We’re greeted by the smell of fresh Boeing and a beaming made-up face of the slightly effeminate but extremely attentive asian air steward. Hot towel? Pineapple juice? A flock of surfers crash next to us in board shorts and t-shirts. Jagged intersections of pantone and pattern. Flicking through the latest Zigzag. “Six foot up to double over-head”. “It has to connect at the sections”. Men on a mission. No girlfriends. Each with only one board-bag, one backpack, and one passport. They travel light.
We arrive in Kuta completely disoriented via 27 hour time warp. Squeezed through the white tiled intestine of international connecting flights, terminal buildings and immigration queues. I’ve never been so East before. 2 sleeping tablets and we pass out into a 14 hour coma woken only by Louis Armstrong, the Indonesian version, cooing though the coconuts. His voice soothing the pink backs of sun-toasted Australians on package deals. Bali is the Triple Point Temperature island. The banana leafy jungle downpour, salty steam off the sea and the hovering fog are 3 elements that never really separate. The periodic table of sweat clouds start on your forehead, rise up over the Gunung Agung Volcano and collect in white cotton puffs that block out the peeping satellites of Google Maps. This island is busier, bigger and more expensive than I expected. Australians buying Bintang shirts, Bulgarians getting tattoos, Dutch riding elephants, Americans sun tanning and Japanese surfing. Kuta is like Margate mixed with Lusisisiki with a shot of downtown Satwa Dubai shaken in one triple Redbull cocktail. Enough to give you heartburn. Everything that flashes finds its way to Kuta. That hypnotic kaleidoscope of lights was actually a traffic signal. The kluk-kluk-kluking of soft Indonesian vowels on the street. The locals are so happy. They should be. How is it ever possible to get angry without consonants? I find myself doubting if I should draw money from a bank with a name that sounds like a traditional fruit and flower spa treatment.
Back-alleys on the scooter. Feeling one with the flock. We have no V, but we’re flying freely down Jalan Legian Hiway on wasp-like 100cc Yamaha Vino Classic with traffic coming at us in both directions. Thinking I’m migrating South to Uluwatu but I’m actually migrating North. Our happy journey paused only by an ordeal with local traffic Police. A 350 thousand Rupia ‘instant penatly’ for stopping our metallic blue Vino Classic on a pedestrian crossing. We pay up on threats of court action.
There’s a lot of ceremonies in Bali. There’s a ceremony for the child’s second bicycle. The ceremony for the scooter before journey to the airport. The ceremony for the ceremony after the ceremony because spirits scuttle between street, home and hotel by bamboo wrapped incense offerings, pattern dressed statues and monuments that spring from a deep Jungian dream at every major intersection. We’re halfway through the religious ceremony in Ubud. Katcha-katcha-katcha-katcha-katcha-katcha-katcha-katcha-katcha-katcha. Hands and chanting and erotic freakish sideways glares from the goddess. Rama kills Meganada and the horse man runs and dances on the flaming embers. I can’t tell if the good guy has killed the bad guy. All the monster masks are horrifying to me. A Horror capable only from an imagination born in the dark wet cave of remote island jungle culture. Centuries of bamboo forest fears echo’s through these archetypes. Our adventures through the luminous dripping undergrowth brings on a strange relationship with Time.