I spent another week in Bali this October. The actual plan was to meet up with Adit and Ney for our #PecahdiUbud routine at Ubud International Writers & Readers Festival; but I intentionally came a few days earlier, wanting to savor Bali by myself. No wild parties, no shopping spree. I spent those days to walk around aimlessly in shorts, sleeveless top and flip-flops: eating out, having cocktails or coffee, writing, reading, and daydreaming.
And these are some of the places where I had been hiding, alone:
Cocoon Beach Club, Jl. Double Six no. 66, Blue Ocean Boulevard, Legian.
Just come early in the morning (while it’s still empty) for breakfast, plunge into the swimming pool every once and a while, and then spend the rest of your time sunbathing while reading some good books.
Gusto Gelato & Caffè, 67 B Jalan Umalas 2, Kerobokan, Seminyak
A tiny gem in Kerobokan! Located inside a small road, these gelato shop is offering the most delicious gelato I’ve ever tasted so far. And it’s cheap, too! For USD$2 or around IDR 20,000, you could have one luscious cup of gelato; and the portion is generous! Don’t forget to try the chocolate chili. Amazingly hot and spicy!
Kunyit Bali, Jalan Kartika Plaza, Kuta.
Craving for some Balinese food? Stop by at Kunyit Bali. Lovely place, good food (the crispy duck is amazingly delicious), friendly staff, cozy ambience.
Nammos Beach Club, Jalan Villa Kandara, Banjar Wijaya Kusuma, Ungasan.
Located inside the luxurious Karma Kandara resort, you need to pay USD$35 to ride an elevator down to Nammos Beach Club (the elevator ride is free for the resorts’ guests). From that particular amount, the USD$25 can be spent later on, at the beach bar, to order some food and drinks. Though it’s quite expensive, I just love the beach club. I love the service. I love the fact that you can just leave all your belongings if you’d like to go for a swim—because the staff will look after it (very important when you’re traveling alone). I love it that they have a drink called Hemingway Daiquiri.
JuMaNa Bar, Banyan Tree Ungasan, Jl. Melasti, Banjar Kelod, Ungasan.
They said you need to have a reservation first for dinner. I came at around 4:30, saying that I just wanted to chill at the bar, and then a golf cart came to take me down from the lobby of Banyan Tree hotel to JuMaNa Bar. I sat outside, sipping their signature cocktail JuMaNa Royal (champagne flavoured with yuzu essence and Moroccan rose petal water) that tastes as ‘royal’ as its price, waiting for the sun to set.
Corner Store, Jln. Laksmana 10A, Seminyak
Lovely place serving healthy meals; perfect for brunch or coffee-time in the afternoon. I fall in love with the smoked salmon bagel.
Blue Point, Uluwatu.
When some friends from abroad came to Bali, I always take them to Blue Point, Uluwatu. Nothing much to do but to chill while drinking soft drinks or beers, looking at the surfers riding the waves, and telling stories while enjoying the sea breeze. Alone at Blue Point? I’ll just sit there and write for hours.
There were moments when people just took off and left you behind; and you thought they were being unfair and selfish. Other times, it was you who decided to pack your bag and leave, and when they said, please, stay, you thought how annoying and unfair they were for trying to tie you down. And now you realize that maybe people are just afraid. Afraid of being alone, again. Afraid of being forgotten. Afraid of being a history…
And it reminded me of that day when we were about to swim in the pool one afternoon, but it was raining cats and dogs; and so we stood there, at the edge of yes or no, with our swimsuits and towels and flip-flops and all. The sound of the rain was deafening, the water was gleaming under the raindrops, the wind was blowing hard and cold, and so we hesitated for a while but then we exchanged a few if-not-now-then-when glances and nodded and hand in hand we plunged ourselves into the freezing water and we could hear ourselves screaming and laughing and water was splashing everywhere and we just knew that we won’t regret this because it was too effing awesome and we were not afraid to take that first leap of faith.
My dear friend Nadia asked me to write a script for her pre-wedding video. We had discussed about the concept of the video beforehand, but I had never seen the video itself until it was finished—and I needed to think about the matching script that would go along with the video’s storyline. The first thing that crossed my mind was the fact that Nadia and her husband, Deni, are totally different; they’re like each other’s opposite. But maybe, to them, that’s love. It’s not about similarities, but about differences.
Maybe love is not about similarities. Maybe love is about differences. About how he loves to play tennis and gets a tan… while she just sits there, cheering, and trying to be cute with an SPF 30 sun protection lotion. Maybe love is not about similarities. Maybe love is about differences. It’s about how she loves all the cute stuff; and how he just doesn’t get it. Maybe love is not about similarities. Maybe love is about differences. About how she loves to capture him with her camera lens, while he loves to capture her with the glance of his eyes. Maybe love is not about similarities. Maybe love is about differences. It’s about how she gets bored easily. And gets excited (easily, too) by random romantic lines. About him being very serious whenever he works; and about her, being annoying, all the time. About him trying to be patient and her trying to be lenient. Maybe love is not about similarities. Maybe love is about differences. About how he tries to be romantic; and how she tries to be thinner. About how she does ridiculous things (sometimes worse than this); and how it makes him smile. Maybe love is not about similarities. Maybe love is about differences. It’s about him being cool; and her anything but cool. Maybe love is about being OK with that, and being lonely without.
*)written for Nadia Sabrina.
The next morning, I was on a boat for El Nido’s famous island-hopping tour. I was sharing the boat with two couples on their first and second honeymoon. One of them is Belle and Michael, who had just got married a few days before. Their love story was just amazing: from best friends to husband and wife :’) Island-hopping is a must in El Nido. What’s great is that the local authority have managed to regulate the price for such tours (tour A, B, C and D) so you won’t be ripped off. The authority have also decided on the islands we can visit (Turtle Island, for instance, where turtles lay their eggs, is closed for public. Only researchers can land on this island after obtaining a permit).
When you pay for the tour, included in the price is the boat, guides, lunch, and snorkeling gears. And snorkeling is also a must, because the underwater view is just amazing! The clear water and the fish and the colorful corals… breath-taking! And don’t worry if you can’t swim (or too lazy to swim). You’ll have a life vest, so you can just float lazily there. If you don’t know how to snorkel, the guide will teach you how.
There are two lagoons included in the tour (small lagoon and big lagoon). To reach these lagoons, you need to swim through an opening between the cliffs, because the boat could not get in. But if you can’t swim, the guides will help you to get there. No worries. Traveling alone? The guides will take your camera and put it inside their waterproof bag, and will take pictures for you during the trip (good pictures, too!). I love the guides! And they prepared our lunch-by-the-beach, too! ^^
What’s better than enjoying lunch accompanied by such a beautiful view (and a cute dog)?
It was during lunch when I met Mischa and Julia and some of their friends. They were about to take a group photo by placing their camera on a rock. And because I overheard them speaking in Russian, I greeted them and offered them some help. We ended up conversing in Russian (well, perfect Russian on their side because they came from Moscow and could not speak English; and broken Russian on my side) and took turns taking pictures of each other.
Matinloc Shrine was amazing. It was located in a small island, surrounded by the forests and the cliffs. It was also known as Shrine of Our Lady of Matinloc or Shrine of the Blessed Virgin). The view from the top of the cliff were just awesome; it was worth climbing.
And it won’t be complete without lazying on the beach, waiting for the sun to set, and drinking young coconut water (buko in Tagalog) before heading back to town.
The photographs tell it all :)
This is my typical morning in El Nido: woke up at around 7 or 8 in the morning, had a shower, and walked lazily to the small hut in the inn’s area; had my morning dose of coffee, toast, and omelette; and sat there for around an hour—enjoying the view of the ocean and the cliffs while listening to the melodious sound of the waves.
Then I would be taking a walk by the beach, dipping my feet in the water, joining the kids who were playing catch, taking pictures… and breathing in the fresh morning air. It smelled of summer and flowers and daydream.
El Nido town is very small; you could walk your way everywhere. After taking my morning stroll at the beach, I would just wander around the streets—checking out the small cafes, still-closed bars and restaurants. When I looked up, I could see the sky and the cliffs surrounding the town.
When the sun became too hot to bear, I would just sit at a small diner in front of La Banane’s hostel—having iced coffee, juice, and cheeseburger for a quick lunch while conversing with the owner; a very friendly lady. When she saw me reading a book there while munching my cheeseburger, she said, “Why don’t you just come inside the hostel? We have a terrace there, and you can read there. Will be more convenient than reading here, and cooler, too!”
Afterwards, full and a bit sleepy, I would retreat to my hammock at the inn to read and write; glancing at this view every once and a while.
One afternoon, as I sat there, a pretty little girl came by and watched me taking pictures with my DSLR. She wanted to try, so I taught her how to snap some pictures. And then she saw me taking pictures with my iPhone, and she wanted to try, too. Her name is Maria, and we spent that entire afternoon taking pictures of the beachside.
Then her mother, Lani—who turned out to work in El Nido arranging tours, came along and we chatted for a while under the shade. She brought along a plate of Philippine’s typical jelly (she said), made of coconut milk. It was really refreshing for such a hot and humid afternoon!
Not long after, Maria’s brother, Klein, joined us and took pictures of everything, too. They are so cute—and they definitely know how to pose in front of the camera!
“There will be two couples going for island-hopping tour tomorrow,” said Lani afterwards, when I asked her about the island-hopping tour in El Nido. “Why don’t you just join them, so you can split the cost and do not have to hire your own boat?”
I agreed to that. Deal. It would be two couples on their honeymoon and yours truly, alone.
I had heard about Palawan before. But El Nido—particularly, came to me in a dream. In the dream, I was spending some time there; at a beach house; with a guy I had a crush on (later on, I found out that the guy turned out to be a jerk). But, anyway, El Nido had captured me somehow. My boss—who had been there in the 80s, also encouraged me to go there. Thus, just like that, El Nido became one of the destination for my one-month traveling journey. A week before my departure, I found a cheap ticket from Philippine Airline via Skyscanner (oh, I love this site!) and booked my flight from Jakarta to Manila and from Manila to Palawan. Two days later, I checked the weather forecast for El Nido and Palawan during the dates of my stay. The results? Rain, storm, rain, rain, storm, rain… whatever! >__<
It took around 3.5 hours to fly from Jakarta to Manila, an hour flight from Manila to Palawan (Puerto Princessa) and 6-8 hours ride on a public van (around 500-600 Pesos) or the green-yellow RORO bus (300-400 Pesos) to reach El Nido from Puerto Princessa. Public van or buses are available near Puerto Princessa airport; even if you have not booked in advance, you won’t find any trouble in getting a transport to El Nido as long as it is still under 6 pm (oh, and it seems like everyone speaks English which makes it easier for you to ask for help or directions). I took the Eulen Joy public van to El Nido that day. “Marina Garden,” I told the driver when he asked where I stayed in El Nido. And so the bumpy ride began: downhill, uphill, downhill, uphill, mountain forests, villages, mountain forests, villages, it was very similar to riding a roller coaster (apart from the somersault)—but of course, being me, I just sat by the window, put on my sunglasses, hugged my backpack, and slept throughout the journey.
I had booked an accommodation at Marina Garden Beach Resort in El Nido beforehand; via SMS (turned out it was faster to arrange everything via SMS instead of emails).
Don’t expect anything fancy from this place though the name might suggest so. El Nido is a newly-developed tourism destination, so most accommodations in this area consist of home stays and small inns (though constructions for hotels and inns were everywhere when I was there. well, there is this fancy El Nido Resorts in Miniloc Island if you’d like to go posh). In Marina Garden, the rate is around 700-800 Pesos per night. The room is very basic: bed, desk, bathroom, fan, old air-con, no television set; but it’s clean and tidy. Like everywhere else in this island, the electricity runs only from 2 pm to 6 am. So it’s best to go out in the morning and enjoy the sun!
Marina Garden’s location is very convenient because it is right in the middle of everything, including the police station (safe!), tourism office, and the rows of cafes, restaurants, and bars (you can just walk for 1-5 minutes to reach those places), plus, the departure point for the island-hopping boats is right in front of their yard! But what’s best is that they have this amazing ocean view only 10 steps away from the room; a small hut where you can have breakfast or coffee; and the hammock—my hammock (!).
Thank God I got some sunny days while I was in El Nido (don’t trust the weather forecast?)—though it was usually raining or drizzling in the evening and very early in the morning (I got my umbrella with me!). However, the mist that rose up afterwards from the rocks and limestone cliffs surrounding the small town gave such an amazing view; I could not complain.
And that was exactly how I spent my first days in El Nido: woke up at around 7, took a shower, ate my breakfast, got a cup of coffee, then retreated to my hammock to read and write all day.
I want this view from my backyard. I can get used to this.