We had about one more week left in Bali, and after leaving Ubud we headed to the town of Sanur on the Southeast coast. (Read about my previous adventures in Bali here and here if you haven’t already.) We rented a room at the Radha Homestay, which was located at the front of a family compound and behind their market space on the sidewalk. The room was small, but it was clean, modern and well-lit, and we had no complaints. We walked down the main street and sat at a small café which had seriously delicious sandwiches and carrot cake, but awful coffee drinks (serious bummer for me). After Renee and I had some lunch we headed down a narrow road lined with brick walls enclosing people’s houses, and we stopped to take pictures of the coral and seashells also cemented into the brick. The road soon opened up onto the beach, and the water was a calm blue with boulder lined piers jutting into the ocean. We walked along the beach, which was composed of half sand and half hard coral pieces, and we stopped to sit under a pagoda for a while to watch the sun set. That evening we walked across the street from our room to a restaurant with live music and a delicious looking seafood grill outside. We split the lobster and prawn dish, listened to the guitarist, enjoyed our meal and headed back to the room because we had an early morning the following day.
After eating a breakfast of fruit, coffee and little puffy pancake balls, we were picked up outside of our hotel and brought to the harbor where we caught a boat to Gili Air Island. After a three-hour ride of bumping along with the waves that left our butts sore for a day or two, we arrived at Gili Air and were met by D, the young guy running the bungalow. He flagged down a “Ferrari” (a horse-drawn cart — there are no cars or motorbikes on the island) and we rode for about ten minutes to the other side of the island, passing cattle grazing lazily in small green fields surrounded by towering palm trees. We turned down a dirt path and at the end of the lane was Kayun Bungalows. D showed us to our room and explained a little bit about the island and where we could find the beach and restaurants. He gave us each a bike with a basket on the front and then climbed up a nearby tree and chopped down two coconuts for us to drink. We were struck by how remote and small the island was, and when we went to the beach all of the restaurants were open air cabanas lining the shore. There were private covered huts along the beach where you could easily hold up and laze around for the entire day napping, eating, drinking and swimming. Most of the beach had piles of coral that had washed up, and the restaurant owners decorated their huts and cabanas with that coral, stringing it from large sticks in the sand and dangling it off of the thatched roofs. That evening we sat in a hut and watched the sun set and shared delicious Indonesian dishes of chicken curry and fried rice.
The next day we slept in and eventually made our way to one of the restaurants on the beach. If you are on Gili Air chances are you have absolutely nothing else to do but eat, swim and nap, so everything runs on island time (i.e., don’t be surprised if it takes an hour to get the sandwich you ordered). After eating our lunch and talking to D, who was helping his friend run the cabana, Renee and I jumped on our bikes and rode around the island. The first twenty minutes or so included me and Renee dragging our bikes through the sand and sweating profusely in the hot sun, but we eventually hit pavement and rode along the waterfront. We curved around into the center of the island and rode past locals’ houses, getting turned around a few times but also knowing that the island was way too small to actually get lost. By the time we had circled back around to our bungalow it had only been less than an hour ride — a testement to how tiny the island actually is.
That evening we ordered dinner and talked to D about his home in Lombok (an island in Indonesia close to Bali and the Gili Islands), and we eventually got to talking to two Australian women, who now live in Sanur, about the joys of living in Bali. Later, we noticed two foreign women in a hut cutting up papaya with a lot of other fresh ingredients surrounding them, and Renee, being the curious, friendly cook that she is, asked them what they were making. The one woman was from Australia and the other from Russia, and they were cooking a fish on the fire and preparing a papaya salad to go with it. We joined them in the hut and talked with them and their German boyfriends for the rest of the evening, exchanging travel stories and experiences, and we eventually hugged goodbye, thankful that we had met each other. The next morning we had breakfast at the same spot and waved to our new Russian and German friends as they splashed in the clear water. We loaded our stuff into a “Ferrari,” said goodbye to D and then spent a miserable three and a half hours on a cramped and sweltering hot boat back to Bali. The boat anchored on a black sand/mud beach in Sanur where we had to jump into knee-deep water and walk to the beach, then wait for our backpacks to be unloaded and carried to shore by the workers.
By the time we collapsed into a van that would take us to our hotel in Nusa Dua we were a gross combination of sweaty, dirty and wet, but we were happily surprised when we arrived at the Mercure Bali Nusa Dua. Nusa Dua is typically a popular honeymoon spot with many nice hotels, resorts and gated communities. Our last few days in Bali were spent at a lovely hotel with a breakfast buffet every morning, a large and beautiful infinity pool with covered beds next to the water, and walking around a large shopping center called the Bali Collection. There isn’t much to be said about cultural experiences in Nusa Dua, but if you’re looking for a place to relax and snuggle up with your honey, this is your place.
Traveling around and experiencing Bali was just what the doctor ordered after leaving Korea. The weather was hot and sunny, the people were kind, generous and just overall lovely, and the lush landscape of the island was a fresh change from the neon lights and concrete of the previous cities. I was, however, a bit disappointed with how touristy some places on the island had become. I had really been looking forward to going to Ubud, a place I believed to be more natural and traditional, but was disappointed to find crowded streets and Ralph Lauren Polo shops littered around the city. In the end, the best thing about Bali was the Balinese people and their everyday rituals for the Hindu religion. Every dish, every offering and every personal interaction had a beautiful grace and peace to it that I haven’t found anywhere else in the world.
That being said, it was time to move on to another adventure — and boy did our world get flipped upside down once we got to Vietnam. Stay tuned for more adventures in Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand!