Monday, October 01, 2012

Bali-ball

It took us four months, but Al and I finally took our honeymoon, and it was fantastic. 

Our honeymoon in Indonesia was preceded by a week-long business trip for me in the Philippines and Singapore.  Highlights can be summarized thusly: 1) unlimited mango; 2) cheap pearls; 3) Laksa curry. The end.  So, with that out of the way, let's discuss Indonesia, shall we?

Nusa Dua, Bali

The first leg of our two-week Indonesian adventure was in Nusa Dua, Bali.  I got there a couple days before Al and so spent the first couple days of my honeymoon all alone in a gorgeous, romantic resort full of lovey-dovey, smug couples holding hands and shooting me pitying glances.  The first night, I defiantly ate by myself in the hotel restaurant, nursing a glass of grassy Sauvignon Banc and reading a book, but even I felt sorry for myself, so the next night I embraced the solitude and ate fried noodles in bed while watching reruns of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

That night, as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard my gchat ping, so I got up to see a message from my dad telling me that there had been a big earthquake in the Philippines and that there was a tsunami warning for Eastern Indonesia. Ruh roh.  Being me, I immediately panicked and put my passport, iPhone, and newly purchased string of freshwater pearls into a plastic bag and prepared to climb to higher ground, luggage and pants be damned, but my parents somehow talked me off the (almost literal!) ledge and, within an hour, the tsunami warning was cancelled.  I still stayed awake until 2 am, straining my ears for sounds of particularly menacing waves, but, thanks at least in part to my vigilance, I think, nothing happened.

Al showed up, finally, and we spent our first few days together swilling tropical fruit based cocktails, eating noodles, and sleeping by the pool.  We also went on a field trip to Ubud, an inland town that was the setting for Elizabeth Gilbert's self-indulgent Balinese lovefest and is the current home to many malevolent monkeys. 


(This monkey was on Lombok, but same idea).

After two days in Bali, we boarded a plane for Lombok.

Sengiggi, Lombok

Lombok is an island next to Bali that also has nice beaches and noodles but, unlike Bali, is predominantly Muslim (rather than Hindu) and has a less well-developed tourism infrastructure.  This was evident from the difference between our lovely, well-oiled resort in Nusa Dua (The Laguna) and our somewhat shabby Sheraton in Sengiggi, which, while nice enough, was rough around the edges (literally -- I got some splinters in that bizz).  The service there was pleasant but confused.  Simple requests (e.g., "Our doorknob fell off, can someone fix it so that we can get in and out of our door?") were met with puzzled smiles and vigorous nodding, but little action. Oh, well.  Al and I are pretty low-maintenance.  All we require is booze, food, and a shady place to nap, so we did just fine.



After a few lazy days in Sengiggi, we headed off for our next destination, the Rinjani crater.

Rinjani

Rinjani is an active volcano in the north of Lombok.  We were to understand that the trek up to its crater rim, which looks out over a stunning crater lake, was "challenging" but doable.  Actually, when we were planning the trip, I read the description of it and said to Al, "This sounds kinda hard," and he reassured me that, in fact, the crater hike was for "fat tourists" and we could do it with our eyes closed.  I trusted my husband.  And that was my first mistake. 

No, no, it wasn't that bad.

... But it was pretty bad. 

The thing is, to get to the crater rim, you have to ascend over 6,000 feet.  And we did the hike in seven hours, including rest (which took up about two hours).  So that means that we ascended 6,000+ feet in five hours.  For those of you who don't hike, let me put it this way: that shizz be steep.  And sandy.  And hot.  So you're basically climbing uphill in sand for five hours, which is not high on my list of Things I Want To Be Doing.  But we got there (Al and I and our guide were the first group to the top, huzzah!) and it was pretty. 



We took pictures, ate a hearty meal involving noodles, hardboiled eggs, and cookies, and then went to sleep in our tent.  It took me a while to fall asleep because I kept hearing things outside of our tent (turns out there are wild dogs who live up there, fun!) and also because I had to pee but the "toilet tent" was up a rocky hill and I had no flashlight.  This resulted in me just holding it until 5 am, when I was ready to be awake anyway, because turns out camping with no flashlight is really boring. 



The next day, we tromped down the mountain we had slogged up, and by the end of it, our legs were quivering, we were covered in dirt and grime, and I was fantasizing about hour-long showers.  We went directly from the mountain to a ferry, which took us to our next port of call, Gili Air.

Gili Air

Gili Air is a magical place.  I think that if Al and I had known how much we'd love it, we might have just booked our entire two-week trip there, because it's pretty much paradise.  It's this tiny, white sand island surrounded by crystal clear water striped green and blue.  The island is dotted by palm trees, beachside bars, and little open air huts called berugaks.  You can do lots of activities there -- diving, snorkeling, etc. -- or you can do nothing.  I tended more towards the latter option.



We stayed in a lovely little inn called Casa Mio, which consists of several stand-alone cottages with outdoor showers (with hot water) and air conditioning, plus a freshwater pool and a restaurant/bar facing the beach.  We ate breakfast every day sitting in a berugak looking out over the calm sea. 



Pretty frickin' idyllic. 

We spent four days there drinking Bintang beer, eating excellent food (including some incredible home-made pasta -- tagliatelli with mussels and clams, mmm), walking a lot, and doing yoga.  Well, I did yoga and Al dived.  It was perfect.  Now that I'm describing it, I guess it doesn't make for a great blog post, because nothing exciting or weird happened to us there (which is weird in itself). 



The only downside to the entire stay in Gili was that we were absolutely crippled from our Rinjani trek.  I think people assumed Al and I were a nice, mildly disabled couple on our honeymoon, as we hobbled and winced our way around the island.  Stepping down even the smallest of steps was murder on my quads and calves.  Al and I would "help" (slash torture) each other by doing
improvisational Shiatsu massage on each other's legs at inopportune times (while ordering dinner, for example), which was fun/awful.  On our last day on Gili, I scheduled us a foot massage, which I figured was a safe option for two gimps like us -- except "foot massage" apparently means "leg massage," and so I spent a half hour cringing and gritting my teeth as a husky Indonesian woman ground her fists into my tender muscles.  You know what, though?  The next day my legs felt 1000% better.

Seminyak, Bali

From Gili Air, we boarded a "fast boat" back to Bali.  Have you ever taken a fast boat? Here's a tip: don't.  When I first heard the term "fast boat," I pictured some sort of semi-luxury yacht that glides smoothly through waves and turbulence to deliver its passengers, well-rested and most definitely not-nauseated, to their destination.  I pictured myself spending the 90 minute ride reading, perhaps gazing out the window once in a while to see the ocean, perhaps sipping a daiquiri brought to me by a yacht attendant. 

This was dumb.  I realize that now.

Turns out, a fast boat is just a shitty boat with no ventilation that powers its way through rough seas with little regard for its passengers' comfort or nausea levels, resulting in a most unpleasant boating experience. 

Let's just say this: no reading happened on the fast boat. Barf bags were distributed (and used, by some passengers). Tears were shed. Not by me! No, I chose to stare stoicly out the window, listening to a podcast while inwardly reassuring myself that we probably wouldn't capsize. Probably. Al and I did not talk for the entire 90 minute ride, mostly because I was afraid to open my mouth lest I toss my proverbial cookies and also because I was annoyed at him for not telling me that fast boat = terror boat.

Anyway, after the longest, choppiest boat ride of my life (never again, seriously), we made it to Bali and bundled into a van with a sullen French couple for a three-hour ride to our hotel, the W in Seminyak. 

Our fabulous hotel made up for all of the crappiness of the day of travel. Here's a picture of the view from our balcony:



Not. Too. Shabby.

We spent the last couple days of the honeymoon eating, reading, shopping, and sleeping, and it was glorious.

I will definitely miss Indonesia and all of its many delights, but I'm happy to be back in the U.S. for my last few weeks before we pack up and leave for South Africa. Stay tuned...

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