At six o’clock my alarm starts to blare and I think “no, I don’t want to go to work yet; I want to sleep”. I open my eyes to switch off the annoying sound and realise I am still on holiday and the alarm is going off because we have to get to the airport. It doesn’t matter. I still hate waking up early and burrow back into my pillow. Until Erik rolls over, puts his arms around me and whispers in my ear “come on, time for a new adventure”.
The best airport in the world
With sleepy eyes we get up, get dressed and strap on our backpacks once again. This time, our taxi driver laughs politely at our jokes, but apparently laughing all the time is not a requisite of becoming a Singaporean taxi-driver after all. We make it to the airport quickly enough this early in the morning.
Now, what you need to know about the Singapore airport is that it is supposed to be the #1 best airport in THE WORLD. It’s not just me saying so – although of course, you should just believe everything I say, just to make my life easier – but this is according to the world airport awards (who knew there was such a thing). And who could argue with that assessment if you know that there is a swimming pool in the airport? True, it is only available for people who are transferring at the airport so I didn’t exactly see it with my own eyes, but a swimming pool! In an AIRPORT! Well I love it anyway.
As we arrive, I notice I am still quiet tired as I stand gazing mesmerized at a moving art installation that can best be described as a few square meters of big brass drops moving in geometrical patterns. I guess that could sound unappealing, but trust me, it’s hypnotizing.
Anyway, we make it through customs (yay, another stamp in my passport – the sixth this trip) quickly enough and have some time to kill in this allegedly best airport. We walk around and although it is pretty in places (I love the little garden in this otherwise urban environment), to me it still seems like any other airport with airport food, airport seats and airport waiting.
We wait for our gate be announced. We wait for our plane. We wait for boarding to start. We wait to get to our seats. We wait for take off. We wait for hours before we decent. We wait to get out of the plane. We walk a million miles at Denpassar international airport (Bali, Indonesia). Then we wait again. We wait for the boarder crossing (yay, another stamp), we wait for our bags, we find our taxi driver who is picking us up from our hotel and we wait for our taxi driver as he gets the car. We wait in the car, we feel very unsure of where the hell we are going to end up as we just keep on driving and the roads (and surroundings) get worse and worse, but still all we can do is wait in the car. We arrive at the hotel that looks decent enough, we wait to be checked in. We wait for our room to be ready as we also wait for lunch, but really the waiting is now relaxing because we are here!
All about that view
Our hotel has the best view of the ocean. It is located on a bit of a cliff, but a small trek through the jungle – adventure is adventure even if there are stone steps leading the way – will bring you to a small private coral beach where the waves crash on the rocks in a ceaseless pattern. The water is warm and nice after the travelling we did, but the big grains of coral sand get everywhere!
We are sleeping in a little hut that has an ocean view. Booking through Airbnb I realise is always a bit of a risk. Pictures may be Photoshopped and other people’s experiences may not be what you want on your holiday. Milo’s home turns out the be the exact opposite of that. The pictures were nice enough, but I was expecting something rather basic and small, but a nice enough place to crash a few nights. However, we have arrived at a resort. Which I normally don’t like but this is beautiful and small scale and friendly and I just love it.
I love our big room with a nice bed, the beautiful bathroom and the little seats in front. Because this place is – I’ll say it again – all about the view. From our room we overlook the small pool and from there it is an uninterrupted view of the ocean. We decide that today we are not going anywhere – restaurants sadly are a long way away from the hotel – and just lounge on the beach, near the pool and enjoy the amazing view of the sunset.
We are not the only ones struck with our surroundings. We can see people walking around, pointing around, walking in and out of one of the buildings with a lot of stuff. It is not until we see two heavily made-up girls and a woman holding a big-ass camera that we realise the hotel is also the sight of a photo-shoot. We laugh at how ridicules it looks when they are taking the pictures – even though I know with these views the pictures will be beautiful. I don’t really understand why they should all come here when a green screen seems a cheaper option, but I can’t really blame people wanting to come here.
Did I say the views were amazing yet? I just cannot get over the beauty of this place. We watch the sun slowly sinking into the sea. It changes everything. The green becomes a darker green, the blue busy pool turns into a still greenish pond and the sky turns into a soft orange where it hasn’t yet turned into a very deep indigo blue. It’s a quiet show to watch, but from our vantage point – and after all the city dwelling we have done – it is the only one I want to see and I thoroughly enjoy these moments.
Days like these have a habit of ending early this holiday. Travelling takes energy and we are content with a quiet evening of eating, stargazing and reading (one step at the time for me, let’s see if I still want to walk a part of the Te Araroa trail after this book) after which we simply go to sleep in our beautiful, albeit hot – and smelling of DEET to repel any mosquitos – hut.
The next morning, we enjoy our breakfast with now a morning glow over the incredible view – did I mention it was incredible yet? At first, we decide to bask in the morning sunshine, but ten minutes later we can feel it burning on our not-sun-screen-lotioned faces and find a more shaded area. I had always planned to go surfing on Kuta beach this day and thankfully we feel well enough to do it – finally.
We even feel good enough again to decide that we are simply going to attempt to climb mount Rinjani. I never thought that we could feel this well again in just a few days and I am amazed by our bodies ability to get well so quickly – well after a bout of antibiotics that was of course. Regardless, we are going to push ourselves and in about five days we will be doing a three-day hike up a mountain of 3726 m. A feat neither of us has ever tried, but that we are dying to finish!
But first, we have a few more days on Bali and like I said, I wanted to go surfing. So we start to make our way to Kuta. We ask a guy outside of the hotel how to get a taxi. After some time spent on his phone he tells us his cousin will drive us, but first he will take us down the hill on his scooter one by one to get to the car. We’ve already realised this is how things are done here – hustling various family member for various requested services appears to be the order of the day – and so we are driven down. The scooter is not only occupied by this man, but also by his tiny little son who reminds me of an Indonesian “stampertje” – Dutch children’s literature references are bound to pop up every once in a while – who stands firmly at the front of the scooter.
After about an hour driving through the chaotic traffic (that I will learn to drive through myself later on) we arrive at Kuta beach. Kuta is much – MUCH – more touristy than Jimbaran where we are staying. The beach is gorgeous, but all the vendors vying for your attention are not my idea of fun. We quickly make our way to the beach, talk to one of the guys and make a deal so we can go surfing for four hours – with t-shirts on as the sun is already scorching.
The circumstances are ideal. There are waves big enough that take plenty of time getting to the beach so we can actually practice our as of yet non-existing surfing-skills without any help. My sinuses have a rough time of it as a few times I am swept of my board and into a rolling wave. At those times I need to remember to stay calm, wait out the turmoil and then I know I will instantly find what is up again. It is a bit rough, but the pure thrill of being active again and the addictive feeling I get when I finally manage to stand up on my board make it totally worth it.
During the four hours we take a few brakes, drinking soda and water from one of the vendors who only then lets us use his plastic chairs – although he becomes more lenient towards us after we have purchased only his drinks for a while. Sometimes I wait a bit to watch Erik. To see him emerging from the white foam as he attempts –and mostly fails – to stand up is almost as much fun as trying it myself. I love this sport already. It is so difficult and so physically hard (for me anyway, I really don’t have any strength in my arms and balance is difficult in the best of circumstances) but all I want is to stand up again and again and again.
Finally, I can feel myself getting sunburned and my arms are starting to shake. Not to mention the scrapes I’ve got on both my knees, my elbows and part of my lower abdomen. I take these minor wounds proudly, knowing that a holiday for me also means acquiring new and interesting wounds on my body that tell me I have been places and tried new things. But I do get out of the water. No point in overdoing it. Overdoing it any more than I already have that is.
Ulu Wattu monkeys
After the surfing we have a late lunch in the touristy town; actual Asian food again, I have been bad and ate Western food yesterday – although really why is it SO bad, we eat plenty of foreign food back home. I guess it is just that I prefer to see the culture and cuisine of a place instead of my own, which makes eating Western food feel like cheating in a way.
After lunch, we walk around the shops for a bit until I really need an isotonic drink – I can feel mild dehydration coming on from the heat and after what we have been through I am very keen to prevent it getting any worse. We decide to call the taxi driver and he responds by telling us he’ll pick us up in forty-five minutes. We use the time to buy me a cap for our hike – and really for immediate use as it helps with the sun – and looking at a lot of converse sneakers like the cheap fake pair Erik has back home but that he is hesitant to buy.
We ask the driver to take us to Ulu Wattu to see the sunset there, but he tells us we won’t make it before sunset. I don’t really believe him as the sun is still so fierce, but we decide to listen and leave Ulu Wattu for the next morning before we depart for Ubud. It’s a good thing we decided to trust the taxi driver as the sun has set before we get to our hotel and the temple would have been a lot further. That’s the tropics for you I guess.
Sleepy and rosy from our day spent in the water and the sun, we again eat at the hotel and spent the night reading our books. It may not seem like all-that to many people, but truly, these nights make me so happy. Being able to sit reading a book with Erik next to me reading his book is my definition of a great night. Especially after an active day like today, with the warmth still surrounding us and the sky bright enough to watch the stars and contemplate what I have just read.
In the morning, we decide to go one step more adventurous and rent a scooter ourselves. We have seen many tourists do this and although the traffic seems a bit crazy, Erik is sure he can easily get us to the temple so long as I play at being the woman’s voice on the navigation. At first, I can see us dying horrible deaths everywhere, from sliding on the grass next to the road and splitting our heads open to being impaled by bamboo that is being transported on an open car. The only thing keeping me on the scooter is my absolute faith in Erik’s driving skills. And after a while, I relax and start to enjoy my surroundings and the way everyone honks at each other. Not so much to push them aside or to let them know they’ve made a mistake, but to simply announce they are passing you and you should be aware of that fact lest you make any sudden movements.
We get to the temple in good time and park the scooter. We also leave most of our belongings in it, because the temple is notorious for the monkeys that steal your stuff and won’t give it back – and that will bite you if you try. So, our sunglasses, watches and caps are off and our water bottles are left behind as well. We each get a sarong to enter the temple and then we are walking around the ancient site.
The heat is insane and glaring of the stones. The view from this temple admittedly is amazing, but I am so hot I have to make a conscious effort to enjoy it. I keep checking around to see if any monkeys are approaching us to take our camera or phone (also with us for taking pictures, not for internet at that remote place), but none appear. The whole time we are struggling through the heat, not one monkey shows his face. NOT ONE! I guess it was too hot for them as well, but I feel a bit cheated regardless. Oh well, guess we’ll just have to go see the monkeys in Ubud.
Which is where we are heading next. Although we have some time to visit another temple, we don’t because we are not allowed in (not having a sarong of our own and there not being any for rent I am shooed off the premisis to my ever lasting horror as I hate it when tourists are being disrespectful around religious sites). So, we get our backpacks and taxi driver at the hotel and start the drive to Ubud.