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balance (2): May 2007

Monday, May 14, 2007


so yard bar is back.

with the influx of lush plants in the yard, and the surprise rainy season koh phangan has been having, i have had many amphibian and reptile visitors. i have found 2 snakes in the house in the past couple of weeks, plus 3 just outside. lots of lizards including the fierce looking monitor lizards which are the size of dogs. and froggies and toads. here is one who seems to be sticking around for a bit.


Wednesday, May 9, 2007

staying alive

woah! has it really been 3 months since i updated? well yes i am still alive!

it's been a bit hectic... i have been too busy to write due to my heavy workload (a pleasant surprise), the various disappointments perpetrated on me by supposed "friends" (what else is new), and my one foray into business speculation in thailand, in which I invested a princely sum for a boyfriend who turned out to be a bit of a toad (or at least wavers back and forth between toad and prince, with a little bit of bias towards toad). the short reign of the "yard bar" (and outdoor cinema) was worth the loss in the end though- i had a great time and met some great people.

newly single again (due to said boyfriend's infantile inability to control his irrational tantrums at the numerous and most petty of triggers), and needing a new visa, i hopped a plane in torrential rain from bangkok to bali.

beach at kuta

on first impression, bali is like a very cleaned up penang (malaysia). however penang actually has quite a bit more character due to the cultural diversity there. the indonesian people are nice enough, but i was surprised to find not much of interest in my first couple of days in bali. it felt like a western country, but populated by brown-skinned people with funny accents. i stayed in legian, not far from the infamous kuta beach, where supposely hoardes of tourists are heckled by hoardes of desperate touts. instead i found few tourists at all, whatsoever (those who are here include mostly buff australian surfers and cute but lost looking japanese boys), and the touts were fairly laid back, charming even. on my first day, after a heavenly breakfast of black rice pudding and fresh fruit, i walked from kuta beach up through legian and to seminyak (pant pant). everywhere i went i was followed by cries of "hello darling", "hello honey", or my favorite- "hello betty"! things on offer include transport, sunglasses galore, stacks upon stacks of colored beads, dvds, wood carvings, batik sarongs, and even weed (which i of course declined). did i mention transport? by the end of the first day i was prepared to commit bodily harm to the next sly face poking itself out from behind a corner and insisting i needed transport to the end of the block. i also avoided the so-called "kuta cowboys", who to be honest seem a bit more interested in the flabby french socialites in their barely-there bikinis (do french women have mid-life crises too?) than they were in me anyway, but i was surprised to find the boys not in the least attractive. as far as gigolos go, the thais pin the balinese any day. the beaches were, well, dull to say the least- quite trashed, overpopulated, and with big waves. again, i will take thailand any day. my friend dao insisted in an email from my house (where she was puppy-sitting) that i take surfing lessons while i am here, but considering i nearly drowned trying to swim laps in my hotel pool, i gave it a miss.

typical art shop

my plan to get a new visa for thailand was foiled when, after my patient driver finally found the consulate after circling the block several times, i was informed that i needed to show a return ticket home (to NY) from thailand before they would issue me a visa. having no intention of buying such a ticket, the visa run aspect of this trip went out the window. but at least i didn't have to worry about all that and could enjoy the rest of my trip. and the official did confirm that a tourist visa is the right visa for my situation and that i am doing nothing wrong by telecommuting to the US from my home in thailand on back-to-back tourist visas! (phew!, and a big "bite me" to the thai visa forum members who swore i would be thrown out of thailand on my ass!)

i returned to my hotel to be set upon by an old woman named made (everyone here seems to be named wayan, made, or nyoman- something having to do with birth order), who had accosted me upon arrival the day before insisting i needed a massage. i gave in and let her follow me to my room. an hour was 50000 rupiah ($5). there were two old women who stripped me down and to my dismay kept commenting on what a sexy body i had as they rubbed oil into every crevice. there was no order at all to the massage, they just rubbed like crazy, and it certainly did not last an hour, and i will have a hell of a time washing the oil out of my hair with the cold water here, but overall it was good. later on i ventured out to see what sort of nightlife i could find- which ended up being nothing much at all. there seemed to be even more transport hawkers at night, if that was possible. groups of japanese toting their cameras and wearing khakis. a couple of indonesian girls wearing high heels but hiding under veils. some fat australian tourists drinking bin tang. i settled for an imported steak dinner at a nice place called drops. for about $12 including the wine i was quite satisfied. i went back to my room, chased a couple of unfriendly kittens around the landscaped grounds of the three brothers bungalows, and crawled into my bed where i watched the movie "open water" and suffered paranoid insomnia for the rest of the night.

in the morning i awoke to more black rice pudding and coffee, and then it was time for the tourist shuttle to ubud to pick me up. i was disappointed when a solitary, sweaty man showed up in a decrepit old jeep saying i was the only tourist going (it's quite sad that so many years after the bali bombing this place is still affected). he also insisted i pay more because he had only one person to drive- i waited until he had dropped me off in ubud (after several harrowing experiences due to his incompetent driving on the road there) to completely ignore this request. ubud is pleasant... the road in is covered in small artisan workshops- woodcarvers, stonemasons, painters, weavers... the rice fields are aesthetically pleasing as well. still, there is something missing here. maybe i am just too used to asia by now, but something about bali seems to lack soul to me. my hotel was nice enough, though completely deserted. i was exasperated at the fact that once again in my travels, i seem to be the only person visiting the place (as if i wasn't lonely enough!) i drank half my minibar sitting on my balcony and staring at the geckos on the wall. i had to fend off a desperate, annoying man (named made, of course) at breakfast who insisted i must spend my entire holiday travelling to his home village with him and purchase some of their special woodcarvings there.


i did manage to walk all over most of ubud, even though i wasn't able to book tours as a solo girl. it would be a lovely place to live, but was rather boring to visit. the main streets are full of shops, with people lazing and lolling in the doorways and trying to entice you in (but mostly scaring you off). i tiptoed through the ARMA (art museum) and ran my hands over the silk batik wares. had some brilliant coffee looking over the garden. subsequently pissed off a few people in the ubud market by feigning interest and then not buying their fake scented oils at extraordinary rates. watched some schoolchildren practicing for the evenings traditional dancing. ate a couple of marvelous, excellent meals from a place called casa luna (in fact i bought extras to take home and eat later in my room). had a 4 hour spa! which was amazing...
and suddenly found myself racing through denpasar back through kuta and to the airport in the tourist shuttle, and then it was done!

in retrospect, bali was "nice", but definitely lacking an edge which i am attracted to in places like thailand, nepal, cambodia... i doubt i will go there again but it was good to add another stamp to my passport.

back in thailand, i have decided to concentrate on trying to finish what i start(!) in regards to a book i have been trying forever to write, to save a bit more money for the trip to south america i am hopefully planning in october, and avoiding thai guys (though it is dubious that i will be the least bit successful in this as i am always surrounded by them) for at least awhile, until i feel i have my independence and sanity back. all in all, i was really happy to come back "home".

lotus plant at the former yard bar

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