Arrival, Monkey Forest Road

November 29th, 2015
Dramatically Zen

It had been 7 years since I had been to Bali.

So, in other terms, 7 years of me saying “When I was in Bali…”, 7 years of posting #tbt #Balilife #beachlife pics, and of course, 7 years of planning to go back. Finally, the time had come – and in the form of my honeymoon with my husband, Mark. Suffice to say, this would be a much different experience from my Dramatically Zen backpacking journey 7 years ago.

Our flight path was Toronto to Hong Kong (just under 15 hours), then Hong Kong to our final destination of Denpasar, on the island of Bali in Indonesia (another 4.5 hour jaunt). But what I found mind-boggling about this route was that we flew the Atlantic route: over Greenland, past a few of the ‘stans, above the peak of China and onto Hong Kong island. On our flight home, however, we would travel the Pacific route back to Toronto. We literally flew around the entire world! #mindblown

You know that feeling after a long flight, as you exit the plane and feel the warm exterior temperature on your skin, you immediately launch into happiness? Now add to that the sweet smell of incense lingering in the air and soft gamelan music chiming in the distance. Oh, and you are greeted by the nicest, kindest people you could ever hope to meet? Welcome to the pure joy that is Bali.

The frenetic state of the airport immigration line didn’t even bother me, and if you know me at all, you know I despise lines.  Instead I took in every colour, every sound, and every observation around me. Once again, Bali had me mesmermized.  Mark must’ve thought I slipped into some sort of trance which would, in fact, be accurate.

I feel as though I’ve been a self-appointed unofficial ambassador of Bali for years – encouraging people to visit and making recommendations as though I were a tourist bureau. So when Mark let me take the reigns in planning our honeymoon, I thrived on my chance to showcase my favourite place in the world to my favourite person in the world (cue violins).

We made our way through customs into the hectic lobby area, where we were to locate the driver I arranged to take us to our first bungalow in Ubud, the cultural centre of Bali. I scanned the hundreds of taxi drivers and tour operators shouting excitedly at guests entering the lobby area (almost like a paparazzi scene, so I was feelin’ it), where finally I locked eyes on my name on a mid-sized piece of white Bristol board written in sharpie. Excellent. We exited the airport with our driver and began our 1.5 hour trek to Ubud.

The one thing I had forgotten about Bali was the driving. To describe it as a ‘shitshow’ would be a massive understatement. Lanes are merely suggestions and not enforced in the slightest. Through the gridlock cars, the congestion worsens with hundreds and hundreds of motorbikes zigzagging through the traffic which, if you had your eyes closed, sound like a swarm of bees. The weird thing though, is that through this craziness and lack of order, there was not a drop of road rage. People seemed to respect the chaos, honked the horn to warn others (not in a bout of anger, but simply to inform), and traffic just appeared to flow. If we had been feeling tired from our flight, this definitely woke us up and made us alert — clinging to your seats for your life tends to do that.

After about an hour and a half, we reached the winding roads of Ubud, and the excitement I felt about being in Bali amplified even further. Ubud is an intricate system of narrow streets, where the main roads are either lined with whimsical shops filled with colourful crafts and artwork, eclectic restaurants and cafes, or guests houses and bungalows. But then, as you wander back a little further, you are pleasantly surprised by hidden labyrinths of rice paddies, palm trees, river, and jungle life.

I chose to start our honeymoon to the epicenter of all of this – Monkey Forest Road. As we turned onto the famous street, I immediately felt a rush of warm, beautiful nostalgia. My brain was moving at top speed as I observed tiny shops lining the street, and felt a strange sense of pride in recognizing the same shops that had been there 7 years earlier! It was like coming home.

I had a booking.com win when I booked our first night at the Sri Bungalows for only $45 (!) a night, which like most places in Bali, included breakfast. After checking in (where Mark’s haircut received more compliments than we could’ve predicted), we meandered down a narrow stone path that led us back to the first set of bungalows in the lush gardens. With wide eyes, we took in every detail as the sun slowly began to sink below the horizon, creating a warm inviting glow to the scenery. A small shelf of land continued our path, rice paddies to one side and a swimming pool overlooking the jungle to the other. We arrived at our room, which was simple yet perfect. A teak canopy bed adorned with fresh white linens was the focal point of the room, but it was our patio with the view of the pool and the spa that took our breath away. For only a small payment of our room rate, we had access to paradise.

Mark was like a kid as he immediately jumped into the pool and splashed around with the biggest goofy smile on his face, while I checked out the spa and reserved couples massage appointments. This would begin our love affair with inexpensive spa treatments throughout Bali.

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When I was in Bali 7 years ago, this indulgent phenomenon astonished me, so much so that I included an entire chapter in Dramatically Zen to the benefits of self-care (Treat yo’ self!). Now Mark would get to experience this first-hand, and I feel my ambassador duties had been put to positive use. For $12, we enjoyed an authentic Balinese massage, set in an open-aired room and suspended high above a flowing stream. We melted back to our room and settled into the deepest sleep possible. Arrival to Monkey Forest Road – success.

Travel Tip:

If you travel to a location where you have access to a massage (and especially if it’s priced as low as it is in Bali), BOOK AN APPOINTMENT. This allowed us to fully decompress after our 2 days of travel and stretch out our tense muscles. Even if you are conscious about talking walks throughout a flight, there is nothing that can really prepare your body for a 20+ hour journey. There is, however, many ways you can recover – a massage being the top of my list. Not only will it aid your tired muscles, it will allow there to be something set to look forward to upon arrival, catapulting you further into your travel-mode!

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