Going going Back back to Bali Bali

G: After an amazing year in Australia, our one-year Working Holiday Visa was expiring. Although we missed our families, we didn’t want to go home just yet—Soooo…back to Asia! My sister Patrycja, her husband Eric, and their daughter Kayah planned to spend February in Bali, so it was an obvious decision to join them for 10 days. Bali is an easy place to go back to and once we arrived it felt like slipping into an old pair of shoes.

After a long line up at customs, it was back to negotiating prices in tropical paradise. We paid too much for a cab and made our way to Sanur, about 45 minutes from Denpasar airport. Sister wasn’t there yet, so we got cozy in our fancy hotel and decided to take a quick stroll around the block. I almost forgot about the perpetual nagging of “Hallo madame! Yes, looking! You buy, you buy? Taxi? Maybe tomorrow?” Welcome to Asia! Streets are lined with shops offering a buffet of goods for sale, while beautiful Balinese offerings bless the roadside every few steps. As touristy as it is, I was happy to be back. There is something beguiling about the Balinese air…

We had our grand reunion back at the hotel, caught on video thanks to Brother E. Words can’t really express the sheer joy of seeing and hugging your family again—there is nothing like it! Within hours of being back in Bali, we sipped fresh coconuts, enjoyed a $6 massage, and caught up over a candle-lit dinner on the beach. What a great start to our holiday together!

B: The next day we took a bumpy 30-minute ferry to Nusa Lembongan, a little island south-east of Bali, for a week of relaxation. We were greeted by our smiling host, as well as our bungalow-dog Mickey, and settled in at Suka Beach. The traditional beach huts are made of local Teak wood and coconut husks. The main entrance is the bathroom (weird) located behind the bungalow without a roof (great ventilation 😉 ), while the loft space upstairs consists of an intricately carved bed and dresser with a nice little balcony offering views of the beach and seaweed farms. Underneath the loft is a platform with a mattress and hammock, perfect for hanging out and gazing at the orange and pink sunset disappearing into the distant horizon with Bintang beer in hand.

The seaweed farms were organized in grids of large rectangles, which looked like shadows sitting in the turquoise water. Farmers tended their crops in the early morning before sunrise and worked into the night planting more seedlings. It was impressive to watch as the men filled their small canoes with stacked seaweed and the women carried full baskets on their head to shore. The seaweed was then sun-dried on large tarps, some of it covered in plastic so as to change it to an orange or pale color. When finished, it is made into a powder and exported in its dried form.

G: The next day, and really every day after that, we made sure to fit in a massage or two. 🙂 Sister, Brother E, and Blake braved our local masseuse Wade’s so-called reflexology massage, which to my understanding translated to a deeply therapeutic meridian-intensive massage.

B: It hurt!!! (in a good way…)

G: Sister said she was cursing for the entire duration of the massage, so I decided I would opt for the more relaxing I-could-fall-asleep kind of massages. Our evenings were spent admiring the divine sunsets and then following Mickey the dog to a local restaurant to indulge in delicious Indo food (of which he got the scraps). One evening we tried to watch the Sochi Olympics to see Eric’s niece (Keltie Hansen) ski the women’s half-pipe. The internet was shoddy, but with some persistence (and help from sister Kamila back in Canada) we got to watch her first run at the amazing event. Great job Keltie—we’re so proud of you!

One morning we jumped on some motor bikes to explore the island at our own pace. Weaving through villages, we waved to the children jumping with excitement to see Westerners.  At a mangrove, we stopped for fresh coconut water and visited some baby spider monkeys on leashes, but Sister got too friendly and got bit! Later, we took a walk on the corrugated cliffs overlooking the deep blue waters with a view of Bali in the distance, visited Dream Beach, and drove past a ceremony with a large crowd walking down the road, thick smoky air, and loud traditional music, which we later learned was a funeral.

B: While in this lovely tropical paradise, I took the opportunity to complete my PADI Open Water Diving Certification at the dive shop next door. We had seen lots of places along our travels to become a certified diver (Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia) and the cost of doing it in Asia is less than half of what it would be in the Western world, but I never spent the time or money to do it. Eric has been diving for nearly 20 years and we wanted to do some dives together, so I made the investment and hit the books. Since it wasn’t the busy season, I had a personal instructor (Made) and could speed up the lessons to finish in three days instead of four. The OWC consists of watching four hours of instructional videos with quizzes along the way, four sets of pool exercises, treading water for 10 minutes, swimming 200 meters non-stop, proving proficiency on four open water dives, and passing a 50-question exam.

The first day I just watched a few videos in the morning, and then jumped on the motorbike. The second day was exhausting with pool exercises, two dives, and more videos. The first two dives were mainly for skills, and although the sea life was interesting, it wasn’t amazing. The third day I did more pool exercises and planned to go out with Eric for dives 3 and 4 to complete the OWC. The third dive was incredible with manta rays up to 7 feet in length! There were dozens of them effortlessly gliding through the water! The girls came out for a snorkeling trip and got to swim with them, too. Unfortunately, after the dive my left ear became plugged and I suffered from a reverse block, which meant I couldn’t do my final dive that day and complete my certification. I was in the early stages of a head cold, but didn’t want to admit it (first mistake), which caused the block.

The next day I felt better, but still a little funny, and went diving anyways (second mistake). Eric had so much fun the day before he came out for two more dives with me. The first was an awesome drift dive, which meant the boat dropped us off at the top of the current, we drifted along the reef for 30 minutes, and then it picked us up. We saw tons of sea life and beautifully colored coral. My ear had difficulty equalizing on the way down, but felt ok back at the surface. I was so excited about completing my four required dives and being in the water with Eric, I went out for another one (third mistake). Again, the underwater world amazed us with lion fish, scorpion fish, barracuda, and moray eel. When I came up this time though, my ear was really plugged. I thought it was normal and would work its way out overnight, but it stayed plugged for days. I finally went to the doctor and was told that my ear drum was bulging and red from a middle ear infection caused by diving with a head cold. This was especially worrisome because we had to fly in just a few days. Fortunately, the medication kicked in and I got the thumbs-up from the doc the day before we had to fly that my ear drum wouldn’t burst on a plane. More importantly, I’m now a PADI Certified Open Water Diver!

G: While Blake was mastering the underwater world, I tried my hand at surfing the break with Sister and Kayah. We met a lovely Swiss man that offered to be our instructor and away we went.  It wasn’t long before we all took a few spills and Kayah was the only brave one to continue. Afterwards, my back and shoulders were aching terribly from so much paddling and carrying the board a long way back to shore. Still, another one off the bucket list!

After saying a sad farewell to family, we continued inland to relax in Ubud. We did a bit of shopping, but mostly tried to heal ourselves from my stiff back and Blake’s ear infection. Ubud is easy enough to relax for a few days with cheap prices and Western comforts. We would have loved to stay in Indonesia for longer, but new countries were calling our name…