My Bali Experience
Aug 22, 2003
On the plane I felt tired and groggy. The air-conditioning had made me feel awful yet again and I was really glad to see land ahead and to feel the aircraft begin to lower. Here I was in Bali, the place where a lot of Aussies go to get away from it all and soak up the sun, shop till they drop, then party all night for a perfect ending to a perfect day.
Unfortunately Bali has now become a place of fear since the suicide bombing in October of 2002 when over two hundred tourists were killed in the Sari night club, and when I arrived it had only been a few days since another bombing had occurred in a Jakarta hotel. The second bombing was a reaction to the death sentence that had just been handed to 'the smiling assassin' Amrozi who was responsible for the first bombing. Needless to say, when I stepped into Denpasar airport, while I felt happy to be out of the air-conditioning, I was very wary that something bad could happen to me any day now. My friends in Melbourne had wished me good luck rather than saying 'have a good holiday' and now I prayed that I wouldn't need it.
The line to get through customs was huge and I was going to be standing in it for nearly and hour so I decided to make small talk with a young guy in front of me. He'd come from Adelaide and was going to be spending three weeks in a hotel on the beach in Kuta. When I told him I'd be staying with my sister, brother-in-law, nephews and niece with a Balinese family outside of Kuta, the guy scoffed at me and said, 'Ha! You'll probably be staying in the highlands in a house with a dirt floor and no running water!'
Not likely! Melody's house (that's my brother-in-law's sister) is what I can only describe as amazing. It is very spacious with high ceilings and shiny marble floors. Hand made wood carvings and intricate paintings line the walls and all of the furniture is absolutely beautiful. Outside there are several lounge areas, one complete with cable television, all surrounded by beautiful gardens and fish ponds. In the centre is a large swimming pool with a water feature at one end and a bar at the other. The bar stools are actually inside the pool and on the other side is a serving area where I assume one of Melody's fourteen maids wait to pour beer from the keg and other drinks from the esky.
Along side the pool are Melody's children's rooms which are separate from the main house, each with a double bed, TV, DVD player, and ensuite with spa. Next to their bedrooms in yet another area are two self-contained villas where my sister Jane, her husband Brett, their kids and I have been sleeping. I am sharing a room with my nephew Nathan that overlooks the yard from its balcony. Beyond that are many rice fields and in the distance are beautiful blue waves crashing upon a sandy beach.
Melody's house is so peaceful. Away from the noise of the people and traffic in Kuta, I often lie in my bed or by the pool listening to nothing but birds in the sky, running water in the gardens and the calm clanging of tins in the nearby fields.
That night, we all went to dinner at 'Full Moon', Melody's restaurant. Melody, Brett, Jane and I sat in the car while my nieces and nephews and Melody's children rode in the trailer on the back singing Balinese songs to people in passing vehicles. Melody's husband who is deputy mayor of the area and a very well-respected man joined us for a drink at the restaurant later in the evening.
After breakfast, I lazed by the pool and read a book. In the afternoon my nephews and nieces wanted to go for a surf at the nearby beach so off we went, the six of us looking very out-of-place as we wondered down the narrow street, past all the rice paddies and onto the beach of glistening black sand. When we got there, we found that the waves were OK but there were rocks everywhere so we then walked for about half an hour along the beach until we found a good place to both swim and surf.
The water was very refreshing but I preferred to just lie on my towel and sunbake. It was then that I was able to watch what looked like a wedding take place just a bit further down the beach. A group of Balinese people were dressed very nicely and sat around a small white umbrella that they'd stood in the sand. A couple of women then went down to the edge of the water and knelt by a basket of burning incense before the whole group stood up and paraded past me in a long line, all singing a lovely Indonesian song.
Today was shopping day. We got up early, showered and had breakfast and arrived in Kuta at about 10.30. It was a fun day but it was in no way therapeutic. Shopping in Bali is exhausting. It involves finding a product you want to buy, deciding how much you are prepared to pay for it, asking how much it is (the shop owner will always suggest a ridiculously high price), putting the product back and saying your not interested. You will then be given a chance to suggest a slightly lower price and when you do, the shop owner will say, 'No! But that's not enough!' And suggest a higher price, slightly lower than their first suggestion. The price will still be much higher than what the product is worth so you have to refuse the offer and start walking away. The shop owner will probably be desperate for your sale so they will follow you out of the shop and call after you, offering the product to you for the price you suggested in the first place.
Shopping is definitely very time consuming but is worth every minute spent. Everything is a bargain. From clothes, beaded jewellery and accessories to music CDs and DVDs, there is something for everyone in Bali and it's all at a much lower price than you will pay in Australia. So of course I was left with no choice but to buy lots of clothes, some jewellery and a couple of beautiful photo frames.
In the afternoon, three masseurs came to Melody's house to give Jane, Brett and I full-body massages. It was so relaxing and I couldn't help going to sleep afterwards.
Today got off to a very interesting start. We all got up very early because we were going white water rafting for the day. At 7.30 we were all waiting outside the front of Melody's house for a driver to pick us up and take us to Melody's restaurant for breakfast. Not only was the driver late, but on our way to the restaurant the car got a flat tyre and the driver had to leave us on the side of the road and drive back to the house to get another car.
Needless to say, we were very late getting to the restaurant and we'd only been there for two minutes when a tour bus arrived to pick us up and take us up into the hills. A plate of toast was brought out by the restaurant so we all started madly buttering toast for us to take with us. Then more plates were brought out. The cooks had also prepared plates of eggs, bacon, tomatoes and hash browns but we couldn't sit down and eat it because there were other passengers waiting for us in the bus. So there we stood, around the table, grabbing whatever we could and shovelling down our mouths. Everything that was left was put in plastic bags for us to eat during the journey. The whole thing was absolutely hilarious.
After two hours of driving through the hills, we finally got to our destination. Soon we were in two separate rafts (the boys in one and Jane, Brett and I in another along with our guides), floating down the river. Locals were bathing, doing their laundry, farming and meditating and they waved and called out to us as we passed. We had a swim and ended the tour with a cold, unpleasant tasting lunch in a place with extremely dirty toilet facilities. Even so, it was a really fun day.
We had a quiet day today and then took a trip to the temple at Tanah Lot to watch the sun set over the water. Unfortunately we didn't stay very long because we had booked a table at a Chinese restaurant in Denpasar for 8 O'Clock. We sat around a big table and served ourselves from the many dishes on the turn table in the centre. The food was nice except for a very, very, very spicy soup with prawns floating on the top that was given to us. Even Brett didn't like it. Actually, he looked like he was going to die as he coughed and spluttered and sculled his bottle of Coke.
Afterwards, we headed into Kuta, first to Bali Rock where we had a drink and danced to live music, then past the site of the old Sari club and Paddy's bar and to The Bounty. After the events of last October, it was hard at first to relax. What if history repeated itself tonight? The club was full of Australians. If anyone wanted to make a statement, tonight would be the perfect time.
It ended up being a really great night. I drank 'Jam Jars' (made of the local spirit Amrak and orange juice) and we danced for ages on the crowded dance floor. I even saw the boy that I'd met in the airport line last week but didn't get a chance to tell him how wrong he was about my accommodation.
Later on, we briefly visited a foam party at another club then saturated, we climbed into a taxi. After about an hour of driving, the driver pulled up a hotel and was ready to drop us off. He'd gotten lost. I couldn't believe it. I was so tired and was dying to get home so I could use the loo. Oh well. While the driver got some directions off the security guards, I wandered off into a nearby construction sight so I could relieve myself.
Soon we were on our way again and after another thirty minutes of driving, we arrived at Melody's house and crawled into bed.
Today we went shopping at a department store in Denpasar. The place was disgusting. Well, no, the store itself wasn't bad. It was more the undercover car park and the washrooms. In the car park Melody warned us not to step under any dripping water because it was raw sewerage. So off we went towards the shopping centre entrance, dodging drips and puddles and blocking our noses from the smell.
If that wasn't bad enough, later when Jane and I needed to use the bathroom, we had to walk upstairs all the way to the other end of the store only to find the most disgusting lavatory I've ever seen. The toilet seat and the floor were covered in water and there was no toilet paper. I felt so dirty after using it and then there was no tap to wash our hands. How revolting.
Two of my nephews and I were driven around in one of Melody's cars by one of her drivers. It's a pity the DVD player wasn't working but we were able to listen to some cool music instead. It wasn't long anyway until we arrived at a monkey sanctuary where we bought bananas and fed the tiny but vicious creatures.
Later we went shopping in Dirty, Dusty Denpasar (as Melody calls it) and I could not wait to get back to the serenity of Melody's place.
We all went into Kuta again today to do the last of our shopping. Afterwards, the kids spent an hour or so in Timezone then we headed home where I had a nap, showered, ate dinner and packed my luggage for the flight home that night.
I had an amazing time in Bali and was so lucky to be able to spend time with Melody who is one of the most inspirational people I have ever met. For those of you who haven't been yet - go! And for a truly cultural experience, try to wander off the beaten track, meet some of the locals, and eat some of their food. Then you will have experienced the true Bali.