Bali Briefs: Seeking Refuge at the Legian Beach Hotel
It’s not often that I arrive at our destination as sick as a dog, but there you have it. Having pushed myself to exhaustion every day for a month for a Sydney fundraiser that I'd helped to organise, I was a physical wreck by the time Peter and I boarded our Garuda flight to Bali. While the extra leg room in Garuda's emergency exit seating provided us with extra comfort, every bone in my body ached and every swallow felt like a thousand knives sliding down my throat by the time we landed. Barely seeing past the blurry haze of conjunctivitis that had developed overnight in both eyes, I was in no shape to negotiate the chaos that was Denpasar Airport.
I barely managed to cope with an hour at baggage collection plus another half an hour's wait to get our bags screened again for any drugs or weapons. However, my distress was ameliorated somewhat as we spotted Peter’s life-long friend at airport arrivals, also named Peter. After the initial “how-are-you’s”, Peter introduced us to Nyoman Adnyana, our driver, tour organizer and mentor-on-all-things-Bali for the remainder of our trip. With a dignified bearing and air of efficiency, Nyoman went out of his way to find out what sort of experience we wanted - “A restful and slow-paced one,” we replied - and gave us invaluable tips against getting scammed. We liked him immediately.
The memory of our 30-minute drive from the airport to Legian and our hotel, the Legian Beach Hotel, was foggy at best. What I do remember very clearly, however, was the hotel’s distinct Balinese flavour and being told that we’d been upgraded from a beach bungalow to a Deluxe Pool Villa, the best and most private accommodation in the hotel complex. Music to my ears!
Despite the Legian Beach Hotel being fringed by the hustle and bustle of Kuta on three sides and the famed beachfront on the fourth, its 4 hectares of lush tropical gardens ensure that the hotel grounds remain an oasis of calm for its guests. Over the next 24 hours, our Deluxe Pool Villa, with its high walls, private courtyard, own pool, private entrance, not to mention its marble-floor bathroom complete with lounge, became my refuge and sanctuary. Resurfacing behind a pair of dark glasses only to dine in whichever of the 5 restaurants that took our fancy, we did not venture far from the hotel grounds. I slept, ate, strolled, then slept and ate again, edging ever so slowly towards healing. Thank you, Legian Beach Hotel! You have no idea how much I needed this.
ABOUT LEGIAN: With the name “Legian” literally meaning ‘sweet’ in Balinese, they say that this is where the tourists of Kuta go after they’re married. For first timers like Peter and I, Legian was just another Kuta: loud, frenetic and brash. In fact, we walked the streets filled with a strong trepidation that sat firmly behind a wall of suspicion, thanks to our preconceived notions that grew from worldwide media reports of tourists behaving badly in this pocket of the island. After spending time in the perfumed quarter of Seminyak, however, where boutiques like Polo and Religion vied for Western dollars alongside slick eateries, we decided to give Legian another chance. While equally as commercial as Kuta but less polished than Seminyak, it has a gentle vibe and we found it growing on us.
Peter and I with our Bali Driver and Bali Tour Organiser, Nyoman Adnyana.
Nyoman's Tips for Avoiding Taxi Scams: 1) Look for the Blue Bird Taxis. While all taxis in Bali seem to be blue, Blue Bird is a lighter colour Blue and has the distinctive "Bird" symbol on their roof light. In addition, they have "Blue Bird" in bold black letters across the top of their windshield. 2) Blue Bird drivers are required by their company policy to turn on the meter as soon as a customer hops in. If they don't, make sure you ask the driver to do so. 3) Familiarise yourself with the local currency and the rate of exchange. 4) Make sure that you know what denomination you are handing over to the taxi driver when it comes to payment. As you hand the bill over, confirm what denomination it is out loud. That way, you know exactly what you are handing over and you avoid being scammed by the taxi driver replacing your larger bill with a smaller one and short changing you.