Muslims’ to Mecca, Aussie’s go to Bali. Young blokes get on the end of year footy trip. Girls go for the shopping. Then OS to the Oktoberfest. When I first started travelling, planes used to refuel in Bali so I always thought I would go there on a stop over, then planes got better, no more stopovers. Cancun, Goa, and Thailand got ticked. Never played footy so I missed out on the first bit.
Cue Linda, she lives in a tropical resort and runs a hotel complex already so if she wants to relax the last thing she needs to do is invite a bunch of free loaders to Noosa. I’m checking my email one day and here’s a invite to a birthday in Bali. They thought they would maybe get 15 people. The word goes out, there is a bit of networking on the airfares, and for $500 I’m in. So are 60 others, and the quite birthday party goes out the door.
In my head I know it’s not true but in the back of my mind I’m still thinking of Bali as that mystical island in South Pacific the musical. Waves break on golden beaches while grass huts house the locals under coconut trees. I pick up Mandy on the way to the airport, we Qantas club it appropriating some coke for the 200ml scotch bottle I’ve bought in the duty free. Bloody budget airlines, once upon a time the free booze was the only upside of flying. I’m a Bali virgin, Mandy on the other hand is a seasoned professional, Twenty Five trips plus some. We ignore the final call have another scotch then wander up to our gate. They start loading and when the queue thins out, we join the end only to hear our names called out. What’s the problem, we are in the line two hardened travellers with a thousand flights between us, and where getting on a flight to, Auckland. Opps. We rush off to our now empty correct gate. The Lady who checked us in looks at Mandy with a smile and says “I knew you were a trouble maker”.
Six hours later we are there. The rest of the crew have been at Club Med for the day. Sixty bucks for all the parasailing, diving, surfing, swimming, waterskiing, booze, bikeri____________ Did someone say “Booze”. The bloke handing out the towels will recover after being crushed in the stampede to the bar. The staff where heard to mutter later on in the day “There worse than the Russians” No one is up to meet us when we rock up at 10pm except Dicko who joins us but has a coffee.
Where in Seminyak, which I was told was a bit out of town. The hotel is modern, lovely and everything works. It could have been dropped from space to anywhere in the world and you would have no idea where you were. It has two pools and some grand villas which the birthday girl is ensconced in. My dreams of beaches and palm trees have evaporated to be replaced with memories of suburban Mumbai, traffic included. Taxi’s are cheap which is good as most of your time in them is spent standing still. Just outside the door is a great little strip of cafe’s, tee shirt shops , Bars, and Viagra sellers. In my youth I was offered Tiger Balm, now I get hit with “Viagra, Cialis, Cheeeep” every ten feet. One pleasant surprise is the food. It was all great. I ate everything including the salads and fresh fruit which is generally a no no in these sort of places. You could get whatever you want. Fresh Sushi, Greek food, Mee Goring, Satays, Cesar Salads, Steaks. There were even a large selection of KFC’s, Macca’s, and Burger Kings for the blokes on footy trips. That night we have the big birthday in the villa. The Couple renew their wedding Vows, and Cheese presents his wife with a My husband is awesome tee shirt. The sixty of us are treated to sucking pig, fire dancers, cocktails and Bintang for everyone. When I leave there is only the troublesome girl from the airport and the birthday girl drinking cocktails left. The next day is vague. Linda is a event planner in her spare moments, so those interested head off to Golf, Mountain biking, Rafting, Potato Head, and the Rock Bar. With sixty of us here there is always someone to do Lunch, Shopping, Beach , Drinks or all of the above with.
After five days Dicko and I head off to Legian. Its only a couple of Km’s away but the Hotel Jayakarta is on a different planet, old style Bali, on the beach. The rooms are crappy but the grounds are full of carved sandstone and shingled buildings. Breakfast is hit and miss, with staff passing empty food containers in the buffet until prompted by the guests to refill them, but the staff are nice. The pool has a bar in it. Out the front the beach is full of little bars and sun lounges with one or two people in each. We invade one of these with the rest of the crew one day and Bintang ourselves. We go swimming and watch the local surfers cut the waves to bits. The little bar doesn’t open for the rest of our stay there. The rumour is the owner has retired on the profits.
I brave the constant traffic jam and head to Kuta to go shopping but my heart is not in it. Knockoff NBA/AFL shirts, watches, and DVD’s. Hundreds of shops selling all the same crap. Business is not good. Everywhere new hotels are being built. I buy a MP3 player disguised as a bintang can, and an Uncle Norms tee shirt. I head up to Ubud a town made famous in Eat,Pray,Shop to go mountain biking. After a couple of hours driving we get great views of the volcano and a nice 40km downhill cruise with the odd stop for a bit of local culture. Nice to be out of the traffic with the local kids chasing you down the hills through the rice paddies. I drink weasel poo coffee and have a pleasant local lunch. Its monsoon but the weather has been good, but it can’t last. It starts to rain. Most of us are heading back to our day jobs so the crowed of friends are slowly thinning out. I spend the last couple of days reading and dodging the rain. Dicko and I leave straight from Uncle Norms to the airport, through the traffic and the building sites. Bali tick.
Thanks to Linda and Tony for putting on a great time for all of us, and giving me an excuse to finally go to Bali. I’m sure they needed a rest when they got home. Thanks to the rest of my guides for just showing me the good stuff. Now I’ve been to Bali too.