The Island of Gods

I am sitting there, on a sunbed, watching the sunset. I am alone on the beach. In fact, I am not so lonely. The great Mt. Agung is keeping me company. Dressed in pink clouds, silent and magnificent. 

I have to admit - when the media news erupted (pun intended), I was a little scared. Ok. I live on a tropical island, with active volcanos, and one of them is on the verge of erupting. All the people are panicking, and I did what I know best: I got into a full panic attack. "To leave or to stay", that was the question. 

And then I was inspired to ask another question. What can I see and understand now from this Mother Nature manifestation? 

And this is how my story unfolded. 

You already know that I am obsessed with Sanur. Sanur is a beach resort for elderly people, with great hotels and a quiet shore. But I've found something more in here. A golden light, some vintage colors embracing the ocean, happy people, an old royal elegance. I was immersed in a deep, unforgettable love story with Sanur. 

And some months ago, I've found on the internet that a hotel in Sanur offers a tour of the Royal Compound. You are literally invited to see where the King of Sanur lives. I was hooked. I sent them a message and asked them if I can visit the Royal Palace. And this was it. 

After the Mt. Agung news and panic, I received an email. I was invited to Griya Santrian, to experience their Universe and to see the Royal Home of the King of Sanur. 

But I didn't know that this experience had the answer to my question included. 

Griya Santrian is the most beautiful Balinese garden on the seaside. With all the traditions kept alive, with frangipani trees all around, with colorful buildings and modern rooms - the hotel is a precious jewel. I've found out that the owner is the King' son. 

And I had two unbelievable, magical days in here. 

My first day started with a foot massage from another world. Half an hour, I was spoiled and covered in scented oils, until I was deeply relaxed. (which is still a difficult thing for me:)

Like a royalty, I experienced an afternoon tea with delicious cookies on the beach. Sun was my partner, and frangipani flowers my maids of honor. I couldn't stop smiling. 

Then, in that evening, on the beach - watching the sacred Mt. Agung - I had my answer: if I can see, taste and feel the stillness, the greatness of Mother Nature, how can I ever be afraid?

Oh, the peace! The relief. The freedom. I stared at Mt. Agung, until the magical night went on, covering everything with glowing stars. 

But our day was not over. We get out, on the streets of Sanur, stopped at a restaurant with live music, had dinner and danced under a frangipani tree. Back on our balcony with pool view, we breathed the rain and the tropical air full of promises, peace, and joy. 

At 6 AM next day, I was on the beach, checking Mt. Agung and looking for some coffee. Of course, I was surprised to see another very matinal guest of the hotel, walking around. A guy in his fifties, all smiles and with coffee and frangipani flowers in his hands. He stopped in front of me and said: "Oh, life is sooo good, right?"

I wouldn't dare to contradict him!

After the breakfast, a car was waiting for us, and Putu - our guide - drove us to the Royal Compound. I spent one hour at the King's house, and I don't have proper words to explain what I've felt in there. Curiosity, magic, memories, love and a strong feeling that I will come back someday. We've met the High Priestess of the Royal Palace, a lot of little happy dogs, wonderful people making canang sari (Balinese offerings) and a mystical scented smoke over the Gods statues. 

Griya Santrian is the only hotel in Bali that offers a Royal Tour (for free). So, now you know! 

In that afternoon, I was wandering alone on the streets of Sanur, taking deep breaths, living my love for this unique, elegant place. 

We had another royal treat at Griya Beach Corner - an authentic Balinese signature dish, Bali Medulang -a rijstaffel dinner, consisting of yellow rice with 5 kinds of side dishes including fish meatballs, fried prawn, grill chicken Balinese spice, Indonesian spiced beef, and minced fish sate. Complimented with crackers, condiments and an array of fresh fruits and sweet desserts. 

And, of course, another magical sunset with Mt. Agung and the ocean in our hearts. 

In the last day, we ran through the rain, had a wonderful Balinese breakfast and then we played some ping pong in the resort's library. Fun is always the best choice! 

I left Griya Santrian in tears. Because I've found my peace there, and I've started to live a little. Worries and fears are good, they keep us safe, but in a state of surviving. And I don't want to survive. I want to thrive, to enjoy life to the fullest! 

So, if you're listening to the news and you are afraid of Mt. Agung - that's ok. It's your call. Here, we are doing things a little bit different. We ask questions and receive answers in the most magical way. Directly from the gods. We are on their magical island. 

All photos by Vlad Semen

20 Things to do in Singapore (2)

Last month we took a ride to Singapore to master our Indonesian business visas and to have some fun, of course. Here I wrote about the first part of our adventure in this amazing city. But let's go deep into the Singapore well-kept secrets :) 

11. After Marina, we moved to Orchard, at the sister hotel - Mandarin Orchard, by Meritus. That came with a lot of surprises too. All 1077 rooms were full! So, for two days, I've seen more people than in the last year. But the space and design of the hotel really help. 

12. Most of the time, we enjoyed the Meritus Club Lounge - a vintage, elegant and quiet place with a stunning 360 degrees view over Singapore (and great food & cocktails). 

13. We had a delicious dinner at the award-winning Chatterbox Restaurant. Chatterbox prides itself on the hugely popular Mandarin Chicken Rice which has evolved into one of Singapore's most celebrated local dishes. Other signature favorites include the Chatterbox Lobster Laksa and King Prawn Fried Hokkien Noodles.

Chatterbox earned the Hall of Fame distinction as a Heritage Brand by Singapore Prestige Brand Award and I have to tell you - the food and the services are perfect! 

14. We spent a night at the Bar on 5 - one of the top whiskey haunts in town (and wines too). 

15. A very enjoyable walk is through the traditional quarter Katong. Here, you'll see colonial buildings and street art - which adds distinct character to the neighborhood, and the coffee shops & restaurants that make this a foodie paradise of treasured local flavors, like the Katong Laksa, a local dish of savory noodles in a rich, coconut curry broth. 

16. If you have a long holiday, you can spend a day on Sentosa Island. There, you will find theme parks, adventures, and stylish restaurants. And the beach, of course. 

17. Crave a different dinner menu? Go to Triple Three. Japanese-inspired Triple Three boasts an extensive international buffet selection daily, featuring fresh sashimi and sushi, seafood on ice, live cooking stations, a premium roast section and delectable desserts. 

18. Visit Colbar. Travel back to the 60s at this quaint colonial bar. Previously a canteen for the British Army back in 1953, Colbar serves a wide selection of British beer and comforting Hainanese Western grub. The selling point of this charming bar is in its atmosphere. From vintage weighing machine to historic photos of the Colbar Football Club, Colbar delivers a slice of old Singapore.

19. For a different experience (and some delicious seafood), book a table (and a 10-minute return boat ride) at Smith Marine Floating Kelong Restaurant. A short stroll on the decks of this modern kelong (aquaculture farm) located off the north-eastern coast of Singapore lets you see how flower crabs, lobsters, sea bass, grouper and other seafood are farmed. You can even try fishing for your own dinner; the chefs will cook up your catch in a variety of styles. As the sun goes down, enjoy the sea breeze as you tuck into garlic lobster, sambal (chili paste) mussels, steamed squid and of course, Singapore’s signature chili crab.

20. And now, I have to tell you my secret about Singapore. I would not live there. It is too crowded and fast-changing for me. But, Singapore is a city to love and to come back again and again. 

My favorite places in Singapore are the balcony from the Marina Mandarin Meritus Club Lounge and the Budhha Tooth Relic Temple. 

What's yours?