At the conclusion of my trip to India last October, I headed eastward to meet M and to spend two weeks in Bali, Indonesia, before returning home. In our previous lives in Singapore, Bali was a choice destination for many weekend jaunts, a much-needed change of scenery from the daily grind of living in an urban jungle. It’s the destination of our first trip together, where I got my PADI scuba licence and also where we honeymooned, in 2007, which was the last time we stepped foot on the island.
Our memories of the place, in other words, came from a time before Bali catapulted into the mainstream, Hollywood-glistening, land-of-dreams spotlight courtesy of Eat, Pray, Love the movie.
Two weeks in Bali gave us the luxury of time to explore the Singaraja region in the Northern part of the island which we’ve never had the time to visit. Separated from the party and tourist-laden towns of South Bali by a mountain ridge and a four-hour car ride from the airport, the coastal towns of North Bali felt decidedly more residential and local. We chose the town of Lovina for our base and opted for an Airbnb villa instead of a typical beach resort which gave us the best of both worlds: a full service staff for daily, homecooked meals and the opportunity to live (more or less) among the locals. We got to know the dusty back streets of Lovina, traipse among mango orchards, discover that navigating by headlamps at night drives the local dogs crazy and that walking directions on Google Maps were surprisingly accurate. One of the more memorable day trips involved a drive and four-hour hike – with a pit stop for fresh coconuts – through rice fields and winding tropical trails to get to the impressive Sekumpul Waterfalls. There are many waterfalls in this part of the island, but most of them are nestled among local villages and require at least a night’s stay in the area for those visiting from the southern towns of Kuta or Seminyak.
Between waterfall hikes, temple visits, evening walks and alternating between the chaise lounge and the pool, our week in Lovina eventually ended though we could have easily extended our stay by another week. And another. But Ubud beckoned, and we had to go.