1. Cool! I’ve landed in airports down by the water before, but I can’t remember another time when I’ve had such a clear view of it taxiing down the runway to the gate. The only thing missing is a dramatic mountain range in the background, but those rolling hills will do. Expectations: High!
2. I was worried that people in Bali wouldn’t be as nice as they are in Thailand, but my concerns are proving to be for naught. So far so welcoming. Interestingly, from the Balinese couple sitting next to me on the AirAsia flight (both of whom work in local hotel management) to the taxi driver who takes me to my hotel, everyone wants to know what I do for a living. When I say, “I’m a journalist,” you would think I just revealed that I’ve walked on the moon. When did we become so impressive?
3. Everyone also seems quite surprised to hear that I’m from New York City. (Is it right that I still stay that — even though I haven’t actually lived there in more than six years?) Much to their disappointment, they don’t seem to get many American tourists in Bali. It’s nice to be wanted somewhere outside of the U.S.! They do, however, get tons of Australians because of the island-country-continent’s proximity, which is good news to me. (My great big soft spot for Aussies remains as great, big and soft as ever.) Expectations: higher!
4. Uh oh! What’s going on here? Where are the rock formations? Oh yeah, this isn’t Krabi. It’s Bali, a place that more than a few people have described to me as “paradise.” More than a few also warned me about the tourist trap known as Kuta, and whoever said I’d hate it was right. Too bad we have to drive through it on the way to the Haven Seminyak, my hotel, which I hope is far far away from this maddening crowd. Unfortunately, my hopes are dashed when the taxi driver pulls over and stops as motorbikes continue to fly by. This will be my home for the next two nights?
5. The Haven came highly recommended on Agoda.com (a “Fantastic” 8.3 rating), and I do love the Melrose Place set up in which the balconies of the rooms overlook a courtyard with a swimming pool in the middle. But in the absence of Andrew Shue and Grant Show lookalikes to ogle, when I step outside the lobby, I want to see water, mountains and/or a great big rock formation. (Yes, the Vogue Resort & Spa in Krabi has spoiled me for good!) What do I get? A Circle K convenience store — and it doesn’t even have as good a selection of goodies as the 7-11s in Bangkok. Hopefully, the hotel’s private beach that the bellman proudly tells me about (“It’s 15 minutes walking, probably 10 for you because you look like you work out,” he said) while showing me to my room will make up for the lack of breathtaking scenery so far.
6. The bacon cheeseburger that I have for lunch in the hotel restaurant because I’m too tired and hot to go looking for local food almost does. Juicy, perfectly seasoned and creating just enough of a mess, it’s possibly the best one I’ve had since my sister and I used to go to Flaky Jake’s in Orlando to have custom-made burgers every weekend when I was a teenager. If Bali can do this with a burger, imagine what it can do with its own cuisine. Bali, there might be hope for you yet!
And according to several people I’ve asked (and a few I haven’t), I might find it in Ubud, Lombok, Lovina, Lembongan and/or Gili. Any place that comes with that many recommendations deserves to be judged on more than six first impressions. Stay tuned. It may not have been love at first sight for Bali and me, but I’ve still got plenty of time to fall.