Our trip to Bali, Indonesia started early in the morning. At 4:30am we left Tokyo on the metro for Narita Airport. It is always a whirlwind carrying luggage on the Tokyo subway, we suggest if possible to avoid. Of course, we are on a budget, so we took an earlier train to miss morning commute. We made it to the airport in ample time, so we we’re able to eat some breakfast in the terminal. Maybe that wasn’t such a great idea. Because immediately after takeoff my stomach was turning knots as my food wasn’t agreeing with me and I was having severe anxiety about flying. Combine that with the fact that the plane flight was 7 hours long, it was probably the worst I have been on a plane ever. Anyone who has flying anxiety can understand. Poor Angelo, I must have cut off the circulation in his hand 30 times, and his stomach was upset too from the food at the terminal! I am so lucky to be traveling with him, he is patient and tries his best to calm me down.
When we finally arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia I clapped and said a little prayer that we were finally on ground. When departing the aircraft I couldn’t help but notice how many women were wearing headscarfs, and how beautiful their faces are. We rushed over to our baggage, then headed to the Malaysia airline counter. You see, we had a 14 hour layover in Kuala Lumpur until we left for Bali. Angelo had an agreement with the airlines that we would be put up in a hotel at the airport overnight, so we had to get our voucher. As we walked from the airport terminal to our five star hotel, Sama Sama, we noticed how hot and humid it was. How different was this weather than Japan! Upon checking into our fabulous hotel ( we both kinda shrieked like little girls when we saw our hotel room ), we quickly got changed to go downstairs to eat dinner. We also received meal vouchers with our hotel room. So we are at the restaurant and we soon figure out that not only do we get a free dinner but a FREE DINNER BUFFET!!! Now, I rarely stay in hotels, let alone five star hotels but this buffet was THE BOMB!!! Mind you Angelo and I have been walking like madmen the past 3 weeks and eating 7-11 food in Japan everyday, so we were so happy. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you Angelo has already lost 7 pounds.
Remember that hungry hungry hippos board game from when you were a kid? Well anyways, that was us. They had so much food: desserts, cheese platters, sushi, different breads, Thai food, Indian food, fish, pork, duck, lamb, tofu, tempeh, BBQ, chicken, soups, noodles (all different types), geez I could go on. And we were happy to not be eating Japanese food, which we love, but wanted a change for our palates. But I guess we got a little too excited because Angelo got another stomachache after eating all that food. We went to sleep pretty much after dinner as we only had an hour sleep the night before, and had to wake up early for the last leg of the trip to Bali.
So we take the final flight to Bali, 3 hours later we are at our next destination! We were both excited as we have never been here before. After getting our luggage we go outside to wait for our driver that will bring us to our bungalow that we rented through airbnb. Our drivers are an Indonesian couple who work for our host where we are staying in a place called Kuta. When we arrived to our spot, not far away from the airport, our host arrives. He is very nice, but quickly informs us that the electricity is out. We go to the back of our bungalow (a room with a bathroom) and he shows us the power box where he assures us that it only goes out 2 or 3 times a day and to just reset the power. Angelo and I put our things into our room and try putting on the a/c, the power goes out again. Well, we didn’t really have electricity all day. Also, we didn’t have internet to inform our host that the power was out all day. There was one other foreigner staying at the compound. Everyone else was Indonesian. In the front next to us is a business that cleans for the Swedish students that live across the street. Because their power was out as well, the women were outside and we started talking.
“Where are you from?” They ask Angelo.
“You look Indonesian!”
He proceeds to tell them where we are from, and that he is half Dutch Indonesian and half Phillipino. They were such nice women, honestly looking back maybe a little bit our saving grace.
“Did you ask (our host who shall be nameless) to fix the electricity? Oh, it’s hot. Maybe you should tell him power is not working for any of us.”
“You want to stay here? There is nice place up the street for cheap. Very cheap, small price, you like.”
“OHH! It’s hot, maybe I cannot take this.” All the while fanning her face.
You see, while we knew that the power grid was not very strong on certain parts of the island, we also were wondering if our current housing was going to be ok for a whole month. Our bathroom did not have any windows, and even during the daytime we couldn’t see in there without lights. Our nice neighbors kindly gave us candles, also reassured us at nighttime would be better as they are closed and wouldn’t be using the a/c at night, so hopefully our power would be on. We also rented a motor scooter as this is the transportation to get around Bali. Thank goodness Angelo knows how to drive a motorcycle. I will go into driving a scooter around Bali later, that is a whole post in itself. So, it’s around 5pm, we decide to walk to the beach as it’s still hot and we are hungry. The beach is very close to the bungalow, we take the pathway from the street to the water and can’t help but notice all the trash on the sand. We continue to walk on the beach north of our street towards where there are restaurants on the sand and are approached every minute or so to eat at that particular establishment. Trekking on, we find a small vacant spot to just sit and take photos of the sunset. I cannot help but notice while Angelo is taking pics that there is so much trash on the beach. I honestly don’t think I had ever seen so much trash on a beach before. In the two days we spent in south Kuta we saw two dead snakes, a dead puffer fish, dirty diapers, so much plastic bottles, hundreds of dead sand crabs and a whole beach of dead coral. This was not the paradise that we had imagined. Much to our ignorance we found out that south Kuta is one of the most polluted beaches in the world. So, we didn’t dare get into the water. Meanwhile, many foreigners are hopping around taking pictures, swimming in polluted waters and bossing around locals trying to get a cheaper price at what is already dirt cheap.
Angelo and I are starving by this time, so we head off to one of the beachfront restaurants and pick a fish to be cooked fresh with some rice and veggies. Soon after starting to eat, I get some gnarly stomach pains that result us in quickly finishing and walking back on the dark street to our place. After my stomach pains subsiding somewhat, I decide to take a shower as we both smell pretty bad from traveling all day. Power goes out, I am in total darkness for a minute, then lights go back on again. This happens a couple more times, so Angelo and I decide to go to the cafe right across the street to buy some sodas and use their free internet to contact our host. After about an hour, our host sends over his middle man to see what’s going on with the electrical grid and why the power keeps going out. Also we have no wifi, which may not seem like a big deal – but I don’t have any phone, Angelo has his iPhone, but no service. So we rely on having internet to get anywhere and to use skype to contact our families.
To make a long story a little shorter, we decided to leave our first place after two days. We kept going back and fourth the first 24 hours whether to stay or not. Are we being too demanding? Are we asking too much? Maybe we are too spoiled? (btw, as Americans we are definitely spoiled.) Also, there was a certain amount of the rent which we would not get back if we left early. After a couple of bugs (one just gross, and two that are dangerous if stung) found in our room, more power shortages and no replies from our host about our issues, we decided to leave. I think this was the best decision that we made yet on our trip. Thank god our friend Kaity is here in Bali right now. She had already been on the island for 10 days before we arrived. She was staying in a little surf town called Canggu. North of Kuta, she reassured that the villa was nice and quiet – away from the craziness of Kuta. After a nasty response from our asshole host (I am sorry, but there is really no other way to describe him) , we packed up early and took a cab north to the hills.
When we arrived to our spot in Canggu, we were so relieved. Angelo and I were greeted by our very kind manager Made and our friend Kaity. I was a bit sad to leave our Indonesian neighbors, and I left a small gift in gratitude of their kindness, but was happy to move on. We learned a lot about ourselves those two short days – our comfort level, what is necessary for us to be happy. As I write this the lights just went out for a couple of seconds (normal for Bali, hours are not normal to have power). We are learning a lot how to travel on a budget and being more quick with our decisions. But most of all we are learning to look beyond the perfect picture of paradise and what really exists behind it.