Mist settling on the rice-terraced hills in Bali.
  • Mist settling on the rice-terraced hills in Bali.
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When my cousin Natalie and I left the Monkey Forest Inn villas in Ubud to stay in a different villa for her birthday, I had no idea the adventure I was in for – as is the case quite often in Bali.

Natalie wanted to stay at a nicer place we'd seen just outside of town called Gaya for her birthday. We had passed the hotel the day before on a scooter ride and both agreed it was beautiful. The main building somehow resembled a futuristic Mayan pyramid, with a restaurant upstairs and an art gallery downstairs by the reception. Behind was a pool and several secluded villas overlooking the river.

After falling in love with the place, she really wanted to stay there for a couple of nights, but was apprehensive to pack up all of her stuff and make the move on our scooters. Following a little debate and my cousin's hesitation, I convinced her it was worth it.

It took a long time to sort out the details of the bill and tie my cousin's huge 60-pound suitcase to the back of my tiny 50cc scooter (with some string I happened to have in my bag). Eventually, it was arranged that someone from the hotel would follow us to the ATM to collect the rest of the bill.

We started up our bikes and were just about to be on our way. Suddenly, up the driveway comes the owner from the scooter rental shop and he's looking for money, so we kill the engines and discuss with him. We decide we'll follow him to the scooter place to give him our passport numbers, since we're going outside of town to the ATM. A little scooter gang is formed: my cousin in the front, followed by the hotel clerk, then the scooter rental guy, and me bringing up the rear with the 60-pound suitcase strapped to the back of my tiny scooter and my bag clenched between my legs.

in the town of Ubud, Bali

At this point my cousin realizes she needs to stop by the clinic where she's been receiving ayurvedic treatment so that she can pick up her special meal prepared by the doctor. We make a quick detour to the clinic. The doctor informs us that she has the food at her house, and if we can follow her there we'll quickly be on our way.

Well now we really have a scooter gang, with five of us motoring through town. We pick up the food, head to the ATM, make some change by buying a couple Bintangs at the Circle K, and pay both the hotel clerk and the scooter rental guy. After this arduous journey and with a storm just beginning to rain down on us, we make it at last – did it ever feel great to be at the new hotel!

Upon checking in, the staff informed us that Stefano, the Italian billionaire who owns the hotel, is having a party for his birthday and we're invited. We were delighted; our luck was starting to turn.

serenity: the Gaya spa

We had a quick rest in our villa and then got ready for the party. It was quaint, but nice: just a small group of friends and family and us. There was a buffet of both Italian and Balinese dishes, live Balinese music, a hosted bar and a gelateria. We met Stefano and his entire family, the ceramic artist who outfitted the hotel, a local textile designer, and the architect who designed the place. There were fireworks and expensive bottles of champagne, and we celebrated late into the night with the family. At midnight they made a toast to Natalie for her birthday. They tried to throw her in the pool but she struggled and they quickly gave up. We all laughed and drank more champagne.

And to think we almost didn't make it here. We could have easily stayed at our old hotel. But to me, little adventures like this are what make your experience: you've just got to have the confidence to overcome mishaps and not pass up opportunities when they appear.

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