I was on a treadmill with one of my colleagues thinking about the Bali bombings and trying to conjure up an excuse NOT TO GO to Bali. Given the events that took place a decade and a half ago – a person, such as myself, would be terrified of heading to a resort island because of extremist groups.
“What? Are you seriously afraid of something that hasn’t happened in 15 years? Are you just making excuses? Stop it. You sound ridiculous. Just go!” he said.
The next couple of weeks of pondering lead to me finally booking a ticket of course on Singapore Airlines (the fear of flying disintegrates when you fly with 5 star airlines).
I’m going to Bali!
The Lead Up
Booking a hotel at the famous Baiyoke Sky in Bangkok was essential in terms of traveling to the airport in the morning. Is the area around the hotel legitimate? Not necessarily. A bit dodgy once you step downstairs to be honest, but it was quiet and good enough for traveling instead of hauling from the outer suburbs while trying to beat the traffic. Not worth it.
Bangkok Airport, which is still technically new to the area, has it’s own nice perks. Over the last four years, massive renovations have taken place to whereas you can charge your phone at stand-alone-kiosks! Yeah, Americans….I know. Delta Airlines provides passengers at Sky Harbour International Airport in Arizona this for free, but Thailand is a completely different place. When I saw some of the flight attendants and airport personnel setting up shop for the flight from Bangkok to Singapore, I bursted into excitement before the gorgeous Singapore Airlines A320 (smaller version) came roaring into the gate. Ahhhh…alas! Here’s the beginning of my crazed trip!
Changi International Airport – Singapore
I was extremely critical of Changi the last time around because at the wee hours of the morning, there isn’t anything open. Given the fact that skytrax and other award giving websites deemed this to be the #1 airline in the world, I expect there to be currency exchange counters open and at least trains running through the terminals. NOPE!
However, during the day…it’s wonderful. I still believe that the signage is just too much at times. Too overwhelming and very hard to figure out what to do. For those traveling to Changi, be sure to figure out exactly what you’re going to do upon arrival or you’ll just be running in circles.
Gorgeously amazing flight attendants with caramel skin (Balinese I’m guessing) doing a last run of assisting passengers before the descent. Unfortunately, it was nearing 9pm at night, which takes away the gorgeous daytime view of the island, Mt. bromo, and a few other places. I recall seeing some lights in the distance outside my window, but the terrifying part about it was the glare coming from the ocean. We were literally 100m from the water with no airport in sight. FINALLY (which seemed like forever) the landing came and I took a huge breather. Wow, as an African American, being from the neighborhood I’m from…..I’ve arrived to Indonesia, which is my first time arrival and 11th country. CHECK!
From immigration officers telling Chinese people to go away, from them not even checking my bags or suspecting anything suspicious of me. Thank you, Bali. First time here and there isn’t any racial profile going on. Once I walk outside the terminal, my hotel (Sintesa Jimbaran) and private driver greeted me. He took my luggage, went to the car, and then spoke about Bali in FLUENT ENGLISH about the language on the island, people, religion, and just about everything else. The most important part of the trip…..why? I felt there was a connection. He was talking from the soul, unlike most Thai taxi drivers who sound overly friendly and make the wrong left turn to make more money on the meter. This gentleman spoke with genuinty and such truthfulness that’s even indescribable. When this happened, I then knew that these were going to be some amazing people.
Sintesa Jimbaran Hotel
This hotel was the definition of sheer beauty. I arrived and was greeted by smiles; men who were wearing these large, gown like robes and accommodating everything about me. They already knew who I was and greeted me by name, too. After getting to the hotel around 10:00pm, the concierge opened my door and I walked into an ice cold room (just the way I like it) and saw just how massive it was. Spa in the tub? Rain shower? Enormous bed and jazz music playing?
I sat down. I cried. “Arsenio, I’m so proud of you. What you’ve done these last several years overcoming immense obstacles in Thailand – look where you are now. Look around! If you would’ve asked yourself back in the summer of 2012, hearing your family complain about not having 10$…..do you think you would be here four years later.” I held my hands up to my face and let out a “YESSSSSSS! I’m so happy and grateful for everything I’ve achieved!”
Is this happiness?
The Morning After – and I’m not talking about remorse, either.
Sunrise, greenery, cloud formations, wonderful breakfast, 5 star concierge greeting me and talking to me as if I’m part of their family, running beachside, impeccable breakfast. Should I say more? I recall staring with a large grin at my face at the water coming onto the beach. The sounds of the waves crashing. Surfers from Spain laughing while trying to catch some low-tide waves, wife sitting in awe with her chin to the sky – breathing deeply.
This is what happiness is.
Since living in Thailand and reading up on famous authors, I’ve grown to love animals much more than before, and cherish everything about these gentle giants. Having a tiger, sniffing away on top of a caged truck, was pretty terrifying to say the absolute least. The brown cows that have horns whereas if you cut their horns off, they would bleed to death. The infamously famous komodos that lay as if they’re dead in pure darkness and a stand-alone elephant (very ominous) just waving his trunk in pure darkness. HA! Damn, I love animals!
Met one of the most lovely Australian families EVER during the trip. The little boy, who was five, felt like a son. He asked me so many questions and I felt as if I was his teacher. The daughter was like, “omg my name is shanequa and I want to go to New York!” A 12 year old utterly infatuated with America and parents telling me, “hey, you’re young! Don’t worry about getting married right now!” HAHA! What an incredible night safari. Oh, and temple run? The game that took the world by storm a little over 5 years ago? Yeah…I found out where that tradition comes from. RIGHT HERE! The girls…..phew, lets just leave it at that. I proposed. THERE! I SAID IT!
Tough Mudder – The Monster From Hell
And the reason I came to Bali to begin with. To push myself not only mentally and psychologically, but physically. The hellish course (what it was suppose to be) turned into one of the funnest events I’ve ever done in my life. The variety of cultures from the Singaporeans who flew in from Singapore, to some of the people in the picture above who work for a newspaper in Jakarta, Indonesia, to some of the finest women I’ve seen in my life from other parts of Indonesia. Oh, man….WHAT A DAY!
Yeah….Bali was another mental barrier that was crushed. The mental barrier thinking I was going to get blown to pieces because of events that took place at the dawn of the new century. See, these things that we see on TV can drive us to insanity. I met some of the most wonderfully wonderful muslims on top of that, too. The banjo playing band at the airport whom was singing, “la bamba” almost brought me to tears because their symphonic rhythm while playing in such a harmonious way…..these people were….happy. Very happy. I felt something on this island that I’ve never felt anywhere else on this planet, including Hawaii.
I felt serenity.
I felt bliss.
And getting aboard an absolutely gorgeous A777-300ER, I set off back to Singapore-Bangkok with a completely different mindset about my Balinese.
Thank you so much.
Mount Bromo says HI!
Arrival – https://www.spreaker.com/episode/9519588
Day 2 – excursion https://www.spreaker.com/episode/9529788
Day 3 – Tough Mudder https://www.spreaker.com/episode/9538900
Day 4 – Tough Mudder Conquered
The end of Bali – https://www.spreaker.com/episode/9545169