September 8, 2014.

            Although we left on September 6, this is the first time I’ve been able to get to my laptop and write about our first experience on our travel to Bali.

            We just took off on our final flight from Taipei to Denpasar, Bali and if all goes as planned, we should be arriving in five hours.

            I was dreading the (what I thought would be) grueling 34 hours of travel, but it hasn’t been bad at all. No screaming kids, no old men farting and no “larger than the seat” people sitting next to me fighting for the armrest. What more could I wish for?

            We left Detroit right on time at 3:30 pm Saturday afternoon (after an evening of thunderstorms which left us without power). Our flight to Chicago was smooth and we landed right on time. Our layover wasn’t too bad, enough time for Anthony to do his usual shopping at Brookstone, this time it wasn’t another travel pillow or a new Bluetooth contraption, it was these little ties that convert lace up tennis shoes to “slip-on’s” “But I like my ties” I said as Anthony found out they were two for the price of one. “But, they’ll make life so much easier, you won’t have to tie your shoes” he said. One thing I’ve learned after 27 years, is to pick and choose your battles, if Anthony felt I should have “slip-on converted lace tennis shoes”, then I should. Besides, I’ll just “accidentally” cut them off later and say, “oh no, look what happened to my new laces preventer things”.

After a small dinner and a minor mishap of walking into the ladies room on accident, we were ready to board flight #2 to San Francisco.

Again, no issues, we arrived on time. I have to say, this layover however, was not fun. We had four hours to kill and the shops closed one hour into our layover. We did manage to find a couple of Swatch Watches for the trip and had a quick dinner at a pizza place that was just closing. Other than that, we dozed off and on at the gate waiting for our long China Airlines flight to leave at 1:40 am. I don’t know about you, but being woken up by a Vietnamese women chattering away on her cell phone holding a baby that was crying in the same language just isn’t pleasant. Add to that unpleasant florescent lighting and the whole thing is just a nightmare.

Anyway, after about three hours of dozing in and out of “icky-airport land”, we were finally ready to board. Again, right on time!

In the beginning, I loved the flight, the lights went out immediately and my Ambien CR kicked right in. Before I knew it, it was eight hours into the flights and we only had five more to go-enough time for a couple of movies and breakfast. Then, our first travel “hiccup”. For some reason, the gas station attendant back in San Francisco didn’t put enough gas into the gigantic jet flying non-stop across the Pacific Ocean with no where to re-fill and 300 passengers in it. Ooops. I mean my car let’s me know how many miles I can go on a tank of gas, shouldn’t this massive two-level jet have the same capabilities? “We aporogize for the inconvenience, but we will need to stop in Okinwawa to fill up”, said the overhead speaker. “Oh, while they’re at it, maybe they should check the oil”, I said. “It is what it is” said Anthony in his calming voice. “You’re right”, I said while I was slowly ripping my “lace preventers” off my shoes”.

Anyway, after our little ninety-minute refueling episode, we were back in the air heading to Taipei. I was trying not to look at my watch, but with only a two hour layover to begin with, this little stop over could very well mean the difference between making our connection or not. I kept hearing the speaker say something like “transekyoullpornmahksyouhorny”.  “Did they just say transsexual porn makes you horny”? I asked. I got the look. I wasn’t making fun of the way they talk; I just couldn’t understand what they were saying. This was followed with “peepholewifcorekshinsneenoweree(pause)prentyoftom” WHAT DID HE SAY? Anthony, growing up with a mother with a heavy accent simply looked at me and said “people with connections need not to worry, plenty of time”. How he knew this was just beyond me.

Anyway, the speaker was almost right, we didn’t need to worry, but we didn’t have prentoftom. We had to run to our gate and made it there with just enough time for me to buy a Godiva chocolate bar at the duty free. Whew!

Well, that’s all for now and I’ve just been handed my immigration form for arrival in Bali, stay tuned to  see what happens next.

September 8 & 9, 2014

After landing in Bali, again on time and without any incident, it was time to clear customs. Only hearing horror stories about the long lines and disorganization about the Bali airport, I expected something out of a Linda Hunt movie. I had this vision of a non-air-conditioned, chaotic, line-jumping society, where one wrong answer would land me in a Turkish prison. I know we aren’t in Turkey, but my only point of reference is that movie from the 80’s-Midnight Express.

But to my happiness, nothing could have been further from the truth. The airport was very large, clean, air conditioned and organized. The lines were short (think Detroit security on a Saturday evening). We had to first purchase a travel visa for $35 (which we knew in advance) and there was no one in line so that went very fast. After that we stood in line for about fifteen minutes to clear immigration. This went well, at least for me. We had to go to the passport officer separately. I made my way through very quickly, and then proceeded to baggage claim. Our plan were not to check any luggage, but we were forced to check one of our carry-on’s back in San Francisco. We thought we were smart by only brining enough clothes to fit in a carry-on size suitcase, only to find out they have a weight restriction on carry-on’s also. It wasn’t pretty watching Anthony try to bargain with the gate attendant.  “What are my choices?” he asked with a little Anthony attitude. “Rell” said the nice lady “roo can either check this bag or not take it with roo”. Even I understood this meant, we had to check it. Anthony did his best at playing dumb and began taking it with him on the plane, but it didn’t work. “Ah-Sir, preaze check roar bag”, this was met with “oh, what are my choices again?” At that point I just went ahead and pretended not to know him. I figured if would be better if only one of us ended up in jail and since I’m the writer, better him than me, plus I wouldn’t survive a day there.

                                                                                  Stock photo from Bali Airport

Anyway, as I was waiting for our “over the weight limit” carry-on to arrive, I began to get an uneasy feeling. Anthony had gone in his immigration line well before me and five minutes later there was no sign of him. I was trying not to look like a terrorist as I stood waiting for our infamous luggage while looking back at immigration control. I even took off my sun glasses so it didn’t look like I was trying to hide something. “What could he have possible done?” I wondered as visions of Shawshank Redemption kept popping into my head. I began counting to one hundred. That’s what I do when I try not to over-react. I find usually by the time I hit 70, the situation is usually resolved. It worked, I got to 37 and there he was. “So?” was all I asked. “Well, I guess I should be complimented, but I’m not” said “Mr. Not Make a Scene”. Apparently, his immigration man had a thicker accent than mine. What Anthony thought was a question about where we were staying, wasn’t that at all. “Temple Lodge” said Anthony followed by “here’s the address”. I guess he looked at him funny so Anthony dug out the address thinking he didn’t understand him so maybe he would be able to read it. I guess this circle game went on for a couple of rounds until finally the man said, while looking at Anthony’s passport, “no you were fat”. FAT! The reason Anthony was so delayed clearing customs wasn’t because the guy wanted to know were we were staying, he wanted Anthony to know that he was fat when he had his picture taken.

Of course, I found this hysterical and couldn’t stop laughing. “At least he didn’t say you are fat now”, finally came out after three desperate tries at saying something appropriate.

Anyway, after we cleared customs and gathered our bags, we met up with our driver and we were on way to experience Bali.

The drive to the Temple Lodge took about 30 minutes. As with any island destination that I’ve ever visited, the main town is never very impressive and Denpasar is no different, it’s complete with the usual crazy traffic, ample tourists  and tee shirt shops. As we made our way out of the city and toward Ulu Watu, we began to see why people fall in love with this place. During the drive, our driver filled us in on what we should do in the two short days we have in the region. “You must go to the temple and see the fire ants”, he said. Anthony was totally in agreement with him, after-all, he is very well read on Bali. “The Fire Ants are very special here, especially because it’s a full moon”, said our driver. “Oh, I know, that’s one of the reasons I picked this place” said Anthony. I noticed a small ant on my driver’s shirt, it wasn’t moving, so I assumed it was dead and got stuck on his fabric. I like to consider myself open minded, so I just assumed fire ants were some sort of island religious symbol (sort of like cows in India).

We decided that for the first day, we would hang out at the lodge and as you’ll see by looking at the images as to why.


              Our Villa "The Eagles Nest


                                                                               TThe infinity pool


The upper level of the Eagles Nest (where I was most of the time)

     The outdoor "facilities"

The Temple Lodge only has eight bungalows and the one we chose (The Eagles Nest) is literally built into the side of a cliff. Half way down the cliff, via a winding staircase, lies our room. We first came across the top floor, a beautiful thatched covered veranda with a king sized day bed, all open air with a view of the Indian Ocean on two sides and beautiful flowers on the other. The sound of the crashing waves immediately put me into a heavenly trance. Add jet lag to the equation and I’m lucky I didn’t immediately fall asleep during our tour of the room. Underneath the veranda, via another staircase, lies our bedroom and outdoor bathroom. When I say outdoor bathroom, don’t think out-house, it’s a fully equipped bathroom that just happens to not have any walls. Seriously, I hope I have to go to the bathroom soon, so I can sit and enjoy the view. I doubt I’ll ever have a chance again to sit on a toilet on the side of a sheer cliff while watching surfer-dudes hundreds of feet below me ride their waves.

After we arrived at this “too beautiful for words” place, we fell into a vegetative state. We napped for an hour before dinner, then made our way up the cliff and had a great meal of shrimp risotto, followed by fresh tuna and topped off with a dessert of dark chocolate strawberry pie. We met some great people too. One women travelling by herself from Germany, another women-a jewelry designer, from California, two Australian twenty-something’s that are here on holiday (I love to say holiday instead of vacation), and another couple from Sydney (I don’t know if her name is Jen or Jan, and I can’t remember his name), but Jen/Jan is celebrating her 50th birthday year as well, so we have something in common. We saw Jen/Jan and her husband at breakfast again this morning and told them about our plans for the evening. We hit is off so well, that we invited them to come along with us. And thank God we did, because, it was because of them that I realized we weren’t going to see the sacred Fire Ants of Bali, but rather the famous Fire Dance. Thank God I can understand Australians better than Balinese, otherwise I would have spent my entire evening looking for a mountain of biting red insects.


The restaurant at The Temple Lodge


                                                                                 One of the beautiful views from our place.


One of the beautiful views of the rough, surfer friendly beaches.  Yes, that's me contemplating catching a wave.


Full moon view from our room in Bali


September 10, 2014

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. I am going to be so healthy and rich when I come home. Woke up this morning at 6:15 a.m. and actually got up. O.k., a little lie, woke up at 5:45, to the sound of something. We were ready to get up and start our day, but whatever the creature was making this strange sound outside our door, decided for us that the world wasn’t ready to see our faces just yet. The “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwweeeee” was interpreted as “sleep for another half hour”. So I did. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a monkey, they sound like eeooahah, this wasn’t even close to that. Whatever it was, it’s not here (for now). After we got up, we just sat and watched the ocean with the big crashing waves, the surfers, and the five fins circling them. Ah, yes, the ocean can be so beautiful, even if it is in a “JAWS” sort of way.

So, the Fire Dance (not Ants) last night, was pretty cool. We went with our friends Jen/Jan, her husband, Peter and our new friend, a Taksi Driver named Wahoo. I’ve learned something in Bali, Taksi Drivers are also your guides to things like Fire Dances. At first I was a bit skeptical, but it in the end, it’s well worth it. He told us to hold onto our glasses because there was lot’s of monkeys that like shiny things (I told him I could relate, but his polite stare back at me made me realize this didn’t quite translate into “funny”).  He also helped us on with our saris. The Fire Dance was in a Buddhist Temple and out of respect; men and women can’t wear anything that exposes their knees. I have to admit, I kind of got into the sari thing. It was fun playing dress up while walking around this beautiful, ancient temple high on a cliff watching monkey’s steal sunglasses off people’s faces. I just wish I would have known the color choice in advance-purple.  I would have worn an appropriate top. Some of the men had the foresight to wear yellow or a lighter shade of eggplant. My blue tee shirt wasn’t quite right, but it was better than some of the others. 

Anyway, after about 45 minutes of exploring the temple, the show began. It was not at all what I was expecting (even when I learned it was a Fire Dance). We were ushered into a large outdoor theatre that seated around 400 people. We were also given a synopsis of what the play was about. Kind of like cliff notes on the fire dance story we were about to witness. All FIVE ACTS! At first I panicked, this was going to interfere with cocktail hour. It was already 6:00, and with dinner at 7:30, the night was in serious jeopardy.  As it turned out however, each “act” was only about ten minutes long and the whole production was less than an hour. It was basically story about a woman who wanted her dad to buy her a deer. He didn’t want to, so the magic monkey decided to buy it for her. That is until the evil bird got involved, then it turned ugly. In the end though, the girl got her deer, the monkey saved the day and as for the evil bird, let’s just say, “Don’t order the chicken”. Anyway, I loved the story, the costumes were brilliant, the male chorus of Tatatatatatatata was addicting and the storyline was much easier to follow than Shakespeare. Click the link to read all about the Kacek Dance 


The Famous Fire Dancers (Kacek Dance)



The Good Monkey Saves the Day!



Fire Dance (not ants)



Click here to see a video of the Kacek Dance

After the performance, we all made our way back to the lodge. Jen/Jan and her husband had dinner there and we ventured off the property to an Italian restaurant called Trattoria (we just had to experience Bali’s interpretation of Italian food). It was great. We split a prosciutto and arugula pizza and some Pasta Bolognese; downed two of the local beers called Bintang (which is my new scotch) and called it a night.

We will be having a quick breakfast this morning before we leave for our next destination in Ubid, where we’ll be staying for five nights. Our driver plans on taking us on a tour of some of the highlights along the way. I’m sure I’ll have plenty to report later, so please stay tuned.

                                                                                        Beware of the monkey bandits

September 10-11, 2014.

Other than a minor miscommunication by the guide we scheduled, “Apple Wayan” about our pick-up time (something about a cremation and not being able to pick us up at 11, etc.), we had an event-free drive up to Ubud from Bingin.

Because we ended up “Apple-less” and with a Taksi driver instead, we skipped past the small artisan workshops along the way. In retrospect, this seemed like a good idea. And with the luck we have with carry-ons, sneaking a twenty-foot tall statue of Buddah onto China Air, we’d only be asking for an international incident.

The quaint, but very fast growing town of Ubud is considered the cultural center of Bali. Located in the center of the island, it is surrounded by beautiful rice fields. I know what you’re thinking, I pictured large treeless lawns with specks of white dotting the landscape too, but it is nothing like that. Rice fields lie in a lush green valley that consist of many tiered plateaus. There is usually a river running through them, which only adds to the already serene surroundings.  

The view of the rice fields

The place we chose to call home for five days is called Bambu Indah and it’s virtually impossible to describe. There are a dozen or so century old individual houses that were transported to this beautiful piece of land high above a rice field.

The lobby consists of two “pods” made out of bamboo. One is the reception pod, the other serves as an office.  Behind the pods is a large open-air dining area and open-air kitchen; again, impossible to describe. The best I can do is- imagine if the Swiss Family Robinson had modern technology and didn’t need to build their houses up in the trees.


The reception "pod"


The restaurant at Bambu Indah

Along with these beautiful houses, the property has a lap pool (although, it’s more of a pond and I’ve yet to see anyone swimming in it and I refuse to be the first), a yoga studio built on stilts that is larger than The Mall of America, a tree-house (thus the Swiss Family Robinson reference) and the owner’s (jewelry designer John Hardy) home.


The Yoga Studio

Our villa is called Jawa Lama. It has a 30 foot covered front porch that wraps around the side (which is where I’m sitting right now). The one room house is 800 square feet and could not be quainter. It has everything you need, including Internet. The character of this place is again, something that can’t be described.

Anthony on the porch of Jawa Lama


One of the many things I’ve learned about Bali is that it’s next to impossible to give a proper description of most things. Words can’t describe the smell of the flowers, the sound of the gentle moving river, the taste of the perfectly balanced Indonesian seasonings or the feeling of the warm Bali sun during the day and cool soothing breezes at night.  So, the best I can do is to try and write about it and post pictures.

We arrived on Wednesday, September 10 around 3:00, after being greeted with a refreshing glass of lemon water (by the way, their water system is triple filtered), we settled into our room. We unpacked, took a short nap, then we were off to the center of Ubud to experience a Balinese dance. Unlike the fire dance, this one excluded flames, but was just as dramatic. Dances in Bali aren’t just people dressed up in bright costumes, doing their best imitation of Elaine from Seinfeld (which is what I do), they are one hour-long plays-without words. It’s sort of like opera, only instead of tenors and soprano’s singing in Italian, they have a group of twenty men playing an instrument resembling a xylophone while the actors act out the story. I am so thankful that they give out a synopsis; otherwise I would have been more lost than I was. “Is this when the evil monkey marries the princess” I asked Anthony. “First of all”, he whispered, “that’s not a monkey, it’s a jester and that princess is actually a ‘prince’”. So, as you can see, even with the program in front of me, I still had a hard time following along so I decided to just sit back and enjoy the music and shiny things adorning the stage.

Another Balinese Dance


Afterward, we had dinner in town at the Lotus Café and called it an early night.

The following day we hired a guide named “Wayan”. If it seems like a lot of people are named “Wayan”, it’s because they are. This particular “Wayan” explained to me that Balinese people name their children by their birth number. So, Wayan means “first born” or “number one”. This goes on until they reach their fifth child, when lucky “number five” gets to be called “Wayan” also. I’m not sure if this is meant to discourage large families or confuse people, but for some reason, the tradition of naming children by numbers only goes as high as four.

Anyway Wayan-Mari (they are also given an individual second name so they can tell each other apart in school), took us on a driving tour through the villages where locals make their living carving wood or hand making silver and gold jewelry. Of course, they don’t only make it there; they also sell it. Please notice my new pinky ring when I get home.

We also got the chance to watch another dance. Although it was in a different theatre, it had the same story line as the night before. For some reason, however, I was able to follow it-I guess it’s the difference between watching one with obstructed views and watching one from the front row. Not that it really matters anyway; I still had the evil monkey marrying the princess.  


And yet another Balinese Dance

The highlight about this performance though, was that Number One Wayan must have had connections. We got there early and he took us backstage to meet the actors and try on their costumes (#1 got must have gotten my number and understood the way to my heart).


I got a back stage pass at one of the dances (never pass an opportunity to wear a costume). 

After watching the play and conquering one of my fears (see below), we were off to lunch.

One of the cast members poses for a photo op with a crazy American


Lunch was not memorable, but the view was magnificent. The buffet overlooked one of two volcanoes, on Bali, Mount Batur. Number 1 said we were really lucky that it was a clear day and we were able to see it. 

The view from lunch

On the way back to Bambu Indah, we stopped at THE place for Luwak Coffee. I must admit, this is the only part of this trip that I was dreading. Luwak coffee is considered one of the best coffees in the world. Although it’s only $5 in Bali, a cup in the U.S. can be as high as $100. I hope no one judges me, but coffee just isn’t that important to me, I have only have one cup a day and it’s Folger’s Instant.

 Luwak coffee, however, is “special”. You see, the way Luwak coffee is made (and I’m not making this up) is that a Luwak (think mongoose) eats a coffee berry in the wild. After digesting the berry, he has to go number 2 (not to be confused with the second born) and poops out the bean from inside the berry he had for breakfast. After extracting the bean, which is still in it’s shell, some lucky person gets to take the bean out of it’s shell out, sanitized and eventually make it into gourmet coffee.

(Before Luwak Coffee)

I hate to sound unappreciative, but it really is a long process just to have a cup of coffee. Anthony was very excited to try this delicacy, and I felt it was my turn to go along with something he wanted to do. So, just like in a coffee commercial, we both sat side by side, overlooking a beautiful rice field in Bali, nibbling on biscuits and enjoying a fresh cup of CatPooChino.

(And After)

Ah, the things we do for romance!

After sampling other poop free coffees, we purchased my favorite, Ginger Coffee, and finally made our way back to Bambu Indah just in time for a cat-nap (no pun intended). We then had another incredible Balinese dinner and turned in early.

September 11 & 12, 2014

We started the morning with a 7:00 hike through the rice fields surrounding Bambu Indah. Our guide’s name was (you guessed it) Wayan. Although, this time, there was a twist. This “Wayan” had a twin. “So”, I asked with my early morning attempt at humor, “does that make you ‘Wayan and a Half’?”  This was met with “no, just Wayan”. After 50 years, I finally figured out when no one laughs at what I may think is funny, then it probably isn’t funny, so the less said, the better, although, the quiet response was deafening.

Anyway, after an awkward start, Wayan.5 led our small group of four through the rice fields. Just like the Luwak coffee experience, when we signed up for this hike, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. First of all, getting up at 6:00 a.m. isn’t part of my normal schedule, then slathering on Deep Woods Off and not wearing deodorant (due to the fact that some mosquito’s like Old Spice), just works against my natural instinct. But, again, I figured when in Bali………

Our hike began by climbing down a very steep “stairway”. I’m not talking about Norma Desmond stairway, I’m talking about uneven rocks that nature happened to put in various places for us to hop from one to another on until we reach the bottom. 

Me, Wayan.5 and my balance stick

There were two other people with us; a male and female model-couple from France, so needless to say, I was trying to be cool, brave and, above all, as macho as possible.

One.Five gave us each a walking stick. Again, I tried a bit of humor by asking if this was to beat down the tree snakes as they viciously attacked us. His simple reply was…..”Yes”. THAT IS NOT WHAT I WANTED TO HEAR! “Really?” I asked in a DRY, high-pitched, voice, “I was only kidding”. “They serve two purposes, one for balance and one for snakes”, said WayanPointFive. I just gave Anthony a look of “if I get attacked by a tree snake, it’s all your fault”.

Our walk was truly beautiful, with a careful balancing act; we maneuvered around the crisscrossed sections of the rice fields. It was sort of like that game you played when you were a kid; Step on a Crack, Break Your Mother’s Back”. Only this time if we stepped on a crack, it could have very well been our own.

Bridge Number 1

it was all going fine until we came to our third hanging bridge. “This time you must go one at a time” said Wayan.50. I was beginning to regret the big dinner I had the night before. I had no issue with the first two swaying bridges, but this one was literally one long piece of bamboo with a bamboo handle tied together with shoe laces, all the while dangling over a raging river. So, again, afraid that the French supermodels may think less of me, I went first, right behind One and a Half. At the mid-point of the bridge, he yells back to me “Be careful of the ants”. What? I screamed. “The ants”. Not knowing what he was talking about I continued holding onto the rail with dear life only to find out that a million ants or so ants decided to call the hand rail, my only life line “home”. It’s amazing how quickly this peaceful walked turned into an audition for “Fear Factor”. I had three choices,: (A) grab onto this colony of hungry ants (B) slip and fall into the water or (C) All of the above. All I can say is I am thankful for i-phones, for if it wasn’t for mine being in my satchel (not a purse), I would have opted for (C). The nearest Apple store is two thousand miles away and I really didn’t feel like going there, so the ants won.

Just before my audition for Fear Factor

I’m sure the normal crossing time takes thirty seconds, but with the occasional stops to swat the army of ants off my arm, it took me five times that long. THEN, as if it couldn’t get any more challenging, just as I was almost to the end, Anthony yells out, “what’s that on your butt?” This is when I lost it. I can only imagine what was one my rear and what I must have looked like as I began swatting my ass with my “balance” stick while frantically brushing angry ant off my arms, while doing my best to keep centered on this bamboo inspired tight-rope. “SERISOUSLY! WHAT IS IT? I demanded as France’s Bradjolina watched in horror “WHAT IS ON MY ASS? ” I screamed, as I thought I felt something making it’s way into my shorts. “Oh, never mind, it’s just mud” said Anthony. “MUD? …….MUD!.......It’s just MUD!!!!!” You nearly made me fall into the River Kwai because I had smudge of dirt on my shorts?” This was followed with “Next time…….(you can fill in the blanks)”.

Anyway, by now the French Beauties had my number and their Indiana Jones image of me was shattered for good.

Our walk continued through the jungle and into Wayon.50’s village. This is where we met our guide’s twin, “Wayon-Squared”. His village was very interesting, no hotels or restaurants, but very quaint and from what I could tell, the way a true Balinese person lives. He took us to his traditional home; a layout consisting of five separate buildings including a kitchen, a temple, a forum area, and one or two sleeping areas. Thrown in the center of the house are pigs, chickens, a cow (if you’re wealthy) and my favorite-his prized roosters-used for cock-fighting. “You want to see a cock-fight?” he asked, as he began to take them out of their cages. I’ve never heard four people say the same word so fast “NO”

Cock fight anyone?

So, instead Half-Wayan just took out two of his award winning roosters and held onto them as we got the see them struggling to get to each other so they could battle to the death. I just gave my usual “isn’t that interesting” comment which segued into “thank you so much for the tour, but I’m hungry, so we should probably make our way back”. Thankfully, everyone chimed in with agreement and we made our way back. If it weren’t for our guides comfort level with the local spiders and his enjoyment out of showing them to tourists, it would have been incident free. We were almost back and I could smell the coffee when Wayan-1/2 made us stop along the way to show us how “not dangerous” Bali spiders are.

"Itsy Bitsy Spider"

 Thanks Wayan!

The rest of the day we relaxed in the villa, had lunch in the resort, then had a delicious dinner at The Amandari Hotel. All I can say is YUM!

After a good night’s sleep, we work up on Friday morning, had a great breakfast then made our way into Ubud for a day of shopping. My understanding of Ubud is that, like many quaint foreign destinations, tourists have discovered it and although good for the economy, it takes away what the town “used to be”; in this case a cultural center filled with forward thinking artists and craftsmen. You can tell, it still exists, and there still remain quite a few local antique and artisan shops, but there is also an occasional Polo Store, Pandora and yes, even a Starbucks.

We spent the entire day, strolling along and meandering in and out of gift, clothing and antique stores. I’m not much of a shopper, but this was fun.

A market in ubud


Anthony, in search for the perfect hat. Not-this one!

It was starting to get late in the afternoon, and my feet began to ache so I suggested, “maybe calling it a day”. Anthony agreed, but said we have to visit the Monkey Forest first. It was at the end of the main road, aptly called “Monkey Forest Road”, so it wasn’t out of the way and sounded like fun. After-all, I love monkey’s!

We arrived at a beautiful park with tall Banyan trees all over the place. There was a small entrance fee, plus a little extra if you wanted to buy a bunch of banana’s to feed to cute little monkeys. We bought two dollars worth and entered the park. A ranger came up to us and told us we needed to check our bags. Even though we weren’t quite sure why he asked, we complied anyway. While Anthony was checking our belongings, I started to read the signs-“Don’t touch the monkey’s”, “Hold on to your personal belongings”, Don’t feed the monkeys anything other than bananas” and my favorite,  “if they come toward you, don’t panic-stay calm”. “Sounded like a lot of rules just to walk through a park”, I thought, “but they must have to cover their butts in case some dumb tourist does something crazy”.

After checking our bags, Anthony found me by the entry. “Where’s our banana’s”, I asked. He told me a monkey came up to him and tried to pull on our shopping bags, but grabbed the banana’s instead”. “All of them?” I asked. “Yes”, said Anthony, “it was either surrender the five banana’s or the four sarong’s you just bought “Wise choice”, I thought. I loved my new sarongs and haven’t had the chance to wear them yet and it wouldn’t have been a pretty sight wrestling with the monkey trying to get them back.

Davy Jones

As we started making our way into the park, the same selfish monkey that stole all of our banana’s jumped onto Anthony’s leg and started climbing on his body. I froze in panic. This was not was monkeys are supposed to do, they are supposed to be curious (like George), not aggressive.

This monkey wanted more bananas. It started to go toward Anthony’s pocket and I yelled something like “AHHHHH” or “OOOOOOOH”. Whatever it was, it jumped down. My initial reaction was to run, but as I’ve learned from past experiences, animals like to play “chase” and running only encourages them

So, we just walked slowly away.

We continued moseying along through the Monkey Forest with the other thousand or so tourists and six hundred monkey’s flying from tree to tree (the monkeys, not the tourists).

Now, I know I don’t sound like I can handle nature very well, but I’ve been nearly eaten by a Jaguar in Costa Rica (seriously), spent three weeks in Africa and visited the San Diego Zoo, so I’m not inexperienced or intimidated by wild animals. This experience, however, did me in.

These monkey’s were not “gentle, move out of the human’s way” monkey’s. These monkey’s were “hey you,’ ‘homo sapiens’, get out of my forest or I’ll eat you like a banana”, sort of monkey’s.

They would deliberately block the path I was on and not budge. If I moved left, so did they. If I moved right, they did too. They were bullying me and I didn’t like it. If I tried to ignore them and continue to walk straight into them, they let me know that I was treading on their turf by jumping on me (I’m not lying).


Cute? Think Again!!!!

These were not cute little monkeys in primary colors that come out of a barrel; they were big, dirty and grey. They were also sizing me up while devising a plan to take over the park.

As I began to verbalize my insecurity, Anthony reassured me that nothing was wrong. “Stay calm, if you notice they aren’t messing with anyone else, just you”, this just made it worse. “They can sense your fear”, he continued. “Well, I didn’t have any fear until they started messing with me”, I said, “So they started it”. “Besides, why aren’t they bothering anyone else, what did I do?” “Just try to enjoy them”, Anthony continued, “They won’t hurt you”.

As my nightmare of flying monkeys continued, I was doing my best to “enjoy” them by being a be good sport.  Anthony on the other hand, was not. He knew I was “uncomfortable” to say the very least and found it very funny to video me without my knowledge as he threw stones into the brush along side the path I was walking simply to watch me scream and run. Although, it wasn’t funny at the time, it does make me laugh (a little) now.

Unbeknownst to me, my fear was captured on video.

We spent about twenty more minutes in the park and I suddenly couldn’t take it anymore.  “We have to go now”, I demanded, “They are really freaking me out”. I don’t know if it was because of my newly formed twitch or the kilo’s of sweat coming out of every pore of my body that made him realize I meant it, but he gave in.

We made our way to where we thought was the exit, only to find out, it was one of five. “This is not where we came in”, Anthony said. “So, it’s a way out” I screamed. “We have to find the one we came in through because they have our bags” said the voice of reason.  We walked to two more incorrect entrances until we finally found a nice man in the middle of the forest and asked him for directions. As he was explaining to Anthony the way to go, I could sense something watching me. As I was pretending to listen to the directions to the exit from this Hell; BAM! Something came out of nowhere and tried to push me down. WHAT…….. THE ……..FUCK!!!!!! Then I saw it, this little bitch monkey ran from my side and stood right in between Anthony and the nice man. It just sat on the ground staring right into my eyes as if to say “Ha, take that!” It freaked me out so much that I couldn’t say or do anything but just stand there and stare back at it. I think the ape took this as a challenge, because it started circling me. “Tone”, we gotta go!” I said under my breath. “That monkey want’s to hurt me”. “What monkey?” he asked as he continued his conversation with the nice man. I was so stunned by this ape that I couldn't talk or think, I just quickly walked away. “Where are you going”, Anthony asked. “Anywhere but here” I announced. I think I insulted the nice man, but I saw Planet of the Apes and The Omen and I’m well aware of what their master plan is.

The walk to the correct exit was in sight, but it seemed like miles away. Suddenly there were hundreds more monkeys making louder and louder sounds. Everyone one of them just dropped out of the sky onto the path in front of me. I did my best to dance around them, but the monkey-obstacle course was getting harder and harder to maneuver. “MOVE”, I started shouting, followed by “GET OUT OF MY WAY”.  Jeff, look at the little girl, she’s not afraid” said Mr. Banana-Head, “well, maybe the brave six year old hasn’t been offered as a sacrifice yet”, I said. I know I heard other visitors laughing and even heard one or two chuckles from Anthony, but I didn’t care.”

Brave little girl.

In the end, we made it out alive, a fact I’m sure you can guess because I’m writing this story. But, never, ever again will I think of monkeys in the way I used to.


Sorry Monkey!

Nothing like a little retail therapy to clear my head, so after we finished playing “human in the middle”, we continued shopping. We found a great store that sold local batik clothing. I hope I still like everything when I get home; sometimes I get caught up in the middle of an experience and end up with something like a hula skirt, thinking I’ll be just as in love with it in Detroit as I was on vacation.  “Oh, honey, that Angora puffy sweater is perfect”, come to find out it just doesn’t look the same walking down the streets of Birmingham, Michigan as it did in New Zealand. Anyway, I’m sure my friends will let me know.

We made it back to Bambu Indah just in time to shower and make our way back to Ubud for dinner. Jen/Jan had told us about a restaurant called Mozaic that we just had to try.

If you can’t tell by my stories, I absolutely LOVE food, but I don’t give a lot of details about it. That’s because, I don’t know how to cook and Anthony won’t allow me near the kitchen. I guess I don’t blame him, I’ve had a few mishaps in the past, including scorching my chin during an attempt at barbecuing a hot dog, getting jalapeno peppers on Mr. Wiggles-not my dog’s name-if you know what I mean, and the multiple times I got sidetracked and forgot to hit “start” on the timer.

Anyway, Mozaic was one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to. The ambiance was a combination of chic-trendy and island-casual. There are only four dining options and all are a fixed menu and can include a wine pairing (which of course we did).  We opted for a menu that included six courses and each one was better than the previous. On the table sat a display of the six spices in their “whole” form. Each one represented the main spice in each dish, so it was easy and fun for someone like me to follow along. I wouldn’t say I learned how to cook, but this experience made me start to think about trying.


The bar at Mozaic


After dinner, we made our way back to Bambu Indah where I think I had one of the best night’s sleeps ever.

September 14, 2014

We decided to basically take this day “off”. I spent most of the day writing and Anthony worked on editing some of the hundreds of photo’s we took. We didn’t leave the property once, except for a short walk through the rice fields.

In the evening, we had requested the “special dinner” and I’m so glad we did. It was literally something out of a fairy tale. Only, there’s no Cinderella and we both got to be Prince Charming. Just a short walk from our villa was a little patio that was bordered with thousands of beautiful fresh flower petals and candles. The private table was decorated with just as many flowers and covered by an umbrella. After being greeted with a glass of wine, we were served appetizers by our very own waiter as we watched the sun set over the fields we had walked through during the day. I am not what would be described as a “romantic”, but this evening made me one. The two of us sat side-by-side watching the beautiful view while eating amazing food and drinking incredible wine all the while being surrounded by the set of “The Bachelor” (without the bachelorettes).  This was truly one of my favorite memories of all time (but don’t tell Anthony).

Our private dinner at Bambu Indah


The next day, we had to get up at 3:30, in the morning to catch a flight to Sarong, West Papua, so we called it an early evening.

September 15, 2014

Our next destination is Misool Eco Resort in Raja Ampat and the only way to get there is by taking a four-hour boat ride from Sarong, West Papua. Due to flight and boat schedules, we were forced to spend a night in this “ lovely” city. All I can say is if you’ve never been to Sarong-DON’T EVER DO IT”.  I don’t need to give any details, but you know you’re in trouble when the person picking you up at the airport, who was born and raised in the city, says “there is nothing to do you must stay in your hotel”. We found it hard to believe that there could be “nothing to do”, but we heeded her advice and only left once to take a quick public transport (icky, icky, icky taxi ride) to the “mall”, which was really an Indonesian version of the grocery section of Wal-Mart, to get some sun block. Other than that we followed our guide’s suggestions and watched reruns of horror movies on the “Thrill Channel”.

The highlight of the day came at the end of the night as we downed three large Bintang’s in an attempt to erase the memory of the “fried chicken” dinner we just ate. As we sat in the Karaoke Bar, which by the way strangely resembled the hotel bar in Fargo where Marge meets up with her old school friend, one of the four people in the bar got up and sang probably the best version of Whitney Houston and Adele songs I’ve ever heard. I swear it’s true-it wasn’t just the Bintang talking.

September 16, 2014

We left the hotel early in the morning to catch the boat to Misool Eco Resort.

Misool is how this entire trip came about. Although Bali in particular wasn’t on my bucket list (although knowing what I know now, it should have been), staying in a hut over the water always has been.

15 months ago, Anthony asked me if I’d prefer a party or a trip for my 50th birthday. I was only 48 at the time, but either one would require lots of planning and as much as I love parties, I like traveling even more. Besides, all my friends made the 25th anniversary of my 25th birthday very special. I ended up lots of mini-parties, including two special dinners at two of the best restaurants in town, tickets to Book of Mormon, a special home cooked meal, a beautiful piece of furniture for our home, a special “coffee table book that was hand designed with my own photo’s, a Shinola watch and a 50th birthday weekend celebration hosted by great friends that included my very own fireworks display-I was born on the 4th of July and although everyone thinks they are for America, my mother always told me different.

So, saying no to a party and yes to a trip was a wise choice, I literally had my cake and ate it too (whatever that means).

After a couple of months of research and weighing one of the other things on my bucket list, staying in an Ice Hotel in Iceland, we made our decision. Since Anthony isn’t a fan of luging or sleeping on a bed made of ice, we opted for a hut over the water.

We wanted to go in September, which was just after the rainy season in Bali, so the timing was great. Plus, I love seclusion and our travel reward points didn’t cover rocket travel, so Misool Eco Resort, located in Raja Ampat, Indonesia was the perfect choice.

Raja Ampat is a state in Indonesia made up of hundreds of little islands just off the coast of West Papua. If you look at a map, it’s north of the north-central coast of Australia and although a huge distance away, south of The Philippines. Misool is the name of one of the larger islands in the island state and the resort is located on a neighboring small island. This is where the term “middle of nowhere” came from and I love it.

After a four hour boat ride from Sorong, we arrived at Misool around 12:30 on September 16. I wish there was one word that describes complete fulfillment of all five senses. I refuse to use over-used words such as “paradise”, “euphoria”, or “heaven” because none of them seem to give justice to this place, so I came up with an activity for the week-the “invent a new word a day” calendar. Every day, Anthony and I have to create a word that describes this place. Today’s word is “sensabulous”.


Our water cottage #5.  

The resort consists of eight water cottages (huts over the water) and three bungalows on the beach. Guests can reserve a villa for either seven or ten days. Each villa has a queen-sized bed, an outdoor shower, ample closet space and best of all, a large private balcony over the sea with sensabulous views. The resort is known for it’s diving and snorkeling, but it’s also a place to just chill-out. It’s located where the Pacific and Indian Oceans meet and since so many islands surround it, the reefs are extremely protected; the coral very healthy, and the aquatic life is abundant. Since there is so much for them to eat, even the sharks are friendly, although I was told not to hug one.

Our little Jaws

We arrived with six other guests-Stephan and Mirabai from Germany, Luiz and Innes from Brazil and Paolo and Katarina from Italy. I always feel so lame, everyone knows how to speak English and I can only say “Good morning, I see your white cat is drinking milk” in all three languages (thank you Rosetta Stone).

After we disembarked we were treated to a tasty lunch where got acquainted with the other guests and were introduced to handful of the 80 staff members. Unfortunately, no one here is named Wayan, I missed the Balinese Name Game; it made life so much easier just having to remember four.

Afterward, we were taken to our water cottage. All the cottages are wonderful, but since we booked so long ago we were able to request Number Five. Number Five is sensabulous. It sits at the end of  a walkway of cottages so it only has one cottage next to it, making it more private than the rest and a completely unobstructed view.

After unpacking, I took an afternoon nap while Anthony explored the surroundings. Before we knew it, it was time for Bintang Happy Hour and dinner.

All six meals (yes, SIX meals-another reason I love it here) are served in an open-air dining room. There are two waiters for six people, so as you can guess, the service is incredible. Each night at dinner one of the two dive masters explain the dive and snorkel options for the next day. The times vary due to the tides and everyday there is an opportunity to visit a different location highlighting various marine-life found near that specific reef. You can purchase as many dive or snorkel excursions, as you like. We pre-booked five, but my guess is that we’ll be adding more. At dinner, they also have us select our meal for the next day’s dinner. So far, the food has been great, so my guess is that any choice is a good one.

After getting to know our fellow guests even better over a few Bintang’s, we were off to our bungalow to watch the night sky until we fell asleep.

September 17, 2014

We got up with the sunrise and began our day with meal number one, or as I refer to it, breakfast appetizers. After our toast and coffee, we went on our first snorkel trip. As Conde Naste says “the scenery above the water is only rivaled by the scenery below”. Many publications list Raja Ampat as “one of the best dive spots on the planet” and all I can say is, I can’t even imagine any place else being better.

The Dive Boats

After our first dive, we had meal number 2-Breakfast. Then I wrote a little and took a short nap before meal number 3-Lunch. After lunch, we went on another snorkel where I invented the day’s word “sealightful”. According to our dive master, the water was extraordinarily clear allowing us to swim around the most sealightful coral colors and sea creatures, including shark, squid, Shelly the turtle, a three foot long clam that didn’t seem very happy to see us, lots of jellyfish and millions of sardine-ish fish. With only a minor mishap (a tiny jellyfish sting on my left leg), the day went perfecly.


Believe it or not, taken with my I-Phone with the WaterShot App.

After our snorkel, we had meal number 4 (high tea) followed by another nap and meal number 5 (appetizers). We were treated to a video presentation of the various sea life in the area that includes a fish that can actually turns itself from female to male without having to go through mandatory therapy and an operation to do so.

Following our final meal of the day (number 6-dinner), we went to bed and had a sealightly night’s sleep.

September 18, 2014

We woke up with the sun once again and enjoyed our first two meals under beautiful sunshine. I spent the entire morning eating and writing, while Anthony worked on editing videos he took with his Go-Pro. We are finding there are only so many hours in a day and all this “relactivity” is making me tired. Oh well, there’s always time for another nap before lunch.

The biggest effort of the day came at 3:30 when it was time for a snorkel. We rode in a boat out to one of the nearby islands to see if we could find Nemo. Although, I didn’t find any bright blue fish resembling Ellen, we did see hundreds of beautiful baby sea creatures on this excursion they refer to as the “Juvenile” dive.


This was followed by the second biggest effort of the day, walking to the restaurant to grab a bunch of Misool’s homemade cookies. As I made my way back to our villa with my plate piled high, I struggled with eating them all and not telling Anthony they existed, but instead I ate all but one and asked him to go get more. I LOVE dessert before dinner!

September 19, 2014

We had a very “snokelishious” day. We got up at 7:00 for an 8:30 snorkel and ate our six meals-very eventful and just what we came here to do.

Where we sat all day today!

September 20, 2014

Today, we broke out of our regular routine, of course I’m not talking about skipping one of the meals, but instead of snorkeling, we went for a boat ride to see the petroglyphs. Anthony had read about them on MIsool’s web site and they sounded very interesting. Although, I’ve loved the weather this week, my understanding is that the wind is much stronger than usual and the staff keeps apologizing for it. I happen to love it, but I guess it isn’t the best for diving and excursions such as today’s adventure. We expressed in interest in seeing the petroglyphs early on in the week, so they kept an eye on the weather forecast and this afternoon looked like the best time to go. So, off we went.

We left at 2:00 and it only took 45 minutes to get there. This trip is usually only available if six or more guests are interested in going, but according the Kiki, we are “special”. I’m not quite sure why, but there were only Anthony and I, plus four crew members. I could tell, two of the crew had never been there before as they we busy snapping pictures and couldn’t hide their excitement at seeing these ancient drawings.

When we arrived to the area, we were both surprised at how beautiful it was. I was expecting dark caves with chalk drawings on the side, but that wasn’t the case. The petroglyphs were hidden by the rest of the world by hundreds of little islands that jutted hundreds of feet straight into the air. It’s hard to make any kind of comparison to any place else in the world, so I won't even try.

We cruised in and around the sharp edged cliffs for about 15 minutes until we pulled up to the side of one of the monstrous rocks. Kiki pointed upwards toward a handprint on a rock. It was sort of like the turkey I learned how to draw in kindergarten at Thanksgiving time, only this one was way less colorful than mine-just one color-rust.

Anyway, kiki also pointed out a sketch of a fish, dolphin, some sort of weird star and a stick figure. It was then that I realized I was simply born in the wrong time. I took a watercolor class a few years ago, and my paintings strangely resembled these ancient artifacts. I really wish my mean art teacher could have seen them; she’d eat her words now. “Wow, Jeff, you have such a “child-like” quality”, she’d stay, “you would be good at illustrating children’s books”. Whatever lady! If she only knew that Indonesian people drew with the same “child-like quality” that according to Kiki were over one hundred thousand million years old. I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of zeros that add up to my being an artist ahead of his time, 100 000,000,000 to be exact.


I can hear the critics one hundred thousand millions years from now after they find my masterpieces. “Wow”, they’d say. “Oh, Jeff Davison, his works leaves an impression of innocent children, monkey-like if you will. You know he really started the whole ‘chimpressionist.’ Period”. Who knew?

September 21, 2014

Today being Sunday, the day of rest, we opted to do just that again. This part of the trip has been very restful for us; we never get to just do “nothing”. It’s strange how fast the day goes by and how tired we can get by under exerting ourselves. We get up, eat, read, eat, nap, eat, snorkel, eat, read, write, eat, drink beer, eat, read and go to bed. How I still manage to sleep ten ours is beyond me. According to Kiki, it’s because of the sun and salt air.

Anthony did break up the day by trying out a paddleboard. “Want to do it too?” he asked. “No, thank you, but please don’t let me stop you, if you really want to, you should”, I replied. O.K., that’s a liet, the conversation went nothing like that it was really like….”You should go with me, it’ll be fun”, followed by “NO”. “How do you know you won’t like it unless you try “Because if I fall off into those shark infested water without Kiki by my side I will panic and blame you”. This sort of “you don’t want to hear about it for the rest of your life” answer usually stops him from trying to convince me to do something I don’t want to do. I can’t use it very often or it weakens it’s credibility, but my  “absoluteno” technique works when used in moderation.

So, off he went paddle boarding around our little “JAWS” filled lagoon while I napped. I awoke to “Jeff”, I pretended I didn’t hear him because I was in the middle of a great dream and wanted to finish it. “Jeff”, this time a little louder and with a slight singsong lilt to it. I still acted like I was sleeping, only this time I let out a little snore. “JEFF!” Fine, I couldn’t ignore this one and decided to finish my dream about a caterpillar named Fifi later. “What honey?” “Come out here” “Here” meant the balcony. Anthony was proudly paddling away on a paddleboard for the first time. “Wow”, I said, “You’re really good”.  I meant it too; Anthony has always been way more adventurous than me. I grabbed the camera because I could tell by the way he was posing that he was proud of his success. As soon as I said,” look up here”, he fell over. When I say, “fell over”, he didn’t just fall over, he pulled a “Jeff”; somehow managing to flip over the front of the board and into the steps leading up to our balcony. An entire lagoon full of water and he fell into the only structure in sight. “Oh, no, are you O.K?” I somehow managed to get out without a snort. “Oh, yeah, I’m fine”, “This is why I don’t do things like paddleboard” I said,” it’s dangerous”. He either chose to ignore me or had water in his ears because he didn’t comment, He just got back on the board like a pro, resumed his pose for a cover of Sports Illustrated and made his way back to shore without incident-well, almost.

Anthony posing for "Sports Illustrated"

He did make it back to shore, but he smashed is finger and it’s black and blue. We don’t think it’s broke as he can move it, but it’s pretty bruised. It’s been difficult biting my tongue and not saying “you shouldn’t be so adventurous in a place where they can’t set bones or prescribe Vicadin”, but it’s not easy.

On a brighter side, our snorkel today was one of the best yet. Along with seeing a shark swim right up to a huge turtle and play with him, we saw “the biggest damn clam in Raja Ampat”, according to Kiki. It was huge, about three feet wide. ! I asked how old it was and Kiki said it was “one hundred thousand million years old”. My guess is that is isn’t as old as the cave drawings, but you never know.

September 22, 2014

Our final full day in Misool is today and we decided to take full advantage of it. Not only did we eat all of our meals, we decided not to go on any snorkeling or boat trips. Instead, we just sat on our balcony all-day and enjoyed the sunniest and hottest day of the week. The coral and sea life is just as abundant right in front of our bungalow as it is anywhere else in the sea, so we broke the day up with a short snorkel right off the deck. It would have lasted longer, but there were a lot of jellyfish and we decided not to tempt fate on our last day by swimming with them. One jellyfish sting was enough for me this week.  

I’m sitting on our balcony recapping today and watching the sun set on our final day in Misool. Since we are so close to the equator, the sun sets at the same time everyday; 5:45.  It’s a perfect reminder that it’s Bintang Hour and Happy Meal Number 5 (a surprise snack-tonight’s was oatmeal cookies). I’ve gotten really used to all these meals and my Bintang’s, I hope I don’t need rehab when I get back. I understand the withdrawal from six meals a day can be very difficult. I’m hoping Betty Ford offers a program for “mealaholic’s”, like me, because I think I have a problem.

 Anyway, tonight we are being treated to a barbecue. It’s funny, I can go months without a cheeseburger when I’m at home, but put me in a country that doesn’t have them and suddenly I turn into a hungry hippo. I could smell one for miles if one existed. I doubt that they’ll be on the menu tonight, but one can dream.

September 23, 2014

Because the boat was scheduled to leave at 10 a.m., we were only offered the big breakfast (meal number 2) today, so I slept in until 7:30. I’ve been searching for the right motivation to get up early at home and since the exercise option hasn’t worked, I’m going to see if I can convince Anthony to make a pre-breakfast snack every morning. I can picture it “Wake up ‘Sleepy Head’, I made muffins”, Anthony would say knowing it would get my ass out of bed. After devouring a chocolate chip muffin, I’d shower with just enough time for a choice of three meal options-eggs, porridge or noodles before going to work-It’s gonna be great!

 After breakfast, we bid farewell to Misool and took the four-hour boat trip back to Sorong (or as it’s referred to, even by the local’s, as “So-Wrong”).

The staff of Misool waving good-bye.

We’ve been dreading going back to Sorong; the one and only night we had to spend there was more than anyone should have to ever to do. Without anything to do there and without any choice but to stay another night, we decided to save our photo editing and catching up on e-mails until we were there.

Our transportation to Misool from Sorong

The night before we left, Calvin, one of the Dive Master’s, told everyone that we were being upgrading us to a brand new hotel in Sorong, so I was cautiously optimistic. I even had a dream about it-I was in a tropical paradise with a beautiful pool and swim up bar. My friends even surprised me by upgrading me to a suite and spa package, so I had a massage followed by the best food I’ve ever had…then, I woke up.

Anyway, after the boat ride and a quick stop to buy a penis-gourd (don’t ask), we arrived at the new Swiss-Bel Hotel, we were very happy. It appeared out of nowhere and I swear I saw an angel flying above it. It is a modern hotel with floor to ceiling windows, a marble and wood lobby and most importantly a bar that was well stocked with scotch. “Now, this is a hotel”, we both said. It’s amazing what a difference a hotel can make. While there is still nothing to do in So-Wrong, we can do it knowing our room isn’t crawling with germs and smells that are poorly covered up with air-freshener. The new hotel had everything you would expect including spacious clean rooms, down comforters, a working air conditioner, a room safe, HBO, WIFI (sort of), phone service and a clean restaurant without Karaoke, which, by the way, we found out is “code” for prostitution. Sort of gives a whole new meaning to my staple song “I Got You Babe”.

DOur departure hotel in Sarong

We nearly jumped for joy when we saw a real swimming pool and gym. Not that we had any plan to use either one, but just knowing they were there gave us great comfort.

After checking in, we read our e-mails, caught up on Facebook, listened to the world news on CNN and watched Jerry McGuire all before dinner. We ate with our six fellow travelers and other than a few flies dying in our beers, it was pretty good. I just took it as another sign that it was time to switch to scotch.

September 24, 2014

This morning we partook in the breakfast buffet and said our final good-byes to our Misool friends. Now we’re in the room killing time awaiting our 4:00 flights back to Bali. Anthony is editing and deleting some of the hundreds of photos we took so we don’t bore people too much when we get home. And you’ll be glad he did; there’s nothing worse than torturing your friends with “Oh, this one is great, do you see the sea-turtle in the shadow? It didn’t even see us when we snuck up” or “Isn’t Jeff so funny in that silly hat? Everyone laughed so hard when he put it on backwards”.

After a few hours of catching up on our photo’s and my blog, it was time to leave for the airport and bid farewell to Sorong.

Once at the airport, we paid the extra $10 for the privilege to sit in D’Lounge, a Sorong attempt at Delta’s Executive Lounge. The only difference was……, well……., let’s just say there were a lot of differences. They did however, have something the Delta Lounge doesn’t; a large T.V. blaring at full volume. It was broadcasting it’s only channel and kept playing an episode of some kid’s program. All they were doing was fishing on a boat they found and screaming about it. I had no idea the D’Lounge was “code” for loud obnoxious children on T.V. It was worse that sitting on a kindergarten playground. After my headache set in, it was finally time to board. Good-bye bratty children actors and a bigger good-bye to Sorong.

The D'Lounge in Sarong's Airport

The two short flights to Bali were right on schedule. From airport to airport it was four hours, just enough time for my Advil to kick in and to finish my book.

 Once back in Bali, we stayed in a new area; Legian Beach. Legian is where most vacationers go. It’s sort of the Miami Beach of Indonesia. It offers street after street of upscale and unique shops plus a beautiful walkway along the beach. Legian Beach is in the middle of three neighborhoods that are all loaded with shops, restaurants and nightclubs. Our hotel, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collect is called The Stones. We had stayed in the autograph collection before and love them. They are not big “cookie cutter” hotels; each one is unique and center on original art.  Since it was so late when we checked in, we had dinner at the hotel restaurant and made it an early evening.

The next day, we partook in a large buffet breakfast. We then did something we rarely do; although we loved our room, the view was an ugly building site, so we (Anthony), inquired to see if by chance, there was different room by the pool. I usually make fun of people that do this sort of thing, but I’ve learned it can’t hurt to ask. And in this case, it worked. We were upgraded from an already great room to another great room with not only a pool view, but also our very own private “plunge” pool. I’ve never had a private plunge pool before, but I’ve decided when I get home. I’m going to fill up my bathtub everyday with ice-cold water so I could have one of my very own.

September 25, 2014

 With only two days left and a “gift” list a mile long, Thursday was a shopping day.

TTempting, but I passed.

We took a ten minute cab ride to a neighborhood called “Seminyak”, According to what Anthony has read, there are three connecting “hoods”, Kuta, Legian and Seminyak, each with their own identity. Seminyak sounded to me like “Royal Oak” meets “Birmingham”; lots of nightlife, good restaurants and ample shopping. And shopping it had! Unlike Anthony, who enjoys bargaining with sales people on the street in 100-degree heat, I prefer the nice air-conditioned stores where everything is twice as much. “At least they’re clean scarves” I’d say. “The ones on the street were clean too”, Anthony said “you just don’t like how pushy the people are”. And he was right! I like to think of myself as a “good” traveler and I think I am, 95% of the time. But when it comes to shopping, I tend to loose my patience. "I hate bargaining", I said, “It’s just they way it works here” said Anthony as he eyed another straw hat that God only knows how many people have tried on. “I know, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it". Then after I finally get up the nerve to do it, I'll buy twenty of the same gifts (it saves me from having to do it again later). The only problem with this type of shopping is that after everything is wrapped up so nicely and it's time to pay, they say, “I sowy, ow cwedit cahd machey no wok today, do you a-hov cashs?” There was at time that I used to fall for this and would spend half a day searching all over town to find a working ATM. But then I got wise, “they just don’t want to pay the fees” I announced as though I had just found Hoffa.So now I have a strategy too; I simply say “Oh, no, so sawy”, then I dramatically turn and walk toward the door. It’s truly amazing how well this works. Without even a heartbeat, they quickly say without a hint of an accent, “well, let’s try your card, you never know”. Like clockwork, they timidly swipe the card through very slowly. I happen to work with a credit card processor, but even if I didn’t, I'd know that you can’t be a wimp when swiping cards; they have to be run through like you mean it. “Oh, I doe no, we haf to twy agahn, unless you a-hov cahs”, this time, back to the accent. I’ve learned by now that this must be met with an abrupt “No, that’s o.k., something must be wrong with my card, I’ll just go somewhere else”, followed by an even more dramatic turn to leave. Suddenly they turn into some sort of retail super hero. You’ll never see a credit card swiped with more confidence and processed with lightening speed until you are in small Asian or European town and you threaten purchase your twenty scarves elsewhere. 

Hat shopping in Bali

The other thing that makes shopping unpleasant for me is when a sales person constantly follows me around. It’s like they somehow heard about the time I accidentally stole a bottle of water from Kroger (I didn’t see it in my cart when I checked out and didn’t realize it until I got all the way out to my car. It was below zero during a blizzard and I couldn’t have been parked further away. I didn’t even take it home. I left it in the cart so the cart gathering guy could put it back on the shelves, so technically I didn’t even take it). Anyway, they must have heard about it, because for some reason they don't trust me.“What would you like” they’d ask from an inch away. I’ve learned the hard way that my attempt at humor doesn’t always translate. I'd like to say “Do you have any Penis Gourds?” but that would probably just confuse the issue and make them follow me around even more.  So, instead I opt for my standard “I’m just looking". Unfortunately, to them this means, “Oh, let me show you some napkins”. “I’m not interested in napkins”, I’d say. “Oh, you like tablecloths?” “No”, I say again, “I don't like tablecloths, I’m just looking”. “How much you pay for napkins? I give you good price”. “I don’t want any napkins", "Oh, you like coasters? We have many, how much you pay?" By this point, I usually leave them in mid sentence as I exit the building. After I'm safely outside, I find the nearest step to perch myself on while I wait 20 minutes for Anthony to emerge with four or five brightly colored, fringy pieces of fabric that according to him can be used as a “scarf, table runner or curtain”.

Shopping on the streets of Bali


After a few hours of shopping, it was lunchtime. We weren’t sure where to go so we picked a restaurant that looked clean and had a decent crowd. One thing that can be said for the Indonesian people that I’ve met so far; they are friendly and smile a lot. Even if they don’t understand a single word I say, they do a great job at faking it. “Yes” they always say while grinning from ear to ear. “I would like a Ginger Ale”, I’d say. “Yes” (smile). This was usually followed by the waitperson bringing me a beer (with a huge smile so it made it o.k.).

Our waitress today was extra friendly and her English was amazing so I ordered a Club Sandwich. The last time I ordered one in Indonesia, I got noodles, so I figured this was my golden opportunity to have someone get it right. I love Club Sandwiches and since it has been three weeks since I had one, this one was especially good.

After paying, our extra nice waitress came back for me to sign the receipt. As I was double-checking the charge, out of the corner of my eye I noticed Anthony motion for her to come closer. He then whispered something to her. “What could he be saying” I wondered and why would he want her to come so close? It all happened so fast, I couldn’t stop him; with a brush of his hand, he wiped away a piece of rice he thought was “stuck” on her forehead. “I figured you’d want to know” he said, as though he just let her know she had a huge bugger hanging from her nose.

“No”, our waitress said, still smiling. “It was put there this morning by my priest”.

Apparently, the Balinese have a religious ceremony that Anthony wasn’t aware of that includes the careful placement of a grain of rice in the middle of their forehead (sort of like Ash Wednesday). “Oh no” said Anthony as the religious symbol dropped, almost in slow motion, off her face and onto his plate of left over lunch, “I’m so sorry”. He frantically tried to find the white speck on his plate to give back to her while she assured him it was O.K. “Please, no worry”, she said as I glared at him. “Here it is”, Anthony said as he fished out the sauce-covered piece of rice. “Really, it’s O.K., it never lasts this long anyway” said our cheerful waitress. She spent what felt like an eternity trying to make Anthony feel better about picking the sacred piece of rice off her face.

It’s not everyday that Anthony embarrasses himself, so I had to milk the situation by not saying a word. Instead I just emoted a short chain of expressions. First, my “really?” stare, then a “what were you thinking” rise of the eyebrow” and finally, my closed eye nod of the head that simply said “oh no you didn’t”.

We spent the rest of afternoon shopping and finished our day off by having dinner at an Italian restaurant called “Ultima” where we drank a bottle of wine and had a delicious dinner (without rice).


 September 26, 2014

The final day of our vacation is here. It’s been an amazing three weeks filled with many funny, educational and cultural experiences. Each of the four places we’ve stayed (I’m not including Sorong, because in my mind, that didn’t happen) has been completely different from the other.

The Temple Lodge in Bingin Beach, was the perfect way to start. It was up on a cliff overlooking the ocean in the middle of nowhere. It forced our minds to immediately stop thinking about the stresses of every day life back home and be in the moment.

Bambu Indah in Ubud, exposed us to the cultural part of Bali. By visiting craftsmen’s studios and local storeowners, this is the place where we learned to appreciate the “every day” routine of many of the Balinese.

Misool Eco Resort in Raja Ampat , gave us an entire new perspective in how to be eco-friendly. I don’t believe we’ve ever been in a more remote place on the planet (although Antarctica is still on my list).  Here we experienced just as much beauty under the water as above. And to top it all off, I got to check off “hut over the water” from my bucket list.

The Stones Hotel in Legian, provided just the perfect amount of “city life”, so we can ease back into reality. It was also great to spend some time in the place where most tourists stay while visiting Bali’s beautiful beaches and trendy nightlife.


I’m so lucky that I have a partner that arranged the whole trip. He knows what I like to do and because he’s a Libra, everything from a specific hotel room to the amount of hours spent in any one place, was extremely well thought out and couldn’t have been any better. My only complaint is that next year, my birthday gift is never going to live up to this one.

Although we leave shortly to begin our journey home, I will never leave behind my memories from this beautiful country. Thank you to the love of my life, Anthony Marsalese, for making this a “trip of a lifetime”.
































My Big Five-OH Celebration-Indonesia