Bali Jet Lag Journal: Monkeys & Shopping in Seminyak
After twelve nights of serenity exploring the island of Bali, wrapping up a Zen trip with a stop in Seminyak was a wake up call. Hello to traffic, pollution and lots and lots of shopping. Throughout our trip, the Balinese looked at us warily when we said we were going to Seminyak because the south is so different from traditional Bali life. The people here stay close to home (it’s actually because they bury their placentas in a ritual ceremony and it’s very bad luck to stray far from that source of life) so it’s possible they’ve never seen Seminyak, or like many people, they find big cities intimidating. Seminyak is home to multitudes of shops and restaurants, and is farther north than the touristy area of Kuta. It is also incredibly convenient to the airport, so this was a great spot before our flights home.
We stayed in a villa within The Amala, a feng shui-designed hotel where each room has a private pool inside the walls of a courtyard. The streets were broiling hot and busy, and once we took a single step from the action through the hotel gates, it was as though the air felt 10 degrees cooler and the world went quiet. This is the one location we went to in Bali where the bathroom and shower were not open-air. The dark wood ceilings made of local Balinese wood and the outdoor living room were chic, and we enjoyed swimming in the private pool and having delicious traditional dinners and green tea creme brulee delivered to us in the villa.
Our villa came with the sweetest butler named Lalang, and he greeted us each morning when we went to breakfast, bringing us two organic courses and watermelon juice.
Even though Seminyak was our last stop on a long journey, I had a lot planned, starting with sunset at Uluwatu Temple. This is a sea temple meant to protect Bali from evil spirits, and is home to wandering monkeys who were completely disinterested in us staring humans. As the sun set, we watched the traditional nighttime Kecak dance, in which a large group of men wrapped in checked sarongs throw up their hands and chant “cak” in unison. It sounds incredible, as though it’s the original Stomp. It tells the story of Ramayana (which is far too complicated for me to remember so I recommend watching A Little Princess) and ends with a monkey dancing through flames of fire while the chanters try their best to control the sparks by sweeping them with handmade brooms.
After the Kecak fire dance, we had dinner on the water of Jimbaran Bay. The waves were huge, almost as huge as our seafood platter that we ate by candlelight on the beach. Mom also bought some fresh grilled corn from a vendor on the sand. She was so surprised and pleased by this day – even though our trip was winding down, there were still adventures to enjoy.
I had lots of shopping to do in Seminyak, and I needed to fly through at my own pace, so I left Mother to fend for herself (she did not do well and ended up spending the day at a Balinese Kmart). There were great clothing boutiques and gallery shops along Kayu Aya that were expensive for Bali but affordable for me. I took myself out to a healthy lunch at the beautifully designed Townhouse restaurant. And all along Raya Kerobokan were shops for home furnishings and design.
I loved a particular glass blower that created drooping, molten vases perfectly fitted over pieces of bleached birch. Tribal headdresses made of shells and feathers, and light fixtures and bowls lined with glowing copper were very popular. Along the side of the road, motorbikes could stop to refill with petrol from glass bottles (usually repurposed bottles of liquor) and huge, knotty strips of wood were being custom made into gorgeous dining and coffee tables.
On our very last morning in Bali, I booked a special day at Prana Spa, an over-the-top, Moorish spa destination in a city of very clean, minimal choices. We had over two hours of treatments, and mine included a peppermint foot treatment, a massage, a scrub, a moisturizing yogurt lotion (which I learned is not meant for licking), and then I finished in a gorgeous bathtub of frangipani petals with aquamarine walls. At one point, the therapist walked in to silently bring me a hot tea, bowed with her hands folded in prayer, and silently exited and I thought, “Aaaah, this is what life would be like if I were an actual Turkish princess.”
“Come back soon!” the Balinese said to us. We nodded and said yes, yes, of course we will. “Next year then!” they would respond with confidence. I don’t think they would have been so certain if they themselves had ever done 30 hours of this:
It’s back to New York City we go! I am not the least bit pleased to leave, and I don’t have much hope that those streets will make me feel brand new and the big lights will inspire me. Many of the Australians and Europeans I met were staying for at least a month – and they had jobs! They were dismayed when I told them my short time frame. Although of course, everyone in the U.S. says “Two weeks!!! What are you going to do for two whole weeks!?”
Mom and I were super lucky to get an upgrade using our miles, so we spent a full 11 hours sleeping on the flat beds of EVA Airways underneath huge fluffy duvets, and chowing down on dim sum at the Tai Pei transit lounge.
Check out our first three stops: living in a villa and painting on the rice paddies in Ubud, freediving in the ocean and doing twice daily yoga on the island of Gili Trawangan, and forest trekking and shell searching in the West Bali National Park.