bali highlights

Ubud – the first 48 hours #BaliDisey

I had woken early—at around 6.30 am—so with the time difference, had only a few hours sleep. Still, I’ve never let lack of sleep stop me from having a wander around and getting my bearings. Plus I wanted to venture up to Taman Baca, where the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival was being held. Coincidentally, the Festival was on at almost the same time as my retreat, so I figured I’d be mad not to spend at least one day there. Taman Baca was a couple of kilometres away from the hotel, so I organised the shuttle bus to drop me off.

Ubud reminds me a lot of Hue, Vietnam, but without the Chinese influence. The same skinny streets, the same tide of motorcycles, the same kinds of street busyness: shops, food stalls, men hustling their taxi services. The air is hot, humid and sweet with incense. There is an overwhelming sense of calm, even with busy traffic. Even the vendors are laid back, nonchalant. If you buy, you buy, but they aren’t persistent or pushy. Not like India, where there is no reprieve from unrelenting vendors trying to make a buck.

I bought my one day pass, grabbed the program and walked back to the hotel. I was mindful that I had to be back at the hotel by 3pm for my trip to Tanah Lot. I needed to use an ATM (I tried three before one would spit out any cash) and I was hungry, so I stopped for lunch along the way, choosing a tofu dish because I lean towards vegetarianism while I’m away. It’s just a thing I have about eating meat in foreign lands. I had a Bintang: drinking local beer is also a thing I do when I’m away. And an ice cold beer is so refreshing in heat and humidity.

I made it back to the hotel by 2 and was tired. I thought about cancelling the trip to Tanah Lot, but decided to have a quick nap and then see how I felt. I dozed for half an hour, and made the call to go. After all, isn’t sleep over-rated when you’re travelling in foreign lands? So down I went, and there was Made waiting for me.

He was wearing a clean black t-shirt and jeans, smoking a cigarette. I noticed his tattoos: both arms. ‘You have tattoos,’ I said.

‘Yes,’ he said, also pulling up the right leg of his jeans and showing me the one on his calf.

‘You need to finish the colouring-in,” I said, pointing to a skull on his arm.

‘Yes,’ he said chuckling. He indicated that he would be getting a full sleeve, both arms. I nodded my approval. I’ve always been a fan of men with tattoos.

And we set off, with the first stop being a tour of a coffee plantation, with a tea tasting. I was given 10 teas to try, as well as luwak coffee (like weasel coffee in Vietnam). The tea was free, the coffee 50000 rupees (quite expensive at AUD$5), but I bought Made one too. I drank mine and immediately perked up. It was strong, but smooth and, while Made offered me sugar, there was no need because it wasn’t at all bitter.

After I bought a heap of tea AND coffee, we got back in the car and headed to Tanah Lot. The traffic was bumper to bumper with motorcycles and cars and trucks, but still there was an overwhelming sense of order and calm in the choas. If this had been Australia, there would have been lots of swearing, and no one would let any one in. Drivers would be cutting off other drivers left, right and centre. At times, the road was skinny, and there was a threat of a head on collision, which of course didn’t happen because Made is an excellent driver. I still said: ‘You’re not allowed to kill me.’

It took him a while to realise I was joking, but when he caught on, he thought it was hilarious.

Made tried to teach me how to say thank you (terima kasih) and good morning, good afternoon and good night (salamet pagi, salamet siang, salamet malam), and laughed at my mispronunciation. My tongue struggled getting itself around the unusual (for me) combination of consonants and vowels. We stopped and I took pictures of rice paddies, and he offered to take my camera and take a picture of me in front of them. I said no, not because I was worried about my camera, but because I usually take selfie pictures on my iPhone. Still, he was persuasive, and I relented. He seemed to enjoy using my camera and he looked like he knew what he was doing. The pictures of me, as it turned out, were good.

Tanah Lot was busy. He took my backpack from me and carried it. ‘Very good quality,’ he said.

‘It came with my bag. You know, the one from last night.’ He nodded and smiled.

‘We walk through market. Early for sunset,’ he said. The market was a typical tourist market. Cheap, cheerful stuff: t-shirts, bags, toys. We (I) laughed at the giant wooden penises that were a common sight in the stalls, of which I had to take a picture and send to a friend on Facebook. We watched a man getting a temporary tattoo, and Made told me they lasted two weeks. We made our way down to the beach, and I took a few photos, before Made ushered me up the hill to a restaurant. ‘We sit, have drink, watch sunset,’ he said, and that’s exactly what we did. We sat, had Bintangs and watched the sun go down. I was having a romantic moment with someone I wasn’t romantically involved with. It was odd, but pleasant and seemed quite natural.

He told me it had been two weeks since he had been to Tanah Lot. ‘Last time, couple. I wait in car.’ He wanted them to have their romantic moment; he didn’t want to spoil it with his presence. From what I could see, he was a kind, thoughtful person, and I was enjoying his company. I told him that I had seen the sun set in many countries: India, Turkey, Greece. And he told me about a friend of his who said he had work for Made in Turkey, “doing the massage”, and another friend who had moved to Nagoya, Japan, and said he had work for him in construction. ‘I stay in Bali. Tourism business,’ he advised me.

All the while, the sun glowed redder on the horizon as it sank into the sea, clouds dulling its exit. A couple of surfers braved the waves, and a fishing boat was silhouetted against the haze, the sea in the sun’s path was painted liquid gold. We left not long after, the sun was swallowed by the sea.

On the trip home, after I commented on all the people on motor bikes, Made told me he’d take me on his motor bike after Tanah Lot. ‘No pay,’ he said. ‘Just two people. Drink. Something to eat. Listen to music.’

‘Sure,’ I said. ‘But you’re not allowed to kill me.’


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  • 2015: the year that was - Diane Lee January 15, 2016 at 2:25 PM

    […] bit about life laughing hysterically in your face when you think you have a plan. Yeah. That.) But I met Made when I was in Bali, and got involved with him very quickly. So quickly, that he kissed me the day […]

  • 10 things I learned from being single for 10 years - Diane Lee February 5, 2016 at 12:00 AM

    […] people all the time. I met Mr Nonsense and and Mr Sleazy and Mr Fucktard  and Mr Avoidant  and Mr Holiday Fling. But nothing progressed beyond some sexy times (if I was lucky) and a whole lot of drama I could do […]


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