Bali beyond Eat, Pray and Love

“Don’t let the shopkeepers know that it’s your first time in Bali,” Brenda offered some friendly advice. “Here, everyone helps everyone, so if one of them finds out he’ll put your things in a white shopping bag, and that works as a signal for the others and you’ll get cheated.”

I believed her story. It was Brenda’s twelfth visit to Bali and she was on a first name-basis with most of them.

We met at the beachside warung (small eatery). While my husband and I were wondering what to order, Brenda, seated at the next table, suggested we try the fruit salad. Exotic fruits, such as the rambutan, durian, strawberry, jackfruit, papaya, sweet mangoes, watermelon and pineapple, were added to crushed ice and topped off with evaporated milk. What a tall order that was — new sensations, tastes and texture in every mouthful.

Brenda works as a hair and makeup artist in Australia’s highly competitive fashion industry and Bali is her go-to detox destination. When booked in advance, flights between Perth and Bali come for as low as $80, and that’s just one of the reasons why the Aussies love the island. Surf and shopping are some of the other reasons why it’s so popular.

Do what you love to do, go where you love to go
The crazy party town of Kuta sleeps during the day. Shops open late in the morning, and even then, no-one is fully awake until well past 3pm. Groups of Australian tourists laze on the beach soaking the afternoon sun, while Balinese masseurs with magical hands tend to their party-abused bodies. A woman carrying a bag and box walks up to a group, and within minutes she has set up a mobile nail-art salon. Pedicure and manicure with nail paint costs about 80,000 rupiah, which is about $8, cheap by Australian standards. Chilled beverages and coconut water are readily available and nearby another woman prepares freshly barbequed corn. On these beaches, everyone with money to spend is made to feel like oriental royalty.

It is quieter in Ubud, and the sleeping habits of this town are in sharp contrast to those of Kuta. Shops start pulling down their shutters as early as 8.30pm. The few that are still open are playing the dubbed version of the Indian television soap, Mahabharata. By 10pm, the town is mostly deserted. The day usually starts early, and always starts with a prayer. Flowers, grass, sweets and incense sticks are placed in little baskets and left outside homes and shops. During their spare time, women take to basket weaving, nimble fingers fly swiftly. One of them wanted to show me her merchandise. “You India?” she asks and then continues in a sing-song tone, “Anjali…. buy one no… buy for Rahul.” The presence of India and Bollywood is everywhere. Another lady stops me to ask if I have taken a dip in the Ganges, she is happy when I say yes. “I will go too,” she states, and then adds as an afterthought, “one day.”

To be continued…

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