It had been a battle, a true battle, but somehow, with all my might, I had made it through some extremely dark days. Food poisoning had got me, but rabid dogs nor wild horses were to stop us getting to Bali. I sucked up all the man courage in my weak, failing frame and conjured up the power to leave lovely Malaysia to explore the Australian capital, Bali. Kuta was our first stop and after walking around for ten minutes, we noticed a few things which offered discouragement at a potential love affair with the island: ‘sexy wax’ stickers, women shoving men into ‘massage’ parlours, shop owners tugging at your shirt to pull you into their shop, and ‘Matt is gay’ t-shirts, whoever Matt was. They were all signs that we may have just entered a hell-hole. My favourite moment in all of this madness was an Indonesian bloke who decided to walk with us for a bit, selling us everything apart from oxygen. He told us he’d been to England only two weeks ago, indicating he’d spent time in the south.
‘Where?’ I asked, encapsulated with his answer.
‘Newcastle-upon-Tyne’. I think he was telling porkies.
I know, dear reader, that as you read on, my condition has been at the forefront of your concerns, and that you hope I was back to full strength by day two, but, alas, ‘twas not to be. There was still a pain inside me which I couldn’t shake off. This pain had only worsened when we had established that it was in fact Ednora who had poisoned me in Kuala Lumpur with the breakfast she cooked me. I thought perhaps this was a plot to kill me for the small change I had in my bank, so I altered my card details, and got a stray dog to taste any food she gave me, just to be on the safe side.
We visited Garda Wisnu Kencana which was a big tourist attraction with huge statues and some traditional Balinese shows. It was very grand, and the shows were great, though couldn’t help but think that this temple-like area had been built solely for tourists, and not really for the Balinese people.
Garda Wisnu Kencana
Garda Wisnu Kencana
We decided to spread our proverbial wings and headed to Ubud, around an hour and a half north of Kuta. Our bus stop to the hostel was about a 30 minute walk, and we were asked whether we needed a taxi 54 times. It was actually 54 times. I counted it. And I counted to 54. We finally got to our hostel which backed onto some rice fields, which was very picturesque. We checked out the local market where Ednora haggled her way to buying a bag. The price started at 180000 and went down to 30000 rupiah. Her persistence was annoying, but you have to hand it to her, she got it cheap. We got lunch in the market where an old white guy sat near us. He had a huge beard, a skinny frame and leather skin. He was ordering Bintangs one after the other and looking out into the distance as though he had a memory of the past no clearer than a distant haze. He looked as though he came to Bali for a one week break in 1976, but had never got out. That evening back at our hostel, a pool party was well under way, which took me back to the Ayia Napa days with the lads. There were beach bodies everywhere, and all the stereotypes present: the group of girls ensuring that they looked stunning, the lads on the beers having loud banter because they’re lads, and the one rogue guy who never seemed to have any friends, with all the muscles, looking to sink his talons into an unsuspecting female. We latched onto a lady called Sarah who was getting stuck into her travels too. We decided that it would be a good idea to form a unit of three, like B*witched, and so Sarah tagged along with us for a few days. To end the night, I shared a room with six girls. It was the most non-sexual night of my life – a proper girly sleepover where we giggled and talked about everything and nothing.
The next day we visited Teganungan Waterfall. This was a beast of a waterfall. Trying to swim against it was futile. We stopped for lunch at a nice spot overlooking the rice terraces where the owner chatted to me about her family. She went on about how hard her husband worked for the family so I asked what he did.
‘Taxi driver.’ Of course. Is everybody a taxi driver in Bali?
Over cheese on toast for breakfast – where the cheese was sprinkled on some toast – we decided to head to Kintamani. This was a mountainous region of Bali with a volcano which hadn’t erupted since 2000. Annoyingly, our cab driver didn’t explain that you had to pay the police to enter the district of Kintamani, so we had a massive argument with them at their corrupt ways. We ended up getting a reduced fee, but it was a dangerous trap which could put off tourists. That evening we were taken by our hotel manager to the hot springs. We decided to hire a driver for the next day and managed to negotiate a price with a grocer lady (it’s as random as it sounds) for her husband to show us around. She was a hard negotiator, as was a common theme in Bali, but her husband was lovely. He took us to a waterfall well out of the touristic radar, then to a little village with a big temple. The village locals seemed nice enough as we strolled through, checking out the cocks for cock fighting etc. The only annoying thing were the children who were conditioned to ask for money at any sight of a white person, which was a shame. Our next port of call was a collection of temples, one of the biggest in Bali, and as soon as we got out of the car, women came running across the road and attacked us with sarongs. They were wetting their pants. It was as though they had never had a customer in their lives. Then they wanted loads of money from us without us having any idea what was going on. We managed to negotiate it down, but when we came out of the temple, one of the women snatched the sarong off us, cursing us. I felt like we were in Kuta again. We walked off our anger up the base of the volcanic mountain and then our driver drove us through the volcanic field, which was cool.
We were heading out of Kintamani with a driver called Norman. He was kind enough to stop off at an organic coffee plantation where we met a lovely lady who gave us a tour. Her family-owned business still had her mum and nan working on the coffee. It wasn’t only coffee she was growing, there were fruits, herbs, spices and vegetables on the go. We got a load of taster coffees and herbal teas and then I stepped it up a gear and had a luwak coffee, the coffee the area was famous for. Basically, the beans for a luwak coffee can only be nurtured from the shit of the civit, a wild nocturnal animal. The people collect this poo which is still in bean form, and then make coffee from it. So, basically, I was drinking shit, and it’s a delicacy. It tasted nutty.
The view for breakfast
The view for breakfast
A hidden waterfall with 0% tourists
Temple in the village
The village we visited
Descending the mountain
The temple where the crazy sarong ladies attacked us
This is beany shit in her hands (luwak), and look how happy she is
This is me drinking the beany shit, and look how happy I am
We had arranged a homestay in a town called Tampaksiring and the owner was called Surya. Upon arrival we met Surya’s dad who was to be our host. This quirky character got to know us over a cup of tea. He later confided in me that he was proud that I had two girlfriends and that I was to sleep with both of them tonight. I assured him this wouldn’t be the case, which he simply laughed off. We had planned to meet up with a Swedish couple we had met in Borneo and so went for some lunch with them. They were staying at a homestay too, with a Balinese man and his French wife, who was an incredible cook. We had some tuak with the locals at the homestay which was basically fermented coconut, turning it alcoholic, which tasted like bucks fizz. After the few tuaks, the fellow boozers took us down to the rice fields at night where fireflies enshrouded us, which was pretty incredible. We also bumped into a bunch of lads cleaning a dead pig in the river. They were cleaning its insides and then planned to eat it all. About 15 minutes beforehand, we had seen a dead rat in that same river. Bacon was off the menu for a while.
The pig they were cleaning in the river
Ednora questioning the hygiene standards as men clean the intestine in the lake
The next morning was Ednora’s birthday!!! The three of us and the swedes went to the local market where we saw a chicken in a box, spray painted red. We thought this was for the amusement of the child watching it, but we weren’t sure. Then we checked out the rice fields. This UNESCO heritage site was huge, and offered stunning views. We had lunch in a small shack/cafe thing where the lady’s children were playing games with chopping knives, which was nice. Our next visit was to Tirta Empul, a huge temple with a holy spring. It appeared to be predominantly tourists who cleansed themselves in this holy water. A group of ladies even did the whole ‘hummmmm’ thing as they stood under the fountains. I wasn’t sure whether they were being genuine or not. We had dinner at the French lady’s restaurant and she made Ednora a surprise birthday cake. She also told us of a festival that night which was all to do with black magic. We decided to head to it but needed a sarong. Back at our homestay, our old friend (Surya’s dad) and his sister sorted us out with full traditional Balinese clothes. They both laughed at us as they dressed us up, and we all laughed as the lady lathered on Ednora’s make-up. Ednora had to laugh. The laughs. Her eyebrows looked like strips of liquorice. We headed to the festival looking fantastic, but understood absolutely none of it. Never mind though, it was a great experience, and Ednora was happy to say she was Balinese on her birthday.
We were off to Jakarta and our taxi driver friend Norman picked us up. He was so kind that he stopped off and bought us a coffee for a chat. He believed heavily in karma, so only wanted to be good to people. He restored our faith in the humanity of taxi drivers; he was a breath of fresh Balinese air. We recommended him to everyone we knew was heading that way.
My throne for the night
Strolling through the rice fields
We stopped off for lunch among the rice fields
The kid who played with chopping knives
This was a lovely lunch, but unbearably spicy!
Surya’s dad, the man who said I walked like a gorilla. Lovely bloke.
TirtaEmpul, where the ladies went, ‘hummmmm.’
Traditional Balinese clothes
Dress-Off with the Swedes
The Festival of Black Magic
Look how happy she is