Bali Bites : musings and memories. May/June 2017


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so how do you know your friend Gusti? how perfect is that, knowing someone there!
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I sit here, sipping an excellent lychee caipirinha and watching the waves, and trying not to laugh at the two earnest young men singing acoustic Bruno Mars & Katy Perry covers. They’re decent musicians, but such super serious faces. (I’m just glad it wasn’t the quartet from Sulawesi who performed two nights ago. Felt like the Indonesian version of a mariachi band, including fact that they started going table to table to serenade the guests. And not just one song. They’d do a 3 song set for each table. My social anxiety levels were rising, especially as I’d been solo because Jessica was sick in bed. But when they asked for a request, I smiled, looked up from my novel, and said, “Sorry. Another time” in Indonesian. They laughed and moved on to the next table. Phew! The next table was a group of expats from Hong Kong, and they were great about engaging the band in conversation, so I was able to eavesdrop. *smile*


For one of their requests, they asked for a song from Sulawesi. The men seemed pleased and sang a song that had a lot more yodeling than I’d expected. (I’d expected zero yodeling, if I’m honest. And this had a significant amount). Curious if it’s something that came from indigenous Sulawesi people, or maybe from colonization? Do the Dutch yodel?


This afternoon’s musicians just sang John Lennon’s “imagine,” so I guess it’s not only modern western songs.


Anyway, I thought a post collecting memories and observations and tweets from these two weeks in Bali might be nice (& give me something to do while I’ve got an hour to kill before my final massage which is two hours before I leave for the airport).

The straight talk/bluntness of SE Asia, especially regarding physical traits. If you’re tall or short or bald or fat, people tend to comment upon it. Not generally in a mean or mocking way, just as stating a fact and a point of discussion. I actually encountered less comments about my large size than I’d prepared for. I’m thinking word has gotten around to much of the tourist sector that most folks don’t love it when they mention that a fat person is fat. (read a few blogs where a fat tourist was encouraged to shop by a shopkeeper cheerfully announcing, “we have King Kong sizes!” yikes. Can’t imagine that resulted in many sales, even if the knowledge that they carry plus size clothing would be useful, as that’s rare here. But phrasing can matter, especially in countries where we’re more euphemistic about such things). Because I knew it was a possibility, I’d spent some time thinking how I might respond. And I’d learned enough Indonesian to have a possible response. So when a taxi driver asked me, “How come you are so big?” I replied, “I like food” in Indonesian. He thought this was hilarious and repeated it about four times. As for me, it’s okay. I mean, I obviously don’t love someone saying, “hey, you’re fat.” But also, I am. At the end of the day, it’s a fact. And as long as it’s not said meanly, I’m okay with it. When traveling in Malaysian Borneo ten years ago, I remember there were reactions, too, but they seemed tinged with appreciation. Which was novel and nice. Still a bit awkward, but yeah. Could’ve done without the two different guys who gave a reverent pat to my belly in Malaysia, though. Even if you are being appreciative, you shouldn’t just touch stranger’s bodies on the street, eh?


For Jessica, it’s been a lot of continued questioning about where she’s from. Being of Korean heritage, when she answers, “I’m from America,” some folks keep asking follow up questions.


The Fairmont in Sanur. The hotel room bathrooms have all three of my dad’s gold standards: toilet paper folded into triangle, Toto brand toilet, and a phone by the toilet. Ewww to that last one. Don’t call people from the toilet. Just… Don’t.


Taking a cold shower mid-day in an equatorial country remains one of the most blissful things ever. Going from super heated and sweaty into a shock of too cold water that is then suddenly just right? Magical.


Snorkeling in Blue Lagoon at Padangbai was so great, but having bits of garbage float by was a real bummer. Also, the tide turned while we were out (or something), and suddenly the waves were super rough, crashing into the beach. This was fine while swimming and snorkeling, but it did make for a less than glamorous “dismount” when we tried to walk out of the ocean. I think Jessica and I each wiped out at least twice. Once I lost one of the fins I’d rented in my tumble. Happily I was able to swim out to get it, but there was a minute there where I knew I’d be paying the woman to replace a pair of fins. I think all this churning waves and falling down contributed to the inordinately huge amount of sand we both had stuck in our suits. For real. Half the beach, easily. But being out their snorkeling when the strong waves happened was great, as we’d float along, and it was kind of hilarious watching all the giant colorful tropical fish be as subject to the current as everyone else. Just trying to look chill and grab a quick bite off the coral before being swept 4 feet in the other direction.


Tweet from Padangbai “How’d you get sunburned?” “Taking a shower.” In a related story, outdoor showers are ridiculous/not all they’re cracked up to be. *laughs* For realz, though. Clearly it’s a “luxury” that dominates in Bali, but I much prefer an indoor toilet and shower. For one, stepping out into the muggy air to use the facilities isn’t so pleasant. And there’s always that last minute check for insects and lizards and snakes. And sometimes, partway through your shower, you realize that a portion of your outdoor bathroom is maybe visible to that window over there. Plus, the aforementioned sunburn issue if showering in daylight. And at night, it’s a bugspray issue, as you obviously can’t be wearing it during your shower.

The variety and beauty of the religious offerings left everywhere. Made daily, walking down any street, you’ll encounter multiple offerings with a variety of flowers and foods and sometimes a cigarette. Sometimes in a banana leaf, or surrounded by interwoven leaves/fronds. Also, it was reassuring to learn that it’s not a huge insult/bad luck if you accidentally step on one of these. Obviously, you’re supposed to avoid doing so if you can, but they are so myriad and all over the sidewalk, that it’s okay if you accidentally step on one.

Another tweet from Padangbai @tracynoreen: Me, exasperatedly to tiny ants in open-air room, whenever they climb on my flipflop, “come on, guys! You know I’m gonna put my foot there.”

Our open air room had several little lines of tiny ants, and we were mostly fine, but then they’d climb all over my shoes. Dudes! Also, one night going to use the open air toilet, I accidentally stepped on/squished three large ants. But nature finds a way. Or something. Because in the morning, two of the dead ants were completely gone, and the third was just a pile of the tiny ants, finishing up their meal. Self cleaning.


Nusa Lembongan. Swanky cocktail place called “Lemongrass” played an entire Savage Garden CD. And I was flooded with high school nostalgia.


After our friend Gusti brought us to our hotel in Sanur, we asked if he had any recommendations for dinner places. “There is lots of good food options all around. Pretty much start walking and you’ll find something *pauses, looks at giant hotel’s restaurant* just, please… don’t eat there.” Ha.


Oh yeah, one afternoon, coming back to hotel room in Sanur, walking along the outdoor hallway (this place is massive), I startled a bat that had been roosting in the eaves of a hotel room doorway. She was beautiful to watch fly away.


I mentioned the hunky security guard started a conversation with me because of my limited Indonesian, yes?


Oh lordy, one night, I had the crap scared out of me. Reading in bed, Jessica is sleeping, and I hear weird buzzing noise and then something bounces off my shoulder. I may have shrieked. Turned on the light. Grabbed my glasses and flashlight. Was able to perform a successful catch and release of a gorgeous dime-sized bronze beetle. It did bounce off of me one more time before I caught it in a glass and took it out our hotel room door.


One fave part of traveling: trying new fruits. Salak (Snakeskin fruit) was very tasty & different in texture. Firm & crunchy. Fun. Couldn’t find my beloved langsat fruit (discovered in Malaysia ten years ago), but didn’t go on a dedicated search, either.


Covering each other in sand is a universal beach activity, and it’s great fun to see families the world over do this. But I was a bit surprised one afternoon to see two grown fisherman lying beside their boat on the sand, one had buried the other up to his waist in sand. Couldn’t help wondering if they were just playing or if it served some type of function.


@tracynoreen: Started finding faces in this bathroom marble wall. Now it feels like I’ve got a dozen creatures watching me pee. #Awkward

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