Where to stay. The Oberoi hotel in Legian Beach has roofless bathrooms, which are nice until you discover that on Legian Beach you can rent motorized hang-gliders. The Oberoi may be the only luxury hotel in the world whose bathroom sinks are equipped with spray cans of Bay-Gon, which combats, according to the label, nyamuk, kacoa, laba-laba and kutubusuk. That's "mosquito," "cockroach," "spider" and "bug" if you're scoring at home.
On the downscale are the Bali Intan Cottages in Kuta Beach, a sort of Fort Lauderdale for vacationing Australian students, (AVOID HANGOVERS advises a sign at the Cock 'N' Bull Pub. STAY DRUNK.)
"We take any kind of card," said the man behind the desk at the Intan Cottages. I charged my room to a long-expired Minneapolis Public Library card but was busted at checkout.
"Big sorry," I said. "I did not know."
JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO
English-language guidebooks to Bali do exist. "It's often said the Balinese look away from the sea and toward the mountains," reads one book. "The mountains are the abode of gods and the sea is the home of demons and monsters."
The sea, as I would discover when I became human crankbait, was indeed the home of demons and monsters. But the mountains, as I discovered at the Bali Handara golf course, were not all bougainvillea, either.
Lake Buyan and 7,467-foot Mount Batukau overlook Bali Handara. Two years ago, the Indonesian government banned hiking on Batukau, anticipating a volcanic eruption that has yet to come. Nevertheless, "I think Batukau will smoke soon," a Balinese man told me. "On top of Batukau, trees are growing up. I think they are very hot, yes?" But the most unsettling thought as I made my backswing on Handara's first tee was the knowledge that the golf course on which I stood was, literally, 18 holes in one.
The Bali Handara course was laid out 17 years ago in the crater of an unnamed volcano. Sure, the volcano is "long inactive," but so are Tony Orlando and Dawn. Should I not fear a return to activity?
Directly behind me on the first tee box, Mount Catur watched my follow-through like a 3,000-foot instructor. And though my alltime lowest golf score would be a record-high temperature on Guam, I unaccountably spanked that first ball 275 yards down the center of the fairway. My caddy, a 16-year-old Pancasari village girl named Kadek Suartini, admired the flight of the Titleist. Then Kadek the Magnificent, more lovely than Princess Lalah herself, turned to me and gushed: