The Wizardess of Oz

An American's Adventures in Australia and Beyond

Category: Indonesia

Seminyak

To round out our time in Bali, we left Uluwatu to spend our last few days in the tourist mecca of Seminyak. Where Ubud manages to retain some it’s Balinese charm, Seminyak has been fully converted to cater to Western tourist sensibilities.

That’s not to say there’s nothing of value in Seminyak – indeed, one of the best meals I had in Asia was at La Lucciola, a beautiful restaurant right on the sand at sunset. And our stay at Tony’s Villas was gorgeous – it felt like honeymoon quality (even if I was sharing the room with my sister). Everyone has a different traveling style, and some people genuinely love having dozens of options for food, shopping, and five-star accommodation. If that is you, Seminyak is your place.

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One of Our Showers at Tony’s Villas

After we had the obligatory drinks at Potato Head our first afternoon and wandered around the retail outlets looking for bargains, we were ready to explore further afield. So we opted to hire a driver, a popular option for people visiting Bali and a great opportunity to support the local economy, provided you don’t go through a Western-owned service.

The next morning, Nyoman was right on time. We were not. After 15 minutes of scrambling, we managed to get out to the lobby ready for a day of exploring the temples and beaches north of Seminyak.

Our first stop, at Nyoman’s suggestion, was the Taman Ayun temple in Badung province. This was the temple I had been expecting to see in Uluwatu. It was stunning, peaceful, and lush. The beautiful pagodas made for good photos, and we took our time wandering through the vast gardens.

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Pagodas of the Temple

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Then we were off to the second Monkey Forest of our time in Bali. This one was a lot smaller and emptier, but we finally got over our fear of letting the monkeys touch us and got some great photos.

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After, we went to the wildly overcrowded Tana Lot temple. Professional photos of the diminutive temple on a small island in the sea make it look much more mystical than it is in sweltering midday heat, surrounded by Chinese and Korean tourists. This one is best left for sunrise, I think.

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Our last stop for the day was the sleepy surf town of Echo Beach, in Canggu. This was what I had been looking for: a less-trafficked, distinctly chilled out place to relax in the sun with some beers. So we did exactly that at Old Man’s Bar, whiling away the afternoon and pretending not to check out the surfers that were coming and going between sets.

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When we left for the airport the next morning, it was pouring rain. Watching the Balinese wrap themselves in plastic from head to foot and hop on their motorbikes for the morning commute made for an entertaining journey. We were lucky that for the majority of our trip, we wouldn’t have known it was the rainy season in Indonesia. And we were headed to Thailand, where the rains wouldn’t come for a couple more months, and the beaches and islands beckoned.

Uluwatu

After a few days in the center of Bali, it was time to head to some of the world-famous beaches. First on the agenda was Uluwatu, the surf mecca of Bali, where the mountains bend down to kiss the cerulean sea and leave golden sands in the wake of their embrace.

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We started by exploring the ‘world famous’ Uluwatu temple, which was a bit of a disappointment. After fairly rude service from the guards, we started wandering the temple, expecting to be blown away by architechture and views that stole our breath. Unfortunately, both were a little lackluster, causing us to wonder why this was on so many ‘must-do’ lists.

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The geography of the Uluwatu area makes for many amazing cliffside bars, and we availed ourselves of a couple of them. Most notable was Rock Bar in the Jimbawan area, set in a stunning resort hotel and facing the sunset. We saw some pretty amazing sunsets in Fiji, and this one was right up there with the color and light show making the overpriced drinks a little easier to swallow.

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At the recommendation of our other sister, a Bali veteran, we had dinner at a restaurant called Balique, and immediately fell in love the cute French-inspired decor, charming sangria presentation, and delicious food that came out from the kitchen. Plus our waiter was adorable, getting very serious when we asked him to take a photo of us and moving this way and that to get the perfect lighting.

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We spent one day on Padang Padang Beach – a tiny little alcove that’s reached through a narrow passageway in the rocks. The sand is a bit crowded with tourists and vendors trying to sell bikinis, shirts, sarongs, and more, but the color of the water and sand is truly beautiful.

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Any place would have been a tough act to follow after I fell hard for Ubud, but Uluwatu made an impressive showing.

Ubud

I had a good feeling about Ubud, before I even set foot into it.

I’m not one of those travelers who insists on traveling only to ‘off the beaten track’ locations, haughtily turning my nose up an anything that’s ‘just so done,‘ and sprinting in the opposite direction of places that would be deemed touristy. So, despite the Elizabeth Gilbert Eat/Pray/Love cloud that hung over the place, I bargained with my sister to spend at least a couple of nights in the interior of Bali, instead of focusing solely on the beaches.

And in so doing, I found one of my favorite places in the world.

Ubud is definitely firmly planted on the tourist track in Bali, much to the lament of many people who ‘came here before it was cool.’ The village center is a bustling line of shops and restaurants that cater to the tourists that pass through. The prices are definitely not Asia prices. And it’s a wonderful place.

After a couple of months of crashing on couches and in low-cost hostels, my sister and I decided to splash out a bit and booked ourselves into a room at the Greenfield Hotel. We absolutely loved the grounds, the room, and the staff. And the price wasn’t necessarily a budget-buster, even if it wasn’t what would qualify as ‘budget.’ And rather than try to push the agenda as ‘travelers’ instead of ‘tourists,’ we threw ourselves into being tourists with gusto.

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We feasted like queens, trying out delicious local food at Cafe Wayan, dined in a rice paddy at 3 Monkeys, and participated in the most wonderful cooking class through Paon Cooking. Our teacher “Auntie Puspa” was a riot, cracking jokes and vogue-ing for photos like Cindy Crawford.

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We shopped at the stalls and stores in town, picking up batik fabrics, Bali pants and trinkets for our future niece.

We explored the natural side of Ubud, marveling at the Tagallalang Rice Terraces, fighting over the contents of our purses with the monkeys of the Monkey Forest (not always winning the battle), and cycling through the small villages the dot the rice fields outside of the town, waving hello to the children that shouted as we passed.

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We treated ourselves to a spa day, getting massages, body scrubs and skin treatments right next to a river in a beautiful hotel.

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And everywhere we went, we were greeted with hospitality and a generosity of spirit that is unique to the Balinese. By the end of our four days in town, I was already scheming ways to come back more permanently. Sometimes, being a tourist isn’t as overrated as travelers make it out to be.

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