i have been told by many, many people that i would fall madly in love with bali. after reading elizabeth gilbert's 'eat, pray, love,' i became even more convinced that i had chosen right on the destination front and even narrowed it down to ubud and the gili islands, i figured on about a week in each. one of the most important things i have learned on this trip is that two weeks is a drop in the bucket... it is so, so little time, especially when each area of a country (or region, island, whatever) offers something totally different from the next. i mean, you can get a sense of where you don't
want to go fairly easily - as i knew kuta wasn't for me in the same way that ko phengnan wasn't for me.
..i'm just not into hoardes of frat boyish tourists all bearing slight variations of the same tribal armband trying to pack as many hook ups, tan lines and hangovers as possible into their two week holidays... of course this is a massive generalization, and i am always open to finding exceptions to the rule...
but discovering where you DO want to go is a whole other animal. while recommendations from friends, websites and authors certainly help, they can never really predict the kind of emotional impact each locale wil have on YOUR particular personality in YOUR specific frame of mind on YOUR budget with YOUR needs and wants. in that respect, travelling to a new place is like being a little kid with a chemistry set... add a dropper full of jungle, a large beaker of turquoise water, a splash of local art, a pinch of reggae.
.. although i think that ubud is art personified, and i have been REALLY indulging myself here with food, massage, shopping as well as getting jumped all over, hugged and shit on by the most entertaining and adorable monkeys (many pics to come) - the formula is lacking the brand of laid back that is unique to beaches, and so i will move on after only three days here to a place called nusa lombagen before shipping out to the gili's. i think what it most boils down to for me, a least right now, is that when i am in a place like ubud, where there is SOOOOO much to see and do, i feel guilty just chilling out and doing nothing. on the beach, relaxing IS the focal point, thus freeing you from the need to see, see, do, run, go.
today is the perfect example of what i am talking about.
i had a really fun night last night with an english/aussie crew at a local trivia night and then cocktails and pool at another low key joint. i stayed out until 1am, which is kinda late for me these days, and had a few more than my two beer norm. also, aunt ruby dropped in for her monthly visit last night. so i woke up this morning crampy and crabby and foggy and yucky, and had scheduled a 10am departure with a driver to go see the besakih temple and mount batur (a volcano that erupted 4 times in the last century). i REALLY didnt want to do anything but sleep and paint and eat... (in fact, what i really wished i had was a big screen tv with cable, a big plush couch and a pint of ben and jerry's). but i went. and i am glad i did, as it was all beautiful and i would have kicked myself if i hadn't.
HOWEVER, my already pretty foul mood was not helped along by the fact that these places, these huge tourist attractions were surrounded by the 'youre white - and, OH, american, even better, you MUST be rich so gimme, gimme, gimme' school of thought. don't get me wrong, i completely understand that tourism feeds these people, literally, and that the amounts of money being asked of me are so little - if i were in my normal life, and realized i had accidentally dropped two bucks on the ground, i wouldn't really care, IF i even noticed. BUT, trying to look a a breathtaking valley full of rice terraces and not being able to see it because you have four locals surrounding you holding jewelry boxes in front of your face and forcing sarongs into your hands really reduces my level of sympathy.
i've talked and written many times about the difference between travellers and tourists. and the thing is, even if you go about exploring the world with a genuine interest in the lesser seen side of a culture or the ability to navigate without tour guides or enough sense to seek out the true bargains - you are still going to want to see the "tourist attractions." they are what the are because they are the most beautiful or intriguing or unique or represetntative things about a destination. but increased tourism to a 'hot spot' draws the hawkers, hikes the prices, lowers the authenticity of food in nearby restaurants, reduces the friendliness of the locals. i will not go into specifics about my day here, as you can think of your own "tourist trap but worth seeing" experieneces and just try to imagine that in the context of bali.
ok, i must be off to tea time. next time i write, there will be sand on my feet. until then...