PREQUEL AND DAY ONE
And so the holiday begins.
Our itinerary is a night in Seminyak in Bali, followed by 5 nights on Gili Trawangan. We then return to the Pelangi in Seminyak and conclude our tour in one of Bali’s nicest Villa’s the Elysian, won by Ms Emma as part of a charity auction earlier in the year. The terms of the prize state that it has to be used before Christmas. Emma is a Bali expert and assures me that the weather in Bali in December is brutally humid and wet. My spring racing carnival media commitments are done and so here we are, ready to depart.
It is a much needed holiday for the both of us. We’re both stressed for different reasons, and as much as our stress comes under “first world problems”, to say that the escape from Melbourne is welcome is a gross understatement.
The day prior to departure is loaded with the usual last minute running around in preparation for departure. We both have pressing work commitments that have risen as somewhat of a last minute thing, only compounding the stress.
Despite this, a surprise call from friends inviting us to dinner is a welcome respite. The dinner conversation takes our minds out of the office and helps get us into a holiday brainspace. I’m yet to have a meal at Harro’s that hasn’t exceeded expectations.
My travel gear has been out for weeks, but is yet to be packed. I’m anxious because for the three weeks or so leading up to leaving, I’ve been forgetting stuff. Forgetting knucklehead stuff: keys, wallet, passwords and PIN numbers. My Saturday night on the week we leave is spent sitting in front of my house, as when I return home from work, I realise that I left my house keys behind when I left for work and Em is out on the town. I can’t explain why I’ve become so forgetful and I’m fearful that this forgetfulness will manifest itself in some way and ruin the trip.
That aside, I pack anyway and, satisfied that if I do manage to forget something, it’s nothing major like passport or credit cards, manage to finally get to sleep at around 12.30am.
The alarm goes off at the appointed time and I’m hazy. Our lift arrives around 15 minutes early and we’re not quite ready to go. There’s something pretty cool about being chauffeured to an airport in a Bentley. It was a pretty awesome way for our Bali tour to begin. Maybe I was imagining it, I don’t know, but in the traffic on Queens Way leading to the Freeway to head out to the airport, I noticed a few drivers glancing across at Henry’s Bentley with perhaps equal parts envy and amazement. Henry is taking us to the airport before he goes to work, so here he is, driving a Bentley, resplendent in a navy blue and fluorescent yellow safety polo. Not something you see every day.
Airport check in is painless and as we’re considerably early, we enter customs and make our way into the International departures terminal. We stop for a coffee at Shannon Bennett’s new airport eatery, Cafe Vue. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the menu and the prices were really reasonable. I recommend the Bircher muesli (change from $10) and the coffee was awesome.
Our plane is a Garuda A330 and they allocate us a window and aisle. Cool! My last trip to Bali was on Jetstar. I have been critical of the Qantas management action of a few weeks ago to ground their fleet. Having now flown to Bali on a Qantas group plane and then one of their competitors, I can see why the international division of the airline is losing money. It’s safe to say that I will never use Qantas to fly international again. I’m happy to pay a little extra for little things like service and to have a drink on a six-hour flight without having to reach for my wallet. Or to watch a movie without having to give someone a copy of licence for security reason. The staff were about what you would expect; courteous, efficient and professional. The only downside was the screaming kids about a half-dozen rows ahead of us in cattle-class. I know kids cry on planes, but these fuckers did not shut up from wheels-up to wheels down; their mothers clearly graduates of the “ignore them and they will shut up” school of parenting. I truly felt the poor bastards in the last row of Business Class who copped the incessant cries of “mum… mum… mummy… mum… mummy… mum…” It is a world gone mad where neither ‘The Smurfs’ or ‘Cars 2’ can placate the toddler class for even seven to ten minutes.
My inflight movie of choice was ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’. I give it about a six out of ten. James Franco is pretty good, fans of the English spy TV show ‘Spooks’ will get a kick out of seeing Danny playing the CEO of a pharmaceuticals company, but R.O.T.P.O.T.A is clearly the first instalment of a prequel jaunt, so the ending was piss-weak. Nonetheless, a great way to kill a test two hours of the six we spend flying ex Melbourne to Denpasar.
In doing some homework before we left, Emma tells me that Bali is experiencing “un-seasonal humidity and high temperatures. Sure enough, as we exit the plane and hit the jetway, the humidity and heat hits you like a Danny Green left-hook. It is truly energy-sapping. We leave the screaming hoard of children and their oblivious parents behind and meet our driver, Made. You know it’s hot when Made is sweating. Made is sweating as he negotiates our way out of Denpasar airport and on to our hotel in Seminyak. A check of the weather tells us its 32 degrees and 90 per-cent humidity. I’m sweating simply waiting to check in. Shite.
The Pelangi hotel has been the accommodation of choice in Bali for Emma for the better part of 10-15 years. The staff are like a second family to her and the care and love she has for them is mutual. News of our engagement has reached the staff of the Pelangi and we are given an extremely warm welcome and sincere congratulations.
We literally dump our bags into the hotel room, grab our swimming gear and head poolside. The water is like a warm bath and not exactly cooling, but it’s way better than being locked in hotel room sweating like mad. I’d heard that Seminyak was becoming the new haunt-du-jour of the bogan and the initial impression we got when we arrived at the pool confirmed this may just be the case. For the uninitiated, Kuta (and Legian) has long been the domain of the bogan, with Seminyak an oasis for families and those who love Bali, but wish to disassociate themselves with the loud, obnoxious and generally anti-social arseholes Australian tourists can be once they board an international flight. It appears that the Bogan has crossed Checkpoint Charlie and entered Seminyak. The pool at the Pelangi was wall-to-wall with boys bearing full-sleeve tattoo’s drinking Bintang’s and generally behaving like 12 year-olds. It also appears that smoking is now allowed in the pool. Our poolside Bar man is evidently named ‘ay mate’. This is because the pool patrons are constantly calling out ‘ay mate, another Bintang’ and he seems to respond.
For some reason, I have taken a serious liking to black coffee and smoking. Miss Emma books herself a reflexology massage and I avail myself of a local SIM card and a pack of Lucky Strikes. Dinner is (sadly) a meat-lovers pizza in a Dhyana Pura pizzeria before heading back to bed. Not having slept on the plane, I enjoy the sleep of the righteous man.
Coming soon: Day Two and Day Three…