I think my ancestors were gypsies – my family has always travelled, my Mum gets itchy feet more than I do and we all find it difficult to properly ‘settle’. I have just counted that growing up I lived in 17 different houses with my family (I am the middle child of three). I travelled the world, went to University as a ‘mature student’, and have lived in five houses since then – two of which have been here in Bali.
So what makes Bali so special?
I am currently lying in bed in my house in Dreamland, Pecatu, where there are two monster mansions getting built opposite us so from 8am until 6pm everyday (including Sunday’s) I can hear hammering, sawing, planing, grinding, and banging (they all sound like innuendos – stop it you filthy animal!) Why am I still here? The noise of heavy construction in Bali is not uncommon, since “that movie” featuring the highest paid actress in the world was released, Bali’s reputation as a spiritual, serene, tropical paradise has meant its population has soared – more people here – more accommodation needed. I despise noisy, crowded, polluted places so again, why am I living in Bali? The pollution levels here are pretty bad, the usual way to eradicate your rubbish is to burn it (plastic and all), so you can often smell (and indeed ingest) the sour, sickly smell when driving around. That’s another thing about Bali, you HAVE to drive a scooter (small motorbike), walking is not something that’s practised here and between the heat and the heavy traffic I wouldn’t fancy riding a bicycle.
Why Bali? I know I’ve just been sounding like an old, miserable grump but honestly despite all of the complaints, this place is simply magical.
If you’ve ever been to Glasto you would have heard about and should have felt the ‘ley lines’, now I don’t want to get too hippy on you but there really is something unique about this juxtaposition of an island. From the many white sandy beaches you can go to and haggle with the locals for a cheap sarong or a Valium (I live in the south west close to Uluwatu and Padang Padang and my fav beach Bingin) to the rice paddies and black sands of Canggu where you can dress like a 1930’s barber and talk about immigration policies while supping on a ginger tea, to the spiritual centre itself, Ubud, where you practise yoga “every goddamn day and freakin’ love it because the energy is just so, totally awesome — and look at my abs!” In all seriousness, Ubud is one of my favourite places here and is actually a great place to practice meditation as you do have to learn to block out all of the bullshit.
Bali is known for its world-class waves but as well as pumping swells it also has a pumping nightlife – I do not mean Kuta! Although if you tend to hit up Magaluf every June with your ‘bois’ then you may enjoy it – think booze-lined streets, souvenir shops, stag parties, strip joints, karaoke places with ‘extras’, thieving prostitutes and ladyboys…you get the idea. Seminyak, Canggu, and Uluwatu however, actually serve up some decent nights out from Dirty Ol’ Wednesday’s at Old Man’s to stellar house and techno nights at Koh, Mint or Jenja, to the now infamous Single Fin Sunday’s in Uluwatu. If you like a party you will find one most nights of the week.
So is it the ‘ley lines’, the parties, the sunny climate, the yoga, the glorious rainy season with six-hour long power cuts, the most amazing sunsets I have ever witnessed, the most amazing storms I have ever witnessed, Mt. Batur, the food, the cheap booze, the cheap taxis, the rabid-looking dogs, the flea-ridden cats, the constant racket and pollution, seeing Uluwatu and Bingin at low tide, seeing them at high tide, watching a huge swell, the Ogoh-Ogoh festival (New Year’s Eve), Nyepi (New Year’s Day – it’s 1937 here), an epic gig at Potato Head, travelling half an hour to Nusa Lembongan to swim with manta rays, visiting Gili Air and actually riding a proper bike, the offerings, frequently meeting the most interesting, funny, laidback, gorgeous people, that keeps me here? In truth, it’s clearly option D.all of the above.
You’ve got to take the highs with the lows here my friends. The best part about it is that you don’t have to suffer or celebrate alone, both locals and expats alike will happily sip a Bintang and watch the sun go down with you or offer to help choose a decent warung (restaurant), or tell you which tour operator is the cheapest to go to Lombok/Java/Medewi/Gili etc. Everyone, and I mean everyone, I have ever had the pleasure of chatting to here has been a joy.
A taxi driver driving me home from my monthly Ubud getaway once said to me “In Bali, we are always happy…we earn little but we spend little… and that’s okay.” And I think that’s the lesson I’ve learnt in my time here – let go of all that materialistic shit – what makes you truly rich is happiness and contentment from within – to appreciate natural wonders and to not worry about what happened yesterday or fear tomorrow but to be living your life right now in the present.