Published on June 27th, 2013 | by Snoesje


Finding My Way (3) – Bali

Years ago I came upon this best seller book Eat, Pray, Love, and from the book I got to know there’s a place called Bali. At that time I dreamed that if I could go there and experience the ‘balanced’ life myself, I would be in heaven. Years later I did go there, however, ‘seeking balance’ was not my motivation. I vividly remember that right after I came back to Shanghai from our trip together to Koh lanta, my routine days made me feel so discontented and unfulfilled. I had to go somewhere, or anywhere as long as it was not here in Shanghai. The planet all of sudden seemed so small when G and I were weighing all the possible destinations for our next get-away. My restricted budget and unwelcome Chinese passport didn’t leave us many choices. I brought up Bali when G asked me for some ideas. That’s practically how we ended up in Bali–a possible and not a bad destination. It seemed. Just like right now I am sitting by the French window from a coffee shop in downtown Shanghai on a rainy summer day, together with G, trying to recollect those bitter and sweet days and nights we spent there in Bali and translate it into words.

Welcome, Little Girl!

It was cloudy when we first arrived at Denpasar Airport. We had to go through a hall way to the custom counter. G was walking extra fast trying to get in front of the long line waiting for the custom clearance. My mind was occupied by the looks on the faces of the people sitting inside the departure hall. It’s hard to tell if they had enjoyed their stay or not because they were pretty much expressionless. However it was crystal clear that those people who just arrived looked much more excited than those who were about to leave.

When traveling with someone who has crossed deserts, climbed the Andes, cut through the jungles, I become almost fearless, or should I say ‘light hearted’? Right there I was at the airport terminal of Bali, with practically no substantial knowledge of this place. I followed after G like a disciple.

There was not a big line waiting for custom clearance. The custom officers were sitting inside wooden cubicles just like an ordinary office. I handed over my passport. As I was standing there waiting for the visa stamps, I noticed that there was some part-peeled dirty stickers attached to the counter, and next to me there was another custom officer who was actually singing along the song that was being played on his phone. For a moment, I felt like I was at the door of a close friend’s house, and the friend waved me in and said: “ah, come on in, it’s a little messy here but make yourself comfortable.

After clearance at customs, G and I walked out of the exit and headed straight to the taxi-rental counter, without knowing that there was actually a taxi driver who was arranged by the resort to pick us up at the exit. It was a miscommunication between us and the resort. We felt sorry the driver we never met.

Koh Lanta, I Loved You but Leave Me Alone! I Met Someone New.

On the way from the airport to the resort, G and I sit closely next to each other in peaceful silence looking outside the window. There were exotic shops full of sculptures, crafts, and other beautiful things I couldn’t name. However the freshness I thought I would have was so feeble that I almost could not feel it. Instead the memory of the first day I arrived at Koh Lanta kept flashing back. Was it because the identical damp sultry hot air or the palm trees or the local looks? The streets in Bali were rather narrow and chaotic. I got a little annoyed by how crowded everything was but I admit that I was in no position to complain considering I was the outsider and intruder of this place.

As the taxi was marching slowly through the narrow streets of Bali, I closed my eyes and tried to get rid of the Koh Lanta memory. I am here in Bali now. It’s revealing itself right in front of me. I need to control my attention if I want to make some special memory here.

It was mid-afternoon when we finally arrived at the resort. G and I fell asleep early that night and the next morning awoke to our first Bali dawn — which inevitably was nothing like the dawns I had back at home.

The Heavenly Dawns

How I love the dawn of tropical islands when the sun is still at distance, when whatever argument from the day before loses its edge, when new batch of hope is knocking at your door, when the world is almost free from human noise. I would wake up extra earlier without strain, leaving the whole bed to my big man G so he could finally sleep in whatever positions he finds comfortable. And I would go out the big balcony, lean over the wooden railing, indulge my eyes with endless and endless green jungles and rice field stretching as far as the eyes could reach and then take a deep breath of the air which seemed to be made of a sweeter substance. Whereas back at my temporary home in Shanghai, the jungle of concrete buildings, the air is not for taking deep breath.

The Blazing Days

On the third day of our stay, I found myself burst into tears on the street of which the name I could not recall. Was it because the fact that it was a freaking hot day and we had driven for over 2 hours straight? I felt like I was being barbecued on the motorbike. The bustling traffic made it even worse. When I realized that my mood was dropping so fast, I tried to cheer myself up by thinking about beautiful things in my life and even reaching for God and philosophy. I couldn’t seem to stop it from getting lower no matter how hard I tried. Then I progressed to threaten myself in my head. Stop it, you are on a holiday! Remember how many times you have dreamed about this? Stop behaving like a drag in front of the man you like!...None of these helped! Involuntarily I let myself fall apart. By the time G stopped the motorbike on the side of the road, My face had been flooded with tears. Sunglasses didn’t help me cover my embarrassment and my shivering shoulder sold me out. Just when I was about to hit the bottom of the disaster, G put his strong arms around me and gently asked me ‘What is it, baby? I am here. You got me.’? What else could cheer a girl up faster than this?

I stopped sobbing instantly. G and I walked to a shopping mall close by to get a break from the sun and something to eat. First I went to the lady’s room. When I was reapplying make-up on my face in front of the mirror, there came in a western woman with a baby stroller. If it was another ordinary day, I probably wouldn’t pay much attention. However on that day I was totally drawn to the scene where this young mother changed her baby’s diaper. She looked like a woman in her late 20’s. She dressed casually without a hint of make-up on her face, her beautiful blonde hair twisted into a bun at the back of her head, her finger nails kept short without manicure. She swiftly changed the diaper and left, without even taking a glance at herself at the mirror. I couldn’t help but think ‘will I ever be so unselfish to utterly devote myself to another human being?!’

After lunch and a brief relax at a cafe, we walked out the mall and noticed that the clouds were assembling. We hit the road again hoping that we could reach the resort before the rain kiss the ground. It turned out that a ‘human plan’ could never outrun ‘nature’s plan’— this time we ended up driving in the rainstorm, which was not so bad as it might sound. Again this is something I never experienced back at home. It was when my clothes were totally soaked with cold rainwater that I actually felt my own body warmth. Just like when your loved one parts with you after a period time of sticking together, you start to realized how sweet the sticking-together-days were.

The Intoxicating Nights

Every day we worked on our online projects from 3 to nightfall, while the rain was pouring outside. Usually around 7 o’clock or something, G and I would bring our work into a temporary end and take a shower and dress up for the night out. It was much darker at night in Bali than in Shanghai. The lamps in the resort room were very dim. G said they probably used dim lights on purpose so that we wouldn’t notice the worms and ants crawling on the floor. Either way dim lights make me feel better about ourselves and put me into a romantic mood.

It was quite dangerous to drive a motorbike at night there in Bali, because of the narrow roads and the lack of streetlamps. The sense of danger pumps up our adrenaline. It was quite a thrill to drive at dark nights.

One night G took me to a cozy little Italian restaurant called Dolci Arancia on an inconspicuous little street in Ubud town. The waitress were petite Indonesian young girls. Their natural relaxed smiles and friendly greetings made me feel like they were not working for the salary. Or maybe it was just because I was in such a romantic mood; everything I saw was sugarcoated.

The food was incredibly tasty with a reasonable price. I enjoyed watching G eating his half raw steak like an lion enjoying its pray. Sometimes when I was taking small sips of my pumpkin cream cheese soup with a spoon, I looked up finding him gazing at me with his beautiful eyes. He said to me in a gentle and soft tone, so cute, honey bunny. Then he stroke my hair with his big hand, as if he was petting a kitten. It made me wanna Meow.

When we finished our dinner and thought we should head for home, and call it a night, the weather gave us a better idea. It started to rain again.

Just next to the Dolci Arancia , we found a little cafe on the second floor called Kismet. There were no walls but only railings separating the cafe from the street. We climbed a curved staircase and got into the cafe. There were an older couple sitting towards each other enjoying their meal, and a group of girls sitting along the bench with their laptops. G and I ordered their home-made chai with coconut milk. The waitress brought over a note, written on it was the wifi code: live in love 2013. I rest my head on G’s broad shoulder, feeling totally intoxicated by the sweetness in the air.

Ms. Greedy and Ms. Lazy, I don’t want to travel with you!

It turned out that I didn’t really travel to Bali light-heartedly. Sometimes when we were out in the beautiful rice field, or inside a solemn temple by the seashore, my mind was disturbed by my stagnating freelance work at that moment or worry about where am I going to be in two months. See those Indonesia women walking leisurely with stuff on the top of their heads. They looked like they’ve got everything under control effortlessly. Why am I so messed up? I drowned myself in the deep well which was dug by myself with my self-doubt and expanding desire and vainly complaining. Fortunately I was not alone. The mighty G pulled me out before I lost consciousness. He said to me:’ why don’t you make a to-do-list? Write down the things that you can do at the moment. Stop thinking about what’s yet to happen. Anything could happen. Today is shaped by what you did yesterday. Why don’t you start creating your future instead of worrying about it in vain‘. I was a little skeptical and unconvinced but I did make a to-do-list, although there was not many substantial things I could do that could bring me profit right away. At least it’s a start, which is better than not starting at all. I started to learn to be more active and solve problems step by step. In the end, my Bali trip became a rewarding and thrilling adventure instead of something to get through.

My 11-day-long Bali time has long gone. Those memories fermented into a few images. The image of G and I driving deep inside the mountains in the Northwest of Bali where the nature was least tainted by tourism; the image of us in a cafe called Anomali, me withholding menstruation pain while listening to G’s advices on how to improve my freelancing career; the image of me sitting on the balcony while G taking a shower in the open bathroom; the image of us walking hand in hand on the sidewalk which were badly damaged and too narrow for 2 people to walk side by side. As I was sitting in the departure hall at Bali Airport, waiting for the boarding gate to open, through the glass wall I could see people getting off a plane heading to the custom counter. I pictured the 11-day-younger me walking among them. She turned her head to me and waved me good-bye and disappeared forever.

Read More > Finding My Way (1)

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