069 / Where’s Waly? In Bali.
069 / Where’s Waly? In Bali.
Asian people are sometimes describe as people without a sense of irony and humor… Everybody knows that stereotyping is a bad thing. Travelling generally makes you aware of the differences, and within a couple of weeks in smelly trains, cold water showers and late night discussion, I’ll be ready to ask everybody to stop stereotyping once and for all. At the same time it is everybody’s responsibility not to reinforce the already existing stereotypes. Otherwise, the vow of non-stereotyping becomes virtually impossible! One story to illustrate my point.
When I just arrived in Jakarta on Wednesday evening, flights for Denpasar (Bali) were finished for the day, so I had to make an overnight stop in Indonesia’s dusty, concrete megalopolis. After a rip off taxi ride to Jalan Jaksa (the only backpacker area in town) and a check-in in the smallest hotel room in my life (3m²), I was ready for some food around midnight. I decide to go into a seriously local eatery: Plastic chairs, white TL lightening, a fan that turn in a three dimensional field, the regulars who think they own the place, menus that outdate the fall of the Iron Curtain... the works. After a couple of minutes, a guy with more moustache then teeth engages in some small talk. After the mandatory saying that I’m from Belgium, that this really is a country, that it’s close to France and that my name is Wouter Wouter Wouter Wouter say again Wouter, he tells me without blinking that he’s eating dog. Very good. Very good.
True, I wasn’t going to change my Nasi Goring order to have a piece of Chihuahua, but it didn’t really shock me too much either. To entertain myself (another skill that being on the road sharpens), I show the guy a picture of Siska (our dog in Belgium, the country close to France) and put on a sad face.
My new best friend of the evening started to feel slightly uncomfortable, and shifted around on his chair, wondering to what extend he had broken my heart. I realized that I had to abort my game, and tried to get out of it by saying, obviously joking “20 push-ups”. What happens after left me speechless. The guy got up without looking at me, and started to do the push-ups in the middle of the restaurant… A random dog that was laying on the floor showed only a vague interest in the events. Little did he know I was safeguarding his offspring…
In the morning, Lion Air took me for $50 to Bali, home of the eternal surfer, the Bintang wife beater shirt, 78% of the people of Australia and the memories of a thousand honeymooners. I was happy to go to a place where I was planning on staying for at least a week (a record since the trip started). I arrived in Kuta in the evening, just in time to catch a glimps of the sun’s dazzling eye shadow.
The next day, I woke up in a happy mood, I planned on meeting interesting people where I would go surf & party with, and planned on getting a scooter and cruising the island… Mainly planning, I saw it all happening in my head, and I felt excited… It was an odd day where I basically just sat and waited for things to happen, and guess what? They don’t. My babic and Nike were right, you have to make your own day, DO stuff. So I went online (gotta love these modern, wifi travel possibilities) and wrote some locals via Couchsurfing. I luckily stumbled upon Betta, a cool jungle school bamboo guard with an attitude and some time to spend. On Friday, we went for dinner and ended the night in Sky Garden, an overheated notorious nightclub.
The day after, we decided to go to Ubud, a small town inland in Bali that has recently been voted “best city in Asia” (and offered the scenery for the movie Eat, Love, Pray). If Fertile was a country, Ubud would be it’s capital. It’s warm, and humid and you have the impression there is so much vegetation, that it almost literally flight in the air. It feels like a tri-athlete doing yoga: zen, powerful, trustworthy, welcoming. It’s the tropics at it’s best. We met with Tom, currently a surf instructor, and Fred, his longtime friend who’s a consultant. Both are German. Together, we formed a quite unlikely and cool squad. We played pool, discovered the best places to drink Balinese coffee and eat all sorts or preparations of pig (Oh, holy Babi Gurung…) and laughed a lot. I slept on Betta’s friend’s house, just next to the river. A beautiful place to wake up in. The Germans and I went for a 10 km hike in the rice fields around Ubud in the morning. We only got lost once, but we were man (i.e. stubborn) enough to not admit it and to try an experimental short cut through the jungle. Off the beaten track. Correction, Off the track altogether.
After lunch we visited the Green School, an award winning, Steiner inspired all natural, all sustainable school that is entirely made out of bamboo, ideology and astronomical tuition rich expats pay to get their children in. Funny detail: The principal’s office offers an excellent view on the mud pool where minor children perform martial arts. Not sure this would still be allowed in Belgium (the country, close to France…)