After the emotional distress of Dinky flying back to London, I taxi over to Canggu to meet up with a girl I met back in New Zealand (Tamsin). The taxi passes through a signposted ‘law abiding sector’ where cars have to travel in the right direction and stop at traffic lights. I couldn’t quite grasp the point of this selective enforcement.
The taxi driver was a most enthusiastic man who barked in my face for most the journey. I’m still not sure what he was communicating.
My accommodation in Canggu is an open sided barn. Mattresses are layed out and sarongs hung from beams to create individual ‘rooms’. A number of bean bag make up our lounge area, and surfboards hang from the ceiling.
Over the next 3 days our tropical squat is a base for surfing in Batu Bolong. I’m introduced to my first ‘pointy place’ where locals feed. Behind glass are a selection of rices, vegetables and meats. With some discriminate pointing, a towering pile of goodness can be purchased for pennies (about 50 of them). There is the added excitement of food tickets which you present to pay on leaving. The more you eat, the more tickets you get. I was often ‘winning’.
It’s in ‘pointy places’ I discover es jeruk (iced sweet orange), bala-bala (veg tempura like) and gado-gado ( steamed veg with satay sauce). Locals always leave a small amount of food on their plates ‘for the gods’. I can’t do this and struggle not to raid others left overs.
Two girls from camp head into Kuta for a night out with two local surfers. The girls bump into some friends from earlier travel days but the Balinese men refuse to mix, stating that it ‘wasn’t the plan’. After much debate, the men realise that exclusivity to their female company will not be granted so they head home. In both retail and romantic pursuits, the Balinese males can be quite predatory… I learn that tourists are called ‘bulis’ and such men ‘buli hunters’. Avoid!
Tamsin and I head on to Ubud, located in Central Bali. Ubud is a maze of art, craft, cafés and yoga. With a couple of others we hire a taxi and and go to point our eyes at some old stuff.
First up is Goa Gajah, or Elephant Cave, a stepped jungle valley of 9th century Hindu temples. The main attraction is a stone mask whose gaping mouth leads you into a cave of worship. A sign proudly proclaims that Goa Gajah is a ‘1995 Unesco World Heritage Site (Tentative)’. Tentative? This is bruising.
We move onto Tirta Empul which houses cleansing pools for public use. No soaps though as the pools are home to several voluptuous koi carp. Hindu visitors leave ladened down by buckets filled for home use.
Soon enough the compulsory Spice Tour comes around (unavoidable, third one of my travels…!). After traipsing round the usual, we meet the headline act…the Luwak. This is a large nocturnal meerkat like creature which feeds on high quality coffee beans which are then extracted from their faeces, roasted, and sold as a premium coffee. Yep. Luwak Coffee. Go get yours now…
Last up are views of paddy fields and a museum which briefly focuses on Hollands invasion of Indonesia under Queen Willomena. Contorted wooden masks with wild mains of hair (rangda) and two person operated beasts (barong ket) used in traditional dances are also displayed.
Back in Ubud I join an Arial Yoga class which involves conducting various asanas (poses) using a sling which hangs from beams overhead. Faddish but fun.
As Tamsin heads to Lombok I travel west to the coastal town of Sanur. The hostel has a sign up warning about sociopaths with advise on how to spot them. This is new. There are also giant rats which jump out of bins at night. Not so new.
One evening was spent watching the Netherlands v Australia World Cup game. We had just one Australian in our midst. Against stereotype, he was enthusiastically uninterested in sport. This self taught didgeridoo player, educated me on how didgeridoos are formed by termites hollowing out the insides of tree trunks. They form small rivulets which run the length of the instrument creating the distinctive timbre when played. He acquired his own ‘didge’ by tapping on trees to find a hollow trunk. He also pointed me in the direction of this mind blowing artist (link).
The Netherlands won and I shouted ‘Go Football!’ four times.
A couple of studios in Sanur run Balinese Yoga classes. I toured these for variation, though it transpired the same teacher reigned over the whole patch so I just appeared to be stalking him. Balinese yoga is a mix of steady Vinyasa and Hatha styles…for anyone this makes sense to! And I’m NOT ashamed to admit I paid for a ‘flower bath’ (boring after 2 minutes).
I circle back to the hellish but beguiling splat of Kuta. A Canadian girl on the shuttle bus is heading to the airport to fly home for her birthday. Her friends and family, however, are expecting her back two months later. She’d asked her mum to get family and close friends round for a communal Skyping session ‘to Indonesia’. She also suggested a feast in her honour and this was duly arranged. At the scheduled call time, as the small crowd are huddled round the computer, the doorbell will ring and she will arrive at the birthday party she subversively and expertly planned herself!
I spend my last night in Bali watching the sunset with a pick and mix of people (Vietnamese, Canadian, Argentinian and French). The Canadian guy enlightens that the singular long nail many older Indonesian men possess is a status symbol of not working in manual labour.
Indonesia is HUGE and inconveniently arranged for speedy travel. I’ve only seen a morsel but will miss the too sparse but distinctive native calling cards. The throbbing pulse of wind through overhead kites, the ubiquitous scent of frangipani incense and the nonchalant artistic talents (carving, painting, music, singing, on and on).
I’ll miss the colourful array of delicate banana leaf offerings laden with flowers, rice and sweets. Bringing good fortune to…everything, they politely obstruct shop doors, stack up in temples and sit atop ATM machines.
Finally…the cats. Due to human cruelty or island inbreeding (juries out) they parade an unusual display of stumpy, curled or bent tails. I meet one heavily pregnant cat with a stumpy set-up. With her bulging belly she looks like a small goat.
I’m now on a plane to Singapore, taxing past the beach where Dinky and I were stood not so long ago on our failed plane stroking expedition. So long Indo! Sumatra and Java next time…