Bali: At The Melia

The north side of the Melia Hotel Bali. The grounds were so quiet and beautiful.

This is the second post on my visit to Bali last June – a year ago. My, how time flies.

On Friday evening (on the day we arrived in Bali), we were told that we have been invited as participants to the regional meeting to attend a cultural festival which will be opened by The President of the Republic of Indonesia.

This was news to us as we were not told earlier when we checked into our hotel – the Grand Bali Nusa Dua. We also had not received copies of our programme in Bali for that weekend apart from attending the inaugural Global Ethics on Tourism meeting at a neighbouring hotel.

We only found out when we sauntered into the Melia Hotel Bali about 4.00pm or thereabouts. This hotel was the location of our regional meeting the next day, Saturday. The announcement that we were going to a cultural festival that evening was really a surprise and a half!

Entrance to the Melia Bali – the gong seems to be a common feature in most Balinese and Indonesian establishments. They use it to announce the arrival of an important visitor.

Thank goodness we are from Papua New Guinea which has a blessed word-of-mouth culture and are not so hung up on a written programme so we had no problems as we switched on to our coconut wireless and asked around to find out what we were supposed to be doing. One thing we realised we had to do was wear something decent and dignified as we were going to be in the presence of so many VIPs and in a manner speaking we too were VIPs that evening at the cultural festival.

We scrambled to find suitable attire for the occasion. We looked around and at eachother and wondered whether we should attend or not. We could have laid on the excuse that we did not have the right kind of clothes for the event or we could have decided simply not to go. However, I reckon since we were the only ones from the Pacific Islands region and besides we were Papua New Guineans, such excuses are lame and embarrassing. So we bit the bullet and decided we were certainly on that bus to the festival. We might learn something valuable about Balinese culture – that made up our minds for us!

The grand foyer at the Melia Bali. Loved the high ceilings and open design.

We had to think on our feet – there was no time to return to our hotel so the best thing we could do was purchase batik clothes.  Batik is generally accepted as ‘formal’ wear so that was easy – but where to get batik-wear was the million dollar question. Thank goodness there was a souvenir shop at the Melia so we went in there pronto! After getting in and out of several outfits we settled on a blouse for me and a shirt for my colleague. At last we were set and felt confident that we can now join the other more formally attired fellow participants.

A very valuable lesson for the future – advise all participants of the programme apart from the programme of the meeting proper for which we had traveled over 8 hours (including the overnight stop in Singapore) from our country via Singapore to participate in.

One word to describe this place – grand!

We joined the others were were already assembled at the hotel entrance and waited for our bus to arrive.

A stone sculpture on the grounds of the Melia Bali.

By the way, we found out that we were not the only ones looking for something descent to wear to the festival and that made us feel better. Another delegate to the meeting was also looking for something descent and more Balinese or Indonesian to wear. We didn’t feel too bad then.

As we waited for the bus I spared a few minutes to take these shots.

This beautiful sort of parasol caught my eye. Very ornate set.

This hotel is bigger and grand than the Grand Bali Nusa Dua but I wasn’t disappointed at all – just glad that I could wonder around and take some shots of the Melia Hotel Bali.

I’m always fascinated by hotels especially the architecture and the materials used. The Melia was no exception. I guess hotels anywhere always try to find the edge that induces tourists and those like us attending conferences and so on to feel like the hotel is a ‘home away from home’ and in some instances that is the case. I find that hotels in Asia actually fit into the category of ‘home away from home’ come to think of it.

Another stone sculpture outside the hotel. Stone sculptures seemed to be a common feature at this hotel and my hotel. The black and white checkered fabric seems to be a feature at this hotel too.

Our bus eventually arrived and as we clambered onto the bus, I wondered what the rooms at the Melia were like and what the rate per night was.

En route to the festival we were served an early dinner in woven baskets on the bus.  This was a novelty for me and I marvelled at the simplest things which the Balinese do as they extended the hand of friendship and hospitality wherever we went during our brief stay in Bali.

This was also unexpected but I was pleasantly surprised as lunch was a fair few hours ago on the flight to Bali from Singapore. Oh yes, my colleague and I were upgraded to Business Class in Singapore so you can imagine what lunch was like especially on a Singapore Airlines flight – one word “sumptuous!”

I loved this sign – written with stones, on sand, and decorated with a flower. Lovely and elegant like everything about this hotel.

The journey to the festival went smoothly and once again I felt so privileged to have been there and to have enjoyed the cultural programme besides even though we were not made aware of it when we arrived. I guess it was clearly a case of being at the right place at the right time.

I’ve added the Melia Hotel Bali to my list of possible hotels to check out next time I plan to visit Bali.

The Turtle: Another Icon of the Pacific Islands

Miss American Samoa - this print really moved me

I realised how much the turtle means to people of the Pacific Islands when I saw the sarong designs and prints sported by the 2010 Miss South Pacific Pageant contestants in November last year here in Port Moresby. Here are some of the reminders on the Sarong and Talent judging evening at the Lamana Hotel.

Miss American Samoa - an award-worthy print!

There should be two additional award categories: one for the prints on the sarong and the other for sarong design. As you can see from these photos, the attention to detail and style needs to be recognized and rewarded.

Miss Samoa - stunning idea! The shell pattern on a turtle's back.

We can find turtles practically anywhere in the Pacific Islands – from Hawaii to Papua New Guinea. Each of us have a special connection to this marine animal. The turtles live in the sea and lay their eggs along the sandy beaches of our lovely islands. These prints and designs show that connection.

Miss Samoa - turtle clasps made of coconut shell or turtle shell on the sarong

What comes to mind when I watched the contestants in their sarongs and these designs and prints is that the turtle has a very significant place in the cultures, as well as the cuisine of the Pacific Islands.

Miss Tonga - a turtle print on her sarong - impressive print

In Samoa one of the top 10 tourist attractions is swimming with turtles. In Hawaii we find the legend of the sea turtle called ‘Kauila‘. I am sure there are a few legends and myths about of sea turtles that go beyond the Pacific Islands. That means that the sea turtle is a migratory species and can be found also in Asia and the Caribbean.

In some parts of PNG turtle meat and turtle eggs are a delicacy. In Daru, Western Province the popular turtle meat dish is called isi dou. I tried making isi dou wrapped in foil – not the real thing to use but the taste was exquisite! So I was told by my relatives who enjoyed the dish immensely.

I will end this post by sharing a great article on sea turtles which I am sure we can identify with – the protection and preservation of these animals and also a Fact Sheet titled “Sea Turtles of the South Pacific” published by the South Pacific Environmental Programme (SPREP) which gives an overview of the variety of sea turtles, life cyle and other very important information about these marine animals.

May the turtle live on and continue to be an icon of the Pacific Islands.