I remember hearing the words of that song as a child. Bali Hai. An exotic place. I never thought I would actually visit, yet here I am. If I would have known what a paradise Bali is, I would have made my trip to Australia much shorter. Bali is an amazing place.
I am in Ubud. Ubud is in almost the center of the island. It is a center for healing. It is the place where the movie "Eat Pray Love" was made. Something the locals have no love for. It brought higher prices, unwanted tourism, and a type of tourist they just don't like. It also priced the locals out of their own market at times. In many ways, like tango.
I am staying in a guest house. Birgit is from Austria, Graz.. and her husband Made is Balineese. She came here 10 years ago and never left. it is easy to see why. I got that "come home feeling" the minute I started to walk around. If I could get JerryBrown and Maxi into the country I would definitely think about it. I had that "come home feeling" twice in my life - in San Francisco and in Buenos Aires. But how can I leave "los demonios?" I have been adopted by a stray kitten, but he is not my "kids" and I cannot take him back with me. I will be sorry to leave him. He greeted me on my first night in Bali.
I get up every morning around 6:30. I am still getting up early. I take a cold shower. There is no hot water in my guest house. At 8 Wayan comes to prepare me breakfast of fresh juice made from several different juices. I have eggs and fresh ginger tea. After I must decide what to do for the day.
My first day I walked as much of the city as I could. I went to the Monkey Forest. This is a huge national forest of monkeys who are hanging out in a national environment. It is amazing. They are everywhere. They swing from trees, run on the ground, play, and look for tourists to give them food.
There are signs everywhere annoncing what not to feed them. I watched a fat French women giving the sugar wafer cookies which are forbidden, and then like a fool she gives the monkey the foil wrapper. When she tries to get it back he hisses at her. It just falls out of my mouth "Que boluda, que tonta, que hiciste? Estupida" I hear a voice from behind me "Hey, Argentina'"
The tour group behind me was laughing. They were from Argentina, Peru, and Colombia. The Argentines found me the funniest. They never expected to hear Argentine Spanish in the middle of Bali and by a medio Portena.
As I walked through the streets men would call out to me "Taxi" "Taxi Madame". Sometimes they would be funny and say things like: "You look hot, you need to have a ride." There was never anything rude. The Balinese are very polite people. Every shop or restaurant I passed people would say hello. Even when hawking massages,jewelery, or sarongs, they were still polite.
The quality of the things is not what one expects. Ubud is a center for crafts. There is lots of wood carvings, paintings, and sarongs. Things made from Batik. There is lots of junk. You have to be careful. There is silver but not the highest quality.
The food is amazing. I love the Indonesian food. They eat a lot of rice, coconut milk, spices. There is not much variety, but I find it very good. One of the owner's of a restaurant explains to me that the food is put together to be healthy. He explains the significance of the rice, the spices. His food is from Sulawesi. It is different. I love it. Very spicey.
He asks me what my plans are for Bali and then offers me the services of his brother as a driver and guide. Most want to charge me double or triple the price of what Gadu is quoting me. We make a plan to meet in two days. Here tourists are charged 4 times more than they should be. You have to really befriend people. Most people accept the prices because they are so cheap.
The day before I meet Gadu's brother I do the Rice Walk. This is a hike to the rice fields. It is a beautiful serene walk. On the first part of the walk there are sidewalks that have been imprinted by people. One man has written "Eat Pray Screw A Man's Guide to Fulfillment." I walk for what seems like hours on a hot hot humid day. Motorcycles pass me.
I finally get to the rice fields. There are people working in them. It is amazing to watch. I have never seen anything like it. People have actually built guesthouses here. I come upon an old man selling coconuts. He asks if I would like one. I tell him OK. Two women come up to greet him. They are idiots. Typical tourists. They are staying in the guesthouse that charges over $100 a day. It is owned by a Swiss man. (The Coconut man tells me this later)
The tourists start to explain to me what a coconut is like I am stupid. I am shocked. They have a very condescending and arrogant manner. I tell them I am from South America and we have coconuts in South America. They continue in their arrogant way. Finally I stop them. I tell them, "I am from South America. We have coconuts there, we call them cocos." They say "Oh, we did not know."
When they leave Coconut man laughs. I don't know if he understood everything, but he thought it was funny. He picks out a huge coconut for me. He wacks off the top and gives it to me with a straw. The milk is clear and delicious. He tells me to sit down on the bench near by. I sit and gaze out at the rice fields. There are homemade scarecrows.
Coconut man brings me a green stalk. He tells me to smell. It is lemongrass. It is so wonderful. He is delighted I know that it is for cooking. He brings me another - Citrona. He tells me. "To get rid of mosquitos." He brings me cumin and other spices. What a way to spend the afternoon.
I can barely finish the coconut milk. When I am done, he hacks open the coconut to get the meat. I am used to a coconut meat that is hard. This is fleshy and very good. I cannot finish it. There is way too much for one person.
Now it is time for me to start back. The end of a lovely day.