Bali: a Tropical Paradise

Trip Start May 03, 2010
Trip End Oct 18, 2011

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Where I stayed
Furama Villas & Spa Ubud Badung
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Sunday, December 26, 2010

With New Year's Eve rapidly approaching, and no plans determined yet, I was ecstatic when my sister Miriam called to say that she was thinking about coming to visit me.  And after four months in Bangkok, I was ready to get out of Thailand.  We agreed to meet in Bali, Indonesia and she pretty much planned the whole trip for us.  We were going to spend four nights at the Furama Villas & Spa in Ubud and five nights at the Sheraton Laguna in Nusa Dua.

I had to get up at 3am to make it to the airport for my 6am flight, and I unbelievably made it there on time.  After a four hour flight, I arrived in Bali, where a gentleman from Furama was waiting outside the airport for me (after much confusion on the phone I was unable to explain that I am Miriam's sister, Kate, so the sign for me read "Miriam."  No problem.) and we embarked on a 45 minute drive north to Ubud.  Bali is a predominantly Hindu society, and as we drove we passed by lots of Indonesian people, the men dressed in white and the women dresed in brightly colored lace tops with long skirts, walking to temple for some Hindu celebration.  Something I didn't know about Hindu people but learned while I was there is that they celebrate to observe other religions' major holidays.  Since it was Dec. 26th, I'm not sure what they were celebrating that day, if not Christmas, but it was cool to see everyone out with their families. 

Furama is a beautiful resort with about 40 private villas.  The walkways are carefully paved with dark, uneven stone and the landscaping is full of bright green tropical plants.  Sculptures of frogs and mermaids lined the paths and pools and some had red flowers tucked in their ears.  Even the steps up to the restaurant and down to the bar from the lobby had flowers resting in the center of each one.  The details were clearly very carefully thought out and all of them made you feel like you were really in a tropical paradise. 

Our private villa had a beautiful courtyard, with grass sprouting up between the stone walkway, a small pool, two lounge chairs, a day bed and a patio with a small dining table and chaise.  I quickly determined that there was no need to do anything but enjoy our villa for the rest of the day until Miriam arrived.  I ordered room service for lunch, after which I took a dip in the pool and then passed out on the day bed for a nap.  Miriam arrived at 3am and I went with the driver from the resort to pick her up.

My sister, brave soul that she is, survived a 24 hour airplane ride with a head cold.  She had just fallen sick right before she left, so she was suffering pretty much the whole trip.  But she was a trooper and we still went out every day for sightseeing.  The first day, after a long morning and early afternoon session of resting at the villa, we headed out to Ubud to just wander around and explore.  On the way, an Australian couple who were also staying at Furama (right next to us, in fact, and enjoying watching very loud TV all day), informed us that we should pay no more than 30-50% of the asking price, everywhere.  She also informed us of a very popular "Babi Guling" or "succulent pig" dish of roasted pork at Ibu Oka, a restaurant next to the drop off point.  Since Furama is about 20 minutes outside of Ubud, they provided shuttles every two hours to drop us off and pick us up at the Royal Palace in the city center.  So we thanked them and started wandering.

The Royal Palace was surprisingly unremarkable, and we only went in far enough to discover that there was no restroom for me to use.  So we walked back out and decided to have lunch at the place the Australians recommended.  Miriam, who is vegetarian, almost decided to order the succulent pig, as appealing as that sounded, but then backed out.  So I ordered it and she had a bite.  It was actually pretty good.  From there we wandered up and down more streets, stopped to get her a seafood salad, and then headed back to meet the shuttle.  Miriam passed out early that night so I amused myself until bedtime.

The next day we headed to Monkey Forest, which is a small nature preserve and sacred sanctuary run by long tailed grey macaques monkeys.  You pretty much just walk through and take pictures of monkeys, and that's exactly what we did.  Some of the monkeys are shy, some are bold, some protective of the babies and others totally mischievous.  We were standing around a group of people all trying to catch a picture of an adult monkey carrying a baby riding on its belly, when all of a sudden one of the girls shrieked and we all turned to see a large monkey sitting on her shoulders!  We all thought it was very funny but she was seriously getting upset, so it jumped off and we stopped taking pictures.  Miriam took a video of a monkey family and we got some pics of three young monkeys all grooming eachother, and finally at the end, when Miriam and I sat down to take a picture together, a monkey crawled on my lap and grabbed on to my shirt.  I was a little scared but Miriam thought it was great, as you can see by the photos.  The monkey eventually lost interest and crawled on to my shoulders before he jumped off, though the guy taking photos didn't get a pic of that. 

Anyway, that night we saw a traditional Indonesian dance performance about the story of Rama and Sita.  It was a very nice performace but at two hours, it was a little too long.  A group of musicians lined the stage, playing music on some kind of xylophone instrument.  It was a lot of clangy and bongy sounds which I wouldn't excatly call pleasant but it was cool to see.  The next day we started with complimentary morning massages in the tranquil Furama open air Spa, with beds overlooking the rice paddies I had just jogged through that morning.  Then we went to the Elephant Caves a couple kilometers outside of the city.  These were really pretty temple grounds covered in lush tropical foliage.  We paid a gentleman to give us a tour and he explained about the history of the temple, which was only discovered in the 1920s.  While we were walking around alone after the tour, an old man with rotting brown teeth beckoned us to come in to his area of the temple to bless us and said a Hindu prayer for us.  We gave him some change and thanked him.

At that point, we found out that our friend, Richa, who was supposed to be on her way from San Francisco to come meet us, was not allowed to board her flight because her passport was within 6 months of expiration.  Apparently, Indonesia is very strict about this and will literally make you turn around and go home if you don't have more than 6 months before you passport expires.  We were so bummed to find out that she wasn't coming, since we were looking forward to celebrating the New Year with her in Nusa Dua.  But she spent all day at the passport office, got it renewed and was on her way to Bali the next day.  Happy to have a friend join us, we got packed up, said goodbye to Furama and made our way down to the Sheraton Laguna in Nusa Dua.
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Jana on

What an amazing place you stayed at! Sounds like so much fun! You are really living it up! :)

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