Bali, in 3 days

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Suluban (Blue Point) beach, Uluwatu, Bali

3 more days to go before I return to The Island of the Gods, to the Lembongan area this time around.

Bali. Oh hell yeah, I’m seeing you again. This time, I ain’t just surfer watching. I’m catching the waves myself.

Uluwatu Top 5: Why Uluwatu is my new place to be in Bali

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I visited the Uluwatu Temple in late October when my friends and I celebrated my birthday in Bali. Although it wasn’t my first time to visit the temple, it was my first time to do a side trip and hang out in one of the more popular restaurant-bars in the area.

IMG-20171111-WA0019_Bella Expatria_UluwatuNeedless to say, I was hooked immediately and I couldn’t wait to go back! I wasn’t exaggerating: we’ve barely left Bali but Arshad and I already booked our tickets slated on the second week of November, with the sole intent of staying in Uluwatu.

Uluwatu is located in the Bukit Peninsula, Bali’s southern limestone cliff-fringed area. It houses one of Bali’s iconic temples, the Uluwatu Temple and drop-dead gorgeous coastlines with strong waves conducive for surfing.

Aside from the popular Uluwatu Temple and the kecak fire dance that commences during sundown, here’s my compilation of the top 5 reasons why I don’t mind going back to Uluwatu (again and again, and again):

1.  Single Fin. If I’m being honest to myself, my first compelling IMG-20171111-WA0050_Bella_Expatria_Uluwatureason to go back to Uluwatu is because of Single Fin Bar and Cafe’.  Single Fin is overlooking the cliffs, the waves and the entire coast, which makes it the perfect spot for sightseeing. The view in Single Fin is simply amazing!  I could stay in Single Fin for hours and hours on end, just reading a book, sipping wine or cocktail or surfer watching (the last one being my favorite thing to do).

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The enthralling view when you’re hanging out at Single Fin

Aside from the view, Single Fin offers delectable cocktails and vegetarian dishes. I love their different versions of margaritas and have tried both their classic Single Fin and their rosella margarita.

For vegan or vegetarian food, I’m a fan of their vegetarian nasi goreng. For light bites, I always order their vegan chips and dips, with dips including green lentil hummus, charred eggplant babaganoush and tomato relish. Their chips are made from cassava and sweet potato, which makes them a lot healthier. I loved watching the sunset while stuffing myself silly of margaritas and vegetarian bites. Such is a happy life!

After sundown, Single Fin becomes a cool, chill party place that plays very good house and RnB music. The crowd is mostly filled with foreigners, although I saw a handful of local tourists sampling their delicious spirits.

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Us at Single Fin with margarita and mojito in hand: my definition of a perfect night in Uluwatu

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Single Fin at night: they have a good DJ playing good dance music and the latest hits

Define addicted to Single Fin: I went back not once, not twice…but over and over and over again during my stay in Uluwatu.

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Single Fin frontage at sundown

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Single Fin frontage during day time

Single Fin’s contact details:
Address: Pantai Suluban, Jl. Labuan Sait, Pecatu, Uluwatu, Kuta Selatan, Pecatu, Kuta Sel., Kabupaten Badung, Bali

Hours: 

Open ⋅ Closes 12AM
Phone: (0361) 769941

 

2. Coco and Poke’.  True to its name, this quaint, whitewashed shop that sits quietly beside Single Fin serves sumptuous Hawaiian poke’ bowls and Cocowhip, the world’s first vegan and bio-fermented coconut soft serve ice cream.

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Coco and Poke’s menu: you can either create your own or choose from their wide array of selection of house bowls

We were looking for a place where we can order and eat quickly, without going to a fastfood restaurant when we found Coco and Poke’. You can create your own bowl or defer to their house bowls. We ordered the Aloha and Ohana Bowls, both of which did not disappoint. Packed with brown rice, tuna, salmon, fish roe and avocado, the bowls were refreshing and filling at the same time.

Too bad we didn’t have space for their coco soft serve, but it’s another reason that I can chalk up to justify another trip. =)

Coco and Poke’s details: 

Address: Jl. Labuan Sait, Pecatu, Kuta Sel., Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361
Phone: 0878-6061-2896

3. The amazing beach and the view. These are both more-than-good-enough reasons to stay in Uluwatu. I woke up to this view on a daily basis and thought to myself: “I can stay here forever.”

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Uluwatu’s limestone cliff and pristine coastline

This gorgeous coastline is a world-class surfing playground, with its wide coastal length opening to the Indian Ocean.

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My view every morning

In our first morning back in Uluwatu, I immediately checked out the beachfront. To reach it, we had to go down to Blue Point (Suluban) Beach, which is located closely to both the Uluwatu Temple and Padang Padang beach.

The word “Suluban” came from the Balinese word that means “walking or passing under something,” since we had to pass through a coral reef cave before  we reached the white sandy beach of Blue Point.

It’s a long way down the cliffs and an effort to pass through the coral reef cave below but once you reach the beach, everything is totally worth it! Suluban beach offers a jaw-dropping view of the Indian Ocean and the waves are perfect for surfers and surfing enthusiasts.

4. The resort: Blue Point Bay Villas and Spa – Strategically situated beside Single Fin and just right above the cliffs en route to the Blue Point (Suluban) beach is Blue Point Bay Villas and Spa.

We had 3 days and 2 nights to spend in Uluwatu and given that limited time, we had to be strategic in our choices in terms of location. Blue Point Bay is the perfect resort for us.

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Blue Point Bay Villas  Blue Point Bay Villas and Spa.

It had an amazing view of the Suluban beach, a pool, lounge chairs with parasols and an exhaustive cocktails and wine menu. A plus for me is their massive spa where you can get reflexology, hair treatment and full body massage.

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Lounging: the best thing to do beside the pool with a glass of wine

The resort offers packages with free breakfast and the restaurant has an amazing view of Suluban, with it’s floor to ceiling windows.

5. The forest monkeys frolicking in the area. Outside the Uluwatu Monkey Forest, you can still find these gray long-tailed monkeys climbing rooftops of restaurants, window sills of hotels and resorts or even walking with the tourists!

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Check out my early morning visitor: this furry little creature was making funny faces in front of my window sill

Although some of the tourists find them annoying, I actually find them cute! These little furry creatures add an exotic flair to Uluwatu, making the place more interesting and enigmatic.

A word of caution though: some visitors had mishaps and encounters with the monkeys, as they know how to seize and steal mobile phones, sunglasses, wallets, etc. Even in our resort, we were briefed not to leave our things unguarded as there are monkeys wandering around the area. I even saw one early in the morning snatching fruit offerings at the hotel front desk!

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One of the monkeys just casually frolicking around Blue Point Villa like it’s nothing =)

The entire Bukit area, surrounded by frangipani trees can actually be considered the entire money forest, so when you’re staying in Uluwatu, expect to come across these furry creatures along the way.

These are but a few of the reasons why Uluwatu is a great place to stay in when you’re in Bali. Overall, I love this area for its relaxing ambiance, clean and plant-based food and its waves. A repeat of this adventure is definitely in the offing.

My 2018 Travel List

2018 Travel List

What I love about being an expat: Travel becomes an integral part of your life. 

The challenge about being an expat in my industry: I’m not a travel blogger, nor do I make a living out of blogging. Ergo, I have limited vacation days and I maximize my travel by taking advantage of long weekends.

There is always a way to travel, limited vacation days notwithstanding, if you love traveling!

This year, I’ve made my list already:

1 .  Southern SpainI. love. Spain. This year, I want to explore Southern Spain more: Valencia, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga, Ronda, Cadiz, Jerez, Seville and the island of Mallorca. Arshad has pretty much outlined the itinerary for us (thank God for an equally-wanderlustful partner!).

2 .  Donsol, Sorsogon – because it was very rainy in Bicol last December, our Legazpi-Sorsogon tandem trip was cut short. We didn’t make it to Donsol, Sorsogon for the whale sharks, but we intend to come back in the summer!

3 . Bali, Indonesia –  does not even need an explanation. Before January ends, I’ll be coming back to the Island of the Gods and I’ll be exploring the Lembongan area to surf, do my yoga and just frolic in the beach.

4 . Penang, Malaysia – is always in my wishlist, but I never get to go. Perhaps because it’s near and accessible to me, so I take it for granted. A culinary paradise, I’d like 2018 to be the year the I finally go and stuff myself silly with char koay teow, Penang rojak and my classic favorite: cendol!

5 . Colombo, Sri Lanka – I’ve been to Colombo a few years ago for work. Regrettably, I didn’t get the chance to go around and visit the temples, eat more local food and visit the beaches. Wishful thinking that I can dedicate one long weekend for this, finally.

6.  Kathmandu, Nepal – is very picturesque. I’d like to be able to say one day that I’ve been to ALL Southeast Asian countries. Nepal is good way to start.

These are the cities, countries and places that I’d love to visit outside of work. Some of them, I’ve been to before, like Bali and Colombo, but I’d want to go back and revisit them again, because these places always light my fire and they always make me happy. The reason is that simple.

To my traveling and expatriate tribe and comrades, may 2018 be adventure and travel-filled for you. May it bring us more excitement and more places to discover. Happy New Year!

Uluwatu and the Sacred Monkey

 

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One of the forest monkeys who decided to hang out in front of my window in Uluwatu, Bali

As of this writing, I’m still editing massive amounts of photographs that I’ve taken during my recent trip to Uluwatu, Bali. MASSIVE.

While I’m still not done, I wanted to share this photo that I took of a monkey who decided to perch on our windowsill at breakfast. He was just there, hanging around early in the morning. At one point, he even stuck his face on the window, to seemingly say hello.

This is the lovely sight in one of the mornings I spent in Uluwatu: monkeys running around or just chilling, with the lullaby of the gentle waves and the bright blue sky. These are good enough reasons for me to want to go back.

Uluwatu, hold on tight. We have more adventures to come.

It’s always hard to leave you, Manila

“Ang hirap mong iwanan, Manila.”

When I’m in Manila, I always have a ritual a few hours before I leave for the airport: I lock myself in the masters bedroom to have a moment with myself to push the melancholy that I feel deep down into the recesses of my emotional pit.

An ultra emotional statement – but that is what I feel when I need to leave again.

Pack and go. Pack and go. Repeat. I do this all the time.

But it never gets easier.

The thing is, wherever I go, my roots will always be in Manila. The meaningful relationships and friendships that I’ve nurtured through the years are mostly in Manila.

Sure, I’ve made a lot of friends in cities I’ve lived in. Being naturally gifted for making friends and socializing easily, it’s not difficult for me to build social cliques from ground up.

It’s just that the friendships that I’ve cultivated through the years are mostly in my home city.

I hate Manila’s traffic. I hate it that it takes me an hour and a half, or worse, two, to get from the south to BGC. Traffic has become so much worse. I absolutely abhor the political divide that’s been happening in my country. I hate fake news and all the political leeches taking advantage of the current political milieu. I hate taxi drivers who always try to rip passengers off.

But here I am, sat in my favorite Terminal 3 cafe, listening to Christmas carols, feeling nostalgic that once again, I have to fly out and leave.

There’s just something about you that sticks, Manila. My friendships. People who always smile and who are ever resilient despite whatever shit they go through. Your Christmas feels in the beginning of September. Your food. Your way of making people feel they belong.

Manila. You are nowhere near perfect and you will always be rough on the edges. But you are my city and I will always come back to you.

See you in a couple of weeks for Christmas, Manila.

Let’s do this Christmas together.

 

Uluwatu: my new favorite Bali destination

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Drone shot of Uluwatu, Bali

I can’t wait to go back.  Uluwatu is now my top destination in Bali, toppling over my once-favorite Seminyak.

I know, I know. I’m such a late-bloomer but I’m glad I re-discovered this paradise when I celebrated my birthday in Bali. This cliff-fringed coastline is so beautiful that I had to go back to it just a few weeks after I was there! I can’t seem to get enough of it.

A more detailed post on Uluwatu coming up this week, but just in case you are wondering where to go in Bali, you must definitely come to Uluwatu!

Because Bali beckons

At the risk of sounding a lot like a tourist cliché, this blog post is a rave about Bali, Indonesia.

I’ve been living in Indonesia for more than four years now, but Bali never ceases to fascinate me. Although I’ve been to this paradise island several times already, I still can’t have enough of it.

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Tanah Lot, Bali

Also known as “The Island of the Gods,” worship and religion reflect on every facet of life among the Hindu Balinese. This is also why Bali’s art and culture remain vibrant, attracting more tourists – local and foreign alike. Bali is the most popular island in Indonesia, although the country has a lot of idyllic and pristine beaches. So popular, in fact, that Bali always overshadows Jakarta, the country’s capital. Just ask my friends about it. When I invite them to Jakarta and even offer to host them end-to-end (with accommodations, car, driver and all), they will always tell me to just meet up with them in Bali!

This doesn’t surprise me, though. Can I blame them if I, myself, is still enthralled by Bali’s beauty?

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Bella looking at the crashing waves in Tanah Lot

Bali offers a plethora of activities for everyone. In Bali, visitors can experience a combination of clean, sandy beaches for lazing around and rolling waves for surfing. Set in a backdrop of an ancient culture famous for its warmth, hospitality and friendliness, Bali boasts of exotic temples and stunning palaces in the midst of picturesque mountains, volcanoes, rice terraces and green lush.

Tourist Map of Bali

Tourist map of Bali from bali-travel.de

Geographically, Bali occupies roughly around 6,000 kilometers in terms of area. Located at the eastern tip of Java, it sits on the west of the island of Lombok, across the Lombok straits. It is flanked by the Indian Ocean on the south side and the Java Sea on the north. The island is eight degrees south of the equator, which explains its warm temperature (get your sunblock and shades ready!).

In October, I celebrated my birthday in Bali with Manila friends. Although Arshad and I acted like tour guides to our friends, my love for Bali was also rekindled during the trip. It reminded me of why I always come back to this place…especially for my birthday celebrations!

 

So here are my top 10 reasons why I continue to love Bali and why I keep on coming back: 

1. Daily and hourly flights from Jakarta to Bali. For Jakartans like me, Bali is very accessible. There are 8 local airlines flying to Bali on an hourly basis, which means if I want a quick weekend getaway, I can fly out at 8 or 9pm on a Friday night and come back to Jakarta on a 9pm Sunday flight and I still got 2 full days of beach glory!

For Bali flights, you can check out Google’s Flights or Traveloka.

2. Ease to find accommodation. Bali offers a wide range of accommodation: basic homestays, no frills surf camps, traditional Bali houses, villas with their own pools and international five star hotels generously dot the island. You can choose from these variety of accommodation in the areas of Jimbaran, Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Nusa Dua, Sanur, Candidasa and Lovina.

There are also mountain resorts in Bedugul and Kintamani, while the art village of Ubud can offer accommodation in traditional Balinese houses or resorts located at the heart of rice fields.

Normally, I prefer to stay in the villas within the Seminyak area, as it is very close to restaurants, clubs and shopping jaunts that I frequent. For my birthday celebration, my friends and I stayed in a 5-bedroom combined villa in Seminyak, which I found in AirBnB.

Lately, though, my interest in surfing has been resurrected and I’ve been enamored by the Uluwatu area because its beaches are more conducive to surfing (feeling surfer dudette, but I’m honestly a greenie!). Arshad found several villas and surf camps that were both quite comfortable and reasonably-priced.

Just last weekend, we stayed at the Blue Point Bay Villas and Spa, primarily because it was near Single Fin, my favorite surf bar in Uluwatu and the Uluwatu beachfront itself. Just check out their infinity pool with an amazing view of the Uluwatu beach!

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Bella’s top view drone shot at Blue Point Bay Villas and Spa in Uluwatu, Bali

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Blue Point Villas and Spa’s pool facing the Uluwatu Beach

3. Ease in getting around Bali. Going around Bali is easy. As soon as you land, there are airport taxis with standard rates waiting outside the airport. You can also ask your resort to pick you up.

There are also drivers who own their cars – usually a Toyota Avanza that can sit 6-8 people – who can be rented on a daily basis. They usually speak English so it’s common to get a driver-tour guide in one, for the price of Rp 600 thousand for 8 hours (USD$45, Php2,300). For a driver and tour guide combination, I’d say that’s a steal!

For driver recommendations, leave me a message and I can send you the contact details. I personally like Pak Robot (yes, his name is Robot), because he has spunk, he can communicate and drive well.

4. Ease in communicating. English is widely-used in Bali.  You can talk to pretty much anyone in English: front desk, waiters and waitresses, drivers, surfing coaches, etc. Although Bali has its own native language (Balinese, which is Malayo-Polenesian), most of them can also speak and understand Bahasa Indonesia. Given the pervasiveness of both languages in the island, getting around, asking questions and getting help won’t be difficult. This is perhaps one of the distinct advantages of Bali compared to the other Indonesian islands.

5. Vegetarian food and seafood are everywhere!  Since there are a lot of resorts and yoga retreat houses in Bali, it also became host to a lot of vegetarian, vegan and organic restaurants. You can also “vegetarianize” a lot of the dishes in mainstream restaurants. You just need to request for it.

This is a definite plus for me, as I don’t need to go out of my way to get my vegetarian fix.

Indonesian food and dishes use a lot of vegetables, which makes the cuisine very vegetarian-friendly. My personal favorites include gado-gado, ketoprak, tahu gejrot and sambal matah salad.

For pescatarians and seafood fanatics, Jimbaran beach has an entire stretch of restaurants offering fresh seafood that are very reasonably priced. We went to Teba Cafe in Jimbaran for an early dinner to watch the sunset and we were not disappointed with the food and drinks. If you want the best spots, which are the ones on the beachfront, either reserve or come early.

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A sumptuous seafood feast at the beachfront of Teba Cafe in Jimbaran

6. Sprawl of beaches. Bali has a wide array of beaches, which are destinations on their own. If you prefer white sand coasts with palm and coconut trees, head out to the south coast: Kuta, Nusa Dua and Sanur. If you love surfing and hidden shores, check out Uluwatu, Padang Padang, Dreamland and Bingin.

I used to favor the white sand coastline until my interested in surfing got piqued once again, thus the exploration of the Uluwatu and Padang Padang beaches.

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Drone shot: aerial view of Uluwatu and Padang-Padang beaches

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Bella and her Manila friends at Jimbaran beach

7. Variety of things to do. If you want to just laze around with a margarita in tow on the beach front or you want to explore marine sports such as surfing or diving, Bali is the place to be. Travel packages can also include adventure tours, such as trekking, cycling and white water rafting.

There are day tours that will offer exotic temple tours, including Tanah Lot, Uluwatu Temple and Besakih Temple being the most popular. Inland, you can also find volcanoes, jungles and monkey forests.

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My vlogger extraordinaire friend Nomadic Mike in Uluwatu Temple

Seminyak also offers a good venue for shoppers who would like to hunt for batik and other traditional fabrics, leather goods, wood carvings and antiques. If you are an art collector, Ubud is the perfect place to score reasonably priced but amazing paintings of local scenery, cultural dances, etc.

The sun sets on the Uluwatu and Padang-Padang side of the island. Around late in the afternoon, restaurant and bars sprawled in these areas get packed with people who want to watch the sunset with beer, wine or cocktails.

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Bella and her Manila friends at Teba Cafe’ for a seafood feast

Late in the night, Bali also boasts of good clubs with packed dance floors, most of which are in the Seminyak and Kuta areas.

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Single Fin bar at night

My preferred activities in Bali include just getting my tan while reading a book and sipping margaritas around lunch time, taking surfing lessons, shopping, trying new restaurants and visiting good bars and clubs.

8. Culture and art trip. What I love about Bali is the culture vibe that I always get whenever I set foot on the island.

On the road side and even on the beach, it’s always lovely to see canang sari – the daily offerings made by Balinese Hindus to praise and thank Sang Hyang Widhi.

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Canang sari: the daily Hindu offerings you will see around Bali (photograph courtesy of Gemma)

Canang sari can be seen in the Balinese temples (pura), on small shrines in houses, and on the ground or as a part of a larger offering.

For those who want to explore Balinese culture, you can check out traditional dances, watch a fire dance in Uluwatu, see how batik is painted or go to museums and art exhibits in and around Bali.

9. Commercialized but clean and well-maintained. Despite the swarm of tourists year in and year out, Bali maintains its cleanliness. I can’t help but compare it to the Philippines’ Boracay island, which seems to be degenerating yearly because it’s too small an island yet the influx of tourists are not regulated in any way.

All over Bali, you can see the signs about keeping order and cleanliness. There is a Bali Parliament Special Committee in charge of maintaining Bali’s cleanliness and hygiene in the island’s popular tourist destinations.

Balinese people are aware that one of the reasons why tourists keep on coming back is because of the island’s lush greens and ambience. For this reason, the local government is quite strong in terms of enforcing Clean and Green programs for Bali.

10. Reasonably priced. Majority of the tourists in Bali come from Southeast Asia and Australia. That being said, a lot of my Indonesian and Filipino friends are actually complaining that the influx of Australian tourists are hiking the prices up in Bali. It may be partially true, but comparing to other beach destinations, I can say that the budget for a Bali vacation is more flexible, considering the plenitude of options.

Accommodations vary from low-end to high-end (see point number 2). Both food and transportation are relatively cheap, too. The only caveat is that Indonesia has a more expensive price tier for alcohol. Bali is no exception. However, a good workaround is to sample Indonesia’s local beer: Bintang, Bali Hai and Anker. Bali also has several vineyards, which came as a surprise to me when I found out several years back. Given this, there are cheaper alternatives if you are a wine drinker. Bali’s rose’, chardonnay and moscato wines are quite notable.

Overall, Bali to me is a holistic experience. It appeals to my being a culture vulture, my love for the beach and blue skies and the serenity of a lush, green environment. It also taps into my adventurous side when I want to go surfing and my desire for tranquility when I feel like I’m about to burn out.

Will I go back to Bali again? I’ve been to the Island of the Gods twice in a month recently. I guess that says it all.

For more information on Bali, I like visiting these sites:

http://www.bali-indonesia.com/#

http://www.baliguide.com/

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/bali

https://balibible.guide/

Bali is always a good idea

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Bella overlooking Tanah Lot

Jakarta, dinner time: I’m sitting by my lonesome here in a Tex-Mex restaurant sipping margaritas and munching on nachos dipped in spicy guacamole.  I need to plot my vacation days in the coming year (hoorah!). This is a serious matter worthy of silent contemplation, hence, the opened Macbook with calendar, Google and TripAdvisor on my browser.

Since I’m in a Tex-Mex restaurant, naturally, Mexican songs were playing in the background. I started thinking about Motel Mexicola in Seminyak, Bali. Ergo, I ended up daydreaming about Bali and its sandy beach, great seafood in Jimbaran, the luscious coconuts and the fun parties.

I’ve been in Indonesia for 2 years now, yet Bali remains to be my favorite getaway place in the country. Perhaps it’s stereotypical about foreigners living in Indonesia, but Bali seems to never run out of things to do, places to visit and parties to go to!

I will need more time to write about my Bali escapades because I need to do justice to the place!

I love Bali. Can you blame me?

Bali, in perspective

Again, my favorite quote from Dame Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop: Travel is like a university without walls

Travel teaches you things that you can never learn within the confines of the four walls of a classroom.  You learn from experience, from meeting other people and from the different cultures that you encounter along the way.

You get a new perspective. Or it renews a good perspective that you already had but you had lost along the way.

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Bali sunset, Seminyak beachfront

In my case, it was the latter.

My recent trip to Bali was a gentle reminder of an outlook that I have lost somewhere along my journey, just because so many things have been happening at once.

Looking at the sunset and listening to the crashing of the waves reminded me that there is life beyond working 50-60 hours a week. Travel reminded me that my current emotional issues are a minuscule part of the world and that there are challenges greater than the burdens that I carry.

More importantly, travel gave me that renewed sense of self and refreshed my energy batteries, so to speak. I needed it. I needed the beach. I needed the breather.

It’s not a hundred percent back to normal yet, but this weekend’s Bali trip did me a hell lot of good.

It’s true, as they say: no matter the shit that you go through, hang on to that glimmer of hope that things will get better in the end.