street.

The last time we were in Kuta, a downpour turned this street into a river about a foot deep. This time there were no flash floods, but there were puddles to maneuver. And of course my toe was a concern. I wasn't supposed to get it wet--and certainly not with the filthy water on the streets in Kuta. Despite the care I took in keeping my foot out of these puddles, a teenager managed to splash me when he jumped over a puddle in front of me. My toe has not fallen off yet, so I think I'm good.

The Mansion Resort, Hotel and Spa
If you travel to Bali, stay near Ubud in The Mansion. You'll be thrilled you did. You'll also be thrilled if you get the great price we got. It was low season (January), and it was pouring down rain when we arrived late in the evening. The hotel staff, though, received us like visiting royalty. And like the Royal Pains in the Asses we are, we asked them to open up the kitchen for us so that we could eat something after our long journey. It had been a long trip from Phuket with an unexpected 6-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur. They obliged. Six people waited on us. Terima Kasih, guys! Sweet people.

The fog in the background is a daily mosquito smoking. Much Welcomed.

The grounds are dappled with sculptures and meticulously groomed gardens and fountains.

The semi-private jacuzzi right outside our rooms.

By the time we finished our late-night snack, it had stopped raining. Our rooms were down a path and through one of the many doors that Hindus believe keeps evil spirits out of homes. I found the threshold quite easy to step over, which must mean I'm a good spirit. The rooms are dreamily appointed, and there was a jacuzzi right outside our rooms. I wasn't able to enjoy this, of course, due to my toe, but Ingo the Mackerel Egg Museum Curator loved it, said he felt "alive" after a dip.

"Did you feel 'dead' before?" I asked him.

"It's just an expression," he replied.

"After a dip in a hot tub I sometimes feel 'loose' or 'peaceful' or 'focused,'" I suggested.

"I felt 'alive'," he said.

"Still sounds too general to me," I said, "like it goes without saying, you know?" But Ingo the Mackerel Egg Museum Curator wasn't having any editing.

The next day, because my toe was still a concern, I stayed at The Mansion while my traveling companions took the hotel's free shuttle into Ubud, the cultural center of Bali. Ubud is a small town by any measure. There are only a few shopping streets, but the shops are well worth braving the narrow, dilapidated sidewalks. If you are an art lover, you'll find yourself spending hours poring over paintings and sculptures. If you love Starbucks, you'll be fascinated by the most beautiful Starbucks in the world. I see some of you Starbucks haters rolling your eyes, but this is one Starbucks you just have to see and appreciate.

My favorite Starbucks, Ubud

This is right outside the doors of my favorite Starbucks.

The building on the left is the Starbucks with outdoor seating there to the left--and this is your view!

 If you travel to Bali and you stay in Ubud, you also have to hire a driver and explore the island. It will cost around 20 dollars for the entire day. Our driver, Ketut, was quite helpful and informative. He's the fourth child in his family, which you know by his name. He also told us what the flower offerings mean and how often the Balinese harvest rice, and lots of other things. Great guy, Ketut.

These ladies were so sweet and gracious to let us take pictures of them drying rice.

If you tavel to Bali, stay in Ubud and explore the island with a driver for 20 dollars, you'll come in contact with more of the Balinese culture than if you stay in your hotel in Kuta listening to "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" looping and looping and looping. They never change the CD. But you will also come in contact with some very persistent peddlers and beggars. Say NO, don't take anything they try to put in your hand, and keep walking. If you really want the Bali t-shirt they're foisting upon you, offer to pay a third of what they're asking. These t-shirts are crap. They're going to fade the nanosecond you wash them. The I LOVE BALI on the front won't be visible at all. I know. Ingo the Mackerel Egg Museum Curator bought three of them. He never learns.

Next time I'm going to tell you about my first acupressure treatment. It's going to be painful.

To continue with I Must Be Off! A-Z, go to C is for Canada.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of the absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O'Type, available from Amazon.anything.