4/11 – 4/19/2017
We spent two days on Sumatra. Our short stay wasn’t due to dislike, we just messed up. The internet connection was so bad in Australia (well at least the areas we visited) that we couldn’t properly do our research. A lot of the backpackers we had talked to in SE Asia had said that Sumatra was their favorite part of Indonesia. So, we used the limited wifi we could to slowly decifer that there are two places we could fly into on Sumatra from Darwin, Australia: Palembang or Medan. We figured that even if we went to the wrong spot, we should be able to easily get from one end of the island to the other; that ended up being a bad assumption. We flew to Palembang, (a city in southern Sumatra) where the main and only tourist attraction is a bridge. The only way to get to the more tourist friendly north was a three day bus ride(usually without a/c). After 6 months on the road, we didn’t really feel like spending 61 hours on a winding, crammed bus so we tried to fly. However, every airline or booking website that we tried would crash midway through the booking or would only have one page in English then would switch to Indonesian. We ended up canceling a credit card and suspending another because of multiple miscommunications/webpage errors. Finally, after a day and a half of struggling with the airline pages, we gave up and thought we’d see if booking a ticket to Bali was any easier. It was. It worked. On the first try. So… we went to Bali.
Our two days in Palembang were still great. We stayed at the Fave Hotel where the staff was incredibly nice and the food was fantastic. We know we didn’t give Sumatra a fair shake but it looked like our path was taking us to Bali. It was the only time on the trip that I felt guilty about giving up on an opportunity to check out a new and exciting place, but at this point, no matter what happens, I’ll never feel like we haven’t experienced enough, at least on this trip. I can’t say enough nice things about the people we encountered in Palembang, however, it was a little strange that people would come up to one or both of us and take our picture. I was pretty sure they didn’t get a lot of tourists when we got to the airport and customs searched my bag – it seemed to be just so he could ask me questions about certain items out of curiousity rather than concern.
We flew into Denpasar and had our hotel line us up a driver to pick us up from the airport. Our first stay on Bali was at the Puri Maharani Hotel ($27/night). It was very quiet, had a pool and good food, we had a nice big room with a garden view and it ran a free shuttle to the Sanur Beach. It was the perfect spot to relax for a couple days. On our first day there we took a walk to a really neat statue and to see a world peace gong (which was right next to a paintball arena so you could pray for peace after pulverizing your friends) before we made our way to a warung (a small Balinese eatery). We had some sort of spicy, omelet type thing cooked by a guy in literal hole in the wall restaurant– yum!
Day two in Sanur, we took the shuttle to the beach area. After walking around and scoping out the street with the bars and shops, we looped back via beach. It was a really nice sandy area – not too crowded, not too many people trying to sell beads, braids or shades. Although one cute little old woman was able to coax us off the beach and back to her little shop of clothes. After a half hour or so, we got away nearly scot free. McKayla got herself a new dress and we made a new friend, a friend that was pretty disappointed I didn’t buy a shirt or a sarong. On day three, we took the earlier shuttle so we could eat breakfast at one of the cafes then we found a spot on the beach and rented a stand up paddle board. We’d watched a couple struggle on one and decided we should try our hand at it because there was no way we would be as uncoordinated as they were. We were wrong. Turns out, they’re a lot tricker to do on the ocean, in the wind than on a calm pond. We had fun non-the-less but one hour with a SUP was plenty. Our beach spot also included some local entertainment via a small band of steel drummers and a Barong (a dragon looking thing meant to keep bad spirits at bay.)
In our research, a lot of people had said to avoid Kuta, Bali at all costs. So, we decided that would be our next spot. It’s supposedly world renown for surfing and Nate had wanted to try surfing sometime in our travels. With only a couple weeks left now was the time, and this seemed like the perfect area to get my feet wet, haha. Kuta is also the party area so there was a good chance it would be filled with very pushy salesmen and women.
The Yulia Beach Inn ($25/night) was a nice little oasis from the chaos but still only two blocks from the beach. Side note: one thing that really frustrated us in Bali was that a number of hotels, including Yulia and Puri Maharani said they included a free breakfast with the room. However, it turned out you had to pay 5 extra dollars a night to get the “free” breakfast. We could pay for breakfast anywhere for that price or less. So we’d book rooms at these places for the included breakfast and show up to find out we’d have to pay for the breakfast. Shyster move. They were still great hotels, though.
Kuta beach was a great place to watch the sunset and go for a nighttime walk. We had three good nights in the Kuta area before we tried surfing. It’s hard to explain, but the waves on Kuta occationally have this mesmerizing quality to them when the tide is right. The wave breaks are so uniform up and down the beach, that there will be breaks hundreds of feet long, and when the previous wave is receding back into the ocean, the oncoming wave collides with it at an slight angle creating this amazing ripple effect. The two waves will crash together in a long continuous line making it look like a timed fountain going off parallel with the beach in either direction. I know how it sounds, and I promise, McKayla and I refused all of the several drugs we were offered around Kuta. Anyhow, never seen anything like it, and can’t describe it better than that, also, couldn’t find anything similar on YouTube, sorry.
Nate picked up surfing and made it up to the higher waves within the first hour. I, however, stood up once, rode that one wave, then broke my ankle. Yup, cracked it against the ocean floor. Of course we didn’t know it was broken at first and our surf instructor, Zee, was positive it wasn’t broken. So he massaged it. I pulled away, then he grabbed it again and kept trying to massage it. Finally I got him to leave my foot alone by sending him out to finish the lesson with Nate. But while I was sitting on the beach, two other Balinese men came by and told me I needed to massage it. One even grabbed it and starting to massage it before I told him to stop. Then, while I was immobile, an Asian man came up to me, never said a word, put his baby next to me in the sand and started taking pictures before grabbing his sandy baby and setting him on my lap and taking more pictures, then grabbed his kid and left, still without ever saying a word. I crawled to the ocean to try to wash off all the sand left in my lap then crawled back to the beach. I encouraged Nate to finish his lesson because I wasn’t going to go get an X-RAY until I was positive I needed one. After the lesson, he got me a taxi to go the two blocks back to our hotel where we could assess the situation. After calling my sister who was one month from officially becoming a doctor, we decided I definitely needed to go to the hospital. We went to the BIMC Hospital (Bali International Medical Center) which, fortunately, wasn’t far from our hotel. The staff all spoke pretty good English. They X-Rayed me, found the fracture, and put me in a hard cast with some crutches.
We did have travelers insurance. I’ll let you know if it’s one I’d recommend after we get reimbursed. Nate offered to change our flights to go home early but I declined. I figured if I was going to be laid up, this is as good a spot as any. We had tickets to go home on May 5th, I broke my ankle on April 19. It would be an interesting couple weeks.