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Weekend Update 02: Sweet Bali Hai

24 January 2011

On Wednesday afternoon, we went to Bali, and it’s a damn miracle we came back, it was that good.

Due to some aggressive online searching, we were able to get a great last-minute deal on both flights and a stay at the Conrad Hotel—which is the nicest place we’ll probably ever stay. If Heaven exists on Earth, this might be it.

But to get to Heaven, we had to go through a little Purgatory first.

Our flight to Denpasar (the local Bali airport) was relatively uneventful, with the exception that it was the loudest, most active plane ride of our lives. Despite the fact that nearly everyone on the flight was an adult, it sounded like a seventh grade school field trip, with voices and giggles carrying to a fever pitch and people changing seats like monkeys going after eggs on a Singaporean countertop. But it’s cool; we were going to a tropical island. We were willing to look past it.

Upon arriving at the airport, we made it through the Visa-on-Arrival process and Immigration without incident (c’mon…it’s always potentially a little dicey with Booms involved). In fact, everything was fine till we got to baggage claim.

Upon collecting our bags, we were approached by some very serious and deliberate gentlemen wearing uniforms with official-looking patches on them and name badges dangling from chest pockets. They grabbed our bags and told us to follow them, making sure we had our yellow custom forms fully filled out. They guided us through the x-ray machine, beat us to the other side to retrieve our bags, then hurried us through the Customs desk, all with the tacit approval of the Customs official sitting there. Finally rounding the end of the queue, they pulled up in the corner near one of the money changing desks and, still holding our bags, gestured to the broker with enthusiasm and big smiles. It was then we realized what was going on and we grabbed our bags, proclaiming “no, no” while walking away.

We would like to pause our story to thank the United States Transportation Security Administration for effectively freaking the shit out of us such that we now, to some degree, trust any jackoff in a uniform who approaches us in an airport, lest we be detained without reason and questioned for an undetermined amount of time. And / or deported.

But no, we feel so much safer now, thanks.

Amped up from being taken advantage of, we skeptically went to grab a taxi. Luckily, we had done some quick research before we left, and read that if you go to the taxi stand and give them your hotel, they’ll have you pre-pay and assign you a cabbie. This worked as prescribed, though given our heightened state of suspicion and the fact that currency conversion for Indonesian Rupiah is 9,000 to 1 (that means a lot of zeros on the money), we were unduly skeptical of the whole process, especially when the price seemed to keep climbing (it didn’t really, we just mis-heard the guy the first time). We then warily followed our assigned cabbie to his car, triple-checking that the number on our card matched his car number. Because it was midnight when we landed, we didn’t have a good sense of how long the cab ride was taking, and were leery of being plopped somewhere. Stupid assumptions, we know, but when the official system at the airport allows conniving money changers to dress in uniforms posing as official state agents, it throws the whole works into question.

Luckily, that was the last bit of uncertainty we had through our entire visit. We arrived at the hotel and everything from there on out was epic. We were greeted with a refreshing cocktail of ginger & sparkling lemonade, and a pair of the cold, scented towels that would become a staple of every interaction throughout the rest of our stay. The staff was ridiculously attentive and were very sweet-natured people. I guess I would be too, if every day were sunny and I lived on a tropical island.

A Troublesome Minkey

Our room was great, a large deal with a balcony overlooking a zen garden that opened to the beach. It included a stuffed minkey with an affinity for the TV remote and a fresh-fruit tray that was refreshed daily with a different offering. The most interesting of these was snakefruit, and it’s a bizarre piece of tropical produce. About the size of a bulb of garlic, it has brown, scaly skin resembling a snake’s (hence the name) that peels off like an orange, revealing a white, segmented fruit with the taste of pineapple and the texture of coconut. We are still unsure how to categorize it.


On Thursday morning, we got up and worked out on the beach, then got some lunch at the open-air restaurant overlooking the swimming pool and beach. Our “Bali Sampler” was some of the best food we’ve ever had, giving the Turks a run for their money. Chicken, beef, pork and fish, all seasoned and cooked to tender, tasty perfection.

Following lunch, we holed up in one of the beachfront cabanas and proceeded to be the laziest we’ve been since college. We basically whiled away the afternoon reading, napping, experimenting with the sepiatone function on our camera and chasing little kids out of the pool (Adult Swim!!). Thankfully for our pasty-ass…asses, it’s the rainy season over here, so it was cloudy, and the scorching tropical sun had little effect. It was plenty warm enough, though, so we still felt the tropical vibe.

It was in our little bungalow that we discovered Bali Hai beer, a local Indonesian brew that came in the “Local Beer Bucket” and went really well with the chicken satay pizza we also ordered. (Fear not, we’ve been taking copious notes to replicate the recipes / environment on the roof for the summer). Our doting server, Mattias, enthusiastically gave us a complete comparison of Bali Hai to Bintang, the more dominant Indonesian brew. Much like Corona goes with Riviera Maya, Bali Hai goes with…well, Bali. Except Bali seems more authentic than Caribbean Mexico. Probably because American college students haven’t ruined it yet.

The Doting Mattias

Thursday night, prior to dinner, we had drinks in the hotel lobby, where we made fast friends with the barman who told us to be sure and catch the traditional dance show on Friday night in the main hotel restaurant. We made a mental note to make a reservation before heading off to dinner at the Japanese sushi/steak joint in the hotel, which was, again, exquisite. It was here we discovered an alternative to saki, called sochu, which we will be looking into when we get back to Chicago. The variety we sampled was like clear Japanese bourbon. We are very intrigued.

Friday we took advantage of the opportunity to have breakfast on the beach at sunrise (yes, Dad, we were up before the sun; we figure it’s good to try it every now and again, just to see if it’ll stick. So far, no, it hasn’t.). Though it was cloudy, it was eerily peaceful, and we could hear the slowly waxing tide crashing on the sandbar a few hundred yards from shore, and watch the clam diggers collecting their catch. The meal was delicious and elegantly presented by candlelight in one of the aforementioned cabanas. If we’d have been more awake, it would have been quite romantic.

Sunrise Breakfast

Finishing our meal, we paused to take in the scenery briefly before going back to bed. What else are you supposed to do at 7:00 am?

Rising for the second time, we decided to pamper ourselves and made appointments at the spa for a rub down. This is something we never do, but because we were in a place of such gracious and affordable luxury, we figured we should try it at least once. As a dude, I’m not used to participating in such processes, but one rub across my shoulders had me in such a state of complete relaxation that I would definitely do it again.

Following our advanced course in relaxation, we then decided to further our studies by returning to our cabana from the day before, and continued to apply our newly-acquired laziness skill set. By this time, we had become near-experts at the process, and with Mattias’ help, continued to enjoy doing nothing while drinking sweet, sweet Bali Hai. A full tour of both the winding river pool and reflecting pool—complemented by watching some local kids goofing around on the beach—completed our cabana time, and deciding we should probably attempt to leave the hotel compound at least once, we walked the beachfront. On our stroll, we encountered a Balinese guy who had lived in Baltimore for a while who gave us his email address, should we ever return to Bali. We’ll be giving him a call when we come back.

Kids at play

Returning to the hotel, we got ready for our dinner show, and despite arriving before the time we were quoted, the show had already started. It was a frenetic 45-minute display of chanting, dancing and clapping—a recounting of an ancient Hindu folktale involving a princess, two brothers, a golden deer, a murderous warlord and a monkey. At least that’s what we could piece together from what we saw. At any rate, it was very interesting and the players put it on with so much gusto that it was impossible to capture it on film (all we got were some very blurry shots with the occasional sparkle to indicate one of the intricate headpieces). It was a great show, however, and thoroughly entertained the glut of French tourists who had arrived earlier that day and were sitting directly in front of the action. In their Speedos. Hotness.

Following dinner, we retired to our room, exhausted from all the doing of nothing and eager to avoid anymore accidental glances at Europeans in grapesqueezers.

Saturday we rose early to work out before heading to the airport (in case you can’t tell, Al’s on this workout kick, so I’m contractually obligated to participate because I’m a good husband). In the light of day, we were able to get a better glimpse of the town surrounding the resorts, which was interesting and will surely be visited when we return to Bali. Fun fact: the motorbike is the preferred mode of transportation, and we were surrounded by dozens of bikers at each stoplight. It seemed an Indonesian Hell’s Angels Light. Flight-wise, our outbound trip was much more enjoyable, and we returned to Singapore without incident.

In sum:
– Bali is awesome
– Massages are manly, if used sparingly
– We are still not morning people
– We are offering advanced training in doing nothing, so sign up now. Classes begin in June.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 24 January 2011 8:51 am

    The temperature is zero(again!) with lots of snow and the sky is gray(again!). So, imagine how I reacted to your blog this morning….I am SO FREAKIN JEALOUS!!!!!!!!! AND, I am SO happy for you two. What a great experience. ENJOY, ENJOT, ENJOY. Love you both. Mom(senora)

  2. Venky Gopalan permalink
    28 January 2011 11:38 pm

    Thanks for clarifying that massages are manly. Its going to make my once a week massage so much more relaxing

    • conison permalink*
      30 January 2011 6:23 pm

      That’s what we’re here for, Venky. Just let us know if you need the “manly” factor on any of your other activities…


  1. Weekend Update 02: Sweet Bali Hai « The World According To Conison | Ketekung Bungalow

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