Urgh. “I’m too old for this shit” was a fellow guest’s excuse to avoid the beer bong the other day, but it’s no excuse for me today, just an accurate description. Last night I ran 11 miles (Indonesian runners smiling brightly, western ones with heads down) comfortable only for the last few after loading myself with water when I realised I’d got sunburnt on the beach, then missed out on dinner, had a couple of big beers during the music quiz, then joined the drinking game. I’d essentially told myself I would after missing the others, as I’d thereby missed out on the bonding.
Bonding done, though by now I’ve got to know everyone in any case, and it feels like a lovely group of friends. My evening ended when I realised I was in trouble, and went off to be ill somewhere else, before slumping on a beanbag and later having Scottish Mark put me to bed to avoid me being a mosquito fun park for the night.
Today has been a struggle. I’ve not been elsewhere.
Kuta isn’t particularly lovely, but the beach is beautiful, and the hostel has its own spot, with staff to sort out surfing and the like, so you’re provided with a chair as soon as you arrive and have some protection from the hawkers. The ladies who sell fresh fruit are popular, though, and I couldn’t resist a pineapple yesterday. The hostel has a huge garden, and it is quite natural to head for breakfast and then find hours have passed in chatting in one of the shaded huts that run down both sides of the garden. Evenings have at least beer and food, and usually someone playing the guitar, with several nights having an event; a music quiz last night, barbecue two nights ago.
So while I arrived thinking I might travel round Bali I have settled in to a holiday vibe. I think it has done me a favour; I’m used to talking to people again and have made a pile of friends. I also met a Swedish girl who is the spitting image of Scarlett Johansson. I really should have got a picture with her. Next stop, Brisbane – luckily I have worked out that a 00:10 departure on Thursday means I have to head for the airport on Wednesday night, and now I actually read the emails they sent me, I find I was granted a visa to enter Australia within seconds of submitting my application, which takes the final worry off my mind.
Alright blog, it’s just you and me. Two days have slipped by without an update so let’s do this. One day held an inpromptu tour; I wandered downstairs from the room of 13 – chaotic but lovely – for breakfast to have Heidi say ‘some girls are going on a tour, to Tanah Lot and then South, would you like to join?’. Time for breakfast and a shower then we went.
Tanah Lot is a spectacular small temple on a rock out to sea. The idea is not to go to it – even at low tide you can only get closer, when the sea is in you can’t get to it at all – but to see it, watch the waves crashing in and check out the temples nearby. Also – shopping and eating, cheaply, if you like. I was with two swedes and a Dutch girl who were charming company, and our driver was a good guy – employed by the hostel, advice and driving, plus one eclectic cd of Britney, Bruno and Eminem amongst others who will now form the soundtrack to Bali memories for me.
Getting to Tanah Lot took over an hour even though it is only ten miles away, so we left straight after for Padang Padang beach, south coast, to get there and be in place for everything else we were to do. That took time, too, but we were straight into the water, the Dutch girl and I swimming and chatting a bit before rejoining Emily and Emma who were busy roasting (verbally) a man posing in speedos on the beach. Next we headed to Uluwata, another temple. We opted out of waiting two hours for the Balinese fire dance, instead fighting past the crowds, dressed in our Roman-Patrician purple sarongs, to the cliff top path. Well worth the walk, it is suddenly peaceful there, and a great spot to watch the sunset.
We left, for an evening sitting and chatting, though I joined the not-going-out crowd for a little more guitar and chat time. Which still involves sitting out till after midnight; it’s just glorious.
The next day took shape without effort. After breakfast, conversation with Scottish Mark and Canadian David turned to the night before and sex. Soon afternoon marched on, and we made it down to Granny’s hostel’s dedicated place on the beach. New girl Rebecca was straight off surfing, I chatted with an Indonesian translator who comes to Bali to chill out from Jakarta, and played pong with Kia. After a stunning sunset I managed to squeeze in a run before a barbecue, then beer and ginseng/arak shots livened us all up, we took turns throwing questions at each other in ‘the hot seat’ and headed for town. Marco and I, being too old to be going out after midnight really, kept our end up pretty well on the dance floor I thought, though a later mass exodus to the sky garden club ended with me becoming detached when my car load faffed, I ended up not finding people in the club and deciding that a wander home was preferable. Lovely day; thanks for the “I didn’t think you had it in you”, Aaron, though that was topped as a highlight by conspiracy theorist Jesse referring to my previous comment that ‘soon we’ll be on to lizards running the world’ and turning it into a lizard dance off. I think we both won, though not as much as that dance floor.
Hot. Damned hit, and sweaty. Yesterday I travelled, and have now seen the old ‘best airport in the world’, Incheon, and the new, Singapore. I can see why the latter takes it; Incheon is a great experience, shops everywhere, clean and easy to navigate, art and greenery liberally placed, but Singapore has all that and free films, even free scotch if you find the right spot. I didn’t, only finding out about it later, but that’s probably for the best for a midday flight. I had a beer in any case – two cans last night was a bit crazy, it being 10 before I finished eating, so I had one left and felt quite the alcoholic, looking for a quiet spot after check in where I could pretend not to be drinking. Half a can was plenty, even giving me a buzz.
I had one more mission in the airport. Pulling out my kindle on the metro – my first experience, as I’d walked everywhere, but it’s fantastically simple to navigate – only to find it broken. Or perhaps part-broken, since it switched on and half the screen worked. That’s not enough to let me read anything, though, and my creative powers aren’t up to reconstructing half of every book I try, though I might have managed with Beowulf, seeing as I had already read the ‘snopsis’ (copyright, my gran). Airport, airport number one, must sell an e-reader, right? I went through security, which is routine but worth mentioning for being so painless, no queue and no sense of being a potential danger until proven innocent. Lovely.
There’s just the one electronics shop in terminal 2, so I went there. I was up for getting a cheap non-kindle, but they didn’t sell those, only the new kindles, £10 more than at home, I chewed on it, then reasoned that the more expensive ‘paperwhite’ was more reasonable, seeing as both it and the ordinary kindle had a £10 surcharge. To my great pleasure, old kindle let me take all the books off it, and new kindle was happy to take them, so I’m immediately back up and running.
We had to circle before landing – Denpasar is one busy airport, with four planes waiting to take off when we did get down. Visa on arrival was easy, and I was through. Ignoring taxi offers I made my way to the official taxi desk – when you get near enough, suddenly there’s no one offering you a cab unofficially, as if by magic. Oddly, just as when I’d looked for the free transit bus in Bangkok, wikitravel had its sense of direction all askew. At the latter, you apparently should turn left and go to the end, when it’s right and in the middle (not to mention signed). Here, turn left out of arrivals (again, follow the signs) rather than right. At any rate, I got my cab. The sign says 55-65k to Kuta and I was charged 85, which may be a scam (travel guides suggest getting the right money ready and pointing at the sign), but at 20k to the £1, I wasn’t going to quibble. At the hostel by 4, I chilled out, enjoying a hot run down to the beach later, with some interval work, chasing scooters down a tight road as they stopped then accelerated away when a space opened up. New friend Bjorn asked if the traffic was a problem, and I realised how much I’ve adjusted – I’ve always been better at looking over my shoulder than some people seem able to manage, no matter what my pace, and it has become second nature to check then move into traffic, run halfway across a road then keep pace with cars until there’s a gap, and generally keep an eye out for holes in the pavement. Of the latter, there are some doozies here. Managed a decent length run in the end, though I think this may be the hottest and most humid spot yet. I’m certainly fighting shy of the 1pm runs I managed (at a push) in Japan.
The evening started quietly, but Granny’s hostel has a reputation as a place to meet people and so it was, as Canadian Dave, eh, gradually brought us all into the group via the medium of the beer bong. Around midnight the kids went out and left us saddo grown ups to our conversation; not the early night I’d thought, so today’s potential early morning run became an evening one, after a day lounging (melting) in the garden, watching films and reading. Yesterday I had explored the main road first before finding the beach four miles in, today I went straight there and it was more like a mile and a half away. Plus I then had the bonus of a spectacular sunset as I struggled on, compared to yesterday’s darkness. Stunning, a riot of orange and pink, dropping away as I plodded on, with a dark purple taking over after I’d turned round. Oddly, the sight seemed always slightly over one shoulder – it merits more attention than I gave it, I suppose, though I created a mental image of the view that someone else would have had from the bars, me silhouetted against the sunset, which would have been a cool image. I ended with the question ‘am I timing this perfectly?’ to myself, with the answer “yes”, allowing me to make a tongue out contribution to a Chinese girl’s photo of her friend before I turned back onto the road for the jog home.
Just time for one last observation on the currency. Earlier I picked up my first coins, 200 and 100 rupees – 20k to the pound, so 200 is a penny. Later I was back in the shop for ice cream and my change should have had a 100 coin in it. They were out, so I got a sweet instead.
Reading: The Hound of the Baskervilles: Philip k Dick, Solar Lottery.