The very next day upon approval of my 12 days annual leave (actually it’s either to clear off last year’s annual leave or it be forfeited…), upon last minute confirmation of my annual leave approval, I jumped into the first Air Asia flight available to Bali. Truth be told, I had absolutely no idea where to go and what to do in Bali, but Lonely Planet saved my day.
I had decided to back pack Bali with my kid. I was brought up to think that sometimes, through hardship family bond. Fought and bonded along the way, we did. If I sounded like Yoda, it’s only because I feel jaded like him right now. The trip is fun, but tiring too. I have not just bags under my eyes, but big huge luggage instead. Then again, it’s better to look ugly and feel good than to look good and feel like shit. Of course the best is look good and feel great, but that is another story altogether, no?
I’m sure many have been to Bali, bonded, broken off with girlfriends/boyfriends if according to the “Bali Myth”. (Bali myth claims that most couples break off after coming back from Bali. If you ask me, it’s to do with the high expectations for couples that only the Romantic Comedy films can provide that had caused or is causing the break ups…then again, who am I to hand on relationship advices. I got burned in love many a times, and we didn’t need to go to Bali for that to happen).
So I will not brag about the beautiful places I went to. What I will write about however is Bali, pertaining to her people. People say, home is where their loved ones are. By this definition, then Bali would be my second home. I believe that family is who we choose more than who we were coincidentally born with. I have been in love with Bali long before I stepped foot on this Island. The people, well there are exceptions as in any case anywhere in the world, majority are warm, kind, loving, friendly and honest people. It’s disgusting how honest majority of them are!!
An example; I stuffed my notebook underneath the bed in an attempt to hide it. In came house keeping and by the time we came back to the room, we learned 2 things. The house keeping people cleans under the bed even and that they took out the note book we meant to hide and placed it nicely on the side table!! I don't know if I should feel ashamed for not trusting them or just flabagasted!!
Growing up in a city like Kuala Lumpur, it made me a tough woman but unfortunately with trust issues. The issue is, I hardly trust anyone. I don’t even trust my own mother to leave me alone and not find me some “nice gentleman” to shove into my face just to make her die happy knowing that I have a man to take care of me when she’s gone. Hello, I don’t love a man because I need him, but I would love to need a man because I love him. But try telling that to any moms. Then again, I digress.
I have to share my experience travelling from Denpasar to Candi Kuning. We took a, what the locals call “Colt”, basically if in any developed country would be called “ a transport from hell”. It pushes off from the bus station in Ubung, just north east of Denpasar. Is there a public transport to go from point A to point B in Bali? The answer is “yes”. But will you get to point B? The answer is “maybe if your luck is good”. You see, when it comes to long distance travelling across Bali, most tourists prefer to go on private vehicles, driven by drivers, which is convenient, yes, but also expensive. It’s a smart choice if you ask me. The public transport such as the Bemo, Colt etc, will need to fill up the 12 passengers before budging an inch. And wait is what you need to do. Sometimes, I was told by Ikim, a lady with a broken arm clad in a shoulder cling, after all that waiting, should the Colt fail to accumulate 12 drivers of so (if short of a few people than we all have to pay a little extra which is fair), then the Colt will abort the transportation!!
I chose to take the risk, and after 2 hours of waiting, which I didn’t mind because I was busy filling up my senses with absorbing the surrounding ambiance, we in fact got 13 people in the van. Was it an okay form of transportation? Well, if a lady like Ikim, with a broken bone is not complaining, than what excuse do we all have? Did I mention that there was an old lady, of about 60s travelling with us? Well, there you go, no excuse to bitch about comfort do we now?
So off we went, heading north to Candi Kuning. The journey took us about 2 hours through a narrow but good road. I have to stop here to comment though. I find it bewildering that Indonesia can make a road that lasted 10 years without having many pot holes to reckon with. I wonder what stupid excuses the politicians in Malaysia would feed us with if we ask them how come we cannot make roads like the Indonesians? You know when these politicians start to talk cock, it’s easy to detect. It’s when they start opening their mouths.
The people are ever ready to help you with information and any form of assistance they may offer, which I find very heart warming. Yes, I had to wait for a little over 2 hours, but it wasn’t a time wasted. I had the chance to interact with the locals who you will never find travelling on the private vehicles, except for the drivers of course. Whilst waiting, an announcement was made and it went something like this, “Selamat Sorey semua, moga sihat sihat belaka hari ini…” (Good day, everyone. Hope everyone is in good health today”….) followed by the announcement. For a bus station that looked like it almost did not survive the Bali bombing, the last thing I had expected was a courteous greeting preceding the announcement!! Can anyone imagine this happening in Pudu Raya bus station in Kuala Lumpur??!!! I almost died just there and then from overdose of politeness!!
I also learned from Nyoman, a friendly driver who drove us from Kuta to Denpasar earlier, that Balinese spend 50% of their income on religious/spiritual practices. And here we are complaining that the only sure thing apart from death is tax!! Some may find this disturbing, but I think that this is what makes Balinese trustworthy and good people. I mean, sure, you do not need religion to be a good human being, an atheist is a good example of that, and there are people with religion that practices more of the “holier than thou” attitude which proves to be more of a pest to human kind despite claims of “enlightenment”, more than anything else. But in the case of Balinese people, they are very spiritual and this spirituality somehow had managed to bring out the best behaviour in them. You hardly hear about snatch thieves here and I find it an emotional turmoil to be blessed with a feeling of being able to trust society not to harm us.
Majority may be poor, but definitely rich with what makes humans, humans. They are contented and this somehow makes them happy. I can’t vouch for the rich anywhere in the world though. Ask me. My job covers partly dispensing anti-anxiety, anti-depression medication to people who many envy to have what we imagine as everything in this world. But that is of course another story. I think happiness is what we make of ourselves and money may not have anything to do with it, but it does improve the bargaining position.
In the colt, I learned some Balinese greetings.
“Om swassiastu” means “Peace to you” or more of “hello”
“Om santi santi santi om” is good bye….
I think if given more than 2 hours of waiting, I may get them to teach me some expletives in Balinese language. Alas! Before I could accomplish that, the colt moved, finally
I also learned that there is a “Nyepi” meaning a day observing silence, is a day when absolutely all activities are prohibited. The only reason anyone should be on the road is when a woman is in labour. Yes…not even a person with heart attack will be allowed to go to the hospital. I went….what the fish….but my travelling companion, Ketut, explained that they believe in “karma”. If that person is destined to die that day, he will die. I truly disagree but respecting their culture, I kept reticent. If my loved ones suffer from a heart attack and needed to be rushed to the hospital, I will without hesitation, stuff a pillow on my belly and pretend to be in labour and bring along the person who is suffering a heart attack along with me, claiming he fainted from my screaming in pain. I believe in karma, yes, but only after fully exhausting all possibilities of doing something to avoid catastrophe.
Halfway through, it rained and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the reason we got slightly wet was because the windows do not approximate.
There was rain water that found the way onto my face and I closed my eyes to feel it’s sensation on it and thought of how the same rain that could cause annoyance to some of us, may mean life for others. I don’t hear anyone complaining about getting wet too. It’s like it’s something they’ve accepted. For a split second, my heart did try to deceive me by wondering how this would not have happened should we have taken the private vehicle, but my sense put my conscience at check. So there I was, in a colt heading up north, getting insidiously wet not in the sexual sense of it unfortunately, feeling somewhat oddly happy. Happy, that I was blessed with the experience of travelling as the not so fortunate people travel.
A thought occurred to me. That particular journey reminded me how some religious beliefs fast (refrain from eating, drinking and whatever) in order to attain humility. It bewilders me that despite many of us fasting, and despite what it claims to do to a human’s soul, there are still many people starving in this world. I could not help but wonder, if we spend slightly less money on building beautiful worship house to brag about to the other religion, perhaps that money could have been channelled towards the needy. I have problems believing that to be a good Muslim, or Christian or whatever, all that is sufficient is to believe in God, and worship Him and feel happy about it thinking this will make us a better human being. I think serving God would make us realize that it takes more than just believing to become a better human being. Serving humanity IS serving God. Ponder on that before you send someone to cut my head off for saying what I feel is right.
Travelling in hardship have more impact on, I find, on myself in the sense of the humility it feeds my soul. Look at it this way. So what, if the seats were hard, not to mention, non-ergonomic. So what, if it was a little cramped with human beings that do not have so much as a watch on them. So we get a little wet from the rain that escaped the gapping windows of a cheap transport. At the end of the holiday, we get to go back to our comfort zone, whilst these local people are less fortunate and have to resume their lives the way we had experienced it for that short moment in ours. For us, it was an adventure, for them, a routine.
Having contented with the beauty of Bali feasted upon my eyes through a leaking window, I hardly realized that we had reached destination Candi Kuning. Despite reaching destination in the less comfortable manner, I was quite disappointed that the journey wasn’t for some moment longer. When I left the colt, it wasn’t just my luggage that I had managed to pull out from it, but it was also the refreshing experience that came with the journey. Whilst the price of the tickets may be dirt cheap, but the experience throughout the journey upon reaching there, was indeed to me, priceless........