Well, I am back. A new day, a new place. This time I am in Indonesia, Bali to be specific. It is a trip long overdue. It is a trip that was well needed.
Today, I met Mulan. A 10 year old girl in the back streets of Ubud, creating mischief, playing the class clown, making all the little ones chuckle riding her bike and pulling faces. I add myself to that list of ‘little ones’.
Today, I met Mulan. I gave her the task of picking out nail polish colours for me. Man did she do a bad job of it. Hot pink and phosphorescent purple. A very light phosphorescence at that. Still, I kept them because maybe one day when she’s older she’ll remember the fool of a girl who stumbled upon their home spa and got herself an ad hoc manicure (don’t judge me).
The central pillars – a place of worship within their compound I believe – adorned with hanging bird cages and canaries to boot. In the house opposite, an elderly lady sits. Just sits. Because sitting is enough. To my left, my lady’s house, brimming with children not all hers. ‘Friends’ she says when I ask. A pair of Manchester United shorts hanging on the laundry.
I wonder at the privacy, or lack there of. I wonder how she can just let me, a perfect stranger, wander into her place of peace. Maybe there is little peace. Maybe it is just the way it is.
Her 4 year old daughter makes me smile. She waves her homemade magic wand (a perfect star at the end of it) and sings a loud rendition of Happy Birthday. For whom I do not know. She is the first of the curious kittens to come say hello. Ayu her name is. A name I have heard here more than once already.
My driver from Kuta to Ubud tells me ‘all children have similar names, like first child, second child, third child. If you have more children, you start at the beginning’. I love this logic! So simple!
If you are looking for tips on Kuta, I have none. For all I did was arrive late, sleep at a hotel (a good one if you are wondering – Febri’s Hotel and Spa in South Kuta) and exit the following day. I did not even see the beach, though I had intended to and got waylaid with my wanderings. I have heard Kuta is for the party goers, and I think my time for that has long past. Besides, it was not that kind of a trip for me. Not this time at least.
So I am here, in Ubud. A two day stop over before I make my way further north-east, somewhere between Amed and Tulamben. It is not even on my map, and that is perfectly fine.
I have found myself what I hope will be a quiet retreat away from the hustle and bustle and away from the main rabble of tourists. I plan to do nothing, and allow nothing to happen. I am terrible at doing nothing. It will not last long I can assure you.
This year I turned 30, and on my bucket list for ‘Now that you have survived 30 years of life’ Bali was one of them. There are a few others which I hope to tick off during this trip, but if not I do not mind. For I plan to have another 30 to go, at least.
Tomorrow, my friend from Kuta – Putu – child number one, returns to take me to Gunung Batar – one of the volcanoes in the north of the island.
I realised today as I devoured my guidebook, that Bali really is a very small island and actually by complete default I have ended up covering quite a large portion of it. I’m not saying I’ve seen and done it all – I have not – but it still made me smile.
The one thing Bali is incredibly famous for is its diving. The second is its surfing. Truth be told, I don’t think I’ll be doing either this time, so if that’s what you’re here for I would say sorry, move on.
There are some incredible ship wrecks on the east side of the island though. The Liberty Wreck for one, the Japanese Wreck for another. A treat for any diver I’m sure, old or new.
I am staying in a place called Jati Homestay, an artist’s home though he appears to have a fully fledged score of staff to run it (almost like a hotel one would say…). The location in unreal. They are not lying when they say it looks out onto rice paddy fields.
Outside (and almost inside) all I can hear is the music of the night. Crickets, birds, geckos, and annoyingly a car engine revving over and over. STOP! Besides that, it is very peaceful and I spent much of the afternoon just sitting on the balcony watching two little love birds sitting in a tree.
Today, I met Mulan and her many cronies. Her little troop of half toothed smilers, giggling and lending a hand. Quizzing me on where I’m from to how old I am. Their English far out stripping my Balinese.
Today, I met Mulan.