I arrived in Seminyak and decided that this was where I'd finally learn how to ride a scooter. I figured I'd leave the motorbike for another day and just start slow. The lovely hosts whose room I was staying at had one to rent for cheap, so after a short lesson on what's where and how things work I took off...straight into a brick wall. I tried to lessen the impact with my arm so I have a nice patch of wall burn to keep my sun burn company now. Despite the rocky start, a scooter is obviously a dead easy vehicle to figure out and having one meant that I could go wherever I wanted on the island whenever I felt like it. The first place I took it was the nearest beach, Double Six. The water was warm and the beach was fairly clean, but most people either learned to surf in the low waves or sat in the sand, watched and drank beer. The overall atmosphere was very relaxed and there were only a few hawkers trying to sell souvenirs trolling along the sand. A few street dogs were having a blast running around trying to steal unattended towels/shirts and playing in the surf, and a few kids were flying really intricate pirate ship shaped kites in the strong breeze coming off the water.
I wondered up and down the beach for a while taking it all in and then ducked into one of the many restaurants lined up along the nearby boardwalk for dinner: a simple grilled snapper seasoned with mysterious Balinese spices and a green salad I was ecstatic to see on the menu.
Sufficiently fortified I headed back to the water to watch the sunset before braving the ride back home. The scary thing here isn't so much the scooter itself, but remembering to drive on the left and figuring out the best/safest way to negotiate around all the other crazy bikes/cars/trucks on the road (see earlier post about crazy drivers).
I woke up early the next day as I had a lot of ground to cover and many things on the todo list, plus I like to be sure that my first swim of the day is before the crowds and before the sun gets too high in the sky and too scorchy. I got back on the scooter, drove carefully and grudgingly past the offending brick wall, and set out into the morning traffic towards my first destination. The resorts lining the coast of Nusa Dua beach were only just opening up so no one minded when I picked a spot on the beach and dove in. The salty water of the Indian Ocean here was warm, but very shallow, with a fairly strong current following the waves, so I kept my swim short and borrowed a lounge chair from a still closed resort to dry off before heading to my next destination.
Before heading out from the complex I stopped for a chilled drink of a young coconut, a pile of which was fiercely protected by a band of small squirrels, this snaggle toothed mongrel among the less timid of the pack.
I rode up and down the winding roads, of both the paved and the completely smashed up variety, checking out different local beaches and moving on. I was starting to get hungry and with the next stop being a bit of a luxury resort I figured I'd treat myself to a nice lunch at a fancy place. Nevermind that I was kinda sweaty, road dusty and with that especially fetching combination of beach and helmet hair. I pulled into the lot of Karma Villa Resort and Beach and took the posh steps up towards the restaurant instead of following the much steeper steps down to the beach just to the side of the part reserved for guests only. I was inspected and notified that there was a per person minimum before being seated at a lovely table surrounded by lazy fans, with the most incredible panoramic view of the cliff-side pool and villas on the one side and the expansive stretch of wavy ocean down below.
Lunch consisted of impeccably prepared sea bass with truffled gnocchi and a lovely chocolate mousse with coconut ice cream for dessert. While considered expensive by local standards, it was like having my own restaurant week deal without trekking through feet of snow to enjoy it. My table happened to have the best view of the place, so after a while it became swarmed with Russian and Chinese families who wanted their pictures taken, so while I could have probably sat in that chair watching the waves for hours, I lasted only a little while and then got up to leave.
The best part of the lunch, it turned out, was that once you paid for it, all the other villa-resident amenities became free. I just had to flash my receipt and I got a free ride down to the private beach on the rope lift. One more flash of that magical receipt and I had a cushy lounge chair, a secure spot to keep my stuff, and a dry towel. So of course I headed down! After a long swim in the pristine waters and after piling on the 75 SPF and relaxing in a shady spot on my lounge chair, a lovely attendant came by and offered me an ice cold towel, you know, in case the beach got too hot for my liking. Lovely lounge music played in the background and I watched as other tourists paddle boarded, kite surfed, and took lots and lots of selfies with the ocean in the background.
After enjoying everything the Karma resort had to offer, I reluctantly packed up my things, picked up my scooter and headed further down the road towards Uluwatu, a temple on the westernmost part of the Bukit Penninsula, popular with tourists for the view and for the distinctive Kecak dance performed there at sunset every day...for a price. They say there's a beach near here as well, but the waves are much taller on this side of the coast and only really good surfers try to ride them here. I contented myself with watching the waves crash into the cliffs below and didn't try to get near.
The Kecak performance once again told the story of Rama and Shinta that I saw in Yogyakarta, but a bit abbreviated to fit the shorter run time and instead of all the musicians and instruments to accompany the story, the music was provided entirely by the chanting voices of 50 male performers. This isn't entirely Balinese or traditional, since this song/dance/style was taught to the locals by a German man named Walter Spies in 1930's, but the people here have really embraced it and seem to enjoy the performance as much as the tourists.
The performers took their roles extremely seriously and there were real tears on Shinta's face as she was being abducted.
The White Monkey was, as always, the star of the show and played with camera happy audience for extra laughs.
Obviously this meant that they tried to set the poor monkey on fire, but it was kicked and stomped out within just a few seconds, to the great cheers of delight from the crowd.
As always, the bad guy lost in the end, just as the sun dipped completely below the horizon, and I joined the long line of cars, vans, bikes heading out of Uluwatu and heading back towards Seminayak for a shower and dinner.