For the past week, Nicole and I used some of Nicole's hotel points to stay at a Westin resort on the Nusa Dua peninsula of Bali, in Indonesia. What follows are our observations:
1. Resort living was a-ok, but doesn't leave me much to write about. Over Bintang beers last night while playing cribbage on our terrace (see picture below), Nicole and I remarked that, after a week of resort living, I had virtually nothing to write about! Most everyday we woke up, maybe watched the sunrise and meditated, then had coffee and oatmeal on our terrace before hanging out by the pool all day. We would mix in occasional trips to the hotel's gym and walks or runs along the beach, and then hit the hotel's "high tea" each day around four o'clock (see #5 below) followed by happy hour on our terrace. Not exactly the most riveting material for a blog post, but an enjoyable week!
2. Getting from the Bali airport to the hotel was bananas. In NYC, we were used to unsanctioned cabbies hustling for rides around the baggage claim area at the airports. But we've never experienced anything like the scene at the Bali airport, where 20 or so taxi hawkers accosted us, followed us everywhere we walked, and otherwise made us extremely uncomfortable. We got frustrated and decided there was no way we were going to use them as drivers. Instead, we ended up using the Grab app, which I later found out Bali officials have banned for airport pickups. Pulling out my phone and firing up the Grab app really set the hawker mob off. They kept yelling "you're driver's not coming" and "must use taxi!" Neither turned out to be true, but our Grab driver did see us among the mob and texted us that it would be "dangerous" for him to pick us up there and asked us to meet him, instead, at the airport's departure drop-off area where the pick-up wouldn't be as conspicuous. We did so, and our trip to the hotel was smooth from there.
Incidentally, the only taxi hawker we asked for a quote told us it would be 300,000 rupiah for a cab ride to our hotel. Using Grab, that same ride cost us 36,000, plus a 4,000 toll.
3. Bali was a welcome change from Vietnam for us.
Absolutely nothing against Vietnam, but after two months, we were excited for the change. Bali has an "island vibe" somewhat similar to how Hawai'i felt to us. It also feels more developed, evidenced immediately upon leaving the airport by the number of cars on the road, rather than motorbikes like in Vietnam. (Bali still has plenty of motorbikes, they just don't seem to be the only mode of transportation) We also liked Bali's spiritual feel with abundant Hindu temples, shrines, and offerings around the streets, in front of stores, and even throughout the Westin resort where we stayed. Lastly, we've loved the food in Bali thus far. Meat seems to be a more readily used ingredient than in Vietnam and, in particular, I've loved the shishkabob-like satays.
4. We've loved the Bali sunrises. Every day we managed to wake up in time for the sunrise we asked ourselves why we don't do it more often.
5. Nicole was a victim of her own success regarding the Westin's daily high tea.
Because of Nicole's frequent travels, she has acquired lifetime "status" at Starwood hotels, including the Westin. In practice, this means Nicole seems to get treated particularly kindly whenever we are at one of these hotels. (At one point during our stay, the person in charge of befriending those with "status" chatted with Nicole about her stay and whether or not there was anything that could make it better while I smiled and nodded along. After about ten minutes of this, the person politely turned and asked who I was. After pronouncing my last name a few times and realizing it was the same as Nicole's last name (!), the quality of my stay became their concern as well. :) )
At this particular hotel, Nicole's status meant we could go to a "high tea" each afternoon which featured (of course) tea but, more important to me, a generous array of appetizers and snacks. Similar to how I approached the complimentary breakfasts in Mui Ne, I attacked the daily high teas with a vigor likely seldom seen at the Westin. The first day, we arrived with only ten minutes to spare before high tea ended. Nonetheless, I managed to fill my plate with appetizers four separate times, for an average of one trip to the buffet every two and a half minutes. Another day, the food at the high tea was the only thing I ate for the entire day. We befriended a semi-retired Australian couple during our stay who, upon learning about my strategy of saving money by relying on high tea, would bemusedly encourage me to make another trip if my plate ever sat empty for more than a couple of minutes (while they nursed their tea and nibbled on a few snacks). The hotel staff would even typically even give me a "five minute warning" before the buffet closed each day.
Nicole, of course and as always, loved this money saving strategy of mine. :)
In short, we've been having a blast in Bali. Yesterday, we changed locations to an Airbnb in Ubud. More on that in the next post!