Tuesday, May 25
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
What's the best thing to do when you get laid off from your job? Get another one? Hell no! You should go see the world, of course. Welcome to the Tropical Punch Tour, my little three-and-a-half month jaunt through Southeast Asia. I first became interested in Bali back in the mid-1990s. I was collecting a lot of vintage electronic music on vinyl, some of which was released on a label called Nonesuch, who also curated a series of albums featuring gamelan, the traditional percussion music of Indonesia. I was so enamored by the exotic, haunting sounds that emanated from those black grooves that I just knew I had to hear it in real life someday.
After spending 22 hours hurtling across the Pacific Ocean in an oversized, sardine-packed, Medieval torture chamber-like tin can and getting all exhausted and jet-lagged, it was a wonderful feeling to step outside the airport in Bali and get sucker-punched by Indonesia's blast furnace hot air. Can you say drenched in sweat? This place is seriously loaded down with an unbelievable number of taxi cab drivers, each one of whom will not hesitate to follow you around and badger you non-stop for a fare.
My goal for the evening was to get a hotel room in Ubud, Bali's cultural capital. I caught a cab to a town called Batubulan, where I hoped to transfer to a much cheaper bemo (small van), but the terminal was deserted. The only thing around was some people selling food and various other sundries, and a children's carnival ride blaring super stressful music that could double as a car alarm back in California.
So, I really had no choice but to jump into another cab, as it was gettig dark, and I still had to find a room. I must note here that traffic in Bali is nothing like driving in California. The streets and roads here are extremely narrow--only about as wide as a whisker--and there are more motorcycles, mopeds and scooters chaotically swerving around than you can shake a tailpipe at. All vehicles in Bali come within six inches of crashing into each other at all times. The total cab fare damage ended up at $25, but at least I finally made it to Ubud, where I got a room for $10.00 at the Frog Pond Inn. I fell into a much-needed slumber to the sound of a gamelan (traditional Indonesian percussion ensemble) wailing away off in the distance.