This morning I awoke on an island in a country on a continent where I know no one. For some people this might be a complete nightmare. But I had never slept so well and awoken with such excitement. That is, after a 5 AM alarm call from the neighborhood rooster.
Today is my first morning in the solo part of my Bali adventure, part two. Part one included a more traditional tour of this mystical island with one of my very best friends, Alyssa.
Alyssa is a peppy blonde with bright blue eyes who can find common ground with absolutely anyone she meets and has an exquisite palate for world cuisines. She is also very jumpy around animals. Every monkey, elephant, and spider was a cause for concern but considering the amount of animals we were exposed to she did great and her jumpiness was wonderful entertainment for me.
The first ten days we spent in the air, a solid 24 hours from departure to arrival in our hotel, then hopping around the island from place to place to discover the sights best for first timers. We began at the southernmost tip of Bali in a quiet surf village called Uluwatu where Rip Curl was having a competition just steps away from our adorable hotel called the Pink Coco. You can imagine my excitement when a friend recommended checking out this rosy inn.
We saw the famous fire dance at the Uluwatu Temple portrayed by some immaculately costumed people telling the love story of Rama and Sita, a story I had loved watching in my favorite film version of the book The Little Princess. I loved it just as much. We enjoyed having a huge wave wash away our bags at the famous Padang Padang beach, played with elephants at a sanctuary, went scuba diving around a ghostly shipwreck, saw the beautiful Tanah Lot sea temple, tried the famous Luwak coffee, which is called “cat poop coffee” for some reasons that are not totally unjustified. I’ll leave it to you to look it up. Basically, we did many of the things people do when they come here and then leave shortly thereafter.
Only now I am happy to say that I will be one step closer to real Bali life. I live in a house alongside other villager’s houses where they have a guard dog, rooster, hen for eggs, and children who play games in the alleys between houses. I love waking up and hearing the nearby temple gong its lovely chimes and the dull sound of low voices singing before the sun comes up to thank God for the opportunity the new day brings.
I also had to acquire the common form of Balinese travel: motorbike. I should mention that Alyssa asked me several times “Can we please rent a motorbike and drive around?” and I said “I realllllllyyy don’t feel comfortable. The traffic is crazy here and there’s no driving rules!” We had heard that there was no speeding limit.
However, upon my arrival in Canggu I learned that I had no other option if I didn’t want to spend all day in the house and the traffic was not nearly as bad at this new part of the island. I rented a scooter and decided to drive it around to get a feel and if it went terrible I would use Go-Jek, the local ‘uber’ which also offers scooter taxis, which seemed exhilarating enough.
But after spending a little time getting to know the accelerator grip I was thrilled by this new opportunity. I had told myself that I would come here to challenge myself and try new things and here was my first opportunity alone to do just that and would I deny it?
No way, Jose.
As I drove down the street from my little blue house I made a turn and was greeted with the vast expanse of a perfectly green rice paddy, accentuated by rows of palm trees outlining it. I was stunned by the unexpected beauty just meters away which I had not noticed because it had been too far to walk. I almost wanted to shout, “I’m driving a scooter! In Indonesia! By myself!” as I sputtered around the bends around the road as if someone I knew would hear and wave back. It’s safe to say my initial entry point into Balinese life has been full of light and wind and sea.
Later I will fill you in on my surf lessons with Wayan, the son of a Balinese fisherman, father of three who was a pro surfer, then a chef, then an organic farmer, then a businessman turned fisherman. But for now, it’s time to say good night.