So, truth be told, Bali/Indo wasn’t the original consideration for the April break. No firm plans had ever really been made, but I think we’d always just assumed we’d do some exploring of our own fine peninsula and its surroundings… See what all the fuss is about over in ‘Nam (is that… an acceptable thing to say these days?), pop into Angkor Wat in Cambodia (did you hear they’re ripping it off tipping their hats to it over in India?), maybe check out Laos while it’s still considered “undiscovered” so we could pretentiously refer to “those days” with a glimmer of nostalgia in our eyes at some point in the distant future…
But when Wayne got an email from an old friend of his suggesting we meet up with him and his fiancée in Bali I can’t say we put up much of a fight against the idea at all. They arrived a few days after us, and in the end we only had one day on Bali with them (as well as the fiancée’s sister and another friend) before meeting up again on Gili Trawangan (We took… slightly different routes. Theirs was better. This will be discussed later.). After our visit to the market we had lunch and promptly at 2 o’clock were picked up from our guesthouse in a van their hotel had arranged for a Sunset Tour. It had been about six years since Wayne and Greg had seen each other (they’re from the same town in South Africa, as are all the girls, but only met each other in London, where Greg and the girls still reside) but they got on like no time had passed at all; and I enjoyed meeting him, Candice, Laura, and Julie as well.
And it’s a good thing, because we ended up spending a lot of time in that van together! First stop was another coffee plantation like the one we’d gone to after our volcano hike, so the newcomers got to sample the famed Kopi Luwak as well. There were other things on offer as well…
when i was back home working at that lebanese place we also served arak, but i never got a chance to try it. upon further research i’ve just discovered they’re not actually the same thing… the middle eastern arak is an anise-flavored, grape-based aperitif while the south-east asian variety is a liqueur that can be made from a number of things (though i think ours was always from rice). the names do, however, derive from the same arabic word meaning ‘sweat’ or ‘condensation’. thanks again wiki!
Then it was time for the rice terraces. We were excited for this because we’d been too tired to go to the ones that were included in our volcano hike. However, we began to doubt the credibility of our van driver when the ‘terrace’ he took us to involved simply stopping in the middle of the road and taking a few pictures… made us doubly glad we’d gotten adventurous and taken that coffee break at the Sayan Rice Terraces on our own a few days before.
The driver proceeded to continue to work his way towards a vote of no confidence after getting seemingly lost or turned around a few times, and then attempting to bring us to two places that charged their own entrance fee (on all the other tours we’d done or heard of, the cost of the tour was meant to cover all the fees included). The weather, as you can see, was not looking too promising so we were wondering if we were actually going to get a sunset at all. Which is when we looked on the map and actually bothered finding out where these mythical “Tanah Lot” place was.
But at this point in the affair we found our time to be well spent! Tanah Lot is a little coastal town with some impressive rock formations and, at least in our experience, one hell of a surf. The waves came crashing, Wayne managed to get soaked, I took way more pictures than necessary (Waves are a difficult subject, you know? They just won’t hold still…) hoping to get a few good ones. I got lucky a time or two :).
We watched the sun set over an overpriced (as expected, given the location) Bintang, serenaded by a band doing acoustic, Island-style versions of “Sweet Child of Mine” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Certainly not the most unpleasant of witching hours! We then headed back for one last dinner in Ubud before setting out on what ended up being a very tumultuous journey to Gili Trawangan the following morning. More on that later.