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International Desk: From Japan And Bali

This article first appeared in issue 39, and was written by Tom Waggener.

For winter break I decided to go to Bali. My friend Juliet was to be my traveling companion and in weeks to come, much discussion was made about Bali. This tiny Hindu island is surrounded by several large, very Muslim islands with extremists known to have killed Christians, kidnap foreigners and harass old people, I think.

For safety's sake, I decided to be from Canada for the trip. Whenever people asked where we were from I generally nodded my head while Juliet answered Canada, and talked about Vancouver. I always wanted to be from Vancouver.

We landed in Denpasuar, and, as advised by a good friend who went to Bali last year, immediately took a taxi inland to Ubud, the "cultural Center" of Bali. The taxi ride (actually a very old van with no seat belts) was about an hour and a half, in the dark, on small roads with an Indonesian we met at the airport. He drove like an Earnhardt, passing scooters and motorcycles and occasionally using the grassy shoulder of the roads to avoid fatal accidents.

We arrived in Ubud and directed the driver to Monkey Street (actually Monkey Forest Road, but we didn't know). The man seemed to know, or at least he nodded and dropped us off in front of a restaurant. My friend Chris had said for us to look for the Karsi Homestay which would cost us about 8 bucks a night.

We were met by a short young Indonesian with a business card on which was printed Karsi Homestay. What luck. He talked fast, said the room was good good and the cost was cheap cheap. 80000 rupiahs. At this point the exchange rate had not set in and I didn't realize that 80k rupiah was in fact around 8 bucks. Thinking it was 80 bucks, I haggled my way down to 40000 rupiahs. Made (pronounced Ma-day, as in ma and pa) took us to the Homestay. a nice large room with two beds and a great balcony, no TV, a modest bathroom, and breakfast included. All in all not so bad.

We cleaned up and went to the restaurant across the street where we dined well and had a few beers for a little less than 6 bucks American, for both of us.

The next morning, Made made us Balinese coffee, which is cowboy style, grinds in hot water, and some fine banana pancakes with a side of fresh fruit. Made told us how the names worked in Bali: every first son is named Wayam, second son Made, third Nyoman, and fourth Kutut, and then repeat. This goes for everyone, so if you yell "hey Made" in the streets, fifty people turn their heads.

Same for women too, only if female its Ne-wayam and so forth. That day was spent shopping and touring the monkey forest, which is filled with hundreds of tourists and a couple of monkeys.

Later, we dropped out of all civilization for a little while, and took a 4-day boat trip through remoter parts of Indonesia. Saw komodo dragons, lots of farm animals in the road, and snorkeled with baby sharks. I spent my New Years on a tiny island off the coast of Flores, and then slowly made my way back to Denpasuar for the return flight to Japan.

This story was posted on 2002-02-15 12:01:01
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