By Fay van der Werff, a former intern at 360Bali
It’s been four months since my return to the Netherlands and yet again, I find myself smiling at my phone whilst scrolling through my camera roll, reliving every single moment I encountered during my shorter than planned stay in Bali. Everybody has been coping with the pandemic in their own way. For me, it meant returning to my country, while feeling like I was leaving my new home behind. As I took off on one of the last planes flying outbound, I ordered a Prosecco to ‘go out in style’ (in other words, to drown my sorrows), and started replaying my time in Bali.
Arriving in Bali for the first time
Stepping off the plane, I remember feeling anxious about the place I had heard and read so much about. It was 11 pm and the tropical heat, even at that hour, hit me like a blanket, the humidity was intense. While waiting at the baggage claim, my senses were immediately triggered by the familiar yet unique scent of incense. Ngurah Rai International Airport is a busy place with locals happily rushing around to get tourists to their holiday destinations. I meet up with Balinese taxi driver Charles, who instantly made me feel welcome to what he calls ‘the Island of the Gods’. It’s a given that Balinese people are very friendly but, in that moment, I instantly felt a connection with the genuine mindset of the Balinese.
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Learning to ride a bike
I can speak for mostly everyone that learning to ride a bike when you’ve never driven one before can give a clumsy feeling, and I’m sure it’s a funny sight for those more advanced in the art of driving in Bali. Because that’s what it is: an art. I remember the first time I joined the traffic on Sunset Road; the crowded crossroads, switching lanes between noisy trucks and speeding scooters and lastly, my biggest enemy: the sudden U-turns. But when I started to master my Honda Scoopy, I knew the feeling of pure freedom. A feeling that says: nothing can stop me. Except for the local police who would pull me over to check my driver’s license… We’ve all been there.
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“Don’t forget to put on an extra layer of sunblock!” was a commonly used phrase when preparing for a weekend trip by bike as t-shirt tan lines and sunburnt faces aren’t the way to go (especially when planning a night out later at La Brisa, Sandbar and Old Man’s). With a backpack full of clothing and a bottle of water, a sarong tied around my waist and the robotic voice navigation yelling in my earbuds, I set off on trips with new-found friends to breathtaking places like Ubud, Uluwatu, the center- and the north of the island. My favourite weekend trip destination: Uluwatu. Journeys to Ulu would consist of visiting beach clubs, watching sunsets at Single Fin and eating breakfast at Bingin Beach.
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On the second day of my return to the Netherlands, I woke up with a craving for Indonesian food, nothing a basic sandwich could satisfy. How hard it is being unable to order-in a nasi goreng, with GoJek just a click away, or to drive by my local warung for some Ayam garlic. Apart from the food, there is something else I still miss very dearly; a fresh, cold Bintang by the beach. I catch myself giving my friends a look of disbelief when they tell me that ‘Heineken practically tastes the same’, because nothing can match that perfect Bintang blend.
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Back in Holland
I still get heartaches when thinking of how life could’ve been if the pandemic never occurred and I’m determined to return to Bali next year. Looking on the bright side, Bali has finally been able to take a breath from the mass tourism she has been coping with, and a greener much more beautiful island emerges from the rubble. With the news surfacing about the borders possibly opening for international travel in 2021, I’m keeping my hopes up, head high and my eye on the airfares. I can’t wait to get even better acquainted with the island I fell in love with and now think of as my second home. Bali surprises you in so many ways and I wish everyone could know her the way I do now. Sampai jumpa lagi (see you again) Bali, I’ll be back.
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Fay’s personal Bali bucket list recommendations:
- Watching the sunset at Single Fin Uluwatu
- Enjoying a cold San Miguel Light at Ulu Cliffhouse
- Taking the lift down to the beach at Karma Kandara for a swim in the ocean
- Climbing down the stairs to Bingin Beach for some breakfast at Kelly’s Warung
- Indulging in pizza or pasta at La Baracca
- Shopping at Beach Walk Mall in Kuta
- Explore the hidden beach called Tegal Wangi Beach in Jimbaran
- Exploring the abandoned hotel in Bedugul
- Watching a traditional Kecak dance at Pura Luhur in Uluwatu
- Hiking down the jungle track to see the Leke Leke Waterfall