Sunday, February 8, 2009

Leisure and pampering

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Today started out much like yesterday: late breakfast (9:30), browse the internet (and finally update the blog), then into the pool for a swim. Weather's been a bit cold for the past couple of days, so the pool hasn't been the cool relief against tropical temperatures. The staff here say the windy weather is unusual for this time of year. But anyway, it's still nice to get into the pool.

After a late lunch (2:30), Juliette and I prepared for our day's treat: being pampered by a spa in Kuta. The Bali Ratu spa sent a car to pick us up from the hotel, take us back past the airport to Kuta, and then gave us a two hour pampering: foot bath, full body massage, steam baths, body scrubs, milk wash, and finished with a flower bath. The masseuses certainly knew their stuff, and at the end, we both felt well and truly relaxed.

(I think at one point I told Juliette I felt like a potato: scrubbed, steamed, seasoned, and mashed. But I meant it in a nice way.)

Afterwards, the van brought us back to the Keraton. We dropped a couple of things off at our room, then collected Felicity on the way to dinner. Just enough time to type this up before hitting the sack.

Tomorrow: the big day trip....

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Lazy day (Tuesday, 3 February 2009)

I've finally seen a live gecko. I woke up at 4:30 to what sounded like water pouring down the wall, but turned out to be a gecko that had fallen into a drink on the bedside table -- the noise was him trying to get out of the glass. I tipped the glass enough so that it could jump out. I made a comment to Juliette, and just like that the gecko had disappeared.

Today was a day we spent doing as little as possible. We got up for a family breakfast at 9.

Our plans were then to just lounge around the resort, but the weather had other ideas. While we were getting changed into our swimsuits, a torrential downpour arrived and kept going. We went to lunch, and the rainstorm only got worse. At one point, we had to move tables because we were starting to get soaked.

By about 1, the rain started to slack off so Juliette and I finally got into the pool (swimming in the rain is surprisingly relaxing). Richard and Maiko arrived for a brief visit, so it was good to see them again.

Juliette's aunts and uncles were leaving today, but also wanted to go shopping (they weren't getting picked up until 9:30pm), so we offered our room for them to stash their bags. They got back from their shopping trip about 5pm (Carol and Anne had found Juliette a frangipani hairclip that she had really wanted), and we had a pleasant time with all of us sitting around chatting, before we all went to dinner at 7.

After dinner, we helped get their bags to the reception where taxis were collecting them to take them to the airport. We said our goodbyes, then after they had gone went back to our room for bed.

The Wedding

Monday, 2 February 2009

Today was the big day, the whole reason we were in Bali: Richard and Maiko's wedding. After breakfast and a dip in the pool and lunch, we started getting ready for the ceremony. Juliette's Uncles Robert and Ross, and their wives Carol and Anne arrived about lunchtime, and by 4pm we were all in the foyer waiting for the transport to the wedding resort.

After a half-hour trip through Bali's chaotic traffic (including a truck containing a load of rocks and dirt that had rolled), we arrived at the resort. It had spectacular views from the top of a cliff facing the Indian Ocean. Pools of water surrounded the buildings, and the chapel had a glass end to provide unimpeded views of the sea.

We met Maiko's parents, one of her sisters, and her mother's sisters. Very nice people, and Takahashi-san's English is a lot better than he will admit!

After introductions, and a heavily-flavoured cinnamon drink, we got our first look at the beautiful couple while the photographer took photos. Richard looked very smart in his suit, and Maiko looked absolutely stunning. Once the photographer had finished taking the pre-wedding photos we were taken to the chapel. The altar was covered with flowers - frangipani and another tropical one I don't know the name of. The service was beautiful: simple, short, and very moving; it was conducted in both English and Japanese, with girls in traditional Balinese outfits as attendants, and a four-person choir. In the background was the Indian Ocean, with the setting sun streaming through the gathering clouds. We couldn't take photos or videos during the service, unfortunately, but I think no-one will easily forget it (and there'll always be the official photos).

After the ceremony we all got taken outside and given handfuls of rose petals to throw over the happy couple as they left the chapel...everyone had fun throwing those over them. While the photographer took some final photos of the now married couple --- including family and group photos and photos of the cake (sponge cake with cream and strawberries in the centre) being cut --- we had a few drinks. Then we went and sat down for the wedding feast. The servings were small, but there were lots of courses, every one delicious (even the seafood dishes). Ross, Anne, and I went through a bottle of Chilean pinot noir -- darker, more robust than a Kiwi pinot noir, but still very drinkable.

Everything started to wind up about 10:30. Everyone (except Richard and Maiko) piled into the shuttles and were brought back to the Keraton.
Sunday, 1 February 2009
On Sunday, we both woke up with headaches, probably the heat, so we took some painkillers and went back to bed until 9:30 when we went for breakfast. The food here is very good -- especially the freshly-made omelets.

Most of the day was spent just relaxing. Another hour in the pool, a couple of cocktails. Lunch in the restaurant, then back to the room for an afternoon siesta. At 7, we all gathered in the foyer and caught taxis to the resort where Richard and Maiko -- Juliette's brother and his fiancee, whose wedding was the following day -- were staying (the Four Seasons). We met them at the restaurant there, which had open sides so we had an ocean breeze to keep us cool. Out west of the Indian Ocean, a thunderstorm provided a light show. The food was great (as you'd expect given the cost!), and Andrew introduced me to Bintang beers (really just rebranded Heineken Pilsners).

When we got back to the hotel, we were once again exhausted so straight to bed.

Baking in Bali (2 February, 11pm)

Sorry for the long delay in updating the blog, but Bali isn't exactly the tech centre of the world. There's no wifi available (and I mean no wifi) -- the only internet access we have is via two computers in the resort's "internet lounge", which costs Rp50,000 (about NZ$10) per hour.

Anyhoo, here's what's happened to date...

Saturday, 31 January 2009
The shuttle arrived about 3:45am to take us to Wellington airport, stopping in Tawa to pick up Sheryl, Michael, and Felicity (Juliette's mum, dad, and youngest sister). We got to the airport about 4:15, got checked in. The flight wasn't scheduled to leave for Sydney until 6:30, so we had a bit of a wander around the concourse before heading into international departures. (A word of warning: some bright spark has decided that it would be a really good idea to have a wall covered in a huge sign, illuminated with flourescent tubes and coloured bright green. It hurt my eyes looking at it, and Juliette felt sick. Wear sunglasses.)

Flight to Sydney was nice: good weather with little turbulence, and gentle headwinds meant we made good time, arriving in Sydney about 15 minutes early. The A320 we were on has been upgraded with the latest in-flight entertainment system: touch-screens, controllers that retract into the seat in front (not your armrest), and headphone jacks on the ends of the armrests (not the sides). Watched City of Ember which was quite cool -- one for the DVD collection me thinks.

Anyway, we got to Sydney about 8am local time, and went to the transfer desk (as directed by the flight attendants on the plane). We spent upwards of 30 minutes waiting in the queue. Two flights (British Airways and United Airlines) had arrived late, meaning lots of people had missed their connecting flights, so the staff at the transfer desk were hurriedly trying to get them on alternate flights, but were being hampered by computer problems. Eventually we got to the head of the queue, only to find that we had to be at a transfer desk in a different part of the airport! Fortunately, there is a shuttle service running between terminals, so the staff took us down and ten minutes later we were in the right queue. Twenty minutes after that, and we had been booked onto our Garuda Indonesia flight.

We had two hours to wait after that, so we had a brief look around the terminal before sitting down to wait. They had wifi at the terminal, but it's only free if you're a Qantas passenger, so I read my book (Robert Fisk's The Great War for Civilisation -- just a little light reading!).
The Garuda flight left on time. Our plane was an Airbus A330, but the in-flight entertainment was neolithic compared to the gear on the Air NZ planes, so for most of the 6 hour flight I either read Fisk or slept. Fortunately, the plane was a little over half full, so even before we'd taken off, Juliette grabbed a row of four seats to herself, and once the seatbelt sign went off, lay across the seats and went to sleep.

Again, we arrived early at Denpasar -- about 30 minutes early, at 2pm local -- so we joined the queue of people from an earlier flight at the immigration desks. We got our visitors visas (US$10 for 7 days), got a little shocked at the "death penalty for drug smugglers!" signs, grabbed our bags, shunned the porters (who'd expect payment), got through customs (who just waved us through -- guess we didn't look like drug smugglers!) and got outside to find our shuttle waiting for us.

Traffic in Bali is chaotic. Road markings seem to be universally ignored, and most people on the road are riding bikes and scooters. It's not unusual to see a whole family crammed onto one bike (and only mum and dad are wearing helmets, if at all), people riding sidesaddle on the pillion seat, or even one bloke who was texting while riding! At traffic lights, there would be a swarm of 20-30 bikes and scooters waiting for the green light.

The Keraton Resort is off a "main road", though it's barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other. After the shuttle turned off the main road, it went past what looks like a cemetary and a shrine before stopping at a barrier arm (so the security guards can check the underneath of the shuttle for bombs!). There are a lot of swastikas adorning buildings and shrines here -- but, of course, it was a Hindu good luck symbol long before it was appropriated by the Nazis.

We got settled into our room -- very nice, large, with air conditioning, TV and a large bed, and several buildings away from every body else in our party -- before heading back out to the main road to get some supplies. The road was chaotic -- standard for Bali -- and getting across to the nearby mini-mart involves taking your life into your hands. There are no pedestrian crossings (at least none near the Keraton), and the foot paths are about a foot higher than the road: so you wait for a gap in the traffic, scurry across the road, and climb onto the footpath on the other side.
The mini-mart's quite nice, run by a local family who all play their part in serving you. We grabbed some Coke, bottled water (you don't drink tap water in Bali), and snacks before repeating our death-defying dash across the road. After stashing the drinks in the fridge, we got changed into our swimsuits and headed for the pool.

The pool here is good: its depth ranges between 1.4m and 1.9m, so it's perfect for me (because I'm not a strong swimmer). Also important is the swim-up bar, complete with barstools sitting just below the surface!

After about an hour in the pool, we got changed and went for dinner. We're still getting used to the prices (NZ$1 = ~Rp5,000), but the food is delicious. Given it's an island nation, the menu features a lot of seafood, which I don't normally like, but there's enough variety on the menu to keep me happy. Juliette, of course, loves seafood, so she's happy.

After dinner, it was back to the room to collapse. We'd done a lot of travelling, so we were naturally exhausted.