A quick summary, to orient non-regular readers:
Starting in October 2010, Pat and I spent a year in New Zealand, two months in the Philippines, and a month-and-a-half in mainland SE Asia (Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia). My parents’ mystical calendar-of-things-that-shall-be decreed that they spend Christmas 2011 with me. Schedules and finances demanded that we move Christmas to the following March. I told them to pick someplace in SE Asia. As a result, we spent a week housed at Medewi Bay Retreat exploring the island of Bali, Indonesia!
So besides survive a flash flood, what else did we do? Tons.
The cultural experiences started at the airport where the car rental agency greets customers by holding a “YOUR NAME!” sign in the crowd. They take you to a sidewalk security podium, paperwork is signed, then they escort you to your set of wheels! Just outside the airport my parents got their first taste of Bali traffic. Narrow streets, people parked wherever they please, pedestrians everywhere, motorcycles swarming around your vehicle at occasional traffic lights, and theoretical left-hand flow (because when it’s more convenient, many motorcycles just drive against the flow of traffic on the wrong side!).
Our three-hour trip from the airport to the resort turned into five after we added a major-grocery-store stop and battling rush-hour-traffic to the mix. For the first hour, my dad kept wondering 1) when we were going to get out of town, and 2) why we were having him take “all these side roads.” Answers: we weren’t, and we weren’t! Even the main roads leading from the city are narrow and so clogged that we repeatedly got passed by the same push-cart food vendor making his way home. Street signs and addresses are close to non-existent, so the last hour had all passengers peering out through tinted windows into the darkness zipping by, hoping to catch a glimpse of something that would tell us where we were!
Medewi Bay Resort is done up in authentic Bali style — stepping stones, lush shrubs, tropical trees, and luxury huts all surrounding a beautiful pool. In the morning we walked down to the black sand beach and watched workers harvest this coveted building material. We poked our way around the perimeter of the ocean-side shrimp farm and watched the waves crash. Then we turned back to find the car and explore farther afield. We set out with snorkeling in mind. Thanks to vague maps, signage, and directions, we unintentionally discovered “Bali Tower” – an architectural feat soaring above the jungle. We dined overlooking the island and took turns ascending the spiral stair case to the dizzying platform five stories above the forest floor.
Pat and I battled disgusting water at a beach to try and find the snorkeling spot mentioned in our guide book. (Bali’s people still have the “disposable” attitude from days when packages were made from banana leaves instead of plastic.) Ultimately, we threw in the towel and spent a lovely afternoon exploring deserted temples and taking in an iconic Catholic church. The scenery highlight of the day were the penjors lining the streets of the country villages. These decorated bamboo poles are only up for 60 days a year — 30 in the spring and 30 in the fall. We’d arrived just in time to feast our eyes for the last few days of the penjors’ vigil.
Over the next few days we visited a “drive-through” Acacia tree, went on a scenic mountain drive, ate a fresh coconut from a shop in a remote village, saw a Balinese dance performance, slept in, celebrated our birthdays at the fancy nearby resort, played cards, got rejected from a local temple festival for not being properly dressed, and introduced my parents to our favorite street food: sate ayam. This feast is simply chunks of marinated chicken roasted on skewers over coals that burn brightly under the power of a pedestal fan. Enjoyed over rice, sitting on the side of the road, it’s fantastic!
Highlights from my parents’ final days in Bali coming soon! Stay tuned! â™£
Click here to see the stunning Balinese Catholic church, the Bali Tower, Balinese dancers, consumption of roadside food, and lots of iconic island-life photos.