Devdan: a glimpse of Indonesian culture in Bali

The lights dim and then burn the eyes, a man and woman appear on opposite ends of the stage. Staring longingly at each other. What transpires next is a mix of sensuality, passion and dancing that leaves the audience entranced.

Devdan

Photo courtesy of Devdan

The couple merges together, holding onto thick ribbons hung from the top of the stage. They intertwine, hold, lift into the air together, part and reunite, telling a story of forbidden love. The background: Borneo. But, on a stage far away … in Nusa Dua on the island of Bali.

After the dance, the lights dim once again. This time, a group of female dancers splash in the man-made river at the lip of the stage. There’s fire. There’s rain. It’s an all-out production and visually stunning.

Devdan

Photo courtesy of Devdan

Tonight, we’ve taken a break from the all-inlcusive paradise at Bali’s Grand Mirage and headed into the tourist enclave on the island to see “Devdan — the treasure of the Archipelago.”

It’s a far cry from all-you-can-eat-and-drink. In this moment, we’re soaking in the culture of Indonesia. And it is beautiful.

Devdan

Photo courtesy Devdan

This stage performance, which has only been around for a little more than a year, is one way to learn more about the rich cultures that make up Indonesia. Part-Cirque and all dance, the 90-minute show takes audience members through traditional dances and more of Bali, Sumatra, Java, Borneo and Papua.

The show begins when two children separate themselves from a tour group and find a treasure chest which transports them to different cultures of Indonesia. With exotic costumes, traditional dances, whimsical performances that include rain, fire and even a boat ride, the children’s eyes are opened to more than they ever expected.

“Devdan” exposes audience members to quite the spectacle, merging history, love and contemporary themes into an entertaining show.

The bottom line: I really enjoyed this performance. Each cultural performance spans about 20 minutes or so. My favorite was Borneo, which plays out a gorgeous love story that is sexy and took me back to Cirque and Las Vegas. The dancers are ridiculously talented and the production value — other than the tracked dialogue of the children — is high quality, complete with breathtaking special effects. However, the one part that left me scratching my head was the hip hop dance that was awkwardly stuck into the show. Yes, the dancing was great, but it just didn’t seem to fit the rest of the show, which is designed to highlight some of the many cultures of Indonesia. 

Editor’s Note: I was a guest of Devdan, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy

 

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Old and Lonely: an expat tale of (not) dating in Thailand

It’s one of those thick and gorgeous nights in Bali, when the air gently whispers in your ear, the ink black water of the Indian Ocean licks the soft butter-colored sand, and you can just barely make out puffy clouds lingering in the night sky.

Grand Mirage Resort Bali

Sitting outside at the Jukung Grill at Grand Mirage Resort, Daniel and I are enjoying overly-full stomachs, thanks to a decadent dinner, and more rose wine than we should. Late into our evening, an older couple sits across from us and we all begin chatting.

From the Isle of Mann, the two are on a 12-day holiday and this is their last night in paradise. Eventually, Daniel converses with the husband and I chat away with the wife.

She tells me of her battle with cancer (she’s been in remission for five years) and her need to just get out there and live. I tell her about my travels, my life today.

And, that’s when she says this:

“Please, dear. Do me this one favor.”

I raise my eyebrows, awaiting her response. Her face immediately turns from bright and sunny to a look of remorse.

“Please, with your life right now and traveling and everything, please do not turn Old and Lonely.”

Old. And Lonely.

Within a second, my airy October evening goes from light and happy to serious.

Old. And Lonely.

“Oh,” I say quickly, waving my hand, “I won’t.”

I try to say it with confidence, but there is none in my voice … or in my heart.

The truth is, being Old and Lonely is one of my greatest fears. I’m the single girl. I’m the girl that always gets asked by the perpetually-in-a-relationship girl “why on earth are you still single?”

As if it is a curse.

It’s not that I haven’t been in relationships — I have. Although most of them were horribly self-destructive. And, it’s not like I haven’t dated — I have. Although, most of the guys I have dated were total assholes. (Yeah, my taste in men has — up until very recently — sucked).

For many years, I stopped caring if I had a significant other. I mean, when I quit my job at 30 to go and travel, I was so thankful I wasn’t leaving the Love of My Life in Atlanta. Then, when I went backpacking, I was so thankful I wasn’t in a relationship with the person on the train next to me. But then, I was 31. And decided to move to Las Vegas. Which is like a cesspool of sleaze as far as dating goes. Ask any of my single (and amazing) girlfriends there. Finding a decent guy is next to impossible.

When I told my parents I was moving back there, I also told them I realized this decision would likely impact one of the things I wanted most in my life — to have children. Because, let’s face it, I wasn’t going to meet the man of my dreams living in Nevada.

It wasn’t until recently, I felt this sudden sense of urgency. This feeling of holy-shit-I’m-still-single-and-there-aren’t-even-any-potential-people-in-my-life moments. I mean, suddenly, I am 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, (gasp) 33 and I have … no one.

Old. And Lonely.

Arriving to Thailand, I hoped things would be different than Las Vegas.

Guess what?

They’re not.

In fact, it is worse here.

A few weeks ago, I was walking with an American (guy) friend and we were talking about dating.

“Shit, D,” he says to me as we walk down the street talking about him meeting Thai girls, “it must be just awful for you here in terms of dating.”

Thanks, buddy.

“Yeah,” I sigh, trying not to let the sting of his words penetrate my skin. “It pretty much sucks. The western guys want to date Thai girls … and the Thai guys …” I trail off.

So, on the gorgeous Bali evening when the woman tells me not to be Old and Lonely, it hits home. Hard.

As soon as I return from Bali, I make a promise to myself to go out more. To meet more people. To engage. To try and date in Thailand.

I’m in no rush to meet someone. I’ve waited 33 years for Mr. Right to walk down the tarmac. I don’t doubt it will happen at some point. And I can promise this: I will not be Old and Lonely. Just Old.

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Blissing out at Bali’s Grand Mirage Resort

It’s cool in the lounge where Daniel (my friend who has flown to Bali to meet me for the weekend) and I sit, awaiting our keys to our suite at the Grand Mirage Resort.

“Would you like a drink?” Asks one of the hotel’s staff, clad in a skirt, button-up shirt and heels. “We have wine,” she says, following up.

I take one look at the sweeping view of the Indian Ocean outside of the windows to the lounge and smile to Daniel.

Yes, wine, please.

We take the glasses filled with light pink liquid and raise them towards each other.

“To Bali,” we say, smiling.

Lobby of Grand Mirage Resort

Photo courtesy Grand Mirage Resort

The ocean view suite

Daniel and I haven’t stepped beyond the immaculately clean lobby when reception informs us our weekend is going to be beyond amazing.

“We’ve upgraded you from an oceanview room to an oceanview suite.”

“Did you hear that?” He asks me as we walk away from the desk. “They’ve upgraded us.”

“We’ll see,” I say, trying not to get my hopes up. I don’t get upgrades. I get rooms with spiders and showers that don’t work.

But, as per usual, my Austrian friend is right. We’ve got a suite.

The two of us take the elevator to the fourth floor and exit, walking down a long and airy hall to the end of the corridor where a statue awaits us at our door. We slide the key in …

Holy wow.

“It’s kind of like we’re in a museum,” I whisper as we take in the entry way, lined with statues and backlit.

Suite at Grand Mirage Resort

Then, we move towards the main part of the room. To one side are floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Grand Mirage’s well-manicured grounds. There’s a moveable flat screen television, a little minibar (with complimentary refills daily, thanks to our reservation being all-inclusive), a couch, table and a chair.

To the other side is the master bedroom, a gorgeous, dark-floored masterpiece with a poster bed swathed with shimmery see-through green fabric, a wrap-around balcony and a bathroom complete with bath tub (delicious) and shower.

He and I exchange delighted looks.

“I almost want to jump on the bed,” I tell him, trying to contain my delight at our luck with the suite.

“Yeah, this isn’t bad at all,” he says, whipping out his phone and making a quick video. “I can’t wait to post this on Facebook and let everyone see my home for the weekend.”

And, what a home it was.

The great outdoors

Because we are gifted with the all-inclusive designation, we have access to all non-motorized sports at Grand Mirage Resort. That means we get to hop on a catamaran or try our luck wind-surfing. I skip the windsurfing, but Daniel gives it a go.

We do take up the catamaran. While it is scenic ride off-shore, I’m disappointed that it is a quick 15-minutes. I barely find a comfortable position on the vinyl before we are turning around at the reef and heading back to shore. But, it is a nice break from sunning and swimming to hop on a floatation device and take in the resort and the water from a different perspective.

Grand Mirage Resort beach

Then, there’s the beach. While Daniel and I are here, the beach isn’t ridiculously crowded. Sure, a family ends up camping right next to me on the second day and chatting loudly as I try to fall asleep. But, I can only imagine the resort during high-season. We manage to find seats each day, although sometimes people leave their towels after they’ve departed the beach.

Grand Mirage Resort

As far as the beach goes, it is clean. And beautiful. There are gorgeous day beds to purchase for $15 a day. And, then there’s the sea. It’s super warm. And, the seaweed likes to get entangled in my toes. After a quick swim, I opt for the pool instead.

The pool at Grand Mirage Resort

Photo courtesy of Grand Mirage Resort

The pool at Grand Mirage is huge. There’s a waterfall, a volleyball area and more. While parts of it are overrun with kids (hey, this is a family resort for the most part), I am able to find a spot where I only have to dodge jumping kids a few times.

The dining

Our first meal at Grand Mirage is the Grand Cafe buffet. It’s decent — but I’m a vegetarian and there are only a handful of choices, so for the remainder of the trip, Daniel and I opt for a menu instead.

Dining at Grand Mirage Resort

Photo courtesy Grand Mirage Resort

Our first night, we head to the Jukung Grill, a gorgeous open-air restaurant nearly on the shore of the  Indian Ocean. Over more rosé, I dine on the grilled fish and listen to the soft lap of water hitting the sand and a group of traveling musicians serenade the guests.

Dinner our last two nights is spent at the resort’s Italian spot, La Cascasta. Daniel can’t get enough of the dishes — particularly the lamb. I love the fresh bread and olive oil.

After three months in Thailand, fresh olive oil is pure heaven.

Breakfast every day is a gorgeous buffet — again without too many vegetarian options — but with an omelette station that makes some of the best omelettes I’ve had in SE Asia.

Lunch varies between Jukung and Grand Cafe. I can barely stomach the coconut I order as a drink — its hot and doesn’t have the same flavor I’ve grown accustomed to in Thailand; and the veggie burger I order seems more like a big dollop of mashed potatoes with veggies mixed in. But, it’s not bad. And, with a view of the tropics, I can’t really argue. Whatever is lacking in taste is made up for in sheer beauty of the surroundings.

The drinks

One of the best parts of being all-inclusive is the free booze. There, I said it. It’s a vacation and booze is definitely a part of anything that is categorized as a vacation in my book. The first night, we fill up on rosé wine. The rest of the weekend, we’re a bit more conservative.

I don’t want to be hungover in paradise.

I do love the swim-up pool bar. And, the mojitos they put out have just enough liquor to give me a buzz after the second.

But, after that, we’re pretty responsible.

Thalasso Bali Spa

I’ve been to plenty of spas in my day, thanks to living in Las Vegas. When we walk through the sand and sea shells of the cream-colored spa, my heart flutters.

This. This oozes relaxation.

Grand Mirage Resort

Photo courtesy Grand Mirage Resort

I indulge in a 55-minute aroma therapy massage and it feels like heaven. Serious heaven. Set inside a deep blue room with little lights inset in the ceiling, reminiscent of twinkling stars, I instantly feel my body unwind (although it wasn’t too tight to being with, thanks to living in Thailand and the bounty of inexpensive massages I treat myself to on a weekly basis).

“You ok?” My masseuse asks as she gently glides her hands over my back, slick with oil designed to ease muscle aches (you know, from that overnight in Bangkok since Air Asia doesn’t offer any non-stops from Chiang Mai to Denspar).

When the massage is done, I feel light as a feather and slip back into my bathing suit to sidle up to the pool-side bar.

The customer service

Daniel and I are lounging on our cushion-y chairs, soaking up the sounds of the Indian Ocean our first evening when a staff member comes up to us.

“We are going to play football, you want to come?” He asks us.

I feel like I am on a cruise. Although, I’ve never been on a cruise this is how I imagine staff to be. Go, go, get involved.

“Sure, I can do sports,” Daniel says, pulling himself up from the chair and disappearing off to go and kick a ball around with others.

Throughout the weekend, the interest in our time at the resort is apparent.

“Everything OK Miss?”

“Would you like to …”

“How was your meal?”

“We’ve arranged your transportation …”

It’s like I walked into a bubble of care where the customer is actually important. It’s a nice change from meals where plates are put down without regard to the company at the table.

The bottom line:

This resort caters more towards families and couples, and at times the kids and couples making out in the pool can be a bit much. But, the resort can’t control that. I love the attention to detail — the floor mats in elevators remind guests what day it is, because, you know, it’s easy to forget when you’re in paradise. Customer service is above average. Rooms are clean, beautiful and well-maintained. With the all-inclusive, the mini-bar is re-stocked daily. For free. Amenities are wonderful, minus the lack of veggie options in the restaurants. Having the award-winning spa on property is fantastic, plus there are options to have an outdoor massage on a whim. Would I go back? You bet.

Editor’s Note: My time in Bali was courtesy of Grand Mirage Resort, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy

 

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