October 29, 2014
Today is my mother’s birthday. By the time I am writing this, she is probably just getting to work for the morning (12-hour time difference), and the family has probably given her some birthday cards and hugs.
Today is my mom’s birthday, and I celebrated by having a massage.
Over the past decade, I’ve — for some reason or another — seldom been in town for her birthday. We always celebrate a few days before or after, but I seem to be out of town on the day proper, more often than not.
Today I am in Bali, in a villa at the Mahagiri resort in Sanur. It is the nicest place I have ever stayed at in my various travels; the villa (all for ourselves) is just as big as our house back home, if not bigger. We have our own private pool of a significant size, two massive bedrooms, an outdoor day bed that is larger than your average queen-sized mattress, a living space with couches, a dining table, and a full kitchen, and lots of little gardens scattered about our personal villa compound. The serve us meals in our villa poolside, have a fully-stocked (and free) minibar, and there is a spa around the corner where both Lise and I will get four different treatments over the two days that we are here.
In honor, in celebration of my mother’s birthday, I got a back massage after dinner. I will buy her a back massage at a Toronto spa when we are back in town in three days. She’ll like that.
Getting here was not the most pleasant experience, however. While Lise and I may be in the most luxurious place we’ve ever stayed right now, the majority of the day was spent traveling from Gili Meno in much less comfortable auspices.
I was still full from last night’s dinner at the Mahamaya (a superlative meal where the sticky toffee pudding was among the best I’ve ever had and Lise and I both definitely ate too much) when we hopped on a cidomo to the harbor in Gili Meno this morning. Five hours, a shaky inter-boat transfer, a group of obnoxious Russian twenty-somethings, and a tumultuous and nauseating (and unventilated) ride in a hot speedboat later, we arrived in Padang Bai, after being away from Bali for just under a week. (The full details of the boat trip are not worth repeating; let’s just say that getting and from Gili Meno have been the least pleasant parts of this vacation.) Thankfully, the drive from Padang Bai to Sanur was quick and comfortable, and once we arrived in this incredible place — and I do mean “incredible” in the sense that staying at a place this opulent strains credulity — any hassles we may have had getting here were very quickly forgotten.
The massage helped with the relaxation and forgetting, too, of course.
There are three 24-hour “butlers” that we get at the villa. I feel strange calling them butlers — they are essentially a group of rotating concierges — but everyone insists that we do. Everything, from spa bookings to transportation to restaurant reservations to any and all requests are handled by them. It feels indulgent.
Dinner tonight was accompanied by a troupe of live musicians and some traditional Balinese dancing. Lise was entranced by the intricate movements of the fingers and eyes of the dancers — so emotive, controlled. I, on the other hand, was fascinated that the musicians in the group (all six of them) never looked at their instruments as they played them; in fact, it was almost as if they were consciously avoiding looking down at the instruments, gazing deeply and conspicuously in to various corners of the stage. I wonder if the aversion to look at instruments has any kind of reason or significance.
We are ready to go to sleep now, relaxed, pampered, and happy after our swim in our private pool, dinner with dancing, and evening massage.
(Here’s the thing about having your own private pool: there is no reason at all to wear swim shorts when using it, in fact it would be counterintuitive to do so. Apologies to anyone who was just forced to bear the horrific thought of me swimming sans-shorts. Oops.)
October 30, 2014
Breakfast in the villa, poolside (and larger than most lunches and dinners we have had), and then some swimming (mostly just wading around, but a few laps, too) in the pool. A slow, leisurely morning.
Swimming in the sea and lying on the beach, and then lunch at an Aussie cafe in town (with burgers the size of my head), and then a two-hour full body message and scrub. A slow, leisurely afternoon.
Dinner at a charming Indo-French restaurant and glasses of wine to toast to our final night in Bali and the final night of an unforgettable vacation. A slow, leisurely evening.
Tomorrow, our last full day of adventure before we say goodbye.
October 31, 2014
The sun is slowly rising on our final day on this island. The birds are, as they are every morning, chirping away, seemingly unaware that for us, today is a day of farewells.
I had a dream last night that I had somehow woken up back in Canada, a full day early. I was distraught; I ran around asking friends to wake me up because I was sure it was all a dream. (Aside: self-aware dreams are very strange indeed.) The level of distress in my dream perhaps showed me just how much I’d love to stay here, just a little bit longer.
Alas, today is our last day, but we will be leaving with gusto. Our morning will start with a much-needed manicure and pedicure — after spending two weeks walking through dirt, sand, and sea in flip-flops, some care for our feet will be welcome — and then a trip to the elephant safari and conservation park in Taro. I suspect that we may get to ride atop an elephant there, but I honestly have no clue what to expect.
We shall end our day with one last massage and a shower at the spa before we are driven to the airport. A last piece of relaxing indulgence before we head home.
But before all of that, first, breakfast and a dip in the pool. (I will miss the luxury of having our own pool and breakfast served poolside. I will miss many things, I think.)
Let me tell you a little bit about Puspa. Puspa, whose name means “flower,” is forty years old. She arrived in Bali ten years ago, and has lived in the Elephant Safari Park in Taro ever since then. She came over with her handler, who grew up with elephants in Sumatra; having been with Puspa his whole life, it only made sense for him to move along with her. Puspa gives about five or six rides a day through the park; I was lucky to get to know her on her last ride of the day. Lise was positively giddy the whole time at the park, and I couldn’t help but smile seeing just how happy she was.
Getting on a plane after a massage feels wonderful. It doesn’t matter if the airport is crowded or the plane hits a ton of turbulence, the arak cocktails and the tension-less back make for a wonderful trip back home. (The half-empty plane helps, too.)
Lise and I slept for most of the first leg of the trip, and she has been napping for most of this leg too. I’ve been passing the time watching movies, reading Outlander (since we’re watching the TV show, catching up on the source material makes sense), and going back over these thousands of words I have written these past two weeks and reminiscing over a wonderful vacation that has brought me so much joy.
And now, homeward bound.