You would think that we would have learned by now that we should be checking at least one bag into the plane when we fly. Especially after our Tiger Air experience in Melbourne Australia. The truth is, we have not learned our lesson. We bought our tickets and opted out of paying an additional $20 to check a bag.
Since we were at the airport with Sam who was flying back to Sydney we used him (he offered) for some assistance. Alicia and I started on our own by layering as many clothes as we could on to our bodies. Alicia looked more stylish then I with her hat, sunglasses, scarf and hooded sweatshirt on. I on the other hand had my work out pants on, a work out tank top, t shirt over that, then a long sun dress and finally my hooded sweatshirt! Then I stuffed a money belt full of heavy things like my phone, charger, back up charger, wallet and the pockets of my sweatshirt with other stuff. I felt like a gypsy! We went to a jet star ticket counter that wasn't occupied to weigh our bags and we were still over weight but not by much.
After Sam had checked in he offered to take a few other heavy things from us while we checked in. Our mission was accomplished! We received our boarding passes and quickly returned to Sam to get our goods back into our bags. After saying good bye to Sam as he boarded his flight back home we waited for a couple more hours. We flew to Darwin, a pretty small and not so great airport. I hear that all of Darwin is pretty much this way. We had a 6 hour layover here and this is where we met Pia.
Pia approached Alicia and asked if she could leave her luggage with us while she went to the bathroom. She is a 19 year old German girl who was doing au pair in Australia and now heading to Bali on the same flight as us but alone. When she returned to retrieve her luggage she told us how she had met this girl in Australia and invited her to join her in Bali. She didn't know the girl well at the time she invited her and since then learned that this girl wasn't very nice. She didn't know how to do anything for herself either. Pia didn't know how to get out of her situation and the girl was supposed to be meeting her in Bali in 2 days. Pia was also very nervous about traveling to Bali alone for 2 days.
The paying it forward continued. We invited her to join us when we arrived in Bali, cancel her accommodations with her hostel that had bad reviews anyways and stay with us for the next 2 nights. We encouraged her to write this "friend" of hers an email and tell her that she had decided to take some time to travel alone for a bit and that she didn't think it was going to work out to travel together in Bali. She wrote the email and sent it, cancelled her reservations and now we have a 3rd backpacker with us. She decided right away she wanted to spend all of her 12 days in Bali with us before returning home to Germany.
Our full day of traveling was coming to a close. It was now 7pm and time to board our plane to Bali. It was an hour and a half flight that was occupied by mostly young travelers and a couple families. Otherwise a pretty empty plane. The 3 of us sat in separate areas throughout the plane, I was in the middle surrounded by more German backpackers.
I had found out 2 days prior to this flight that when we arrived in Bali we would be celebrating "day of silence" with the rest of the island the next day. It's known to the locals as Nyepi. The day after Nyepi is their new year day.
The holiday is a Hindu celebration mainly celebrated in Bali, Indonesia. It's a public holiday that consists of meditation and fasting for the Balinese. It's observed from 6am to 6am the next day. It's a day for self reflection and so anything that would interfere with this is restricted. Lights must be kept low as the night approaches. No working, no entertainment or pleasure, no traveling and for some no talking or eating at all. The streets are quite with the only outside activity being the security guards who patrol to make sure these prohibitions are being followed. Non Balinese and tourists are required to stay inside as well but free to do as they wish inside their homes & hotels. The only airport in Bali is even shut down for the day.
The Germans who were sitting around me on the airplane didn't know about "day of silence" but as it was the main conversation with everyone on the plane they found out quickly. Panicking a bit about not being able to go out for food the next day they stopped a flight attendant and questioned him on all things related to the holiday and food sources that would still be open In the late hour that we would land.
The entire flight was pretty bumpy. Trying to hold a conversation with my Australian neighbors became very difficult. I hadn't eaten much that day and that probably didn't help, paired with the turbulence of the plane. I was feeling light headed and having a really hard time focusing on them as they talked to me. They were travelers of the world as well and she was a tattoo artist.
After landing and hurrying thru customs as fast as we could, Alicia, Pia and I got a taxi (it's spelled takis here) to take us to the hotel we had already booked & paid for. The driver spoke maybe 4 English words but I don't think he even understood the words he knew.
We got in his cab and gave him the address to our hotel. We asked him if there was anywhere to get food, or groceries and he driver told us, "no, closed." But as we drove out of the airport parking lot we saw an open mini mart and pointed for him to pull in. Alicia stayed in the cab with our luggage while Pia and I ran into the mart full of foreign packaged foods grabbing anything that looked remotely familiar. It felt as if the apocalypse was coming! We grabbed 6 containers of different flavored ramen noodle, a package of whole grain cookies, a package of bread with chocolate in it and a package of bread with butter in it. We paid in Australian cash and ran back to the cab. The panic was over, we had some food for "day of silence".
The taxi drove us down main roads and we saw a lot of human activity for 9pm and then we started to see statues parading down the streets and lots of kids out on the streets. We didn't know about the festivities the night before the holiday.
This is a parade that happens on the Eve of Nyepi where the people build ogoh - ogoh statues that become the floats. Ogoh - ogoh's are usually in the form of mythological creatures, usually demons. They represent spiritual aims inspired from the Hindu philosophy.
The demon statues are meant to capture the evil spirits that are amongst the people. And as they are paraded thru the streets by 8 or more men they are rotated 3 times, counter clockwise at every T-junction or crossroads. This act represents the spiritual contact with the bodies. Instrumental music played by the youth accompanies the statues thru the streets. Traditionally at the end of the night these statues are burned in a cemetery as a way to get rid of the evil they capture.
We watched this craziness from our windows and tried to capture it with photos that didn't turn out so good in the dark.
3 hours went by and we were still in the cab! At some point we had come to a road block and we sat there for 45min or so. Our driver got out if the car and walked to the cars behind us, taking to them. While he was gone the cars ahead of us started moving and we started calling at our driver to come back. He didn't hear us but when he returned, instead of going forward he turned around and said, "airport." What!?
He was now driving us back to the airport! A place that was about to shut down for the night and all of the next day. We were in a panic again. Trying everything we could to communicate with him and beg him to take us to our hotel. We even pulled up a translator app on our phone but he just kept shaking his head no. We passed a hotel that we had seen earlier when leaving the airport and asked him to go there.
He pulled in and Alicia went in to see if anyone spoke English to help us with the driver and if nothing else if this hotel had room for us tonight. While that was going on the taxi driver unloaded our luggage. I told him to stay, to wait. He must have understood me as he lit up another smoke.
An hour went by in front of this hotel. The lady inside spoke very good English and she tried to help us as best she could. She translated for us with the taxi driver, called our hotel and told them our situation and that the road had been closed but now it's open.
The taxi driver gave up he told us he was going home and couldn't help us anymore so we stayed the night at that hotel which was a little more expensive then the $6 per person a night hotel we had already booked. This hotel was $50 per person for 2 nights and included all our meals. The hotel we had previously booked for 2 nights couldn't refund us but they offered us a free night anytime during our stay in Bali.
It turned out to be a good choice as the original hotel was basically going to be shut down for "day of silence" and our new hotel was full of kids, a pool we could actually use on this holiday and all meals prepared for us. We were also the only 3 white people in the hotel until around 1pm when another white person appeared for lunch. A Canadian guy named Alain, a soft wear engineer from Vancouver who's able to travel and work wherever he lands. He and I saw each other at the same time, excited to see another non Asian we joined in conversation. He had a very similar experience with his original hotel and a taxi driver the night before. He is Crossfit certified so that, of course brought a whole new level of excitement to my world.
There was constant chatter from children and endless people watching at the hotel all day. While I was swimming with Pia in the afternoon 2 Asian women swam up to us, pointing and saying "you and you, you beautiful." Then they would nod their heads at us and point to their friend on the swim deck who was filming us. They did this several times, each time taking a new photo or video of us. Our blonde hair and blue eyes were a hit!
A man from Kenya, Francis was in the pool and they enjoyed him as well, telling him he was very handsome. He was 32 and teaching himself how to swim so I offered to teach him a few things which he was grateful for. That turned into a 30 to 40min swimming lesson that the Asians very much enjoyed watching!
I watched a boy around 7 years old get out of the pool wearing his cotton underwear and t shirt. He pulled his underwear down and peed on the pool deck while all the mothers watched him. I don't even know who his mom was but as the english speakers around me said, at least he didn't pee in the pool. True but I decided I was done in the pool after that. Oh, the culture change I have coming at me.
After dinner the hotel went into complete shut down. It was about 7pm and the hotel staff started to act panicked. They were frantic as the blacked out the windows with plastic, covered the exit signs mounted to the ceilings with black plastic bags, and shut off the elevator. The only lighting was the stair way with 2 candles lit on the landings. The holiday wasn't really creepy until now. The energy the hotel staff was creating wasn't pleasant to be around. I headed to my room.
Alain, the girls and I had decided earlier (before the creepiness started) at dinner that we would do a crossfit WOD after dinner and another in the morning. The girls and I walked downstairs by the light of our cell phones and head lamps. We met Alain in a small air conditioned banquet room where 2 play stations were set up for holiday entertainment. There was a couple playing at one of the tv's but we found a spacious corner to occupy and hooked up a small speaker box for music.
It was a nice distraction from creepy "silence day" night and it was the start of an addiction to get in shape with Pia. She asked me if I would continue to lead them in group workouts after Alain went on his own way. I assured her I would.
The 4 of us all stepped out on a walk to Kuta the next morning. A town we were told not to go to because it's a trashy, commercialized part of Bali that's full of Aussie surfers and a party town at night. Pia wanted to go shopping though so we went to, "just have a look" as the Germans put it. The feeling of stepping out onto the streets of Bali felt like being released from captivity. It was a strange feeling.
The tips I received about Kuta were all true. It was pretty trashy but as Alain said its good to see it and compare to other places we visit. We definitely experienced the heat of Bali, stepping into an ATM room at one point to change into any cooler clothing we had in our small bags. We had our first "street meat", it was supposed to be chicken and pork but neither tasted quite like either of those. There was booths all up and down Kuta's not so clean beach and I even watched another grown boy walk to the ocean, pull his pants down and pee in the surf. Why am I being blessed with all these wonderful visuals and Alicia is never around to see them!?
After leaving the market/beach area we decided to walk to the hostel Pia was originally going to stay at, before she met us. On our journey using Alains newly bought SIM card for our GPS we stumbled across this beautiful oasis with a pool inside open gates. It was off a very quite side street and no one was around. We walked inside and said hello but no one answered. It was so hot out the only thing any if us could think about was that pool in front of us. Alicia, Alain and I went for it while Pia maned our personal bag station. It was great, it felt so good!! We should jump in beautiful random pools everyday on our walks.
Of course while we were in the pool a worker came out and asked us if we were guests there. We told him we were meeting friends who are guests and he just like that he left us alone.
We found Pia's hostel and had a quick look around. She was still happy she cancelled and stayed with us.
We kept walking back to the hotel we had checked out of to collect our packs and prepar to drive to Seminyak for the night.