Photo: Balinese Dancer
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Photo: Sunset over Seminyak
Ahhh – Bali – peace, quiet, simplicity, cultural, relaxation, great food – and the home of the $8 massage….perfect. Bali was going to offer me some new culture again which I was really excited to see. It was also going to offer me some time with my favorite Belgian – no, not a waffle – my girlfriend Veronique! Veronique and I met a few years back through a mutual friend (Angie) while traveling through France (that was a mouthful) and we have remained travel buddies ever since! It’s always great to have a well traveled Belgian who can speak multiple languages to travel with! She’s the only one crazy enough to fly for 20 hrs for a week vacation. Veronique currently lives in Geneva (a stop in my future Europe travels) – so I guess she’s a Swiss Belgian now – but any way you put it – she’s wonderful. We planned all of our Bali activities off the cuff – which made the process even more fun. We agreed to meet in the town of Ubud (the spiritual center of Bali) and figure out the rest from there, we were able to travel around the island from Ubud and then for the remainder of the week we headed to the beach in Seminyak. We had a wonderful time in Bali – and it left us both hungry for more – a good sign that you will visit that country again one day. There are so many things to share about this country and our experiences – every day we would come up with some new ideas around travel slogans for Bali that described our experiences. I’ve used some of them to group together some of our key experiences for the week – enjoy!
Bali – Who wants to be a millionaire?!
When I arrived in Bali I found an ATM in the airport – I did the standard withdrawal choice and my choices were to withdraw $100,000, $500,000 and $1,000,000! I did a double take and looked around for the conversion rates posted somewhere. The conversion rate was 8900 Rupiah to $1 USD. I quickly did the math in my head and decided to withdraw $1,000,000 Rupiah…I was a millionaire!!! I took my wade of 50,000 dollar bills and took a car to our hotel in Ubud – the Oka Wati Hotel – I felt like Donald Trump…yet my car was a beat up old Toyota with a seat belt that didn’t work and was in desparate need of an alignment. I was staying in the Oka Wati hotel in Ubud – it wasn’t Trump Plaza…but it was this adorable little place with an amazing garden, overlooking a rice paddy and a little pool, and some of the most charming employees that I’ve met so far in my travels.
As I awaited Veronique’s arrival the next day – I walked around Ubud and decided to treat myself to a spa treatment there. I had to see if these spa prices were for real. The brochures described 2 hours of various spa treatments for $15…how could I pass this up? For $15 I received one of the most relaxing, spa experiences of my life – massage, exfoliation, yogurt bath, and a big aromatherapy bath filled with fresh flowers. During the massage when I was supposed to be relaxing I kept on doing the math again in my head wondering if I had divided wrong and if this was really costing me $150 instead of $15 – after all – I’m not an expert at currency conversion yet and Bali was the land of multiple zeros. I paid my $115,000 for my 2 hours of bliss and marveled at the fact that for $115,000 in Australia – I could have only gotten one martini. I loved Bali immediately. Throughout the week we bought car service for $350,000, haggled over water prices for $2000, and enjoyed wine for $10,000 a glass. The only hazard to vacationing in the land of millionaires was that we kept on mixing up our bills. Have you ever quickly tried to tell the difference between $10,000 and $100,000 – it’s not easy! A few thousand dollars of wine and soon the zeros all start blending together! Everything about Bali was a bargain…I continued to have more spa appointments during the week for next to nothing. For a mere $850,000 I had 3 one hour long massages, 1 exfoliation/bath treatment, a facial, mani/pedi, and a head massage. I’m sure you have all thought that you could never get tired of massages…however – I have to say…I was on massage overload after a week of pampering!
Bali – Become one with the Ditties!
Bali was simple…it was about family, faith, and tourism. Our lovely hotel in Ubud was not a typical 100 room hotel, this was a 20 room lodge, with no frills but it was oozing with Bali art and culture. The Oka Wati room came with breakfast served on your little personal veranda each morning which included fruit, yogurt, eggs, and the thickest, best coffee I’ve had so far in my travels. The smell of Gusti bringing it to my veranda in the morning woke me up! Gusti was one of the guys who worked at the hotel and the favorite part of my day was to see him bringing me coffee every morning. He was the happiest person in the morning and would show up on my veranda with a big smile and a pot of thick sludge they called Balinese coffee. He would wish me a good morning and ask what I wanted for breakfast, then a few minutes later he would come back with the best breakfast I had ever tasted, full of spices and garlic and freshness. He made these amazing pancakes that were green from some leaf that Gusti brought from his compound. He showed us how he crushed it and added water to get the flavor and color that was added to the pancakes. He would sit on the veranda and I would pepper him with questions about Bali, the culture, Hinduism, traditions, marriage, family, food, and dance. It was my favorite part of my day – just sitting and talking to him in such a relaxing environment. The Oka Wati had a little marketing brochure that Veronique and I picked up one day. The front read “Welcome to Bali. The magical island paradise blessed with superb natural beauty and a dynamic culture dedicated to the ditties” We both scratched our heads in confusion as to what this word ditties meant. It was like a game to try to make sense of it. Eventually we realized that they were trying to translate the word deities – which somehow turned into ditties…priceless. The rest of our trip we were in constant search of the ditties.