Well, I’m back on the West Coast, and I’m happy to be here. The honeymoon was an awesome time for Bay and I, and represented one of the first times either of us has really gotten the opportunity to explore another country and its culture on our own. For myself, it was the first time I’d been able to do that outside of trips with my parents, and for Bay, I think it’s fair to say that it was the first time she’d ever gone to a country that was completely unique from what we live during our day to day lives here in Victoria (I’m not counting Hawaii in that, because I didn’t find that all that different. Bay might say otherwise, which is fine – everyone’s experiences are unique).
When I last wrote, we had spent a couple of days in Kuta, and were mostly relaxing. I was enjoying incredibly cheap massages (totally innocent, for any of you that may be thinking otherwise, though I’m sure there are plenty of places in Bali that would cater to those of you with more illicit thoughts), and running around the many areas in Bali that you can go for under five dollars.
We were having a great time, and even managing to work out every morning. Some of you will think, “Working out on your honeymoon? Learn to relax!”. That’s fine, if that’s how you relax, but by working out Bay and I both spent the days feeling very positive about ourselves, and not at all guilty for eating the way we did (plus the extra beers I was drinking in the evening felt like I’d earned them).
Bay wanted to get more beach time, so we made specific plans to plant ourselves on the beach and just bake in the sun for a while during the coming days. We would wake up, work out, swim in the pool, and go for a massage. On our way back to the beach, we’d stop at the Circle K Mart (these are everywhere in Bali. I guess they won the convenience store wars here) and I’d buy some beer.
I was sitting on the beach and reading the book I’d brought with me (The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Stephen Erikson (oops, I had the wrong author originally. Thanks Graham) – one of the greatest fantasy fiction series I’ve ever read, and I’m qualifying that by saying that I’m a big fan of the Wheel of Time series). I leaned down and took a sip from my beer, and queued up the playlist that I’d made at the start of the trip. As I put the beer down and settled down into the deck chair I was in, Orbital’s incredible track, Halcyon + On + On came on.
First, an aside about this track. Halcyon + On + On was one of the first tracks I can remember bonding with one of my longest friends, Graham, over. I believe that a couple of my friends at the time had over-indulged in what some people would call “shitty malt liquor”. Graham (who hadn’t been drinking) and I were driving to get some snacks, and he played me this song, which he’d managed to make a shitty recording of off of the radio. What a great cut! It’s rare that a group or an artist comes along and makes a track that is both exquisite and accessible. Accessibility requires that a large number of people can listen to the song and appreciate it (which is difficult, since different people appreciate things at different levels – it’s difficult to appease all of these people, on all of these levels). Achieving accessibility is one thing, but to do that and also make a song that is of exquisite quality (meaning that is has depth, and, as an extension to that, a timeless quality to it) is very difficult – maybe even the holy grail of any form of expression.
Anyhow. Halcyon + On + On came on my iPod, and I laid back and looked out over the beach. It was at that precise moment that I knew for sure that we would be coming back here. Bay had come to this conclusion sooner, and I think I had as well, but this was the defining moment. I looked at the beach, that, by Hawaii standards, wasn’t that nice, but was beautiful in its own right. I watched the people, walking along the beach – some hotel employees, some tourists, some locals, and some just people trying to sell crappy imitation watches to people on the beach. And I drank my beer. And I lay back and read. And I listened.
I’m not really very sentimental. Okay, sure, I cry every time Happy Gilmore ends, and I also had to hold back one or two tears when I watched Lisa reunite with Colin at the end of The Simpsons movie. But by and large, I don’t get overly emotional. But, when I feel something, I let myself feel it. That’s why I don’t mind the tears coming when Adam Sandler buys his stupid Grandmother’s house, and that’s why I let the happiness wash over me in Bali. I felt it.
Your experience may not be the same, but Bali was the tropical experience I knew existed but never felt that Hawaii fulfilled for me.
Anyhow, that’s the sentiment I took away from that moment, forever captured in this blog, which will probably fall off the face of the planet when the internet is sold to Arabian Diplomats for the last 200 barrels of oil.
On Friday we did our usual during the day, including more shopping, and passing through a long winding alley called Poppies Gang. I believe that Gang means an alley in Bali, though I’m not certain. This was pretty cool, because I’d read about it in our guidebook, and it was a solid dose of culture. Loads of small offshoots on this little alleyway, mixed in were local stores selling garbage, bracelets, leather jackets, super gaudy suits (orange and white pinstripe anyone?) and large consumer shops (Billabong stores and the like). I thought it was pretty cool just to walk down this and take it all in.
Once we were done that, Bay and I took a sunset cruise that we had signed up for. When we went to Hawaii with Ben and Ashley, we had done something similar, and it has been really romantic, and pretty cool. Well, this was certainly not a romantic cruise, but it did turn out to be pretty cool. When we signed up for the dinner cruise, our booking agent (named Kaliman – Holy shit did I love saying his name) let us know that the usual cruise he would book was in dry dock, and that this one was mostly geared towards Koreans and Australians – “would that be a problem?” “Of course not!”, we said, being as open-minded as any good Canadian (and yo, a human in general) should be. It wasn’t until we were actually on the cruise that we realized what that would actually mean.
We didn’t feel out of place. We just noticed that… The festivities were slightly different from the way we would normally get down. There was a dance floor, but initially it was mostly dominated by a singer dressed in 80’s that sounded very karaoke-esque. I don’t know a lot about Korean culture, or even Asian culture in general, but I get the impression that they like karaoke more than I do. Next up, we settled down for dinner, and then out came.. THE DANCERS.
The dancers were three girls doing what I could be best described as “Look how sexy I am when I dance; Oh my dear sweet flarquon I can’t wait until I get to stop smiling; Jesus I feel way less confident about this than I’m meant to”. The dancers were alright, but they just felt… off. Bay and I are bad critics for this. We both love dancing, and we both analyze it. If someone is trying to pass themselves off as a dancer, they better be willing to have their technique looked into, because we love and appreciate good technique. Anyhow, these girls were up there, so we had to respect that, but it just felt so decidedly unsexy. It’s like if you took a robot and made it watch the sexiest pole dancers in the world, and then said, “Okay, you do that now”. No matter how well that robot watched, its not going to be sexy.
Well, these robots watched good, but they weren’t sexy. Oh well, credit to them, they were out there, and they were trying. Next up, we had some short Indonesian guy roll up and start doing some cabaret (basically stage comedy – not stand-up comedy like you would normally expect… think along the lines of Jerry Lewis’s mannerisms when he used to do magic tricks and the like). As someone that studies comedy, I could tell this guy was talented, even if his schtick was pretty corny. Little did I realize he and I would become much closer as the night moved on.
After cycling through a few more dance routines, karaoke routines, and cabaret magic tricks, Lord Indonesia, in all his five feet of glory, came out in a dress and wig and pantomimed typing to some hyper-fast music that would have had ravers begging for mercy. When the music ended, he announced that he would need two volunteers from the audience. He first chose the older Japanese guy on the one side of the stage, and, as I looked around and felt my testicles shrink up into my forehead, I realized I would be the other guy chosen. I resigned myself to make him regret choosing me and walked up there.
The deal was that we mimicked the same typing routine to the same music, whilst wearing a dress and one (1) fake boob. Not two. Just one. It was all good though, I had a lot of fun with it, and Bay happily took pictures as I made an ass of myself. The guy doing the cabaret seemed only mildly irritated that I was taking every opportunity to make my own jokes and upstage him, and the older Japanese man that was up there with me was a really great sport. Thinking back to 10 years ago, I laughed at how quickly I found myself following in my dad’s footsteps (see footnotes), and had a great time. Plus, at the end, when the Japanese people were taking a picture, I did a really great job of smooshing my fake boob into the cabaret guy’s head – that’ll be a great print for over the mantle.
We finished that up and I went back down and sat. At this point, the DJ was finishing up his tracks, and we were starting to near the end of the cruise. I felt a little bad for the DJ – he’s probably gone through a few classes to learn how to do this (we saw numerous adds for DJ schooling in Bali, plus, any decent DJ has gone through the school of hard-knocks and taught himself some of the skills, at a minimum). However, he was mostly just playing accompaniment to the cabaret guy and the dancers.
Still, as he played his tracks for the end of the night, I saw a Korean (I think he was Korean – please forgive me if I’m wrong) doing some toprock on the dance floor. Bay was about ready to leave, but I insisted we stay. I hate taking the initiative on the dance floor, but if you give me an opening, I’ll get in there and do my thing. Well, this was a pretty valid opening. I watched his toprock for a while, and then moved onto the dance floor and busted out some of the popping that I’ve been working on for the last month or so with Steve and Graham. What a rush!
It felt great to get out there and blow out the dance floor a little bit. I had wanted to check out some of the clubs in Bali (which has an amazing night-life) but Bay wasn’t really up for it, so it was great to blow off some much needed creative steam that way. I gave the guy that had been doing toprock a big set of props as we left the boat, and we walked towards the exit. The staff of the boat were down, and I got some compliments when we walked off – always really nice when you care about what you do.
The next day we packed our gear and headed off on our shopping tour. This tour took us through the biggest market in Bali (at least, I think it’s the biggest), and before that, we stopped at a silver processing area and a painting area. So, by now, we’d learned our lesson. “Oo, that’s very neat, but we’re not going to buy anything today” we cooed, as we appreciated the artists at work, knowing that they were likely sponsored or commissioned by the tour in order to gain more money out of tourists. Some of the silver was really nice, but at the prices they were asking, we could have gotten the same thing in Victoria. The painting place made the assumption that I had been born mentally retarded, since throughout the entire thing there were roughly 1.5 guides letting me know that, “You can buy this in different colors”, “We can help you pack this”, or “This is just a picture, it’s not actually reality, you poor demented soul”.
We knew what was up this time, and saved our money for the market. Good thing too, because the market was Doooooooooooooooooooooooope. Balinese people like to barter when they trade goods. Well, I was well-trained for this. I had watched my mom waste what was probably 20 minutes of our lives haggling with a salesman in Mexico for a red purse over the equivalence of one dollar. I was ready to haggle, but with my own style.
Guess what else requires a keen ability to barter? Trading Magic cards. That’s right dicks in school that made fun of me, it paid off. The second I stepped into the market the old instincts started to come back, and I was ready to square off with any of the vendors. I’m making it sound like a battle, but it really wasn’t. The Balinese people are really awesome, and bartering with them is as fun, or as hard, as you want it to be. I love playing games with people, and if you’re willing to go there, that’s what bartering is about. After the first couple of times, you get a feel for what the value of a good actually is, and at that point, you’re just playing with the person to try and give them some quantity of money around that. I was loving it, and even went as far as to hide behind another stand and peek out at a woman shouting offers at me until she gave me the price I was offering. This was serious fun. The greatest reward of all came when we got back into the bus and Bay mentioned to some other people how I was good at this sort of thing. I know it’s difficult to relate that kind of feeling, but it’s a pretty cool when your wife/fiancee/significant other recognizes you in this way. Call me a boner, but I think I beamed the entire way home after that.
We took the bus the rest of the way home, let the guide off (who again was Jana), and then got dropped off at our hotel. I spent a brief moment of regret wishing I had gotten Jana’s e-mail address, and then, just like that, our vacation in Bali was at an end.
We woke up Sunday, headed out to the pool and beach to catch some sun, and then made our way to the airport. Next stop, Hong Kong!
However, before I move on to Hong Kong, I want to write up my impressions of Bali. Here are some of the pros, cons, whatevers, that you can attribute to the place, in no particular order.
- The people
These people rule. They are so generous, and so kind. When I enter a shop and someone comes up to me to offer help, my first instinct is, “fuck off”. Yah, that’s crass, but it is what it is, and that’s what I’ve had bred in me from our Western society. Naturally I approached Bali with this same kind of suspicion. When three different people pointed out to me that I could try on the shorts I was looking at, and that I could also get them in those colors over there – I naturally assumed they were all after the commission I represented. The weird thing was that when I went up to the guy that had originally helped me, he told me to “just go up to the desk, they’ll help you”… Well, how will you get your commission then?. He won’t.. They won’t. It’s not about commission. It’s about helping. It’s really hard to get used to, when you come from our side of the world, but it is what it is, and once you understand that, it’s kind of refreshing.
I’m not naive. I know that a time will come when demand starts to meet supply, and then at that point, maybe it really will be about meeting your budget, or getting your commission. But until that happens, there’s no need to see this as anything but genuine generosity.
- The people
Sometimes, these people suck. It’s rare, but now and then, you run into someone that has his own selfish interests in mind. The thing is that it’s hard not to be understanding, kind of like a parent might be of the child they have to scold, because they are just doing the best they can, with what they have available. Bali relies completely on tourism to sustain itself, so it’s natural that things like timeshare scams are going to crop up. Once you get the feel for these people, it’s very easy to just say “No, thank you”, and move past them. I didn’t find hawkers in Bali nearly as obnoxious as some of the other places I’d gone, such as Mexico or Jamaica.
- The culture
Bali has so much culture to offer, and in so many different ways. Even the tacky, touristy area of Kuta is a culture in its own sense – much more so than I felt the major malls of HongKong were. Over the course of a day in Bali, you can see the largest temple in the regency (23 individual temples on top of a massive hill complex), a beautiful view overlooking a huge rice-paddy complex, a Balinese traditional village, and learn how they create the sarongs worn in their temples. Yes, I did just mention a tour we took, but even so, the culture is massive in Bali.
- The scrilla
Oh man, our money goes far in Bali. That doesn’t mean you should go there and wave your money around like a dick, and it doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to anything more than anyone else that is there (we had one massive dongbone complain for the better part of our trip to the market in Ubud – see the footnotes for more details)
So, I had originally intended to write about Hong Kong, but really, it would be impossible to do that justice after a honeymoon in Bali. It turns out, I want to write more, but about something different. I guess this is the end of my discourse regarding Bali. Stay tuned for more!