Wahhabalinese Adventures 1: Bali

Ah, Bali. I’ve spent a lot of time working and traveling around in Indonesia, and the Island of the Gods is the one place I always seem to end up returning to. In fact, for this trip Plan A was go to Phuket, but there was no availability or remotely reasonable pricing at the JW Marriott. Plan B was the Marriott Hua Hin, but while the hotel was OK, getting there from Singapore is kinda painful. So we ended up with Plan C: award tickets on SQ and a dirt-cheap reservation (US$53/night, with breakfast for two!) at a great little place I’d stayed at twice before, Tony’s Villa.

Alas, this time returning to paradise was a bit disappointing. Kerobokan, long a bizarre mix of rural Bali (paddy fields and cows) with overflow from neighboring Seminyak (superhip bars, trendy shops, fancy restaurants) was booming, with half the establishments on the road to the beach new since my last visit less than two years ago and multi-story buildings noisily going up on both sides of once blissfully quiet Tony’s. Even Tony’s itself was looking a little worse for the wear, with no less than half a dozen cockroaches skittering about outdoor shower-bath area on the night we arrived. To their credit, the staff seemed genuinely concerned, and after a thorough extermination operation on the first night they didn’t come back. Presumably the villa hadn’t been used for a while, and the critters had found a nice place for a nest in the drains.

Fortunately it was pretty much uphill from there. We’d arrived during the Balinese festival of Galungan, so teetering penjor straw poles decked all the streets and temples like a Balinese Christmas. Hu’u, Ku de Ta and the usual cast of Petitenget Beach hotspots were rocking, and Z’s birthday dinner at Kafe Warisan was just stupendously good, way exceeding our expectations. Full review:

Both of us had already “done” the usual tourist spots, so we limited sightseeing to a visit to Tanah Lot: I’d been there before, but with a flat battery in my camera, so I wasn’t averse to a second trip. This time, too, it was a bit of a disappointment: Tanah Lot is ”really” commercialized, with a vast maze of souvenir hawkers to navigate before you can even get in, high entry fees, hordes of tour groups clambering on rocks in the temple grounds in miniskirts, etc. And to top it off, after two days of clear blue skies, the sky was now dark and predicting imminent rain, with coupled with the sun behind the famous island temple made photography pretty much impossible. Sigh.

Will I come back to Bali? Oh yes. But next time, it’ll be time to wave goodbye to the Seminyak scene and take at least a week off to go around the island.

Next flight: SQ 943 DPS-SIN C B777-200 seat 15D