After my 26th birthday and an epic trip to Seoul, South Korea last year, I knew I had to somehow make turning twenty 7 even better. I initially planned on going to Turkey but the political climate was too much for me to risk a visit. I was very staunch in finding the perfect place to mark another year of life. Per usual when I make plans, I extended an invitation to some friends but ‘adulting’ got the better of them and so they couldn’t make it. If you recall my last travel blog you’ll know that I have no qualms about traveling alone. Then it hit, I watched so many episodes of reality tv shows with the cast going on these extravagant trips, so why can’t I do the same? That goal was achieved when I booked my holiday for Bali, Indonesia. As an avid viewer of Bravo and a fan of The Real Housewives of Orange County, I recalled how much fun they had in Bali and I knew that would be the right fit. I mean, you don’t have to be affluent to travel, so Bali had better brace itself for the Keirn Up. (cc: my good friend @scheana)
SOARING TO PARADISE
On February 14 I boarded China Eastern Airlines flight MU744 for Bali. As I sat in the plane, all I could think about was how much fun this whole experience will be. I was more anxious than ever before for the plane to take off. As most of my friends know, I can fall asleep anywhere and at the oddest times, which is what happens every time I travel. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 30 minutes car ride or a 16 hour flight, Keirn will be knocked out. Like clockwork, I was out like a lamp and before I could change sleeping positions, the stewardess interrupted with “Excuse me sir. Would you like chicken and rice or beef and noodles?” I couldn’t be angry at her because if it’s one thing I love about flying, is the delicious and well prepared airplane food (you can disagree if you want haha). I had layover in Beijing, China and had to switch planes but it wasn’t long before I was back in the air. I was a bit shocked to see so many Chinese traveling to Bali. Yes, I boarded a plane in China but that meant nothing. LOL. Oh, in case you were wondering, I took the chicken.
After 3 hours and 20 minutes of flight from Nagoya, Japan (NGO) to Beijing (PEK) and 9 hours of flight from Beijing (PEK) to IGusti Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS), I was finally in Bali.
“It was so hot, the heat hit me like a mack truck driving at 120 MPH on the freeway”
SALAMAT DATANG DI BALI (WELCOME TO BALI)
Unlike the housewives, I had no grand greeting party nor a luxury vehicle waiting for; or so I thought. When booking my trip, I opted this time to use Airbnb. (A man’s gotta save some coins for a rainy day :D). I didn’t want to be in the centre of the tourist area nor did I want to be too far out of the city and have to worry about transportation, so I reserved a quiet Joglo in Denpasar which was only 30 minutes or less from the airport. It was also very accessible to the beaches and close enough to the key attractions. Rudy, my host, had arranged my pick up from the airport. I walked around and saw my name on a sign being hoisted in the air. It felt surreal. I’ve never had my name written on a sign before, nor did I ever have a driver wait for my arrival. Coming off of the tourist high in Seoul, I felt more confident in this new role and fully embraced the character I’d assume for the next couple of days. While I didn’t have a greeting party, I did have a luxury vehicle and that was enough for me. Take that OC!
It was so hot, the heat hit me like a mack truck driving at 120 MPH on the freeway. I began peeling off layers of clothing in the airport parking lot while Mandus, my driver, retrieved the car. For some reason, I forgot that my comfy winter attire wasn’t right for this Bali weather.
It wasn’t long before we arrived at our destination and instead of a house, cuz that’s what I pictured it to be, I shocked to see a fully functioning resort of some kind. I was tired, not because jet lag, but the heat had sucked every life out of me. I was given a key, shown my room and off to bed I went. No, I didn’t give my driver a tip. I have great excuse I’ll share later. (Hopefully it’ll hold up LOL)
DAY 1 – SHARED TOUR WITH NEW FRIENDS
I slept like a newborn after being suckled by his mum on fluffy white clouds for pillows. Never have I ever felt so rested. I heard birds chirping in the distance and reached for my phone to stop the alarm. To my amazement, it wasn’t my phone that emitted those sounds, but actual birds in the garden. I was indeed in paradise. Without hesitation, I took a warm shower and went to the garden to see what the plan was for the day.
Last year, I stayed at a guesthouse which included breakfast but since this was an Airbnb I had to pay. Given my budget of 500USD (about 6.7 million rupiah ‘IDR’) I didn’t want to take the chance of purchasing breakfast so I gobbled down my bottle of water with the utmost urgency. Water never tasted so good. It sounds cheap but I had no idea if the cost for breakfast was more expensive when compared to restaurants on the island. Besides, I had plans for more my birthday that would require me to use most, if not all my cash.
I met the host, Rudy, and other members of staff. They were extremely warm and friendly (as they ought to be). I was informed of a shared day tour that they had planned and asked if I was interested. Um…did they think traveled all the way from Japan to sit in my comfortable room? Not that it was a bad idea haha! “Heck yea!” I chirped. (Chirped. Get it? LOL) This also meant that transportation (45USD) for the day would be split three ways. Not a bad way to start I might add.
Ben, Faye and I boarded our vehicle and headed for our first stop on the day’s tour. This time, we had a different driver than the one who picked me up from the airport. Rudy seemed to have thought about everything as our driver, Wayan Sudar, spoke English really well so he was able to provide valuable information when requested. Remember when I said I’d tell you why I didn’t tip the first driver? As it turned out, Ben and Faye had the same dilemma. We didn’t know the acceptable amount to tip someone in Bali. It was agreed that it was better to not tip than to offer money that can’t even buy gas. We arrived at a Batik place that made sarongs. I’ve heard about the work that normally goes into making these lovely pieces of art but seeing it up close made me so appreciative of this experience.
We then visited Taman Ayu Luwak Coffee where our palates were met with the most scrumptious teas and coffees, Luwak Coffee, you could ever find. What was even more astounding was how the beans are harvested. That I’ll spare you the details cuz you may never look at coffee the same way again.
Batuan Temple was next, which would set the precedent for what to expect when visiting temples in Bali. It was here that we learnt one very important use of the sarongs. Upon entering every temple ground in Bali, one has to cover themselves if they aren’t covered properly from the waist down. As with every culture and religion, the Balinese have their traditions and practices so we had to abide by the rules. Else, risk being denied access and being seen as a rude, obnoxious tourist. I was fascinated by the amount of tourists that were at the temple. As one group left, another would enter. I was once again part of this tourist brand and it was a damn good feeling. Let me just say, if you’re ever planning on visiting this temple, though free, a contribution of about 75USD is expected. “Don’t moan about it, just do it.” I thought to myself, this is what being a tourist meant.
If you thought Day 1 was even ready to be complete, you better think again. It was noon just noon and already we had a bellyful of knowledge about some Balinese culture. The sun and heat were brutal. We needed to seek refugee. Luckily, we had a well air conditioned car that would provide solace. Ben and Faye are from England, which meant lunchtime was just as important them as it was for me. Wayan drove us to Grand Puncak Sari Restaurant for lunch. When we arrive there, we noticed it was buffet style setting. My belly let out a growl so loud from hunger, you’d think it was Gerald Butler as Leonidas in the movie 300, yelling, this is SPARTAAAAA! At that moment, any consideration about my budget was out the window. I cared very little for taking a picture or snapping shots of the restaurant. The hunger was real and I wax extremely ravenous. Heck, I’m even getting hungry writing this. LOL! We sat down and in little time, devoured our first round. I felt like I had one an olympic gold medal for having lasted 3 hours without food (due in part to my own misery ways). Lunch was divine but after two rounds, it would have been gluttonous to pursue a third. We were done.
Beyond the restaurant was the Kintamani Volcano. I’ve never been that close to a volcano in my life and I was both intrigued and nervous. It last erupted 10 years ago, so do the math. Haha!!
HOT SPRING AND A KECAK DANCE
Exhaustion from viewing the beauty of Kintamani Volcano called for a relaxing time in one of Bali’s most famous hot springs, Toya Devasya. I had no plans of actually bathing in the spring but when I entered the premises, I was enchanted. The property was adorned with an purple elephants, accentuated by the black an white paint. This felt like the advertised Bali you’d find in a pamphlet. The cost was about 100USD and once again, my budget flew out the window. To top it all off, I didn’t pack any swim trunks so I had to purchase one for a measly 50USD. FML!
Day 1 was almost over. I didn’t think anything could make even better. I was wrong. You can’t go to Bali and not attend the Kecak Dance. The dance is usually accompanied by 100 men in chorus which tells the story of how Rama rescued his wife Sita from the devious Ravana. The dance was a sight to behold especially when one of the dancers danced over, on and the fire.
The Kecak ended around 8pm and I was ready to head back to Rudy’s. When you’re having fun, time really flies. Since I was on a spending spree, I ordered dinner from the kitchen and was given a traditional Balienese meal, Nasi Ayum Betutu. I wish I had taken a picture of this well prepared meal but hunger got the best of me.
Day 1 was filled so many new and exciting experiences. I could only imagine what the rest of the holiday would be like. Check out Part 2 here.
Till next time.