Thursday: September3rd, Morning:
What a delightful flight from LAX to Hong Kong. Yes, I know it was 14 and ½ hours, but Cathay Pacific Biz class (thank heavens for American Airlines frequent flier miles) is really super. First (the most important) the seats recline FLAT and every position in between flat and upright. The cubicles are private and quiet. The temperature in the cabin was pleasantly cool, enough to use the nice fluffy duvet we got for a blanket. Food was excellent, got both dinner and breakfast. And they served dinner right away so we could eat and get to sleep. And sleep I did. Besides the comfy seat, I took 1 ibuprofen 1 5mg ambien (the smallest amount) a glass of water and two fingers of a very nice port (and I didn’t eat heavy for dinner). I slept for almost 6 straight hours and dozed for another two. Heaven! Flight attendants were exceptionally attentive and pleasant. And to top it off the little biz class kits had dermalogica spritzer and moisturizer…my favorite brand and one that doesn’t make my eyes water.
So here we are in Hong Kong Airport. It’s a gray somber day outside. Hills rise to the left of the tarmac. We board in a few hours for Bali again on Cathay Pacific. I just took a shower in the first class lounge…feel refreshed and revived. We had a little dimsum for our 2nd breakfast of the day. Have free wireless and my bberry works. Yes!
Friday, September 4th, Kuta, Bali: Full Moon
The Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Kuta was uneventful and pleasant. Getting through immigration check was a little less pleasant. There were several plane loads of people processing through at once. And although it took only minutes to buy our 30-day tourist visa, it took well over an hour to get through passport check, just too many people and not enough imigrazi officers. It was very hot and humid and we were tired. But a friendly group of 30 something surfer dudes from California kept us entertained just by being stereotypical stoner dudes from California who had more than a few beers on their 16 hour flight from LAX.
We were met outside the International Terminal by the friendly driver from Poppies Cottages where we will stay for 4 nights. He was a welcome sight as I stared into the sea of hotel drivers from across Bali waiting for their arriving customer. It was lightly raining, also delightful after sweating in the terminal. It took us about 20 minutes to drive to Poppies (located on Poppies Lane 1) in Kuta. As expected the roads were full of taxis (Taksi) and motorbikes. But after all the warnings we received at how bad the traffic is, all we can say is that isn’t even half as bad as the traffic in Hanoi or Saigon (which of course means it IS still pretty bad). So we feel perfectly fine negotiating it as pedestrians. We’ve even had a few cars stop and wave us across the road, an unheard of act in Vietnam (where such politeness would probably cause a 10 vehicle pile up).
Poppies Cottages: Oasis
We arrived at Poppies Cottages after driving through streets lined with stores, restaurants, surf shops, bars, and hotels and filled with tourists and surfers from all over the world. We maneuvered down the ever narrowing Poppies Lane until we came to the coral and stone walls and picturesque wooden gate. Poppies Cottages on Poppies Gang 1 is a magical, beautiful, oasis in the midst of crowded and hectic Kuta. There are 20 lovely, private cottages. Sitting in my room I can hear none of the hustle and bustle, only the doves, birds, and occasional rooster crow.
Our cottage is a roomy and comfortable thatched roofed structure. With wooden framed windows looking out onto gardens filled with palms, bromeliads, bougainvillea, poinsettia (huge evergreen poinsettia) and small shrines and statues. Everywhere you look there are flowers. There are ponds filled with fish. Deep red/orange dragonflies dance about the water. Number markers telling the direction to your cottage are simply decorated with a single fresh flower. The free form swimming pool is well shaded and is lined with fountains. Poppies has free wifi and a small library with computers available for use.
And then there is the bathroom which is my favorite bathroom ever. It is partially open air (although screened for mosquitos). Part of the roof opens to the sky, below which is a gravel bed lined with plants and Balinese statues. So as you take a bath you can hear the wind through the palms outside and if it rains the rain would gently fall to the gravel bed below. The rest of the bathroom is under cover with stone floors.
There are 3 resident long legged cats: two are grey and white and one is a ginger/orange cat. They are quite comfortable with attention.
We dropped our luggage, took a shower, and took a nap! But once rested we were off for a stroll and food. We walked down Poppies Lane towards the water. We eventually made our way to Made’s Warung, a local institution. It’s located on Jl Pintai Kuta. It’s a large Warung: two stories, open to the street. With high ceilings and a thatched roof, the restaurant boasts a large wall filled with pictures of old Bali. The décor is whimsical including many statues of curious characters some religious, some not. Food offered is Indonesian, Balinese, and International. We tried the pork satay, BBQ ribs (served braised in a broth), and the fried noodle special. They have the local beer (Bintang) on draught. I had a beer, Jerry had a coke. It was plenty of food!! Total cost? $15.
Kuta is definitely not a sleepy little surfer town anymore and we didn’t expect it to be. But it is definitely still a surfer town. Surf board shops, surf lessons, billabong and quicksilver shops abound. And of course surfers of all nationalities (heavy on the Aussies) are everywhere. We spent some time drinking a fanta sitting on plastic chairs under a shade tree at the beach and watched the waves. They ARE beautiful…long curls of water. And this is the ‘easy’ beach. No wonder they all come here to surf, we haven’t even seen the “good” surf beaches yet.
Kuta is also a shopping town: everything from knockoff Oakley sunglasses and Bintang Tank Tops to beautiful made crafts and clothing. There is also an abundance of places to get manicures, pedicures and massages. We stopped at “Smart Salon & Relaxing Spot” (Jl Pantai Kuta No 204). A clean, modern, and restful looking place, Jerry and I each had a manicure, pedicure, and foot reflexology massage (including a mini head and neck massage). For the two of us it was $36. And frankly, we think it was one of the better manicure/pedicures that we’ve had anywhere.
Pithe Can Thropus
After our mani/pedis we wandered down Jl Pantai Kuta and found a beautiful store called Pithe Can Thropus. The store had beautiful made fabrics, purses, puppets, sarongs, and many other items. Excellent quality and innovative designs (especially the purses). I found a lovely sarong with birds on it which I bought. I may head back there before we’re down for one of the lovely purses (my weakness).
There are McDonalds and Starbucks, but also delightful and delicious local warungs boasting delicious Indonesian and Balinese dishes at very reasonable prices. We ate at Made’s Warung last night. Today for lunch we tried Poppies Restaurant (across the lane from where we are staying). The restaurant is set in a lovely garden with flowers, palms, and pond (and another long-legged cat who was rather vocal about thinking she deserved some portion of our lunch). I had the mie goreng (a fried noodle dish) which was lovely. Jerry had a Caesar Salad which was good (and came with hard boiled quail eggs) and a delicious tomato soup (which was OK…not great…but OK). A delightful gesture was that at the end of the meal our waitress brought us a tray with ice cold wet towels and toothpicks. The towels were deliciously soothing after a day of shopping and walking in the sun.