Bali. The Sun Sets for the First TIme.

Our accommodations are perfect. The bed is very comfortable; which does support a bit of restfulness. Thank goodness. I’m so excited to be here that it’s making it impossible to relax, but I can’t run on empty.
Last night I learned a quick lesson about reality and how dependant it can be on one’s perspective. We are staying in the beach town of Sanur. I’ve read that, unlike some of the more popular towns like Kuta or Seminyak, Sanur tends to shut down early. I arrived at the hotel at 5:30 pm. This left plenty of time for freshening up and eating a real meal. But to eat; I wanted to wait for Phil. He wasn’t due to arrive until around 9:00 pm and I knew he’d be starving. I asked the concierge what time restaurants served dinner until. He said 10:00 pm. We’d be cutting it close, but we’d be able to find something. I showered and unpacked. Then I decided to take a walk to explore; and also get Phil some welcome necessities like water and beer. The sun was going down, so there was little light. The hotel was on a side street and it was relatively deserted. If I could paint the picture for you; once you leave the hotel grounds things get much dingier. The street isn’t paved. There are potholes in the center and some trash along the side. Many places are surrounded by cement walls, which can make a foreigner feel alone. I couldn’t remember the drive into town so much, and I didn’t know how for I was going to have to walk through the barrenness to find civilization. I also was weary about it getting darker and walking back home alone. I didn’t even get a quarter of a mile and I stopped at the first hole-in-the-wall that had things for sale. Literally, it was a hole in the wall. It was crude cement, just like the walls. It had one shelf lined with warm water and beer, Bintang, in two sizes, and some chips. On another wall there was a box refrigerator, plugged into an extension cord running out of the store. The refrigerator was full of cold water and beer. There was a tiny doorway in the third wall of the store and I could see it led to another room equally as awfully lit as the one I was in, but this one had a small television and a set of plastic tables and chairs. I think you could order some prepared food in there if you wanted, like fried rice or noodles. A man breezed through the door and greeted me. He was friendly and I felt guilty because I felt defensive. I asked him how much for the water and beer. His price was reasonable so I bought four large waters and four large beers. He introduced himself and asked my name. I participated in this exchange, reluctantly, because I didn’t know where it was going to lead. He proceeded to not only¬†offer me a ride back to my hotel (for a fee) but also a ride to where ever else I’d like to go (for a fee), at any time. Anyone in Bali that owns a car fancies themselves a tour guide, and they probably could be. The country isn’t that big, and the driving is so insane that no tourist wants to brave it themselves. I thanked him for the offer and tried to leave. However as is customary, he asked where I was going the next day. He said I should go to the volcano, gave me a time and said he’d be there to pick me up. I had to say no four times before he finally dropped it. I left there hoping it was not always going to be such work to get a beverage.
I walked briskly back to my bungalow to wait for Phil. As I walked, I started to get the feeling I was being followed. I turned my head slightly and made eye contact with a slender man, about three feet behind me, wearing one of those filtering masks around his face. (You know the ones the dentist will wear, or people in Asia to protect them from SARS.) His general appearance made me nervous, but I was glad it wasn’t the guy from the convenience store. I tried to communicate with my eyes that I was on to him; in case he was going to try to steal my bag full of water and beer. But his stroll ended abruptly at a moped parked to our left. I felt like a jerk. Why was I so paranoid? I needed to stop acting like a freak. I made it safely back to my hotel and Phil arrived at nine.
P.S. Lots of people in Bali use those masks. It protects their lungs from all the exhaust as they drive their mopeds.
Phil and I were delighted to see one another. Umm, I guess delightedisn’t really the right word, but I don’t know which word to use that wouldn’t be an understatement. We hadn’t seen one another in three months and we were in a bungalow in Bali. It more felt like the entire world was packed in butter and nothing would ever go wrong again.
Since time was slipping ever closer to ten o’clock, and neither one of us had eaten since the last plane ride, we decided to skip hunting around the deserted streets for a suitable restaurant and just eat at the hotel. Dinner was lovely, but I’ll get back to that in a minute. After dinner Phil decided he wanted to go for a stroll. Despite my earlier experience I agreed. I felt better about going with someone. It would be nice to unwind after the meal and I finally felt safe. We walked past my convenience store, got to the end of the street, made a right and were warmly greeted by a bustling Sanur night-life. We walked a lovely, well lit street with lots of open shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants. I laughed at myself. How could I have been so foolish and short-sighted? I guess I was so much more concerned with being careful that it turned into being paranoid and I could have missed some good stuff. Good thing Phil showed up. Sanur was going to be great, not creepy.
And a few quick notes on dinner:
Balinesian Peanut Sauce is delicious. Balinesian rice is perfectly sticky, not too much or too little. Forget any lumpia you’ve ever had because Bali redefines the dish. I had lumpia packed with the freshest vegetables, only lightly fried, and served with an inspirational sweet and sour sauce. Phil had kebabs. They were gorgeous. Our first meal in Bali was amazing, and we didn’t have to go very far at all. This would be a running theme throughout the vacation. The food in Bali was the very best I’ve ever had while on vacation. Sure, some meals were better than others, but they have a delicious cuisine in that region of the world. I’m in love.