Monday, 20 August 2007

Bali

Sting

Three weeks ago I was stung by jellyfish and the scars are still on my arms. It looks awful and I'm wondering when they'll fade. Some locals told me to apply vinegar but that makes them sting more. I eventually obtained a tourist visa after enduring the tedious bureaucracy of the Taiwanese Embassy in Jakarta.


Bali arrival

I made it to Bali Island - the tropical jewel in Indonesia's tourism crown. I flew east over Java with incredible views of volcanoes piercing the immense carpet of cloud. It's a relief to be away from Jakarta's chaotic congestion and pollution.

Football

Newcastle are away to Bolton at 2200 and it's live on a big screen near the Guest House. First game of the season on my first night in Bali! I think I'll be hungover tomorrow. Amazing to think I can watch this live on the other side of the World. Thankfully the English Premier league is massive in SE Asia.

I walked from the airport to the center of Kuta. The first thing that struck me is the amount of fat Aussies here - millions of them. A fair smattering of Japanese too. I have two weeks in Bali before starting a new career as an English teacher in Taiwan so I'm going to make the most of it.

Bali - reflections

Bali's wonderful, not Muslim like most of the country but Hindu. I wish I'd spent less time in Java and more time here. There are many things for the senses. All over the ground you see little leaf-made containers full of flowers, rice and other bits-n-bobs which seem to be religious offerings. I went to a temple and was intrigued to see a decapitated chicken. They regularly sacrifice animals according to the religion which appears to be a mix of Hinduism/Buddhism/Animism. Enchanting Balinese music resonates from the many festivals that seem to spontaneously manifest themselves.

Wedding

DSC05580.JPGRene, my friend from Burma, took me to a local wedding where they dressed me in traditional local attire. It was great, I was like an albino Bali man! Bali is full of colour: clothing, flowers, religious paraphernalia, local flora and luxuriant green rice terraces.


With Rene and his son Jonathan at the wedding.



DSC05577.JPGLook at how colourful everything is - I'm wearing a double layer silk sarong - never thought I'd hear myself say that!












Kuta

I spent four days in Kuta (the main beach party place) mainly drinking with a alcoholic idiot from London who had a tattoo of a cigarette behind his ear? He was canny crack but my liver suffered. We drank for 24hrs twice in a row with a small sleeping break. I vaguely remember Newcastle beating Bolton. I watched this with a Bolton fan which was a good laugh. I watched hundreds of surfers while drinking coffee with the locals. I quickly got tired of this place and went in search of tranquility and culture. I hired a scooter for eight days and headed to Ubud.



Ubud

Ubud is north of the main town Denpasar in the mountains. It's a spectacular place surrounded by mountain-side, emerald-green rice terraces and palm trees. It's also the artistic capital of Bali.

I've been with Rene and his family for a week. He's an art dealer so we've been to many galleries and exhibitions (Eh? What's all this about?). His youngest son had his first birthday followed by a family outing to a quiet beach called Blue Lagoon near Padang Bai. We grilled two massive ugly Grupa fish on a beach BBQ before snorkelling among the coral and dazzling fish. His other son was like a limpet on me as the waves crashed over us. It was a great day except for a little sunburn.

I helped Rene make some bamboo shelving at his self-built house. His house is open (no doors) with a fish pond surround. You walk over stepping stones to enter - really cool. It feels odd been in a family home with kids, meals, jobs and regular life stuff going on. I felt pangs of I-need-a-family as I played with Rene's sons.

One problem here is the amount of scary wild dogs that roam the streets in packs. Maybe it's a Hindu thing but I'd cull the bastards if I was in charge. I've almost been bitten a dozen times by these ferocious beasts.

On Indonesia's independence day I went to Ubud palace and watched a performance of traditional Bali dance. It's sublime. The choreography is amazing but it's the eyes that seduce. Apparently the eyes play a significant role in the performance. Elaborate head-dresses, make-up and clothing conspire to make it an unforgettable experience.

I drove up to Kintimani for a look at Gunung Batur - Bali's active volcano with a massive crater lake. It was very cold up there so I drank a lot of hot local coffee to warm up. I visited Tagalalang for a look at the rice-fields but saw loads of young lads dressed as punks instead. There was a punk-rock concert in town! I paid my 10,000 rupiah (50p) and went in.  It was mental. Hundreds of young Sid-Viscous-types and me, the only Bule (foreigner) dressed like tramp.

One day I stopped for a coffee when five young women stripped naked and washed themselves in the nearby river. I stared, transfixed, trying to comprehend how I've been so lucky in life.

Pergee Kamana (Where you go?)

jam satu (1 o'clock)

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