Author’s Note: I’ve decided to put this before all of my Bali 2013-2014 posts (of which there will be 5, and this is the 2nd.) — In 2013 (yes, can you believe I am only getting to this transcribing these memories now?), I spent a significant amount of time in Bali, where some truly unforgettable memories took shape. Here are snapshots of those days.
In my previous entry about Bali (Into the Ocean), I talked in depth about my Dive Safari, but touched upon time spent in the lovely town of Sanur while in Bali. I will use this opportunity here, to expound.
Over the course of our trips to Bali, several places in Sanur have been mainstays for us. Though this is written in the perspective of 2013-Me, almost all of these places remain where they are, reliable as they are, and wonderful as they are. Any that don’t – or may have changed slightly, I will point out.
Across the latter half of 2013, I spent many a long weekend diving, and exploring Bali with Jay and a newfound group of friends – most of whom were doing the same Dive Master/Instructor course Jay was with Blue Season Bali. On days we would dive, we would be out on the water all day and return to Sanur completely wiped out. We would rinse off our gear at the dive center, hang it up, and then retire back to our villas temporarily to shower, and rest our feet, before a night out. These nights would often be spent in local haunts like Linga Longas (live reggae music, beer, and babi guling – aka roasted baby pig), and Casablanca. The latter was known then for an epic Freeflow Fridays promo. The promo was basically freeflow Heineken on tap from 7pm to 8pm; no cover charge, the only rule was nobody could take out their phones or go to the bathroom. Should you be caught with your phone out or heading to the toilet, a large bell over the bar would be rung and the taps would “close” – so to speak. I was not then (and even moreso am not now) much of a drinker, so I never did make it past more than one full cup, but the concept of “no phones” and spending quality time actually talking to one another with the soft sounds of live bossa nova playing, was plenty appealing. It was a good way to spend quality time with genuine folk.
On days when I would skip diving and elect instead to explore Sanur or surrounding areas of Bali, I often would swing by a wonderful German bakery on Jl. Danau Tamblingan known as Bread Basket (it’s still there! Do visit, it’s the best) and pick up cinnamon rolls and cookies for the dive crew. Sometimes, I’d even buy brown bread to save for breakfast the morning after. I would then bring these treats to Blue Season, and share them with the team. Some folks there declared me the Cookie Queen or the Sweet Treater, sniffing out the sweets just at the sight of me as they arrived back from dives.
Sundays were special days at Blue Season back then, because they were both for community barbecues, as well as something known as The Snorkel Test – a notorious “initiation rite” for Dive Master and Instructor trainees that involves speeches, music, food, and a measure of frivolity for those participating.
Once a week, Jay would also get a break from his Instructor/Master trainee duties, and we would be able to do other things – try new places, explore. Those were the days we had Man Frydays (British style fish n’ chips), walked along Sanur beach, experienced the iconic Bali Kite Festival (a cultural festivity in which gigantic, bombastic kites are launched into the air by teams of [mostly] men with a goal to keep them speeding and soaring up in the air as long as possible), tried out afternoon tea and scones at The Porch, indulged in too many scoops of ice cream at Massimo’s, discovered delicious (cheap!) high class dining caliber restaurants like Kayu Manis, and even ventured out to the further reaches of Bali.
Kuta was not one of the places I enjoyed frequenting. But there were some purposes it served. For example, running errands with Jay and exploring the shops at Beachwalk Bali, a mall that had just come up right by the beach front. As well as grabbing coffee, sunbathing, and talking about faith and family with our friend Amy.
Over the Ramadan holiday, Amy and I both happened to be in Bali. She was there visiting Jeff, her childhood friend, who was also doing the Dive Master training program, and we made good buddies on land when the others were at sea.
She was the one I first got lost in Sanur with (mentioned here). We wandered through alleyways and small streets and large streets, trying to find our way to the beach but taking too many exciting detours as we did. The day after that, having seen so much of Sanur, we decided to head somewhere new. We ended up in Kuta then.
Amy was on a quest to pick up postcards she could send, and I was just happy to explore and tag along. After a bit of shopping, we walked ourselves to the beach, lay out on the sand, talked about faith, family, upbringing, and then set to writing – me in my little pocket journal, she on her postcards.
After a couple of hours, we headed back to Sanur in a cab, but not before I saw an old payphone half-buried in the sand, and an elder European tourist joked at me as he walked past: Now that’s what I call a land line!
One really memorable day trip Jay and I took back then was to Ubud. We randomly encountered a nice driver-for-hire named Wayan with a black van along Jl. Danau Poso in Sanur, who offered to take us on a tour of Ubud for a flat fee. We obliged. There was a lovely restaurant we wanted to eat at called Fair Warung Bale in the heart of Ubud, and we figured an excursion through some of the must-see’s would make for a nice day out.
Wayan took us to 6 stops in total:
- A batik workshop – where they had both mass-produced as well as handmade batik on display and for sale, and where we were able to witness the incredible process of designing batik by hand
- A silver workshop – similar to the batik one, where there was a shop attached, but you could also go in and watch the (mostly) women heat and bend and mould the silver into jewelry
- A wood workshop – where (mostly) men were hard at work carving locally and culturally relevant sculptures to be sold across the island
- The Goa Gajah temple – known as the Elephant Temple, where there was a “jungle” path, a temple, and a little art gallery
- Ubud proper, where we…
- Ate at one of our favorite restaurants in Bali: Fair Warung Bale (It is run by a charity organization, is on top of a free health clinic for less fortunate locals, and employs once wayward youth now on the right track. Service is great, food is fresh, everything is cheap, and everyone is cheerful!)
- Had ice cream
- Walked through the market
- Went into a lovely homemade, handmade jam shop where we purchased some gifts for my mom
- And explored small streets – nooks and crannies
- A rest stop/restaurant by the rice paddies called Alon Alon – where you would sit and snack and have tea in a gazebo overlooking the paddies themselves
We ended the day at that rest stop, with the sun just about hitting golden hour, and then headed back to Sanur for the evening – a full, and fulfilling day.
Though I never enjoyed Kuta very much as a place to visit, I did enjoy its neighbor Seminyak. While it was too crowded for my liking often, it did have some hip places to see/be/eat. Not only is Seminyak home to indie fashion labels, bars, and higher end villas; it is also where you can get: Naughty Nuri’s delicious babi guling and ribs, shabby-vintage-chic and fanciful French food at Bistrot, brunch at La Lucciola, campy (but tasty steak) dinners at Nirvana (complete with live entertainment), and Mexican meals at Sea Circus.
Once, Jay and I took a visiting German friend of his to Bistrot, and we enjoyed much levity and laughter as we chowed down on steak tartare, frito misto, and more. Another time, one of my childhood best friends – Bernice happened to be in Bali on a weekend I was there, and I saw it as the perfect opportunity for (then boyfriend) Jay to meet her. She was staying in Kuta, and we met up with her in Seminyak at Nirvana – where there were live fire dancers, and the two had steaks while I ate duck breast. On some days in Nirvana, they even have street magicians.
One of my favorite memories in Seminyak, though, was my first brunch at La Lucciola. Jay had talked up the place for about a month and mentioned how it was particularly nice because it was situated on the quietest side of the beach, right by several private (very premium) resorts, which saved it from crowds. The restaurant was open air and overlooked its own little garden that fed directly into the shore with a view of palm trees and the sea. That morning, we attended a local Christian Sunday service first, and then went for brunch. There we talked for hours, bonded over where our minds were at, and had one of our loveliest dates.
After, we walked the full length from La Lucciola’s end of the Seminyak, to Beachwalk at Kuta, skipping through the water, and watching the waves against the sand on one side, and the sun on the other.
We have only been back to La Lucciola two times since, but it continues to hold a special place in my heart.
The last place I want to write about here is Jimbaran – mainly for two reasons:
- Fresh seafood
Jimbaran is considered “South Kuta”, and its shoreline faces West and gets spectacular sunset views. There by that shore, there is a common strip of fresh seafood barbecue joints where you point at your (mostly live, freshly caught) oceanic produce, and they grill it up for you with your choice of sauce.
This is a must-do for any Bali-goer. The food is affordable and fresh, and the views of the sunset are stunning – all while you indulge in a unique dining experience right on the shore. As time goes, the gorgeous sunset is replaced by starry night skies and planes landing not far in the distance. Our first time there was with fellow Blue Season Bali divers, but we have since been with and/or taken friends from all over the world to experience it themselves every chance we’ve gotten.
And there you have it. Bali beyond the sea. As I finish writing this, I’m surprised at how relevant all the spots I’ve mentioned have remained over the years. If you need tips for Bali, contacts for drivers, suggestions for places to stay, do reach out! And if you have your own favorite local haunts and hideaways over there, do share. 🙂 We’re always open to new Balinese adventures!