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May 2, 2006

little offerings

i've been in bali for about 24 hours now. i woke up today to the crowing of a rooster at 630am. the days are humid but not too hot, and nights are cooled by a fan set in the thatched roof of my room.

bali is from different from anywhere i've been before. it's a land of little touches everywhere -- the electric stone lamps perched on the top edge of a wall between two hotels, tiny offerings of rice and flowers are left in palm-leaf baskets all over the place, the fabrics draped on religious statues topped off with a shade umbrella, temples appear in unexpected locations, and there is a higher density of surf shops here than almost any other place in the world. (part of their ability to profilerate is that almost all of them appear to be selling either copies of the acutal clothing, or locally licensed versions that are cheaper to produce). Note: Volcom appears to now be one of the top 5 brands of grey-market clothes sold out here... i didn't realize that they'd jumped the surf fashion shark. and there's also the "italian lira" school of math to be used here -- with the exchange rate of roughly 10,000 indonesian rupees to 1 US dollar, some extra attention is needed when paying for those souvenirs.

of course, it also feels good to have the superficial benefits of southeast asia: USD $0.80 beers (and since brunei's laws do not allow the sale of alcoholic beverages [you have to bring your own alcohol into the country with you and drink before going out], it's nice just to be back in the land of beer at all), cheap guesthouses with private rooms, and tons of grey-market clothing and media. the video bars are back too, so dinner last night was accompanied by episodes of family guy and scary movie 3.

there is a cultural incongruity in seeing giant ads from US-based surf brands (billabong, stussy, quiksilver, rip curl, etc) covering the walls in the incoming immigration/visa portion of the Bali airport. even the mcdonald's by the beach has ronald riding on a surfboard. and any visit to the beach is not complete without getting hassled by the hordes of surf touts that hang out on the beach ("want to rent a surfboard? free lesson included!")

tourist numbers appear to be way down from kuta's former status as an australian surf haven. most of the travellers i've seen here are visiting from asia or scandinavia, and many of the hawker's stalls are empty of any customers.

after doing some last-minute research on lonely planet's excellent thorn tree message boards to update my 4-years-old guidebook, i found a place named the AP Inn on Poppies 2 (sort of the bali equivalent of khao san road). i know that many people out there may hate me for saying this about KSR, but i actually find places like it really handy for getting organized before heading on to more remote destinations.

i'm moving on pretty quickly from here -- i'll head out to ubud tomorrow morning, and come back on thursday to head out to the gilli islands. for some days spent scuba diving and just to get away from urban life. any island whose sole form of transport is horse-drawn carts or rented bicycles sounds like the right pace for me right now.

May 5, 2006

island time redux

the last few days i've been living in a fan-cooled bungalow at a dive center on the beach of an island called gilli trawangan, near the island of lombok, which in turn is close to bali.

the days are simple: i wake up early in the mornings, eat a simple breakfast and drink some bali coffee, and i get in a boat for the morning's dive. then we come back in the afternoon, there's a few hours break for lunch, and then it's diving again until 3. today, besides all of the great coral and tropical fish, we also saw giant sea turtles and a shark! (don't worry, the sharks that live here haven't attacked divers) after that, i lie out on the beach or on the porch of my bungalow, read, write, and relax.

in the evenings, there is a sand road strip of thatched huts that contain bungalows, restaurants, and bars, so it's fresh-barbequed fish caught off the island or indonesian curries for dinner. the party for the night (all 30 people of it) is usually at one of the bars nearby within a minute's walk from home, where travellers drink together until late in the night.

the soundtrack to all of this is roosters crowing and indonesian voices and horse bells jingling and waves crashing and cafe stereo systems playing american pop music and movies. as i write this down, lenny kravitz playing somewhere, urging me to know that "yesterday is gone".

i am happy, and life is good.

May 7, 2006

"lost" day

today was the first "lost day" of the trip. by lost day, i'm referring to those days when you're done staying in one place, you have your transport planned out to get to your next place, and... something goes wrong. you miss your train, or you get on the wrong train, or the ferry doesn't show up, or whathaveyou, and it's going to take 24 hours to make thing right again and head off to your destination.

in this case, the plane tickets for today were sold out to get back to the island of bali, and i was too late for my back-up plan, the $18 USD, 11-hour adventure of shuttle boat -> bus -> ferry -> bus -> hostel. so, i ended up spending another day at gili trawangan, hanging out on the beach, doing a little writing, and enjoying the monsoon-like rain that suddenly began to pour down on us this evening.

i've been through much worse lost days -- the nights spent in train stations in romania and croatia come to mind first off. of course, no day is truly "lost" on a trip like this, but it always throws an unexpected crimp in the usual vacation plans... the thing that makes any lost day a little annoying is that i've psyched myself up to leave and move on, and then i'm here another day, usually at the expense of whatever i had planned for the next day. ah well, part of trips like this learning to go with the change instead of fighting it too much.

so tomorrow morning it's back to kuta (instead of seeing the monkey forest at ubud, as previously planned) via that 11-hour route i described above, followed by an early night, and then i'm off to kuala lumpur, malyasia the next day.

back to drinking beers under shelter at the dive shack!

May 9, 2006

so long bali, see you soon...

departing bali was hard today -- after returning from the gili islands via a somewhat painful 12-hour journey from 8am to 8pm, kuta felt like an old friend. i returned to my US$10 per night fan-cooled room (the cost includes a modest breakfast, as is standard for most budget accomodation on Bali & Lombok) at the AP Inn, had dinner and watched a movie with tow-headed surfers at Swell on Poppies I, and easily reminded the cashier at the minimart who tried to palm a 5000 rupiah note from a water bottle purchase that i needed the rest of my change as well.

this morning, i bought souvenirs from street vendors and gray-market surf clothing (thankfully replacing my not-even-slightly-breathable shows-sweat-like-a-beacon button-down shirt with a more comfortable "Designed in Australia, Made in China, Licensed to Quiksilver Indonesia Pt." buttondown shirt, and getting this sweet Alf t-shirt to send home) at JungleSurf, one of the many surf stores on legian st. in kuta.

growing up, i spent a fair amount of time at the beach, and i've alwas felt at home in neighborhoods by the sea -- there is a mellow pace of life that you can quickly pick up on. that easier pace here, combined with the beautiful artistic touches that enter into everyday life thanks to Balinese Hinduism (statues unexpectedly draped in new cloth, floral offerings left in unusual places, large poles of woven leaves raised to the sky) makes for a really appealing vibe.

sure, there are the very insistent hawkers for stores, taxis, massages, and everything in between, but given the economic condition of indonesia, it's understandable (albeit pretty frustrating at times). indonesia is the first place on this trip where i feel like i've barely scratched the surface -- i plan to return here one day and spend some time really seeing what bali (and the rest of indonesia) have to offer... and to finally get surfing lessons in kuta.

malayasia, i suspect, will also have some of the same issues. visiting kuala lumpur (aka. "KL") and the cameron highlands for 6 days will just give me that first taste that will whet my appetitie for more, not to mention the east malayasian states of sarawak and sabah, where dayak tribes still live in the Borneo rainforest. i've been reading the book "Shooting the Boh" by tracy johnston, which i picked up coincidentally in the book exchange at a new zealand hostel, covers the author's adventure rafting Borneo's Boh river.

this feeling like i've cut things a little short is all part of the fun of how i've structured this RTW trip -- a few month-long immersions in countries, with the rest being either quick glimpses of new lands (and recon for longer future trips back to them), or visits back to countries that i've been to before and loved.

i will remember bali by its coffee, which i drank every morning here... locally grown beans ground up and dumped straight into my cup, with boiling water poured directly on top. once the ground settle, it's delicious (especially with some of the sugar that always gets offered with the coffee). different, stimulating, good. i'll miss it.

(looking for more bali? why not check out my Indonesia photo set, or 60 seconds of time driving through a Bali port town.)

About Indonesia

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to gone living in the Indonesia category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

India is the previous category.

International Waters is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.