I awake at 04.10 and am treated to breakfast in the room by the cutest chubby Indonesian man I have seen. As I leave I take some pictures to document my massive room, and the car port that comes with it (!). Driven to the airport I cause myself some embarrassment by accidentally jumping the queue, putting my boarding pass through security before myself and going to the till to pay for some long-awaited books then putting half of them back when I realised how extortionately priced they are.
I fly with Lion Air to Denpasar, Bali, at 06.30. The plane is small, with propeller blades. I employ my calming technique of thinking ‘well, the other people on this plane don’t want to risk their lives either, do they?’. So far, it’s worked every time - even when, going to Pangkalan Bun with Trigana Air, I spotted a flight technician washing his hands in liquid coming out of the belly of the plane ahead of take-off.
At Denpasar I am most likely ripped off, paying almost £15 for a taxi to Ubud. I have come here because I’ve heard that it’s the cultural centre of Bali, and perhaps Indonesia, and that it’s a chilled out, genuine backpacker’s paradise. The reality is that it’s overrun by tourists who all thought the same – and those spilling over from their get-me-a-tan-quick-don’t-care-where-I-am-type-holidays in Kuta down south.
I was worried about finding a homestay in Ubud when I arrived, having emailed a few places and been told they were all full. However, not three minutes after saying goodbye to my taxi driver I find myself sitting on the back of a moped (with two heavy backpacks), holding on to a woman who whisked me off the sidewalk when she spotted that I was direction-less. She promises to have a homestay in the rice field five minutes away and by god, she does. Called Suryawan Bungalows, it’s modest, basic and away from the hustle and bustle. It’s nothing special but it sits between three rice fields and there is a rooster croaking every few minutes. It costs £6 a night. The way to the house leads through narrow cobblestone lanes, and a tiny, narrow stone trail between two rice fields less than three feet wide - which my host drives a moped on. The experience was a bit like walking a tight rope.
I spend the afternoon in a café with Internet, planning for the coming week. I also fit in a visit to Agung Rai art museum and discover the Dutch painter Walter Spies. In the evening I go to Ubud palace and catch one of their daily shows of Balinese traditional dance. Despite being set up completely for tourists it is surprisingly good.
There’s a whole load of eyebrow raising, deadly stares and flexing of fingers - see pictures.
Having now updated the blog on all that’s happened over the last week, I am ready to look forward. I thought I would feel glad to get some me-time here in Bali, I instead feel lonely again. I start making contact with people I’ve met along the way, arranging to meet over the coming week.
Good night from Bali.