Bali…”full of culture and blissful beaches” according to Lonely Planet. More importantly “where Liz Gilbert found ‘Javier Bardem’, solved her stresses, found love, and completed her year long journey of self-re-creation”. I really wish I’d come before Eat Pray Love became a hit…even if I am guilty of quoting and referring to it as a comparison benchmark for my own travels. That does NOT mean I don’t like it…it just means that visiting a Wayan (or medicine woman) is 85 dollars instead of an offering, same with Ketut or other ‘medicine men’. Yoga is 10 dollars a class on a 10 punch pass…not really that much cheaper than home…and I would actually invest serious cash in a sign that said “no thank you, I have a sarong already and I don’t need a taxi” in Balinese.
First I may interject and include a paragraph on ‘getting to Bali’….Jetstar was actually sweet….they still nickel and dimed on food, but I had an entire four seat row in the middle to myself, got free movies, the flight attendants didn’t have poles up their behinds, and made the extra effort to get my bags stored while I explored Sydney on my 8 hour lay over. First, do not EVER take the 400 from airport to Bondi Beach…it is a 2 hour journey….secondly, I didn’t realize until I met Simon in Bondi Junction for lunch (right near the old Xmas flat) how much Sydney had become a second home. I only spent over a month there….but I had spent that much time in Peru and never missed it like I do Sydney….Perhaps it was realizing that stepping into Bondi Jct I was familiar for what would be the last time in 8 months…or the fact that I understood what everyone was saying…or the fact that I had a juicy steak and didn’t doubt that it was in fact beef. Perhaps the fact that upon landing I had incoming phone calls, met with Simon and my relative, Eva for a coffee at le Pain Quotidienne…or the fact that I didn’t even have to check what train to get on….or the fact that my lingering accent has aussies in Bali asking where in Australia I’m from…but although I am ecstatic to be in Asia, I am having an unexpected longing for the carefree times I had in Oz.
Beyond that Bali definitely is full of culture, blissful beaches, and a sort of appreciation for the every day blessings. I started out in Sanur…nicknamed as ‘snore’ by LP, but the hub to ferry to Nusa Lembongan and subsequently the Gili Islands. Quite frankly it was a great place to start…everybody else I’d met had a mad hate on for Kuta, and Sanur was kind of like an Asian less ritzy version of Mexican resort strips. I was there about 20 minutes into the first monsoon rain when I decided to peace out inland instead of island bound. I’ve just spent 4 months drinking on beaches….I wasn’t about to pay to take a ferry ride to tourist-ville to not even be able to enjoy the beaches….had I come straight from home, I’d be there preying on the 2 hours of rainless, still sunless heat…but I didn’t.
While in Sanur I did manage to watch a cremation, buy a sarong for said cremation, eat local food….asked for chillis….shouldn’t have asked for chillies…, swim, and eat a hawker stall dinner while playing chess on the beach with local kids. I also met a sweet half Asian half dutch lady from Germany who made me believe that in my middle age I will look okay with blonde hair…
Anyway, I set off to Ubud on Perama bus. A tourist shuttle about 1/3 of the price of taking my own taxi. (which is like 4 dollars instead of 15). Might I also point out…you will get the BEST exchange rates IN Bali…don’t exchange before arrival…and if you are from Oz they have Commonwealth atms EVERYWHERE… I arrived in Ubud where I had a homestay booked for 17 a night (150k Rr) when a man named Nyoman told me he had my own cottage for 100k. Tempting, I kept walking…then he caught up to me on his motorbike…I hopped on to look at the place….I figured I could always jump off so it was obviously less sketchy than hopping in the rapist car in Kings Cross…. The place is great! Suartha Pension homestay is the name….I was able to bargain him down on a weekly rate probably cheaper than anywhere else in town and I get breakfast every morning, which is a plate with Cora style fruit, eggs, toast, and Coffee. I’m happy. So I’m here in Ubud for a week, chilling, yoga-ing, meditating, hunting down local specialties from hawker stalls, and avoiding technology (with the exception of today’s calm everyone the F down, I am alive wifi connection and this post), while I bliss out in what feels as quaint, accepting, and homely as Byron Bay…and we all know how much I loved Byron Bay.
I’m really digging the ‘home stay’ situation. I have helped making the daily offerings that they make to put on steps for the gods, learned some Balinese, got breakfast in bed, my own room, and actually feel like I’m staying here, not visiting. It will also be really cool for the upcoming Balinese New Year (My third New year in 2013!!) called Nyepi….basically the day before is insane festivals and the day of is complete silence, and everything shuts down. The only people allowed outside of houses are the Nyepi police who patrol the streets to ensure everyone is observing the holiday…even foreigners!