Friday, December 17, 2004

Some dance to remember, some dance to forget

A bastardised version was printed on the pillow covers in the Hard Rock Hotel where we've been for the past 5 days. It's been an interesting experience. Let the recap begin...

We landed on Monday about 9ish at night. Leaving the airport was a rather interesting and slightly scary experience. Having heard certain things about Bali being land of the tout and cheater, we were a little anxious after searching around for our bus/transfer thing and not actually finding it. So there we were, stuck in Bali airport, two obvious tourists who were looking totally lost and slightly vulnerable. We eventually found the bus dude. (He was wearing a bright orange shirt with the Hard Rock Hotel logo printed on and we just happened to miss seeing my defence, no glasses on...)

Anyway, after a slightly long trip to the hotel (which was a lot shorter than it seemed) we got in officially. We were welcomed in typical Hard Rock fashion with a rather large foyer (with the obligatory HUGE guitar) that led into Centerstage. At said time the (not)local band, Solidaz, was playing at normal Hard Rock volume...which, if anybody can actually imagine, was rather loud. (And not in the "I'm too old for this sh*t" loud, but more like the "I'll be hearing this buzzing in my ears for the next 2 days if I stand beside this spea-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" loud) We got checked in by a dude called Gung, whose name I remember specifically because I was wondering if it was pronounced like the way I call my grandad or if I pronounced it with a "u" sound. Anyway, check in was speedy and quite quirky (They refer to your signature as an autograph there...) and by way of conversation I asked if there was anything interesting to do around the hotel. Gung then pointed out that there were 3 other couples behind us waiting to check in but he would be happy to get back to me about it. I figured that that was that.

The room was was slightly run down but quite comfortable nonetheless. Well...actually I felt a little let down because it wasn't quite the plush room I thought it was from the website. That said, once I hopped into bed, all qualms gone. Anyway, we were unpacking when I got a was Gung. He went ahead to list a whole bunch of things we could possibly do for the next couple of days which ended up with us booking a seafood dinner trip.

Impressed? Certainly.

Breaking the narrative, I would like to point out that the Hard Rock Hotel, Bali, with the not so nice rooms has the most AMAZING pool I have ever lounged in. It's huge, and it's got a whole area that's been made up to look like a beach, white sand included...

Well, that was what we did on Tuesday after an obligatory walk around the Kuta area. Kuta beach is the soul of Bali, according to a magazine that I read...and I kinda believe it. It's certainly the most interesting and bohemian places that I've ever seen. It's dirty, full of touts and a whole lot of (obvious) fakes but it's got culture coming out of its ears. The people are friendly (even said touts who never press the point too hard...) and the sheer magnitude of beauty on the beach is awe inspiring. It's not the white sands of Mauritius or the Maldives, but there's something about walking along the beach with sand that has strange and beautiful patterns shaped by the waves watching surfers catching the surf that just creates a sense of peace that I haven't had for a while.

You've got to see it for yourself.

[Digression begins]
We saw the locals on the beach organise themselves into teams to pick litter off the beach. Makes me so fuckin' proud to be Singaporean. I couldn't believe my eyes. Here was a people who held their beach in high enough regard to pick the litter off the beach before the day began because they were proud of their beach...because the beach was their livelihood. And all this was made clear to us by a guy called Nyoman.

He was our driver to Jimbaran bay where we had aforementioned seafood dinner (which was really cheap...). We asked him to take us out to have Babi Guleng (a speciality which was recommended by my dad and other Bali-returnees. Babi Guleng is basically the Balinese version of what we Chinese call Suckling know, the crispy skin young pig roasted over a spit) and he promptly sold us a package to go see a temple in the sea (which was a nice little trip for just under $40).

He explained to us on the way back from said temple that he had worked in the hotel industry and that he had been laid off after the bomb blast on October 12 2002. Apparently the bomb had taken more than the lives of the 202 people. It crippled the tourist industry. And in a country where 90% of jobs are tourist related, that's pretty bad. The cleaning of the beach, I felt, looked like the locals who were trying to pick up the pieces of the once thriving industry...the beaches that, I guess, used to be filled with sunbathing tourists were relatively empty.

Which explains the rampant proliferation of a t-shirt design that simply says "Fuck Terrorist". I bought one in a show of solidatiry.

Anyway...back to the story.
[Digression ends]

We spent Tuesday afternoon lazing by the pool where we met a couple of chicks. They were 8. A pair of girls named Maya (sp?) and Anya. We were shooting hoops at the hoop in the pool and they were watching so we started a game of catch which ended up with us playing (yes, playing like little kids) and chatting with a pair of precocious kids. S says that it'll be quite tragic if I just have boys...I think I may have to agree.

We (sadly) had to leave them at 5 to go for the candlelight seafood dinner on the beach.


We watched the sunset and then proceeded to have a dinner that consisted of prawns (yum), red snapper (yum yum) and chicken (nyea...not so worth it). We could have had more but we really didn't bring enough cash. (Stupidly only brought out the equivalent of less than $40...otherwise, there was lobster...droool...)

Day 3 was one of the most interesting culinary experiences ever. (Aforementioned Pig) Now...seeing it prepared in a restaurant that more or less resembles a local hawker store inclusive of multiple flies (and I mean a lot) really tests your mettle. The lady basically mixes a combination of green beans, garlic and ginger with other unidentifiable components with her bare hands (which included a gold band round her finger) and then proceeds to peel bits of skin off a small pig that's sitting in a display case with said hands. She then pulls deep fried pig guts out of a small airtight container and then places it all on a small plate. The green bean mixture, the pig skin, fried innards and a smattering of pig flesh (with loads of fat) is served with a separate plate of rice. (Anyone grossed out by this description should have some idea of how I felt when I saw the preparation...and I'll eat almost anything...) This is all topped with a bowl of jackfruit soup.

Well I tried it all with a little trepidition (mainly egged on by my ego after insisting to Nyoman that I REALLY wanted to try Babi Guleng) and it was actually quite good. The skin was crisp and so was the fried innards. (Crunch...) The soup was spicy but really tasty. And overall, a thumbs up in my book. The fact that we did not spend the next day throwing up or in a hospital for food poisoning was a plus.

Thursday was spent lounging by the pool...I am now a funny shade of slightly red but I am definitely darker.

OK...Digression 2.
Dating someone who's around your daughter's age is gross.
End Digression.

Fell in love with a drink. It's mint and honey and tea. Awesome.

Had a massage...with the works. It included a scrub and involved getting yoghurt rubbed all over me. Yoghurt cold. Massage + Scrub + Milk Bath, very good.

All in all, Bali was a definite "must return" place that I can forsee going back to. I can see how people can fall in love with the place because I guess that I've at least developed a crush on it. And with that, I'm signing off.


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