Homage to the Speedo
Visually it is stunning – lush green terraced rice fields, dotted with palm trees and frangipanis. Clear, blue water and white or black sand beaches. Flower offerings, Hindu statues, woodcarvings, bead work and silver jewelry. And Bali is the eyes of the local people seemingly always smiling.
Bali is touch. Bali is sand under your feet, sweat beading on your upper lip and holy water being splashed upon you. Bali is always warm, always humid; it feels like walking into a steam room that has been turned off for a while. Some days Bali is heavy with moisture, some days it is breezy and cool, but always it is the temperature of safety, laziness and happiness.
Bali is taste. It is sates, peanut sauce and water spinach, red rice, yellow rice and black rice pudding. Bali is shrimp crackers, chili oil and sea salt. Bali is palm sugar, lime and ginger. It’s lemongrass and watermelon. Bali is coconut, Bin Tang beer and coffee. Bali is a tropical ever-lasting gobstopper.Bali is sound. Every corner reveals a new instrumental feast for the ears. Metallic xylophones, drums, gongs and bells, always bells. Clanking wind chimes, and windmills set up to keep birds away from ready-to-harvest rice fields, provide constant background noise. Scooters, beeping horns and barking dogs can be heard through even the thickets of helmets. Bali is a constant stream of impossibly optimistic taxi drivers asking "Transport? Motor bike? Transport? Maybe tomorrow?" Bali is the snip, snip, snip of workers 'mowing' lawns via hedge clippers. And then there is the laughing. The real sound of Bali is laughter.
Bali is smells. Perhaps more than anything else for me, Bali is a smell. If there were and eau de toilette d'Bali it would be a blend of equal parts orchid, tuberose, frangipani, jasmine, incense, clove cigarettes, moth balls, decaying fruit and two-stroke engine exhaust. Any of these components will no doubt bring me right back here in my mind should I ever smell them somewhere else.
Bali is also a few other things of note. Bali is virtually free food, stray dogs and Kuta Cowboys (aggressive womanizers who prowl local bars). It is pushy beach salespeople, kites, gardenias, deep fat fried everything, honeymooners, drunk Aussies, drunk Americans, drunk Eurpeans. Bali is yoga, cheap but blissful massages, healers of every variety and Bali is opportunity.
Finally Bali is a last safe vestige of the Speedo. And so I end this chapter of my travels with my homage to the Balinese Speedo phenomenon. Consider it my gift to you dear readers.