Bali: then and now

Bali: then and now

NEWS . . .NEWS . . .NEWS . . .Hotel Indigo Bali Seminyak Beach becomes the first 5-star rated Hotel Indigo in the world. The five star rating is from LSU Pariwisata Bali Mandiri, a tourism association in Bali responsible for all Indonesian property ratings, which is part of the National Accreditation Committee in Indonesia.

Following is a post from last year, and after the accolade for Hotel Indigo – thought it time to rerun . . .

Our car swept into the hotel’s large arrival pavilion, and we walked into a vast, endless gallery of light and space, a breezeway of extraordinary proportions dotted with chairs of differing design and wonderful hanging objects of light shade designs.

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This was the recently opened Hotel Indigo, Seminyak Bali. A five-star beauty. In the heat of the day we were offered a cooling drink, wet towels and sincere smiles of welcome.

Our room’s hero was the enormous bed, the bathroom had a shower with a nod to old Bali with a large, gold pitcher mimicking the ‘mandi’ style of the simple Bali way to bathe.

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It was then it hit me, how things have changed, Well, of course I have changed in 30 years and so has Bali! I arrived here with a presentable piece of luggage and not a world-weary backpack. I was wearing linen pants and not a long cheesecloth skirt. And I was immediately unashamedly in love with this hotel.

Bali for a beginner

An earlier visit for me was a spontaneous decision to go to Bali when I found I had a secret stash of $500 in an old bank account. I had been back in Sydney for 10 months after living in Europe for three years. I was restless and needed to get away again. Bali it was. That $500 was a bloody fortune then.

I stayed at el cheapo places along the way when on the island; motels. guesthouses and losmens (a bit like homestay but in a family compound). The places cost no more than $2 a night. Came with a room, simple furnishings if any, a bed, overhead fan and a mandi. A mandi is a divine way to clean yourself. Usually round about a square metre concrete tub filled with clean water. You stand outside the tub, soap up then dip a pale or pitcher in the tub, scoop up the water and pour it over your head and body.

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Cheeky monkey, and a minute later he grabbed hold of the top of my dress and dragged it down about my waist.

Travelling solo I met up with other girls and we ate together, went to the beach and one of them (from Canada) and I ended up in a tiny truck, sharing the back with large bundles of bamboo, a pig and an old lady with large holes in her pierced ears that held her rolled up money (notes). She kept on plucking at the blonde hair on my thighs and chuckling for the long journey

We arrived in Singaraja, an old Dutch port in the north of Bali to see a river crowded with rubbish and filth. This was my first encounter with a polluted river. Not much has changed in Indonesia.

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River pollution in the 1980s . . .and it gets worse, right into the 21st century.

The beaches along the coast up north have black sand and the sea is warm. There were few tourists in town back in the day and most restaurants were tiny shopfronts selling basic but good nasi goreng and sates. But there was always a good breakfast even at the cheapies, fresh fruit, strong Bali coffee and flakey pastries.

Back down south to what was to become known as Bali’s cultural heart, Ubud. It was a sleepy village then, where bullock drawn carts crackled though the dirt roads, someone would be churning ice in a roadside cart making ‘icejuices’ (ice, condensed mild and fresh fruit) and where women still comfortably walked around with bare breasts as they went about their daily chores and placed pretty Hindu votives on the side of the road and at entrances to homes and shops.

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Hardly another tourist in sight.

After two weeks in Bali I had $150 left over and ended up giving it to a guy with a motor bike whom I had hired to drive me to all the sites in and around Ubud. His response surprised me, he said that the money would keep his two daughters in school for a year. Sometimes you don’t know when you do a good deed.

Years on and $500 wouldn’t go so far. But Bali is still quite inexpensive.

And no longer do I sleep under rickety fans, eat for 50c at the beaches or get a baby oil massage on the sand and fry like a hot chip!

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Ready to roast. What were we thinking?

At Hotel Indigo I swam in beautiful pools, sat in the shade under tropical foliage around one of the pools and the sun didn’t stand a chance with my 30 plus sunscreen.

BALIXOLOGY

Instead of drinking ‘java’ on the roadsides I sipped on Earl Grey tea in the beautiful Pottery Cafe at Hotel Indigo. Here all types of coffee is roasted and served. Choose from the wide variety of beans grown throughout Indonesia. But for me, it has to be tea in the afternoon because you have to eat scones, jam and cream with your soothing cuppa. The main restaurant is large and inviting with a visible kitchen and after experiencing dinner and breakfast (lunch was lazy hot chips by the pool), I could see how the hotel has lifted Bali’s culinary offerings. Beware the breakfast menu! After fruit, toast, eggs, and a few other delights, you think you’ve finished, then a sneaky fella turns up at your table with fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolat au pain – what can you do? And with the coffee roasting next door, a large cup is mandatory!

The hotel is opposite the beach at Seminyak, separated only by the road. So, with local design ambience and colour, the hotel has a typically local feel, but  . . . everything is better on this side of the road.

Time flies, and my early hippie days were fun and frivolous, but older and not wiser now, the comfort of a beautiful hotel, the kindness of Balinese staff and the indulgence of a five-star experience beats the past. And if I feel nostalgic for the old days, I’ll just fill my elegant pitcher in my shower and pour water over my head.

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Writer, Bev Malzard was a guest at Hotel Indigo Seminyak www.hotelindigo.com/Bali

And despite age and moving on from the past, she can still rock a cheesecloth skirt, but refuses to have an afro perm – one of her appearance fails in the early 1980s.

Get outta town – or slow travel on weekends

Get outta town – or slow travel on weekends

SLOW TRAVEL #1

Winter in Australia – all over Australia – is not a hardship. Maybe down south there’s snow and drizzle but rarely does it lock residents in their homes for too long.

Now I can only speak from my base that is Sydney, Yeah, Sydney people are pretty much big sissies in the winter from June through to August.

And even though I like to get out and about for walks I admit to taking the easy way out on a chilly day – fire on, tv on, locked in.

My partner and I decided last year to get out of town on the odd weekend the rediscover regions within a couple of hours drive time or even a cheap flight away.

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And we even ventured further than an urban adventure close to home.

Last year we flew to Melbourne and hired a car to take us the Ballarat for two nights so we could do the Silo Art Trail drive out through the western district and the Mallee. What a trip. Silo Art Trail couldn’t have been a better day – crisp cold, sunny and low flying clouds on a forever horizon.

And the experience of the illustrated silos fed our addiction to wall/outdoor art (see blog ‘Where the art is’, June 5, 2018 and ‘Painting the Town Red, June 10. 2017).

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The following day in Ballarat was crap weather, so we visited the Art Gallery (regional galleries in Australia are inspirational and impressive), grabbed lunch and went to the local movie house – a classic cinema built in the 1930s and renovated with love. After watching a blockbuster film we headed to a splendid restaurant (yes, in Ballarat) Catfish, a lauded foodie haven. And owners and chef Damien and Danielle Jones have just closed Catfish and will reopen as ‘Mr Jones’ – serving refined rustic!

A drive to Melbourne airport next day, a flight back to Sydney and we’d had an amazing weekend.

Ballarat movie theatre, a local cafe and black swans on Lake Wendouree.

Another getaway was a drive to Wisemans Ferry, a gentle area of the historic and beautiful Hawkesbury River. A day was spent walking the old convict road, reading up on the past, and taking the three-minute ferry across the river. We drove on to St Albans, a remote settlement with a pub that has tales to tell of convicts and early farmers’ trials and tribulations.

(Read Kate Grenville’s book The Secret River about a 19th century story of the region.)

Our weekends are sometimes ’half weekends’, such as a trip out west of Sydney to eat classic Vietnamese food for lunch in Cabramatta and another day in Windsor, a town that has fascinating convict buildings and a bustling brunch and lunch society.

Recently we did a three-day escape from the big smoke. A drive out of town to the Blue Mountains and across the Great Dividing Range and landed at Jenolan Caves, the old Caves House continues to have repairs done and the canteen is now a groovy café and offers up good coffee and tasty lunchtime fare. But the sight of Caves House makes one delirious with speculation and imagination – wondering how the heck this came to be. The little settlement is remote from every big town with one road in and one road out – and if the weather is bad – there’s no way out for a few days.

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We took a tour though the cold caves and it was marvellous. The stunning caverns that have seen tourists and Victorian adventurers scrabble through, then walk planned paths gaze in awe at the natural architecture of millions of years’ worth of evolution and grand design wrought by time and water.

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There are some wonderful nostalgic photographs of guests here from way back where we see woman in long skirts, blouses with leg-o-mutton sleeves and wide brimmed hats, men in coats and ties and hats – all ready to clamber over rocks and indoor ‘climbing walls’.

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The following day we drove to Kanangra Boyd National Park. This has to be one of my fave natural views in the world.

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The long plateau of sandstone juts out into Kanangra Valley that has undulating, and wonderful folding green valleys below where in a long gone past indigenous tribes trod the nomadic trading route.

We sat looking over the splendour of this vast park – unsullied by crowds, roads and development. Please let it stay that way.

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Kanangra Plateau.

A drive on to Bathurst, a university town and under a big blue sky, typically really cold during winter. A dinner at a great surprise of a restaurant – Dogwood – an Aussie take on the best of American classic food, I went for the gumbo and the ‘dog’.

So, how about making a plan? Get outta town for a couple of days, change your routine and rediscover the geography of your youth or discover an urban treasure or country town within a few hours’ drive from your front door.

As we grow older time seems to be moving faster – let’s halt its progress and advocate for ‘slow travel’ close to home.

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Happy weekend travels (or sneaky weekday getaways.)

Where do you like to ‘get away’ to on weekends not too far from home?

Writer Bev Malzard is in search of the Best Pie, or Vanilla Slice in country towns. Every town or village has a window sign at the local bakery shouting its winning achievements. She keeps taste tasting along the way and quite frankly still hasn’t had the ‘best’ yet. She continues her quest.

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