Today was an unhealthy mix of fun and disaster. We slept in, and eventually made our way out to venture to the beach. The town of Seminyak was quite charming, with incense and alms left on the sidewalk at every shopfront. It was a ten minute walk to the beach from our hotel, and we walked the long stretch of beach from Seminyak through Legian, to Kuta, where the number of western bars nearly doubled by the time we got to Kuta. Seminyak was more spread out and far fewer people on the beach, so this was where we set up shop for lunch at Chez Gado Gado, a much fancier establishment than say, Superman’s. Also much more expensive. We enjoyed a fish and shrimp sate, which had a lovely coconutty/lemongrass aroma, and I had the grilled mahi mahi with soy beurre blanc (delicious although maybe not the most authentic offering the country had) while Doug had a crab capellini pasta dish. I could definitely see how this beach was paradise for surfers as we were treated to a show by surfers from around the world, but it was definitely busy with peddlers everywhere. So we took a quick stroll and then our travelers A.D.D. kicked in and we were off to visit the temples.
Since it was already late in the afternoon, it was too late to book any tours or drivers. We ended up negotiating with a few taxi drivers (learned that lesson yesterday) and got one to take us at the metered rate (which ended up being half of what some other guy quoted, mind you) to Ulu Watu, one of Bali’s most famous temples built at the edge of a steep cliff overlooking the southwestern coast of Bali. It was also notorious for its not-so-friendly monkeys, who despite their cute faces and antics, were known for stealing things. We bore witness to this with a poor unsuspecting tourist with an ear of grilled corn, who didn’t even get to enjoy it before a vicious monkey scampered by and stole it to eat for himself. Definitely entertaining for the rest of us!
We caught the temple at sunset, and right around this time the temple also hosted a Kecac Ramayana performance, which involved a group of 50+ men sitting around a fire, making a chorus of different sounds each (think beat boxing). There was a story from Hindu culture that was brought to life with ornate costumes, dancing, prancing, and even a point where they set fire to the stage (on purpose). We saw a merpati (fantastical birdlike creature), a demonic old man, a crazy monkey (coincidentally the hero), and even some jokers in this rendition.
Our taxi driver tried to convince us that no taxis would be waiting around to pick up people this far out on the island, so he offered to wait around for us to take us back for an added fee. However, we wanted to stop in the Jimbaran peninsula on the way back, to try one of the many open air seafood restaurants on the beach where one could pick out their own fish to grill on coconut husks, so the next thing we knew, our “chartered” taxi was costing us 550,000 rp ($55), likely double what it should’ve been. But, we didn’t know what the taxi availability situation would be like in each spot (most people arrived via chartered bus or package tour), so I guess it was worth the peace of mind. Dinner was interesting and also where the disaster started to kick in. After stopping at a number of seafood restaurants and getting turned away for unknown reasons, we ended up at Wally’s Beach (we were so turned around by this point). We had a nice candlelit table on the beach right by the water, but it all started going downhill when Doug made a comment about how warm his beer was. It was insanely confusing figuring out how to order, but we ended up going up to the fish tanks and trays of fish on ice to pick out our poor victims (white snapper for me, clams for Doug). Shortly after he took his first sip of beer (strangely before the food even arrived), he lost his appetite completely. My fish was tasty and fresh, but Doug couldn’t stomach his clams for some reason. We hightailed it out of there, met our driver, and headed back to our hotel. After giving him 550,000 rp, the driver turned around and had the gall to pocket 2 of my 100,000 rp bills and replace it with two 10,000 rp bills and accused us of not paying enough. I was pretty sure I paid enough but doubted myself as I had made that mistake once already, then Doug pointed out to me that he saw the driver actually make the switcheroo, so we argued with the driver only for him to eventually get defensive and insist he needed a tip too. By this point, we knew we were in the right and angrily left the driver behind (dammit, we paid him the full amount too!) but all that put a bad taste in our mouths.
Doug’s nausea quickly turned into food poisoning that night, and really put a damper on our trip as we first had no clue if it was something more serious (Dr. Jenny to the rescue!), and then poor Doug felt like absolute crap for the next 3 days. We definitely don’t realize how intense our travel schedules are (flying, boating, long drives, early mornings, intense heat) until one of us is on our deathbed, but Doug sure was a trooper! Thankfully the illness passed within a few days, but unfortunately eating Indonesian food, rice, and drinking Bintang were officially out of the question from here on out.