Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hi everyone,

Here is a quick little message I recorded before our Thanksgiving here at the villa in Canguu. I have another blog post I have been meaning to send out, but I probably won’t get to it until later or when I come back :( …

Happy Thanksgiving and see you soon!


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bali Update

Hello! So I haven’t sent out any updates yet for a few reasons. The first few days I had just been chilling at the pool reading books and relaxing in the sun. Not much to show you (although I have some great shots of my feet on various lounge chairs).

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The real reason though is that I got what I most feared right off the bat … Bali Belly (I actually think it was something worse. I would have welcomed Bali Belly as some have described it to me).  I will spare you all the gory details (and trust me they are gory), but my second full day here was seriously one of the worst days of my life.  I don’t exaggerate.

I had to have a doctor visit me, go on a slew of antibiotics (some that I brought and new ones that she gave me) and a variety of other drugs to stop certain parts of the body from behaving badly. I had a fever, aching back, a butt that wouldn’t stop and a mouth that wouldn’t stop either. Yeah TMI!


I may seem jovial about it now (I’m not really) but it was definitely the wrong foot to get my trip going on and it was hard for me to really get relaxed. This was frustrating of course because as I looked around I was more or less in paradise, but it definitely didn’t feel that way 100%. Her advice to me was classic too: “eat at the hotels". I had actually eaten that  night at one of the top 5 restaurants in Bali and had a very good dinner.  Anyhow my time during these first few days was spent at the Peninsula Beach Resort.

Peninsula Beach Resort in Nusa Dua

Enough of the gross stuff. I still got to relax a lot. Like I said I read two books. The first was Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin (and yes it is Fevre not Fever). He writes the Song of Ice and Fire Series that they are making into an HBO series now – it is going to kick so much ass. Think Rome but medieval fantasy.

The next book was Life of Pi by Yann Martel. This was very good. I had been wanting to read it for awhile and blazed through it in a day. Spoiler: I am going to search for a carnivorous algae forest while I am here.

The Nusa Dua area is the ritzy area of Bali with many of the big name resorts you would expect to find. I had been uber-amped up on glistening white sand beaches and other standard staples of paradise. Unfortunately it is not as I imagined but it is still gorgeous. There is a beach promenade that, in the maintained parts in front of the resorts, is a great walk. I spent one afternoon strolling along it and staring at all of the infinity pools and over the top amenities and services offered. Some of these hotels go all out. Other parts of the promenade are unfortunately not as well maintained and just accumulate trash and weeds. Later in the week I plan on going further south on the Nusa Dua coastline to see if the beaches get better.

My hotel is perfect though. Small, good food, a little bar (although I couldn’t drink for a few days because of the antibiotics – felt pretty good actually), and a great pool. Their beachfront is nice too. A lot of water sports take place here and in between chapters of my book I would watch jet skis, flying fish (has anyone seen one of these – really cool – and no not the animal), and parasailers go by.

Here are some shots of the pool:

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This whole time I was still suffering from a war being waged in my tummy from the various antibiotics. It always kept me kind of on edge – what was going to happen next in the circus that was my body?

Wednesday however that all changed. No more antibiotics and a normal, healthy feeling Matt. I had no more books, had pooled it too long (is there such a thing) and decided it was time to see some of this island!

Ulu Watu

I called up my driver Made (Mad-ay) and asked if he could come get me around elevenish. Lucky for me the day was slow for him and he could.

Bali is much bigger than I expected and there are many people who will offer to drive you around for the day for a reasonable amount of money. A half day is about 35 $ (350,000 Rp) and a full ay is about 50$ (500,000 Rp). Keep track of the relative cost of things as I bring it up because I have a sucker of a story for later (where I am the sucker who had a brain skip).

I suited up with my backpack and some shoes because i figured there would be some hiking around and I also thought it more appropriate to go into a temple with closed toe shoes on. I was one of few who thought that would be nice and later regretted this decision when I was at the beach. Not a big deal though…

The distance to the temple from my resort in Nusa Dua is probably about 20-30 km. Maybe twice that. But it takes much longer to get there because they don’t have highways here and the roads are cramped with scooters. There are no lanes here really and everyone drives very offensively – tailgating is an understatement.

But I trusted in Made and in about half an hour we made it over to the Ulu Watu temple. The temple was built in the 11th century and that is about all I learned about it  in particular.  It is supposed to be gorgeous at sunset but I chose to watch the sunset at Jimbaran Bay.

The view from the temple was breathtaking. It is built right on these cliffs that plunge right to the crashing surf below. Of course I took pics for you to see (I have many more that I will send out when I get back):

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One thing to be wary about at this temple (and others from what I read) is the monkeys will get frisky with your hat, sunglasses, pretty much anything accessible to their mischievous little hands.

That’s right f-ing monkeys. Coolest thing! I took many many pics of them. I may have even accidentally caught one of them plowing himself into another but I think I took my finger off the button.

Some monkeys:

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After I was done being Indiana Jones and watching the monkeys we set off to check out the famed Ulu Watu beach and moreover its surf.

The beach itself was a tiny little thing down a series of stone steps and carved over time between two giant stone structures. Built above it were a bunch of villas and surf rental shops.

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Here I met the first other American so far! Crazy. She was from North Carolina and her boyfriend was surfing. There are mostly Australians here, German, French, and neighboring Asian countries, but ay my resort – no Americans that I have met.

I took two dips on the ocean, watched the surfers for a while and then set off back up the stairway to the parking area where Made was waiting.


Here is the view from above the beach:


That about covers Ulu Watu. The next stop was Padang Padang Beach.

Padang Padang Beach

This beach was much more swimmable than Ulu Watu and had a break that was farther off the shoreline. I pretty much did the exact same here that I did at Ulu Watu: swim, relax and people watch.

The whole time at both beaches I was wearing a rash guard so I would blend in with the surfers. No really, I was wearing it so I wouldn’t get sunburned. My ghost like features haven’t adapted yet to the blazing sun here. (and again, not to bring it up but the antibiotics didn’t help much since you need to stay out of the sun… grrrr)

This beach also had some gorgeous Italian woman sunbathing topless which reminded me of Italy where the woman sunbathed topless :) … However I still prefer the bikini. Don’t show it all off at once.


After relaxing a bit more it was time to go off to get some food. It was about five o’clock and I had skipped lunch. The destination: Jimbaran Bay.

Jimbaran Bay

Jimbaran Bay is beautiful and was home to just the beach I was looking for. Reminded me a lot of Hawaii actually. Along the beach are twenty four restaurants (Warung as they are called here). I am not going to detail my sucker story in this post but here is where I got suckered.

The draw here is that they catch the fish fresh and you get to pick the fish, prawn, or lobster (or Live Lobster if your name is Matt Stein) and they throw it on this big grill for you and cook it up with various spices and what not. I was a big fan of the idea of fresh food after my ordeal a few days ago. I could see it alive, watch it be cooked and hopefully there is no room in between for error.

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My driver and I posted up on a table on the beach (note to people: this would be a very romantic dinner spot, but I was with my driver). When we first got there it was just him and I and a couple to our left. By the time we left all the tables in front of us (two more rows) were filled to the brim with honeymooners, families, and other groups. It was slightly strange eating with Made, but not really. We would talk here and there, but mostly it was still as though I was on my own. I did share a bit of my dinner with him.

The sunset was spectacular and the food was amazing.

Here is the feast before I devoured it:


And after:


It was my first time eating lobster if you can believe that. After watching the sun go down I paid the bill (ugghh) and Made drove me home to my hotel.


This day was hands down my best day here so far. I got to explore some of the culture of Bali, see some wild monkeys, go to three beautiful beaches and indulge myself in a tasty if overpriced dinner.

More to come! Tomorrow I am chilling at the hotel pool and Friday I may head back to Jimbaran Bay to go to the beach there for the day and catch another sunset (but NOT eat Live Lobster).

Send me emails! They are fun to read…

Oh and here is a pic of me :) …


And another from the temple …


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Zune Card