A trip to Bali

It’s been several months since we went to Bali, but I’m finally getting around to writing about our holiday. I’m going to back date this series of posts to March so they appear in chronological order.

This year was Ilona’s 30th birthday, and to celebrate she organised a gathering in Bali. This was quite central because she was working in East Timor, and had friends in various other countries in the area.  She had planned two nights in a villa in Canggu.  To make the most of the trip there, Ron and I decided to spend 7 nights in total. We had three nights in Ubud and two in Seminyak just the two of us, and then two nights in Canggu with Ilona and her friends.

We flew out of Melbourne on Saturday morning. It was only a 6 hour flight, and we arrived in Denpasar mid-afternoon. We spent the first three nights in Ubud, staying in the Mekar Sari villas which we found on AirBnb. Our host was waiting for us at the airport when we arrived, so we quickly purchased a SIM card, Ron took out some cash from the ATM (and almost left his card behind!) then we were on the road heading to Ubud. I was really excited to be back in Bali, the smells and sounds bringing back memories from previous trips, and glad to be having an overseas holiday with Ron.

Ubud is a little way out from Denpasar, and we were driving for about an hour and a half to get there. The traffic wasn’t too bad, but the roads were windy and often narrow which slowed us down. We arrived at the villas to find a group of men doing some construction. There was a small group of people watching on from the shade of a building.  We learned later that the villas had been there for some time, but they were still building a restaurant and also planned to open a spa. It was interesting over the few days we were there to watch their progress, from manually attaching a massive transformer on a power pole and running mains cables to cementing a pond and water feature which was filled with water by the end of our stay.

Our private pool overlooking the jungle

We were greeted with a welcome drink and shown to our villa which was beautiful. We had a large, private outdoor area with a pool and covered dining table which looked out over the jungle below. There was a constant sound of rushing water with a river flowing down between the gully. The room was large with a very high ceiling, and a separate bathroom complete with bathtub and a really big shower.

Having not eaten since the flight, we were keen to find some food.  Being formal accommodation, there was a reception which was manned during the days and a driver on site to take us in to town when we needed. His services were free during the day, or he could take us into town for a small fee after hours. We found, however, that if we were wanting to get back to the accommodation it was generally easier and similarly priced to get a taxi instead. Still, we made good use of the free rides during the day.  As we made our way towards the carpark, our host called out, keen to organise a ride for us.  But having only just arrived, we decided to go locally and see what we could find.  We found a restaurant only a short walk from the villa and enjoyed an iced coffee, nasi goreng and mi goreng.

Nasi goreng and mi goreng for lunch

Hot from the short walk and humid weather, we grab some drinks from a local store then went back to the villa for a dip in the pool.

During the drive from the airport, our host told us that we had come at a good time because there would be special dances to celebrate the full moon. Excited, we made plans to go to the Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA) to see the kecak dance. They have different dances on other evenings, but this particular dance only features on new and full moons. We took a free ride into town with the villa driver who dropped us at ARMA, purchased our tickets and then wandered around the gardens while we waited for the dance to begin. It was quite damp and we were worried about mozzies so we were both covered in insect repellant. Fortunately there were lots of torches burning in the gardens, providing light but also helping to ward off insects.

There was a little while before the dance was due to start, so we spent some time walking around.  A paved path wound through the gardens and around small buildings, lit by the smoking torches with statues scattered throughout. There was also a large room displaying some Balinese paintings and providing some information about the history of the place.

Exploring the gardens at ARMA

Nearing dance time, we made our way back wanting to get good seats.  There were several rows of rickety plastic chairs set out in front of a stone stage. There were insect coils burning under some of the chairs, so we positioned ourselves on top of one.  Before long several larger groups arrived and the seats filled quickly, then the dance began.

The story of the dance is apparently based on a ritual Balinese trance dance, with no musical instruments but instead the large group of male performers create an interesting chorus with their voices, constantly chanting kecak, kecak, kecak with echoing responses. The men were dancing around with flaming torches, and towards the end of the performance they were even kicking a flaming coconut across the stage! It was quite spectacular, although at times it looked like the coconut might come flying at the audience! It was an interesting dance, and we were glad to have seen it.

Once the performance was over we made our way back to the carpark where there had been several taxis parked when we arrived. Unfortunately it was too late now, and they had all left! Ready for dinner, we walked along the main road until we found a nice looking restaurant. Dinner was really good, but we were then faced with the problem of getting home. We had the phone number of the villa to call for the driver, but the SIM card I purchased only had data so we weren’t able to make a phone call. The restaurant let us borrow their phone, and when the man at the villa couldn’t understand where to collect us (he was confused that we weren’t still at ARMA) the friendly waitress explained to him where we were. It took almost half an hour for the driver to arrive, so after that night we decided we would just take a taxi home next time to save having to wait.

It was around 10pm by the time we were back at the villa. We had been up since just before 7am Melbourne time, so we were well and truly ready for bed by then, keen to catch up on some sleep in preparation for adventures the next day.

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