Only in Bali: The $300 hell I lived to tell
My recent trip to Bali gave me an holiday full of hashtag trends that made Melbourne's hipster suburb of Northcote look like Tamworth in the '80s.
You see when I go to Bali, I do it right. In the '90s I parasailed, danced at the Sari Club and came home with braids. In 2006, I hiked the volcano, drank at swim-up bars, snorkelled Nusa Lembongan, and in 2012 took surf lessons, had cocktails at Potato Head Beach Club and returned with a snakeskin bag.
So in late 2017, I continued the tradition of being a sheep and doing everything that everyone else was doing.
I am pleased to reveal the top 10 trends below which in 20 years' time will no doubt be looked back in the way getting a Southern Cross tattoo while drunk in Kuta was for the '90s.
GIVE A DOG A LIFT
The first and most obvious thing going on was people dinking local dogs around town on scooters. It was easy to find a ride, every second shop rents scooters for $5 per day. I found my pooch-opportunity via a woman from the Bali Dog Adoption and Rehabilitation Centre (BARC) who was taking a few rescues to the beach. While getting the balance of bag, body and dog was difficult, I managed to shove Sir-Barks-A-Lot in a backpack and take him for his first paddle at Echo Beach, Canggu. Box ticked.
Bali's GoJek app is an extreme UberEATS: home-delivering anything from cleaners and hairdressers to a bag of ice. Boasting abilities demand, the more absurd the better. So when BARC-lady invited me over after a big night out for "an IV recovery sesh" I willingly agreed. She booked us in with The Dose, a company that delivers vitamin IV therapy to your villa. With treatments that aid dengue-fever, tackle anti-ageing and increase immunity, and boosters of vitamins, zinc and antioxidants, I would be as vibrant and spritely as a spring lamb. Two nurses arrived on the dot, and got straight to work. They strung up IV bags, wiped our flesh and inserted the needles, pumping vitamin-infused liquid into our veins while we gleefully Snapchatted the entire process. BARC lit up a ciggie and the nurses chuckled, "Always cigarettes and beers for Aussies getting IV therapy". The whole process took an hour and I was left $100 poorer but feeling far less hung-over.
Botox, fillers, laser, dentistry. Every fifth person - male or female - was getting pumped or plumped. I arrived at Australian-founded, multi-award winning, Gattica-esque Cocoon Medial Spa for my first ever Botox. I put my life and my face in the hands of a specialist who looked like a Year 12 student who advised me: "You don't need Botox, but you have Australian skin - get a Vampire Facial". Known as Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy this injectable treatment - made popular by Kim Kardashian - is meant to assist your body in using its own "enriched" blood, as a form of anti-ageing. The $300 Bali price tag versus $1000 in Australia had me sign on the dotted line.
A nurse whose literal job for two hours was to "cheer" me on, held my hand as the doctor took viles of blood from my arm and stabbed my face 100 times with a needle that felt as blunt as a Grade 5 compass (I could hear my skin break with each prick - agony is not an adequate description). My handmaid began chanting "no pain, no gain" as the doctor separated the red from the white blood cells, and came toward me with a platelet-filled syringe. It was akin to being injected with wasps that had been set on fire and were squirting acid in me. As I sat stunned in the recovery room, a Queenslander who had just had her second Vampire Facial of the year patted my knee. "Well done. I kept three Endones from my breast-implant operation for this. I've given birth to twins - the Vampire Facial is worse".
Bikram, vinyasa, ashtanga, yin have all been replaced with aerial yoga. Using bright materials strung from the roof, yoginis twist and swing their way through positions and poses. I signed up to a class at Samadi, a wellness centre, cafe and accommodation that holds a popular organic Sunday market. I was the only one there in a bikini and sarong, and after one particularly stretchy pose I realised why everyone else has on active wear. I spent the rest of the class with my legs closed, relaxing like I was in a hammock, so can say I highly recommend trying this trend.
THE NEWEST SUNSET BAR
Perched on the cliffs above Echo Beach's glittery volcanic sand, Bali's newest sunset-bar La Brisa (opened September 2017) is built around palm trees and has a posh, Never-Neverland feel to it. A bright blue swimming pool sits central to a two-storey bar and restaurant of whitewashed wood, interlaced with paths lined by chunky-rope, nautical nets, swing-chairs, daybeds and floor tables. The mostly seafood menu delivered me an incredible chargrilled-octopus dish which I enjoyed with four too many cocktails and although the prices were tres Sydney, I didn't care. I had found beach-bar heaven and reclined happily beneath fairy lights and palm leaves, sipping mai tais as the sky turned from blue to pink to black. Highly, highly recommended.
Parasailing, snorkelling and surfing are out - scuba diving the coral crusted waters of Bali is IN. Intrinity Divers is Bali's only diving school specialising in teaching kids from eight years upwards to scuba (from $75), also offering day-dives ($150), certifications ($480), free-diving and surf apnoea. Founder and instructor Rachel Hyde's passion made the most timid novice (aka me) relax with her tales of clams, seahorses and bogan weddings. I saw all of the sea creatures, including things with teeth that didn't eat me, and as we returned home via the rice fields I wondered why it had taken me this long to scuba.
According to a group of Canadians I met at the organic Café Vida, getting travel advice from people on Tinder was the only way to explore Bali - so I swiped right and matched with "Antonio". He could spell, so we arranged to meet for dinner at his favourite place Deus - a motorbike store, live-music venue, restaurant and bar in one. After eating "the best burger on the island" he took me for a drink at Pretty Poison (where skaters were using the empty pool as a half-pipe) and invited me to a surf-party a few nights later. He then sent me hotel and spa recommendations, and hooked me up with a tattoo-artist in case I wanted to get some ink. I didn't, but the spa he sent me to - Goldust - gave me the best massage and facial of my hashtag life.
If you don't take an infinity pool photo, are you sure you went to Bali? I booked into Ubud's Pertiwi Bisma 2 for two reasons: it was brilliant value for $60 per suite per night (via hotels.com), and it had not one, but two infinity pools. Backed onto jungle connected to the Monkey Forest, the top pool overlooked thatched bungalow rooves, while the bottom pool was suspended over a waterfall and river making it the ultimate place for that Instagram shot. I sent it to friends whose responses were angry emoji faces, and was thus satisfied.
MEET A JEWELLERY MAKER
Bali's silver, gold and crystals trade is renowned, making it impossible for you not to meet a jewellery designer when visiting. While waiting for an Ecstatic Dance class at The Yoga Barn, - Ubud's epicentre for trends - I met a Russian actress who had moved to Bali to start Plume Angel Project feathered hair accessories, handmade by Balinese women, and sold online around the world. While waiting for my weird dance class to start, she put a few in my curly locks, and I spent the next hour swishing around a room with 120 hippies, feeling very fabulous and birdlike. I noticed thereafter, every third person had feathers hanging off their head, and I knew I had ticked that trend good.
RETURN HOME WITH NOTHING
The thing to bring home from Bali is not clothes, home-deco, a Bintang singlet or a sexually transmitted disease, but Snapchats, Instagram likes, new friends, random treatments and silly experiences you can't do anywhere else without paying a bomb or being arrested.
Bali's current trends = highly recommended.
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