Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Yes, yes, I know it was actually over a month ago, but let’s talk about Bali.

Where to start…

Well, at the beginning of the trip I suppose!

It’s hot and stuffy, the line of people is inching along, the guy behind me insists on not only standing with his bag pressed against my back, but also continually coughing into my hair.  The clock reads 5:45am, and there’s a pile of roosters in vented cardboard boxes on my left, crowing in confusion.

The boxes with holes in them had roosters inside, the rest were luggage for a large family
Welcome to the Tarakan airport terminal!

Air travel is always an adventure in Indonesia for various reasons.  Cardboard boxes are often used in place of suitcases, making check-in quite interesting at times.  The lack of respect for the Western idea of waiting in an organized line continually reminds me that I’m in a truly different culture and that patience is a virtue that I must continue to strive for!  And the bathrooms in the airport terminals…let’s just say the cleanest bathroom you are going to find during your air travel experience is on the airplane.  It’s not all bad though-the flights are usually short, which I love, and it’s fun to look down and see the terrain and the many different islands below. 

As the crow flies, it would take about 2 hours to get to Bali from Tarakan, but unfortunately there aren’t direct flights, so we took off early on Saturday morning and flew from Tarakan to a city in the interior of Borneo called Balikpapan (where we had our team conference earlier this year), a 50 minute flight, from Balikpapan to Surabaya, a city on the island of Java, an hour flight, and boarded a smaller plane to fly from Surabaya to Bali, another hour flight.  As we traveled closer to Bali, my happiness increased with the sight of some familiar friends…

Oh Peanut M&Ms, how I love you!

Delicious Starbucks!

Chris relaxing at the Dunkin' Donuts in the Balikpapan Terminal

We arrived in Bali around 1:00pm, and it was beautiful, sunny and breezy.  Right away I noticed it wasn’t as humid as Tarakan, the wind from the ocean made the temperature perfect.

I think Chris was as excited about this plane as he was that we had arrived in Bali!

We got some lunch at the airport and Chris found a cab to drive us the hour to our hotel in Ubud, which is in the interior of Bali.  If you have read the book or watched the movie “Eat, Pray, Love”, Ubud is the area Elizabeth Gilbert stayed in while she was in Bali.  Our hotel was small and friendly with beautiful landscaping and a pretty pool.

Chris chilling on the bed in our room in Ubud

Walking out the doorway of our room in Ubud.  In Tarakan, because of the religious climate, I can't wear shorts or anything sleeveless, but in Bali I don't have to adhere to that-I don't think I wore something with sleeves the whole time we were there!
Bali is one of the few islands in Indonesia where Islam is not the dominant religion.  On Bali, the majority of Indonesians are Hindu, so there were Hindu gods and temples all over the place, and several times a day gifts for the gods were placed on the sidewalk in front of stores and homes.  The gifts usually included incense, flowers, small bits of fruit, rice, and crackers.  We arrived on the last day of the holy Hindu holiday called Kuningan-so many of the Balinese people were dressed in traditional attire-sarongs for men and women and kabaya for women.  I snuck a quick picture of some of the men in their traditional outfits from the café where we ate a yummy light dinner of sandwiches…something we can’t typically get at restaurants in Tarakan.

Balinese men in traditional garb

The next day it was raining, so we slept in and then headed out to find somewhere to get massages.  Bali is known for it’s wonderful and affordable spas.  We quickly found a woman who offered massages in the back portion of her clothing shop.  We settled down on massage tables next to each other and enjoyed relaxing hour-long massages-a wonderful way to begin vacation!

Flowers outside the store/spa where we received our massages

Our time in Ubud was spent relaxing, exploring, and shopping-there was lots of cute shops with all sorts of fun goodies to look at and to buy.  In Tarakan there just aren’t places to enjoy looking at pretty things, so I was soaking it in in Ubud.  There’s also a monkey forest with cute, but rather aggressive monkeys-they are used to tourists feeding them and they were literally climbing on people looking for food.  Luckily they stayed away from me-I only enjoy monkeys from afar!

Do you see the baby?
In the monkey forest 

We also discovered some other animal friends-like this little guy in the garden by our hotel room…

The other thing, probably the most important thing we did in Ubud was eat and eat and EAT!  There are so many delicious restaurants with all varieties of food even pork and ribs and bacon…things we simply can’t get in Tarakan.  Here’s a sampling of the yummy meals we had…

Delicious ribs
Super-yummy salad with prosciutto, olives, fresh mozzarella, grilled zucchini-mmmmm!

Fried banana cream rolls
Tall chocolate cake (okay, this wasn't so good-Indonesian desserts just aren't sweet enough for me, they always look impressive but they don't quite deliver)
Chris at the place we had AWESOME beef shish kabobs

We were pretty much excited for every meal!  We had Mexican and the best beef shish kabob I've ever eaten and deli sandwiches and pizza...it was great!  Although the food in Tarakan isn’t bad at all, there just isn’t much variety, especially not Western food, so eating out in places with variety is a big deal for us!  One of the neatest experiences we had was going to a dinner with a traditional Balinese dance performance.  The food was excellent, the best duck I have ever had, and the dancing was really interesting.  We were able to get pictures with the dancers following the performance.

The kids at our feet were dressed as mischievous monkeys-I could tell they were loving playing the part!
We rented a motorcycle and drove out of town and into the countryside where we saw many rice paddies and experienced the coolness of a higher altitude.  We also passed several fancy looking resorts, and we couldn’t resist going in and looking at the Four Seasons (click on the name for a link to the website for it).  It was one of the most amazing hotels I have ever seen!

Midway through the week we checked out of our hotel in Ubud and traveled to Sanur, a town right on the beach of the Java Sea.  Our hotel on the beach was very nice with the option to lie on the beach or by the pool.  The hotel grounds were beautifully landscaped-it was nice to walk around and look at the plants and flowers.

The entrance to the hotel "lobby" - everything was outside!

Hotel Grounds
Lily pool
Looking into our room

The Pool
The Beach - with floating lounge islands (as long as the tide was high)!

I spent lots of time on the beach and by the pool soaking up the sun and reading.  Chris joined me sometimes, but he and the sun don’t get along too well, so he often watched TV or read in the room or in the shade.  The hotel was so nice that we really could have spent all our time there, but we walked up and down the main street in Sanur, which was filled with many friendly hawkers and lined with tourist shops.  We also rented a motorcycle and went into the very busy cities of Kuta and Denpasar-they both have all sorts of shopping, restaurants, and nightlife.  The past terrorist activity in Bali has happened in those congested areas-although nothing of that nature has happened for quite some time as far as I know. We looked around several malls in the cities, hit the Ace Hardware, a store that doesn’t thrill me in the States, but here it’s one of the only places to get good quality home goods and we don’t have one in Tarakan.  Our most exciting purchase was…wait for it…a toilet seat!!!  Since we moved in to our house in Tarakan we have had this awful toilet seat that falls off or slides to the side pretty much every time we use it.  I have nearly ended up in the toilet many times-it was awful.  Now, thankfully we have a sturdy, working toilet seat.  I think we should have gotten shirts made that said, “I went to Bali and All I Got was this Toilet Seat”!  We also went to a couple what I call “real” grocery stores, “real” meaning they are big, have everything I’m looking for, and stock more than 5 of each desired item (our grocery stores in Tarakan don’t fit any of those criteria).

This half of the vacation was about eating too-but not fine dining!  Think Burger King, A&W, Domino’s Pizza, Starbucks, and Coldstone Creamery-some of those yummy places we miss from the U.S.  We also got some good Indian and Italian food-everything tasted delicious.

Chris loving his Whopper with cheese

Chris found a friend!
Our last night in Bali - we had Indian food, yum!  Apparently our server was excited about getting in the picture too!

We also drove over to the Indian Ocean side of the island and watched the sunset over the water.  It was a gorgeous night to walk on the beach.  If we come back to Bali I would definitely stay on the ocean side-the waves are bigger and the beach is more beautiful.

Too soon Sunday came and it was time to head to the airport and make our way back to Tarakan.  I tried to convince Chris to let me live in Bali assuring him he could visit me every weekend, but, alas, he wasn’t quite on board with that.  Our trip home was uneventful with the one highlight being as we were riding in a shuttle on the tarmac to our plane in Bali, we passed an official United States government jet-not Air Force One, but it looked like a smaller version of it.  All the Indonesian people on the shuttle were taking pictures of it with their phones and everyone was staring at us, the only white people on the shuttle.  I was so tempted to be like “Yeah, just drop up off here, this is our ride.”  We found out later that Hilary Clinton was in Bali for the weekend to attend some sort of International Summit.

We arrived home on Sunday evening, tired, relaxed and happy.  Bali was a wonderful break from everyday life, and I hope we are able to get back there again!  If you have the chance to go to Bali, I highly recommend it.  I can see why people go there and decide to make it their home-something about it is so alluring, relaxing, satisfying…I can’t describe it, you are just going to have to visit there someday!

Like I said in a past post, there are lots of hard things about serving overseas, but being able to get away for a week to an island paradise like Bali is not on that list of difficult things! It seems like so often in life when we extend ourselves and put ourselves out there to be used by God, he gives us blessings we never would have experienced if we didn’t.  If we didn't come to Indonesia with MAF, we probably never would have gone to Bali, and even if we did visit Bali, I don’t know if I would have enjoyed it as much because if I were coming from the west I would be used to a huge variety of food and shopping.  In our situation now, everything is a gift, a special treat…the little things mean so much more.

Hope you enjoyed a snippet of our trip to Bali!  We were busy last week celebrating the end of Ramadan with our Muslim friends.  I have commentary (if you’re a Facebook friend, you’ve already heard some of it) and a picture or two to share very soon.  Thanks for reliving Bali with me!


  1. Sarah,
    I was wondering how I go about asking for prices from Bangkok, Thailand, to Bali, Indonesia? I am currently on the World Race (www.theworldrace.org), a mission trip put on by Adventures In Missions, and my teammates and I are desperately looking for any means to get from Bangkok to Bali, on a budget of $100 per person, roundtrip. If you could provide us with ANY information, it would be greatly apprieciated. We are also looking into alternate options, which includes finding contacts in, or around, Medan, Indonesia. We would need a place to work from September 26th to October 18th. There are nine women, including myself, on my team, and have a budget of $5 USD per person per day for lodging, $3 USD per person per day for food and $1 USD per person per day for local transportaion. If you could provide info, leads, etc., it would be sooooo appreciated! Our deadline to submit our info to AIM is in 24 hours.Thanks in advance!
    Best regards,
    Rosa Cruz

  2. I just saw your comment Rose and I am very sorry I didn't look sooner since your deadline has already passed. The only thing I can suggest as far as prices for transportation from Bangkok to Bali is to look online, which is how we obtained our tickets. Also, you could try a local travel agent in Bangkok, they often speak enough English to help you arrange some sort of transportation and may know of cheaper ways to get to Bali than flying or cheaper flights.

    As far as working near Medan, Indonesia, I am not familiar with that area as we live off the coast of Kalimantan (Borneo), which is quite far away from Sumatra. I would say if it is anything like Tarakan, where we live, teaching English is always a good place to start looking for work as people are always excited to learn. I would be careful to get the right type of visa if you are planning to work, because the Indonesian government can be quite strict about those types of things. Sorry I couldn't be more helpful.

    Good Luck!


  3. Seeing the food pictures are making me hungry...we haven't eaten dinner yet. So glad to hear you had an opportunity to chill and relax!