After school on Friday – the last day in an almost 13-week stretch that left us all dragging ourselves toward break like extras in a George Romero flick – I found myself staring down my suitcase and realizing that, for the first time in a few years, I wouldn’t be packing for cold weather.
Did you know that it’s 1258 times easier to pack for the beach than it is for the Mongolian steppe?
With packing out of the way, I had 5 hours to kill before 1:30am rolled around and Mel and I would have to head to the airport. We’d booked a flight on Cebu Pacific, a cheaper airline with direct service to Bali, with the slight caveat of leaving at 3:55 in the morning.
I ended up taking a weird nap from 10:30pm-midnight, when Mel messaged and came over to hang out while we waited. This was helpful, because my Bali joy was quickly being drowned by fatigue.
The upshot of flying out of Manila at 3:55am is that the airport is relatively empty, there are no lines, and it’s too early for your flight to be delayed. (Give it a few hours and suddenly the Manila sky is full of “unexpected” high volumes of air traffic, as though a gang of planes suddenly decided to fly into Manila airspace just to screw with everyone.)
After a 3.5 hour flight, we descended into Bali through sun-streaked clouds and landed in a dizzying haze of lemongrass and incense. Even the airport was dazzling and cavernous, with statues and plants and wall-to-wall windows.
The efficiency was inebriating. We drifted through security with no issues, bought two bottles of Prosecco at Duty Free, emerged just in time to claim our bags, and found our driver waiting with a sign at the arrivals hall.
We both melted into the back of the van, already feeling relaxed.
The drive to Canggu was only about an hour, and I took this time to adjust my expectations. What I wanted was a relaxing getaway. I can’t remember the last time I took a trip somewhere and stayed in one place the entire time. I wanted peace, the beach, a good book, and a quiet villa.
What I’d heard was that Bali was crowded with tourists and filthy, and so I tried my best to lower my expectations. Our villa would be a hovel. The streets would be so packed with loud, drunk Australians that we too would become drunk just by passing too close to their sweaty mouths.
When we arrived at our villa, all of that dissolved. Villa Karang has a sweet AirBnB page, but I wondered if it would actually live up to the gorgeous photos.
It so did.
We were welcomed by Ani, a friendly member of staff who showed us around our temporary home and taught us important things, like how to lock our bedroom doors, how to work the water dispenser, and how to sync our phones to the speaker system so we could play music through the kitchen.
I could have wept. There was a pool, an outdoor shower, an island of plants surrounded by swimming carp. Where the rest of the world designs their homes inside walls and surrounded by green lawns, Bali builds the house around the lawn and gets rid of walls. Sure, this meant lots of geckos and moths darting around the living room from time to time (and I swear I saw a rat skitter under one of the ceiling overhangs the first night) but it’s impossible not to feel relaxed in a place like this.
To celebrate, we opened the Prosecco and made mimosas. We divided our afternoon between the pool and the beach, with a little walk up to town to explore the main street, Jl. Pantai Berawa, where we located Two Trees Eatery, a restaurant that our AirBnB guide had suggested.
The food. I’m practically drooling as I type this. I find it difficult to locate healthy options when eating out in Manila, especially when it comes to vegan food. Bali is a haven for amazing food. It’s flavorful, fresh, creative, colorful, and freaking delicious. If you told me I could only ever eat at Two Trees again on that trip, I would have been totally fine with that.
After we parted with the artsy restaurant, we headed down to the beach to inquire about surfing lessons. Mel was ready to suit up and go in, but I’d somehow managed to forget my bikini bottom in the villa, so we went down the beach and snagged two recliners instead, napped, read, and watched the sunset.
Too tired to venture out for dinner, we settled on the hotel across the street from our villa, which was the only mistake we made that day. The food was mediocre, and the hotel had arranged an acoustic duo to provide live music. This would’ve been fine if the volume hadn’t been cranked so high that no one could talk over the music, which included a very interesting cover of “Piano Man” that featured a verse that Mel and I had never heard.
“I always think it’s a little weird when people cover this song anyway,” Mel said, “but I don’t think those words were English.”
We snuck off just as a Spanish guest was joining the duo and telling them into the microphone that she, too, was a singer.
It was hard to put a damper on the day, though, especially when there was a dreamy outdoor shower waiting with hot water and an insect orchestra.