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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Ode To Bali

6 July, 2015
Guesthouse: Mango Moon- 3 nights


  • Diving
  • Morning breakfast with Bali coffee and banana pancakes
  • Quiet Guesthouse owned by local family

Dear Bali,

Before I met you I wasn't sure if we'd get along. There were rumors going around that you were "the place to be" for 20 somethings looking to party, that you were expensive, and a crowded little island that can be skipped on a trip to Indonesia. We flew to Indonesia by way of you and had no other choice but to give you a try. Now that I've met you I have to apologize and say that I misjudged. You're dramatic coast lines, black sand beaches, and sea life is unbeatable, and the Balinese culture is simply magical. We've been welcomed here with open arms, invited for dinners, and been shown hospitality in ways we never had back in America. We've seen your natural waterfalls hidden away and climbed some of your beautiful volcanoes. Your coffee is unbeatable, and don't even get me started on your night sky; you have some of the most beautiful stars I've ever seen in my life.

Let me tell you a little bit of what we've been up to so far:

After leaving the island of Java via ferry, Brandon and I made our way back to the west coast of Bali. We didn't do any research, and had quite a bit of time before our friend was to arrive on the southern part of the island. Much to my dismay, we spoke with some touts for advise. One recommended we try a little town called Pemuteran, about an hour drive from the ferry terminal, along the northern coast. Since it was already getting late we didn't have many options so we decided to give it a try.

Our eyes were opened when we were greeted with the most beautiful homestay we could imagine. Hidden away from the beach in a grove of flowers and colorful tropical plants, a little oasis, with a large tiled patio, and a simple bench and table where our breakfast would be delivered every morning. The owner lived on site with his family and the wife picked up our room each day while we were away at the beach. There was even a small open air cabana just across from our room that was used as a common area with pillows and blankets, and books to share or exchange.

Pemutran is a quiet little town that has not yet been discovered by tourists and has little information about it online. Located directly on the beach it is an ideal spot for snorkeling, diving, or swimming the day away. The coral beneath the water is vibrant and alive and the sea life is vast. Brandon and I arrived late in the evening with just enough time to unpack our bags and enjoy our favorite Indonesian dish, mee goreng (fried noodles) prepared by our host family. We sat under the stars with a perfect view of the southern cross and had our first taste of Bali Koppe, a finely ground unfiltered coffee that is ten steps up from the instant NesCafe and holds its own when compared to American coffee- think Java/ Sumatra, Indonesian coffee is some of the best in the world.

We tried out the snorkeling as we do everywhere we go, and it was a perfect teaser to lure us into a dive. The sea floor was spackled with bright blue star fish and pink sea anemones where colorful clown fish would make an appearance when they weren't feeling too shy. Vibrant red sea fans were swaying in the water, attached to structures that had been sunk to promote coral growth. While the water was a bit cooler here than in Thailand, we were so distracted it didn't matter.

The next day went on our first dive trip in Indonesia. The shop, which was locally run, loaded up the small fishing boat, and we took off on our private excursion to a near by reef. Brandon and I were the only ones on the boat, and in fact the only divers in the water. Our first dive we were hit with sensory overload, gazing at the startling greens, blues, and reds that painted the ocean's bottom. The tropical fish assaulted by colors and patterns swimming in every direction as if we weren't even there, and the water so clear you almost forget you're in the ocean. It was unquestionably the most colorful place we had ever seen in the world. We quietly floated through the water perfecting our buoyancy, and pointing out creatures we had never seen before.

The dive was over all too quickly and we jump back on the boat to enjoy a hot lunch, rehydrate, and warm up before we do it all over again.

To give you a sample of sea life in Pemutran we saw an elusive scorpion stone fish that camouflages itself to look exactly like the coral, lion fish, nudibranches, triggerfish, batfish, angelfish, blue spotted rays and so many more. Unfortunately we still don't have a camera good enough to capture the colors underneath the water so you'll just have to experience it for yourself.

We debated long and hard about whether to stay in Pemutran a few more days, but the unknown was calling us again and we decided to continue moving after a three short days. Our next destinations, Lovina, Tulemben, Amed, and the east coast of Bali.

I want to add a side note here as well. I was asked the other day what type of accommodations we were staying in. Before we left my answer would have been hostels/ or whatever is the cheapest, however we've found that a few extra dollars can bring your guesthouse from barely livable to complete bliss. We typically stay in a guest house or homestay with traditional architecture and simple furnishings. Breakfast is almost always included and prepared by the owners, usually consisting of coffee, fruit juice, and banana pancakes, and we almost always find a place on or near the water. Sometimes the rooms have air-conditioning, however I've found that a fan is all we need as the nights are cool in Indonesia, and we end up not using it. And regardless of the town we're staying in, we usually pick a location that is outside the center as we've found it is usually quieter. We don't have many "must haves" when looking for a room, but we always look at 4-5 places before settling on the one that is best for us, finding the right balance between cost, location, and comfort.

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