Bali ­ Yes, A Magical Island

Part 1 Bali and welcome to the Santika Beach Hotel

Departure from Bangkok was by 'posh' car, courtesy of the hotel, to the airport.

PoolNo problem at the airport, - a wait for the flight to Singapore, and the connection to Bali.

Good going, a free meal and drink on each flight; and arrival into Bali on time.

It was obviously a good omen. My case was the first out on the conveyor; so I was able to march promptly to the exit, past the customs, who, I'd been warned could be 'awkward'.

Out to meet the mass of eager taxi drivers, and name cards. There was my driver, dressed in traditional Balinese outfit.

And a short wait for another client.

I noticed that during my short wait my hands began to perspire. The humidity was high, but I guess that with this being a small island in the Indian Ocean, I didn't feel any undue discomfort.

Gentle breezes, a mix of spices and scent in the late evening air.

Soon the other client joined us, and we got into the mini-bus. I was to be the first drop.Reception

Within about 10 mins. I was at my hotel. And the first impression was so 'happy'.

Santika Beach has an 'open' reception; seemingly of typical Balinese style. The décor was so relaxing and beautiful.

The staff seemed so keen to create as warm a welcome as possible, nothing seemed too much.

There was a welcome drink as I registered, and then off to my room on the second floor.Staff

The young guy escorting me with my case patiently explained all the facilities in my room, and, re-assured that I was ok, left me to adjust to the room that was to my 'home' for nearly three weeks.

As you walked in through the door there was the bathroom etc. to the right; built in wardrobe to the left, next to a recess which contained the tea/coffee making facilities, and fridge.

And then there was the spacious bedroom with writing bureau. Down some steps to a lounge with bamboo furniture and television.

Through 'French windows' onto the outside balcony with table and chairs overlooking the swimming pool surrounded by blossoming trees, and palm trees that gently wavered in front of the full moon.

I was very happy !

I unpacked, showered, and climbed into bed, which felt so good; and started reading the book I had bought back home in Cardiff ­ 'The Butterfly Boy' by Richard Cawley.

The air conditioning, humming gently in the background.

So peaceful, soon I was asleep.

It was easy to wake up next morning, open the curtains wide, and look over this tranquil scene.

Explore my room as the tea was being made.

Settle, and truly begin to 'unwind'.

At 9am the phone rang ­ it was my Balinese friend Steven from Denpaser who I'd known over the internet for the previous ten months.

Wanting to make sure first that it was convenient, he arrived at the hotel an hour later.

I went to reception, firstly through an enormous lobby seemingly bare but with discreet seating areas and stone features taking in the sight and sound of the enormous stone urns 'gurgling' with water. The extraordinarily beautiful exotic plants. Detailed, colourful paintings on the walls.

Arriving at the reception I looked around and beyond reception through to the ponds and large gardens.Garden

I noticed Steven as he approached with the most amazing smile I'd seen, and nodding gently as we shook hands.

I think I knew then that this was to be the start of a strong, lasting friendship.

Back to my room to plan the timetable for my stay in Bali.

And then out for my first 'proper' walk round Tuban, up to Kuta.

The heat seemed comfortable, for a Welsh guy who had just a week ago been enduring the lingering effects of a long British Winter before encountering the severe heat of Bangkok..

As we walked along the pavement of kartika Plaza St. I took care to avoid the cracked drain covers.

Approaching Kuta Square the shops and stalls increased in number. I noticed that there were numerous little bamboo leaf 'baskets' on the pavements, which people carefully avoided despite there scattered positioning.

Seating Area

Steven informed me that these 'baskets' were offerings to the Gods that the shop keepers/ stall holders put out each morning to help bring them good fortune for the days trading.

I'd read that the stall holders could be nuisances with there persistent cajoling to buy there goods. But when you realise that these people are struggling to make a living you soon take it in your stride with good humour.

In Kuta Square itself I must admit I was impressed by the standard of the shops and 'superstores'.Gardens

I also learned my first lesson, next time I come to Bali, don't bother bringing many clothes ­ it is sooooo cheap to buy your stuff there (and more room in your case to bring your goodies home).

Near the Square itself was an intriguing stone building which was a dedication to the Hindu Gods.

This was all a good start.

Back to the hotel, and a swim in the pool before changing for the evening.Great Hall

Walking through the lush tropical gardens which seem to take on a new life at night ­ peaceful, sweet smelling blossoms, clear star filled sky, and then you find yourself looking over the Indian Ocean.

(continued)Indian ocean