One really ought to arrive in Paradise while Father Sol beams upon the land--so one can appreciate the beauty from afar as the Garuda bird circles ever lower. But we arrive in Bali on a tropical night, Tuesday, June 5, 1990, with only the airport lights winking their welcome. Once off the plane, though, we KNOW we're in some place exotic. Glimpses of lovely tropical bushes, trees and flowers offer us a preview of what's to come as we hurry across the tarmac toward the terminal building. We get in line at Customs--yes, even a tropical paradise has such mundanities. We feel grateful to be standing after such a long time sitting.
We'd departed Los Angeles at 8:30 a.m., Sunday, June 3. Actual airtime logged was only 17 hours and 45 minutes. We'd had to leave Monday behind at the International Dateline. We'll retrieve the lost day on our return, but then its name will be "Friday." Los Angeles to Honolulu: 5 hours flight time. Layover: 2 hours. Honolulu to Guam: on a different plane for 7 hours. Layover: only one hour. Guam to Bali: on a third plane, 4 hours and 45 minutes.
The long lines at Customs frustrate us, so we keep trying to get into the line that seems the fastest. However, our group ends up getting checked through last. But, Don G. Campbell, our leader, exults that this is the smoothest entrance into Bali he's ever experienced out of all the groups he's brought here! Then we find out that Barbara's wheelchair which she'd checked through from LA to Bali, hasn't arrived, although her luggage did arrive. We wait and wait some more while officials try to trace the chair. Finally they say they can't find it tonight. We board the buses for our long ride to our home-away-from-home, the town of Ubud in Bali's central highlands.
After skirting through the capitol city, Denpasar, we drive on roads transformed into tree- and bamboo-lined tunnels by the bus' headlights. It's all we can see of Paradise this late at night. Even the small towns seem to have snuggled down for a slumber. They don't seem to have any sidewalks to roll up for the night. I feel frustrated that I'm wasting these precious minutes not being able to see anything. I doze.
At long last, half asleep, we clunk down off the buses and gather around Don to get our room assignments. We're in a courtyard paved with blocks, surrounded by several small thatch-roofed pavilions and a large stone gate that looks like the backdrop for a theater. This is all we can see of the Puri Saran, or the Prince's Palace hotel. Without her wheelchair, Barbara will have to make her way over lumpy ground and up some small steps using only her two metal walking canes--in almost total darkness except for an inadequate circle of flashlight.
Don preps the whole group to expect rather primitive accommodations, such as no hot water, no electricity--gee, that leaves me with only 5 hours of battery life for my minicam--and few other amenities. Joan and I are roommates, thank goodness. I've known her for several years. We hold our breath when Don announces that we two plus several others will be staying at another hotel a block away! The Puri Saran doesn't have room for all 33 of us. Inwardly we groan. But Don says he'll be with us at this other place. Saying goodbye to the rest and negotiating the bumpy narrow sidewalk, we feel very much the expatriates.
Oh lovely surprise! Fortune and the Universe have smiled upon us! The Puri Saraswati rates as one of the most exotic places I've seen. This utterly charming little hotel, laid out like a temple, consists of a small front building where we register, and a group of bungalows built around a lovely garden-like courtyard. Each bungalow consists of two bedrooms, each with its own tiled bathroom. The rooms seem small, the baths quite large, as these things go.
Highly varnished bamboo lines the walls and ceiling that slopes down from inside the high peak of the heavily thatched roof. Humidity and mosquito chasers consist of a wall-mounted revolving fan and a mosquito coil stuck in an empty Coca Cola bottle on the floor. The screened windows have a decorative bamboo grill. Blue Balinese gods dance upon the white background of the sturdily woven curtain cloth. Highly varnished bamboo frames everything--mirrors, light fixtures, doorways--and also forms the furniture. Smooth glazed 12-inch square tiles give a warm terracotta glow to the floors of the bedrooms, center hall and veranda.
The bathroom pleasantly surprises us. Matte-glazed 8-inch light blue floor tiles match the medium pastel shades of the glossy mottled 3-in" by 8-in" wall tiles. Some of these tiles sport glaze-painted flower designs in dark and cerulean blues. A full-sized blue plastic bath tub even has a shower hose--but no shower curtain! I take a shower while kneeling in the tub so I don't splatter water all over the place.
Here is a link to an official article about Puri Saraswati that shows photos of views of the hotel grounds, the Lotus Café, the Lotus Pond and the Temple Puri Saraswati that I mention here in my journal. This hotel has changed and upgraded considerably since I was there. Also, a link to a travelog page about the village of Ubud, our base of operations for most of our stay in Bali.
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