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Published: June 29th 2010
We just returned to Kuala Lumpur after a week on the beautiful island of Bali, in Indonesia, a place both of us have always wanted to visit.
On June 21st, we took a late flight from Singapore Changi Airport (rated #1 in the world-- it WAS nice) to Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali. If you look at a map, you'll barely make out the island of Bali, sitting there tiny and quiet in between the islands of Java and Lombok. Though it's small, it has two distinct features: one, it's probably the biggest tourist destination in all of Indonesia, and certainly the one you hear about the most as a place to travel to. Secondly, (and this I had to verify on Wikipedia) it has the largest population of Hindus (a religious minority in an Islamic country) in Indonesia. Because of these two things, I'm sure you can imagine the rich culture it provides, partly catered to foreign tourists. There's a book out that I read a few years ago, and Martin just read this year, called "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. It's a memoir detailing Elizabeth's soul-searching trips to Italy, Indonesia and India, and is actually coming out as a movie later this summer, starring Julia Roberts. It will be even more fun to see the movie after having been there-- we even stayed in the same part of Bali that she did, and got to hear a bit from the locals about how annoying it was to have the streets blocked off during the filming!
By the time we got through customs at the airport, it was officially the 22nd of June. Luckily, our hotel we had booked had a person waiting there to pick us up, so we didn't have to hassle with a taxi at 1 in the morning and were quickly driven the short 15 minutes down tiny streets too small for a car to our hotel-room overlooking a pristine pool in Kuta, Bali. Kuta is the major surfing area of Bali, and just sort of...trashy. It's filled to the brim with overweight, middle-aged white tourists wearing awful Hawaiian print shirts and young, overly-tan, tattooed white surfer dudes...all of them drinking until 3am and treating the area as if they own it. We witnessed many people stumbling out of the bars as we were driven to our hotel, and sighed a breath of relief that we hadn't booked to stay much time in Kuta.
The next morning, we ate breakfast at the hotel (banana pancakes!) and took a walk around town, stopping for some iced coffee at a little restaurant or 'warung' as they're called in Indonesia. Around noon, a driver from our new hotel arrived to drive us the hour and a half to Ubud, another part of Bali away from the ocean and surrounded by more amazingly green rice paddies than I'd ever seen in my life. We spent six nights at Ubud Bungalows on 'Monkey Forest Rd', aptly named for the 'Monkey Forest Sanctuary' that sits at one end of it and is home to about a million (exaggeration, of course) wild monkeys. The driver that took us there was hilarious, with great English and stories about how much his girlfriend 'talks talks talks' about wanting to get married. Ubud had a small village feel, completely walkable with cracked sidewalks, small cafes and the friendliest people ever.
If I don't remember anything else this year, I hope I at least remember the thousands of wonderful conversations we've had with people all over the world, leading both very different and very similar lives as ourselves. We are all so connected. If only we could all travel and interact with each other...I think peace would have a much better chance in this world.
I won't write about every day in Ubud...I mean, really, it's impossible to describe everything we've seen, eaten, experienced, breathed this year anyway. Most of it will have to live on in our memories, in our bodies, as just that...experiences that have forever shaped us into different people with a new outlook on life.
I will say that Ubud was more than amazing. We spent the week eating delicious organic vegetarian food, swimming in the hotel pool, biking through rice paddies and small villages with smiling children, listening to the rain on the roof of our small bungalow in the evenings, stargazing, taking pictures of baby monkeys clinging to their parents, leaving a note for a friend of a friend at a local restaurant (my former coworker's partner is Indonesian and his high-school friend now runs a restaurant in Ubud that we visited, but she was unfortunately not there) talking to local Balinese and just soaking up the culture and love in yet another part of the world.
We spent last night back in the tourist frenzy of Kuta so that we could be close to the airport for a 6am flight today, and have since spent the day just relaxing in Kuala Lumpur. Tomorrow we'll fly back to Hong Kong and make our way back over the border to Shenzhen for 2 more nights. It feels more final than any other move we've made. I don't know the next time we'll see people we've met this year...some of them maybe never again. I hope we continue with Chinese, and I hope more trips to China are in the future for us, but you never know where the path will lead...
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