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Tricycles on Rooftops in Seminyak

overcast 29 °C

It smells different. But to millions of people, it smells like home. I’m just not one of those people, and my nostrils take a few moments to adjust at the airport to smells that are unfamiliar.
And so the adventures begin, at near-enough midnight in Denpasar airport. Sepah siap? It means either “are you ready?” or “already ready!” Regardless, yes I am!

And uneventful flight with half of Tinder’s male, tattooed, population, and groups of friends who are noisy with excitement. My delightful neighbour pre-warns me that since he’s a heavy drinker, I can expect a fair few toilet breaks and disruptions to my movie-watching. But bless him, he fell asleep, so there were only a few interruptions to an otherwise decidedly unexciting movie.

From Perth, which was mildly cool when I left, to Bali’s hot mushy air. First challenge, the taxi! Now none of this is particularly out of the ordinary, it starts as every normal holiday starts, except this is the first time that I’ve taken myself on an overseas adventure. I’ve done very little travel in my time – Thailand and Hawaii, and a brief Bali trip years ago is about the extent of my passport stamps – and so my senses are heightened. I’m freaking out about getting in a taxi with a crazy person (he wasn’t crazy in the end – Mr Jon Katut), being ripped off, or having all my luggage stolen the first time I have to check a map, but everyone is so lovely and the drivers are fighting for passengers as their highest priority. I have no idea what I paid, or whether it was in the ballpark of acceptable, but who cares, it got me to a clean bed in less than 20 minutes.

Driving through the streets of Bali, and no doubt many Asian countries, is an experience. The lady-boys are out in their hundreds, lining streets that are too narrow, the taxi dodging scooters left right and centre, and narrowly missing everyone we pass. It’s Friday night, and if this is the nightlife of Seminyak I think I would be nervous to venture out along. Thankfully, tomorrow I won’t have to as a few friends from home are also in town, and they can supervise my adventures for at least one night while I get used to the haggling, the taxis, and where I am. We arrive at Grandma’s Hotel – an unremarkable, but friendly and clean hotel for about $36 per night, with crisp white sheets and awesome pillows. Two episodes of ‘Girls’ and a cold shower later, I was out like a light.

I don’t think my body got the message that I was on holidays yet. I woke up at 7:30am, as normal, got up, got ready on autopilot, and ventured out into Seminyak’s streets. The hunt was on for breakfast, but first I wanted to just wander the streets and check out my surrounds. Thank goodness I brought my fan! I am not one for humid heat and I’m dripping with sweat in minutes. I was surprised to see how expensive some of the clothing shops were – not dissimilar to Perth prices, albeit you can find things you’re unlikely to find back home, minus the ease of refund and returns.
After a short time exploring (once you’ve seen 200m of any of the streets in Seminyak, you’ve pretty much covered everything you’re going to find), I’m ready for the rest and relaxation to begin! The beach is only a few minutes away, so I meander in its general directly, swing past the hotel, and make the first of many costume changes for the day. I’m decked out in my fluoro pink and orange Seafolly retro bikini and some sheer black and white number. I can’t quite remember if this is somewhere where you’re meant to be modest and cover up a little, but the beach is only a few minutes away, so I risk it. ‘Ooo pretty lady’…cheers mate.

In Perth, the beaches are essentially pristine as far up or down the coast you go, and Rottnest beaches are as spectacular and clean as they come. Seminyak on the other hand, did not give me the joyous holiday beach feeling that I’ve always expected of places like this. The sand was a dirty brown/black colour, it was fine grain so stuck to every bead of sweat on me, and the water was unappealing. Perhaps this is why every hotel has a spectacular pool to lounge around. Except mine. To my surprise, Grandma’s Hotel was undergoing a restaurant and pool renovation, so no tropical oasis 12 feet from my room that I had hoped for. The cocktails by the pool would need to wait for another time, as would a swim in the ocean. But Chez Gado Gado, quite a nice beach-front restaurant, was beckoning with eggs benedict.

Heading back to the hotel, it dawned on me that I’d been in tropical Bali for a whole 10 hours, and hadn’t yet had a massage or a manicure. Good gracious, I’m letting the proverbial ball slip! I walked past dozens of little massage places with tanks of tiny fish out the front designed to suck the crap off your feet and ‘cleanse’ you somehow. No, thank you. So I entered into a delightful spa, and had an epic pedicure, during which I blissed out half asleep on the reclining chair, and a quick manicure. I instantly disliked the colour I’d chosen.

Lunchtime, and I was due to meet Perth MeetUp friends from ‘The Dirty Dozen’ at Mamasan Restaurant in Seminyak. It’s meant to be excellent, and had booked out for dinner, so lunch was the only opportunity to give it a go. It was lovely seeing some familiar faces, and these are all people that share a similar affiliation for fine food. Mamasan has some spectacular décor, with an entire wall dedicated to a stunning painting of a geisha of sorts, detailed to such an extent that it looks like a photograph rather than a painting. The symmetry of the bar was beautiful, with two staircases
flanking the sides and leading to a second floor for functions.

We ordered cocktails and delectable food. A lemoncello & chilli martini facilitated my afternoon buzz, and had just enough tang and spice to be refreshing and totally unusual. For entrees we shared beef dumplings, peking duck on a bed of choy sum and pickled ginger, and delicate salt and pepper squid. The dumplings left some of us wondering what the fuss was about, but everything else was fresh and tasty. For main course, one of our party had a whole crispy barramundi with sweet chilli jam, which was incredible…flaky, sweet, and different. And it was so good, that even the eyeballs were savoured momentarily, until the gritty, chewy centre remained, and was promptly discarded. Gross. By the way, that was not me! The two other dishes comprised a sweet lamb and pea laarb, and a prawn, chilli jam, and cashew stir fry. Overall, the cocktails were exceptional, and the food was tasty. Sitting next to us was a lone gentleman having a crack at an epic crispy pork hock the size of my head, getting meat sweats, whilst endeavouring to savour the whole experience without passing out! There were definitely more things on the menu worth trying, best savoured over a leisurely dinner another time.

The afternoon wiled away with a leisurely swim at The Hotel Seminyak (wow!), in the rain, before an afternoon nap back at Grandma’s in preparation for a night out on the town which started with a passionfruit mango martini cocktail at Cocoon Beach Club.

Dinner was an unscheduled delight, having walked up the unusually quiet streets near Legian to an unassuming restaurant front which was supposedly serving the best beef carpaccio around. And it was exceptional. Around the perimeter of the restaurant were raised booths of cushions with a low table for diners to laze around whilst eating. The exhaustion of the last few months of work and study were slowly creeping in, so the comfort of a padded cocoon was lulling me into a daze. Yet again, the restaurant offered an extensive menu of everything from traditional fare, pizza and pasta, to Australian steak. But I had seafood on the mind.

I ordered the seafood extravaganza, and it lived up to its title. Four different types of fish, prawns (well, prawn actually), a baby stuffed squid, and half (yes half!) a tiny scallop. We pondered where the other half had gone, because really, it was quite unusual! Each morsel of my meal was individually marinated in a different type of spice mix, full of flavour, served hot in a searing pan. And it was so good that I didn’t once get food envy from the whole crab next to me. We were the only people in the restaurant except for the stray kittens running up and down the stairs to the back of the restaurant – black and white – finding a skerrick of food here and there to fill out their skinny frames. Not surprising for an 11pm dinnertime. I was fading fast and just about ready to pack it in for the night and get back to Grandma’s, when the one thing that would keep me out was offered. “Let’s go to La Favela”.

La Favela was in the buzzing central of Seminyak, and is the most unusual, wonderful bar I have ever been in. The place is nothing short of breathtaking, creepy, underworld, vintage sheik. You walk into another world via a walkway over flowing water, amongst luscious greenery reaching high up the walls. The bar itself is generally dark. On every wall and surface is vintage memorabilia, artworks, chandeliers. There are statues, including a replica of “Christ the Redeemer”, which sits atop a hill in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The adjacent rooftop is scattered with old-fashioned tricycles. There are antique, wrought iron spiral staircases scattered around the various levels of what can only be described as a labyrinth of dark and dreamy areas to explore and occupy. There are private dining rooms lining one side of the area, decked out with the full regalia of vintage table settings and random moody artefacts. It is a photographer’s (or budding, wanna-be, photographer-in-training’s) absolute fantasy.

I first saw La Favela during the day, when my friends could not help but point out every nook and cranny. In the evening, it was exactly what I imagined. Buzzing with the eclectic mix of internationals that the bar effortlessly attracts. The music was fun and funky, and despite the expense of a wine or cocktail, was worth the cheeky, arm-flailing dancing that followed.

But in my true fashion, I hit the wall…hard, and made a swift exit in search of a cold shower and comfy bed and the respectable time of 1am.

Daily summary:

Outfit changes: 4
Cold showers: 3
Deep-fried crispy pork-hocks: 0 (and my heart thanks me)
IDR spent: more than I can count

Flailing arm-dancing witnessed only by the creepy replication of ‘Frida’: priceless!

Posted by jenniferhall 06:35 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali beach bar seminyak

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