It has been a hot minute, right? My last trip was back in October and the travel bug was upon me in full force. With the holiday season several of my favorite travel sites were running deals, most especially Tourradar, which is what I used to book my last trip on the Stray bus through New Zealand.
Originally the plan was to do Bali, Indonesia for New Years as a double couples trip with our friends back home in Austin, but seeing as I had suddenly found myself rolling solo before Christmas I figured why not jet set away for six weeks to start 2016 off on a fresh page?
The entire trip was orchestrated as the ten day end cap to our friend’s Honeymoon, and I sought constant approval to make sure it was okay that I was now third-wheeling myself like a morose barnacle onto their SE Asian adventure. They assured me that it was totally fine, they were super excited I was coming, and I would be welcome to share all of the amazing hotels and restaurants and spa trips they had booked. So I booked my flight out for Dec 29th and gushed over every link Alexis sent .
The day before go-time I stopped by the bank to pick up cash for each country. There was the option to get a Commonwealth bank card that kept the appropriate currency loaded on it, but for some reason I just wanted that cold, hard skrilla. And the Asian currency is so pretty! I keep my money and passport on me at all times in a front-facing pack and this looks like a lot more than it actually was, but most places only take cash and I didn’t want to have to continually be running around finding an ATM.
Loaded up on Indonesian rupiah, the Thai bhat, and Maylasian ringgit, I jotted down a quick Google Keep note in my phone of USD conversions for typical denominations so I knew what I was paying and could haggle my way down to the right price.
Since I’d done all my previous travels living out of my trusty 7 kilo backpack with room to spare I decided to get REAL RISKY and attempt the whole six week trip with the same bag. However, in trying on literally every single thing I owned to see if it was worth taking with and could fit, I realized that I couldn’t possibly take the slightly nicer clothes I wanted to bring for some of the fancy Honeymoon places into that bag. Trying to be that minimal was impractical, and I’m all about my practicality.
So I put all of my Bali things into a separate small backpack with a few spare sun dresses and extra swimsuits for the beautiful Bali beaches. I’m more of a postcard and pictures girl over souvenirs but I figured I could fit a few gifts or cool pieces I picked up into the extra space. BOY WAS I WRONG.
The six hour plane trip was pretty uneventful, but upon arriving at the airport I couldn’t for the life of me find the driver my friends said would be waiting to take me to the villas in the sea of shouting taxi sharks on the ground floor. I don’t get SIM cards in new countries and rely on free WiFi and Facebook Messenger to communicate with people, so after an hour of my friends trying to figure out what had happened and keep me updated we learn that the Aussie they’d scheduled to pick me up had gotten too drunk and forgotten. T y p i c a l, m8. I had to do a reaaalll sketchy taxi deal and paid quite a bit out of pocket as I was shuffled quickly through the jostling taxi crew and into a random car. The ride was with a driver who didn’t speak a lot of English, but together we tried to decipher the vague Facebook messenger directions through the dark countryside to a tiny side street in the middle of Sanur, a seaside town in the southeast of the island. Bali has very distinct districts, and Sanur- colloquially known as “Snore”- was a good mix of local and tourist-trap places as you got closer to the beach.
The villa itself was amazing. Billowing curtains, a private pool, an outdoor kitchen, and my favorite thing in the word- TOWEL ANIMALS. It was run by an Aussie (not the drunk one. Well, not the driver one.) who took us around town for the days we spent there.
He introduced us to Oye, Ripcurl’s sponsored windsurfing champion. He lived on the beach with his family, Japan-born wife Sakura and their two beautiful daughters. He also did free dive spear fishing, and didn’t believe in hunting down to eat what you couldn’t catch naturally with the own breath in your lungs. Watching him dive deep over and over with just a snorkel and his spear was something really incredible to see.
Our first morning out we went out on his boat to try our hand at regular surfing. I could get up on the board and coast it out easily without losing my balance, but I was utterly hopeless at turning it in the calm waters. Each time I’d dive off and have to swim it back to the boat, which was exhausting if you managed to coast out too far. We were hot and tired and happy by the time we headed back to shore in the early afternoon
We’d stopped for a morning coffee and Kahlua before hitting the boards and Alexis was unfortunately starting to feel queasy. Our stop for that night for New Years Eve was the a hotel in Kuta, our one expensive splurge on lodging for the trip so that we could watch the fireworks from the beach. It was here that we realized Alexis was truly sick, and her husband, Alex, called up the hotel doctor. It was determined that she’d fallen ill with “Bali Belly”, a cute name for a not-so-cute touch of the ole Oregon Trail killer brought on by contaminated water. We figured it must have been in the coffee drinks from the morning, since we hadn’t eaten anything else that day and had only been drinking bottled water elsewhere.
Alexis was put on an IV drip and Alex was given antibiotics, and everyone sat around twiddling their thumbs for a while and flipping through the local Indonesian channels on TV. My body can be felled by no earthly virus, so Alex and I eventually ordered up some room service from the expensive menu and went on a stroll later that evening to get several long island ice teas at the deserted open air beach bars. There had been lots of travel fear surrounding a terrorist attack concentrated on Bali for New Years, so the resort and beachfront were almost empty. Alex told me the story of how him and Alexis had met, gushing about her and how excited he was to finally be on Honeymoon after several years of marriage. The talk made us nostalgic for her company, and we decided to go back to the room a little before midnight to try to convince her to come down to the beach to catch the fireworks. She was feeling well enough to be helped down to the water, and we gathered with a sparse 100 other beachgoers for a pretty good show.