I arrived in Bali via Lion Air, a local airline in Indonesia. I was blasted with a wave of humidity departing the plane. The airport was small, (or at least the domestic terminal was, or seemed to be on arrival), and in no time I was out the front door and dialing Wedha, a contact Yanti had given me during our travels in West Java. Wedha is a friend of hers; they used to work together and now Wedha independently shows people around the island of Bali. As I was calling, a younger guy strode up to me and asked if I was Dani.
We were soon in Wedha’s van, talking about what to do first and where would be the best place to stay. He recommended staying in Kuta, in Selminiak, which is a specific part of Kuta and less touristy. Unfortunately, it was Easter weekend and most of the hotels were packed, but we ended up finding a really great place and I booked a room that was more money than I wanted to spend, but it had a beautiful open shower with a stone path leading up to it. I am still uncertain whether people with balconies could see more showering at night or not, but the lack of commentary or voices leads me to believe I had no watchers.
The first two days I traveled around with Wedha, he took me to a big volcano to the north of Bali, which I now forget the name of. We went to several temples, and one of my favorite places we went was to Dreamland? (I cannot remember the name), a resort that has been under construction for the past 20 years. I forget what it’s real name is, because no one calls it that. I expected to be some sort of city, but basically it was a steep, rocky path down to the bottom of a little valley, where a sort of small boardwalk ran alongside a long, rectangular pool of water until it meets the sand. There, you would walk off onto a beautiful white beach with crashing waves, surrounded by craggy rocks reminiscent of the west coast in the US. I walked far along the beach, wandering in and out of the rock formations and small caves that made up the coastline, taking photos of course.
Bali is well known for its local culture, and Wedha would tell me about the ceremonies that would occur. He told me people in Bali spend 30% of their income on ceremonies, which could consist of education, coming of age, ect. They would go to temple, and always you would know when there was a ceremony because all the girls (and women) would be seen riding on the back of scooters dressed up to go to temple. When I asked Wedha if he would miss going to temple because he was showing me around, he told me God would understand. I think this is a great attitude.
The last day I was there I wanted to learn to surf. I had wandered down to the beach by my hotel the morning before, and had been promised a surfing lesson by someone whose name I promptly forgot, but I wanted to meet some people and hang out on the beach. So off I went that last day.
When I wandered onto the beach, I met Ketut, who I rented a beach chair from for 30,000 rupiah (3.49 USD). He then promised me a surfing lesson, for slightly less than the promised price from the other guy the day before. After Ketut finished setting up the beach chairs, he grabbed an enormous surfboard (in my eyes), tossed me a surfshirt, and prepared to go off into the water.
Ketut, me, and the enormous surfboard
(Side Note: I cannot leave out this vital information and still give you a feel for my Bali trip. When I first came to the beach and met Ketut, I also met several other locals working the beach. And by locals I mean young attractive Indonesian men. And of course, being alone and American brought more attention than, say, being in Ocean City, Maryland usually might. And after being thrown a surf shirt by Ketut, I had to strip to bikini and put it on. I would just like to share how Baywatch-esque this moment was. Even more so after I came out of the water to find my cloth shorts, now saturated with salt water, were rubbing my legs raw on the surfboard. So another such moment when I came out and had to take them off. Uncomfortable yes, but amusing as well )
I have heard many people talk about surfing, saying it is like snowboarding, saying it isn’t. But after surfing for the first time, snowboarding is very similar. Obviously the water is moving underneath you, but the balance is similar. I had no problem at all getting up right away. Of course the enormous rental board I was on was incapable of a whole lot of movement to do anything but stand up and ride the wave directly to shore. But I had an awesome day full of surfing and unfortunately, a lack of re-applying sunblock. By evening, the tops of my thighs were completely rubbed raw from the top of the surfboard, and my whole body, minus where the surf shirt lay, was horrifically sunburnt. So sunburnt in fact, that a really nice French couple on the beach led me to their villa and gave me a certain kind of oil they said was miraculous for sunburn, and told me I was probably in shock.
(Look closely at the color of my arms)
But even so, I hung out on the beach watching the sunset, while across the entire beach, young Indonesian men had come out in swarms to play soccer on the beach. One of the guys I had met that morning brought me some sort of vodka drink (it was a closed bottle, let’s be responsible here) and I watched the sunset on a beach in Bali, watching the soccer game. It was the best time.
When it started to get dark, I wandered over to the group that had formed, with Ketut and some others, and a really great Australian family I started chatting with. The father was telling me how they had nearly incited a riot earlier when they went to a temple and everyone had wanted to get a picture taken with them. We sat on the beach drinking, and when it got a little later on and everyone started to disperse, I hopped on the back of Ketut’s motorbike, we got some more Bintang and some cookies, and hung out on the beach drinking. The conversation was a bit limited as my Bahasa was limited to Termina casi, apa kabar, and baik, and his English wasn’t completely fluent. But we got on pretty well, and it was fun.
The next day, I went to the beach to say goodbye to everyone I had met, and met a few others I would have liked more time to get to know. Wedha drove me to the airport on his motorbike, which I failed to mention he had taught me to drive the day before, with my two Bali kites in one hand, a cardboard pack of paintings in the other, and a giant backpack strapped to my back.
It was sad to leave, after so short a visit, but I am planning a return trip in August, hopefully to backpack around India, Thailand, Singapore, then back to Bali. All I can hope for is to spend another night watching the sunset and the soccer game, drink in hand, on the beach. That would make it all worth going back.