Sunday, January 11, 2009
I just spent the past 3 weeks in Bali, Indonesia. It had to be one of the most relaxing times of my life. It's hard to start writing about a place like this. Especially when you travel alone. But, the best thing about traveling solo is the PEOPLE. I get to meet some new and special people from all over the world. Iian & Jody or Julia or Kylie and I can't forget Dave and Nat and Gabrio and Irena. I spent a lot of time with these people at Bali Ayu Hotel. And of course I would never forget my great friends The Schwartz Family.
I guess I start at the beginning and go where my mind leads me. I left Tokyo for Denpasar, the capital of Bali. The day before I left I hadn't yet booked any rooms. I figured I would live the adventurous life of traveling without plans. Turned out to be the best way. However, after a night out and thinking I might need a place when I arrived at midnight I decided to book a room the night before and I was lucky enough to find Bali Ayu Hotel. I arrive at midnight after a nice 6 and a half hour flight all rested and ready for my first night in Bali. Luckily, I am one of those people who can fall asleep anywhere in any position on a plane, train or pretty much anyplace. Getting into Indonesia is relatively easy. Pay 25$ dollars for entry fee and then that's it. NO bag checks, NO search, Nothing. Just come on in and enjoy yourself. But, it's Bali and not Jakarta so things are more laid back. Walk out of the airport ignore the sign overhead about hangings and negotiate the price for a ride to my hotel and finally agree with the second guy who offered to take me there for only 80,000 Rupiah. Don't pay more than 100,000 if you go. Twenty-five minutes later on empty Balinese road that reminded me of Poland's finely constructed roads with narrow lanes and pot-holes the size of bathtubs. There I was about to walk into my room at 1:30 am.
My hotel room was amazing. High pitched ceilings with beautiful carvings. One of the best rooms I have ever been in. Room rates run you anywhere from 450,000 Rupiah to 270,000 Rupiah. Oh yeah that is right! Wait, you need the exchange rate. 10,000 Rupiah is equal to 1 US Dollar. So, do the math. I hope you can do it, Kevin. I know your are as smart as a sack of hammers. Make sure when you go to any place you negotiate the price of anything. You can get a better deal and they are willing to drop quite a bit. But, after while you get tired of haggling for one or two dollars. It is really not worth it and your vacation will take a change when you realize the money doesn't matter when it is small amounts. Plus, the workers make nothing there and if you can get a little extra they are happy. Well, at least that is how I feel about it. You can save all you want if you choose to do it but honestly you feel like a tightwad after a while.
I wandered around the village of Seminyak on a scooter I got for a nice price. I had this super cool red and black helmet that made me look real tough. Especially with my cheap glasses and flip-flops. The following morning I get up nice and early to a good breakfast and a nice talk with the locals at Bali Ayu. Jeremy, and Made pronounced (Ma-day) were very helpful and so was Abraham. Abe drove me all around to get a scooter and to look for hotel rooms for Ken and Rhonda coming later cause there were no rooms at the hotel I was staying for them. I had become pretty familiar with the area and stumbled across this nice little bar called Zappaz that is owned by Norman...something. His claim to fame is he was the bassist for David Bowie back in the old days. I saw the papers on the wall and the pictures. Pretty cool experience to talk with him. However, he is an extremely eccentric man. Plays the piano amazingly well and can really put twists on all sorts of songs from classical to modern. He talks to himself, makes duck sounds and looks at his hand while the other plans. Quite fun to watch him play a song he wrote that sounded a lot like Billy Joel's Piano man. After talking to him and asking about that song I realized it was a sore subject and it wasn't Billy's song. He proceeded to raise hell about how "The Piano Man" stole his music and made the lyrics fit his song, Piano Man. He seemed really pissed so I got us a round of scotch and all was fine after that. Funny that story came out cause I had just seen Billy Joel here in Tokyo a couple weeks before I met Norman. With stories and people like this I had to stay around this bar and see who else comes in. It didn't take long. Minutes later I end up talking to Paul from Murphy Oil. Yeah, Murphy Oil out of good ol' Eldorado, Arkansas. Paul, from UK living in Jakarta, and I tossed back about 10 or 12 beers wait, sorry mom I mean 3 or 4. Me on the Bintang and him on the Carlsburg. He told me, after I had drank 10 or so, that Indonesians use a lot of formaldehyde in their beers and gives you nasty hangovers. However, I must say still no hangover. I am trying to get one of those but they seem to stay away from me. I am happy about that. Paul and ended up being a good single serving friend. You know just that in Fight Club you get the beginning of the flight to the end. Well, with Paul and the others you get a couple of nights of good times and hope to keep meeting great people along the way. And I did.
Take for example Yumi, pronounced (YU-ME) not Yummy but that applied too. She was surfing on the waves and I couldn't help myself and she just happened to pose for me as she was coming in for a break. I really do love my life. Anyone want to join me?
I continued to go to Zappaz for a couple more nights and listened to the band play some music. At times it was very tough to listen to, especially when people from the crowd asked to sing after a few beers and turn a good local band into a band karaoke experience. Thankfully I won't play the lovely Blondie singing "I Will Survive" with lots of vibrato. But i have something else for you. Keep and eye on the guy with the light colored shirt. I was trying to catch him dancing like this all night when he was doing the dog.
Now, you all know I am not a smoker but i had to pick up these great cigs from the Mini-mart next to the bar. Yes, that's right. Fine cigarettes from the tobacco fields of....Kansas? Wait a minute. I lived in Kansas for 26 years before i left for the international life and I never saw a tobacco field. If so, everyone would be smoking them. Turns out they are made in Indonesia and some of they are some of the favorites by locals behind, Marlboro, Marlboro lights, Djarum Blacks, Djarum Vanillas, Kools Ultralights ( like smoking air they say), Camel Wides some Milds, which are cloves and some other brand where they combine all the half-smoked cigs from ashtrays and mix them together. So, I am sure this Kansas Cigarettes are quite good. I'll save these two packs for you when i come home. I am sure they will taste the same...if not better.
Enough for now. Off to bed and more tomorrow. Enjoy and look for Bali Livin' 2 soon.