Intense rich colors, scents, the language like pealing and tinkling bells. Tegalalang, Denpasar, Mount Agung, Jalal Hanuman, the names echo and ring. The taste of Bali is the taste of unripe mango, sweet and tart.
Mopeds swarm through the streets, flowing around cars, buzzing like a great drone of bees. It is customary to honk when approaching a sharp turn, in case there is someone coming from the other side.
"Massage, massage" cry out the old ladies on the beach, waiting for tired tourists. Everybody is selling something, surviving as best they can. A five-year old girl is bargaining with me as hard as she can to sell me some postcards. Her older sister is hovering close by, and each time I offer a new price, the little girl peeks at her sister to see whether she should accept it. I am torn between thinking that she’s cute as hell, bargaining so hard, and that she is being somewhat exploited for that cuteness.
Monkeys in the Monkey Forest are mercenary and devious. If they see you holding food, they will mob you, and if one jumps on top of you, you’d better drop all the food you are holding and back off slowly. If you have no food, however, they ignore you utterly. They also love dangly and shiny things, stealing bracelets and jewelry. On the other hand, they hug and cuddle, massage each other, and pick others’ fur for fleas. In short, they’re pretty close to being small furry humans.
Our taxi driver is young, handsome. All drivers have business cards, so you can call them again when you need a ride. He has two brothers and a sister; when he gets married, he will move out from his parents’ house, building a house for himself. Everybody has land, he says, so it’s easier or maybe cheaper to build a new house for newlyweds than to buy one.
I am under illusion, like any tourist, that surely, surely these people must have simpler, happier lives. Perhaps they work hard all day, and after a day of toil they come home, and relax for a few hours, spend time with friends and family, laughing and talking. Voice of reason and experience say that of course, in reality, they surely have as many troubles as anyone else, and of course they work much harder and longer days, and after work, of course they have yet more chores and tasks, leaving as little leisure time as to be nonexistent. Still, I wonder if the voice of reason is right.
Another day or two left, and we go on. Much left unseen, untasted, just awareness in the back of my mind of things to see next time. Caves and mountaintops, north coast snorkeling, rafting, waterfalls, drinking late with new friends, climbing trees, meeting elephants… Nevertheless content, leaving in anticipation of returning some day.