Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bali - The Reprise

"Better far off to leave half the ruins and nine-tenths of the churches unseen and to see well the rest; to see them not once, but again and often again; to watch them, to learn them, to live with them, to love them, till they have become a part of life and life's recollections."
- Augustus Hare 

Bali - The Reprise Photos

It was 2:30 in the AM when the alarm on my phone went off and rudely awoke me from deep, dreamy REM. I had to get to the hotel where I had to drop my rental car and catch the shuttle to the Auckland airport to check in for my 6 AM flight. AGH! Knowing I would be dipping my toes in the Indian Ocean by that evening definitely helped to rouse me out of bed. I was excited to surf. To photograph. To see friends. Meet new ones. Eat. In Bali!

I had a stop in Sydney for a couple of hours...that brought back some memories, and not the good ones either! Alas, a lesson learned!

I was reminded of Australia's immense proportions as it took a good part of a 6 hour flight to fly the length of the country. Another destination high on my list to explore. Sex and the City reruns kept my sleep deprived noggin content until arriving in Denpasar.

When I arrived in Kuta, the smell of incense intermingled with heat and a hint of pollution brought back so many memories from last year, some of the best of my entire life.

My first stop was d'Kubu Guesthouse (where I had stayed for 2 months the year before). I was greeted with surprise and hugs from the same young Balinese staff that was there last is always nice to see familiar faces in a foreign country, especially the locals'. It's pretty easy to remember Balinese people's names as their are only 4 to choose from: Wayan, Made, Yeoman or Ketut, based on birth order. So you've got a pretty decent chance at getting it right.

I headed straight for the water and watched the sun sink behind the sea. I never thought I would be lucky enough to make it back to Bali so soon. If there is one thing I have learned about travelling, going back to a place for a 2nd time is never as magical as the first. Meeting Marj in the airport upon arriving in Bali last year was a chance meeting that helped us both recover from the weariness of backpacking through Asia for several months and from hearts that had needed mending for too long. Dancing literally til dawn, surfing the day away, followed by watching the sunset and meeting new peeps at 'The Steps' every night was good for the soul and helped us both to get our mojos back!

Since this time in Bali was solo, I quickly developed my own daily routine: hot yoga for 90 minutes first thing in the morning, Banana Pancakes, 2 Boiled Eggs and Country Potatoes (or Potato Country as it was called on the menu), Gloria Jean's for coffee and photo editing, then depending on the tides, either a late afternoon surf or picture taking! Dinner was almost always at Gong Corner: authentic Balinese cuisine (usually costing about $2-$3), fresh garlic naan, Nasi Goreng, Lumpia, Gado Gado, fresh squeezed fruit juices and my ultimate favourite Balinese dessert...Dadar Gulung (coconut pancakes).

I had found a Bikram's Yoga Studio about a 25 minute walk from my guesthouse owned by 2 Australians, Pina and Jack. They were bright and friendly and I loved going there, not just for the yoga, but for the good vibe they brought to the space.

Frank and the gang at Gloria Jean's in Kuta Square were always there in the afternoons to have a chat with and offer advice on where to market my photography on the island. I even got my own personal Harley Davidson travel mug compliments of Frank so that I didn't have to use a takeaway cup.

My friend Mike, a fellow Canuck, was also back in Bali. We had met the year prior and he was now practically living there with his girlfriend. For the duration of my 5 weeks there, we would meet up for lunch, a beach walk or hot yoga. It was great having someone from the homeland to hang out with. Even just knowing he was on the island was a comfort as throughout most of my travels, I am a stranger to most.

Paul, my neighbour at d'Kubu from last year, was also in Bali as he spends half his year there and the other half in Australia working construction (he is from Germany and the US). Talking shit and chilling out were my two favourite things to do with Paul – he has both down to a fine art.

Surprisingly, I caught the very first wave I attempted...and the 2nd and the 3rd! My surf sessions were all pretty much the same: would try to paddle out further, get pummeled, almost drown and then paddle back in to the mini waves! Mother Nature was pretty clear about where I belong:)

Besides catching waves, I also caught a nasty cold, so I took a bus to Ubud for a few days where I met 2 photographers, Jiri from the Czech Republic and Jill Gocher from the UK. She has her own photo gallery there, where I now have this photo on canvas.

Jiri and I spent an afternoon photographing in the rice fields on our bicycles followed by dinner in an organic garden while watching the sunset, topped off with meeting Jill over at Bali Buddha for dessert. Oh Bali Buddha. They have all kinds of western, Indonesian and Balinese dishes, all made with local, organic ingredients. I could eat there every day for the rest of my life and be very content...with a big Buddha belly! 

Ubud was a welcome respite from the constant traffic and debauchery in Kuta. It is definitely not off the beaten path of the tourist track but has a little more culture and a laid back vibe.

I took in some Balinese dancing at The Lotus Pond. As the name suggests, it is a beautiful setting for entertainment. The entire performance was in Balinese and even though I hadn't a clue what was happening, it was enjoyable to watch and I was happy that they didn't perform it in English. As I was leaving, I heard a westerner make a 'suggestion' to one of the hostesses that because she didn't understand Balinese that they should consider doing it English. Oh bollocks! Why don't we just homogenize the whole entire world?! God forbid a culture not cater to your needs. If you want to feel at home when you're abroad, then stay the hell home!  
". . .If people and their manner of living were alike everywhere, there would not be much point in moving from one place to another."
- Paul Bowles

I even had a pet a in Ubud! I went to get a massage at the Ubud Bodyworks Center. Just as I sat down in the rest area I spotted a large bat hanging upside down a few feet away. I had to rub my eyes and take a second look. Was that really....a bat? So I came up a little closer and yes, a bat the size of an adult cat hung before me and I have to admit, it was pretty love-able. There were many inhumane situations I had come across throughout SE Asia but this was the first time in Bali that I had witnessed an animal chained to something.

I did not want to support a place that was keeping animals captive, so I went to the front desk and asked why the bat was tied up. They said that he was too young to find food on his own so they would keep it there until it matured. I do hope that this was true for the bat's sake and I wasn't just being told what I wanted to hear.

I went to visit the bat every day I was there after that. He reminded me more of a pet than a rodent, as they are sometimes mistakenly referred to. I fell in love with him somehow?! He seemed happy because he was eating a lot of the time but I hated that he couldn't come and go off his perch as he pleased...spread his wings, fly and be a free little bat. Couldn't he still come back for food when he pleased? Anyway, all of this has been sent in a letter to Ubud Bodyworks Center. I hope I can report a happy ending in my next installment.

Balinese dancing, rice fields, new friends, a pet, great food and massage, there's no need to wonder why so many retire early to this amazing little island.

After a week in Ubud, I returned to Kuta to meet up with Julien and Ernesto from Belgium! We had all met at d'Kubu last year and here we were about to meet again, a year later almost to the day...

"Travel only with thy equals or thy betters; if there are none, travel alone."
- The Dhammapada

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow that bat is awesome. Love the beautiful pics and the stories! Not missing the great white north much I see! Have a good one,

- bret