30 May 2012


In the past few days, I feel like I have done a whole lot of nothing. In contrast, I feel that I have experienced so many crazy things, my brain hurts. To summarize: my computer crashed, leaving the hard drive “toast,” according to Paul; I broke a toe, bruised my shin and wound up with a flu-like bug; I received amazing V.I.P. treatment one day and unbelievable curb-drop service from the same company a few days later; Paul and I sat through the craziest date night dinner and I witnessed mind-blowing security features that made me get out my camera. Did I mention that all of this happened in Bali?

When Paul invited me to accompany him for a work-related long weekend in Bali, I never once considered refusing the offer. I first visited Bali last October when I finally experienced the true meaning of the word “paradise.”

Two girlfriends and I stayed on the island’s west coast in a town called Canggu (pronounced Chan-goo). We stayed in a villa where staff prepared meals, cleaned the entire villa grounds and chauffeured us around the island, showing us all of the great western tourist spots. We enjoyed massages, a yoga retreat and a couple local tours. It was a fab trip.

This time, Paul and I decided to simply relax. It was one of those vacations when we had no intention of ever leaving hotel grounds. We stayed on the southern peninsula in Nusa Dua along the east coast, just minutes from the point where an ocean greeted us on three sides.

We did not partake in tours; we did not sign up for any special classes (though I did make two attempts at cooking classes). We did, however, enjoy a lot of quality time by the pool, by the beach and in bed. Yes, that’s right, we napped. Naptime is sacred, even in Bali.

Paul left Thursday and, on Friday, flew the aircraft from Malaysia to Indonesia. I met him for dinner Friday. When I landed in Bali, I received the following text from Paul:

“A young Indonesian man named XXXX will meet you as you get off the airplane. He is our handler here and will escort you through immigration and bring you to me.”

I laughed out loud. I just kept thinking it read something like, “I am so important that I sent a local man out to fetch me a wife. He will bring you to me.”

Sure enough, when I got to a common area, a man was holding a sign with my name. I raised my arm and made eye contact. He smiled, nodded and then gave me the V.I.P. treatment. I followed him passed the long “Foreigner” lines and headed straight to baggage claim while someone else took care of my passport stamp and entrance fees. I felt so important and celebrity-like.

The man helped me with my bags and, just as Paul had stated, took me to where Paul was waiting in a café alongside the terminal. When I left Bali, I did not receive the same treatment as I was promised. Instead, a man dropped me off at the curb and then asked me for money to pay the ticket he obtained when arriving at the airport. Not cool.

When the handler and I were close to where Paul was waiting, an older local man came up to me, wide-eyed and smiling, and said, “I am Dude,” pronounced Doo-day. I extended my hand to shake his, looked confused and kept walking. When he followed and then came alongside me, again stating his name, I clutched my bag closer under my arm so there was less of a gap exposing my valuables.

Once I was inside the café and the man was introducing himself to Paul, I started to understand that this man owned the company that assisted Paul with all of his flight needs. Now it makes sense. The man was great – he even invited us to join him and his wife for dinner at a beachside seafood restaurant the following evening.

When Paul and I arrived at the hotel, we took a moment to stand on the balcony. For the first time in a long time, I looked out and saw stars. The next two days were pretty similar – we had a lazy morning, ate a breakfast consisting of eggs and breads, read poolside and explored the local beach clubs and shopping center.

I guided us to a beach that Paul initially thought was private, nervous that we would not be allowed to enter. We quickly surmised that this, instead, must be the local beach. I was surprised at how many people were in the water fully clothed. As I was focusing my attention on these people, I was quickly stunned as a boy within feet from my face bent straight over and pulled off his pants, exposing his underwear in my direct sight line.

We took a few great photos (not of the boy with his pants down):

To the right, we noticed an area where water was crashing up against the rocks, sometimes shooting well above the tree lines. “Thunder Hole!” I shouted and pointed, remembering our days in Bar Harbor, Maine’s Acadia National Park. We decided to get a closer look and came across “Water Blow,” a place that apparently discouraged visitors, though no one seemed phased by the attempt to block the entrance.

High-energy tourists walked out onto the long, windy decks to stand in the kill zone. Some kids also gathered on the grass nearby in another wave hot spot. When we attempted to get some action photos, even we were surprised by the waves crashing in and spraying us all over. Needless to say, we needed another shower before dinner.

We enjoyed the dinner with Dude and his wife, along with another expat couple consisting of a pilot husband and dula wife living in Hong Kong. The atmosphere was pretty great – tables lined the beach, allowing us to bury our feet in the sand all night long. The seafood was grilled in a tiny building on the road that blew the smoke out onto the beach. Imagine this one event times 50 restaurants lined from one end of the shoreline to the other.

Since we could not obtain dinner reservations anywhere else Sunday evening, Trip Advisor and the hotel staff suggested another beachside restaurant called Menega located on the same strip as the evening before. Paul and I arranged for a taxi and headed off for our 6 p.m. reservation. The taxi driver, however, has other plans.

He literally drives into a restaurant and parks in an area I would think is for pedestrians only. Two people greet us under a large, colorful sign that reads, “Matahari.” Paul and I look at each other. I get out and ask the man where Menega is. He looks confused and acts like he has never heard of the place. “But we have a reservation at Menega,” I hear Paul say.

“This place has the same food,” the taxi driver replies.

“But we have a reservation at the other place.”

Paul and I consider getting another taxi when this guy concedes and agrees to take us to the original location. We have to help him get there.

When we arrive, no one asks our name, a man just tells us that there are no tables available outside. The only place we can sit is inside an open-air room filled with smoke from the barbeque area. Why these people don’t grill outside instead of in an enclosed area where the smoke fills the windows, I will never know.

After 10 minutes of being ignored, we are offered two seats at a table for six where three other people are sitting. We are told we can wait there until another table is available but someone took our order and brought us our drinks.

About 40 minutes into the time, before any food has arrived, we are offered the option to move. I probably rolled my eyes when the guy made the offer but Paul wanted to get as far away from the smoke as possible so we move further down the beach. We land at a small table on the edge of the beach – front row seats lit only by candle light.

While we are waiting and waiting and waiting for our food, we spot people carrying something that we first think is an ice cream cone, then maybe something like a corn dog and finally believe to be corn on the cob. When we move, we spot the vendor, grilling sweet and spicy versions of cob corn over hot coals – right in front of the restaurants. Since we were at the restaurant for about two hours, had to ask about our food twice and beg for water on more than two occasions, we each purchased a cob and credited the man’s genius.

More than 30 minutes after we received our plates of nasi goreng sans sambal, Paul hunted down a member of the wait staff to check on the status of our food. We were missing a calamari appetizer, a jumbo prawn main and a grouper. We never got the grouper.  We decided we would only come back for the sweet corn. 

One of the craziest things I observed during our stay was the security at the hotel. Paul had told me that Marriotts were targets for terrorists because of the number of western visitors; a Marriott in Thailand was bombed a few years ago. I just shrugged it off until we pulled into the hotel grounds.

When any vehicle approaches the entrance, one large gate is lifted and then closed behind the vehicle, entrapping it between two gates. At least three security guards approach the car, use mirrors to look under the car, open each and every door including the trunk and inspect for anything shady. There is also a man with a special sniffing dog that walks the perimeter.

This guy was too quick for my camera but he opened Paul's door and flashed a light to check for any bad stuff.

Once the vehicle is cleared, passengers may be driven up a hill to the hotel entrance, where more security guards will greet you alongside a metal detector and an X-ray machine. If one sets off the metal detector, there is a person with a wand to welcome you from your head to your toes. I did not realize I had opted to stay with the TSA. Every time Paul and I walked into the hotel, we had to place our belongings on the conveyer belt and walk through the machine. Security in Asian airports isn’t as tight as this hotel’s security. I suppose I should be happy about this but, I have to be honest, over-security is a big reason I don’t like being in the U.S.

As much as I was amazed by my surroundings, I have to say, we were able to really relax. I intended to complete a few book chapters over the weekend but, upon arrival, my hard drive crashed so that didn’t happen. I did, however, get to spend a lot of quality time with Paul and I did have an opportunity to read a book that has me convinced that I should move to France.

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