Halo from Bali!
A 27 hour journey has finally brought me to my next destination: Indonesia. So happy to be here and so happy you're with me! Particularly while I navigate the initial culture shock- not surprisingly the most I've encountered anywhere so far. But first, let's get the three most asked questions about this trip out of the way:
1. "Where exactly is Indonesia?"
2. "Is that the same as Micronesia?
3. "Did you read 'Eat, Pray, Love'?"
The obvious answer to number 3 is 'no' since the only things I lay eyes on lengthier than a menu are magazines and travel guides. But I thought I'd throw in a map for reference to questions 1 and 2 so you know where we are right now.
So for some perspective, it is hot. It is humid. And I walk around like a waterfall with legs. I often hear the Wicked Witch of the West in my head with her "I'm meeeelting!" shriek. An hour cab ride cost me 95,000 Indonesian rupiah and I pulled out 500,000 from the ATM today. AKA $7 and $40 respectively. You're playing real life Frogger when crossing any street. Toddlers nonchalantly ride with adults on motorbikes. Adult: Helmet. Toddler: No helmet.
Despite being situated on some of the island's most beautiful and popular surf beaches, Kuta (pronounced KOO-tuh), where my villa is located, is crowded and third-worldy. Vendor stalls line narrow, stone-paved streets. Ornate dwellings lie behind big, secretive teak gates. Small offerings and incense lie on the ground in front of shops. A mangy dog here. A crowing rooster there. And motorbikes that maneuver through streets like swarms of bees (on the left hand side of the road, mind you). Notice I said motorbikes and not scooters. A scooter is what you find in Italy's Amalfi Coast- a shiny little Vespa that gives a periodic "meep meep" as it negotiates its way through the windy streets. These here are the surly, no nonsense cousins of those scooters- giving a periodic "meep meep" to see if tourists need transport and negotiating inches around pedestrians. And speaking of negotiating, doing so with prices is the norm with these guys. They say to expect to pay about one-third of what the original price is. No need to negotiate at the local shopping mall eatery yesterday though.
During my first day's liquid scavenger hunt when I felt like a marathon novice who couldn't wait to get to the next water station, a cold Sprite sounded phenomenal. The girl at the counter showed me a smallish-sized cup, stated the price of 5900 rupiah (that's 49 cents U.S.) and started pouring. I quickly stopped her and asked if there was a bigger size. She tentatively said yes but that it was 11,000 rupiah. Without pause I emphatically stated that I wanted the upgraded size. She cautiously looked at me, reminded me that the larger size was 11,000 and asked again if I was sure that is what I wanted. A resounding yes from me. Supposedly surprised by my decision, she filled up the cup, handed me a straw and gave me my change. The most refreshing 91 cents I ever spent.
My charming, two-story, Balinese-decorated, A/C-upstairs-thank-god villa is comfortable, safe, and has a shared pool. A pool, people. A cherished commodity that has never been so welcomed by me ever. I already feel the warmth of home from it when I return at the end of each day. And the caretaker Ketut, like other Balinese I've interacted with, is kind, soft spoken and friendly. Always around to answer my questions and ask what I did that day.
There is so much outside of the city that I can't wait to explore. Aside from my typical body clock being awry, I'm ready to roam! Luckily I have the rooster up with me at 3:45am.
Selamat tinggal for now! (Goodbye in Balinese)
My Bali villa for the next three weeks
Downstairs living room
Balcony overlooking small rooftop temple
Wood carved front door lock
Shared pool in the courtyard
Early morning on Jalan Mataram- my street
Motorbike parking on a busy street in Kuta
An entrance to the beach at Kuta
Surf lessons for $7! Who's in?
Balinese decor over beach walk
A morning stroll in Kuta