PART 3, at last! This is the final leg of my beloved Bali adventure. I hope you enjoyed reading the whole damn novella of a trip as much as I loved experiencing it. If any of you are ever thinking about heading over to the gorgeous country, I 1000% recommend hiring Putu as your driver! I guarantee you he’ll make you laugh, teach you about the culture like no taksi driver can and even patch you up when you’ve hurt yourself.
And one more thing, if you feel like making a difference to the lives of the 40 million Indonesian people who live in poverty, please don’t hesitate to click on the link below and make a donation to World Vision Australia. Just $10 can have an impact on the lives of six people!
11th April 2015
Today the clock ticked by Bali time, which means we spent the hours swimming, tanning, drinking smoothies and becoming lost wandering the hot Legian streets. Two ladies at the Jayakarta Hotel fully braided my hair into cornrows. It took the two of them over an hour to create 54 strands of plaits, with two beads attached to each end (I currently have 108 beads in my hair, clicking against each other with every step). I watched their hands move in the shadows, flickering at the speed of light as they fashioned the pattern and tied the ends with foil.
This afternoon we drove to visit the Bali jail, where many infamous Australians have spent copious amounts of time. It was worthwhile seeing the place that has been so often televised, particularly at the moment as the two Bali 9 members in captivity are still on trial.
Bored at Seminyak Square for dinner, I pulled up my chair on a leafy balcony and wrote what I saw: “Currently overlooking the busy street of Seminyak Square, packed with scooters racing past bluebird taksis and illuminated stores advertising clothes. At the end of the road is a lonely market aching for visitors. The stall-owners huddle together, playing chess and conversing in hushed tones. Yet, when a potential buyer meanders through the rows they barely acknowledge them, possibly too deflated to attempt to draw them into their clutches. The strangest market in all of Bali: the market of silence. A tourist rushes through the shadowy paths, avoiding eye contact as he categorizes every passer-by as a potential danger. Contrarily, others wish to be immersed in the fresh culture completely, longing for an insightful discussion with the locals and ignoring the invisible threat of danger the other tourist sees lurking in every crevice.”
On the ride home I hung my head from the open window. We spend much of our time travelling in the taksis, and while there’s never a dull moment as the sidewalks are so unique to my Aussie eyes, I would prefer to be experiencing all 5 of my senses rather than just sight. Rolling down the window was the solution: I could feel the humid air settling on my skin, hear snippets of Indonesian conversation and smell the familiar scent of incense and frangipanis. A huge clump of offerings, which are left on every doorstep, dashboard and footpath daily, were scattered over the road. They cause a lot of litter problems in Bali, as there’s nowhere to dispose of them.
Overall, the day was uneventful but relaxing, which isn’t my favourite travel style (I’m more of an up-and-at-it person), but was still good to experience the typical notion of ‘Bali time.’ Just an update, I have a killer sunburn and my bruise is transforming into an ugly yellow/purple/brown monster.
Sweet dreams, Bali!
12th April 2015
I caught my first wave, in Bali’s ocean!
Apart from the bigger board and the standing up part, surfing is pretty similar to body boarding. I wasn’t a natural, but by the end of an hour I was surfing, albeit small waves. I needed a bit of coaching to get going: feet hanging off the end of the board, paddle fast, lean back, push up in one go, balance and, finally, ride the wave.
Even though I didn’t accomplish much apart from standing…
Learn to surf: tick!
13th April 2015
Waterbom Park is the number 1 waterpark in Asia, number 5 in the entire world, and home to the largest water slide in the world: ‘The Constrictor.’ Putu drove us there yesterday, and it felt more like an oversized resort than a waterpark.
I was in the first aid office twice within the first hour. I know what you’re thinking: Clumsy Kayla at it again! Not this time though, I was merely getting waterproof plasters to cover my battle wounds from the bike stack. My hip still aches and stings where the skin was ripped open, and is far from a pleasant sight.
Travelling 70km per hour, ‘The Boomerang’ was the most exhilarating ride, its description reading: “Scream your lungs out as you twist down a 20m drop only to get swept back up again! Before you can catch your breath, you’re in for a free fall.”
Lining up on the stairs for the rides, we observed people working adjacent to us on a construction site building another slide. We’d seen construction sites in Bali before, and were astonished to discover nobody bothers with protective helmets, vests or even shoes. At best, they wear flip-flops. These people were working twenty metres above the ground, casually climbing the scaffolding as if they were kids in a play-ground, dancing the tango with their lives as they hovered on the edge of the roof and reached over to smooth cement. One guy accidentally dropped a brick from the top level and it landed on the second floor. What if it had hit somebody? This is one of the carefree, dangerous aspects of Bali that differs to Australia.
The view, however, was captivating. The whole of Bali was laid before my eyes in a panoramic view of orange roofs, thick green trees and the tips of temples.
After Waterbom, we ended up eating pizza for dinner at an Italian restaurant a couple of doors down to our hotel, and I’ll repeat what I’ve already said: I’ve never had a bad meal in Bali. As the conversation turned to null, I suggested we each say the highlight and lowlight of our days, a little game I play with my friends during drama class as a way to catch up on our weeks. My Mum’s highlight was seeing Jack wearing these ridiculous goggles he found which made him look like a puffer fish, whereas Jack’s lowlight was getting stuck on the enclosed slide called ‘The Viper.’ My Dad’s highlight was simply spending a day with his family at Waterbom Park, and my lowlight was that I sucked at volleyball in the water; I was much more of a hindrance than a help to the team.
We piled back into the hotel way too early in my opinion: the island was still partying!
14th April 2015
This morning Putu whisked us away to South Bali, a region we hadn’t yet explored. A list of places I want to visit is glued in the front of my journal, so we targeted them throughout the morning.
Stop 1: Padang-Padang Beach in Jimbaran.
It was an unusual trek through a temple to the beach (but what is usual in Bali?). I was taking my time looking around the temple when my eyes adjusted and discovered that I was completely surrounded by wild monkeys. At first I was mesmerised, watching two about a metre away from me stealing food from the offerings. One was peeling a mentos while the other silently creeped closer, eyeing the camera slung around my neck. I knew from my trip to the Sacred Monkey Forest that these were not petting monkeys, they can jump very long distances and are cunning thieves. My problem was that they were guarding the entrance to the beach, which was a very narrow and steep set of stairs enclosed by a high rock wall on one side and a forest on the other. I summoned up my courage and zipped past the mischievous monkeys, sprinting down the stairs.
Once I reached the white sands of Padang-Padang I breathed a sigh of relief. Before me spread a beautiful beach hidden by rock caves in an alcove. The water was varying shades of blue and green, and coral was scattered among the seaweed. I wish we had snorkelling gear! Further out, people were swimming, surfing and exploring rock caves. Once I’d soaked in the raw beauty of the setting, I climbed a different set of stairs to reach the road again. The view of the beach from the bridge was stunning. With a perfectly straight horizon that looked more like a painting than water meeting the sky, I don’t blame ancient philosophers for believing the Earth was flat, or that it floated in the ocean like a log.
Next stop: Uluwatu!
A whole village tumbled down the cliff in disorderly fashion, hanging over the top of one another. I made my way down the steep carved steps, and on each landing the view became more and more ineffable.
Waving goodbye to the gorgeous Uluwatu, we set off on the forty minute drive to Grand Nikko, an extremely exclusive resort. Their pool was so enormous that even standing on the top floor (Level 15), I couldn’t fit the whole thing into a photo. The place was incredibly strict. Before we could enter through two large arches security checked the whole car, using sticks with mirrors attached to sweep beneath the vehicle. Most of the resorts have very strict security because of the bombings that occurred ten years ago. That act of terrorism rocked Bali’s economy until it shattered, branding the country as a dangerous place.
We knew that the front desk administrators would be watching our every move through security cameras in case we swam in their ‘sacred’ private pool or lied down on one of their precious day beds. As we were leaving my Dad said, ‘Let’s all split up and give them a headache!’ which we thought was very amusing. Still, the hotel itself was awe-inspiring and drew many oohs and wows from our mouths. After our visit to the Grand Nikko, we were tired from all of the driving and stopping so opted giving Nusa Dua a miss. We’d seen enough beautiful beaches to last a lifetime.
‘Straight home please, Putu.’
Throughout all of our trips we’d passed by a spectacular bridge reaching so far into the distance we couldn’t see its end. On the ride home we actually drove over it, and discovered that the extremely long bridge connects the city of Denpasar and South Kuta, Nusa Dua and the airport. I just googled it and apparently it’s 12.7km. Woah. The majestic temple built halfway on the bridge turned out to be the tolls collection, and the red flags we saw sticking out of the water advertised the Kongress.
On our way over to the beach this afternoon, we knocked on the window to Yasa’s shop and found him sitting on the ground watching a movie (the Deck Fish n Chips doesn’t get a whole lot of business). Yasa is a waiter we met at breakfast on our first morning and have spoken with every day. Once we filled him in on our South Bali trip, we continued toward the beach, where Jack spotted a huge gathering of people (or were they rocks?) clumped in one spot a long way down the sand near Kuta. We weren’t doing anything so decided to quench our curiosity and find out what was going on. Turns out it was only a huge tour group of high school students. Disappointing.
However, they did lure us to the best beach bar in all of Bali (apart from Capil Beach, of course). ‘Dut and Ella’s’ was fantastic because Dut is most likely the happiest Balinese person I’ve met, and I have come across a LOT of happy Balinese. His unfaltering smile encompassed his whole face and showed off both rows of his pearly whites. Unlike at the other bars he didn’t charge for seating, and his drinks were very cheap ($1 AUD for a can of soft drink). Plus, he supplied us with complimentary cashews, which one of the little beggar boys helped himself to, and friendly conversation.
My parents talked to Dut while Jack and I tackled the ginormous waves. They rose like a wall and towered what felt like metres over our heads, before dumping us and sending us tumbling under the salty water. Body-surfing back to shore, we discovered that our parents had failed to brush away the salespeople, as a red lantern was tucked under the table. YIPPEE! I’ve been begging since the first night to release one!
Dut lent Jack and I rackets and a ball, which we played with on the sand until the clouds broke open and started spitting on us. With our towels spread over our heads we ran back to the hotel, waving to Yasa as we passed. We ducked into warm showers before eating dinner at a Mexican restaurant down the road. While we waited for our meals to arrive we swooped around the table with our lowlights and highlights again. Jack’s highlight was being allowed to ride on Yasa’s scooter: yes, you heard correctly!
After dinner, Yasa swung by the restaurant on his scooter. As he’d only just finished work we brought him over the last of our quesadillas, which he scoffed down before gesturing for me to climb on the back of his bike. I placed my feet on the back rests and held on to his shoulders, and off we zoomed. We whizzed up the street and past all the hotels to the end of the road, the wind rushing against my face and throwing back my corn-rowed strands of hair as Yasa dodged puddles and people. He swung into a side alleyway as another scooter cruised behind us, the rider whistling to his heart’s content. We emerged on one of Legian’s stall-crowded streets and flew past until we rounded the corner and ended up back outside the restaurant, where Jack was waiting for his turn.
At times my stomach flipped over as we leant to the side, or turned a corner, but most of the time it was jumping up and down in excitement.
Once he’d returned Jack, he laughed at our refusal to actually drive the scooter ourselves. Is he crazy?? I couldn’t even ride a push bike without falling off and landing on my head. He shot off down the road as we cried, ‘Terima kasih Yasa, goodnight!’
Before returning to Furama Xclusive we spontaneously decided to visit Capil Beach. It had started to drip with rain again so the band was set up in a corner of the bar rather than on the sand. There were only a few tables of people, and they were playing all the feel good oldie songs. Before I knew it, I was up there singing too.
Katut (the manager) had pointed me out to the band and before long they started calling out the Rat’s daughter (Katut thinks he’s hilarious calling my Dad ‘the Rat,’ which he derived from our last name, Wratten). After some hesitation as anxiety flowered in my stomach, I nervously stood and walked toward the microphone. Much to my amusement, the Smiling Trio began playing ‘Pretty Woman.’ I rolled my eyes, laughing, and felt the nervousness evaporate. I sang Ed Sheeran’s ‘Lego House,’ which I knew fairly well. The song didn’t really fit in with the mood of the night, which was way more happy-dancy than the slow song I chose. Nevertheless, it was really fun and a pretty cool experience. The last song the band played was Pharrel William’s ‘Happy,’ which was much better than the radio edition as they spun their own Balinese twist on it, sending everyone home with a smile stretched across their faces.
And to think we were going to go back to our hotel room. You never know where life will lead you, if you only give it a chance.
15th April 2015
As I was walking over to a juice bar, a stall owner across the street called out, ‘Hey Kayla!’ I looked at him with an expression of bewilderment and confusion written in bold letters across my face. I swear I had never seen him before in my life. ‘I know you!’ he called teasingly, laughing. I must have bought something off of him a while back, and he might have heard Jack calling my name. He has a memory like an elephant! That is one strong marketing skill.
I went to the beach again and lazed in the ocean, floating on the surface and enjoying the panoramic view. As usual, beach umbrellas and deck-chairs were spread along the length of the sand and palm trees swayed gently behind them. One word: PARADISE. A plane flew overhead and a pang of sadness burst through my body as I realised I would be on one late tomorrow night.
We spent our very last night in Bali at Capil Beach, where all of the staff treated us like we were their most important customers. The band stopped for a break, and the next thing we knew, all of our favourite staff members were up on stage with guitars- even Katut.
Tony, who I think I’ll have an eternal crush on, said ‘This is for Kayla and her family, because they’re leaving tomorrow,’ and then proceeded to sing ‘Leaving on a Jet-plane.’
I’d never heard the song before, but I won’t ever forget it now. He was accompanied by Alec and Katut on the guitar. When I met Alec the first night, he had introduced himself as ‘Hey, my name’s Alec, as in A-lec you a lot.’ I laughed and shook his hand.
The moment was absolutely perfect, as we sat in bean bags on the sand under an umbrella lit with hanging candles, the backdrop to the band the crashing waves and starry sky. Behind us, the rest of the waiters were dancing, singing and laughing, and it was the first time the whole trip that I felt sad. I DON’T WANT TO LEAVE! I’m choking up now just writing about it. I never realised that travelling is PAINFUL! You have to leave behind people and places without the knowledge that you’ll see them again. When will we return to our Bali hang out- in two years’ time? Five? Maybe never.
Katut asked for a photo with us before we left and of course everyone jumped in- including the guy who sits at the front of the stage and entertains us during the brief pauses in between songs by singing his own composition of, “Choose a song… Hurry up and choose a song,” on the microphone. (Notice the Smiling Trio in the background!)
Dozens of hugs later we were on our way out, and the last image I saw that has burned into my memory was Katut and Tony poking their heads around the corner blowing me a kiss.
Why do I have to leave? Can’t I take the whole of Capil with me? And chuck in Yasa and Putu on top please!
Before we returned to Furama Xclusive, we needed to release our lantern. The receptionist gave us a box of matches and showed us how to let it go, then off we ran to the beach. We must have looked very funny, trying and failing to light the lantern, as the receptionist came running across the sand to give us a hand (see how nice these people are!). It eventually lit, sucking air in to inflate. I held onto the edges of the paper before the wind caught hold of it and it rose above our heads, floating over the ocean until it became a glowing speck of brilliant fire.
Release a lantern: tick!
16th April 2015
I was hoping this day would never arrive, but ‘next Thursday’ turned into ‘tomorrow’ which turned into ‘today.’ Why must all good things come to an end?
The day was filled to the brim with goodbyes: goodbye scooters, goodbye offerings, goodbye temples, goodbye bluebird taksis, goodbye Yasa.
We were kicked out of our hotel room by noon and ‘locked’ our bags in the lobby. By locked, I mean that the receptionist draped a couple of chains over them and promised to keep an eye on them. Typical Bali. It reminds me of the surf lifesavers. Most of the time they aren’t even there, and they just stick the flags wherever they feel like it.
We spent the afternoon lying around the hotel pool, playing cards and drinking milkshakes. The pool-boy was evidently bored, as he started fiddling with the water guns. Next minute he was squirting water at the security guard, who was trying to keep a straight face but eventually cracked and started laughing. Hopefully I can carry the Balinese’ infectious smiles and friendliness with me to Australia.
Saying goodbye to the waiters at dinner was extremely hard. Two of the guys behind the counter called me over and hugged me goodbye, giving me their cards so we could stay in contact. I turned away with tears in my eyes.
I’m at the airport right now. Our plane comes in half an hour at 11pm. We’ll land in Melbourne at 5am Bali time and 7am Melbourne time, and then the adventure really will be over. The bracelet I bought on the first night still dangles from my wrist, and travelled with me on every escapade. It holds a lot of memories, just like this travel journal, which I’m really thankful I wrote because it’s like having the opportunity to experience every emotion and day over and over again.
Some kid sitting next to me just threw a pop pop, these mini fireworks that crackle and spark when they hit the ground. The peddlers sell them outside the Jayakarta hotel, where I had my hair braided, yelling ‘Pop Pop! Yes, you want pop pop!’ whenever a tourist passes.
I’m eternally grateful for the incredible experience I’ve had in Bali, and for the new friends I’ve made and everything I’ve learnt. The culture in Bali is like a wave, washing gently over you and cleansing your soul, pouring new traditions over your head. Other times, it smashes into you like a meteorite, leaving you shattered as you come to understand their third-world ways of living.
We’re boarding the plane now. As ‘Leaving on a Jet-plane’ runs on replay in the back of my mind, I finally understand what it means to leave part of your heart in another country.