Donna Carpenter: Birthday in Bali

This past month included a milestone birthday, so to throw me off Jake threw me a surprise party 10 months ago. It was the party of a lifetime and this year—for my actual mid-century celebration—I wanted something quiet…but exotic.

I’d been to Bali once before with my friend (and Burtonista) Anne-Marie Dacyshyn to an incredible women’s surf camp, and for years I’ve dreamt of going back. So, Anne-Marie and I set off with our husbands Greg and Jake on a 36-hour journey through Hong Kong to the bustling city of Denpasar. Traveling that far can be stressful, and we were all a bit overwhelmed until we arrived in Canggu and settled into our temporary Bali home.

This was, by far, the coolest house I’ve ever been to. It was designed by an artist and was decorated with artifacts and art from all over Southeast Asia. It was what I imagine it would be like to live inside an artist’s dream. It didn’t take much time to start feeling relaxed.

On the evening of my birthday, Jake set up the most beautiful dinner I’ve ever seen…on the beach!  I was surrounded by some of my closest friends: Anne-Marie, Greg, Mike Cox and Benji Weatherley. Our local friends Marlon Gerber, Rizal and Chandra Tanjung also joined, with their two adorable boys. It was such a special evening and I’ll never forget it.

The following day we journeyed inland to the mountains of Ubud (pronounced oo-bood), which is the cultural and spiritual center of Bali. It’s filled with artists, yogis, healers and hippies. We had an amazing day at the Ubud Monkey Forest, a sacred Hindi nature reserve that is home to an ancient temple and over 300 friendly, sometimes naughty (pick-pocketing!) Macaque monkeys.

While in Ubud, we were also thrilled to meet up with long-time friend Gabi Viteri. She’s been living the Ubud yogi lifestyle, and we had a great time checking out some local crafts with her.

The next few days were surf and sun-filled before we set off to fulfill one of Anne-Marie’s dreams of riding an elephant.

On our voyage we discovered an enchanted place, dedicated to saving elephants that are threatened by poaching Sumatra.

As an added bonus, we all got the resident honey bear (Agip, who is also rescued) to sit on our laps and give us all bear hugs.

Thank you to my travel companions. This was a perfect birthday and an unbeatable beginning to the next half-century. Until next time, Bali!

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