Bali: The Beginning
After undergrad, I backpacked through Southeast Asia with my best friends from high school. It was my first introduction to the backpacking subculture. We were out for six weeks and tried to cram in as many sites as possible: Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand. We ended our grand tour in Bali. Six weeks is generally a longer duration for most Americans to travel, due to the typically limited vacation days we're given compared to European nations--and Australia we recently learned. And it was a long time. But I wrote down upon leaving, "it feels unfinished." I think that sentiment subconsciously stuck with me for the past seven years. When I moved to DC, I got a job in the political realm, seriously started dating Will, everything was going right. But I had an underlying desire to get back out. When Will and I initially discussed traveling for the year, Southeast Asia almost immediately came to mind. It's affordable and it seemed doable, given that the backpacking scene felt familiar. Moreover, I wanted to have that experience with Will. So unlike my previous trip, we started in Bali.
Without too much prior research, we thought it'd be best to stay near the Denpasar Airport, where we were flying in. We found a fantastic Airbnb in Legian Seminyak, located in a tropical garden only a couple minutes to the beach. It was off the main road, and situated in a large, breezy garden.
The private room was only $20 a night, complete with air con. So we booked for four nights.
When chatting with fellow travelers in Cairns, we were scared into believing it was too long. Get as far away from Kuta as possible, we were told. It's a young, party, polluted scene. Unfortunately, Seminyak is located next to Kuta. We figured we'd stay a night or two, and move on. But once we arrived, we strongly disagreed. Any area is what you make of it, and our secluded home made us want to stay longer.
We connected with a girl from Switzerland, who we met in our hostel in Cairns. We spent a couple days by the water, sharing meals, toasting with Bintangs.
The water was warm, almost too warm to be refreshing. The waves were sizable, given that it's known to be a surfer beach. The downside was the immense amount of trash in the water. It was terrible. The beach was beautiful, but the polluted water was heartbreaking. I felt a prevailing sadness. Since you're unable to drink the tap water in Indonesia, plastic bottles are ever-present, and clearly that extends to the ocean. The beach was full of stalls selling drinks, grilled corn on the cob, small meatballs (we stayed clear of), fresh fruit, lots of young coconuts. Despite the pollution, there was plenty to do to keep you on the beach. And so we did, and stayed for the vibrant sunsets.
Most of our time was spent exploring the streets, dodging motor bikes.
Our airbnb had two dogs and one of them, pictured below, became our protector. The dogs could not only leave the gated garden, but were given free range of the streets, even known to the ocean for a dip. They're only a year old.
The streets were filled with an aroma of incense and Balinese spices such as such as ginger, garlic, galangal, and Kaffir lime.
We quickly learned about the Balinese Hindu offerings, called Canang sari, to thank the Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa in prayer. The offerings were ubiquitous and spotted around family shrines, temples, outside shops and restaurants, in car window shields. The small, square woven basket made of coconut leaves can be filled with flowers, rice, candy, really any assortment of gifts for the Gods. It's a fundamental selfless act that is in part-meditation.
We walked passed ancient temples, amid the bustle of the city.
For visitors, the fascinating culture includes an abundant yoga presence and extensive healthy cafe scene, such as Shelter.
Will and I participated in our first yoga class together at Olop Iyengar Yoga Studio. Iyengar yoga focuses on alignment, and props are often used to focus on awareness and also help make poses accessible.
It was in a tranquil oasis set back from any roads. We agreed the setting helped make the experience for us.
There are ample hidden gems around Seminyak. The temples and the architecture itself are remarkable.
However, I can see why visitors get discouraged by the area. It feels touristic with an abundance of shops and the traffic around the beaches is impassable.
You have to travel further either south or north to reach the paradise that's intrinsically correlated with the idea of Bali. I'd agree you don't want to make an entire stay in the Seminyak area, but if you have the time, it's worth passing by. If nothing else, than for the sunsets.