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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Bali, Earthy & Gritty

INDONESIA | Wednesday, 21 October 2015 | Views [421]

A year ago today I was in Bali for the first time. Bali conjures up many images: majestic sunsets on a blissful beach. The "Island of the Gods" it's often called, though one reason I like Bali is for what people don't realize it also is: earthy, gritty, wild, and dirty. Coming from Australia you'd feel like there are no rules but don't even think of bringing drugs here! Indonesia is now on my lengthy list of countries I've visited more than once. Flying into Bali is rather scary. At night you see absolutely nothing until you spot the landing lights when only five metres or so off the ground. Ning, trying to smile, met me at the airport tonight. She has been hit by a barrage of health problems these past several months: she was diagnosed with an enlarged heart before dealing with a long episode of bronchitis, and just when she thought her health problems were over she found out she had an ovarian cyst. I could immediately tell she's in a lot of pain, and due to all that's going on I'm unable to stay at her place. Ning was nice enough to put me up at a "homestay" on the backstreets of Seminyak. The environment feels more like the rest of Indonesia than Bali. The call to prayer can be heard at dawn and dusk, and there are various warungs and street eats without another foreigner in sight. I've promised myself to learn some Bahasa Indonesia and I've got a few words down pat. Interestingly enough, "air" is the Bahasa word for "water." "Nasi goreng" is fried rice and any food with "goreng" in it means it's fried. Previously the only words I knew were "dilarang merekok" which means "no smoking." Languages may be difficult for me to learn but it's no reason to ignore them altogether. More importantly, Ning has worked with me to not get so frustrated in situations. Last night the taxi drivers were hassling me at the airport yet I just smiled at them. As frustrating as it is when most things on the menu are sold out it's nothing to lose your cool over. One thing I can smile at is that if you're staying less than 30 days in Indonesia you no longer have to buy a visa on arrival, therefore saving $35 (though if you're staying longer than 30 days and plan to extend to 60 days, you still have to buy a visa and pay to extend it). One thing I'm mentally frustrated over is that I found out today that the Chinese consulate in Bali doesn't have authority to issue visas; either I have to fly to Surabaya or Jakarta or I have to deal with it in Busan. Last week I had a chance to get the visa in Christchurch if I paid $75 extra for same-day processing but I decided to put it off until I got here, and now I'm stuck! Ah well, it meant treating my weary self and indulge in a cheap massage. On the street I'm staying on there are several massage places, most often in the back of a hair/beauty salon. I fell asleep during a blissful 4-hand massage at only $10/hr before hitting the gritty streets of Bali again. Being confused as to what time Ning and I were meeting today it turned out it wasn't until much later so I hired a scooter and set my sights on Ubud: my favourite section of Bali. A fabulous warung as well as a coffee shop are there that I wanted to eat at. Hitting the throttle hard (and being careful) I made my way north. Driving in Bali is often thought of as an endurance sport yet I've found it's not that bad, though I can't really compare because the only times I've ever driven have been for practice or fun a handful of times. When I reached Ubud I found out sadly that my favourite warung has closed! Aww, I miss spring rolls to go with rice wine for less than $1. Instead I opted for pad thai at another place I like just a short walk away. Round central Ubud I tend to park the scooter and walk. After feasting on Thai food I found my first geocaches in Indonesia. Instead of being hidden somewhere, I had to go into two different restaurants and ask for them. One of the restaurants is called Sjaki-Tari-Us. It's a place that raises awareness of and helps children with mental disabilities.

After signing off on another cache at a nearby restaurant I went out in search of one slightly north of Ubud. Whilst I found a small temple next to a Norfolk pine there was no sign of the geocache I was looking for.

It was getting late and from there I headed south. Australians are Bali's biggest market but what's amazing is how un-Australian the island is. Offerings are placed even in the most commercial of places (including KFC) and, despite Bali's reputation for revelry, alcohol is very expensive. In Melbourne I frequently sit with Jo and have a few glasses of wine but in Bali I don't drink (except for maybe the very rare glass of wine) because it ain't cheap. Indonesia and Japan are the two countries I've been where you can reliably expect at least one open shop nearby at any hour of the evening. Getting to Ubud was rather easy; finding my way back to Seminyak, not nearly so. Driving at night in Bali isn't my cup of tea and it's very easy to get lost and very difficult to get accurate directions. Using GoogleMaps the whole way my battery was down to 1% and Ning had tried to ring me. We were thinking of satay lamb or something vegetarian but she's extremely tired and in a lot of pain. She uses an app where you can get food delivered to your door but every place she was searching for was closed. We would try to eat at the on-site restaurant since she was too tired to go anywhere. The restaurant was out of three quarters of what's on the menu and when I ordered satay they made it far, far too spicy! After Ning went home I went out for some sate ayam (satay chicken) at a warung only a few metres from my homestay. Many of these kinds of eateries exist late at night in the various countries I've been. I really like the place I'm staying: there's a swimming pool and the room is rather small. There's little in the way of cooking facilities but there's enough to make cups of tea and so forth. Today I did a lot of driving and I'm back in another place I really enjoy! Down to earth and gritty, Bali I'm back! And I shall tackle your roads once more! 

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