Bali. I have such fond memories of ceremonies, of empty streets, and locals genuinely happy to see me. I went a bit after the Bali bombings of 2002. In 2005 there was still no tourist presence as all foreign governments were warning of more attacks. The attacks came, but it was after I left. The Balinese were hungry for tourists. For the work and prosperity that comes with them. They hoped I would tell my friends that Bali was safe again. That the deals were good and that no one was going to hurt them. Because of the lack of tourists the place was heaven for the few that did venture here. Prices were cheaper than normal and you could navigate the sidewalks without being shoved off by a fat Aussie and his sweaty girlfriend. Cut to 8 years later and Bali is now called the Australian Village.
After Jogja I flew to Bali and hotfooted it to Ubud. I wanted to chill out in the rice fields, maybe visit artisans and learn a little Legong. I did not recognize Ubud. It was like someone had taken away the quaint workshops and dirty market and put down a mini mall with every store selling the exact same thing. It was like a shopping Groundhog Day. Where were the rice paddies? The cool little shops where expats and locals worked, tapping into the magic subconscious of Ubud? All I see are variations on the same silk dress and silver Om symbols everywhere. And yoga stores! What the fuck with the yoga stores?!? Selling yoga clothes, yoga classes, juice cleanses, mala bead after mala bead! I've traveled thousands of miles and only gotten to Santa Monica! Where are the people making anything different? Something, anything different?! For gods sake I couldn't even find anything to buy because after walking one block, anything I liked in the first store I had become sick of by the 7th. After seeing entirely too many skinny bitches walking down the street, yoga mat under arm, requisite mala beads with crystal dangling from their neck, I fled. But not before taking in a couple of gamelan and Legong shows. I love the music and style of dance and even in a really staged setting with sweaty Chinese flanking me, it still has the power to transport me.
After recouping in Gili Trawangan I hit up Seminyak for a little shoppy shop. Seminyak is more chill and chic compared to Kuta. I booked in to a hotel and when I got there it wasn't central at all so I asked the driver to drop me on the main drag of Seminyak and I would suss a place out on my own. I went to one that wasn't a hotel at all, one was too expensive, one too hotel-like, one I couldn't even find. It was like Goldilocks in Seminyak. I asked Ganesh to please find the perfect place for me. I asked the universe to please not let it be expensive. I see a sign across the street and I walk to it. I'm hot and my back is drenched in sweat. Please God. This is the one. Ganesh, lets make this happen. I walk into a perfectly manicured courtyard. There's a beautiful girl in the blue blue pool and there's five massive walled villas. Paradise but at what cost? A man with a tenuous grasp of English explains that it's 400 a night to stay. Of course it's $400 a night. The place is a stunner! Then he says its 400,000 rupiah a night. Wait, that's $40. I try to clarify. I don't want to get hit with a massive bill when I leave. Yes!!! It's rupiah! I basically throw the money at him making it rain rupiah on this skinny old Indonesian man. I run into my awesome walled private 2 story villa and giggle my ass off. Thank you Ganesh! Thank you universe! I'm so utterly grateful. And every morning when I wake up and when I come home I have a huge smile on my face.
At first I think Seminyak hasn't changed that much. Then I find where I used to eat breakfast. It used to be surrounded by rice paddies, an idyllic way to begin your day. On this trip I did a double take when I stumbled upon it. Now it is surrounded by stores and a huge new building is going up just opposite of it. I guess it's good for locals that there's lots of work now and new opportunities, but the new constructions are ruining why Bali was so amazing and different in the first place. Now I hear "transport" followed by "Valium" from all sides when I walk down the street. I guess I've become one of those annoying people who always say "You think it's good now but 10 years ago...you shoulda seen it!!"