:: Goodbye Bali Mountain Retreat! ::

i am back with Wayan heading down the mountain…

but this time i am sitting next to him…and Rani & Luna are in the back!

we are headed down to Kuta. i had an inkling that i would end up there…

my first real-life tie to this part of the world came in the form of my dear friend Iman, who is originally from Indonesia and ended up owning a deliciously wonderful restaurant on the Lower East Side of Manhattan called Kuta House. it has sadly closed down, due to overdevelopment that leaves no hope for local culture and small businesses. this theme has come up a lot on this trip and will be discussed more thoroughly a little later in this journey. it seems to be happening everywhere…

Iman and i worked together at my very first job in NYC, an Asian-fusion restaurant called Rain, on the Upper West Side. Rain was my gateway to Southeast Asia. (naturally, for this little glutton, it was through learning about its food—albeit adapted through a New York City filter.) Rain was where i made my first friends and it was my first source of income and stability in that crazy city. the food was extraordinary. at that time, the pad thai was the only (and still to this day, one of the best) that i had ever eaten.

Iman’s restaurant was certainly inspired by that cuisine. when i first visited Kuta House, i was delighted to see our old chef in the kitchen. i hadn’t seen him in years. the food was as incredible as i had remembered with new twists and traditional Balinese touches that didn’t exist on the Rain menu. i am devastated that it no longer exists.

and now as i drive down the windy streets to Kuta, i feel that the fates are taking care of me, that they are laying down this path with each passing turn of the wheel, with each forward motion of our spirits. i am moving on to a different Kuta House.

the original plan this morning was to head down to Seminyak. for some reason, i didn’t email Iman until two nights ago. i guess it was because i was not struggling for a lack of places to visit and my journey seemed pre-planned by forces other than my own will. but here i was, at the end of my trip, trying to figure out how to spend my last night before i fly back to Singapore (and eventually making the long trek back to NYC). i was just looking for destination recommendations when i discovered that Iman’s best friend, Astron, is managing a restaurant in Seminyak (where i spent one day and night at the Girls’ Villa earlier in the trip). despite some failed attempts to contact Astron, i decided to head down anyway—to break up all the traveling by spending a night closer to the airport, and maybe catching a last bit of beach by day…

plus, Astron’s restaurant, Chandi, looks amazing. it was opened by NYC chef Agung Nugroho (of Nobu, Spice Market, and more) and his Wife Kirsten Weymar when they fell pregnant in Canggu and decided to stay and open a restaurant of their own. the connection to my own history seemed compelling enough, so i figured that i would go eat there and maybe i would find Astron, or maybe not. but i would surely find something.

i tried calling Ned’s Hideaway from the travel guidebook, the seemingly perfect spot to stay in Seminyak, when i abruptly discovered that there was no room for this little Lobsterbird at the inn. Richard was there with me while i called, and i asked if he knew of somewhere else i could go.

nearing the end of my trip, my funding was being called into question and i went to get my credit card to settle up with Richard before resuming my search to find a cost-efficient place to lay my head.

as i reached for my credit card inside the Bale Gede, i heard a little voice say, “hello?” through the yellow and crème-colored curtains. that familiar little voice was Luna, and i invited her in.

our dialogue went something like this:

  • Luna: I go to Kuta. I sorry.
  • Sophie: I go to Seminyak. I sorry!
  • Luna: I go to Kuta. I sorry. (Sad Face.)
  • Sophie: I go to Seminyak. Then fly home to America. I sorry. (Even Sadder Face.)
  • Luna: I sorry…I go now to Kuta…
  • Sophie: It’s okay…Bye?
    • (Luna lingers.)
  • Sophie: Hug?
    • (Luna opens her arms to hug Sophie.)
  • Sophie: Bye, Luna. I miss you.
    • (Luna and Sophie start to head back to the restaurant—Luna to join her mom for a shopping trip in Kuta and Sophie to settle up before catching a ride down to Seminyak.)
  • Luna: You here tomorrow?
  • Sophie: No… (The Saddest Face.)
    • (Luna furrows her brows.)
  • Sophie: I know.
  • Luna: I don’t like. I not happy.
    • (Luna and Sophie continue walking down the path towards the restaurant.)
  • Sophie: I not happy either. But I come back to Bali…
  • Luna: Ya?
  • Sophie: Ya, later. One day I come back and see you…
  • Luna: I not happy!
  • Sophie: I know! Me too—not happy!

we reach the steps of the restaurant where Richard and Rani are awaiting us. Richard tells me that Rani and Luna are headed down to Kuta and that the drive down will cost me less as a result. he also offered me a bed in the small room at the front of their apartment in Kuta and told me that i could stay there if i would like. and so i gave an emphatic “yes!”

i look down at Luna who is eyeing me quizzically.

  • Sophie: I go with you! To Kuta!
  • Luna: Ya?!?
  • Sophie: Ya! I go with you!
    • (We do a little happy dance. Luna hugs Richard.)
  • Luna: Thank you, Papa, thank you! I HAPPY!!!

: Happy!!!

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