Bali Cont’d. (Finally.)
I was relocated to a private room (complete with sheer, bamboo “walls,” immediately on the other sides of which my neighbours slept). The ocean was rowdy and the people who lurked near it were always trying to sell me silver jewelry, so I became part of the poolside décor and watched time (and yoga teachers-in-training) pass by in bulk. I eventually spoke to one of them. The yoga teachers. Her name was Steph and she was from South Australia. She invited me to join her for lunch and soon, I had 30 new friends. They told me where I could find good cafes and ATMs. The combination of good company and the (thankfully) shattered illusion of confinement made Villa Serenity infinitely more enjoyable.
One day, we went to lunch and afterward, we stopped at an ATM. This particular machine didn’t accept my bank card, so my new friend Laura told me how to find another one:
“Walk down the beach until you see a big, white building,” she said. “Turn left and keep asking the security guards until you get there. It should only take about 35 minutes.”
I had nothing but time and these directions sounded simple enough. Alright, in retrospect, they’re really, really vague. But in that moment, I applied a hefty dose of suncream and set off down the beach with zen in my heart. Sunshine, a blueish–if still very unwelcoming–sea, and hardly anyone else in sight. Big white building: Check. Security guards: Check.
It was about an hour into this excursion that I really began to wonder if I’d made a wrong turn. I asked everyone I passed (which actually wasn’t very many people) how to get to the ATM. Half of them had no idea. One guy at a restaurant tried to take me on the back of his motorbike. “It very far!” he said. He was in the middle of his shift, or so it seemed, and I wasn’t interested in what would inevitably have been a $20 ride around the corner. I kept walking. Another 25 minutes of narrow roads with no shoulders and drivers who weren’t afraid to kill or be killed in the name of swiftness. I finally found it, along with a quicker way home. When I got back to the Villa, I worked out that I’d taken the long way around. I’d walked about five and a half miles in 100-degree heat and I wasn’t exactly overcome with happiness. I skipped my depressing quarters and went straight for the pool, which soothed my weary soul (and soles)… until I did, eventually, go back to my room and discover (with admittedly little shock) that it was completely infested with fire ants. The staff didn’t really understand why I was so frustrated. They sprayed poison all over the room and used a broom to brusquely eradicate the insects. Or, most of them, anyway. From this point on, I would refer to the place as “Villa Serenity Now.”
I’m about to use a train as a terrible metaphor for my emotions. Get ready for it. The train climbed uphill with the knowledge that everything on the island can be purchased with very little money. Except taxis. (And the train plummets into that deep, dark valley.) Taxi drivers will take you for everything you’ve got, which, in my case, wasn’t much at all. But people assumed that since I was technically a tourist, my pockets overflowed with $100 bills. One of the jewelry hawkers on the beach even asked me if I would change money for him. Dude, I don’t have any dollars. And even if I did, I would not trade you 9,000 rupiah per dollar when the going rate is 11,378 to 1.
As a result of the transportation price gouging, I really had to think hard about when, where, and why I wanted to leave Villa Serenity Now. Well, I mean, I always wanted to leave, but I had to choose carefully because of my tight budget. When Yudi messaged me, saying he was going to be in Bali on the 15th and that I should meet him at Single Fin, I knew it would be a worthwhile adventure. On my way there, I stopped at Made Warung, near Dreamland, because Tyler Heffernan told me to. (And he always has the best recommendations.) I ordered the Mie Goreng and fresh strawberry juice, which were both delicious, and then I strolled into Nusa, and then, I discovered that I was stranded. Like, no taxi drivers would take me the rest of the way to Uluwatu and Yudi was delayed at the airport. Once again, that train sped downhill, but it leveled off as I drank a San Miguel in a Circle K. Yes. I did. And then the guy who worked there flagged down a willing taxi and stuck me inside, beer and all.
When I reached the edge of the cliff at Uluwatu, I looked over and thought, Well, I obviously should have been here all along. It is the Bali of which we dream. It is clear water, perfect waves, mango daiquiris at sunset, and beautiful people. So many beautiful people. Micah was among them, randomly, so I had myself a partial Thurso reunion. Villa Serenity Now seemed a distant recollection of a bad dream. Unfortunately, it was the reality I’d be forced to return to after 48 hours in Uluwatu. Boozey, scooter-riding, secret beach-swimming, old friend-reuniting hours. Without a proper change of clothes. The best kind of hours. Since I only had one more day at VSN, the end of my trip to Bali was really quite good. This is not to say that I wasn’t thrilled to leave for France, but I disembarked the train at an elevated station. Hey. Heyyy?
Yeah, I know. Okay, here are some highlights: