Bali = Paradise. For anyone looking for genuinely friendly locals, a vibrant and colorful culture of offerings, dancing, sublime cooking, artwork, the best surfing in sharkless crystal clear beaches, and the land of 1,000 temples… look no further! At least if you don’t go to Kuta like all the Aussie spring breakers.
Everywhere you look and step, you stumble upon young coconut palm leaves woven into small baskets filled with flowers, rice, crackers, incense and other little delectables. It’s a Balinese offering to the Gods to bring prosperity and good luck to the home and family. It’s more of a celebration of life than a fear of bad fortune however, which in itself seemed to be a pretty cheerful way to live. They leave them in front of temples, outside restaurants, on the entry way of the home and unfortunately right in the middle of the sidewalk too. Luckily it is only sacred as the offering is taking place (usually sprinkling water onto the offering and bowing in reverence), so when you accidentally kick one, as I often did, it’s not so much of an insult as just a stupid tourist move.
I’m not sure if it’s fact or folk lore, but I thought I’d share something interesting I heard from a local Balinese boy and art fanatic. He claimed that the reason Bali has maintained such a unique devotion and richness of religious offerings and ceremonies, is due to the restriction of missionaries allowed on the island through the past few hundred years. Intriguing don’t you think? Here’s another fun fact or simple observation, depending on how you take it. There was an artist named Antonio Blanco who became famous for his talented and often risqué paintings of Balinese women, mostly bare chested as was common culture before the Westerners arrived in droves. His obsession with the chests of Balinese women (besides for the obvious reason that he was a man) was due to his reverence for the exquisite perkiness that Balinese women were known to exhibit. It was said, even amongst scientists and doctors, that part of this phenomenon was due to the tradition of carrying everything from insanely heavy bushels of rice to bundles of bamboo rods upon their noggin. The simple lifting and carrying of weight high up on the head and shoulders strengthened the trapezius, deltoids, and of course pectoralis muscles thereby creating the “perkiness”. This tradition still continues today although the toplessness does not. Once again, unless you’re in the Aussie spring break area of Kuta. 🙂
I spent 1 week in Ubud, the capital of relaxation, rice paddies and monkey forests, and then departed for the beach town of Seminyak to try my hand at surfing. After 2 1/2 months of cold showers and roughing it, I treated myself to a week of pampering at a place called Surf Haven. I can proudly say I surfed 5 different locations, including one called “Shipwreck” and another “Lacerations”. The last one even gave me a gentle coral reef “kiss”, I suppose to make sure I didn’t forget it. When the day finally arrived for me to fly out, I simply couldn’t stand to part from this magical land. I quickly changed my plane ticket, and stayed an extra week with a New Yorker named Alejandra. We traveled to a small quiet island called Nusa Lembongan (right off the Southern Coast), and then to a local surfer town back on the mainland called Canggu. We rented a scooter, jumped off some dodgy cliffs, snorkeled with manta rays and just relished in the peace and ease of Indonesian life. That ease of life quickly came to an end when we decided to get a German surf instructor named Marcus in Canggu. Yikes! With that thick German accent and charm only Germans are known for, he at least helped me narrow down my choice of next profession by pointing out I did not stand a chance as a pro surfer 🙂
Well, I’m sitting at an airport in Newcastle Australia, the land down under where my “walkabout” travels first found their inspiration. My flight from Sydney to Byron Bay hit a bird and as the pilot apologized as we all climbed off the aircraft, I attempted my best accent and said “No worries mate”. I obviously didn’t do a very good job though because he laughed and said “Where in the states are you from?” 😉 I guess I’m going to need longer than my 2 weeks left to practice my Aussie accent…. at least that sounds like a pretty good excuse to change my plane ticket one last time.
Off to enjoy the last hurrah,