Deep in the jungle of Ubud, I was sipping cannabis tea with a local Indonesian painter at 3AM in an abandoned artist residency. Listening to the thick buzz of insects I had never seen before, and a river rushing by fifty feet below, I realized I had escaped the haze of westernized tourism saturating Bali, and had stumbled into the kind of rich, out of the ordinary, and timeless experience that makes travelling so special.
Four days earlier I had arrived alone at 2:00 AM after traveling for thirty hours. Five of my friends had already been in Bali for over a week and had arranged a driver who was holding a sign with my name on it. His name was Mario and he had a huge smile and seemed oddly happy to be at the airport picking up a complete stranger in the middle of the night. He sped along the quiet Balinese roads and I felt lucky that I had arrived at such a weird hour. He muttered something in broken English about how bad the traffic had been earlier. That, and a comment about the number of stray dogs running around, were among the few things he said to me during the one and a half hour drive to the Villa my friends were staying at in Bingin Beach, on the northern end of the Bukit Peninsula.
My friends greeted me with a large Bintang beer and a strange tasting local cigarette, laced in clove. It was gross and I vowed not to have another the rest of the trip, though I ended up smoking ten more before I left. Anyway, I had arrived.
My time in Bali was so full of rich experiences that I could write in great detail about every moment, every wave, every new friend, and every Bintang, but I’ll spare you, by listing the ten memories that first come to mind. They’re not all “good” in a traditional sense, and not in chronological order
- Wave Number 71 (debatable). My last wave of the trip was in "Balian," a river break an hour and a half northwest of Canngu known for its heavy amount of Bullsharks and its extremely long left breaking waves. I was leaving that night after spending the last two days solo in Balian, at a surf villa on the beach. It had rained both days prior so I was used to paddling out in stormy grey skies thinking about the Bullsharks lurking beneath- the locals warned me not to go out during the rain! That morning though, the sun blasted through and it was beautiful. I caught 4 or 5 huge waves (way out of my league) and the last one was the most special. I paddled in with a huge smile and zero thoughts about the Bullsharks.
- Wave Number 1 - Steep and fast, I paddled for this wave after being in the water for less than forty-five seconds. I got up but was immediately cut off by a young Australian surfer who proceeded to snake me around ten more times. I got eaten up by the wave and thrown into the crashing white water. It still felt pretty damn good though, even for the four seconds it lasted.
- Watching a monkey unzip my friends bag, grab his pack of cigarettes, and run away before he even flinched. And then a few moments later, the monkey jumped on my friend’s head and tryed to bite him through his hat. The monkeys in Bali are psychopaths. They don't fuck around. And neither should you.
- Nusa Lembongan- An incredible tiny island off the coast of Bali that we took a ferry to and stayed at for three days. I've never been so relaxed in my entire life.
- Losing my board a quarter mile out at a strong rip off the coast of Nusa. Panic ensued and I proceed to swim back to the coast for thirty-five minutes, thinking I might as well just give up and die. I was the only surfer in the water. My friends were watching me from the small cliff I had paddled out from. Finally, I happened to find my board, which may or may not have saved my life. It was a struggle.
- Riding a scooter through "the monkey forest" at 11 PM, down a narrow sidewalk with trees rushing by on either side. I was being led by Nana, a Brazilian sweetheart that I dated a few years ago that I happened to run into a day earlier in Ubud. She had been living in Ubud for the past few months and was showing me a "shortcut.”
- Drinking cup after cup of cannabis tea in the middle of the night with a local Indonesian painter, my old love Nana, and a slew of other characters who were also living at this strange artist residency in Ubud. It felt like a dream and I don't think I can even start to properly describe what exactly led me there or how exactly it felt. It was timeless.
- Playing Trivia with 4 Hungarian women we met in Nusa Lembongan until the wee hours of the night.
9.The food. Two words: Nasi Goreng.
- I got like twenty-one massages. The Balinese really know how to give a massage.
Anyways, go to Bali. It’s fun. It seems pretty touristy at first, but don't get too caught up on that. It’s touristy for a reason. And it was easier than I thought to find your way off the beaten-path, even while there for only ten days. The biggest takeaway is the people. You truly feel completely and utterly welcome in their land, and they will go completely out of their way to help you out with any problems you throw their way. You feel like nothing is impossible there. You rarely hear "no," and you rarely see anything but smiles. It’s heavenly.