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Very recently I had the good fortune to be invited to Bali to stay in a Villa, free of charge. This Villa had five bedrooms. The bedrooms were massive and romantic with mosquito nets over the beds, each with its own private bath. The kitchen had a staff of five and a long table to seat twelve. A rooftop overlooked the roiling sea. The long infinity pool lapped quietly under a flawless sky.

I am not making this up!

Bali makes one write like a foolish ninth-grader in love with adjectives.

villa surgawi

Villa Suragawi in Cemagi

We also had a driver for eight hours a day and “we” were six women loosely connected through the ring leader, my friend Annette, who won the trip in a prize draw. 3 Americans, 1 Italian, 2 Chinese spanning three decades.

What did we do, all of us together, in this paradise?  


The staff at our disposal presented a menu, more like a book. Each morning we told these smiling people what we wanted to eat so they could oblige us with fresh ingredients. We ate most breakfasts—simple omelets, fruit, yogurt—out in the fresh morning air under a covered patio by the pool.  Dinners were a sumptuous array of local dishes—noodles, satay, soups, fish, rice—and fruit again. MORE MANGO, PLEASE!


In Bali, tourists are the economy; activities abound. We scuba dove, saw healers, had massages, learned to cook, shopped, and strolled museums. At night after eating in our sprawling kitchen, we swam in the pool. We even played pool (the Villa had a pool table, why not?).

But the favoritest event of them all was horseback riding. Early one morning, high-stepping along in a clump of equines and guides, we found ourselves on a pristine beach, waves frothing onto the sand, horses pawing the water as if on cue, our collective girl-hair blowing back while trotting along the sea. The horses were a novelty to the Chinese girls. Coral proclaimed, “I will live on this horse!” and Joyce shouted, “I finally believe in God!”

Missing Marta, Finding God

Missing Marta, Finding God


I must be wrong about this but in Bali there don’t seem to be any street names or signposts. We had some adventurous drives.  The first night from the airport, our driver took us to the town called Cemagi but did not know how to find the Villa. The method for acquiring directions is to stop at the side of the road and ask a random stranger sitting out in the hot night. Many times. The drivers have phones, phones that receive calls but never have enough money on them to make calls.

On the second day Joyce, Coral and I went scuba diving. We didn’t realize the dive spot was three hours from our Villa. A driver picked us up at 6:00AM and we barreled around curves at high speeds swiping past stray dogs and scooters. After a reasonable time, the driver confessed he had another job; he would need to get to the airport. No worries, though… he would drop us at his cousin’s and he would would take us! We could have been anywhere on the island. We had no maps and no clue and the dive spot was still two hours away. When Cousin Driver took over the wheel, he turned to me and said, “It’s OK, m’am. My cousin say you can get us back to the Villa.”

That was a rather long day.

But no worries. When we returned thirteen hours later, fresh food was waiting and another night swim under a starry sky.