One of my favorite things about travel is food. I love trying new things and I love food made with love. Also I usually eat way too much of it because it is so good and I think, "I'm only here for a short time, I need to eat as much of this as I possibly can, while I can." (Japanese mountain potato is an exception).
I wasn't always this way, I was a very picky eater until college when I finally started venturing outside my food groups of pizza, chips and salsa, and grilled chicken. So I can relate to people when they are hesitant to travel to new countries because they are not sure if they can find enough food they like.
Bali has nearly endless option so for the adventurous eater and also for the person who wants to find meals like they would have back home. And the best part is you can eat at a fraction of the price we are used to paying in America, Australia, Europe, and parts of Asia.
New cafes are opening all the time here - many of them set overlooking the beach or a peaceful rice field. There are so many reasons to come to Bali but if you come for no other reason, come to eat like a king!
It didn't take me long to get back in the swing of this solo travel thing and start collecting stories. The sights of the Golden Circle were pretty neat but the best part was the personal tour I received afterwards.
A woman in my small tour group of 10 was highly recommending I have the whale for my one dinner here. When I told her I'd had it in Japan, our driver chimed in, "Here it is different and much better. The fat on the steak melts in your mouth." This sounded good to me. So when we reached our last stop of the tour, I asked him to drop me off in downtown Reykjavik Whale- near a place where I can get a good whale dinner. He took this as an opportunity to offer some Icelandic hospitality and after he confirmed I was traveling alone, invited me out to dinner. I sat at my window seat in the middle of the bus as we dropped off the other guests at their downtown hotels (with a quick detour to Bjork's house) thinking how do I always get myself in to these situations.
We had to return the bus to the depot on the outskirts of the city before getting in my guide's personal vehicle, a black Hummer H2 that he uses for off-road tours. He hesitated to turn on the car and rather turned to me and said, "I've been trying to think of a way to say this that won't make you uncomfortable..." (I immediately felt uncomfortable.) "…but I can't. Would you like to go to the thermal bath with me?" This was the number one item on my Iceland to do list that I didn't think I was going to get around to so I was excited about this. Then he proceeded to talk about how we barely knew each other and it might be awkward getting naked and going in the pools together. Well, yeah, now it felt awkward.
The geothermal bath is a year-round cultural practice. Many people traditionally go to start their day or wind down after work. There is a strict showering process that takes place in gender-segregated locker rooms, with attendants suggesting more soap if they catch one not washing enough* A friendly attendant stopped me before the shower and asked my name. I told her and she said, "Oh, I am looking for someone named Brenda. I thought that might be you."
Outside the locker room my guide was waiting for me and we walked in the cold afternoon air to the beginner 40*C pool. After some 45 minutes of pool hopping and some chitchat he admitted he wasn't sure what my name was but thought it might be Brenda.
I took another shower and was relieved to get my clothes back on and be heading to a restaurant for a more traditional evening of getting to know a new travel friend. That's when Bjorn dropped the next bomb on me. "I'm glad you were agreeable to my crazy idea. Because it might not be my last." WHAT?! "If you are willing, I'd like to cook you dinner. I have some very good whale meat at home." No one had ever said THAT to me before. I asked if he was a good cook. He said yes.
Back in the car on the way to the suburbs I was thinking how nice it is that he welcomes solo travelers to his home and that he probably gets to meet a lot of people this way. It was just then that he said, "I want you to know I've never done this before. I just enjoyed our conversation earlier and wanted to get a chance to continue it." Oh jeez.
Bjorn prepared a very nice dinner of whale steak, cod, and potatoes, paired with a Spanish red wine. We shared travel stories at the beautiful dining table in the atrium by the garden until it was time for me to get to the airport for my 2 am flight. He was so kind to treat me to all these experiences and a lift to the airport. Honestly I never expected anything like this and I am thankful for all the kind souls traveling brings in to my life.
*Anyone that has ever lived with me or traveled with me knows that I enjoy a good shower so no, this did not happen to me. Since the showers are wide open and fully nude, I did witness this happen to two other women.
I preplanned most of this stopover because it was so short and because I was arriving so late. The hotel I found must have been one of those internet misprints - it cost 98¢ in a land where a bunk in a 14-bed mixed dorm hostel room was going for an average of $50 a night. Yes, the room here at Cabin Hotel is very small. And the twin beds are about 33% narrower than usual. And I can hear my neighbor snoring like at my campsite in Yosemite. But the value is on point. This tiny private room comes with its own tiny private bath, the reception is open 24 hours and took less than 30 seconds to check me in. All this is wonderful when I arrive at midnight at an airport that is over 45 minutes from Reykjavik city center. I booked a transfer ahead of time on the Grayline bus which got me here in relative comfort for about $18. I considered sleeping in the airport to save money and just going to the Blue Lagoon at 8 am but the reviews on www.sleepinginairports.net indicated that it would be a rough night with sarcastic, kicking security guards. Either way would have made for a good story but, when I made a rookie mistake of booking three red-eyes in a row to start my 2+ month trip, I went with the potentially more comfortable option. Tomorrow I will enjoy my complimentary breakfast and do some work using the free lobby wifi while I wait for my Golden Circle tour bus to collect me for a 9 hour tour of natural beauty in the 50* rainy, windy weather. Thanks to Casey and Jess for loaning me a very cozy Burlington sweatshirt on my brunch layover in Boston this morning.
Sharon and Jon live the life of their dreams. Zelement Club is their way of inviting others to join them in this adventure.