I think it’s natural (if not downright annoying) for visitors to a new (for them) place to imagine that they’re the first to ever experience that place. When I first began travelling, I know I must have sounded like that.
Needless to say this place, Bali, evokes all of that sense of wonderment and excitement and sense of an undiscovered country that I thought it would. It is literally unlike (and yet, very similar to) any place I’ve ever been. Almost (but not quite) as hectic and noisy as HCMC, Vietnam. Very similar to Thailand in terms of smell (both good and bad) and garbage (all bad). And just as unstructured and lawless as Cambodia.
Certainly a bit of the best of all of these places, but distinctly different. This is not what you see when you watch Eat, Pray, Love. At least not yet, since we’re in Denpassar/Seminyak/Kuta, and not Ubud.
Green is a word that comes to mind. Rainy season, the monsoon. But much much sunnier than I was led to believe by weather reports. The rice paddies are full, and the vegetation verdant, but there’s lots of sun and light cloud through which it attacks.
SPF 30 for the win, with little streaks of red where we missed, or where straps have shifted.
And when the rain hits, it hits hard. In our single case so far, vertical, but it’s been known to fly sideways under open air pavilions, and through the thatch. There is warning though, if you are wont to listen. We underestimated how quickly this storm wanted to land.
The beaches, too, are not what I expected. From Batu Belig to Berewa (look them up on Google Maps) the sand is wide and oceans dramatic, and not nearly as dirty as we were led to believe. Plastic here and there, and the odd toothpaste tube, but better than most of the Thai shore.
Even the odd dead puffer fish.
I think that if there’s one defining characteristic of SE Asia, it would be the smell. A mixture of rotting garbage, earthy organics, exhaust fumes, burning plastic, and the merest hint of human sewage.It’s not entirely off-putting (I know, weird, huh?), but it’s absolutely situating. You *know* you’re in Asia.
Our neighbourhood is outside of the hipster ghetto that is Semenyak. Close enough, even by walking (an hour and a half), to the beach. The roads are always hectic, made moreso by their driving on the wrong side of the road. During rush hour, scooters hop up onto the sidewalk to gain advantage, so it’s a bit of a soul draining experience to get around. I thought Greek streets (even in the tony neighbourhoods of glyfada) were bad. Here, you risk falling into the sewer system or walking into an exposed power line.
All part of the price you pay for being adventurous.
Let me speak of food!
Some of it is ridiculously inexpensive. This spread of local produce cost us under five bucks CAD equivalent. Pomelo, starfruit, dragon fruit mangosteen and monkey bananas. The next day we bought snake fruit, guava, rambutan and lychi.
The grill is the word here. Satay, of course, but also whole fish for 25K IDR ($2.50 CAD).
Fresh from the grill at a roadside warung, snack food like satay (or sate) are everywhere. Ten sticks for 20K IDR (about 2 bucks CAD). Babi is an extra 10K. Seriosly, the food is one of the reasons i travel, so a street food blog post is most certainly in the works.
For those of you who have travelled before, or specifically to Bali, this is nothing new. It’s ALL new to me, of course, and to most of you. I’m just learning my way around there, and I’m (almost) overwhelmed by the opportunity and the choice.
There is so much to experience and write about still. Day two under our belts; I’ll be back.