i have adventures (sometimes)

Monday, 12 March 2012

Anti-Anti-Tourism and Homeward Bound

My long-overdue final Bali post! In my defence, I've been busy. Some of the time even doing actual work, and not wasting time on the internet. Or something.

Anyway, Bali.

Pay no attention to the lazy blogger behind the curtain.

The day after the wedding, La and I decided to do a day tour. There's a part of me that feels like day tours are somehow evil, and I should instead be all po-mo and go in for anti-tourism, which seems to involve stuff like refusing to take a picture of anything that anyone else has ever taken a picture of ever. If I've read my Alain de Botton correctly, it's like tourism, but for hipsters. But we like interesting things, even if other people like them too, and we figured that we weren't going to get around the island any other way, so we booked a car and set off to see more of Bali.

We started off with a traditional dance performance, which was about the epic battle between the Barong (good tiger thing) and the Rangda (evil witch thing), and involved dancing and drama and a monkey and some little people and several confusing deaths and resurrections, and one mysterious old man who didn't seem to have any role other than being enigmatic with incense. I suspect the whole thing was secretly about him.

Dacing Barong.
After a short stop at a silversmith, where we couldn't afford anything, we visited a beautiful waterfall, where small children tried to sell us things.


We headed further north to Goa Gajah, the Elephant Temple, where we acquired a guide, who was friendly and helpful right up until he asked us for money and we wouldn't give him any, whereupon he turned surly and surled off. Moral of the story: ask upfront if someone friendly and helpful is going to want money from you so you can turn down their services. Oh dear.

Covering sinful knees in temple sarongs. (It's ok - men have to wear them too.)
I swear I remember this from Fate of Atlantis.
You could go to temple. Or you could not, I guess. OR YOU COULD GO TO TEMPLE. But no pressure.
Our next stop was at a plantation where they grew coffee, cocoa, and ginseng, along with a few strange and interesting types of fruit. I had a flashback to our tours in China, where we got to drink tea, but also had to feign interest in jade and silk we couldn't possibly have afforded as 17 year olds (or, indeed, now) because the tours were all subsidised by the places that sold them. But here we got to taste delicious things for free, and both fell in love with the coffee ginseng, which was a pity, because neither of us could afford to buy any, and so we had to content ourselves with fighting over the free cuplet.

By that stage, we were predictably hungry, so we headed on for Kintamani, the northernmost point of our tour, where a buffet lunch* awaited us. The flyer said we'd have lunch with a view of Mount Batur, Bali's only active volcano, but I don't think anything could have prepared us for just how amazing it was. We sat on the balcony of the restaurant with nothing between us and the impossibly beautiful landscape and totally lost track of time until we remembered that our driver was waiting for us outside, and we had to tear ourselves away.

Like this.
We were supposed to stop at Tegallalang to see the rice terraces, but it started pouring with rain, and so we only saw them in passing. Considering that I was putting all my efforts into not literally weeping with joy at the storm, I didn't mind. It was no Highveld thunderstorm, but it was the closest I'd come to one in six months, and between that and catching up with schoolfriends and talking about home for a week, the homesickness hit me hard. As much as I love York, and I'd love to live all over the world and have awesome adventures in places where I can ride my bike and buy vegan cheese, I suspect I couldn't stay away from home forever, even if I wanted to. I feel like I'm stretched on an elastic, and I won't lose that pulling feeling in my chest until I've bounced back to where the thunderstorms are.

Yeah yeah, rice terraces. And also RAIN!
Oh, borrowing. You're my favourite.
We had a long drive to our next destination, but La and I talked and sang incessantly, because five years of living in different countries makes for an awful lot of musicals, X-Files, and nostalgia to catch up on. Our driver patiently dealt with our endless chatter and not infrequent burstings into song, and we made it to Uluwatu by late afternoon. We were warned to remove jewellery, glasses, hairbands, and anything else that could conceivably be seized by a monkey, because the area was populated by seizing monkeys.

They may look adorable, but they'll slit your throat for a bag of chips.

I actually remember nothing about the temple itself. I'm sure there was one, because that was how it was described on the flyer, but the main attraction of the place was the scenery. And possibly the bearded monkeys.

2 people like this.
Baby monkey looks like baby Voldemort.
We were a bit early for the sunset, but we were happy to sit on the cliff and enjoy the breeze after a long day of temperatures above 30 degrees, until the sun gradually began to set. It was perfect. The whole trip was great, but it was sitting on the cliff with one of my best friends, with my sinful knees once again hidden, fighting off one particularly daring monkey, and watching the sun set over the ocean, that it really struck me how glad I was to be there. The whole thing was such a crazy idea - spending several hundred pounds on a ticket and ditching lectures in the middle of term to fly across the world for a friend's wedding - but it was totally worth it.

And the following day was our last day in Indonesia. Did we make the most of it?

... No.

Because we were back in Denpasar and it was horribly hot and we had to check out of the hotel in the middle of the day. But we managed to cross the road to have lunch at a place which was at least reasonably authentically Indonesian (but not so authentic that it lacked aircon, like some of our other options), and then killed time at the hotel until we headed for the airport.

Denpasar airport has a bizarre setup where the security check is first, and then you check in, and then you learn about the surprise exit tax of 150 000 IDR, and then you go back out to draw money because you'd spent it all because you weren't expecting to need any, and then you go through security again, and then you actually pay the surprise exit tax, and then you go through passport control, and then you buy water, and then there's a security check again and so they take your water away, and then you're grumpy.**

And so commenced my very epic journey home. I had a three hour flight to Kuala Lumpur, where I had a twelve hour stopover, because I'm a student and the flight with the overnight wait was 100 quid cheaper. I certainly wasn't going to check into the airport hotel and spend the money I'd saved on the flight, so I pulled out my travel pillow and settled down on a bench to have weird dreams about playing fetch with a polecat until I got woken up in the middle of the night by security and asked to move.

By the time I got on the plane for my thirteen hour flight back to London, I was exhausted, and so sore I could hardly move my head. To my delight, I found I'd put my painkillers in my hold luggage, so I spent the first few hours of the flight whimpering with pain, feeling sorry for myself, and cursing the manufacturers of my travel pillow, until an air hostess finally brought me paracetamol and my travel sickness pill kicked in, bringing the sweet release of death sleep.

I couldn't even be excited about landing, because then I was in London, which wasn't where I wanted to be at all. I spent an hour getting through passport control and collecting my luggage, and then spent the next hour and a half getting to King's Cross... so I could spend two hours on the train to York.

By the time I arrived in York, it had been 36 hours since I'd left my hotel, and I was a broken human being. A broken, sore, tired, dirty, confused, jet-lagged human being, trying not to cry with exhaustion in public. But I collapsed onto the platform to find a certain Crazy-Haired Man waiting for me, which made everything seem a little better (and also meant that I had someone to help me remember things like my name, the year, and how buses worked).

And then I went straight home to sleep.

Oh wait, no I didn't. I went straight to the dress rehearsal for Yeomen. Because I am either a masochist or a really really committed performer. Or maybe both.

*All-you-can-eat? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
**I'm generalising from my own experiences here, but I assume this is standard.


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