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New Year's Eve at the Puri Santrian

We all loved the Puri Santrian hotel. Located right on the beach with three gorgeous pools and lush landscaping, the hotel has a lovely Balinese feel with high-quality service and food. Since we were staying over on New Year’s Eve, we were required pay for the hotel’s New Year’s Eve party, priced at a princely $60 per person, no discount for kids. Having paid, we were of course free to eat elsewhere if we chose. We did not.

At that price, we were expecting something Special and Great. Our expectations were further fueled as we watched the hotel prepare during the preceding week. The normally-open grassy area near the beach was enclosed in an elaborate pavilion, festooned with gorgeous fabrics and accented with beautiful decorations that were hand-woven from palm fronds. A high-tech sound system was brought in and wired up, along with lots of lights. A thrust stage was built, complete with Balinese statues as set pieces. All in all, the trappings of a Major Production.

New Year’s Eve finally arrived. Sharon was unfortunately not feeling well with what turned out to be a mild case of food poisoning from the previous night’s dinner, where I violated the cardinal rule of eating in a tropical third-world country: never, EVER eat uncooked vegetables. That huge bowl of gazpacho I ordered tasted mighty good, but it came with a big price tag late on new year’s night.

Sharon had just a few spoonsful, enough to send her back to the room before the New Year’s eve dinner began. On the other hand, her light case let her bounce right back the next day. I, unfortunately, fell later but far harder, and did not join the rest of the family again until January 2. But on New Year’s Eve, I was still hale and hearty enough to hang with the kids and other hotel guests at the extravaganza.

To jump to the punch line, we were all disappointed by the hotel’s attempt. First off, we found out that they forgotten to assign us to a table, so we stood around looking hungrily at the other guests for 15 minutes before being seated.

The welcome drinks served in pineapples looked cool, but were actually warm – ick. We were starving, but were told that dinner wouldn’t be served until 8 PM, after some entertainment. Oh no!
We could see the food from where we were sitting, making it even harder to wait. Three different pavilions groaned with heaped platters, gorgeously arranged and with intricate decorations scattered throughout. But a few stray oversights marred the effect; for instance, forgetting to remove the paper signs indicating to the kitchen crew where to set up each station.
The pavilion sure did look nice, but when the emcee finally started the show by crooning a Perry Como song (karaoke-style to a canned backup tape), the CD started skipping so badly that he had to stop in mid-tune. He covered nicely with multi-lingual welcome-to-the-party patter, but the magic had been lost.
The dancing finally started (it was now 8:45, and we had still not been allowed to start in on the mountains of food). Lovely young women came out, accompanied by a live Balinese gamelan orchestra.

They did the same welcome dance we had seen Christmas Eve at the Watering Hole (you know, the $4 per person meal-plus-entertainment. Right. That one.) Then another dance. Then more.

To my untrained eye, these dancers looked to have the same level of skill as the pre-teens at the Watering Hole. Miranda and Sami got bored fast, though luckily we were sharing a large table with two British boys almost exactly their ages (and their parents, of course, who were also very pleasant to talk to).

Just as we were ready to call it a night and send out for a pizza, the emcee announced a new kind of Balinese dance – dance-along! I didn’t pay much attention as the dancers roamed through the crowd enticing unwitting men to come on stage and dance.

The girls, however, were right on top of the action, so when a dancer came near, they started shouting and pointing at me: “Pick him! Pick him!”

How could I refuse?

Dancing like a maniac in front of 200+ people while Miranda and Sami laughed hysterically – plus the two-hour wait for the meal – had definitely increased my appetite, and we swarmed the buffet when it was finally declared open. But despite the beautiful presentation, the food itself tasted pretty much the same as the Christmas buffet at the Watering Hole. Just to remind you, that cost $4 per person.

After all the build-up, all our excitement and anticipation, and the highly festive nature of the occasion, making a fool out of myself in front of my children turned out to be the high point of the evening. Sure, it set us back $240 – but in the end, it was worth every penny.

2004 was a dynamic and challenging year for us – moving to China, away from friends and family, putting the girls into a grueling Chinese school, and wrestling with all the adjustments of a new language and culture. All of this had taken a pretty heavy toll on each of us, and on our family as a whole.

People have told us they admire what we’re doing by making this big move to China; we’re pretty sure that privately, most of them are silently twirling their fingers next to their heads and rolling their eyes. For me, trying to imitate a Balinese dancer, with my stomach grumbling from hunger (or was it the gazpacho?), and grinning ear-to-ear as a multitude of strangers called out encouragement in a dozen languages while the girls the girls chortled with glee, seemed a fittingly what-the-heck way to wrap up our riotous and unpredictable year.

Next: More adventure sports - a mountain bike ride down a volcano.


Bali chapter shortcuts: Intro Xmas Eve Zoo Temple Market Balinese Beauty Tsunami
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