Took a three-day trip to the little town of Solo on the island of Java, population about 500,000. Solo is a sleepy little place, compared to the bigĀ  cities of Java, as well as the tourist bustle of Bali. This was my third trip to Solo, and it is, for some reason, one of my favorite spots. Perhaps it reminds me of my old home town of Portland, Oregon. Solo is a bit cooler than Bali, and when it rains, it actually gets rather chilly — which is a nice change. When it rains in Bali, it is still hot. The rain itself is warm. Also, when it rains in Solo, the rain is downright serious compared to the brief showers of Bali. Quite a show, with pouring rain, palm trees blowing sideways, lightening the thunder.

But I think the thing I like best about Solo is just the people. These are some of the friendliest people one can hope to meet. Given that there is not much to attract outsiders to this little town, the appearance of a foreigner, especially a bule, or a white person, is met often enough with a certain amount of fanfare. One time, for instance, I was walking down to the mall when students were just coming out of school for the day. Seeing me, they ran single-mindedly to meet the strange alien among them, dancing around me, each with a dozen questions, some practicing a cherished word of English, all following me down the street as one little girl, without a word, took my hand and walked beside me, as if I were her temporary father.

Villa Vayu

Sometimes it pays to have wealthy friends … or rather, to have a wife who has wealthy friends. It’s all the same when you are both invited to stay a couple nights at a posh Seminyak Villa.

Vayu is one of two villas owned by John, an Australian friend. Both are situated among a sort of community of villas at the heart of the tourist district of Seminyak. The curious thing about these villas is that although they are tucked right into a district full of restaurants, shops and nightclubs, the villa environ itself is quiet and peaceful. How this bit of magic has been engineered, I cannot say. Perhaps something to do with the local Bali gods?

In any case, Villa Vayu, like most villas, is built around a central swimming pool and garden. Facing the pool are two suites, complete with king size bed, wardrobe area and outdoor bath and shower. And, of course, hot water. I mention that, because most places here, occupied by normal people like myself, anyway, don’t have hot water. Except when it turns warm from the heat of the sun alone. Not that we really need hot water, but it’s just nice sometimes, especially after a swim, or first thing in the morning.

Speaking of which, each morning the villa staff arrives to prepare a breakfast of your choice, and will then tidy up for the ensuing day.

It’s a little taste of luxury to salt the normal pattern of every day life.