I've stayed at Denpasar for almost 4 weeks now and I have a few stories to tell. But since I put everything off until now, those stories are getting stale. I'll write it anyway.
Three weeks ago I went to Ubud to visit Ubud Writers & Readers festival. I went there on a motorbike and I suddenly realised that Ubud is so unbelievably close to where I live, if only I had slightly better navigational skill and not got lost in Denpasar only to find the way to get out of the town. Anyway, I managed to get to Ubud safe and sound (eventually). I intended to see a play called "Conference of The Birds" based on story from a Persian poet, Farid Al-Din Attar. Frankly, I had no idea what it was about. I didn't bother because this is always my state of mind whenever I go to a performance. I love the element of surprise, you see. I expected to get information about the story on a piece of paper then I could read it in case I didn't get the dialogues from beginning to end, as usual. To my surprise, the piece of paper I got didn't have the priceless information I desperately needed. It only says about the actors; what their achievements, how long they've been on stage, where they graduated from and what they do for living, etc. Even worse, I bet the other guests had read the book from cover to back, or at the very least, they could recite it. There was a big banner for guests to sign on which people wrote some quotes from the book like, 'All praised the splendour of their distant king; All rose impatient to be on the wing;' or something like that. I was terrified with my ignorance of Sufi poems until I heard someone whispered from the back row, "Could you tell me again what is the story about?" It's amazing how relieved I felt to know that I wasn't the only moron in the room. Or we were just being normal, in fact. At the end of the show we saw singing and dancing and theatrical poem-reading before the background of misty foliage in a warm night at Ubud candlelit open air stage. This moment then, I was sure everyone understood the language of beauty.
I spent the rest of my staying at Ubud wandering around the village and town, knocking foreigners' doors in an effort to find a nice place to rest that night. It turned out to me that most people stay at Ubud for longer than one night, hardly any place to rent for a single night. It's understandable since this town/village is so serene, with lots of ashrams and yoga centre and all. One day I will stay longer at Ubud and perhaps learn to meditate (as if my hometown isn't as rural as Ubud).
Last weekend (the following week) me and a bunch of my colleagues rent a car to go to Central Bali. We visited Besakih, the biggest temple in Bali notorious for scams. We survived the scams, needless to say, but they managed to prevent us from getting inside the higher temple. My colleagues didn't mind at all, as long as we have this pretty picture of us in front of the temple. But I did. I mean, if I go to one place, at least I wish I saw most part of it, not the facade only. I did ask permission to climb on those flights of stairs and I was admitted. Only a few steps from the entrance, one of my colleagues called me and asked me to get down immediately. I knew there were some people did offering and praying inside the temple, but they were quite casual (they didn't even noticed me because I was wearing sarong, belt, rice on my fore head and flowers on my ears, because we were asked to pray a bit before entering the front part of the temple) so I was wondering why they sounded very hasty when asked me to leave.
"A guest who are not allowed to come in but still insists to do it will cast a jinx," they said. Yet when we were at the front door they'd already asked for 'donation' so that we could enter all parts of the temple. Yeah sure. Even god need money these days. I obediently followed my colleagues out of the temple and into the car.
It was muggy and raining when we arrived at Bratan lake. Last time I saw this place, I was 17 years old and for the first time I wore very short trousers in a public place. Well, I just want to say that this place is quite special to me (because I wore shorts. The first time. Very important indeed). I really wanted to see it again. I wanted to know how it looks now, whether it has changed a lot after years - although I actually only remember it vaguely now. Also the fact that we were there, after all. Unluckily, nobody wanted to get drenched in this very wet day. So we drove back to West Bali, to Tanah Lot to be exact, to a beach with better weather. As a matter of fact, the decision is understandable. Still for me, I really don't mind to get some mud and rain water especially after 2 hours drive to Bedugul, the area where Lake Bratan is. This area is damp and cool, a contrast to sunny and hot South Bali. But isn't this what we were looking for when we drove hours away from South Bali? I thought we want to experience something different, not just visit places in order to take good pictures of them (bad weather isn't good for pictures, legend has it). Yet since I traveled with many people, I thought it's wise to go with the majority.
Tanah Lot was no different from a packed street market that afternoon: so crowded and busy, hectic with tourists and people selling instant photos. You can barely make picture without random strangers in it. That's why I wanted to go to the other side. There is a piece of land surrounded by rocks further away from those bunch of people wearing sunglasses and carrying digital cameras. One of my colleagues showed me the way to get there, but it turned up that the undisturbed piece of land I desired was not entirely a public place. It belongs to a five-stars hotel nearby and it is actually part of their golf field. In my opinion, hotel is still a public place. It's open to the beach anyway and I don't think a human being like myself is a big threat for national security. So I wandered around and I managed to get to the rocks, the peaceful part of the island and stayed there for a while. Some of my colleagues followed me and I guess we liked this place a lot. Until my friend said that she wasn't comfortable being in a hotel area and it was better for us to leave. In fact, on my way there some people from the hotel had reminded me, "Beware of the golf balls," which is another way of saying, "Move away from this place or you'll have your head knocked by the balls" but I told him that I wasn't afraid of golf balls because they're smaller than goat's testis. That's how I ignored him and continued walking to my preciously tranquil land. At this point, when my friend acted as if a prefect, I was a bit annoyed. It spoiled the moment. But I didn't make it a fuss until later when someone added to me, "We have rules here, Ria. You can't just go wherever you want,"
Let me tell you: we indeed can go wherever we want. Especially if you have cash. But if not, a bit of boldness and smile can do the trick. You'll never know if you never try.
Coming back from this trip, I figured out that it was time to go on my own tailored journey. If I want to get all wet and all in, it's a bit tricky to involve all my colleagues. Usually when traveling, as am not the fittest person in the world, I mostly feel like an old lady in her 80s and I make note to myself to buy health insurance and write my will as soon as I can. But with my colleagues, I feel as though I am the sportiest girl in her twenties. Wait. I am a girl in her twenties. Anyway, I decided for the next day that I would go on a solo trip to Nusa Lembongan, an island in the east off Bali.
I quickly made friends with a family from East Java on the way to the island. The boat we were was so choppy that my new friends were busy vomiting along the way. But all was worth it. Nusa lembongan is probably my best snorkeling spot in this year. I wasn't very lucky when I visited Karimun Java on my last holiday, or Vietnam when I only saw jellyfish and some other snorkeling spots that wasn't as much to see as this one. I was swimming with various tropical fish (morish idols, snappers, angel and clown fish, surgeon fish and tiger fish) when I feed them with crumps of bread. I saw corals and seaweeds. I also did kayaking and saw sea caves along the island. Despite a bit of sunburn on my arms and face, in short it was such an amazing day. I chilled out on a resort and had a chat with an Australian grandpa (who managed to swim with his hat on and keep it dry the whole time!) who is also a volunteer for Rotary club.
Our conversation went like this:
Me : "What kind of job do you do for Rotary?"
Him : "Help eradicating malaria,"
Me : "What a coincidence! I also work in malaria field. Whereabouts do you work?"
Him : "Papua. There're so many people suffered from malaria, HIV/AIDS and malnutrition. People are so poor. Also in Africa, India and South America. Our work is prioritized in these countries,"
Me : "That's so cool. It's true, we need to combat these health problems," (pretend to completely understand and be deeply concerned)
Him : "Yes. And look at us! Dipping lazily in a resort pool and dozing on the beach in an island after lunch,"
Me : " Agree. What lazy bastards,"
He continued swimming with his dry hat.