Birthday in Bali

I spent the last 10 days in Bali, Indonesia. And this trip came at the perfect time. I mean, I planned it about six months ago, but the timing ended up working out right when I needed an escape the most. So let me lay it on you: here’s the lowdown on this slice of paradise.

Total travel time: 30 hours, 18 minutes. The original time was supposed to be 22 hours and 54 minutes. I’ve never been in a plane that began to take off and mid takeoff suddenly had to slam on the brakes – on the runway, mind you – but there’s a first for everything.

I sat on the red eye, watching a tiger striped sky laced with lines of stars. Dipping in and out like bobbing bedside lights. And after a stopover in Hong Kong, I stepped off the plane. The humidity washed over me. Hot steam and mosquito hums. It reminded me of Florida in July. Dots of sweat clung to my upper lip and hairline like small puddles reflecting an iridescent sun.

IMG_5914.JPG

Seminyak: I woke smelling seaside citrus. Quickly masked by flakes of chocolate croissants and freshly pressed juice. Mangoes and petals and rind. I walked along the outside of my villa and caressed the pool with three of my toes. Just enough to feel a cool stillness and watch the ripples of my feet wave through the water. The cobbled path was littered with plumeria and jasmine. I adorned my hair with the fallen flowers, inhaling the scent of petals and dirt. The scent of an island. Of this new place. Of someone’s homeland. I wandered the streets of Seminyak, noting the listless sidewalks. The lack thereof sidewalks. I found street painters that had splattered canvases with elephants of turquoise and purples. With dark eyes that hung sweet and low. “200,000 Indonesian Rupiah for you. Good deal!” The painter smiled a toothless grin at me. His sweat smelled of toluene and formaldehyde. I strolled under thatched roofs that held beach blown dresses of ivory. I bought myself a red dress that I swear was dyed with plums. It looked like something out of a movie. Like it lived on in the era of Hepburn and Hemingway. Or maybe Fitzgerald. I dug my heels into the cracks of the earth, realizing I was much closer to the equator than I ever had been. I could feel Virgin Tree’s roots and touch orchid’s womb. And without fully knowing, the day gave way to night. A cinnamon clove moon, glowing orange over the Indian Ocean. The end of the first day of a trip like this is always bittersweet. It’s a beautiful kind of melancholy. And I remember falling asleep, knowing I was in a place where I could actually see the stars in the sky.

IMG_6190

Ubud: It was green. So, so green. The epitome of earthiness. The Tegalalang Rice Paddies reminded me of green tea and tamarind. Sprinkles of lemongrass and sprouts of Cleopatra’s rose. I stared so long I swear my eyes began to bleed into the sky. Standing out over the edge, I realized this is life. This is what living must be. And I regret that I had not done more of it. It was set behind miles of street markets and bustling cement roads. Watching women sit under ceiling fans and men pick bits of banana from their teeth. I wandered into the most stunning textiles shop. I cannot possibly describe the colors. I was feverish from the amount of colors. The sea foam green, the thistle, falu, incarnadine, verditer, the gingerline. Fabrics of silk and willow and twine. I wrapped scarves around my palms, felt the incense that had burned in the air out by the family temple, was reminded of sweets and coconut and rose and tangerine. I never wanted to leave. I wanted to remain with those women, quietly speaking Bahasa amongst themselves, the way the words caught on their teeth and spilled from their lips – it awakened my senses. It was refreshing. A little sexy, a little careless. Like pillowtalk slang. I watched candle makers and welders that were one with the sparks that shot from their tools. The wood workers and carvers that delicately designed unvarnished tables, chairs, and silhouettes of doves. I ate dinner solely by candlelight on the Ayung River. Sambal. It means ‘spicy.’ Even the way the word felt on my tongue, it was just as wild as the water. Foreign and distinct. I loved both the taste and the way it sounded. Menarik. ‘Alluring.’
I sat awake that evening and began to think about why people are born into certain circumstances. When we all come from the same stuff, you know? We are all just the innards of collapsing stars. Even the loaves of bread balanced on a Balinese baker’s moped to the hands balancing the bike – we come from the same, but know not the same. We come from the same, but know not the same…

IMG_6267

IMG_2772.jpg

Mount Batur: It was a 6,000-foot climb. Starting at 4 am. Up an active volcano. I had never done anything like this. But I reminded myself, this is what living must be. I had one flash light and two bottles of water and my GoPro in my backpack. The climb up, I could smell the black volcanic sand. I could feel the jagged edges of the rocks, even through my climbing shoes. It took hours to get to the top, but as I sat near the warm craters, I was able to see the sun descend from the heavens. I was able to feel the warmth before it struck the ground. It felt holy. Incredibly spiritual. It was a solitary moment – fleeting, but I tried like hell to hold on to it. That feeling, that sense of accomplishment. The cuts, the bruises, the scrapes – both literal and metaphorical – I could let it go now. Throw it off of this mountaintop. Send them off in mason jars to ride away on the clouds. This is what living must be.

IMG_6005

IMG_2773.jpg

There was so much more that I learned and experienced on this trip not covered in this post. I truly wish I could share more. It was eye opening, core shaking – amazing. Truly. Bali is a place where you’ll find the kindest people, the best food, and the hidden parts of yourself.

Comments

  1. Brilliant post. Bali is the first place on my list of places I would LOVE to see so maybe some day. Would you recommend Ubud over Seminyak?

    • Thank you, lovely! Definitely go! And after visiting Bali, I would say the surroundings are better in Ubud, but the food is better in Seminyak. To be fair, I never had a bad meal anywhere. But I stayed in Seminyak. If I go back however, I have decided I would stay in Ubud.

  2. Sounds like a scary take-off but great place to celebrate a birthday!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: