Nusa Dua – an enclave of five-star resorts in southern Bali – might be the most beautiful place we’ve been that I just can’t imagine going back to. We stayed at The Laguna, a really great resort where, because of our Starwood status, we were upgraded to a nice suite. Sweet! (And we relearned an important lesson. Starwood properties are supposed to upgrade us to the best “standard suite” available when we check in. They didn’t, and after unpacking we went online to see if there were better rooms available. There were so, after lunch, I went to see a manager. She apologized, had some lame excuse, and we moved into the much larger suite. Lesson? It’s OK to complain. You might get a much nicer room!)
At any rate, the resort was little short of stunning, with a great sandy beach and more swimming pools than you’ve ever seen anywhere. Because it’s a bit off-season it wasn’t crowded at all, and though we normally don’t like big resorts, this one hit the sweet spot.
So why wouldn’t we come back? Except for the resort and several others along the same beach, there was really nothing here. No local town, no decent local restaurants, no cool local … anything. And because of Nusa Dua’s location on a peninsula on the southern tip of Bali and the horrible traffic, you couldn’t really go anywhere else. So we were kind of stuck, though stuck in a beautiful resort isn’t the worst thing in the world.
If the goal is to “get away from it all” at a great beach resort, this does the job. We’ve learned, though, over the last few years that for us there’s nothing we’re trying to get away from (except the new administration in DC, but that’s another story). If there’s no stress in your life, the “get way from it all” thing just doesn’t pack that much punch. And since there are other great beaches and resorts in the world where you’re not so cut off from the local life, that’s where we’ll be aiming for in the future.
The food situation in Nusa Dua was kind of grim. Who’d have thought that after moving down to the fancy southern part of the island we would pine for the great restaurants of Lovina? All of the big resorts had multiple restaurants that were expensive and not that good. And as for the local options, they were if anything worse; cheap and just not worth it. Ultimately we found one genuinely good restaurant at one of the resorts; unlike the other resorts this one appeared to be independent, meaning that maybe they had to try harder. And we found one OK local restaurant for a couple of lunches. But mostly the meal options were decidedly inferior to anything we’ve had in a long time.
One of the things anyone immediately notices about Bali is that there are Hindu temples everywhere: big ones, little ones, all kinds. And everywhere, more evidence of my theory that the poorer people are the more they spend on religious stuff. We know from previous trips to Bali that you can’t go into the bigger temples without “proper attire” which, for men, includes a “no shorts” policy. And I think I remember from the past that menstruating women can’t go into the temples at all, no matter how they’re dressed. Seems a little medieval to me, but then there’s lots of religious stuff that’s medieval. The big news to us, though, was a sign outside one small temple that had the usual restrictions for proper attire and menstruating women, but added that infants under the age of 42 days were prohibited as well. Very strange. I wonder what differentiates a 41-day-old baby from a 42-day old baby?
We did have one important task to take care of in Nusa Dua, starting the process of extending our 30-day Indonesia visit. Getting the initial visa at the airport was super easy, just a few minutes and a few dollars. Extending it for another 30 days, though, is a bureaucratic nightmare. You have to go to the immigration office (which apparently moves frequently, so we weren’t even sure where it was) and fill out forms. Fair enough. Fill out forms in black ink, I should add, since I did it in blue ink and was duly reprimanded and told to go back and start over. Once that’s done, and they have copies of your outbound fight – God knows they wouldn’t want you to stay longer and spend more money – you’re told to come back in five days to get your picture taken and to pay the fee. (Why you can’t do that the first day was not explained.) and after that you have to come back three days later to actually pick up your passport and new visa. What a hassle.
And, to make it worse, we’d brought our umbrellas since in rainy season it can start pouring at pretty much any time. I set mine down to fill out the form … and walked away without it, never to see it again. Mark and I have often remarked how amazing it is that we have the same collapsible umbrellas that we left Boston with in 2013. Who keeps an umbrella for that long without losing it or having it break or something? Well, we did, until the immigration office. I’d traveled with it for 1,381 days and now it’s gone. How sad!