You already know what Im going to say.
Yes, Bali is Australia’s play pen. Yes, Bali plays host to a ridiculous amount of walking stereotypes who hail from Australia. Perhaps this is where they ran to when Southern cross tats, frangipanni stickers and Bintang singlet tops were no longer considered kinda cool. Back to where they bought them from at “special morning price” from that shop in Kuta down the road from Skygarden night club, and the Bali bombing memorial. Or at a pinch, maybe it’s a show of somewhat distorted solidarity for the fallen brethren. We shall not be beaten. We still wear our Bintang tops and Havianas with pride, we’ll still flaunt our badly scratched ink from that Tat shop called “Heaven’s Angle” and there is no Balinese bomber on earth who can stop me. In the sense that people from the Shire are synonymous with waving the Australian flag in all the wrong ways.
If you want it to, your trip to Bali can be just like a trip to Surfer’s Paradise. In fact it’s hard to tell the difference in some places. It’s just 10 times cheaper and the taxi drivers are more dodgy. ( This adds some Tabasco to your Bloody Mary, you see) Aussies can act up and act superior to people who are desperate for their “Millions”. Aussies can go there and feel like they’re doing something exotic, but still have all the things they are used to. They can still go to McDonald’s if they get tired of Mi-Goren and Otak Otak. Some Aussies may disagree with my perspective, but you must understand my opinion is objective. I was a 35 year old Bali virgin, until now.
For me the tourist aspect of Bali was not and at the same time just like ( Sama, tidak berubah) something I had experienced before. I knew that it was a popular spot, and I can see why. It’s Asia for Beginners. It’s cheap as chips.
For instance if you have hollow legs like Mr. P, a 500ml Bottle of Bintang costs you the equivalent of $3.20 Australian, sometimes cheaper depending where you go. The most expensive cocktail I had was at the Hard Rock Cafe ( I didn’t even know they still existed) and it was about $11 Aus. You can easily have 24 liters of beer on the cheap. It was done my friends. It was indeed done.
People want your cash, and you are effectively a Millionaire: On our Arrival at Denpasar airport we instantly had 2 officially uniformed porters, take our bags and push in front of everyone at customs and get us through quickly before we knew what had gone on. After leading us through, they took us straight to the Money exchange. Mr. P said “No only Singapore dollars” and gave them each 5. One was pushy and asked for more. We told them to piss off and kept walking. Mr. P observing that they would likely have taken us then, to their taxi driving mate, and so on and so forth down the line until they had all been paid in some way. Shows what a noob I am. Had I been alone I am sure I would’ve had to pull some ‘Cowgirl special’ moves to get out of that one. Interestingly they were 100% less interested in helping out when we were on the return trip. Funny, that.
Resorts are super cheap I must admit that for a full 24 hours the first day we didnt leave the pool side of the Mercure Resort at Sanur, where we were staying. That shit was inviting as hell. Deck chairs ( some already reserved by the Germans/Dutch) fountains, a bar right next to the pool, pool side lunch, ping pong. Did I mention it was stinking hot? Even the pool water was like a bath. There was none of my usual sense of shit I must go out and make the most of this, that is usually looming over me on holiday adventures. We frolicked. We got sunburnt. We got pissed. We drank about $50 worth of that cheap sweet Bintang. We put it on the room. Why wouldn’t an Aussie tourist love that?
But not to fully take away from that aspect, that’s not really what I’m interested in when Im over seas. I really like the culture and the art. We learned from an Ex-pat friend that the next day was a Holiday for most Balinese. I believe it is called Galungan or more exactly Kuningan which marks the end of the Holiday time. Then most of the shops were closed, markets closed and there were people marching up the road with Barong ( a little like the Chinese dragon you see on Chinese new year) I had been completely unfamiliar with Balinese tradition up until visiting the place. ( I hadnt watched Eat Pray Love, so I was clearly behind the 8 ball right?) I have since learned it is about finding harmony between good and evil, and the spirit and the real
world, and that there are many different spirits representing different sides. Like Star wars.. Dont go to the dark side… there is the force in all of us.. just gotta learn that it is stronger in some and how to control it. You know.
In all fairness I wasn’t in Bali long enough to make one of my usual swathing cuts of cynicism, aside from that about the Aussies. People there are just doing what they need to get by. The first night in Jimbarran Bay I was introduced to the whole concept that people will do just about anything for a buck. From the lady who was raking the sand flat for the party I was attending, quite literally changing hats ( From a Coolie hat to a baseball cap) and becoming a pedlar of wares. She knew the deal, she knew we didn’t know the deal quite yet. We did get some lovely beaded necklaces ( Mr.P got a Man bangle. So trendy) . I asked her whether she had made them herself and she laughed and gestured as if to say “Aint nobody got time for dat!” We paid her far too much by Bali standard, but then, what is far too much? If I pay 150,000 for 3 items that’s about $15 Aus. I’d spend that much on Coffee in half a week. Seems pretty reasonable if she’s gonna use that money to buy food for her family. At least, that’s what she said it was for. Who knows? She may not have had a husband. That’s a pretty big deal in Bali. We ladies have got to help our sisters. In my opinion.
That night also saw the encroaching presence of a somewhat slapped together Indo Beach busker band ( See first Photo) who covered just about any pop song you’d care to name with varying degrees of correct lyrics. We were there for a party so they were paid to hang around. Probably enough to have let them go home and not work the next day between them. They were actually pretty great, and I laughed pretty hard at some of the mashed up lyrics. Ive heard worse in Bars in Sydney, though.
We were also treated to some traditional dance. I managed to video this little guy:
We saw Ubud. We could have been in Byron Bay in some parts. There is a Monkey park, which we didn’t visit. Outside there were tables of bananas that tourists could purchase to feed them. “Official Monkey park bananas” O.K.
~Im told the Monkeys are a bit sick of people coming to stare at them. Who can blame them really?
This part of the Island has been made famous by the fore mentioned Hollywood film adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s
Eat Pray Love . Did I mention Eat Pray Love? Seems like everywhere in Ubud there is Yoga, Organic, some more yoga.. I even saw a shop that claimed to do “Organic ear plugs and piercings” I half expected Julia Roberts’ Lips to stroll out of a temple. Apparently Bulai ( white people) have been coming in droves for ‘enlightenment’ since the 2010 movie. I suppose it’s good for tourism since the Bali bombings probably all but destroyed it back in 2002. I was surprised at how long ago it happened. You can see the memorial in Kuta. The lot where it happened is still just an empty block of land enclosed by a tin fence.
All in all I enjoyed Bali. Were I to go again I could safely say Id venture further north and check out some of the more wild places. The tourist spots you need to experience first hand because it is all part of the journey, man. Just dont buy a Bintang singlet top. I will openly judge you.