Kuta — Bali — Indonesia 5/9
Immediately you could feel the difference, even the air smelled of money. The Ngurah Rai International Airport was beautifully renovated. It hadn’t been the last time I was here. A very modern white was used, along with more modern looking wood panels. Was this no longer the culture-rich island of the gods? There was a herd of taxi drivers outside the gates last time when I came. At least 500 people were right beside the gates and the entire scene felt like what I imagine a market in Mumbai would feel like, and this time, I was determined to find a Blue Bird (Taxi). But shockingly, as we stepped out, the lobby was completely empty. Perhaps there weren’t a lot of flights arriving at the time that we did, but not only was there only a hand full of passengers leaving the lobby, there were no taxis waiting around at all. Instead, there was only this one airport transfer company to the right of the exit. They quote you a flat rate, which seemed arbitrary, hand write it on a piece of scrap paper, and expect you to pay nothing less. The rate was expensive but not outrageous. I guessed the Balinese government is trying to change its image by organizing everything ever so neatly, but there was something about the herd of taxi drivers panhandling that feels more authentic then this uniformed and unfamiliarly named airport transport company. The young man was a very safe driver actually, but I squinted as I look suspiciously at his embroidered collar. “Who took away my right to fight for myself and bargain for a reasonably priced fare?” My brain yelled as an image of the Balinese government killing the free market with their bare hands popped into my head. Keith, on the other hand, really enjoyed this level of sophistication. I could literally hear his thoughts singing and skipping along as we rode comfortably into the heart of party central — Jl. Legian. The streets started looking familiar as we got close, and my heart started pounding heavier. This is where I was 2 years ago; this is where I was hurt; and these are the people who helped me.
Harper by Aston Kuta, Bali We had booked the Harper Hotel on Jl. Legian between Poppies I & II. I wanted to show Keith the different sides of Bali and this was the touristy, party, filled with drunk Aussie one. Because we still had an hour before check in, we dropped off our luggage and headed south on foot. We found Made’s Warung on Pantai and gobbled up $20 worth of lunch. It was magnificent! Since we hadn’t have any vegetables in a few days, the 2 glasses of fruit juices and the plate of stir fry veggies came and gone like the wind.
Beach gates by Pantai We walked around Pantai a little more until we reached the gates by the beach. It was gorgeous, and we would’ve really loved to stay longer except our feet were burning in the sand. So we head back after quickly taking a picture of the 36.6 degrees at 1:00pm in the sun.
Our Room with Glass Doors to Pool The hotel was beautifully designed. There was a restaurant and a pool on the first floor, and we had gotten the first floor suites that connects directly to the pool via glass doors. It was as if we had our own balcony, such a good value for our money. That afternoon we walked on the South side some more and tried to find a cap for me. We ate at Pronto Pizza, and started really feeling the fatigue. It had been a long 3–4 days and we haven’t had any chance to rest. But I didn’t want to give up yet. There was a day spa close to our hotel and I persuaded Keith to muster our last drop of energy to go there.
Smart Day Spa
The Smart Day Spa looks inconspicuous from the outside. There’s a hair salon and a nail parlor at the front, and massage chairs at the back. We took the $6 hour long foot massages and it was the best decision we’ve taken all day. Not sure if it was because of the 14 hour tour we had the day before, or that we were too tired from our travels, this seemed like the best foot massage I have ever had! We both fell asleep half way through the massage, and ended our first day with a relaxing note.
Bali Bombing Ground Zero Memorial The second day we were pumped to go. The breakfast buffet, included in the amazingly cheap price, was awesome. Both Eastern and Western styles were available, and the congee buffet was to die for. As we normally would, we headed out for our walk at 10:00am, which was idiotic here as this is the start of the chunk of time perfect for getting heat stroke. We walked to the bombing memorial first, then went up Jl Legian until we couldn’t take the heat anymore (like 100 meters later), stopped at a Taiwanese bubble tea shop for a drink, then continued. We turned on Jl. Melasti and headed towards the ocean. This was where I walked last time I was here, and Keith was keen to hear about where I’ve walked last time I’ve been. The beach was beautiful, white sand, blue sky, just like how one would imagine in a perfect vacation. And surprisingly, although you’re directly in the sun, walking on the beach with water to your ankles was much cooler. I could feel myself literally enjoying time, as we watched the surfers and listened to the waves. We eventually came out the other side, and ended up right by the Beach Walk Mall.
We ate some lunch at the mall, then headed back towards our hotel via Poppies II. Although there were many many good looking t-shirts and bags, we were pretty turned off by how aggressive these vendors can be. It took us quite a while to find a cap for me, and by then, we didn’t want to shop anymore. We were both hot and exhausted, by now we had been walking for over 4 hours, and are desperately hoping to get home. Although our main event the next day was a massage, we wanted to take advantage of having Smart Day Spa close to us, so we decided to go there again. This time, we got the full body massage for $12, which was relaxing, but didn’t have the same wow affect as the foot massage. Afterwards, we went to the near by Un’s for dinner. The restaurant had perfect ambience, but the food was slightly too salty. Still, this marked a great end to our longest and hottest day in Kuta.
Dinner at Un’s Our last day in Kuta I booked us 4 hour spa treatments at Bali Green Spa. This is the number 1 ranking spa in the Kuta area on tripadvisor, and my expectations were high. The spa sent a driver to pick us up 15 minutes before our appointment, and we were taken out of Jl. Legian for the first time. The main road just outside the Jl. Legian area is Jl. Sunset, it was a much larger road and the stores on Sunset was much bigger as well. The folks at the spa confirmed out treatment with us first and then led us to the back. They had a garden and private gazebos, I hadn’t thought about how this, but I guess it made sense that they didn’t have air conditioning. Unfortunately, it was 11:00am and I was starting to over heat again.
Bali Green Spa Our massages were good but, maybe because we have had 3 massages back to back, or perhaps it’s because we were well rested, it didn’t give me the same affect as the Smart Day Spa massages. I had a traditional Balinese massage, an Shirodara medicinal oil treatment, a flower bath, and an ear candle treatment. The Shirodara medicinal oil treatment was interesting, an entire bottle of heated coconut oil was dipped onto my head and into my hair over the course of half an hour. The sensation was ok but I didn’t really enjoy the smell of the oil. The ear candle was the other one that was “unique”. Basically, a candle is wrapped in paper then stuck in your ear, they then light the candle up and wait for it to burn out. I thought my ears would at least pop or something, but I didn’t actually feel much. After the massage Keith went next door and bought some Luwak coffee for his friend. We then went back to the hotel and decided to stay out of the heat until dinner time. Honestly the 4 hour lunch time massage wore me out. We did some laundry in the hotel and went out back to grab some Nasi Goreng from Warung Pama. On the way back, I looked at the lights of Jl. Legian and was reminded of the starlit heaven I saw the last time I was here, and here I am again, but we’re already about to leave. I never seem to have enough time to truly enjoy all the elements of this exciting place, but at least I saw a lot more this time around. We turned in early that night and got ready for our big day.
Harper Hotel: Our Room (left), Pool (centre), Restaurant (right)
To be continued…
Originally published at searchingforjoyinasplitsecond.blogspot.com on February 24, 2017.