Bali Hoo’ed: 9 Days in Paradise
Canggu [Chan- goo]
30+ travel hours melt away as a muted gong tap announces our arrival at Hotel Tugu in the rapidly developing village of Canggu, on Bali’s Southwestern coast. A smiling man, wearing an earth-toned sarong/polo shirt and udeng headdress quietly patters around the corner—hands together in salutation—gesturing for us to follow him down a long, pillared entrance way.
A massive, gasp-inducing Goudan, perched at the head of a ceremonial platform in the middle of the open air lobby, dominates the fabric-swept space as our bags are whisked away to the room. We sit down and relax, to the tinkering of gamelan music—with ice cold towels around our necks, and beers at our lips—left with one burning question: What day would we like our complimentary welcome massages.
This is our check-in to Bali, Indonesia’s Paradise Island.
Well, the next four days go a little something like this:
Sir? Would you like to try arak, the Balinese moonshine with a reputation of killing people from methanol poisoning?
Does it mix well with gin?
Sir, I recommend the traditional Indonesian breakfast with dried beef shavings, chicken croquettes, and fiery hot lava chicken rice for breakfast that will inevitably rush through your body faster than a liquid chipmunk.
Yes! Massage my gullet while you pour fire into my face hole!
Sir? Would you and Mrs. Roam About like to be couples-massaged into worthless muscle goop?
Yes. But only if you carry us to the parlor upon your shoulders.
Mr. Roam About, we recommend the traditional Indonesian dinner for you and your wife queen in our private dining hall. This is a dinner similar to that offered to the Royal Indonesian Fam…
Ack! Yes! Stop twisting my arm; I have sunburn!
Canguu is a beginner surfer’s haven ~5 miles away from the major crowds of downtown Kuta. I say beginner, because even with 8 foot waves, I’m told this is child’s play by the locals. Badass.
The area has a Eco-chic feel to it, like Tulum, Mexico, with plots of rubble and virgin jungle bookended by raw juice bars and high-end designer shops with $200 tank tops that look like they were fabricated by an 8-year-old in arts and farts class.
Tranquil boutiques like Tugu strain against the incoming chain hotels with the bordered construction sites and surfer/frat bars with revelers spilling out night after night (in all fairness, these folks probably spearheaded the area’s development).
Four days of pure, unadulterated relaxation. We are blobs of zen chill, me and Roam About Wife.
Sadly, we move on.
Tanah Lot Temple Side Trip: Things you need to know.
Quick stop at Tanah Lot Temple, 45 minutes west of Tugu through stunning, terraced rice field solace. But, TLot is crowded, extremely touristy, hotter than an ironworker’s crotch, and the pervading merchant tents have a very hindu carnival, petting zoo vibe. Nothing says sacred lands like live flying foxes and ice cream shops.
Down by Tanah Lot proper, it’s worth the dollar to get blessed by the priests. For a donation, they throw holy water on you, press Uncle Ben’s rice into your brow, and you’re cleansed of pre-marital sins (with a snack to boot!).
Again, pay the $1. Support Uncle Ben’s cause, this way, you don’t feel like such an exploitive asshole turning the camera back on the helpful priests—this guy laughed for a bit after I showed him his mugshot, and it’s my fave from the trip:
On the Eastern side of Bali, jungled-ocean views of lonely karst islands jutting from calm waters in a relaxed divine, diver/snorkelers’ paradise. Barracuda, angel fish, clown fish, lion fish — a tropical aquarium awaits just under the water’s surface, waiting to stab you with pretty, poisonous quills.
In the blue distance, massive cruise ships lazily mope to and through the passage between Bali and its southern neighbor, Nusa Penida, onwards to Lombok, or Cleveland, and back to Denpasar.
The main drag of downtown Candidasa is a bustling mayhem of cars, trucks and crowds of burnt white people herding to touristy restaurants (there are some local gems, like Warung Puspa). Early morning downtown is the best time to go to get a quick peek into every day life, with fishmongers on the sidewalks, quiet/private pre-workday Hindu ceremonies outside the shops, and early matches of futbol in the outdoor/covered pitches.
Once things get wild and hot, a quick trek out-of-town, or up the hills provides some respite from the craziness, and gives a glimpse into a calmer (but certainly harder) lifestyle.
Candidasa has more of a community aura to it, maybe even familial . For example, the bodegas and restaurants outside downtown are merely shacks, or patios, of peoples’ houses with chairs for patrons. This looks makeshift, but the whole family/crew lights up with inviting smiles as you walk by.
Take Warung Boni, just up the hill through the jungle from Puri Bagus Canidasa (our waterfront hotel). ‘Boni’ and her friends/kin heartily greet us into their restaurant that serves up ultra-hot seafood/chicken/beef curry dishes.
Any of these dishes at Boni’s restaurant are legit ‘top trip’ meals. Simple, delicious, hot as hell. And washed down with a 22oz BinTang = pure transcendence.
We eat at Boni’s 3 days in a row until I have to butt-clench duck-walk to the apothecary for prescription strength immodium to quell the curry squall within my tender gringo guts. This isn’t a slight on Boni, or the food quality, just a week straight of hellfire curries on the other side of the world.
Dr. Pharmacist – “Hi. You have the diarrhea?”
Me – “Was it the clench walk that gave it away?”
Dr. Pharmacist – “Take Immodium. Give 50,000 Rupiah [Like, $0.50] No curries. No beer. No bananas.”
Me – “But I love…”
Dr. Pharmacist – “NO BANANAS!”
Me – “…beer.”
More splashing, swimming, snorkeling, drinking, relaxation, eating, living it up like royal piggies.
We waddle North.
Meat, Lay, Dove (bars).
I’ve never read ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ but quickly understand the magnetic romanticism of Ubud
from watching Julia Roberts’ portrayal in the movie adaptation.
It’s a remarkable place, but by this time in the ‘moon, we are just so very tired from all the relaxation that we skip the popular monkey kingdom, the side-trips to waterfalls, the tour buses to water palaces, happy to just meander around town (not expelling too much energy, of course), eat delicious foods, and experience such a beautiful place together, in love, and horizontally as newlyweds.
Wait. I can see how you’d take that as innuendo for mushy-gooey sex stuff, but really, by this part of the trip, we’re locked in and unapologetically sedulous in our relaxation. We have become Pro Lay: a power couple of Indonesian leisure. So lazy in fact, we nap and wake up ONLY to watch a marathon of ‘Making A Murderer’ on Netflix one night whilst eating in bed instead of venturing out.
This lack of adventure isn’t a testament to a wavering marital bond. Oh, we’re bonded: In feast, drink, sickness, health, and humidity in the hottest place we’ve ever been. ‘Permanently bonded’, legitimately, as our wedding rings struggle against a fierce, water-retaining finger swell. No way rings are coming off — you’re mine forever, female unit!
Ah, Bali. We barely glimpsed your endless offerings. But at least we weren’t one of those douchey couples who got an infinity pool as part of their jungle-view room upgrade.
Final Thoughts on Bali: Or, what I gleaned from inside my honeymoon suite while watching ‘Making a Murderer’.
Even with the perpetual development of this finite paradise, there’s a prevailing sense that Bali is a last resort for people. The existential dice, rolled on this idealogical Shangri La, with surfboard leashes loosely attached to the deeply tanned ankles of ex-pats with a constant, keen gaze on the horizon. Looking for what? Waves of acceptance? Idea of self?
Who cares. This is the very reason to go to Bali: to tune in, turn out, opt in, cop-out, relax and meld into the mysticism of an island hyped from decades-long hearsay and rumors of whispering day dreamers.
“What are you going to do?”
“I just need to get away from it all, completely.”
“But but but, where will you go?”
“I’m going to pack up and move to…Bali.”
At least for nine days.
Next Up: Cuba
PS: I can see the four remaining readers of Roam About quickly skimming this post saying, “Mike, quit dicking around and do something stupid and cool!”
How’s this — immediately upon our return from our honeymoon, we bought a puppy. Both stupid and cool and the reason the timing from Seoul to Bali posts don’t match up and the main reason I haven’t done shit on this blog in months.
Here’s Clementine then:
And here she is now, still stunned that Kylo Ren killed Indiana Jones: