Sunday, July 15, 2007

Bali on $5 a night?

My sister, Jessie, is both adorable and scary. Adorable, in that she is leaving on Tuesday for a 3 week trip to Bali, Indonesia, and she has not booked any accommodation for her first night's stay. Her flight arrives into Denpasar at 11:30PM. Oh, wait, no. That is the scary part.

I am all for "fly by the seat of your pants" traveling, but as a female, who occasionally travels solo, I will always make sure to have a solid hotel reservation for at least my very first night in a strange/new place. As I was talking to her on the phone, I had pulled up Expedia's listings for Bali, and was offering suggestions. She was like "ohhhh, well, those places are probably all really commercial and not typically Indonesian at all". To which I pointed out "You just need somewhere safe and predictable for the first night - after that you can check things out, in the light of day, and stay anywhere you want."

Bali is a deliriously gorgeous, spiritual place, and I'm sure Jessie will be just fine once she gets her bearings. I really just wish she had a nice, simple, clean, basic room waiting for her...

Like at the Oberoi.

Jessie, unfortunately, is hoping to pay $5 per night for a room. See what I mean? Scary Adorable.

I spent 8 days in Bali way way way way back in 1996, and I know things have changed quite a bit, but I don't remember lodging being quite that cheap. Maybe closer to $15 a night, but it was so long ago, I'm not sure. My friends, Jacquie and Nelson, traveled with me to the island paradise, and we stayed in Kuta Beach for a few days (extremely touristy but lively)

then rented a jeep and drove to Ubud, the arts and cultural center of Bali, for a few days. My favorite memory from Ubud was a restaurant called Cafe Wayan. I just Googled it, and it is still there! It was opened in 1977, so I really shouldn't be surprised, but with the turnover rate of restaurants in some places, it was so nice to see that she's still around. Should a restaurant be called "she", like a boat? Anyway, I adored that place. Things I remember about it:

  • It was like a magic garden, complete with a stone path that led through the grounds, and up to the intimate dining areas, which were mostly low tables with large cushions (for sitting), on private bamboo platforms.

  • Everything was candlelit, and if I hadn't been there with my roommate, it would have been very romantical. It's a word.

  • Our waiter was this gorgeous Indonesian guy (well, okay, I know - we were in Indonesia - of course he was Indonesian), dressed in a white nehru jacket - here's Ringo Starr wearing a gold brocade one:

  • Our waiter loved Jacquie and me, and brought us a box of cookies, on the house, for us to take home. They were Indonesian cookies.

  • We left him an obscenely large tip.

  • I ate Nasi Goreng as my entree

"Nasi" means rice, and I'm sure "Goreng" means "really awesome spices and other stuff that make the rice taste fantastic". Trader Joe's has Nasi Goreng in the freezer section. It does not taste the same.

So, I just sent Jessie a quick email, recommending that she go to Cafe Wayan while she's in Ubud. Staying at her $5 a night hotel. Maybe she can ask that cute waiter to lend her a portion of the tip we left him so that she could maybe upgrade to a $10 a night place?