Country #27: Indonesia

I’m returning to Singapore next week, which has prompted me to think about the first time I visited Southeast Asia. Immediately following my graduation from Georgetown, I flew to New Zealand and Australia. Caroline met me in Melbourne, and we then continued to our first destination in Southeast Asia: Bali, Indonesia. To commemorate this trip (as well as the other countries along this journey), I wanted to post my email reflections that I sent to my parents during my travels.

Originally written June 2019 (lightly edited for clarity):

This week, I hit country #27: Indonesia. Indonesia is a fascinating place because it’s a country made up of Islands. The U.S. only has one state like that (Hawaii), and Indonesia has many more islands in comparison.

Caroline and I are staying on the island of Bali in the town of Seminyak. It’s fairly touristy and where most people go on holiday. I think if I came back to Bali, specifically, I would try to stay in Ubud. We didn’t move accommodations on this trip (rare for us) and are closer to the airport. Ubud is probably 1-1.5 hours away which would have been a challenge when arriving at 9 PM when we did. 

On Saturday, the first full day we were in Bali, we had a true exploring day. For the most part, we’re fairly planned travelers, but Bali isn’t a place you need to be extraordinarily planned. We got the lay of the land. We hung out by the hotel pool, ate dinner at a local warung (the name of their local restaurants), and essentially did a DIY walking tour to explore the area. 

The next day, we grabbed breakfast locally before heading to a local flea market. Caroline tried her hand at bartering. Of the two of us, she’s always the one who is perceived as the “weaker” barterer. The shop owners give her a much harder time, and she also tends to buy more. She gets nervous about asking people to lower prices, and they purposely raise them for tourists, so you just end up getting ripped off if you don’t barter. I told her this is the trip that she should learn how to barter. It’s useful to know how to do this when you travel. I became pretty good at it in Morocco because I was typically the one who did it for the two of us. We ate dinner at a local warung that night as well. The local dish here is called Nasi Goreng, which is fried rice with a fried egg on top. I’m actually a really big fan. 

We spent Monday on the southern Kuta beaches. The beaches aren’t the best for swimming, but they’re good for surfing. The locals have commandeered the chairs at the beach, so you have to pay a fee to lay on them. It’s not much (you barter for them as well), but it’s still kind of a weird system. Caroline got massively sunburned during the day. I got more sun than I intended to as well, but I think I’ll leave without peeling at all which is good. We ended the day by getting sunset drinks at a trendy bar on the beach. 

On Tuesday, we went to Padang Bai to dive. It was about 2ish hours from where we were staying in Bali. It may have been the best visibility I’ve ever had while diving. While we didn’t see anything “big,” it was still a great day to get some practice in with two dives. Wednesday was supposed to be a great day trip that we booked through our hotel. We were going to Kintamani (the Volcano area), Ubud, markets, and some other cultural sites in/around Bali. When you stay in a place like Seminyak, it can be difficult to get the cultural flavor of a place. The day trip didn’t end up being everything we hoped, but a big takeaway for me was that Ubud would be the place to stay next time.

Today was a day of rest and relaxation. We did yoga at 9:30 — my first-time doing yoga in a foreign country. We got lunch at a beachfront restaurant and headed to the spa. Caroline got foot reflexology, and I got a hair treatment. If I lived here, I would never wash my own hair again because it was only $15. After, we went to a local bar on the rooftop of a hotel with hot tubs to watch the sunset.

Tomorrow, we head to Singapore for the weekend (until Monday). I hope to get my computer battery replaced at the Singapore Apple Store, but I have to see whether or not that’s possible tomorrow night at 9 PM. It’ll be disruptive to my work schedule if I don’t have my computer for 3-4 days, but it’ll be more disruptive if I continue to deal with a failing battery. For the most part, I’m working around 5 (give or take) hours a day. Waking up early before we leave for the day and staying up late once we get back. I also work on breaks in between if we come back to the room. The Wi-Fi is actually improving between New Zealand –> Australia –> Indonesia. I’m hopeful it will get even better in places like Singapore and Thailand.