Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bali Part I

When we arrived in Bali last Thursday afternoon, a driver from the Ayana Resort and Spa was already waiting for us at the airport.

"Where are you from?" He asked as we made our way to the car.

"I'm from California and he's from Barcelona."

"Barcelona! Very good football! You like football? Mr. Messi!"

We didn't realize that this was going to be the first of many very similar conversations. As soon as anyone found out Julius was from Barcelona, they loved us and started raving about FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi. One driver told us he gets up at 4am to watch Barcelona play and then goes straight to work afterwards. Now that's a real football fan.

As we were pulling up to the hotel, the driver informed us that he was taking us to the villa check-in. I looked at Julius and a smile crossed my face. Did Julius upgrade us to a villa?? 

"Did you do this?" Julius asked me with a grin.

"No, I didn't." But I couldn't help smiling, so he didn't believe me. If I didn't do it, and he didn't do it, then who did?

We sat down in the villa check-in lobby, which was an open plan seating area that was completely surrounded by water. Wearing plumeria and marigold leis around our necks, we were given jasmine-scented cold towels to refresh ourselves, as well as a delicious fruit juice beverage with a wedge of pineapple. Now this was the life.

Julius and I at the villa check-in lobby at Ayana

"Excuse me... could you tell me who upgraded us to a villa?" I asked. It's got to be our parents...

"The hotel, ma'am. We chose you!"

"Wow!"

"It's a one bedroom villa with an ocean view, a pool, and your own butler. Breakfast is also included."

Julius and I couldn't believe our luck! Or maybe it was that really expensive romantic dinner we had booked for tomorrow night or maybe it was the fact that it was the low season that led them "choose us", but we didn't care! We were going to be staying in our own apartment in Bali! But before we could be whisked away to our private villa, there was something I had to take care of first.

"I need to make a phone call." I looked at Julius. He took the hint and went for a walk. The next day was March 9th, his birthday, and I urgently needed to put the finishing touches on his surprise. I had arranged everything from Singapore the week before leaving, but the plans had fallen through at the last minute. I couldn't relax until everything was taken care of.

After about 30 minutes on the phone, I finally managed to get everything sorted out. Our vacation could officially begin! On the way to the villa I whispered in Julius' ear: "Be ready to go tomorrow at 7:30am." That meant we actually had to be up at 6am. That night I would prepare his bag with the appropriate clothes and gear for the activity I had organized so he wouldn't be able to garner any hints by asking me what he should bring along.

When we got the villa, we thought we were dreaming. It was every bit as amazing as we had imagined.

The entrance to our villa

In addition to our own pool, we also had two showers (one outdoors and one indoors) and a huge bathtub filled with rose and plumeria petals to welcome us.




The sun was beginning to set, so we decided to catch the sunset at Ayana's famous Rock Bar, a very classy bar set in the side of a rocky cliff with stunning views over Jimbaran Bay. Because we were staying in a villa we had "VIP access" and didn't have to queue for the cable car that took us down to the Rock Bar. Unfortunately the weather wasn't on our side, and we barely had time to enjoy our french fries and pita bread with three delicious homemade dips (ketchup, curry mayo, and hummus), or the out of this world mojitos with sugar cane, before a torrential downpour forced us to take shelter.

After hastily finishing our aperitif, we decided to find some real Indonesian food to get a taste of Bali. We went to a restaurant at our hotel called Padi and ordered steamed vegetables and tofu with peanut sauce and beef rendang with steamed rice. While enjoying our food on the terrace, we started hearing weird sounds coming from the other side of the restaurant.

Steamed vegetables and tofu with peanut sauce (left) and beef rendang (right)

Upon investigating, we realized that it was a dance troupe. Bali is famous for it's traditional dance performances, and we were fortunate enough to catch part of one. They were performing the story of the Ramayana, which is a Hindu epic, and happens to be Julius' dad's favorite story.

The story is thus: Prince Rama, his wife Sita, and his brother Laksmana are banished from their kingdom and comdemned to wander through the forest. One day they are tricked by the evil Rawana, who kidnaps Sita.
With the help of the mythical Garuda, and Hanuman - a white monkey general, Prince Rama eventually rescues his wife.



After dinner and the performance we decided to call it a night because we had to be up bright and early the next day. Julius had no idea where I was taking him and I couldn't wait to see the look on his face tomorrow when he found out.

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