Changing realities while moving from one side of the world to another for me is like ‘I just wanna stay in my room for days’. To digest the transition and be well prepared for a ever green question: “How many degrees do you have in Indonesia?” It can become annoying after answering it to the same person fourth year in a row.
“30 degrees all year round, mate! Dry and rainy season, the latter humid as hell, dude! It’s Equator, man!” is the answer of my mind, not the real life one. If what, Indonesia thought me to wear a smile full of patience whenever and wherever. I must say I can use that particular technique to some point, in case above explaining tropical climate. But I do have bloody feelings (and opinions or both) and as I believe it’s sometimes wise to regulate it, I also believe at times you need to show them. It is indeed hard to choose right moments. I noticed many Indonesian would rather keep it to themselves to suit social norm of extreme politeness than share a feeling or opinion. Moreover, they will always find a comfort in doing so. The ones who do speak up for themselves are still considering the endless list of social norms in their speech. Consequently, what they are telling is so indirect that I usually loose the point of what they are saying.
Indonesia is a place that gives you feelings. Extremely intensive ones. Good and bad, all inclusive. I’m having truly hard times to steer between respecting Indonesian way swallowing down the issues while nod and bow and being myself: sharing, talking, raising voice, reconsidering and kicking walls if necessary.
Some might say I get upset quickly and I’m way too much emotional, but maybe that is just how I react to bullshit. I’m just realizing that’s why I can’t write blog consisted solely of travel trips and wonderland photos. That was initial idea when I was establishing Mango Polo. I was about to give advices how to travel through islands, ending up only giving random (insider) information. I simply can’t post a photo of a rice field and write to it ‘This is Bali’, while I know there is much bigger picture to it. Tourism (not just in Bali) is hand over the reins. No damn guidelines plus no waste management is a deadly combination in case of Indonesia. Bali is charming island at the first glance and I understand those idyllic photos of lush green rice fields are what short term visitor is focused on. I love those greenish images, but can’t stop there.
After two years of living on the most densely populated island on the world, island of Java, I have tried to survive five months of Bali. I was positioned in South of Bali, Canggu. Southern part of island is the spot where Indian ocean crashing to the land and making it surfers paradise. A day without waves does not exists and if the waves are smaller at point A, for sure there are bigger at point B or other way around. A minor earthquake is much appreciated, as it will make waves higher. This make everlasting tourist season all year round. Furthermore, numerous yoga studios are scattered around island. Adrenalin and peace seekers. For the antipode to sporty and healthy people let’s add party hunters on the map.
For a vivid imagination all three activities can be done by one person. I was witnessing a scene like that: concert is over – DJ starts to roll music – late night – empty stage – surfer boy – at least to me it looked like one – white tanned skin – certainly on something – doing head stand on the stage.
Can you already feel hectic atmosphere only reading this?
It’s not like all foreigners on Bali are like that. Me for example, I never get nice tan skin, can barely paddle on a surf board (with no waves water), haven’t gotten to head stand in yoga and party only occasionally. Meanwhile that are three most common activities, there are also people doing businesses. Remote internet work mostly.
What do all these people have in common? Good looking food! Also tasteful, but first – good looking food is making those people to gather in numerous Bali restaurants. Instagramers paradise. Smoothie it will never be the same again. Now it became visual art (before it turns to shit). Along with perfective decorated plates comes beautiful interior with at least one painted or quoted wall. To take a selfie, not just plate photo. Power of social media well used, one would say. Everybody is talking about hipsters invasion. Those super healthy eating people with nice sunglasses, sleeveless shirts, special haircuts should be the ones. It seems hippies from 70’s got a replacement. As passionate observer I was enjoying sitting in such places, having my own artish meal (instead of popcorn) while watching the show. No need for TV.
Tourism boom has started in 80’s and 90’s when Bali was named Australian Mexico. To me sometimes felt like Croatian seaside where I was spending my holidays since I was born and I’m still returning there occasionally. My point is there is nothing Balinese left in some areas. It gives an impression of huge holiday resort with all infrastructure needed: restaurants, souvenir shops, clothes shops, party places and hotels (superabundant). There are no limits and we all know what’s inside local government heads: $! While all around Indonesia you can use toilet in any convenience store, fabulous Indomart and Alfamart, in Kuta, Bali, you can not. Guess what? Bali is getting expensive. For locals. While most of them are earning 100-200$ per month working all days or all nights with only one free day a week, they supposed to pay 50-80$ for a room with tiny space for kitchen and bathroom. What if they have diapers to buy? School to pay? Hospital? Doctor? No need, massage will do. Money in Indonesia circulate differently indeed and at the end of the day they survive. This month they will ask for money to family, neighbour or friend, next one they will be the one with a new project on schedule and some extra money to help a person in need. Meanwhile a visitor will spend an Indonesian salary in one night. He might be working all year to afford Bali holidays, but can you imagine a local passing by those open restaurants of even working in it, seeing prices of a single dish that could feed extended family for a day? People get desperate and violence happens. Bali reality nowadays, sadly, are local men following tourists (mostly girls) on motorbikes and grabbing their belongings. I was lucky enough nothing happen to me, but Facebook groups all full of creepy stories.
Despite frenetic happening that I did not like most of the time, five months spent in Bali were all worth because of silent day experience. The day called nyepi stops island madness for 24 hours. It is believed on that particular day bad spirits come down to Earth and therefore no one should be seen. Hospitals are the only facility working. Beside that, everything is shut down and no traffic is allowed. Streets are empty and so is sky. Airport is closed for a day and planes are rerouted to fly around island, not crossing it. The curtains should be veiled, people should be fasting, spend the day inside of their homes in silence to reconnect to inner self. Smells of food could attract bad spirits to enter house, our even your soul.
The world needs silent day(s)! Normally grey clouds (of pollution) are rolling through night skies and making you search for a star or two now turned into starry starry night. Sky was sparkling and I saw stars even without my glasses (I’m -4 by now!). Morning after felt extraordinary fresh with cloudless blue sky on a sunny day. With all the silence available those hours were true blessing.
Around nyepi time there are very unique creatures filling up the streets: ogoh-ogoh. Those statues, mostly of plastic of course, represent mythological beings, one statue being composed of two beings: the big demon figure and smaller good spirit, usually under the big one. They do parade procession with some turning around of the ogoh-ogoh at the crossroads which represents contact of the bodies with the spirits. I was attending ceremony for just an hour and witnessed few demonic possessions when people whining, in cramps and eyes rolled to white were carried from the scene. After the ceremony they should be burnt to bewilder evil spirits and chase them away. But some people keep them for next year reuse.
Bali has it all. Inside of the island you will find rural Bali of green rice fields on the green mountains background and local people. On the black volcanic beach on the east coast you will be buying fish from a fisherman who just arrived to the shore. Down south you will be enjoying magnificence of the waves while kicking some plastic along your stroll on the beach. You will be reading about alcohol plus no helmet fatal motorbike accidents of youngsters. You will be informed about homeless puppies and kittens rescue. You will be hearing about The plastic bottle hub, Bye bye plastic bags and similar initiatives which are fighting for brighter future of the islands. Those have vigorous ideas to involve tourist to take an action and ban plastic bags off the island. Local government back up would be necessary for faster realization. It seems long way to go. When/if I go back I must take my own fight further from just attending beach clean up. No matter how frustrating altogether can get.
But no matter how touristy it gets, Balinese people will still do their countless ceremonies which are pretty much dictating way of life. They know very good how to serve spirits. Once I was about to buy a slice of pizza and the girl dropped it while serving it to me. As the slice touched the floor she said: “Oh, ada yang minta!” or “Oh, somebody/something is asking for it.” Yeah, hungry spirit wanted my slice of margherita! Anyway, I would have a suggestion: actual burning of ogoh-ogoh might do the magic. It is believed, when not burned, they become alive. Maybe those carefully saved for next year parade are causing troubles and it could be some statues on fire that would chase away Bali craziness.