Our previous couple of trips have begun with rousing ourselves from bed before sunrise and rushing off to the airport in the pre-dawn darkness, so it was a welcome change to have a flight that left in the afternoon. Friday morning was relaxed and kicked back as we packed up our bags, and went to buy fins for snorkeling (a word of advice: If you're looking for snorkeling gear in S'pore, go to Ocean Paradise in Tanglin Mall, which I like to call "Expat Wives' Mall". I spent forever looking for gear, and only ever found kids' stuff. Ocean Paradise has a reasonably priced selection for both kids and adults. And they have super cute swimwear).
After picking up snorkeling stuff, we headed to the airport to catch our flight. We flew KLM to Bali, and it was pretty refreshing. We've mostly taken Jetstar and Air Asia since we moved here, and those airlines are budget airlines that charge for every little thing. I mean, you have to really convince them to give you some water without handing them money. But the KLM flight we took was treated like a huge international flight because a lot of people on the plane were just stopping over in Singapore on a longer flight all the way from Amsterdam to Bali. That meant that we got free beverages, dinner, and even those awesome individual screens for each passenger, with movies, games, and TV shows. I had an awesome time watching Pocahontas, playing Tetris, and eating a delicious vegetarian meal. And no, KLM isn't paying me to say this. It was just an honestly pleasant flight.
And then we touched down in Bali. It was dark and rainy, so we couldn't see much. My first impression of Ngurah Rai Airport was pretty negative. There were very long lines for immigration. It was a startlingly inefficient system. We had to wait in one line to pay our immigration fee, and then we had to turn around and wait in another line to get our passport stamped, then one more line to get through customs. One of the guys who was issuing visas was also listening to his iPod, and I swear his speed was dependent upon the tempo of the song he was listening to. It took about an hour and a half and it was a pretty negative experience. When we finally got outside, there was a crush of taxi drivers waiting to descend upon us, making me very glad that we had arranged transportation ahead of time. A guy was standing there, holding up a sign that said "Dr. Bryan Koenig," and he whisked us past all of the shouting drivers. His name was Atang, and he was going to drive us the two and a half to three hours up to Amed in eastern Bali, where we had reservations at Kembali Beach Bungalows.
The drive was pretty good. Even though it was dark, we could see some interesting sights out the window, like a massive, two-story KFC. Strangely, KFC is madly successful all over southeast Asia. As our drive went along, the scenery became more and more rural, and the full moon lit up the terraced rice paddies around us. We could also see mountains in the distance, and I looked forward to seeing it all in the daylight. As we got higher and higher up, the roads began twisting and turning. As we navigated one hairpin turn after another, I felt nausea wash over me. I've been prone to motion sickness more and more as I've gotten older, and it usually sets in in situations like this- when I'm on curvy roads and I can't see where we're going. Luckily, the worst of it only went on for about a half an hour before we pulled to a stop at a seemingly random place along the road. A couple of men came out to meet us and led us down a flight of stone stairs.
I was instantly enamored by our little seaside lodging. As we walked down the stairs, the sound of the ocean crashing against the shore rose up to meet us. The moon illuminated Gunung Agung, a volcano near Amed. The stone paths wound around the property, up to each individual bungalow. The men who met us gave us ice cold bottles of water, and led us to our little beachfront place. It was lovely- a big bed, draped in mosquito netting, no TV or radio, and a traditional Balinese style bathroom, which is partially outdoors. Basically, the bathroom has stone floors and the top part of the walls are open to the outside. We also had a porch facing the ocean. The porch had these long wooden blinds that we could roll down so that the porch was completely private, and become like another room. I already felt relaxed.
We took a little walk around the property, and it was lovely, even at night. Bryan and I were really excited to be able to see the stars again! In S'pore, with all the light pollution and tall buildings, we usually don't have very impressive night skies. On our way to check out the pool, a little toad hopped in front of us.
After a little exploration, we asked for a couple beers (Bintang, the most popular Indonesian beer), and then kicked back on the front porch and admired the stars and the distant lightning over the ocean.
Bryan found some geckos on the wall and some snails on the path, and decided to do some experimentation with night photography. I liked this one a lot.
It was a nice, relaxing evening, and it was fantastic to fall asleep to the sound of the waves rather than the city sounds to which we've grown accustomed.