The day after Nusa Penida, Mel and I decided we would chill in the villa. After all, we’d forked out a decent amount of money for the place and it was fabulous, so why not get the most out of it?
We slept in until after 9, when I took a slow stroll to Ruko, the coffee shop/breakfast joint at the top of the road. We’d gotten coffees there a few days ago, and while we waited, the breakfast items that kept emerging from the kitchen looked delectable, so it was time to try it.
I found a small table beside a woman with curly, dark hair who was working on her laptop and chatting to a dark-haired Aussie beside her with tattoos down his arms. From what I could gather, it seemed like they both worked remotely here in Bali. More people arrived, and they all knew each other.
In the days that followed, I would return to Ruko to sample all of their breakfast joys, and I would see all of these people over and over again.
On our last morning, Mel and I snagged the last free table only to discover a discarded pair of flip-flops underneath. The man next to us – the same tattooed guy from earlier – said no one was sitting there, and a few minutes later, the dark curly-haired woman came in from outside.
“I forgot these here!” she cried, grabbing the flip-flops.
“It’s a sign of a good life when you don’t realize you’re not wearing shoes,” said an old man at the table to our left.
Have truer words ever been spoken? If I could pick a phrase to sum up our vacation, it would be that one.
Anyway, on the first morning in Ruko, I sat with avocado toast and The Shadow of the Wind, a book recommended by a student and highly-praised by Stephen King. It was engrossing. I loved it. I sat there and read for over an hour until Melanie joined me, and then we slowly made our way back to the villa and did nothing but read and chat and swim all day.
At dinner, we ordered a driver through Go-Jek and went to Ultimo in Seminyak, a recommendation by our Bali guru friend. The restaurant was gorgeous. We sat outside in the garden, where all tables were situated around a tree in the center that was currently decked out in spiderwebs and a paper bat to celebrate Halloween.
The highlight of the evening was when a cover band of Indonesian men in plaid button-downs and cowboy hats took the stage. Wary at first – that first night’s entertainment in the other hotel had been so awful – we were quickly won over as the band launched into smooth harmonies and John Denver numbers.
“We’re sitting in an Italian restaurant in Indonesia listening to a band play American country covers,” we observed. This, plus the Halloween tree, made for a memorable evening.
Somewhere between Nusa Penida and that night, Mel and I also discovered that Bali is home to a number of abandoned airplanes. It seems that no one really knows how they wound up here, but consensus says it’s exactly what you’d expect: some rich person purchased them, moved them to various locations with intentions to open them as restaurants, and then went bust.
The airplanes are now tourist attractions. It was Melanie’s parkour friends who saw her Instagram story, noted that she was in Bali, and sent her the airplane info in case she felt like jumping on them.
We did feel like jumping on airplanes, so on Halloween morning, we hired a driver to take us 45 minutes to the first plane. Difficult to miss from Ngurah Rai Bypass, this Boeing is parked right next to a Dunkin Donuts.
I should point out that I do love Halloween, and the past two Halloweens set the bar high. Last year, we watched Beetlejuice in a cabin in the Grampians in Australia, complete with cookies. The year before, I read Dracula by candlelight in a ger on the Mongolian Steppe. Bali wasn’t quite the place I imagined Halloween, but it would prove to be memorable in its own way.
We arrived at the first plane around 7:30am and were disappointed to find the plane perched on stilts, probably to deter tourists like us from jumping on it. We spent a good 30 minutes or so trying to figure out how to get onto the plane without contracting tetanus in the process, but the closest we came was managing to get up on the wheels.
Still, the early morning light and the steam-punk rusty undercarriage of the plane made for some cool photos. We grabbed a few donuts after scrubbing our hands and hit the road for the second airplane.
While the first plane was near the Dunkin Donuts and seemed impossible to miss, the second one does a nice one-up by actually appearing on Google Maps as “Abandoned Aircraft.” Our driver put the location into his GPS and took us up some winding, steep hills to a limestone quarry where this plane lived.
Unlike the first plane, this one was parked nicely on the ground, but is guarded by a security officer who typically charges people money to go down and see it. Today, unfortunately, the owners were out of town, and he refused to let us go down and see it.
Despite not being converted into a restaurant, this plane is still a moneymaker, as it is available to rent out for posh dinners, photo shoots, or weddings.
We took the long drive back to the villa, where we rinsed off and went back to Ruko to meet Niall for breakfast. I continued my long morning of eating by grabbing a coffee down the road at Cinta, a place recommended by my friend Tim who has a palate for good coffee.
What Tim didn’t mention was that Cinta was currently home to a litter of puppies. Imagine walking into an open-air cafe with views of a rice terrace, a breeze lazily drifting through, amazing coffee steaming in a mug on your table, and five adorable little puppies falling over each other trying to nap.
All this set to the tune of an old Eminem song. Cinta was perfect save for its music choices, which shifted from Eminem to that old techno song “Blue”. They got the coffee so right and the music so, so wrong.
After that, I spent Halloween afternoon on the beach with Mel, watching surfers. The waves were bigger today and it was windier, so we enjoyed the view and didn’t participate. When we got back to the villa around sunset, Mel mentioned that she was going to head to Denpasar to join up with some parkour folks. We grabbed dinner at Two Trees where Mel left me with my vegan sandwich and my book, which was getting better and better.
I decided I’d wait for her back at the villa and relax there with my book, getting spooky vibes from it’s haunted house scenes. I got home, got changed, put my feet in the pool, opened my book, and – a loud sound emerged from the temple next door.
The temple had been noisy all day today, though it had been easy to ignore since we’d been in and out of the villa. From morning till night, more and more people were arriving in droves. They’d set up a security checkpoint right outside our villa. When our driver brought us back from the planes, he said, “They are having a celebration, for protection of the village.”
Or at least I think that’s what he said. I Googled “Hindu holidays” multiple times to see if they celebrated anything on Halloween, but nothing came up.
“Our guide told us that Indonesians celebrate something every 15 days or so,” Andrew told us later. “They love celebrating.”
That’s for sure. As I read over the next hour, the celebration grew louder. Each new chapter of my book was punctuated by drumming and music and something that sounded like pots and pans clashing together. The later it got, the more people got involved. At one point, a woman came over a megaphone and shouted into it for a good ten minutes straight. While she shouted, a man picked up his megaphone and talked over her. I wondered what they were saying.
Mel got home around 8 or 9, and we hung out for a little bit before deciding to watch a “scary” movie in the entertainment room, which we felt we needed to use before leaving. It would also be quieter in there, we reasoned.
Once we figured out the TV (it involved three remotes), Mel set up her Netflix and we decided we’d watch a few episodes of the new remake of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Neither of us likes scary movies, and this seemed like family fun-type scary, so we settled in.
From the moment it started, it was clear that this was not the wholesome Sabrina of the ’90s that we’d grown up with.
Within minutes, Sabrina’s teacher was getting stabbed in the neck with scissors and possessed by a demon she’d picked up on the side of the road. What made this even sadder was that nobody seemed to notice this teacher’s transformation from prim and proper McGonagall-esque to sultry Mrs. Robinson. Moral is: lonely female teachers in their 50s are basically invisible. Sigh.
The best part of this whole thing was the fact that, as we got into the series, the temple celebration left the temple and turned into a parade around our villa.
As we watched scenes of Sabrina and her witch friends chanting incantations in an abandoned mine, a happy clapping of pots and pans rose in volume outside the villa, accompanied by some kind of flute instrument.
As Aunt Zelda murdered Aunt Hilda in the yard with a shovel, the parade returned, this time with a zippy organ tune.
The parade went on past midnight, and stopped toward the end of an episode. It wasn’t what I’d been expecting for Halloween, and with the parties going on at the beach bars, we could have certainly opted for something different.
In the end, though, parade and all, it was certainly one of the more memorable Halloweens I’ve had.