Where do I begin? The last time I published anything here was two months ago, before the WHO had given Covid-19 an official name, before the virus really took root outside Asia, before countries began closing their borders en masse to prevent its spread.
I have been on an eight-week hiatus from writing here and reading and commenting on other blogs, mostly because of tiredness. I don’t usually bring up my current work as an editor (not numero uno, mind you) of a glossy travel magazine. In some ways, it is a dream job. In other ways, it can be a bit of a nightmare. Such is the risk of turning your hobby into a full-time profession – hobbies don’t usually revolve around deadlines. Jobs so often do. Read more
If we only believe the sensationalism of Fox News, CNN America and other media outlets, Indonesia is the kind of country a lot of people might want to avoid. Historically, it has made world headlines for all the wrong reasons – plane crashes, violent protests, terrorist bombings and large-scale natural disasters. Read more
The rain fell in thick sheets, drumming against our bungalow’s tiled roof and ricocheting into the darkness. Outside a persistent swarm of insects flocked to the lamps hanging off the wall. “We have to go to bed early tonight,” Bama warned. He had turned out the lights on the upper floor and locked all the windows throughout the building, for we were under siege. Read more
“They call me ‘goat’ because I pick from all the plants but don’t know how to grow them.” Iluh says this, laughing, as we stand beside a tall green hedge behind the kitchen. It is a slow afternoon at Sarinbuana Eco Lodge, hidden in the shadow of Bali’s second-highest peak, and Bama and I are on an impromptu tour of the gardens. Read more
The dive guide looked at me in alarm. “January? That is not a good season for diving in Bali. He held a map of the balloon-shaped island, and with his other hand he brushed its upper portions. “It’s rainy season; storms come from the north, and the sea has a lot of trash… sometimes guests complain about all the rubbish – we say sorry, sorry, but what can we do?” Read more
The rambling, stony trail beckons us deeper into the forest. Three identical wooden gateways stand straight ahead, pure Japanese in their simplicity, the green and gold patterns on their rough-hewn columns evoking the hollyhock crest of the Tokugawa shoguns. But this is Indonesia, and instead of a perfectly manicured landscape of framed views, Bama and I are about to discover a different kind of serenity. Read more
The cyclist is frozen mid-pedal, against a luxuriant backdrop of flowers spreading up into the sky. He appears wide-eyed, the traces of a moustache above his lips, and a full head of hair crowned with the folds of a Balinese udeng. Read more
“Congratulations!” Bama smiled, his eyes lighting up as he spoke. “You’re officially Indonesian.”
But there was no revocation of passports, no oath of citizenship to a new country. I had simply confessed my newfound love of ikan asin, a humble assortment of dried fish that crackled with each bite. Served with roasted peanuts, the sweet-savoury combination was so enticing that I truthfully told Bama, “I could just have it with rice.” Through these words I had unknowingly echoed the exact sentiment shared by thousands – if not millions – of diners across his native archipelago. Read more
The brand new toll road rose over the middle of Benoa Bay, passing mangrove swamps, a lonely spirit house in the tidal flats, and the airport runway at Ngurah Rai. It deposited our guide Bli Komang, Bama and I onto the top end of the Bukit Peninsula, where a traffic-snarled road lined with billboards would ultimately lead to the temple of Uluwatu. Read more
As we trundled down a busy artery towards Sanur, a mellow beach town in southern Bali, I grasped at the scant words I knew flowing back and forth between Bama and Bli Komang.
“Before becoming a driver, he used to be a sculptor,” Bama relayed. We soon learned that Bli Komang hailed from a village of stone carvers, and that the Balinese love of art – such an integral part of their culture – was instilled in him from an early age. According to Bli Komang, all Balinese students had to choose from four kinds of traditional arts: dance, painting, decorative sculpture, and carving statues. Read more