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Sanur, Bali: Land of White Sand, Citibank, and a Decidedly New Chapter of AsiaWheeling

We awoke as the sound of blenders as the clank of silverware worked its way into our comfortable beds at the Prima Cottages. The other guests were outside enjoying their free breakfast. We were eager to join.

A very well salted fried egg later we were mounting the cycles, and took off to explore the city of Sanur. Quite honestly, dear reader, it felt like another country. Everywhere there were white people. The roads were very good, and all the signage was in English. In fact, almost every service person we encountered spoke surprisingly good English.

After a brief stop at the local Citibank ATM, we began working our way toward the beach. What had been misty gray light of morning had quietly become a scorching sunshine, and we were loving it. We ended up reaching the beach near what we reckoned to be its northern extremity, so we headed southward on a very new looking brick path. We dodged around sunburned and retired Dutch people, declining repeated offers of massages, drinks, and other goods and services, stopping from time to time to chat with the plethora of English speaking tourists wearing Panama hats. Truly a bizarre place.

Past endless rows of beach chairs for rent, past the Hyatt, past an infinity of little souvenir stands, past a number of what we would find to be extremely prevalent convenience stores by the name of “Circle K,” and quite a bit farther down the beach we finally broke free of the western tourist zone. The brick path we were on began to dissolve into an eroded scatter of crumbling stones, and we followed it away from the beach, over a small bridge where an Indonesian family was lazing in the sun, and into a salty jungle.

I heard a commotion to my right and was just able to catch sight of a lizard the size of a small dog bounding off into the jungle. The path had become quite bumpy by the time we parked the Speed TRs at a delightful little shrine that marked the end of the path.

It is probably worth pausing here to discuss the religious differences between Java and Bali. They are two very different islands, in many ways. Perhaps one of the most important is that while Indonesia is about 86% Muslim, Bali is about 93% Hindu. We have yet to hear the call to prayer here, an ever present part of our time in Java, and it seems that every couple of blocks there is a shrine to one god or another. Also Bali is by far the richest island in the country (per capita), and the great majority of that comes from tourism. So Bali is tailored for tourists and ex-patriots. More importantly, with its fine roads, beautiful scenery, and relatively sparse traffic, Bali is great for wheeling.

Meanwhile, back at the salt jungle temple, no sooner had we parked the bikes, than another couple of wheelers pulled up behind us. “I heard you talking about Rauchemburg, so we decided to follow.” The couple turned out to be American holiday makers here in Bali, and photographers by trade. We explained a little about the wheeling field commands and one of them replied “so what’s a left turn? Lévi-Strauss?”

Fair Enough.

At this moment, the heat was really kicking in, and AsiaWheeling decided to switch into beach mode

We also decided it was high time for a snack. Up until this point, we had been meticulously careful about the foods that we ate. Knowing from our experiences in India during the pilot study, that not doing so might just set you off into deep and debilitating stomach sickness.

But here in Indonesia, it was a different country with different rules, and we were ready to try eating at a more local place. So we selected a Warung (small roadside cafe) and proceeded to order a fine feast of roast fish, greens, and seafood fried rice. It was incredible, and for the record proved every bit as safe as the more expensive restaurants we had been eating at. The coffee was also superb.

Refueled and refreshed, we spent the rest of the day beach wheeling, with waypoints scheduled to jump in the ocean, and to snack on corn being grilled by the seaside.

On our way back to the Prima Cottages, we noticed a fellow who appeared to be rebuilding the engine of his muscle car using an electric drill on the side of the road. If anyone in the readership can shed some better light on what the fellow might have been doing, please share with us in the comments.

Our room at the Prima Cottages had in the meantime been sold to another customer, while we had been wheeling. But the lady was happy to put us up in one of the actual cottages. So AsiaWheeling reluctantly moved its belongings into an even larger and more luxurious accommodation in a stand-alone cottage with a private porch in the middle of a sculpted Balinese garden. Real rough.

From there, we struck off again down the beach and headed north.  After a while of wheeling, we smelled an intoxicating odor that turned out to be grilled corn.  Spiced with chili and slathered in butter, the ears proved to be a delightful and much needed snack to prevent the much dreaded blood sugar crash.

A few hundred meters down the beach, we found where all the locals were swimming.  The sand was black, with families gathered on the shoreline sitting on rocks and the embankment.  In the parking lot, youngsters on motorcycles showboated around and gunned their engines, giving us smiles all the while.

That evening, we followed the orders of the illustrious Mr. Fu and proceeded to a chic local eatery by the name of Ming’s. The meal proved to be quite a luxurious experience.

It was a Euro-Indonesian Fusion restaurant. As far as we can tell, this means hyper rich versions of Indonesian dishes, pumped up with butter and garlic. Fantastic. Our meal covered all the bases, with an Indonesian fisherman’s stew, Indonesian Caesar salad, a curried buttery fish dish, and calamari served in the shell of a giant clam (we think the clam might have been part of the dish too, but perhaps in a ground up form).

Full and happy, we wheeled home through the steamy night, stopping at a local convenience store for drinking water, and to do some schtick with some local fellows who were drinking some strange local home-brewed liquor, and sitting on the ground outside the Circle K where we bought the water.

Despite the intensely touristy nature of this place, I believe both Scott and I were thinking Bali was not only great for wheeling but a heck of a comfortable place to visit.


  1. Angela | January 26th, 2010 | 8:51 pm

    Wow. Bali is so lush. We are battling the greyness of winter. Your images are food for our eyes.

  2. Josh L | January 26th, 2010 | 9:17 pm

    Are you sure those Circle K’s aren’t related to the American Circle K’s?

  3. Woody | January 26th, 2010 | 10:36 pm

    @ Josh L

    Right you are. Looks like according to wikipedia “Circle K is an international chain of convenience stores, founded in 1951, in El Paso, Texas, United States. It is currently owned and operated by Alimentation Couche-Tard.”

    So it is not Japanese. I’d just only seen them in Japan. Thanks for that catch.

  4. Mark/Dad | January 26th, 2010 | 10:43 pm

    It suspect the fellow might have been doing an engine rebuild using some simple cylinder hone to resurface the inside cylinder walls, like http://www.flexhoneblog.com/2009/02/rebuilding-engine-on-budget-use-flex.html. Sounds like a business I should get into soon!

  5. Herringbone | January 29th, 2010 | 6:37 am

    sirs! truly i am jealous. i may just have to buy a plane ticket and catch you somewhere along that way, and you know, buy a tiny instrument and ride around on your shoulders singing “Rainbow Connection”–picture it.

    this may be a bit demanding, but next time you’re at a glorious meal, could you guys go full-on food-geek for me and take many pictures with many detailed comments? i would like to live this trip imago-gastro-psychically with you

    all my love boys
    wheel hard
    but wheel safe


  6. Diane Heditsian | February 1st, 2010 | 12:58 am

    I second the comments of the last person to post (with whom I happen to share initials). And please try to get some of the recipes. Here in SF, we can probably get the ingredients fairly easily.

  7. Christine | February 11th, 2010 | 10:43 pm

    Living in Yogya with my Indonesian husband and two kids, I’m a big fan of Indonesian food. I was looking for a recipe for Kolak and happened upon the following website that might satisfy those wanting more food details and recipes: http://selbyfood.blogspot.com/search/label/Indonesian

    I love your blog, especially the descriptions of your experiences in Yogya. Now, whenever people ask me why I live in Indonesia and love Yogya, I just send them a link to your blog! Thanks for making the place so tangible to my family and friends in the US.

  8. Woody | March 4th, 2010 | 9:17 am

    @ Christine
    Thanks so much for your help! We’ve gotten word that some of our readers have found that site quite useful.

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